Bible Materials


by   02/12/2010   Romans 1:8~32


Thank God for granting us the words of Zechariah regarding the visions of Zechariah. Thank God for Jesus, our Priest King. He is our Redeemer and Ruler. He wants us to come to him, who intercedes for us, and trust in his kingship. May we serve him and his will of building the messianic kingdom in obedience and his Spirit. It may be our earnest and unceasing prayer, “Your kingdom come.” We studied the Old Testament version of the gospel. Let’s think about the gospel in the New Testament, Romans 1 and Paul’s relationship with the gospel. First, Paul’s thanksgiving, prayer and vision (8-13). In this part we see that these three things were very evident in Paul’s relationship with the Roman Christians. First, he thanked God, not for their well-being or anything else, but for their faith. They not only kept their faith in Rome, the centre of the world, but also their faith was proclaimed all over the world. He had been praying for them constantly at all times, having God as his witness. He also prayed that by God’s will the way be opened for him to come to them. In seeking God’s will in this matter he was positive, praying continually and planning many times. He expressed his eager desire to go to Rome and see them. It was to impart to them some spiritual gift to make them strong. Indeed Paul was a man of prayer, praying for Roman Christians with genuine heart in God. Yet, he did not stop there. He said, “…in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as he had had among the other Gentiles.” He was to reap a spiritual harvest in the world city of Rome, working together with them. He had a strategic vision to evangelize the whole world by spreading the gospel through the Roman roads. Yet, it was not out of his own ambition but in obedience to the Lord Christ Jesus’ world mission command to bring the gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth (Ac 1:8). It is good to know that to Paul thanksgiving, prayer and vision went together in serving the Lord. His vision was backed up by prayer, his prayer was extended to a vision in God. May God help us to be people of prayer and vision. Second, Paul’s obligation and faith in the gospel (14-17). Now comes the deeper reason for Paul’s wanting to visit Rome. Look at verse 14. “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” Paul said in verse 11 that he wanted to impart to them some spiritual gift, to give something to them. Now he says that he is obligated. Other translations read, “I am under obligation.” Obligation is a beautiful word. Most people are on the level of “I want” or “I don’t want.” They do and act according to their desire. It is true that God works by planting desire in us. It is also true that God wants us to have a sense of obligation, a sense of constraint. There are various beautiful obligations in people’s lives such as the obligation of parents, the obligation of children, the obligations of students, employees, employees, or citizens of a nation, etc. Actually the obligations of human beings maintain the smooth function of societies, nations, and the world. But Paul’s obligation is beyond human obligation, the spiritual obligation God put in him. It is the obligation to preach the gospel to all. This obligation can be compared to Samuel’s obligation to pray in 1 Samuel 1:23, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you…” Let’s think about Paul’s obligation further. This is the obligation of one who had received a lot from others and felt that he had to pay it back. In other words this obligation is a debtor’s heart. Those who have debt are always anxious and constrained, and even cannot sleep well at night. They do not feel free until they pay back the debt. We know that Paul was extreme in his love and zeal for Christ Jesus. But before Christ Paul was extreme in the opposite way. He was an extremist against Christianity, and a very dangerous man to God. He said that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man against Jesus Christ and his people. Despite all his human success and achievement he was heading toward eternal destruction. But Christ Jesus had mercy on him and showed his grace to him. When the grace of Jesus who died for his sins and rose again from the dead was revealed to him, he was forgiven and rescued from the dominion of darkness and eternal destruction. He was brought into the kingdom of light, the kingdom of God. Jesus even considered him faithful and called him to be his servant. He was so thankful to God and his Son Jesus Christ. He felt that he became a great debtor to the Lord Jesus Christ and wanted to pay back this immeasurable grace of Jesus. But he knew that this was impossible. The only way for him to pay back for his grace was to pay it forward to other perishing souls, being faithful to his calling to preach the gospel to all people of the world. That’s why Paul was obligated to all. Once he even said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “…I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” He also said, in Acts 20:24, “…I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the grace and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Indeed Paul was a debtor of the gospel throughout his life. Because of his spiritual debt Paul felt that was under obligation with a sense of constraint caused by his deep gratitude to God’s grace through his Son Jesus Christ. Look at verse 16. There is the conjunction “For” at the beginning of verse 16 in many other translations (NET, NASB, NRSV, NKJV, ESB). Now Paul says, “(For) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” Here we wonder for a moment, thinking, “Why does Paul say, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel,’ in this semi negative manner. It seems to be an understatement (litotes; esp. that in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary, as in “not bad at all). It is understandable when he said to Timothy, “…do not be ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel…” (2 Tim 1:8). Yet in saying this, Paul seemed to understand the situation of the world and Roman Christians. At that time, the world was a Roman world. Romans conquered the entire world and became the only superpower nation. The Roman Emperor ruled the world. On the contrary, Israel was a small colony to the Roman Empire, and the Roman Christians were just Jewish immigrants from such a tiny colonized country. And when the Romans conquered the world, they brought all kinds of highly-prized treasures and slaves to Rome. They say that there were four times more slaves than Roman citizens in Rome. Wealthy Roman citizens built luxurious houses and enjoyed parties and gladiator fights daily in the Coliseum. But poor the Jewish immigrant Christians in Rome lived in ghettos and had house church ministries. So they must have felt deeply inferior to the Roman citizens. Furthermore, humanly speaking Jesus whom they believed as Lord was born in a small town as a poor carpenter’s son. He did not even receive a high education. Finally, he was sentenced to die on the cross with two other criminals, to die in the most shameful way. So there was much possibility for any Christian in Rome to be ashamed of the gospel. But Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” It was really a powerful statement, meaning, “Although the whole world ridiculed the gospel, I am not ashamed of it.” Underlying these words, Paul had true and deep pride for the gospel, speaking inwardly, “I am truly proud of the gospel.” In his deep heart he was proud of only one thing, the gospel, though, from a human viewpoint, he had many other things to be proud of. Then why? He said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” The power of God is fascinating. The power of God was displayed in his creation (Let there be light, there was light.) The Red Sea was divided by the power of God through Moses. When God lead the Israelites in the desert with the pillar of could by day and the pillar of fire by night, it was the power of God. When Joshua the army of Israel, who were former slaves, conquered the promised land with continuous victories, it was the power of God. The Bible can be a collection of the stories of the power of God. But the power of God Paul is talking about here is not such as those. It is the power of God for salvation. Here we see how Paul views the Roman citizens. They were proud of living luxuriously, eating fancy foods and enjoying gladiator fights among slaves and wild animals. In his eyes, they needed salvation despite all their highly cultured life. Their inner life was like that of Emperor Nero who felt no satisfaction, but only meaninglessness with no fruit in life. He could clearly see what their lives were like. They worshipped idols, materialism, political power, and pleasure of life. So they fel into deep sin, especially sin of immorality like that of Sodom and Gomorrah. In his spiritual eyes, Paul could see that one million Roman citizens walked on the street, not as human beings, but as zombies. In short they were under the power of sin and death, which are the fundamental problem of mankind. They truly needed salvation. Paul was more than certain that nothing could save them. Roman military power, the power of Greek culture, or any philosophy or human idea would not work out for their salvation. But the gospel would save them. So Paul made a great assertion, “…the gospel…it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The gospel of God’s Son Jesus is God’s power that can save men from their sin and death and give eternal life. When the gospel is believed, the power of God works in the believer through the Holy Spirit. The gospel sets him free from shackles of sin and the power of evils, breaking the chains of law. It is truly the power of God that sinners are forgiven and welcomed into God’s family, becoming his loved children assured of eternal life and the kingdom of God. They become children of God. The Apostle John wrote this way in John 1:12, “Yet to all received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right (NRSV, KJV – power) to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Neither a Nobel prize nor an Olympic gold medal can do this. It was the gospel, the power of God that saved Saul a persecutor of Jesus and made him Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ. It was the gospel, the power of God that a princess-like sinner Mary Moon became a loved daughter of God, though it meant to be persecuted by her loving father, simply because she loved the Father in heaven than her earthly father. The power of God is for salvation. Through the gospel we have been saved and are being saved. We are justified, being sanctified and will be glorified. Our justification, sanctification and glorification is possible by the gospel, the power of God. Paul says, “…it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” “Believes” is the present form. It is not “believed,” or “will believe.” Belief or faith should be always present. For this present faith, it is very important for the believers to be reminded of the gospel and hold to the gospel. So Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:1,2, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” We must hold firmly to the word of the gospel so that the power of God may continue to work in us to sanctify us and make us grow in Christ-like image and mould us strong gospel servants. And those who do not believe should not say, “I will believe tomorrow or next time.” Then the gospel cannot work in them and there will be no salvation. As gospel workers we must have urgency to help them believe the gospel. Look at verse 17. ”For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Actually the righteousness of God being revealed is a dreadful thing to sinners. It is because God’s righteousness brings his holy anger and punishes all unrighteous sinners. But a righteousness from God in the gospel is different. This righteousness is the one that satisfied God’s righteousness and makes sinners righteous through his Son Jesus Christ, his atoning death on the cross. It is by faith. And the righteous by faith shall live. And those who are made righteous live by faith in the world from first to last. Third, the wrath of God (18-32). Look at verse 18. “(For) The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” It is noticeable that the wrath of God (10 times in Romans) is being revealed, not from time to time. God’s wrath means his hatred of sin, his holy hostility to sin and evil. All men have a sense of right and wrong. The wrath of God can be revealed internally or externally. It is from heaven against all the godlessness (ungodliness) and wickedness (unrighteousness). Godlessness or ungodliness comes before man’s wickedness or unrighteousness. When people become ungodly and godless, they become unrighteous and wicked. The words, “God gave them over…” are repeated three times (24,26,27). It means that it certainly happens. Abandoning God means abandoning all God’s protection and care. Abandoning God results in God’s abandoning them. Then all the tragic things listed here take place. Without God men cannot preserve morality at all. There is no true humanity (no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy) when they do not retain God in their knowledge. May God help us to have a sense of obligation for young people in our times and preach the gospel with no being ashamed at any situation but the conviction that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.

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