THE APOSTLE PAUL – SET ASIDE FOR THE GOSPEL
If you had the singular, effective answer for the world’s ailments and you had a heart that led you to try to share that answer with as many people as possible, what would you do? Paul traveled almost 30,000 miles in about 15 years, during a period of time when travel wasn’t easy. He was determined to take the answer to the world. He had the answer for the world’s greatest problem, sin and the damnation it would bring, and he was determined to share it with as many people as possible. In addition to that he made sure many other people were determined to share the message also He planted churches everywhere he went to increase the spread of his message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Church at Rome, the Body of Christ there, had not yet met Paul, they only knew him by his reputation, the same way we know him. In his salutation Paul tells us he is a bond-servant to Jesus Christ and an apostle set apart for the work of the Gospel. Paul could have called himself by several titles: a Roman citizen, a Jewish Rabbi, an honored scholar from the “University of Gamaliel,” or a preacher of the Gospel of Christ, but He chose to call himself a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. Paul was always careful to make sure that he was not the center of attraction. His importance was not at all what He had come to deliver. We can see his modest approach in a letter to the Corinthians. When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (NIV) This letter gives us a picture of how Paul wanted to present himself. He was very careful not to make himself the message or the show. Any preacher of the Word that does not live by this passage is doing a disservice to his or her congregation and themselves.
Paul also called himself an Apostle; that is someone sent by a sender, in person, in this case Jesus Christ, remember the Road to Damascus encounter? Paul was sent to accomplish a specific task: spreading the Gospel of Christ, and making Disciples of Christ, and has anyone ever done it better? There may be one exception, Billy Graham probably reached many more people with the Gospel of Christ than did Paul. However, Paul didn’t have cars, planes, stadiums, radio, TV and satellite broadcasts. Along with the modern aids to spreading the Gospel, I believe Billy Graham also had the single-mindedness Paul possessed. Who will ever be our next Paul or our next Billy?
Paul continues in Romans 1:7 with his greeting to the Romans, and in this case, us. He uses the greeting he uses in most of his letters, Grace and Peace to you. Then he thanks God for the faithfulness of the Church at Rome because, just as they had heard of Paul’s reputation, he had heard of the reputation of the church at Rome.
Paul feels the obligation to carry out his tasks because he remembers so clearly who he had been before his meeting with Jesus on the Damascus Road. He remembered the Mercy and Grace that Jesus has shown him since that meeting. And he remembers the lives of those people whose lives he had ruined as he carried out the persecution at which he was so good.
He also tells them of the eagerness he feels because he knows the effect his message can have on a life. He knows the effect Jesus has had on his life, he remembers the chains that once bound him, and now he is about telling as many people as possible how to break the chains that bind them, the chains of sin. He has seen lives changed and saved by the power of the Gospel of Christ. And armed with all this he is determined to carry out his calling, to spread the Gospel to the world. And Rome was the key to accomplishing that.
In 1:16 comes the key verse to the first chapter of Romans: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. (NIV) In the face of Roman rule and knowing he would be challenged by the leadership of the temple priests, Paul lays it on the line, there is no shame in carrying the Gospel of Christ to the world, then… or now.
In the first section of Paul’s letter to the Romans, following the Salutation, Paul begins to draw the conclusions that God is justifiably angry with humanity and that all people stand condemned under His judgment. “All people” includes us, sadly. So, we all stand condemned in God’s sight, except for one fact, the Grace and Mercy of God through Jesus Christ has saved us.
In Romans 1:18-20 Paul points out the fact that God’s creation reveals Him to anyone looking for Him. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — His eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. The problem is, too many people don’t want to look, and many don’t want to acknowledge what they see in the evidence, when they do look.
God leaves us all open to options. We all have absolute free will. We can believe or not believe. We can claim Him or deny Him. We can even say He doesn’t exist. However those who say He doesn’t exist never quite understand that denying His existence does not change the fact that He is there.
Some would like to be able to say that the God of love would never have a side of Him that would punish or condemn anyone. If God would never condemn anyone and send them to eternal punishment, then why did Jesus have to die on the cross? Paul has told us in his letter to the Galatians (2:21) that if we could gain God’s Grace through our won righteousness, works, then Jesus died for nothing. If there is no need for redemption, then Jesus died for nothing.
Many people take another route, they create their own god or gods. They usually want to have their own loving, caring God who would love them through anything they did and be loving enough to not punish them when they stray. People just don’t like the idea of a judgmental God. Nor do they care for Paul’s use of judgmental words when he talks about them. They don’t like words like sin, ungodliness and unrighteous or unrighteousness.
What it all boils down to is that faith in God is a choice, our choice, a choice for every person alive. Believing in God for Who He is, as He is, is a choice.
God allows for unbelief, if it were not allowed we could not claim to have free will. (Romans 1:24-32) Having free will, we have chosen to worship God for Who He is, as He is. We have chosen to have a relationship with God and accept His Grace. We have chosen to have faith as opposed to earning our salvation through works, or religion.
Religion emphasizes physical works, and earning on your own salvation. Religion emphasizes secondary matters over primary matters of importance, symbols, traditions, rituals and outward appearance. Religion promotes self-interest above all else.
So Paul goes through the first three chapters of Romans laying out his discussion of the lost state of mankind and he wraps it up with one bold, hard hitting verse in Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Our big problem is, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but, the Good News of Jesus Christ is His Grace: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1-2) (NIV)
Bostwick UMC 7/18/21