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Romans 1:5-7 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:58 mins 9 secs

Paul's Priorities: Proclaiming the Good News
Romans 1:5–15
Romans Lesson #005
December 23, 2010

What we see here is not only some of the key ideas that Paul is going to reinforce and expand as he goes through this epistle but also we see something of his priorities in terms of his own apostolic ministry. The trouble with priorities is all of the little things that come up every day in terms of immediate demands that interfere with our priorities. Priorities are designed for us to establish what our scale of values are in terms of work, family, our involvement in the local church; and then we live on the basis of those priorities. The problem that everybody commonly experiences is that we live in an era when everything is rushed. We can’t imagine what it must have been like a hundred years ago and before that, and just think that from the time of the creation up until the early eighteen hundreds nothing ever moved any faster than a horse. Communication never moved any faster than a human being could travel. Life proceeded at a really calm pace and nobody expected an instant response to a letter; nobody was in a hurry. Yet today we send a message and expect a reply within 30-45 seconds, and if we don’t we start getting a little bit impatient. It just puts that time pressure on us so that the immediate urgent things crowd out priorities, and the priorities are the things that at the end of the week we say we really wish we had got A, B and C done but instead all these other things got done except for the things that we really wanted or needed to get done. All that does is build up a lot of anxiety and tension.

In the Christian life there are also priorities and those priorities we have to pay attention to in terms of spiritual growth, and we see the indication of what some of these priorities are in this opening introduction to the epistle to the Romans.

Romans 1:4 NASB “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, [5] through whom…” So now Paul is moving his statement forward that it is through this one who is identified as the descendant of David, according to the flesh, and is also identified as deity. The phrase “Son of God” is a Hebraism, an idiom in Hebrew indicating a character, an attribute or a quality of somebody, and so this phrase is indicating full deity. “Son of Man” is indicating true humanity. So He is validated by God the Father as the Son of God (full deity) by the resurrection from the dead. That is God’s seal of approval for what Christ did on the cross paying for our sins.  Through Him  “… we have received grace and apostleship to bring about {the} obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.”

This raises some questions—especially in main clause, “we have received grace and apostleship”—in trying to understand exactly what that describes. Both nouns are used without an article here and so we have to catch what the sense is. “We have received” is one verb, the aorist passive of LAMBANO, and we have to ask who the “we” is. Is Paul talking about “we” meaning himself and his audience? Have they received the grace and apostleship? No. So he is not using the “we” to refer to himself and his audience, he is using it as he does in several places like an editorial “we,” a royal “we.” Paul is just speaking about himself in a plural form; he is talking about the fact that he received grace and apostleship. But these two nouns should not be understood as being dependent upon one another, they refer to two different aspects of what occurred when Saul was on the way to Damascus to arrest and imprison the Christians he would find there. When Jesus as the resurrected, glorified Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a bright light, his companions hear a sound but they can’t make out the specifics of what is said. They see the light as an objective experience. Something happened; something objective took place that was witnessed by those who were on the road with him who certainly weren’t sympathetic to anything that was going on. Paul is confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ. That is an act of grace. Grace means that those who are undeserving receive something of blessing, of benefit, even though they don’t deserve it. So Paul received grace there in that the Lord Jesus Christ personally appeared to him, and it is in that revelation of Himself as the risen Messiah that Paul responds by trusting in Him as his savior and accepting the fact that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, as promised in the Old Testament.

That is the grace part. But in that action that occurred the Lord Jesus Christ is identifying Paul’s mission; that he is going to take the message of the gospel to the Gentiles. So his mission as opposed to the mission of the other eleven is going to be oriented to the Gentiles. So he receives two things. He receives grace in terms of salvation, and salvation is always by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8, 9); it is the free gift of God. And he receives apostleship in terms of a spiritual gift and a mission. An apostleship is a mission for a particular task. That task is laid out in the next phrase, “for obedience to the faith.” In the Greek this is a phrase that begins with the preposition EIS which always indicates a goal or direction in a phrase of this nature—EIS plus the accusative of HUPAKOUO, “obedience.”

There are lot of people who think that whenever somebody comes along and starts emphasizing obedience to the Bible that somehow that is legalism; but it is not. That is just a distortion of the concept of legalism. Legalism has to do with an external as the basis for the blessing of God: that if I do X, Y and Z then that is the cause of God blessing me. What the Scripture teaches is that God imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ—that is in every believer—and it is on the basis of that perfect righteousness that God blesses us, not on the basis of obedience. But on the basis of obedience what happens is we grow spiritually, and as a result of that spiritual growth God then provides for us many of the things that He has said or accrued to the believer as he grows in maturity and has the capacity to enjoy those things. But it is not because of obedience as the basis for blessing.

The phrase here, “for the obedience of faith,” is understood different ways. The main noun is “obedience”, but that noun is qualified by another noun that in this case is in the genitive case. The genitive case usually indicates possession and translated by the English preposition “of”—“obedience of the faith.” But that phrase “of the faith” has many different shades of meaning. So there are some who say that it is “for obedience from faith,” genitive of source, that obedience comes from the source of your faith (and that is possible). Others say it is obedience belonging to faith, in terms of the genitive of possession; others that it is obedience in the sense of with reference to faith. So we want to see if we can narrow down our understanding of what Paul is talking about when he talks about the obedience of the faith.

The best way to understand that is to go to Romans 16:26 NASB “but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, {leading} to obedience of faith.” In literature often there is often the situation where there is an introduction and a conclusion and the main ideas are bracketed by repeating or focusing on a similar phrase. That is what Paul has done here. By repeating the identical phrase in his conclusion he helps us to understand what he means by it. That phrase “by the Scriptures of the prophets” should remind us of Romans 1:2 NASB “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” He picks up those same ideas: prophetic Scriptures in 1:2 and in 16:26. The end result: “obedience to the faith.”

When we look at this phrase, something else strikes us that doesn’t show up in the English. That is that in terms of the Greek, three words: the preposition EIS, and two nouns. But in English there is the insertion of an article, “the.” Paul only uses the article in the Greek when he is identifying faith in terms of the body of doctrine that is foundational to Christianity: Christian truth, Christian doctrine—the Christian faith. So the inclusion of the article in English is misleading because Paul is not talking about “the faith” that has been given once for all to the saints, he is talking about the act of believing in what God has revealed. This is evidenced by the lack of the article in both 1:5 and 16:26. It should be translated “for obedience of faith.” It has a measure of ambiguity in the English. What Paul is talking about here is related to faith in terms of belief in the message, and there is more than one message, more than one commandment. The primary commandment is related to justification, what we usually refer to as salvation: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). “Believe” there is a command, an imperative. So the gospel is really a command from God to man to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the result is that you will be saved. That is the first and most significant command, the command of priority, that first of all we have to be sure that we are justified before God.

The second aspect of faith has to do with ongoing trust in God as we grow and mature in the Christian life. We need to look at a significant passage for understanding what Paul is talking about here when he expresses the fact that we have a message, as he states in 16:26, “the commandment of the everlasting God.” The commandment comes via the Lord Jesus Christ to the eleven disciples in Matthew 28:19 NASB “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” In the English this is translated as if the primary command is to go, and the second command would be to make disciples of all the nations…teaching them.” That is true as far as it goes. The first word to go is a participle, not an imperative, and we will hear a lot of sermons also by people who say that the main command is to make disciples and that first participle should be understood as a temporal participle—when you are going, i.e., as you go throughout the process of life, of living, make disciples. However, the nuance in Greek is when you have an imperative that is preceded by an adverbial participle it can be an adverbial participle of command. The main verb is a command and that is like a magnet, and the participle preceding it is like a bunch of iron filings that get attracted to that magnet. So the meaning of that initial participle there, even though it is not a strict imperative mood in the Greek, picks up an imperatival sense because of its relationship to the main command. So it is correct to translate this as an imperative. There is an imperatival command to the disciples because they are to make disciples of all nations.

When you are sitting in Jerusalem the only way you can make disciples of all nations is to get up and leave Jerusalem. You can’t just sit there in Jerusalem and think it is just going to happen. This was the disciples’ marching orders; they were to go to all the nations and to make disciples. That word “disciple” is the Greek word MATHETEUO, which has the idea of making students of people. It is not necessarily and end of itself, it isn’t necessarily a word that means make them a Christian. Some disciples are believers, some aren’t. Even amongst the followers of Jesus the term “disciple” was not equivalent to someone who was a believer. The word “disciple” was used in different senses. One was the generic sense of students and listeners or those who were studying what a teacher was teaching; it didn’t mean they believed him, but they were studying. Then there is another sense in which as Jesus laid down principles: if you want to be a true and genuine disciple of mine then you have to do all of these other things. Well you don’t have to do anything to be saved so again that word disciple isn’t equivalent to being saved, but it is indicative of those who want to go beyond simply making sure they are going to end up in heaven; they want to advance in their relationship with God and be genuine students of what God has revealed to us and what He has to teach us. So that is the command. By the command to make disciples Jesus is saying that their primary mission is to teach, to instruct. That is the primary purpose of the apostolic ministry; that is the primary purpose of the pastoral ministry. It isn’t the sole purpose but it is 90 per cent, the focal point.

The next two participles help to understand what is involved in making disciples. Two things are involved. The first has to do with the participial form of BAPTIZO and the second has to do with the participial form of DIDASKO. BAPTIZO means to baptize, to immerse. In the early church the mode of baptism was immersion. Somewhere into the late second and into the third century they started sprinkling infants because the question came up: What happens if the baby dies? The idea was if they identified them with their parents then they would go to heaven. After Constantine legalized Christianity in the early fourth century and Christianity became the official religion of the state the entry into the church became identified with a person’s citizenship. So you would be considered a very poor citizen, even a traitor, if you weren’t in the church, and the way to get into the church was to be baptized. Baptism became equivalent to becoming a citizen of the state and those two ideas became really muddied up and confused all the way through the period of the Middle Ages and up into the period of the Protestant Reformation. When the Protestant Reformation began with Martin Luther and he challenged the works-oriented theology of the Roman Catholic church, he was focusing on one thing: justification by faith alone. That became the major battleground, and he really didn’t go much beyond that because he didn’t have time. He never left the concept of splitting the church from the state; neither did John Calvin, Zwingli, and others. But Zwingli had some students who, as they were carrying out the foundational principle of the Protestant Reformation—the Scripture alone—and study the Scripture, applying a literal interpretation, they came to this word “baptism.” They looked it up in their Greek lexicon and saw that it meant to immerse and also that it seemed to be something that was done at the beginning of a person’s Christian life, after they had trusted in Christ as savior. It was a picture to teach something about the spiritual baptism when a believer is identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This was a major heresy and they were tried, convicted and drowned. From that birthing point there was the rise of a group called Anabaptists. The word means being baptized again. They had all been baptized as infants.

The other thing about baptism is that though the literal meaning of the word is to immerse its significance is something else. It was a way of identifying something with something else. Baptism as a believer has to do with identification and Paul makes the significance of it clear in Romans chapter six; that the spiritual truth is that when a person believes in Jesus at that instant they are legally identified with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection so that the tyranny of the sin nature is broken and they are put in a new position in Christ. Baptism is always associated with a person’s conversion, their initial faith in Christ and their justification. So the phrase “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” relates to justification or what we refer to as phase one salvation.

The second participle “teaching”: they are made disciples first by baptizing, identifying them with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and ‘teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded.” That relates to the ongoing growth of the believer and how he learns the Word, and he is to observe all that Jesus commanded us. Once again we get back to that concept of obedience.

So Paul concludes Romans in 16:26 by saying: “… Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all the nations, {leading} to obedience of faith.” This means that obedience consists of faith, the obedience to believe and the obedience to grow is also produced by faith. Faith has to do with obedience. This is seen again in Romans 10:16 17 NASB “However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” So faith {comes} from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” This is dealing with Old Testament passages and the failure of Israel to accept Jesus as Messiah. Paul quotes from and Old Testament passage and connects what was happening at that time with what had happened in the period 700–586 BC. In Isaiah 53:1 Isaiah says: “Who has believed our message (report)?” But it is the first sentence in Romans 10:16 that we focus on: “they did not all heed the good news (obeyed the gospel).” Believing the message is equivalent to obeying the gospel. The report is the message of the gospel. So faith is obedience, but it is not a meritorious obedience which is somehow the idea of working or doing something righteous that God somehow blesses us for; it is recognizing that the merit is all in Christ, not in me; God has commanded me to believe in Him but the value comes from the object of belief, not the act of belief.

We recognize then that when Paul says, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship”, apostleship, the focus of apostleship, is to carry out the great commission of Matthew 28:19, 20. That is the mission of the apostles—to teach the gospel, the command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31), and then the mandates related to the spiritual life that come after salvation. The apostles were commanded to take that message to all the nations. This is exactly what Paul said in Romans 1:5. The words “for His name” is indicating the character and reputation of Him. If you do something in the name of someone it is in reference to their authority, their character, their person. It is not just this nominalistic idea that a name is just a label. The name in Scripture has something to do with the essence or character of a person, and it is with reference to the identity, the character and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Galatians 2:20 NASB “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live [no longer a slave to himself], but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” So the life of the person after salvation, after he becomes a believer, is a life that is based upon faith. It is faith in the Word of God and faith in the principles and mandates of the Word of God.

Romans 1:6 NASB “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” The word “called” is one of those words that often crops up on the so-called Calvinist-Arminian debate. The word “calling” has a basic meaning of an invitation. Matthew 22:14 NASB “For many are called, but few {are} chosen.” In the process of the parable Jesus said: [2] “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. [3] And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.” See the connection between calling and inviting. That is what calling refers to; it is everybody who is invited to the wedding. [4] “Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are {all} butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.” That is the call. Verse 14 says many are called; that is the invitation. Few are chosen; chosen has to do with those who responded to the invitation. These are the ones who are referred to then as the called. We might say in English that 100 people were invited, 20 people showed up; they are the invitees, and we refer to them as the called. That doesn’t mean nobody else got the calling; it just means nobody else responded to the calling.  That is how Paul is applying to these believers in Rome.

Romans 1:7 NASB “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called {as} saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “as” or “to be” has been added to translations, it is not in the original. The word for “saint” in the Greek is the word HAGIOS and it means something that is set apart. A saint is someone who has been set apart for the service of God. We are all called saints because we are set apart for Christ by means of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every believer is a saint, set apart to God. Grace is the Greek word CHARIS which is not the word that was normally used, the typical word that was used was CHAIREIN, and he shifts it to grace because he is emphasizing grace comes from God. He joins that with the Greek word EIRENE which comes from the Hebrew word shalom and relates to the Hebrew greeting. He combines the two in his greeting, emphasizing that grace comes only from the source of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and peace comes only from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This becomes the unique way of addressing his letters.