5 March 2012Romans 1:1-15
"To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (v. 7)
It was the norm for ancient letters to begin by identifying the
writer and recipients. This introduction to the letter to the
Romans follows that pattern, and also encapsulates some key
theological ideas and the motivation of the writer, Paul.
Paul had once been called Saul, a persecutor of Christians. He then had a dramatic encounter with Christ (Acts 9). He calls himself an apostle, a term commonly used about those who had seen Christ and had a key role in the early Church. His key role was to "bring about obedience of faith among Gentiles" (v. 5), although this letter was for both Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. The term Gentile takes the Jewish viewpoint and means all non-Jews. The later term, barbarian (verse 14), takes the Greek viewpoint and means all non-Greeks.
Paul sums up the "gospel", meaning good news, in verses 2-6. It was about Jesus Christ, described as "descended from David" (v. 3), meaning that he fulfilled the promise held by the Jews of a powerful leader appointed by God. Jesus Christ is also described by Paul as "the Son of God with power" (v. 4), suggesting that by rising from the dead Jesus Christ has gone beyond that Jewish promise.
All the believers in Rome were God's beloved and they were all called to be saints. This term 'saint' was not reserved for special believers, but would have reminded all the readers that they were God's people, called to live with a different set of priorities to the prevailing culture.
Paul shares his longing to visit them and he wished to share a spiritual gift with the church. Spiritual gifts include many different kinds of skills or aptitudes given by God and lists of them, which are probably not exhaustive, are given in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and 1 Peter 4:10. Here as elsewhere in the Scriptures, it is clear that this spiritual gift was to be used to strengthen and build the community of believers.
How would you describe your life and purpose to someone else in a letter or email?
How do you feel about calling yourself a saint and living in a different way to the culture surrounding you?
What kind of gifts do think you have or would you like to have to encourage and strengthen others in their faith in Jesus Christ?