Tuesday

“Paul ... called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness.” (vv. 1-4)

Romans 1:1-17 Tuesday 23 December 2014

Psalm: Psalm 25


Background

Paul's letter to the Romans is unusual, in that he is writing toa church which he did not plant and where he may not even havevisited. He seems to expect to be known to them by reputation, andhis greetings in chapter 16 imply that he knows some of itsmembers. But his opening greeting and thanksgiving suggest that hedoesn't take for granted his right to authority in Rome. He longsto visit them, to get to know them and be of service to them(verses 10-11, 13), but he speaks also ofmutualencouragement (verse12).

Characteristically, in this opening to the letter, Paulidentifies himself by relationship to Christ. He is who he is, andwrites with the authority that he does, because he is transformedand commissioned by Christ himself. But the largest part of hisintroduction concerns the identity of the Christ who calls.

For Paul, as for the Gospels, Jesus' status as the Messiah, orChrist, is important. He uses it almost as a title, placing italongside the name of Jesus: "Jesus Christ". He also goes to sometrouble to present Jesus as the subject of the prophetic writingsin Scripture (verse 2), as God's own Son (verses 3, 4, 9), and asin the line of David (verse 3), as well as one through whom prayersare offered to God (verse 8). To be the fulfilment of prophecy andin continuity with David is crucial if Jesus is to be seen asmessianic. He is, in human terms, descended from David ("accordingto the flesh"), and in spiritual terms, descended from God("according to the spirit of holiness"). This divine relationshipis shown through the resurrection; an executed messiah should be anonsense, but Jesus' status is proved by God's power over death. Sothe human and spiritual descent combine to establish him as 'JesusChrist, our Lord', through whom we receive grace and are calledinto faith and, in Paul's case, to apostleship.


To Ponder

  • In Advent, we remember that Christ comes and will come to allpeoples, races and nations. We remember that Jesus' birth waswaited for, longed for, expected and celebrated by Jews (Anna andSimeon - Luke 2:25-38) and Gentiles (the Magi - Matthew 2:1-12); that people waited a long timeor travelled a long distance to glimpse the child whom God hadpromised. In what ways and to what extent are the Jews and theGreeks, as well as the non-Greek world (the 'Barbarians'), unitedin faith in this passage? How might our worship today includedifferent groups, languages, races, communities?
  • Paul longs to visit this church community. Rome was the centreof the empire, and very quickly became a key centre in the EarlyChurch. It became a place of pilgrimage, as the claimed site of themartyrdom of both Peter and Paul, and it had prominence as a placeof political power. Today, many prominent British churches, withinMethodism and beyond, are in London, where political and commercialpower are concentrated. Is this helpful or a hindrance? Should weseek to be close to the seats of power, or distance ourselves fromthem? Why?
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