Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Romans 1:7

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.

Paul wrote specifically to those “who are loved by God and called to be saints.” He wasn’t writing to anyone that did not fit this description. Is there such a person that is not loved by God and not called to be a saint? YES and NO. All men ever to exist are loved generically by God—they are made in His image—and all men have a responsibility to obey God’s commands to be saints, to be holy; at the same time, none will obey. As we’ll see in Romans 3, there are none who seek God. So God has loved some with a special love. It is this group that Paul is writing to in Romans 1. Paul doesn’t want Christians to say, “God calls me ‘loved’ because he loves everybody the same, and, since I am one member of the group named ‘everybody’, then I am also loved.” That’s not what verse 7 means. Paul says, “I write ‘to all in Rome who are loved by God.’” But he does not mean everybody in Rome. He is writing to those who are “the called of Jesus Christ.” I don’t mean that there is no love in God’s heart for other people. I mean that God has a special love for His people. He has a covenant love for His chosen ones. He chose them to be His people; and He made a covenant with them; and God sealed the covenant with the blood of Christ (Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25). The love of God for His people is utterly different from His love for any other people. God had a special love for Jacob that He did not have for Esau—and not because Jacob deserved it more than Esau; on the contrary, God poured out this special love on Jacob before either of the twins was born. This is the doctrine of election, and we’ll talk more about it when we get to Romans 8-11.

Our vision of the love of God must be enlarged, not reduced. In other words, if God loves “the called of Jesus Christ,” the church, with a special covenant love, don’t conclude that He is less loving than He would be if He loved all people with this same type of love. Scripture declares that God loves the whole world, but that He chooses his bride, “the called of Jesus Christ,” and loves her (i.e. Believers) with a special, precious, covenant love. God says in Jeremiah 32:40 “I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear Me, so that they will never turn away from Me.” Do you see what kind of love this is? This is more than the general love of invitation and offer. This is a love that puts the fear of God in the heart. This is the kind of love that works powerfully and effectively. This is not a general love for all; it is a special and precious love, a love that transforms and puts the fear of God in our hearts and keeps us from turning away: the new covenant.

This is what we should feed on daily. This is sweet and strong. To know that I am loved by the creator God of the universe in this special way is the very heart of my assurance. That God has called me, that He has shone in my heart to give the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, that He will work infallibly to keep me and bring me to everlasting glory–this is what it means to be loved by God. This is not the general love of God that offers eternal life to the world, nor is it the sustaining love of God that gives sun and rain even to His enemies. This is the love of God for His bride, His chosen people. He calls us from death to life, and He keeps us from falling away. This is the new covenant love of God. This is what Paul means in Romans 1:7 when he says, “to all who are loved by God in Rome.” And it is what God means when He says to believers today: “You are the called of Jesus Christ; you are my loved ones. I have chosen you for My own; I have called you; I have justified you; I will keep you; I will work in you what is pleasing in My sight (Hebrews 13:21); nothing will separate you from Me; because I love you with an everlasting love. You I love, just as I love my own Son, Jesus Christ.”

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