Todd, to everyone who reads the blog, Greetings.
This is how letters started in the days of Paul. The sender to the receiver, greetings. A to B, hello. At the beginning of his letter to the Romans, Paul follows this tradition, but adds his own flair. His A section is 6 verses long!
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 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, 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, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” – Romans 1:1-6 (ESV)
When you read commentaries on Romans, they give many reasons for why he did this. Many are complicated, and most are conjecture. Good logical conjectures, but guesses nonetheless. Rather than trying to explain all of them to you, and then telling you why they are each right or wrong, I am merely going to share with you what jumped out at me as I read this.
I think Paul, as quickly as possible, got to the topic of Jesus and the gospel. Even in the introduction, the definition of himself, the real subject is Jesus. “The Content Object Subject of the Gospel is Jesus Christ,” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans). Paul moves the discussion in the letter away from him and to Jesus as fast as he can. I don’t think he is minimizing himself, just that he knows what is important and is getting to it. His identity, the only way he can introduce himself, is in his relationship to Jesus.
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints,” – Romans 1:7 (ESV)
And when he finally moves on to the B section, the “To” section, he defines them according to their relationship to Jesus as well. They are Christ’s beloved. They are called to be His saints. I love that description. They have to respond to the calling to become saints, but they are loved no matter their response. And the love precededs the calling.
What an opening! Here is who I am in Christ and what is most important to me about Him, and I recognize who you are in Him as well. For us to have this discussion, I must be defined in Him. This discussion must be about Him, who He is and what He has done. “Romans is ultimately a book about God: how he acted to bring salvation, how his justice is preserved, how his purposes are worked out in history, how he can be served by his people,” (Leon Morris, The Theme of Romans).
8 thoughts on “Getting To The Point: Romans 1”
Are you guys reading Barth and Morris? Interesting . . .
Well, I am. I can’t guarantee everyone else. I’ve got a kitchen table full. Barth, Morris, Luther, Moo, Nygren, Bruce, Schreiner, Boice. Might have gone overboard a little bit. But I’m enjoying it. Probably should have worked this hard in college.
Haha! Seriously . . . but we were having too much fun.
Ooh, I really like this–the way we’re defined first of all as “beloved.” That message needs to be reinforced and repeated often (a good reminder for spouses and parents). And what a role model Paul is by keeping his focus on Jesus rather than himself or his goals. Barth says “However great and important a man Paul may have been, the essential theme of his mission is not within him, but above him.”
So perhaps it is those defining characteristics which draw people together into deeper connection. Barth also says, “Though fellowship is assuredly in itself an empty and a trivial thing, we cry out for it because we long to join hands in knocking at the doors of the Kingdom of God, and to be moved together by His Spirit.”
That perfectly expresses the longing I have to have a more intimate connection with people whose hearts are also chasing after God. It’s not about me and it’s not about you, but it’s about “knocking at the doors of the Kingdom of God” together. That’s sweet fellowship!
Thanks for this good explanation of Paul’s introduction that sets the stage for the rest of the book.
Great stuff mate.
Romans has got to be one of my favourites…its pretty much a systematic theology of our faith.
This beauty never gets old…
in one of the songs u talked about being left with a box of stuff.. did it realy happen?
Our Precepts class will be studying this book of the Bible this fall. Such a great epistle of the doctrine.
In his greeting, Paul needed to quickly establish his credentials (called to be an apostle – not originally one of the “twelve” club) but then quickly segue on to summarizing what he was going to write about in his epistle.
It’s like introducing yourself to someone today by saying, “Hello. I’m Bob, a sinner saved by God’s grace through the gift of His one and only Son, who died and rose again for me to have life eternal and intimacy with Him. What is your name?”