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DEVOTIONS FROM ROMANS

ROMANS -- ABUNDANT LIFE IN CHRIST (1)

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill and to destroy, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" John 10:10

Dr. Gordon E. Johnson

Rio Grande Bible Institute

I begin a new devotional series on Paul's Epistle to the Romans.  For me, a devotional has its basis in the inspired text with the desire that the Spirit of Christ apply the truth to our everyday living. Such a process leads to a transformed life, abundant life in Christ.

I will not attempt a word for word theological treatment per se, but will rather selectively chose the development of Paul masterful presentation with a strong emphasis on a personal and present day application to our lives.  My recent devotionals on Colossians followed the same direction (available on www.kneillfoster.com).  I will be covering many of the same truths – the truths of the Cross applied to the life of the believer – because I believe they are crucial to a life of victory in Christ.

My devotionals in Colossians were limited to one page; I will allow myself two pages because Paul in Romans defines, defends and declares the Gospel under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. With very good reason the Spirit placed this epistle at the head of the body of epistles that constitute the rest of the N.T. canon.

I realize how busy the child of God may be. May I suggest that the studies be printed out and then re read with prayer and thought? May the Spirit of the risen Christ do his work in you and in me.

Occasion of the Epistle to the Romans

Paul, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, had covered much of Asia and the eastern half of what was then Europe (the Greek peninsula).  With missionary vision his eyes were set on a visit to Spain (15:28). "And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation, but as it is written: to whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand" (15:20,21). Such was Paul's missionary heart.  Upon studying Romans we need the perspective of a missionary who writes from his heart to others committed to the spreading of the same gospel.

Paul at this time was counting on a trip to Jerusalem to "minister to the saints" in their poverty (15: 25).  After completing this service, he would pass through Rome, the very heart of the Roman Empire, on his missionary trip to Spain.  In retrospect Paul would visit Rome and there be martyred for his faith.  We have no record of his trip to Spain. God had other plans for Paul.

The book of Romans, in one sense, is Paul's letter of introduction of himself as an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He introduces himself by defining, defending and declaring the gospel in a hitherto inimitable manner. The truths of Romans have challenged the greatest minds and have never been fathomed in centuries of exposition. May God illumine our hearts!

A Masterful Introduction   Rom.1:1-7 (NKJ)

How should one approach such a challenge, a converted Pharisee who claims to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, whose reputation was both excellent and doubtful depending on who speaks?  Paul's response is straightforward and direct. "Paul, a servant/slave of Jesus Christ" (1:1) Rome well knew the role of the slave, an entity to be sold, bartered and used at the will of the owner. The slave brought nothing to the owner except availability and implicit obedience. This was Paul's boast, "nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling" as says the hymn.  A slave has no rights, no station in life; he lives for his master. Paul's boast is that he is all of that, and voluntarily so.

"Called to be an apostle." But there is a dignity to this slave, conferred on him by his being a sent one, a missionary, an ambassador. Heaven, no less, has given him that charge and under divine orders he will carry it out. "Separated unto the gospel of God."  But there is more. He has been set apart, sanctified for the express purpose of  proclaiming the ultimate good news of God to a dying and rebellious world. He joins the sacred ranks of prophets, priests and kings. Implicit is an anointing to be the expression of God's voice and heart.

Now comes the focus, not on Paul but on Jesus Christ. This good news, embodied in the gospel, arises from the Old Testament Scriptures. His message is not a novelty. Paul is but another link in the on going divine revelation (2).  And that message revolves around the person of Christ, the Messiah. "Concerning His son Jesus Christ our Lord who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh" (3).  The humanity of Jesus is highlighted because he became man and accomplished the good news by his incarnation.

"And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead" (4). The deity of Jesus is declared by that vicarious death followed by God's most evident vindication: he raised him from the dead.  There could be no more convincing proof than that he always was and is the Son of God. Paul makes it clear that this was done "according to the Spirit of holinesss;" that significant statement will highlight the book of Roman's theme of God's holiness leading to nothing less than our holiness.  Salvation must issue in conformity to Christ; the Holy Spirit is absolutely the agent of the same.

This gospel is entrusted to "we (who) have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name" (5). Paul marks the end result: a missionary purpose to all nations. The phrase is seen in the introduction (5) and is also repeated in the doxology in the epilogue (16: 25-27). Paul concludes by including the Roman believers unknown by face to him.

He sums up the introduction by calling all such: saints, holy ones, set apart to live an abundant life in Christ. He will lay out for them and us the obstacles of sins (Rom.1:18-3:20), the "how" of cleansing by his blood (3:21-5:11) and the walk in victory over sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom.5:12-8:39).  Such is the glorious heritage of the saint.

In few words Paul has introduced himself as an apostle of a Christ-centered biblical message. To this message he is utterly committed: "I am a debtor both to Greeks and barbarians, both to wise and unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also" (14, 15). A missionary heart burdened with a missionary message that will be God's answer to a lost world under the wrath of God. 

Paul has set forth his person and his message; he is " not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (1:16).

¡What a challenge for us who claim to be saints and followers of the Crucified!

Gordon E. Johnson

April 1, 2007


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