Monday, June 7, 2010

An Urgent Letter. - Mike T.

Rom 1:1-7 ESV
(1) Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
(2) which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
(3) concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
(4) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
(5) through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
(6) including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
(7) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever sat down to write a letter to a friend or a relative or even a prospective employer? There is a purpose, a reason, an objective to your effort. What you mean to say is important and needs to be heard clearly and persuasively. There is a struggle to find just the right words, just the right argument, just the right thoughts. You want the one you are sending the letter to understand you clearly and favorably respond to your proposal or your request or point of view. Your heart agonizes in the struggle to find the perfect words and sentences to obtain the reader’s attention and win their favor or commitment or support.

And have you ever received a letter like that written from the heart and addressed personally to you by one who loved you or desperately wanted to gain your support or favor or commitment? The words can be compelling and forceful and draw you in. You find your opinion changing or your heart breaking or melting at the author’s plea.

Paul set out to write just such a letter to the Christians in Rome. It is from his heart and full of compassion and concern and he really desired to compel them to believe his words. He wanted them to know what he knew and to move them to a commitment to his message. Like any letter where the writer pours their heart and soul into this letter to the Romans couldn’t help but elicit a response from the ones who received it. It is packed with truth after truth and rich with meaning.

As I began to read it this evening I was captivated. I wanted to understand this Paul’s message and why he was so passionate about this gospel message. If only I could write with such passion and with such a heart for those I have written to or will write to in the future. This book of the Bible which is this letter that the apostle Paul wrote the Christians in Rome contains truth and salvation and I want my family and friends and any one else I can tell to understand its message.

Paul most likely dictated this letter. He addressed it to the Christians in Rome who he had longed to see face to face, but circumstances kept him from traveling to them. He was driven to tell them this message and to persuade them to believe what he had to tell them. As I read it today, the urgency of his words strikes me. What did he have to say that was so important? So necessary?

He had so much to say, but he started out magnificently, packing in the first seven sentences an opening statement that lays the foundation for all that he wants to say to these people, some no doubt he knew personally and others he desired to encourage and foster their faith. What he says had to draw them in and make them desire to hear more.
Today as I read these same words, translated to the English language, the message that he wrote those Roman Christians still holds meaning and urgency though separated by more than two thousand years of changes in culture and environment and circumstances. Paul’s message is timeless and its truths and power remain forceful, meaningful and life changing.

Paul begins telling them that what is first and foremost of importance to him is that he is a bond slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. He valued this above being a Roman citizen and his credentials and everything else. And he describes himself as one set apart for the gospel. It is equally important for us to understand what we are for as well. We are for two things… to come to Christ and submit to His Lordship and to go for Christ to take the message of the gospel into the world. As he addresses his audience and sends his greetings to them he provides a quick encapsulation of the message to come in verses 2 to 6. In these 5 short opening verses he gets right to the heart of the matter with a brief outline of the gospel message to come in the rest of his letter.

• The gospel is not a novelty. Paul talks about its advance preparation. This gospel is not plan B. The gospel is plan A from the very beginning. God had established the gospel and proclaimed it through the Old Testament prophets. He says that it is woven throughout all of the scriptures.
• Jesus, the Son Of God is the center of the gospel. The eternal Word took our frail flesh upon himself as the form of a servant and the likeness of men. Paul describes both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. He says that Christ was born of the seed of David. Appointed to be the Son of God in Power by the Resurrection from the dead. Jesus uniquely fulfills the promise of God in scripture and the resurrection for the dead clearly demonstrates its truth.
• Then Paul says that the goal of the gospel is to produce the obedience of faith. The indication that the gospel is mine is that I have been brought to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not my profession, it’s not my words, it’s not my ability to explain the gospel. The gospel changes lives and brings me to the obedience of faith.
• The Gospel is for everyone. Because it is for the sake of Christ name among all the nations we should be compelled to want to share its message. Called to belong to Jesus Christ. Jesus established the church on earth having prepared and appointed the apostles for the purpose sending forth this message of grace and hope.
• Its effect is that I belong to Christ and in Him belong to God.
• Its motivation is for the sake of His name. Paul knew what he was for. This one thing can transform your life through all of its changes and difficulties. Simply knowing that you are for the sake of His name.

In a nutshell Paul wrote Roman’s to tell us of the wonderful plan of God promised and woven throughout the Bible’s great message of hope that God came to earth and took on human form, rose from the dead in power to triumph over death and sin bearing the wrath due to all mankind that we might belong to Him in faith and obedience as the One who saved us for His glory. How can one not want to read the rest of Paul’s letter to learn more of this Gospel message. It is a message of hope and grace and mercy. It is a message for everyone. To belong to a loving redeemer, king and to praise His wonderful name, for His name sake. AMEN.

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