[SP – Jonathan Clark is one of our mission partners working with students in Athens. This is his first post on aigblurt showing us how taking the gospel to the nations is central in Paul’s theology.]
We’re just kicking off a series in Romans in our student Bible studies. Our plan is to run through the whole letter – this being Athens we have to be realistic about that so we’re aiming on 14 studies between now and May. Obviously we can’t cover the whole weighty epistle, but we’ll try and land on key passages in each of its four main sections.
I’ve just prepared the first one this week – Paul’s introduction in 1:1-7. They’re fairly well-known verses – but we’re often inclined to sort of skim over the intro to get to the main point. That’s unwise: the introduction sometimes takes us right to the main point, and I think that’s true of Romans, because you see what Paul’s message is and where it takes him.
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 a quick look – it’s Paul, the apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (vs 1)…so far so standard.
Look where this takes him: verse 2 shows us that this gospel, Paul’s message – God’s gospel – is the one that was always going to be the message because it was in the Old Testament – promised beforehand. Verses 3 and 4 flesh out the content of the message – it’s about Jesus, who is David’s son and so God’s promised king, and who is powerfully God’s Son as the now resurrected King – with his implied universal reign!
But look where the sharp end of Paul’s apostleship takes him: his mission is that all the nations might believe and obey (‘to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations’ – verse 5).
That includes the Roman Christians – verse 6 – and probably us too, seeing as we fit under the umbrella of ‘all the nations’!
In other words, Paul’s gospel – which is God’s gospel after all – is inherently, fundamentally, foundationally, primarily FOR all the nations. It’s where such a gospel takes Paul, and it’s where such a gospel should go, must go – indeed does go. It’s not an afterthought, but the first-level application of the gospel! Believe the gospel and take it everywhere!
One introduction might not convince us, but just flick to the end and you see the same ideas again. 16:25-27 have precisely the same agenda: Paul’s gospel, about Jesus, promised in the Old Testament, to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations!
All that Paul writes in this oft-preached letter, that teaches us so many of our foundational doctrines – all of it comes to us in the context of a message that has as its heartbeat an imperative that all nations obey the command of God that comes to us in the gospel! These truths are not limited to the seminary, the personal quiet time, the pulpit, or weighty tomes, but belong out there, wherever ‘out there is’ – in other words, wherever there are people not believing and not obeying!