Oak Grove Baptist Church in Fincherville

Striving to become the church of choice for this generation.

The Book of Romans Lesson #2

Romans 1:7-12

PAUL'S WARMHEARTED INTEREST IN PEOPLE

It is not uncommon for a hard-driving man like Paul to be singularly unsociable. Driven as they are by hidden forces neither known nor desired by other people, they tend to isolate themselves from all but those who share their motivation or contribute to their goals. It would not be surprising to discover, in Paul, an aloofness related to position and a detachment attributable to his vision, but this was not the case. While he was not prepared to surrender his apostleship or to deviate from the sometimes unpleasant responsibilities of his office, Paul nevertheless displayed the great love for people without which a minister of Christ is severely handicapped.

Even his formal greetings (Rom_1:7) were touched with a warmth that indicated his attitude toward the Roman believers whom he had never met: "To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."


In the same way that he reveled in his own sense of calling he recognized that they were also called. He, like them, had been "called of Jesus Christ" (Rom_1:6), and while he was specifically called to be an apostle they were "called to be saints" (Rom_1:7). They shared a common calling, acknowledged a common Lord, and knew something of the privilege of being set apart for a special task, as in Paul's case, or simply set apart to be special people in their case—for such is the meaning of "called to be saints."


In addition both he and they were conscious that, while God loves His whole creation, those who acknowledge His Son are specially "beloved of God." To Paul it was obvious that he should develop a deep relationship with those with whom he shared so much. No wonder he expressed himself as we read in verses Rom_1:8-12.


Ever the evangelist and missionary—as well as theologian and teacher—Paul loved to hear about churches that were actively engaged in the propagation of the gospel. This was certainly the case at Rome, for, as he said, "your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world" (Rom_1:8). Evidently the church at Rome was a topic of Roman conversation. The constant stream of people from the "eternal city" no doubt circulated stories about the life and witness of this remarkable group of believers over a wide area. It seems almost as if the church of the first century had a quality of life and a vitality of witness that made them a talking point in their immediate environment, and, in the case of Ephesus, Thessaloniki, and Rome, over a much greater area.


It is a sad reflection on today's church that this is not always the contemporary experience. Neither, we might add, is the total lack of reservation in Paul's thanksgiving about their effectiveness. Not for him any questions about their integrity, innuendos about their orthodoxy, or similar disparaging remarks which one has almost come to expect from those who comment on fellowships outside their sphere of influence. The fact that the Romans were not his converts and that the church at Rome was not one he had founded did nothing to diminish his genuine delight in what God had done in their midst. He exhibited the same spirit in later years when from his prison cell he wrote to the Philippians about his joy in the fact that Christ was being preached by his opponents. To Paul there was a grandeur about the gospel that should never be hidden in the murky mists of petty feud or professional jealousy.

Thanksgiving and intercession are inextricably bound up in each other as Paul demonstrated in a number of his letters. The praise for what had been accomplished often led to petition that more would be done, while sometimes the deep longings for blessing expressed in intercession were of necessity interspersed with glad outbursts of praise for blessing received. Using what to us may appear to be extravagant language to confirm an apparently minor point, he said, "for God is my witnessthat without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers" (Rom_1:9). To call God as a witness to a statement about praying may seem unnecessary to us but it occurs to me that that may be a reflection on our casual approach to prayer rather than a question about the intensity of Paul's approach. Perhaps more missionaries would be prayed for if modern Christians asked God to witness their solemn commitments to pray rather than the somewhat flippant promises which are so readily made and forgotten. His prayer was specific: he was asking God to make it possible for him to get to Rome. But there are interesting aspects to his prayer that should not be overlooked. He stipulated "some means," which presumably meant he was open to all possibilities! There is a faint note of weariness and longing in the words "now at last" but there is still the doggedness and determination so characteristic of his whole approach as he adds "I may find a wayto come to you."


Notwithstanding weariness, openness to all means, doggedness and determination and deep longing to get to Rome, one thing shines through his prayers: he was only interested in getting there "in the will of God." Sometimes out of frustration we try to manipulate our circumstances and, not infrequently, out of earnest zeal and enthusiastic commitment, we leave no stone unturned in our efforts to accomplish what we desire to see accomplished. But there is always the danger that our manipulations may lead us into situations inferior to God's best and circumstances related more to our design than to God's will.


There is a safeguard against our own willfulness not only in submission to God's will but also in commitment to the well-being of others. This was delightfully illustrated by Paul's touching words, "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established" (Rom_1:11). In the vertical dimension, he wanted to visit Rome to do God's will. On the horizontal, his desire to visit Rome was to do them good, leaving little room for selfish desire. After years of ministry Paul still had an insatiable desire to be with people and to see them blessed through the imparting of a spiritual gift. Godet comments, "A 'charisma' (gift) is a concrete manifestation of grace ('charis'). The epithet 'spiritual' shows the nature and the source of the gift which he hopes to impart to his readers (the spirit, the 'pneuma' )."


As we have already seen, in his traditional greeting Paul had expressed a desire that "grace and peace" should be the experience of those to whom he was writing. But when he used these terms he invested the traditional with spiritual content because he genuinely wanted them to experience God's grace through the exercise of the spiritual gifts in the fellowship. On numerous occasions as I have traveled in South Germany, Austria, and parts of Switzerland, I have been greeted by the solid natives of those beautiful areas with the traditional "Grüss Gott" (literally, "God bless you") and I have often wondered if those who so greet me have any idea how their formal wishes may become actual in my experience. For Paul, formality gave way to intense practicality as he made plans to exercise and share with the believers in Rome the gift of the Spirit with which he had been entrusted.


Of course, we must be careful to note that the exercise of these gifts was to take place with the very definite objective that they would be "established" or strengthened. There can be a tendency among Christians for gifts of teaching or preaching and other spiritual gifts to be used to entertain or intrigue, to fascinate or amuse; but this is a gross abuse. When the gifted man of God comes to town he should come in the will of God for the strengthening of the people. When the people come under the influence of his gift they should be open to the strengthening ministry of the Spirit. When the servant of God leads a congregation in worship through music, entertainment should never be the prime objective—the establishing of believers should be the goal of both the one ministering and those being ministered to. The understanding of this on the part of God's people would lead to an immeasurable improvement in much spiritual activity.


Perhaps the most delightful touch from Paul is seen in his transparently honest statement, "that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me" (Rom_1:12). The great apostle, intent on ministering in Rome for the church's benefit, was careful to let the Roman believers know that his coming was not only going to result in their benefit but also in his blessing. No doubt they would expect to be blessed by his ministry, but they may never have considered that they could help him. Some ministers with apostolic pretensions are careful to preserve an aura of detached sufficiency that leads people to believe that the blessing flows only one way—but these ministers are sadly mistaken.


Years ago, as a young preacher, I was invited to share the ministry at a convention with Dr. Paul Rees, who for years had been to me a model both as believer and minister. You can imagine that I approached the series of meetings with mingled apprehension and anticipation—anticipation of the joy that would be mine to sit at his feet for a week; apprehension that he might sit at mine! He never missed a meeting at which I spoke, never failed to express appreciation for the message I brought—and to my intense amazement and embarrassment never failed to take copious notes! He showed me there is always a mutuality of blessing among the people of God and that like his namesake he could be strengthened through a "no-name" believer just as much as he could be used of God in his strengthening ministry.

The Book of Romans Lesson #1

An Apostle's Attitudes

Scripture Outline

  1. Paul's Realistic Appraisal of Himself (Rom_1:1-6)
  2. Paul's Deep-Rooted Appreciation of His Message (Rom_1:1-6)
  3. Paul's Warmhearted Interest in People (Rom_1:7-12)
  4. Paul's Enthusiastic Commitment to His Work (Rom_1:13-17)


Men of great achievement are usually men of Special Attitudes. A study of those whose lives live on, whose actions have changed the course of human experience, will show that they achieved what they did because they believed deeply in what they were doing and thought uniquely about the lives they were living. Paul the apostle, the former Saul of Tarsus, was such a man. Without him the message of the risen Christ could conceivably have found its place among the little known legends of the Middle East and been relegated to the position reserved for stories of fancy loved by poets and romantics, but largely ignored by men of action and purpose. But to a great extent because of Paul's life this was not to be. From one end of the Roman Empire to the other he traveled—preaching, teaching, founding churches, instructing leaders, nurturing the faltering, rebuking the disorderly, organizing, sustaining, challenging, and comforting. Wherever he went, people believed, groups of remarkably dedicated disciples were formed, and with unbelievable speed and effectiveness the church of Christ was taken from the position of a troublesome sect of Judaism to a lively force of committed people throughout the known world.


From Paul's fertile mind and fluid pen flowed letters of abiding value. Inspired as they were by The Holy Spirit, they have become the basis for preaching and teaching in the Christian church through the centuries. Where Paul has been taught, cultures have been changed. In places where churches stand and speak for the lifestyle purchased and provided by Christ and broadcast by Paul, society shows the indelible imprint of the great apostle. More than any of us will ever realize, Our Lives have been TOUCHED and TRANSFORMED not only by the Son of God, but also through The Converted Pharisee, The Proud Son Of Tarsus.

  1. What were the motivations and attitudes that drove him?
  2. Where did he find his vision and revive his spirit?


In the opening verses of the Roman epistle we may find answers to these questions.

It was customary in first-century correspondence to commence with the writer's name, to state the name of the recipient, and to bring greetings. Paul did this and much more, for in between the traditional and formal "Paul, a bondservantTo all who are in Romegrace to you and peace…" he wrote much that presents to us fascinating glimpses of his heart and mind and then allows us to learn much of his personal attitudes. There are four to which I would direct your attention.


Paul's Realistic Appraisal of Himself

It was during his first missionary journey in Asia Minor with Barnabas that the apostle became known as Paul rather than Saul. While some people see in this change of name an expression of humility (Paul means literally "little") wrought in the proud Pharisee by the risen Lord, it is more likely he adopted this Roman name to facilitate his travels throughout the empire—a practice not uncommon in those days.


His careful choice of the words "a bondservant of Jesus Christ" in verse Rom_1:1 is without doubt a clear statement of humble attitude and deep devotion. The Greek word DOULOS (translated "bondservant" in the NKJV) can be translated "slave" and, while there is no necessity to limit Paul's use of the term to this meaning, He Certainly Saw Himself as one obliged to serve Christ, and as a person without exclusive rights to his own life but as one who had been bought with a price. If Paul had not seen himself in this light but had concentrated more on his own rights and desires, he would never have accomplished what he did. Times without number his circumstances dictated that he should think of his own safety and well-being; yet he pressed on with phenomenal determination and total disregard for himself for no other reason than that he was not his own master—he was a servant of One who had never drawn back, even from a cross.


If there is a ring of humility in the use of the word "bondservant," there is a balancing note of authority in the following phrase"called to be an apostle." The status of apostle was something to which Paul held tenaciously. He knew that in this role he had the responsibility of founding churches in areas where Christ was unknown and, therefore, he had not only to speak with authority, but to be seen to act with authority. When he dealt with problems and countered error, he did not hesitate to remind his readers and hearers that they would disregard what he was saying at their own peril. They were dealing, he assured them, not with a "run-of-the-mill" itinerant preacher but with a divinely chosen apostle. To Paul, being "called" meant being selected and commissioned for a task by God Himself.


We should not overlook Paul's delightful balance here. If he had spoken exclusively of himself as servant, he would, no doubt, have been disregarded by the rebellious and discounted by the skeptical, but if he had thundered constantly concerning his apostleship, the timid would have been terrified. He was the "servant apostle" who lived in the challenging tension between personal humility and derived authority, in which, to a lesser extent, all of Christ's disciples are called to live.


Paul also had a sharply defined sense of destiny. He firmly believed that he was "separated to the gospel of God." There is a sense in which the word "separated" can relate to human actions, such as the consecration of a building to a special purpose or the ordination of a person to a specific ministry. Paul was "separated" or ordained along with Barnabas to the special ministry of outreach which the Holy Spirit had indicated to the church at Antioch that they were to fulfill. But this separation was not specifically what Paul had in mind. Writing to the Galatians, he said that his separation was "from [his] mother's womb" (Gal_1:15)—an act that only God could accomplish. His conviction was that God had set him apart from the day of his birth to be a "gospel of God" man. This meant, of course, that he looked at his heritage, his education, his personality, and his gifts as being part of the divine plan; and, while he never recovered from the horror of his abuse of privilege and the consequences of his brutal mistakes before he came to Christ, he saw even in these events factors that could equip him uniquely to make the gospel known. To Paul it was no accident that he had Roman citizenship, Greek culture, and Jewish training. God had separated him from the womb. The earliest days spent in cosmopolitan Tarsus, the student days at the feet of Gamaliel, the turbulent days invested in a burning desire to eradicate the mistaken followers of the usurper Jesus of Nazareth had not only left their scars; they had built into his character the very traits that would send him and his gospel to people living in ignorance of the salvation of God. For Paul no tantalizing horizons beckoned, no long-cherished dreams drew him on; he was a one-goal man. With fierce intensity and unshakable determination, he knew himself to be a man fashioned by God for a task formidable in the extreme yet glorious in its purpose.


Far from being overwhelmed, however, Paul demonstrated his sense of adequacy under the most trying circumstances and in the most discouraging situations. This deep-rooted sense of competence came from his understanding that he had "received grace and apostleship" (Rom_1:5). The apostleship, as we have seen, was the position of privilege and responsibility; the grace was the divine enabling for the task in hand. Grace was one of Paul's favorite words, and we will discover he used it in a variety of ways but always with the thought that it was a gift of God to undeserving people. To the apostle it meant that, along with the awesome responsibility of apostleship, he was also given by God all it would take to fulfill the responsibility. During World War II Churchill cabled Roosevelt, "Give us the tools and we'll finish the job." God had cabled Paul and said, "I've given you the tools (grace), now finish the job (apostleship)."


The extent of this job was made clear to Paul even as brave Ananias came to him in Damascus after the transforming encounter with the risen Christ. As Christ ministered to the stricken Saul, Ananias made it clear that the new apostle was to go as God's chosen instrument to the Gentiles. To Paul this meant simply a ministry "among all nations" (Rom_1:5). From the early days in Damascus, into Arabia, Cilicia, and Syria, he had seen people who needed Christ come to know Him. On into Achaia, Macedonia, and Galatia he had moved relentlessly, ranging by any means available from one region to the next with the great goal of "all nations" before him. Now at the time of this writing he was planning not only to press westward to Rome but on into Spain. Wherever he went the objective was the same—to bring people to "obedience to the faith." It is important to note that for Paul "faith" was considerably more than an intellectual assent or even an attitude of trust. Faith, in his preaching, constituted a life-style of obedience, so wherever he went he presented truth to which people should assent, promises they should trust, and commands they should obey. His goal and burning desire was to bring people to the point where they would "trust and obey" Jesus Christ.


Paul's Deep-Rooted Appreciation of His Message

In addition to Paul's view of his own special position in the purposes of God (Rom_1:1-3), the apostle had an undying confidence in the validity and relevance of the message he endeavored to communicate. On numerous occasions I have met salesmen who have been so enthusiastic about their products that they have been most convincing in their presentation. But often I have been amazed to discover them a few months later working for their former competitors. When I have inquired about their abandonment of their former superlative product and their subsequent endorsement of what was previously regarded as inferior, I have discovered their commitment was more to their percentage than their product. Paul could never be accused of such behavior. He showed himself to be unshakably loyal to the "gospel of God" (Rom_1:1).


The Greek word euangelion was used to convey the excitement and thrill associated with the announcement of good news. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, it is interesting to notice that euangelion is the word used to describe the announcement of the end of Babylonian captivity and the good news that former captives were now free to return to the beloved homeland from which they had been exiled for many bitter years. The Good News to which Paul was committed had a message even greater and grander—an exhilarating, exciting announcement that God Himself had procured liberty for people in spiritual bondage and reconciliation for those in spiritual exile. Wherever he went, Paul saw himself as the messenger of the kind of news that people needed to hear if they were ever to become free to be the people God intended them to be.

There was always CRITICISM of Paul's MESSAGE, particularly from his fellow Jews, who, as a result of the Dispersion, were scattered all over the regions in which he traveled. Many of them ACCUSED Paul of manufacturing his own message, but he was at great pains to show his critics that, far from being a new fad, his message was the one which God had "promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures" (Rom_1:2). Using the only Bible available in those days, the Old Testament, Paul delighted to do what his Master had done with the troubled disciples of Emmaus: "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luk_24:27). The fact that Paul was able to show his critics that the gospel he preached was the fulfillment of what the prophets had predicted went a long way toward establishing the credibility of both messenger and message.


The central point of his gospel was that to which the Old Testament had pointed unerringly. From the earliest promise of God to Eve that her seed would bruise the serpent's head, down through the tortuous history of God's special people through whom the bruiser of Satan would come, the point of emphasis had never changed. Through solemn festivals, innumerable sacrifices, the giving of the Law, the deliverance from Egypt, God had spoken persistently through type, symbol, and figure of the blessing to be made available through the One who would come. Prophets who had bemoaned the condition of Israel and Judah had tempered their criticisms and sweetened their dire predictions with promises concerning One whose coming would introduce A New Era Of Blessing. Nothing delighted Paul more than to take the Holy Scriptures and show that God's dealings and promises were all "concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom_1:3) who indeed had come.


This coming of the Lord Jesus Christ had, of course, a human aspect, for He "was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (Rom_1:3)—something that was easily proven by His genealogies such as the one found in Luke's Gospel. But Paul's message did not center around a mere man, even a man of such royal status as the House of David, for Paul knew that the significance of the gospel of Christ lay in the Person of Christ. If Jesus were only a man, His death was nobler than many and more gruesome than most—but nothing more. But the gospel of God has had as its central point One who was, in addition to being born of the seed of David, "declared to be the Son of God" (Rom_1:4).


The church of Christ has wrestled with the basic Christian doctrine that Jesus was both seed of David and Son of God for centuries. In early years the church fathers wrote learned treatises on the subject, arguing endlessly about the meaning of the Incarnation. The Gnostics, Who Believed that matter was essentially evil and spirit intrinsically good, were appalled at the suggestion That God Should Inhabit Human Flesh. For them the idea was so unthinkable that they went to great lengths to avoid the conclusion they had already rejected. Some insisted that the man Jesus was invested with the Spirit "as a dove" at the time of His baptism but the Spirit "returned to the Plērōma" before the Crucifixion. Others maintained that when Christ was born "he passed through Mary like water through a tube." Try as they would, they were unable to avoid the clear statement of Paul and the strong teaching of John that the inexplicable miracle took place in which God assumed our humanity, was tempted as we are, was touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and stooped to the point of bearing our sins in His own body on the tree.


Having contrasted "the seed of David" with the "Son of God" (Rom_1:3, Rom_1:4), Paul showed that the grounds for believing in the deity and humanity of Christ must be clearly understood. Christ, he said, was "declared to be Son of God" (Rom_1:4), and the word "declared" meant not only that a declaration was made about His deity but that certain things happened which clearly established His deity. First, His position as Son of God was established "with power," second, "according to the Spirit of holiness," and third, "by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom_1:4). The extraordinary power of the Lord Jesus was exhibited in many instances, as He conquered sin, death, disease, natural elements, spiritual forces of wickedness, and even Satan himself. The powerful work of the Holy Spirit in whose blessed fullness He lived and through whose eternal enabling He was able to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin was constant evidence of the uniqueness of His being. But it was in the "resurrection from the dead" (Rom_1:4) that both the power and the Spirit were seen to greatest effect in His experience. Man had done his foul worst and taken Christ into death via a cross and a tomb, but God had intervened and in a superlative display of the power of the Spirit had done His best. Man's worst produced a dead Savior—God's best, a risen Lord. With arms outstretched, the Christ of Calvary had intercepted Saul on the road to Damascus and in living testimony to His risen power had exploded all Saul's objections and shown Himself to be unequivocally the Son of God.


In his powerful explanation of the Resurrection addressed to the Corinthians, Paul made the uncontestable statement "if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty" (1Co_15:14). In the ongoing proclamation of the gospel he stated the converse—since Christ is risen, our preaching and our faith have validity, because in the Resurrection God clearly placed before a watching world the unique Son of God who was dead but now lives in the power of an endless life. That Christ Was Alive Paul did not doubt—how could he after being confronted by Him on the Damascus Road?—and having no doubts about the Resurrection, he had no doubts about Christ and the Good News of God centered in the person and the work of the One whom he delighted to call Jesus Christ our Lord.


The New Life in Christ

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  • The Hormel Food Ham Hock Cook off August 17-20, 2010 was a huged sucess. Thanks, to everyone who pariscipated in this event.
  • Our annual Women's Day Celebration on August 15, 2010 was a huged sucess. Sis Pamela Benjamin was outstanding. Thanks to the women of Oak Grove for a wonderful program.
  • Come and go with us to Villa Rica, Ga. Friday night August 20, 2010, 7:30 PM. Oak Grove will be closing out Revival at Bethsadia Baptist Church Pastured by Reverend Kenneth Bryant.

 

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