Do you ever think about how privileged you are? Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouth! Some inherit physical beauty and traits that makes others envious! But the most privileged of all is the person who is born a second time—because they are LOVED and CALLED by God!
We possess an unique relationship with the LORD and with those who belong to Him. In Romans 1:5-7, the Apostle Paul sets forth the unique privileges that believers share in common with God and each other because they are CALLED and LOVED by Him—
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
THROUGH HIM the great Person just described, Paul and others became objects of the ‘FAVOR’ of God. Not that Christ moved God to look on us with favor, but that the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord are the channel through which God’s favor reached us. For Christ Himself is the gift of GRACE.
The plural WE might refer to Paul only. Such use of the plural in formal documents is common in all languages and ages. Or it might refer to all the apostles.
One of the first acts of the power of Jesus Christ, after His resurrection, was to bestow His Spirit and His grace on the APOSTLES, who were chosen by Him, to qualify them to be His witnesses and the heralds of His Gospel. Paul was among the APOSTLES, although appointed at a later period than the rest—when Christ stopped him in his tracks on the Damascus Road.
This is letter is to ALL Christians in Rome and the ALL is emphatic—not one believer is excluded. God’s calling and His love are the basis for their existence. They didn’t choose God, He chose them! Paul will develop this truth as he proceeds through the letter.
CALLED is to be invited to believe in Christ Jesus, and become His disciple. Think about it! Christian, you are really special! You are called to belong to Jesus Christ—you’re loved by God. Jesus said in John 6:44—
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.
DRAWING, though it assumes power and influence, it does not overpower the human will by force—its as music draws the ear, love the heart, and pleasure the mind. Not by compulsion, not by laying the will under any necessity; but by the strong and sweet, yet still resistible, motions of His heavenly grace.
Two things are needful to come to Christ: the human will to come and the divine drawing. But no one comes to Christ without being drawn or called. Later in the letter, Paul explains why this is so!
The Gospel illuminated by the Holy Spirit is God’s voice calling men to Christ; and it is as solemn as the voice from the burning bush, or that on the road to Damascus according to 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5—
For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.
Believers are called both with an external calling by the Gospel, and also with an internal calling by the Holy Spirit. All who obey this calling belong to Christ.
You have been called to belong to Jesus Christ because you are loved by God. Think about why God loved you? What did you do to merit His love? Are you really deserving of His love?
When you go home, sit down and take a piece of paper and pencil and list on one side all the reasons and things you have done that would make you deserving of Grace. Then on the other side, list everything you have ever done in thought, word, and deed that the Bible calls sin.
Don’t forget every look with lust; every nasty utterance, unkind, untrue or frivolous word; every impure thought entertained, every time your conscience accused you, every inflamed and wrongful passion, every step out of the will of God. Every moment wasted, every talent debased for selfish purposes. Every time you apologized for anything.
Is God keeping a SCORECARD in heaven—adding the good things you have done and subtracting the bad things? Waiting until that day you finally score the magic number and God says, “Now I can love you!” Is that why He saved you? NOT SO! Remember what the LORD said in Exodus 33:19—
I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
Paul expounds throughout this letter upon this statement by Yahweh, telling us why you and I have received His mercy and compassion when we deserved wrath. Paul is living proof that God doesn’t keep a scorecard—that he has mercy and compassion on whom he pleases.
How did God call you to belong to Jesus Christ? At age seven, a lady from Child Evangelism Fellowship presented the Gospel to me using the Wordless Book. I responded by faith to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. She told me to start attending church, to read the Bible and pray. I listened and obeyed.
That lady had received grace, and though she was not an apostle, she had the authority every believer has to call people TO OBEDIENCE THAT COMES FROM FAITH.
Salvation did not come to me because I was better than all the other kids in the neighborhood. I was saved because someone from obedience that comes from faith told me about Jesus. That lady was a laborer in God’s harvest field, she was a fisher of men. She cast the Gospel net and I was brought into the kingdom of God—not because she was a good fisher of men—BUT because I was CALLED and LOVED by God!
Would you like to flood your heart and soul with unspeakable joy and peace? Follow Paul instructions in Philippians 4:8—
Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
There is nothing more excellent or praiseworthy—than to reflect upon how you are called and loved by God. If that doesn’t thrill your heart and soul—something is wrong!
Karl Barth, the great German theologian of this century, was asked shortly before his death, “What was the greatest thought you ever had?” Without hesitation, he replied—“Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so!”
All Christian have the four things in common:
All are called.
All belong to Jesus Christ.
All are loved by God.
All are called to be saints.
What a state of blessedness the Christian possesses! On the flip side, we are Christ’s possession—we belong to Him—He is OUR LORD, writes Paul in verse 4.
Kuriov the Greek word for LORD also is translated MASTER. It denotes the one to whom a person belongs, his owner; the one who has control over his life. We must receive Christ as Lord in order to be saved according to passages like Romans 10:9-10—
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
At the moment of our conversion, we become Christ’s possession, we belong to Him, and we acknowledge Him as Master! Not so for the Israelites in the OT. Yahweh told the Israelites in Exodus 19:5-6—
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’
Full obedience to God’s commands would result in the Israelites being His treasured possession. The exact opposite is true of the Christian. Since we are Christ’s possession, we are to fully obey Him and keep His commandments. Herein lies the difference between LAW and GRACE!
LAW and OBEDIENCE produces RELATIONSHIP in the OT.
GRACE and RELATIONSHIP produces OBEDIENCE in the NT.
God’s grace in Christ Jesus changes many things. For the first time, since Israel was called and set apart to be a nation under God at Mount Sinai, there is a ONENESS of Jew and Gentile in the community of faith.
The complexion of God’s people has changed—both Jews and Gentiles are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Most scholars believe there were fewer Jews than Gentiles in the church of Rome. The nucleus, like the nucleus of most of the churches in the Gentile world, may have been composed of Jewish proselytes, or Gentiles who had been in the habit of attending the synagogue. This would account for Paul’s large use of the OT in this letter. Even the Gentiles would be familiar with the Holy Scriptures.
Paul completes a circle he began in the first verse when he describes them as called just as he is called, and announces they belong to Jesus Christ just as he does. Therefore, he sees every Christian as a SERVANT of Christ Jesus just like himself—called to obedience that comes from faith. The same God that called Paul to be an apostle to call people out from among all the Gentiles has called us to do likewise. Do you see yourself this way?
OBEDIENCE THAT COMES FROM FAITH is an agenda of Paul as he presents the Gospel of God, which reaches its climax with Romans 12:1—
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship [or SERVICE.]
Without faith it is impossible to please God. Works arise from faith and therefore, faith without works is dead! Works do not produce faith; its the other way around. All spiritual acts of worship or service flow from faith.
Why should we be SERVANTS of Christ? Because we are LOVED by God and CALLED TO BE SAINTS—What a blessed position to occupy!
But how widely misunderstood, for many religious people have been led to believe that all the saints are in heaven! According to the Roman Catholic Church, no one can be a saint until canonized by the Church, generally hundreds of years after death. Actually, the end of the Divine calling is to convert sinners into saints or holy persons. Every born again person is a SAINT—even the Corinthian Christians who acted like immature babies.
CALLED TO BE SAINTS can be read CALLED SAINTS. Both translations are accurate. On the one hand, there is the processes of becoming saints as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. On the other hand, we already are saints in God’s sight.
SAINT simply means HOLY or one who has been set apart by God as scared to Himself. The words HOLY, HALLOW, HOLINESS, and SAINT, SANCTIFY, SANCTIFICATION, represent in our English Bibles nearly always one Hebrew and one Greek word. These words demand careful study since they are so important for understanding the Bible, the character of God, and our relation to Him.
In the Bible, the HOLINESS of God denotes the absolute authority with which He confronts men. But this authority is the authority of Him who has revealed Himself as merciful and righteous. Applied to Israel, the term HOLY expressed the fact that they were God’s special people. Their holiness is derived from God’s gracious choice of them, and it involved the obligation on their part to try to be and do what was in accordance with the revealed character of God by obeying His commandments.
Hence, whatever God claims for His own, we may speak of as ‘holy’ without considering whether the objects or persons are perfect in and of themselves. For God’s claim puts the object or person claimed in a new position.
Paul’s use of SAINT rests squarely on its OT foundations. Those who have been called by the holy God are holy in virtue of His calling and are thereby, claimed for holiness of life. All SAINTS are set apart to live to holy and pleasing lives for God instead of the world, the flesh, and the devil. This letter contains tremendous advice on how to be a SAINT. At least that’s what Paul claims in 15:15-16—
I have written to you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
SANCTIFIED is BEING HOLY or simply LIVING LIKE A SAINT.
Positionally, all believers are holy. Practically, we are conforming to the image of Christ. By the amazing act of God’s grace, every believer is made righteous in His sight and receives the Spirit of Holiness. Certainly, we are not born so, nor become so through our own power, but we are so when God pours out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. All believers are to be what they are in God’s sight—SAINTS!
Commitment to Christ comes before commitment to holy living. Many well-meaning people have failed to see this. JOHN WESLEY went to the mission field in the Colonies and returned to England before discovering that he himself was an unconverted man in need of Christ. Obedience comes from faith, not vice versa. One cannot please God without faith!
As Christians, our ATTITUDE is obedience from faith. Our ASSIGNMENT is ALL NATIONS—Our AUTHORITY is HIS NAME. Paul keeps before us the pressing need for world evangelism.
Keep in mind this letter is written to Christians. Paul does not write in order to lead the Romans to faith—for Christ has already made them His own by a divine call. They are objects of God’s love, people whom He has claimed for Himself. We might say Paul’s desire for them is the smile of God, and the rest of spirit which only that smile can give. So he combines the Greek and Hebrew salutations in verse 7b—
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
GRACE AND PEACE are the source of all blessing, and therefore holds the first place in NT salutations. Ordinary letters of that period usually contained a single word meaning GREETING. Paul combines the Greek EIRENE—GRACE and the Hebrew SHALOM—PEACE to make his greeting. He desires for his readers a continuing and deepening experience of spiritual blessings that only God can bestow.
GRACE (cariv) is used to describe divine FAVOR as in Luke 1:30—
But the angel said to [Mary], “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found FAVOR with God.
GRACE is sometimes taken for the whole of the Christian religion, as being the grandest possible display of God’s FAVOR to a lost, ruined world. It signifies all the blessings and benefits which Christ has purchased, and which he gives to true believers, both in time and eternity.
It sometimes signifies merely thanks or thanksgiving—saying GRACE at meals.
GRACE, most frequently signifies some blessing or benefit calculated to promote human happiness. Sometimes GRACE means the unmerited and undeserved kindness of God in salvation. It’s certainly all of that! But it’s much more also!
Notice that GRACE precedes PEACE. And PEACE in Hebrew and Greek, generally signify all kinds of blessing, but especially harmony and unity, and the bond of such unity.
One piece of the whole armor of God is having our feet fitted with THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, which speaks of reconciliation—the harmony and unity between God and man and the bond Jew and Gentile experience in Christ.
In Ephesians 2:13-17, Paul uses PEACE four times to signify the Gospel and its blessings—
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our PEACE, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.
His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making PEACE, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached PEACE to you who were far away and PEACE to those who were near.
There can be no peace apart from grace. Turn to Isaiah 57:19-21. This amazing prophecy of the Gospel and Church combines GRACE and PEACE—
“Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.” But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
PEACE is obvious, but GRACE is the cryptic word HEAL as we’ll see shortly.
Those FAR are GENTILES and those NEAR are JEWS. The Jews are NEAR because they are in the position of privilege—they are God’s chosen people—having things like the Temple and the Holy Scriptures that bring them near to God. The Gentiles have no way of approaching God, and therefore are FAR.
The BAD NEWS is all are WICKED—whether FAR or NEAR!
The GOOD NEWS is the LORD will HEAL THEM—FAR or NEAR!
What is there about us that the LORD must heal?—WICKEDNESS—that is being guilty of SIN. It is wickedness that separates us from God, and as a result we do not have PEACE WITH GOD or the PEACE OF GOD. We are born alienated from God and enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.
Isaiah 53:4-6 explains how the LORD will HEAL those FAR and NEAR through the substitutionary death of Christ—
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are HEALED. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
This HEALING is called GRACE in the New Testament. The infirmities and sorrows of our wickedness and iniquity are HEALED by GRACE. Every human requires God’s healing—His grace. That’s the point of the first few chapters of Romans, which we should view as a court case, entitled: THE SOVEREIGN CREATOR versus HIS SINFUL CREATURES.
As an attorney for the prosecution, Paul systematically establishes the case that all mankind is wicked and void of peace. God’s verdict is reached—“There is no one righteous, not even one.”
All the world stands guilty before God. Within seconds of the BAD NEWS verdict being handed down, there comes a new verdict of GOOD NEWS—“But now, a righteousness of God.”
GRACE (God Righteousness At Christ’s Expense) permeates the remaining pages of this letter. The HEALING God promised beforehand in the Holy Scriptures through the prophet Isaiah is a reality. God’s GRACE is offered to all—FAR and NEAR.
In its full theological sense the greeting—GRACE and PEACE—indicates that God’s healing brings about a twofold cessation. First, on God’s part the ending of Divine anger and restoration of harmony between Himself and man. And second, on man’s part the ending of his hostility towards God and the peace of mind which follows upon it.
With the legal precision and skill of a good attorney, Paul explains how God abolishes the guilty verdict and pronounces the sinner right with Him. The changed verdict does not arise from a change in the accused. For there is nothing that we can do to merit or deserve it. It must come from God.
TO YOU FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND FROM THE LORD JESUS CHRIST signifies the divine source of GRACE and PEACE. As recipients of His grace, we step from the position of being accused, condemned, and deserving the wrath of God into the privileged position of knowing God as OUR FATHER.
Now isn’t that GOOD NEWS?
In these three verses, Paul names five privileges we have as believers as a result of the Gospel:
We are called by God.
We belong to Jesus Christ.
We are loved by God.
We are called to be saints.
We are blessed with grace and peace.
Fanny Crosby’s wonderful hymn, I AM THINE, O LORD, alludes to these five privileges. Look for them
as we sing it to the LORD!