Monday, October 02, 2006

Romans 1:5-6

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.

We received grace and apostleship to call Gentiles to obedience. Who is “we”? Paul and his traveling companions? Paul and his fellow apostles, such as Peter? Paul and those to whom the letter was written? All believers? This particular grace and apostleship was given so that Paul could call Gentiles into obedience through faith. The Gentiles were included! This is a primary theme of Romans. What does “the obedience that comes from faith” mean? The two choices are: “the obedience that comes from faith” (NIV), or “the obedience of faith” (NASB), because faith is the obedience that the gospel demands. “Faith” and “obedience that comes from faith” are both Paul’s goals in ministry. Is Paul talking about actual faith or obedience as a by-product of faith? Is obedience faith? Is faith obedience?

Regardless, the gospel is not something that we accepted and then went on with our lives. The gospel transformed us. If you have not received the gospel (note the difference between receiving and accepting), then you do not know Christ. You may have intellectually assented to the facts of it, accepted it as truth, you may know who Christ is, but you do not know Christ intimately. He has not become the most important Person in the world to you, and until He is the most important Person in the world to you, I cannot say with certainty that you have received the gospel. But God knows the heart.

There is no grace apart from Christ. Paul’s calling to be an apostle was a gift of grace. Grace is not God’s response to our deserving or meriting, neither is grace God’s response to our faith. Grace is God’s free gift; it is his enabling of us to believe and do good. Ephesians 2:8-10 “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Do you see that grace comes first? Grace is before faith and in order that we would have faith. You do not have faith in order to get grace. Grace must come first in order to believe. There are 4 primary views of how grace operates in salvation:

Pelagianism – (MAN ALONE)
Semi-Pelagianism (MAN FIRST; THEN GRACE)

We’ll discuss the latter two views in great detail as we continue through Romans, as both Calvinism and Arminianism both try to uphold grace. Only one really does…

Why grace? Why is salvation / service / all that we are, why is it all by grace through faith? For the glory of Christ, the glory of God. For His name’s sake! God’s purpose in EVERYTHING is to glorify His name, to glorify Himself, to hold Himself high; and He will not be thwarted in that purpose.

You also are among those who are called. We said earlier, there is calling to a particular service; there is calling to salvation. What type of calling is this? This is a calling to belong to Christ, a calling to believe, to be saved. Are all people ever to exist called to salvation, called to belief, called to belong to Christ? Perhaps. Consider two kinds of callings to be saved: (1) The external call of gospel, and (2) The internal call of the Spirit. Are all people called in both of these ways? No. The Golden Chain of Salvation is found in Romans 8:29-30 “Those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

Certainly not all men are called in this way, because not all men are justified. Do you see the connection? All who are called in this way are certain to be justified. So certain that Paul describes it in the past tense. It is as good as already done. God does not justify everyone. But He does justify all the called. What then is this call? The calling to salvation Paul mentions here is a special calling. It is the calling by which Abram was chosen. It is the calling that Jeremiah and Paul experienced. I would say that this calling was of the same sort as Christ having been chosen before creation. 1 Corinthians 1:9 “God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” God calls certain people, and the aim of the call is to put them into fellowship with Christ. God will not miss the mark. His calling is fruitful. This call of God, as Paul uses the term, is special and particular. The people who receive this call in time are the chosen ones of God. When were the believers in Thessalonica chosen? 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” When were you chosen by God to believe? From the beginning. When were you called? In time.

If God calls anyone, it is grace, free and totally undeserved. And He is not obliged to call everyone if He calls anyone, because He does not call any on the basis of human merit or human distinctive. All divine condemnation is just; all divine salvation is gracious. The fact that anyone is called from darkness to light is a wonder of grace. This theme will be discussed more as we progress.

We know from this intro and elsewhere that Jews and Gentiles are called. This was radical and offensive to the Jews. Does this include all Gentiles? Not necessarily. The text says “people from among the Gentiles.” Because not everyone is called in this special way, are we not to preach the gospel to everyone? Indeed we are. Jesus scattered the seed of the Word indiscriminately on every kind of soil. Paul did the same: he came to a city and he preached the gospel in the synagogue and then in the whole town square. He would call everyone to repent, without exception. Acts 17:30 “God commands all people everywhere to repent.” That is the universal call of the gospel, which is the same as evangelism and missions; it is not the call that Paul is talking about in Romans 1:6-7 and Romans 8:28-30, or Romans 9:24, which we will read down the road.

When the gospel is preached, why do some believe and some not? Why did you believe? 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Paul preaches indiscriminately to all–God means for every ethnic group to be reached with the gospel. As Paul preaches to all and offers salvation to all, most Jews regard a crucified Messiah as a stumbling block and reject him. Likewise, most Gentiles regard a crucified Lord as foolishness, and they reject him. But in those two groups, some are called (a different call from the universal call to all). And the effect of this call is that Christ no longer looks like a stumbling block and no longer looks like foolishness; rather He looks like the power and the wisdom of God, just as the text says.

The special, particular, effectual call awakens the dead, gives sight to the spiritually blind, opens the ears of the spiritually deaf, humbles the proud, softens the hard, and brings forth faith. The call of God makes Christ irresistibly attractive, so that we willingly and freely believe. Until God effectually calls us and makes His light shine in our hearts the way He called light into being at the creation, we will not see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:6) in the gospel. If we don’t see it, we will not love the light and come to it (John 3:19-20). But if and when we do see it, we will immediately come and cleave to Him and love Him and trust Him. That is what Paul meant in Romans 1:6. God said to our hearts, “Let there be light,” and thus we see His glory and come to Him and call on Him; He has saved us, forgiven us, and accepted us and poured out His love in our hearts. We were called by the Spirit. That is what has happened to us. We must understand this, if we are to understand the grace of God.

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