Romans 1:5 The Obedience of Faith

 

In the Greek text the first seven verses of the book are one long sentence, not an unusual form for one writing in good Greek style. Nevertheless, there has been a natural and significant climax at the end of verse 4 in the words “Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is the point to which the earlier verses have been leading, and it would have been quite proper, as well as good Greek, if Paul had ended his sentence there. Why doesn’t he do this? Why does he add the thoughts in verse 5 before the wrap –up to the introduction in verses 6 and 7? The answer is that Paul has spoken of Jesus Christ as “Lord.” Must Jesus be Lord if one is to be saved by Him? If He must, this will have an effect on the way we understand the gospel and obey Christ’s command to evangelize the world!

The key words of verse 5 are, “to the obedience that comes from faith.” There are two ways this phrase can be interpreted. First, it can be interpreted as referring to the obedience which faith produces or in which it results. I don’t think this is the true meaning. But it’s worth noting that, even if this is the correct interpretation, the point is that Paul is saying that true biblical faith must produce obedience. If the “faith” one has does not lead to obedience, it is not the faith the Bible is talking about when it calls us to faith in Jesus Christ. Yet the case is even stronger than this, because a proper interpretation of the phrase is not “unto obedience to which faith leads” (the first interpretation) but rather “unto obedience, the very nature of which is faith” (the second interpretation). Or, to turn it around, we could say, “faith which is obedience.”

This is an extremely important matter. It’s important because it affects how we understand the gospel and how we seek to obey Christ’s command to evangelize. What’s missing in today’s contemporary approach to evangelism is the recognition that sin primarily is disobedience and that God commands us to repent and repudiate it. So, when the gospel is preached, it must be preached not merely as an invitation to experience life to the full or even to accept God’s invitation. It must be preached as a command. (This is why Paul is so concerned to stress his role as an apostle, as one called and commissioned to be God’s ambassador.) We are commanded to turn from our sinful disobedience to God and instead obey Him by believing in and following the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.

This is the way Paul preached the gospel, though we frequently overlook it because of our own weak methods. Look how Paul concluded his great sermon to the Athenians; “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed…” (Acts 17:30-31). In God’s name, Paul commanded the Greeks to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus. It is the same in Romans. The weakness of much of our contemporary Christianity can be traced to a deficiency at precisely this point. By failing to present the gospel as a command to be obeyed we minimize sin, trivialize discipleship, rob God of His glory, and delude some into thinking that all is well with their souls when actually they are without Christ and are perishing.

Yet as we draw toward the end of this study, I must add that although the demand that we repent of sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ is a command, it is nevertheless a command that comes to us in the context of the gospel. Remember, the gospel is not bad news; it is good news. Above all, it is the good news of God’s grace. I suppose that is why the word “grace” appears in verse 5 – for the first time in the letter. The word “grace” appears twenty-two times in the epistle. “Grace” is one of the great words of Romans and a wonderful concept. What is “grace”? Grace is often defined as God’s favor toward the undeserving, but it is more than that. It is actually God’s favor toward those who deserve the precise opposite. What we deserve is hell. We do not even deserve to hear the gospel, let alone experience the regenerating work of God within, by which we are enabled to turn from sin and obey Jesus. We deserve God’s wrath. We deserve His fierce condemnation. But instead of wrath, we find grace. Instead of condemnation, we find the One who in our place bore God’s judgment and now lives to rule over us.

There is one other point to be made. It is only the gracious love of God that motivates us to be His ambassadors. We are not apostles, as Paul was, but we have a corresponding function. We are God’s witnesses in this world, and, like Paul, we are to take the gospel to the nations. What will motivate us to do that and will actually keep us at it when the going gets tough? There is only one thing: remembrance of the grace of God, which we have first received. Paul said this in 2 Cor. 5:14-14, 18: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Romans 1:5 Reflection Questions:

Is Jesus Christ your “Lord”?

Does your faith in Jesus Christ produce obedience?

In what ways do you show your obedience?

Weekly Seed of Faith 5/24/19

Seed of Faith – Appreciate and Accept One Another  By Pastor Dave  

“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans 15:5-7 ESV

Dear Friends and Faithful Seed Sowers!

May you all have a glorious and wonderful Memorial Weekend.  May we stop and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom and may God bring to your remembrance how you were first accepted and welcomed by God.

We are going to make one more run down the road of grace; we are going to finally bring home this simple, yet often difficult, idea of what it means to welcome, accept, appreciate and gather together one another.

Recently I read a story about a speaker who gave a motivational talk. There were 200 people in the audience and he began by holding up a $20.00 dollar bill.  The speaker asked who would like to have the $20 dollar bill.  Almost all the hands went up immediately. The speaker then proceeded crumple up the $20 dollar bill.  Then he asked who would like the crumpled 20 dollar bill and most of the hands went up.  Then the speaker dropped the $20 on the floor and stomped on it and ground the 20 dollar bill into the ground with his shoe. He picked it up and held up the crumpled, dirty $20 bill. “Who still wants this crumpled, dirty $20 bill.”  All hands went up in the air.  The speaker said, “My friends, you have learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still a $20 dollar bill.”  

The truth is that many times in our life we’ve been dropped, crumpled up, stepped on and gotten pretty dirty. Adversity, trials, tribulations, tensions, temptations and many sins entangle us and cause us to stumble, crumble and fall. In turn we begin to feel worthless. Maybe there are others who also judge us to be worthless. I want you to hear and know and believe the good news:  no matter what happens to you, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. Dirty or clean, finely pressed or crumpled up. smooth and shiny, or cracked and chipped, you are always priceless in God’s eyes. The Bible is filled with scripture after scripture that affirm our worth. Here is one of my favorites found in Psalm 115:12, “The Lord REMEMBERS us and will bless us…Hhe will bless those who fear the Lord, small and great alike!” This past week has not been an easy week, I’ve felt a little crumpled up and stepped on. The truth is that no matter what someone else may say about you, please be true to who you are in Christ. In the end, we will understand that we are not people pleasers, we are God pleasers.

We’ve  been looking at the ONE ANOTHER passages in the bible.  For three weeks, we’ve studied about what it means to WELCOME ONE ANOTHER, to ACCEPT ONE ANOTHER, and to APPRECIATE ONE ANOTHER. I encourage you to take read Romans 15:1-7 over this next week. Find some quiet time and ask God to show you who you really are and how you can appreciate, accept and welcome one another.

So What?
In January of 1998 I accepted my first position in ordained ministry. I was the Senior, and only, pastor in a small church in Missouri. I didn’t go in to do anything different or to change things up.  They had persevered through a hard trial and said they were ready for a new pastor. My wife and I loved the area, and we thought we’d live there forever. Growing up in a small farm town near Chicago, we were familiar with buying our meat from an area butcher. We found a local butcher and began filling our freezer with all kinds of pork and beef and chicken–and even deer. I don’t know if you know this about me but I tend to be a relationship junky. People are my hobby as well as reading. No matter where we’ve lived, I’ve made friends with our postman, our pizza guy, our banker, our grocery clerks, our barbers and on and on down the line. Many of these people are still my friends to this day. As fate would have it, I made friends with the butcher, his wife and daughter. Before too long, they were attending church and inviting others who frequented their butcher shop to join them. I really liked this family. (By the way, they were from California and had moved to Missouri to escape the freeways and to live a simpler life.)

These people loved the Lord with all of their hearts. They never missed a Sunday, they brought their own bibles to church with them, they came to the Sunday morning Bible Study that I led and, every once in a while, the butcher hollered out, “AMEN, pastor” as I preached. They were lovely people.

One day, about a year in to my arrival, I was invited to the doctor’s house for lunch. The doctor and his wife provided a wonderful lunch and great fellowship. After lunch, they told me that they needed to share something with me. A group from the church had asked the doctor and his wife to share with us that the butcher and his family were nice enough people, but they were from the wrong side of town and they didn’t belong at our church. I suppose my face said it all because the doctor continued. He pointed to the fancy, china place-setting of our lunch. “Look, pastor, there’s a plate, a napkin, a glass, and utensils here. Every one of these things represents a separate church. All of the plates in town go to the plate church.  All of the glasses go to the glass church. Let’s just say our church is the folded napkin church and all of the nicely folded napkins go to this napkin church.” As he spoke, I noticed that my napkin had been used and I had left it unfolded on the table. I took my napkin and asked if it belonged in the folded napkin church. To this very day, I remember the look on his face as  he said, “Pastor, this napkin doesn’t belong because it isn’t folded like the rest of the other napkins. It needs to go to the crumpled up napkin church.” He seemed relieved that I was getting his point.

“Wait!” I said. “What if Jesus works in this crumpled up napkin’s life and makes it square, and folded again? Can it come to the church of the square, folded napkins?” The doctor and his wife looked at each other and then they looked at me. “No, pastor, no they can’t. They’re too different.” That very next Sunday, during Adult Sunday School—a group of 30 members walked in and said they wanted to have a members only meeting. All of the non-members left and the meeting started. The main goal of this meeting was for me to take the list of the people they didn’t like so that I could go ask them to stop coming to our church and go to another church. I was truly dumb founded. I remember looking at the people in the circle of chairs.  They passed me their list. I looked at them and said, “Church is supposed to be open to anyone. Jesus calls the people in. We are to welcome and love those He calls. I’m sorry but I cannot do as you ask.”

It was a rocky road for the next six months. I called in the executive board from our denomination. We had meeting after meeting. After several months of trying to reconcile this situation, the executive board’s forecast was that I should leave because the people weren’t budging. I was broken-hearted as I found my way to my office to pick up my car keys and briefcase. As I opened the door, take one guess as to who was sitting in my chair praying for me? The butcher. He said he heard about the meetings and that he wanted to come and pray for me.  He told me that he would leave the church if I wanted him to go.  All because the butcher and his family were from the north side of town and the church was on the south side.

I’m still friends with the butcher and his wife and his family and that was 21 years ago. Matter of fact, the butcher was the one who said, “Go west, pastor, you were made for California.” Wise advice from a wise man. Twenty years ago, I felt like a total failure as I searched for a new call. I’d been crumpled up, stepped on and ground into the dirt on this first mission trip of ordained ministry. Yet the ONE who created me never gave up on me. He breathed life into my heart as He took my crumpled up mess of a napkin and ironed it back out into a square, folded one!

As long as I live I will never forget the lesson the real church of the folded napkin taught me:
Accept One Another, welcome one another, receive one another, take along one another as a companion, and gather together. That’s why I wanted to spend three weeks on accepting one another, on welcoming one another. I think Fred Rogers was right when he said,  “When we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.”

This is your SO WHAT? Homework for the week:  No matter where you go, look for the best in the person you’re with. This is how Christ lived his life, looking for the best in the people he was with. And remember that no matter what you have done, no matter where you’ve gone, no matter how crumpled up and stepped on you are–when you turn back to God, you are accepted. You are welcome. You are received. You are taken along as Christ’s companion. You are gathered together under His wings–no exceptions.

I saw Jesus in that butcher that night as I opened the door to my office. I was utterly defeated. I was a failure in my first church call. The butcher and I prayed that night. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed. That was the night I learned one of the most important lessons of my ministry:
1.  there is never a wrong time to do the right thing   and 2. all a crumpled napkin ever needs is the love of Jesus.

When we welcome one another, we welcome Christ, for the glory of God. You are loved. More than you could ask or imagine, you are loved! “May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Psalm 115:14-15

Seed you Sunday!

God loves you and so do I,
Pastor Dave

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Romans 1:2-4 The Gospel of Jesus Christ

 

Verses 1 and 2, taken together, reveal that Paul saw his preaching as an extension of the ancient Old Testament message: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. His task was not to proclaim a theological novelty. The gospel was in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul longed to announce “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the (Old Testament) Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). According to verses 3 and 4 his task was to preach that Christ was both human and divine. Verse 3 stresses Christ’s humanity by avowing that He “was descended from David according to the flesh.” Verse 4 equally stresses His divinity by saying, “(He) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit (or His Spirit) of holiness by His resurrection from the dead.”

Who Is Jesus Christ? We find Paul’s answer in verse 3 “his (God’s) Son.” We can also look to the great confession of the apostle Peter, recorded in Matthew 16. Jesus explicitly taught who He was in John 8:58 and 10:30; and when Thomas fell down to worship Jesus after His resurrection, confessing Him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), Jesus accepted the designation, then gently chided Thomas, not for worship but for his earlier unbelief. This is the sense in which Paul begins to unfold the content of the Christian message. Already he has called it “the gospel of God,” meaning that God is the source of this great plan of salvation. Now he adds that the gospel concerns “his Son.” This means that Jesus is the unique Son of God and that the person and work of this divine Jesus are the gospel’s substance. We do not countenance any modern nonsense about a “Christless Christianity.” We begin with the eternal Son of God, and we confess that everything we believe and are as Christians centers in the person and work of that unique individual.

The God-Man: Jesus is not only unique in His divine nature, He is also unique in that He became man at a specific point in human history and now remains the God-man eternally. No one else is like that. No one can ever be. This brings us to a remarkable section of Paul’s introduction in which every word is so precisely chosen and of such significance that, even apart from Paul’s claims to be writing as an apostle, we ought to think of Romans as more than a “merely human” composition. In verses 3 and 4, a brief message of only twenty-eight Greek words (forty-one in English), Paul has provided us with and entire Christology.

Great David’s Greater Son:  There is a debate among those who have studied Romans as to whether the church to which Paul was writing was predominantly Jewish or predominantly Gentile or a mixture of the two. Paul saw the gospel as growing out of its Jewish roots and makes that point frequently. An example occurs in the words “descendant of David” in verse 3. This phrase appears in the long sentence describing the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it goes beyond what we might have thought necessary for the apostle to say. When Paul says “the descendant of David,” it brings in the matter of Jesus’ Jewish ancestry. There are several reasons for this: 1.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul gives substance to his main contention, namely, that Jesus was a true human being. 2.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul gives a specific example of the things “promised beforehand” by God “in the Holy Scriptures.” 3.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul prepares the way for the exalted title he is going to give Him at the end of this great sentence, namely, “Lord.”

The Sovereign Son: This brings us to the last point of these verses, based on something Paul says about Jesus in the second half of his long descriptive sentence regarding the Lord’s two natures. He says that Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” How are we to understand the phrase “with power?” The most common way of understanding these words is to relate “with power” to “His resurrection,” as if Paul was thinking of the resurrection as a striking revelation of God’s power. Using this approach, the words “Spirit of holiness” would be seen as a proof of Christ’s deity. But the Bible doesn’t actually speak of the Holy Spirit’s raising Jesus from the dead. A second understanding links “with power” to the declaration of Christ’s deity. That is, it views Paul as thinking of a powerful or effective declaration, one that accomplishes its ends. It’s significant, however that in the Greek, the text literally reads: “… declared the Son of God with power according to a spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” This gives us a third understanding of what is going on in this sentence. In this view the words “with power” are linked to “Son of God,” so that we might more properly understand Paul to be speaking of “the Son of God with power” or “the powerful Son of God,” which he is declared to be by the resurrection.

The point of this should be clear to everyone. It is not merely a case of Paul’s declaring that the resurrection was a demonstration of the great power of God or even that the resurrection was a powerful demonstration of the validity of Christ’s claims. It is not that at all. Rather, it is actually a strong declaration about the Lord’s own person – precisely the purpose of this entire section and the point on which Paul will end. It is a declaration that Jesus is the sovereign Son of God and therefore rightly the “Lord” of all men as well as the Savior.

The conclusion of this study is that Jesus Christ, the very essence of Christianity, is your Lord and that you ought rightly to turn from all sin and worship Him. You may dispute Paul’s claims. But if they are true, if Jesus is who the apostle Paul declares Him to be in this epistle and others, there is no other reasonable or right option open to you than total heart-deep allegiance and to heed His call – the call of the gospel – and follow Him!

Romans 1:2-4 Reflection Questions:

Who is Jesus Christ to you?

Do you think of Romans as a “merely human” composition or as “God breathed?”

What type of church do you think Paul was writing to, was it predominantly Jewish or predominantly Gentile or a mixture of the two?