The Need for Righteousness: Unashamed of the Gospel

Paul expressed thanksgiving for the Roman believers before he ever visited Rome. He had not met these believers yet.  Yet he is thankful for them.  This is a true pastoral heart.  Additionally, his thanksgiving is expressed to God through the the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the Christian’s only approach to God.  It is always through Christ.

Roman visitors heard Peter preach the Gospel at Pentecost in Jerusalem according Acts 2.10.  They received Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Then they returned to Rome and preached the Gospel. Their testimony is so radiant that Paul speaks of the reputation they gained throughout the world. The one characteristic he singles out is their faith. It is faith that belonged to the Roman believers. It was faith that was placed in Jesus Christ. That is the only faith that triumphs.  Paul will later write that “the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed” (Romans 3.21) “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3.26).

Paul is so thankful for the Roman believers that he unceasingly prays for them. An important request included in his intercessory effort is that he might soon be able to visit them. He is hopeful that it is God’s will for him to do so. The text points up three details that communicate important principles to every believer.

  1. God is our witness. The Greek word for witness is a word that is transliterated into English as our word martyr. The text states that God is Paul’s martyr. The text is obviously referring to God the Father as the subject of the verb. We are accustomed to understanding that Christians become martyrs, but what does this text mean here? The primary responsibility of a martyr is to testify regardless the consequences. But this context is talking about a witness in the sense of confirming what is said. The writer of Hebrews asks, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will” (Hebrews 2.3-4). The Holy Spirit also witnesses to us (Hebrews 10.15). God testified or witnessed of/to the gifts of Abel, that he was righteous (Hebrews 11.4). When God testifies of something or for someone, He needs no other witness to testify with Him. God is Truth. He cannot bear false witness or lie. Therefore, Paul states that God is his witness.  God is our witness as well.  That is, He is our witness as long as we stand in the truth of His Word illumined by the power of His Spirit.
  2. We serve God with our spirit. The inner man must motivate external service. When Paul states that he serves God with his spirit, he is simply telling us that his righteousness and service are externally known only after he is renewed in his mind. Jesus uses the word heart and says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6.45). We serve the Lord God with the spirit, heart, soul, and mind!  Anything less is inferior service.  Many start with externals.  This leads to true legalism.
  3. We serve God in the gospel of His Son. The gospel of God’s Son is the gospel of God. The gospel of God is the good news that righteousness from God is available to all who trust in the resurrection and death of Jesus Christ alone for eternal life. We must serve God by emphasizing the gospel which truly redeems and brings to life a new creation!  Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5.17)!

Paul longed to see the Roman believers because he wanted to serve them. He had a spiritual gift that he was willing to impart. That gift would establish the Roman believers (Romans 1.11). The Greek here for establish is steridzo, which is similar to the English word strength. Paul desired to come to them in order to make them stronger, more firm in their faith. He further explains is verse 12 that he desired mutual encouragement from their mutual faith. Encouragement means to pour courage within one another. However, many times a believer may leave church sapped of courage and hope. The reason this is true is because our fellowship together must be built upon faith in the promises of God and the presence of God.

The Roman Christians needed to know that Paul had made several attempts to visit them, but he was hindered up until that point in his life. Paul desired to cultivate spiritual fruit among the Roman believers just as he did among other Gentiles. That fruit would manifest itself in his teaching and preaching among them. As an apostle, his teaching is an imperative not only for the early church, but for our churches today.

However, this did not go to Paul’s head.  He viewed himself as a debtor (Romans 1.14). He was obligated to do something for the Roman believers. He was obligated to all Gentiles. Those who were refined, Greek-speaking Gentiles and those who were non-Greek speaking barbarians.

The barbarian is used as a pejorative to mock the way these Gentiles spoke. Their language had a guttural sound to it. It was as if they were saying, “Bar.. bar… bar… bar!” However, Paul was indebted to those considered wise Gentiles (Greeks) and unwise Gentiles (barbarians). Paul is ready to preach the good news of God to all, but he especially desires to preach it to those in Rome also (Romans 1.15).

Verses 16-17 are important because they make clear the theme of the Christian life. The gospel of God is the gospel of Christ. There are one in the same. Paul gives us a full five-fold description of this gospel:

  1. Be unashamed of the Gospel. Paul had much in his life that caused him deep shame and regret. We all are ashamed of our past to some degree. Paul will later say that when we were slaves of sin, we were free in regard to righteousness. We were not compelled to live a righteous life. He then asks a poignant question, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed” (Romans 6.20-21). We are ashamed of our sinful past, but we are not ashamed of the gospel, which wipes away every sin and gives to us the righteousness of God!
  2. The gospel is the power of God. Acts 1.8 uses the same word power when it says that the believers at Pentecost would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them. The power of God is found in the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ. Every other supposed bit of good news is powerless. All of our potential is found in the power of God unleashed in the gospel of Christ!
  3. The gospel is to salvation. The gospel delivers us from sin, death, and an eternity separated from God in the Lake of Fire, which is the second death. The gospel’s message rescues us from such a fate.
  4. The gospel is for everyone who believes (Jew first and also for the Greek). First, the gospel is for everyone. We must preach it to everyone. Second, the gospel has the potential to save everyone because it is that powerful. Third, not everyone is saved. The gospel is for everyone who believes. Therefore, the unbelieving will not be saved.
  5. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God from faith to faith. The just ones or the righteous ones live by faith. God’s righteousness includes not just the idea of being put right with God. We are declared right with God the moment we trust in the gospel message. However, God’s righteousness is revealed to us and through us from faith to faith. We grow in our understanding of God’s righteousness. We increasingly display God’s righteousness. And we do all this for the glory of God.

We grow from faith to faith. Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2.4 in Romans 1.17. He will quote it again in Galatians 3.11. The writer of Hebrews will use it in Hebrews 10.38. Faith is both the starting point (justification) and the finishing line (glorification) for the believer. Between the starting point and finishing line is our growing awareness and manifestation of the righteousness of God by faith. The just shall live by faith and by faith alone!

This leads us into the next section of Romans 1. Just as the righteousness of God is being revealed from Heaven (present tense), even so the wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven (present tense).

But before we this final section of Romans 1, we need to examine verse 16 more closely.  If we have the righteousness of God by faith in Christ, how could we ever be ashamed of it? Many of us would not think that we are ashamed of the gospel. Yet we certainly demonstrate we are at times. We do so in three different ways:

  1. We do not grow in our understanding of the gospel. That is, we fail to understand that when we are made right with God it is for the purpose of demonstrating His righteousness for His glory. The means by which we do so is through study of His Word, illumined by His Spirit. The simple fact that we don’t make time to think about the Word of God proves we are ashamed of the Gospel. If we were steeped in God’s Word, the richness of such an experience would indeed flow in and through us. Where is the fragrance of Christ in your Jerusalem.
  2. We do not openly speak to others about the gospel. We learned in Acts 28 that the Jews in Rome desired that Paul speak to them about sect spoken against everywhere (Acts 28.22). As Christianity declines in its popularity, Christians are less and less willing to be open and vocal about the true gospel and manifest the righteousness of God for the glory of God. Are we not ashamed when we will not hand out a tract, place a doorhanger on a door, or engage a neighbor in a conversation for the purpose of testifying of Christ? Jesus set us apart with His own blood. He suffered outside the gate. He carried our shame. We are urged by the writer of Hebrews to “go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Hebrews 10.13)? What reproach do you carry? What shame do you bear? If you do not take up your cross and follow after Jesus, you are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10.38). Jesus said, “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8.38). The cowardly have their part in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21.8). We cannot participate in the sin of cowardice and be ashamed of the gospel! “Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10.10).
  3. We do not walk worthy of the gospel. It is certainly surprising to see the lack of holiness in American Christianity. Christians conform to the world instead of Christ. They live carnal lives that sow death instead of holy lives offering hope. They say that they need become all things to all men. But they twist and pervert that passage. Paul didn’t advocate unholiness or sinful living. Paul was free from all men, but made himself a servant to all. For what purpose? To win the more! To win the Jews. To win those under the law! To win those without law! To win the weak! All things to all men in order to be all means save some! When you become like the world, you’re simply blending into the world. You put your light under bushel. If you are to walk worthy of the gospel, you must walk as a child of light. Where is the goodness, righteousness, and truth for the glory of God? What does it mean to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them (Ephesians 5.8-11)? Noah condemned the world and became an heir of righteousness by faith when he boarded the ark (Hebrews 11.7). We must “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that [we] may rejoice in the day of Christ that [we] have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Philippians 2.15-16). Paul withstood Peter to his face, because he was to be blamed. He withdrew from eating with Gentiles when certain men from James in Jerusalem came around. He even brought the comforter Barnabas into his hypocrisy (Galatians 2.11-13). Walk worthy of the gospel of God!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.

The Need for Righteousness: Obedience of Faith

Why is Romans first among the letters written in the New Testament?  It doesn’t seem that chronology is the reason.  Galatians and the Corinthian letters were more than likely  written at an earlier date.  However, its placement in the New Testament makes perfect sense.  I have just finished preaching through the last half of Acts surveying the life of Paul.  Acts ends with Paul in Rome.  He was transferred as a prisoner from Jerusalem to Rome.  Jerusalem and Rome are central to the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the first century Jewish and Gentile peoples respectively.  Jews and Gentiles constitute all people.  There is no other category of people.  Either one is a Gentile or a Jew.

Romans reveals God’s nature and eternal purpose for all mankind (Romans 8.38-39), of the Jew first and also of the Greek (cp. Acts 28.17-29).  Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!  Romans teaches that the incomprehensible power of God to salvation is for everyone who believes (Romans 1.16).

Paul wrote to Christian brothers and sisters in Rome.  Some were Gentiles and some were Jews.  Some of them had been saved and filled with Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Acts tells us that people from Rome were present at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2.10).  Indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit, they went back to Rome with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Paul said that the faith of Roman Christians was spoken of throughout the whole world (cf. Romans 1.8).

Romans is written to provide a theological understanding of the fullness of God’s plan of salvation for all mankind, Jew and Gentile alike.  Romans demonstrates that the plan of salvation is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Romans is filled with close, connected reasoning.  It is so tightly packed, that much is overlooked when simply surveying the book during Bible reading time.  The other danger is becoming too myopic when studying the book. It is a letter that should be read straight through. Individual paragraphs should be read within their context.

Significantly, Paul quoted from the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) when citing the many passages of the Old Testament Scriptures in Romans.  He did so because his audience was primarily a Gentile or Greek-speaking audience.

As already mentioned, Galatians and both letters to the Corinthians were written before Paul wrote Romans.  But the confrontations with the churches of Galatia and Corinth governed the content of those letters.  Romans is a cool, calm statement of the salvation of God for everyone who believes.  It is a universal book for a universal audience.

I am hesitant to say that one must master Romans, because it is impossible to master any book of the Bible.  I would say especially this book.  However, I do think it is important that you know its basic content, memorize portions of it, and know it very well.  For instance, until a Christian studies in detail Romans 5 – 9, I believe that they will struggle immensely with the Christian life.  I do think it is important for you to read Romans many times and meditate on it contents.  Romans, more than any other book of the Bible in my opinion, clarifies one’s understanding of the righteousness of God and the salvation of mankind.  My former pastor and seminary professor would say that instead of you mastering Romans, Romans should master you.

Very important questions will be addressed throughout the book.  Paul may state the questions explicitly, or the questions are implicit derived from factual data in the book.

  • If one is justified freely by faith alone, how can God be just?
  • How does the Gospel relate to the Old Testament Law?
  • How should a Christian view the Law of Moses?
  • What is the Christian’s relationship to the Law?  Does grace give us the right to ignore the Law?  If not, does one need to keep the Law in order to be saved?  Do we need to keep the Law to please God and advance in the Christian life?
  • Since God’s grace abounds even more than our sin, what will keep the moral fabric of our lives in tact?  What incentive does Romans offer to NOT sin?
  • What about Israel?  Has God cast Israel off forever?  Does the Church replace Israel?  Are the promises of God made to Israel fulfilled in Christ?  Will they be fulfilled at a yet future time?

These questions are all answered by Paul in Romans.  Paul calls himself the least of all saints and the chief of sinners.  He is a Pharisee of the Pharisees and yet an apostle to the Gentiles.  God led Paul deliberately through the Old Testament Scriptures.  The Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught Paul.  Paul paid the price for identifying with our Lord’s teaching and suffering.  Still, his overarching desire was to know Christ and be found in Him.

God breathed out this letter to Paul.  This is called the process of inspiration.  But inspiration is mysterious in so many ways.  God communicated through Paul’s experience, suffering, vocabulary, background, and education.  There are both divine and human aspects to the inspiration of this letter and of all Scripture.  The result is a masterpiece, a foundational document for the whole of Christianity.  How do we approach such a letter?

There are three major sections in the letter according to one of my favorite writers, J. Sidlow Baxter.  Baxter sees a doctrinal section (Chapters 1 – 8), a national section (Chapters 9-11), and a practical section (Chapters 12 – 16).  Some commentators divide the book into five sections dealing with the topics of sin (Chapters 1 – 3), salvation (Chapter 4), sanctification (Chapters 5 – 8), sovereignty (Chapters 9 – 11), and service (Chapters 12 – 16).  This division provides a good, memorable and alliterated outline.  Verses 16 – 17 provide the central thrust and theme of the book.  Paul reasons:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith'” (Romans 1.16-17).

What is revealed in salvation according to Romans 1.17?  The righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.  That is, we are growing in our understanding of God’s righteousness as we read and study Romans.  Our faith grows.  We live out of a vibrant and growing faith in the righteousness of God.  This is an eternal quality of life that enables our acts of righteousness through the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God.  So the core doctrine in Romans is the righteousness of God.  The outline of the book I am using reflects this.  It is an outline modified from my reading of Romans and several other outlines of the book.

Romans 1.1-15 provide an introduction to the letter.  Verses 16-17 state the theme of the letter.  Then the body of the Letter is divided three major sections:

1.    The Revelation of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 8)

2.    The Vindication of the Righteousness of God (Romans 9 – 11)

3.    The Application of the Righteousness of God (Romans 12 – 16)

Here are the three major sections along with a break-down of their sub-sections:

The Revelation of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 8)

1.    The Need of the Righteousness of God (Romans 1 – 2)

2.    The Gift of the Righteousness of God (Romans 3 – 4)

3.    The Benefits of the Righteousness of God (Romans 5.1 – 11)

4.    The Contrast to the Righteousness of God (Romans 5.12 – 21)

5.    The Demonstration of the Righteousness of God (Romans 6 – 8)

The Vindication of the Righteousness of God (Romans 9 – 11)

1.    Election:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Past (Romans 9)

2.    Rejection:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Present (Romans 10)

3.    Restoration:  The Righteousness of God Vindicated in Israel’s Future (Romans 11)

The Application of the Righteousness of God (Romans 12 – 16)

1.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Duties (Romans 12 – 13)

2.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Support (Romans 14)

3.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Obedience (Romans 15)

4.    Righteousness Reflected in Our Fellowship (Romans 16)

While righteousness is the theme of Romans, this theme poses quite a problem for all mankind.  The reason this is true is because we are ungodly and unrighteous people.  Romans 1.18 states that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  Our problem is that we must be godly and righteous, but we are ungodly and unrighteous.  God has revealed His wrath from Heaven against all mankind for this reason.  Our default position is “condemned already.”

Therefore, Romans is a study on evangelism.  It explains how the ungodly and unrighteous become godly and righteous.  “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1.17).  The Gospel or Good News is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1.16).  It is only by faith that the ungodly and unrighteous become godly and righteous.

Thus, we begin with The Revelation of the Righteousness of God in Romans 1 – 8.  Our first series of messages will key in on our need for righteousness as it is communicated in the first two chapters of the book.  This first study, examines the first seven verses of Romans 1.

Romans 1:1–7 (NKJV) — 1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

These seven opening verses identify who Paul is, what the gospel of God is, and what obedience to the faith is all about.

The Identification of Paul (Romans 1.1)

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…” (Romans 1.1)

He is a bondservant of Jesus Christ.

Paul identifies himself as a bondservant or slave of Jesus Christ.  It is a privilege to be a slave of Christ.  While it was a great honor for a man or a woman to be a slave in the household of the Caesar or some other great dignitary at the time, how much more so to be a slave of the One for whom all things were created!  But, as a slave…

He is called to be an apostle.

Apostle literally means sent one.  However, it is used in an official sense in our text.  Paul is called to be an apostle.  Paul was called in the sense that he was invited to be God’s messenger of the gospel.  The understanding of called includes an invitation.

It certainly would have never occurred to Paul to reject this invitation or calling after his experience upon the Damascus Road.  As an apostle, he would witness firsthand the resurrected Christ.  All apostles must do so.  This is one reason why there are no apostles in the Church active today.

Paul brought forth teaching from the Lord Jesus in order to establish the Church.  Again, this apostolic doctrine or teaching was received by Paul firsthand.  It was then ‘enscripturated’.  As a bondservant, Paul lived out his function as an apostle for the sovereign will and purpose of God.  Paul was a bondservant, an apostle, and…

He is separated to the gospel of God.

What is the gospel of God?  It is the good news of God’s salvation for everyone who believes (1.16).  It is the righteousness of God which comes through faith (1.17).  Paul was set apart for communicating the gospel of God.  Paul is a bondservant, an apostle, and he set apart for the gospel of God.

Once you choose to believe on Christ alone for eternal life, you are choosing to become His bondservant or slave.  Once you belong to Him, you are not permitted to choose for yourself in life.  You cannot pick and choose what you will obey in the Scriptures.  The true attitude of a Christian is one of complete devotion (Romans 12.1-2).

The Identification of the Gospel of God (1.2-4)

“…which [this relative pronoun refers to the gospel of God] He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1.2-4).

Verse 2 indicates that the gospel of God was promised beforehand through the Old Testament prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The gospel of God also concerns His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Again a connection is made with the Old Testament.  We are told that Jesus Christ was born of the seed of David as the incarnate Son of God (v. 3).  The Holy Spirit powerfully declares Jesus Christ as the Son of God or God the Son through His resurrection from the dead (v. 4).  The gospel’s two necessary components are the death and resurrection of Christ.  

These verses remind us that the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ is complex.  He is beyond our ability to explain.  He is fully man as the words “according to the flesh” indicate, but He is also the “Son of God with power.”  He is fully God the Son.  We cannot understand how it is true, but we believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.  He is the son of David and the Son of God.  Born a baby in a manger, Jesus came in the weakness of human flesh.  Raised from the tomb, He broke the power of sin and death.  He died for our sin and was raised for our justification (4.25).

The Scriptures are God’s gift to us, and they all speak of the power of the resurrected Christ.  If we are to benefit from that power we must search the Scriptures.  All Scripture testifies of Jesus Christ.  All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.

Jesus said that religious people search the Scriptures because in them they think they have eternal life.  However, they fail to understand that the Scriptures testify of Christ.  They are not willing to come to Christ that they may have life.

John 5.40 does not teach that Son of God is unwilling to give people like this life; therefore, they do not come to Him.  No, Jesus teaches they were not willing to come to Him believing so that they may have life.  God is willing; man is unwilling.  We must search the Scriptures for the resurrected Christ!  See John 5.39-40.

Remember too that the Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is our Lord as v. 3 plainly states.  If Jesus is Lord, we must obey Him.  You are not your own, but you’ve been bought with a price.  You are God’s unique possession.  As such, you must glorify Him in your soul and body, which are His.  This is the Gospel of God according to Romans.  Finally, we seek…

The Identification of Obedience of Faith (Romans 1.5-7)

There are five aspects to our understanding of the phrase “obedience to the faith” in these verses:

Obedience is an expression of God’s grace (1.5).

“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name…” (Romans 1.5)

Through the resurrected God-Man, Paul and others received both grace and apostleship (v. 5).  Remember that Paul is a bondservant and an apostle set apart for the Gospel of God.  He may only fulfill his work as an apostle by the grace of God.  This grace he received from God.  The apostleship of Paul is an expression of the grace of God.  Paul could not be an apostle apart from the grace of God.  Yet, notice that…

Obedience is an expression of our faith (1.5).

Paul’s grace-enabled apostleship was for obedience to the faith among all nations.  Literally, the phrase in Greek translates “obedience of faith” [see NASB].  Faith is the substance of things men hope for, the evidence of things men cannot see (cp. Hebrews 11.1).  Faith is your personal trust in someone or something.

Obedience is sometimes tied to faith in the Scriptures.  This is because faith submits to its object.  Faith in Christ is giving up the notion that there is another way.  No, He alone is THE Way!  Faith is the realization that God alone gives us righteous and godly lives.  Faith in Romans is submission to the righteousness of God available through His resurrected Son.  Our faith obeys.

Faith is available to all.

Obedience of faith is among all nations.  This fact is not surprising to 21st century Christianity, but it would have been very surprising in the 1st century.  The Gentiles or the nations were considered dogs by the Jews.  But the gospel of God has changed all that.  Paul’s gospel includes the Jews but also every other nation.  He refers to the nations as Gentiles.  He uses the words nations and Gentiles interchangeably.  Thus faith is available to us.  But…

Faith is for His name.

Obedience of faith is among nations for His name.  The name of Jesus Christ must be defined by His perfect character and work.  The name of Jesus Christ is what Paul and all believers live for.  We long to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, and conformation to His death (cp. Philippians 3.10).  Thus, we look forward to our own resurrection from the dead.
 Obedience is a response to God’s call (1.6)

“…among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;” (Romans 1.6)

Paul speaks to all believers in this letter …not just apostles.  We also are the called of Jesus Christ.  We are called in the sense that we too have been invited, and we have come.  We too are obedient just as Paul was.  We too have believed just as Paul did.  Not everyone called will hear, understand, or believe.  But we have.  Many are being called, but few are chosen because few believe.  Many are saying, “Lord, Lord!” but few truly know Him.  The many are not chosen or obedient because they will not believe.

It is important that we obey and believe.  As believers we are urged to cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5).  Faith requires obedience.

Obedience is characterized by love and holiness (1.7a).

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1.7).

Verse 7 now brings the letter’s salutation:  To all who are in Rome.  Obviously, Paul speaks of believers.  These believers are characterized as the objects of God’s love and especially set apart for His work.  They are beloved and they are saints.  Love and holiness walk hand in hand when it comes to Christian character.  If we are growing in love, we are growing in holiness.  If there is growth in holiness, there will be growth in love.

Obedience is demonstrated by grace and peace (1.7b).

“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1.7)

This verse speaks of two provisions for believers who are loved and set apart.  These provisions come from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Again, Christ and and the Father are One in this verse.  They are co-equal, co-eternal, and co-eval (of the same duration – both have always been; there has never been a time when One existed apart from the Other).  The Father is eternal; the Son is eternal; the Spirit is eternal.  Three Persons; one God.

Grace is God’s gift coming to us in many forms.  First, grace is God’s favorable disposition toward the believer and unbeliever alike.  Grace includes all we need in the work He has for us to accomplish.  It is a gift because it is unearned.  God bestows it without partiality to those who believe.  For believers, the grace is God for us; grace is also God in us.  Second, God provides peace.  Peace simply means that all hostility between God and the believer has ceased.  As the hymn writer put it, “It is well with my soul!”

Peace as an objective reality is now a part of our lives.  But the believer may often be unaware of the peace he has.  His condition does not reflect his position.  Nothing can take away the peace of God.  We sin, are chastened, and face great opposition and sickness throughout life.  Peace guards and protects our hearts and minds at all times.  However, we often fail to experience the subjective aspects of this cessation of hostility with God.  But whether or not we experience peace, we have it!

The reason subjective peace is so elusive for us is that we don’t understand that hostility with God has indeed ended.  Peace in its subjective sense is for everyone who works what it good (Romans 2.10).  While we have peace with God, we often find it elusive because of our disobedience, rebellion, and pride.

Unsaved people do not know the way of peace (Romans 3.17).  Peace is a result of being made right with God (Romans 5.1).  But subjectively, believers are often carnally minded.  The Bible calls the carnal mind death.  However, we can be spiritually minded and find life and peace, but only as children of God (Romans 8.6).  The kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17).

Paul prays that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15.13).  At the end of Romans Paul states that ultimately the God of peace will crush Satan under our feet in a relatively short amount of time (Romans 16.20).

So, obedience stems from the grace of God.  Man responds to God in obedience by relying upon that grace through faith.  Therefore, we are called of Jesus Christ because we have responded to God’s grace through faith.

The obedience we offer by faith is characterized by love and holiness.  We know our obedience stems from grace through faith when it manifests the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ in our present lives.

Prayer:  Father, teach us that we are your bondservants purchased with the blood of Your Son.  Convince us that Jesus Christ is both fully man and fully God.  Reveal to us the power of His resurrection in our present lives and in eternity to come.  Give us grace for obedience to the faith.  May we be willing to be set apart so that we might reflect your grace and peace to a world that is lost in darkness and at enmity with you.