Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Romans 1:8-10

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of His Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

Thanksgiving comes FIRST. Paul begins all of his epistles, except Galatians (due to his urgency to write it) with thanksgiving to God. Why such a priority on thankfulness? We have received mercy, forgiveness of a debt that we could have never paid off, of which the designated penalty is death and eternal damnation. That’s why thanksgiving comes first. There is nothing we have that we shouldn’t be thankful for, for all is from God—both good and bad, as seen from our perspective.

Paul thanks God for the Romans, specifically because of their world-renowned faith; he thanks God for making the faith of the Romans known all over the world. Can we say here that Paul is thanking God for the faith of the Romans? Should we be thankful to God for faith, for the fact that we believe, and for the fact that others believe? Philippians 1:29 “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him.” 1 Corinthians 4:7 “What do you have that you did not receive?” 2 Peter 1; 1 Thessalonians 1; 1 Timothy 1:14; Romans 11:36. If faith is produced by us, not a gift from God, why would we thank God for it? If faith is not given or generated by God, how would it glorify Him? Rather, faith would glorify us, because we are the ones who generate it. I suggest that faith is not generated by us. Faith is a gift from God! Thus we can thank God for the faith He gives His people. Why pray for others to believe?

Paul was excited that the faith of the Romans was proclaimed worldwide. Do you know anyone whose faith is proclaimed worldwide? Billy Graham? Are you thankful to God or to the individual for that faith? Both? Are you excited to see "" "" becoming a Deacon, thirsting and hungering for the Word? He hungers for righteousness and desires to be like the Lord Jesus Christ. He wants more grace. Does that excite you? That sort of thing excited the apostle Paul. What causes you joy and thanksgiving tells a lot about what you care about and who you are. So our prayers ought to be filled with thanksgiving and rejoicing over the truth, and what the truth is accomplishing in the hearts of people worldwide.

Thanks to my God through Jesus Christ. Paul prayed to his God through Christ. What was his purpose in using the word “my”? Christ was Paul’s mediator, his intercessor. Paul had no right to pray to the Father, except through the Son. Likewise, for us. When we pray, our words are childish and imperfect, unholy to be quite frank. The Spirit translates our words into Godly words, and the Son prays to the Father, and the Father hears. Romans 8:26 “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore [Christ] is able to save completely (or forever) those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 9:15 “Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”

God is my witness: Paul’s oath. Paul “swears” with God as his witness that the Romans are on his heart in constant prayer. Should we swear? “As surely as the Lord lives…” God Himself swears often throughout Scripture. Isaiah 45:23 “By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.” Notice He does so only in His own name. We can swear only by the name of God, for no other name holds any merit or value to enforce the oath. Do not swear by what is false, but only by what is true, and God is true. Have you ever heard, “I swear on my mother’s grave”? That’s idolatry. It credits attributes that only belong to God to others. Isaiah 65:16 “Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth.” Should we take oaths or make special promises? Leviticus 5:4 “If a person thoughtlessly takes an oath to do anything—whether good or evil—in any matter one might carelessly swear about—even though he is unaware of it—in any case when he learns of it he will be guilty.” Matthew 5:33-37 “Again, you have heard… ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” James 5:12 “Above all, do not swear...”

Thy Will Be Done. Paul prays according to the Lord’s principle and the Lord’s Prayer. Paul is reporting his desire to come to the Roman Christians, but he does so in explicit submission to God’s will. Paul makes it clear that he longs to be with these Roman Christians. He prays that God would bring him to the Roman Christians, but he is entirely submissive to the will of God. He wants to get there by God’s will. Paul had no idea when he wrote these words how or if he would get to Rome. Finally, at the end of his life, he gets to Rome as a prisoner who would be executed if he lost his trial. Paul was delighted, because God had long before given him a burden of heart to be with those Roman Christians, and he was entirely submissive to the will of God. Paul gives us a model here for submitting to the providence of God in life and in prayer, no matter what. Paul does not question that God is in control. He knows that the only way he’s getting to Rome is in accordance with the will of God. Notice that Paul, relying on God’s will, does not lead him to be passive and to say, “Well, if I’m ever going to get to Rome, it’s going to be up to God.” In fact, Paul had on numerous occasions tried to get himself to Rome. It’s just that the Lord had blocked those plans. Ligon Duncan, a preacher friend of mine, said, “You know, we talk about the Lord closing doors, and a lot of times it’s well, the Lord closed the door on that and we kind of mean that we rattled the knob and we decided that the door was closed. You know, the apostle Paul didn’t take that approach. When the apostle Paul came to a closed door, he tried to kick it down three or four times before he decided the Lord had closed that door.” That’s exactly what he did with the Romans. He tried to get to Rome numerous ways. He prayed continually that God would get him to Rome. And finally in the end the Lord got him there. Not just that he trusted in God’s providence, not just that he was active even though he trusted in God’s providence, but also that he was entirely submissive to that providence.

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