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Thu, Dec 30, 2010

6 - Paul's Prayer Priority [b]

Romans 1:8-12 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 5 mins 4 secs

Paul's Prayer Priority
Romans 1:8–12
Romans Lesson #006
December 30, 2010
www.deanbibleministries.org

To reiterate a couple of points we have been looking at Romans 1:5 NASB “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about {the} obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.” Grace relates in this context to salvation (Ephesians 2:8, 9); apostleship refers to that one apostleship that was related to those who were commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to carry out what is usually referred to as the great commission. This is what helps us to understand the phrase “obedience to the faith.” Obedience to the faith is a phrase that refers to obedience with relationship to faith, because believing in Christ as Savior is also a response to a command. It is obedience to that command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Faith is also a response to the various other mandates and prohibitions that we find in the Scriptures. But the idea of apostleship for obedience of the faith among all the nations for His name specifically relates back to Matthew 28:19, 20 which gives the primary mission for the church in the Church Age.

We make a distinction here because what is often heard when this passage is taught is that this is directed not only to the individual apostles but to individual believers as well. We don’t think that is true. It is not the job of every believer to make disciples; it is not the job of every believer to make disciples by means of baptism or by means of teaching them to observe all things. Not every believer has the gift of evangelism; not every believer has the gift of pastor-teacher. So the mandate here is with reference to the mission of the church as a whole, the church looking at the church universal, i.e., everyone during the Church Age who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, when they are baptized by means of the Holy Spirit and are entered into the body of Christ, at the instant of salvation one of the Holy Spirit’s ministries in the life of every believer is to give the believer a spiritual gift—sometimes more than one. We get these spiritual gifts in different proportions and different measures.

The role that each individual plays within the body of Christ is a complementary role. Some have the gift of administration, some have the gift of mercy, some have the gift of teaching, some have the gift of helps, some have the gift of pastor-teacher—all of these gifts work together in a complementary role so that the entire body of Christ is to be focused on this mission of making disciples by baptism and by teaching. (The phrase “by baptism” is a reference to entry into the Christian life, which is related to evangelism; then teaching is related to spiritual growth) These are two separate events. They are related in that they both have an organic unity in the work of Christ on the cross but they are distinct in that being born again or regenerate does not necessitate spiritual growth; it doesn’t make spiritual growth inevitable. That is the big heresy that we see in what is often referred to as “Lordship salvation.” Lordship salvation comes out of a reformed or Calvinistic theology and is usually related to what is referred to as the T in TULIP.    

Everybody plays a role on the team and the goal of the team is to make disciples of all the nations by baptizing and by teaching them to observe all things that we have been commanded. Even though that emphasis is on obedience, that doesn’t make this legalism. Legalism says obedience is the basis for God’s blessing; but what we are talking about is we walk by faith, and faith focuses on the promises and the mandates and the principles of Scripture. So faith looks at those promises, looks at those mandates, looks at those prohibitions and says I believe that is true so I am going to act this way, or I’m not going to act this way; I am going to think this way or I’m not going think this way; and that is how we begin to implement all the principles of Scripture and begin to grow. And this exactly is what was happening in the church in Rome. It has been pointed out from one other passage in Romans 10:16, 17 where Paul says in reference to the gospel, that “they have not all obeyed the gospel.” So again obedience is linked with the gospel. There is clearly a recognition in Scripture that believing the gospel is a command to all human beings and those who obey the command believe—non-meritorious but it is faith based on hearing the Word of God.

Romans 1:8 NASB “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” The word “first” is really a good way of translating this from the Greek because there is a little particle here that is usually untranslated but a native Greek reader would see that particle and expect something to follow. What Paul is really focusing on here is in terms of his priority. His primary mission had to do with the proclamation of the gospel in terms of the obedience to the faith among all the nations for His name. Now when we get into verse eight he is focusing on prayer and the priority of prayer for those congregations that Paul was associated with.

What we see in verses 8-10 are some ideas. One sentence is covered in vv. 8-10 which focuses on his gratitude to God for the way these believers in Rome have responded to the doctrine that they have learned and the impact that that is having, not just in terms of their own personal private walk with God, but in terms of the impact it is having in the culture and city of Rome itself. And beyond Rome Paul says their reputation is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. That would refer to mostly the Roman empire. The second thing that he focuses on in vv. 11, 12 is on the fact that he desires to come to them in order to provide from his spiritual gift teaching that will edify them and move them forward in spiritual growth.

We find as we compare Paul’s different epistles that Paul puts this emphasis on gratitude in prayer. When we think about prayer there are different elements that go in to any prayer. We have used the acronym before of A-C-T-S, and that prayer includes adoration, which is a focus on God, on who He is and what He has done. Adoration focuses on a praise for God for His works in our life, for all that He has given us, all that He has provided for us, and that focuses upon Him.

It also includes the C, which is confession. Confession has to do with admitting our sins to Him so that we are cleansed of sin and are in fellowship and our prayers, then, can be efficacious. When we are out of fellowship they cannot be efficacious. As the psalmist said: “If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me”—Psalm 66:18.

Then a third area of prayer is thanksgiving. This is very important. In eight of Paul’s thirteen epistles he begins with an expression of gratitude to God for the impact that the Word of God is having on these individual believers in the congregations. E.g. 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4. Gratitude is a reflection and a barometer of our own grace orientation.

Grace orientation means that our thinking is aligned to grace. We understand grace; we understand that our relationship with God is based on grace; we understand that our relationship to other people should be based on grace. Grace orientation means that we are not operating on a quid-pro-quo approach to God, i.e., I’ll do this and then God will bless me; it is based on an understanding that everything is provided for us as believers because of the work of Christ on the cross. Therefore we are motivated by gratitude that God has done everything for us rather than being motivated by trying to get more from God.

Grace orientation means that we come to understand that as we live our spiritual life we are to live in a way where we recognize God has already provided everything for us, we are not trying to get more from God, to motivate God. Our relationship with Him is not based on meritorious works. The application of that is then, in terms of our relationship with other people, we treat them in grace and not on the basis of who they are or what they’ve done. We treat them in grace and kindness even though they don’t deserve it and we focus on living our life on the basis of humility which is the underlying mentality of grace orientation. Grace orientation recognizes that I don’t do anything; I can’t do anything. No matter how smart or gifted I am everything comes from God and I have nothing to offer God whatsoever, therefore I am only to serve Him. It is an attitude of genuine humility, that I am under His authority, He has given me everything and whatever I have has nothing to do with anything other than God’s plan and purpose for my life. And we realize that our life is not about us. Life is not about us, it is about God’s plan and about serving Him.

The opposite of humility is arrogance, and arrogance is something that is totally self-centered. We only have those two options: we are either going to be God-centered or we are going to be self-centered. When we are God centered we are going to be in fellowship. The consequence of being in fellowship is spiritual growth and when we shift back to arrogance then it is all about me again, and that means that we are out of fellowship and the sin nature is under control. In arrogance we are operating on self-absorption; it is all about me. We move from self-absorption and self-indulgence and then we learn all kinds of sophisticated ways to justify all of our self-absorptions so we can be very proud of it, and this just leads to redefining reality on our terms instead of God’s terms. We can’t see reality or truth for what it is because that is going to really run counter to our own self-absorption and our primary motto is really all about me. In arrogance, then, we end up worshipping ourselves, worshipping the creature, we are the ultimate determiner of truth, and that is self-deification. This is what Paul ultimately refers to in Romans 1:21. In describing the pre-flood culture he says that although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. So rather than glorifying God we see the contrast: they are not thankful, there is no gratitude.

Another thing that is important in understanding grace and being grace oriented is that in grace orientation our focus is on gratitude and thankfulness for whatever we have. We understand that we don’t have an innate right to anything. Once we realize that then we are thankful for anything that we have, and we can then focus on serving God instead of serving our own narcissistic whims. In Romans 14:6 Paul looks at it this way: NASB “He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.” In other words, there are those who have and there are those who don’t have and are thankful. They are able to operate within that environment of having or not having because their focus is on the Lord. Paul talks about is personally from his own experience in Philippians 4:6ff. NASB “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Anxiety and worry all come out of a me-centered orientation. We are so consumed with what might happen in our experience that we just become absorbed by our circumstances and the details of life. When that happens, when that appears to be threatening, then we become anxious and we worry and just can’t put it in the Lord’s hands. The final letter in our acronym is S for supplication, which is bringing our requests before God. It is supplication that really can be broken down into two other areas of requests for others, which would be intercession; and requests for ourselves, which would be under the category of petition. So Paul says that gratitude to God should be something that raps itself around our prayers; that we are thankful for whatever the Lord has given us. And the result of that is that there is peace, which means stability in our life that is in contrast to anxiety. Philippians 4:7 NASB “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It is not something that we are going to arrive at through rationalism or through empiricism, it is something that is a by-product of our spiritual life because we are focusing on God and His plan and agenda and not on our plan and our agenda. It provides, as it were, a defense structure, so that as circumstances change we don’t fall apart in worry and anxiety and panic, and all of these other mental attitude sins. We are able to maintain stability because circumstances are always going to change and we can’t do anything about them by worrying about them.  

Then Paul relates this in terms of personal example. That personal example has to do with the fact that his current status as a prisoner in Rome under house arrest, yet he is restricted to some degree in his movements and has not always had all of the creature comforts that he would like. This was his first imprisonment which was somewhat more comfortable than what he experienced later. But during that time the Philippians believers had sent him a financial gift which had helped him in his situation in Rome. Philippians 4:10 NASB “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned {before,} but you lacked opportunity. [11] Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” He can have happiness and tranquility and peace whether he has or whether he doesn’t have, whether he is free or whether he is under house arrest. [12] “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.” Then he concludes that by saying [13] “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The “all things” isn’t something that’s out there and I can do whatever I want to do because Christ strengthens me. That is how a lot of people think about this verse because they have learned it out of context. The “all things” in this verse refers to abounding and suffering need, to be full or to be hungry. So he can handle any circumstance and have stability and peace and tranquility in his soul because he is living for Christ and not for himself.

In terms of gratitude and understanding the significance of it there some other passages that we need to relate to. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NASB “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In every situation be thankful to God that you have what you have. Sometimes we are going to look at our circumstances and say this is not a good situation. It could be worse; it could always be worse. So we are to be thankful that we have what we have, because God is still in control and has a purpose and a reason for us to be in that state, those circumstances. We may not understand that until we get into eternity; that is why we walk by faith and not by sight.

The next two verses are interesting because they are consequences of the filling of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Word of God in our life as a result of the filling of the Holy Spirit. The first of these verses is Colossians 3:17. In verse 16 we have the command “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,” and one of the results of letting the Word of God richly dwell within us and to fill up our thinking is gratitude: [17] NASB “Whatever you do in word or deed, {do} all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Another thing: notice in Romans 1:8 Paul says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all.” That phrase “through Jesus Christ” is something we are going to see in these prayers because as Christians we are commanded to pray in the name of Jesus and through Jesus because He is our high priest, and it is by virtue of our position in Him and His intercession for us that we have access to God the Father. So giving thanks and gratitude is a barometer of our spiritual life and our making the Word of Christ richly dwell within us.

Paul says much the same thing in Ephesians 5:20 NASB “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” Verse 18 Paul says we are to be filled by means of the Holy Spirit. Here, two verses later, we have a participle that expresses the result of the filling of the Spirit—giving thanks always for all things and, again, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are representatives of the body of Christ. So both Colossians 3:17 and Ephesians 5:20 are verses that emphasize the fact that it is through Christ and in His name that we are to pray. This is clearly taught by the Lord in John 14-16. Several times He emphasizes this as He is giving new instructions to His disciples the night before He went to the cross. Up to the point of His rejection by Israel He had focused on the message of the kingdom. Once the kingdom was postponed then He began to teach in terms of what the situation would be in the intervening dispensation between the day of Pentecost and the Rapture.

Twice in John 14 He talks about praying in His name. John 14:14 NASB “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do {it.}” We do not think that this necessarily means that we have to close every prayer by saying “in the name of Jesus.” That is our custom but that is not what this is saying. Doing something in the name of someone is doing something on the basis of what that person has done and in reference to that person as your authority. So if we are praying in the name of Jesus what we are doing is praying on the basis of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, that our sins have been paid for and we are now right with God and in fellowship, and because Jesus is our high priest we have access to God so that we can come boldly before the throne of grace. That doesn’t mean that there is any thing wrong with saying that we pray in the name of Jesus. That is a great reminder but it is not a formula that if we don’t say it God is not going to listen to our prayer. That is not what Jesus is saying here. He is talking about the fact that now prayer is going to be done on the basis of who He is. Praying in the name of Jesus is praying on the basis of His person and work and on our new relationship with God the Father.

John 14:26 NASB “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” Here we have that same phrase, “in My name.” The Father sends the Spirit but the Spirit is not saying, “I am here in the name of Jesus.” He comes on the basis of who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross.

John 15:16 NASB “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and {that} your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” This is not talking about salvation. Jesus is talking to the eleven now and He is giving them part of their mission statement. He chose them to be the apostles; this is not talking about choosing them to be saved. John talks about this in a little different way in 1 John 5:14 NASB “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” It is the same thing; it is not a blank check that whatever we ask in the name of Jesus it is going to be answered, it is qualified by the fact that God still has sovereign rule over prayers and sometimes He will say no to what we request.

John 16:23 NASB “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.”

Romans 1:8 NASB “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” The phrase “spoken of” is the Greek KATANGELLO, which has the idea of a public proclamation or public statement. Usually it is used in reference to public pronouncements related to what God has done. So what Paul is thankful for is that the faith is not just their saving faith but what they believe and the application of it. They are learning the Word and are applying it. It is their desire to learn the Word and to put it into practice that is being announced, not just that they have a good reputation. This is being proclaimed and becoming well known throughout the whole world [Roman empire]. These Roman believers have a tremendous spiritual life; they are learning the Word and are applying it, and it is becoming known. Paul is thankful that the Word of God is having such a transforming impact on this congregation.

Romans 1:9 NASB “For [GAR, a continued explanation] God, whom I serve in my spirit in the {preaching of the} gospel of His Son, is my witness {as to} how unceasingly I make mention of you.” God is his witness. What he is saying here is: you can’t see me pray because you are in Rome and right now I’m in Corinth, but God does and He is my witness. The word “{serve” is the Greek word LATREUO, which has to do with the personal worship of the individual in his spiritual life. The ultimate goal isn’t just the accumulation of the knowledge of doctrine but the knowledge of doctrine is a means to an end, and that means to an end is serving God and serving man—or as Jesus expressed it is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. That is serving God, so it involves the whole dimension of our relationship with God as the driving motivating force and that what that results in is how we operate in the horizontal area of our relationships within our families, within our work place, within the culture around us. The words, “in my spirit” is something we would express differently: in terms of my spiritual life. And it is in relation to “the gospel of His Son.”

We use the word “gospel” in a couple of different senses. We have a narrow sense of the gospel, which is what a person needs to believe in order to have eternal life, in order to avoid eternal condemnation. But there is a broader sense of the gospel and that is all that flows out of that, the good news that Jesus came not to just give life but to give life abundantly. So in this broader sense of the gospel it includes what one needs to do to avoid eternal condemnation but the question of how do I grow and mature as a believer? Paul is referring to Romans as an expression and development of the gospel and it includes justification only in the first five chapters. Chapters 6-8 talks about sanctification, 9-11 about how God’s justice is demonstrated in history through His relationship to Israel, and then chapters 12ff talk about how the righteousness of God needs to be worked out in the life of every believer in all the different areas of life. Here in verse 9 Paul is talking about the entire dimension of biblical teaching on how to get saved and how to live once we are saved.

“… how unceasingly I make mention of you.” This is such a priority that on a regular basis, whenever he has an opportunity, he is praying for other people.     

Romans 1:10 NASB “always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.” This is what is driving him. He is requesting God in terms of a personal petition that some how he would be allowed to come to Rome to teach. At this point God has not opened the door and made the opportunity available to him. 

Romans 1:11 NASB “For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.” The end result is that he is establishing them, building them up and getting them form in the faith. The idea of “spiritual gift” is two words that are frequently used to refer to spiritual gifts: the word CHARISMA indicating the gift part, the grace part, and PNEUMATIKOS which is related to the spiritual part. But here it is in the singular, where as when we find those words in the spiritual gift passages they are in the plural. So here the idea is really more the idea of sharing his gift as an apostle pertaining to the spirit or the spiritual. That is, he wants to share with them a gift related to his spiritual gift of that which is related to the spiritual or their spiritual life. So actually in vv. 11 and 12 he expresses three things that he wants to do. First of all he wants to impart to them something that builds them up spiritually, using his spiritual gift. Second, he wants to be mutually encouraged. There is a mutual encouragement just to be in the presence of other believers who are positive to the Word and are putting it into practice. Romans 1:12 NASB “that is, that I may be encouraged together with you {while} among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.” The third thing, which goes into the next verse, is that he can have some fruit among them also. That is, seeing some production as a result of his teaching among the congregation in Rome.