Today’s Reading: Romans 1:1-17
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes – the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how GOD MAKES US RIGHT IN HIS SIGHT. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” – Romans 1:16-17
Just as God can make THINGS right when all is going wrong, He can also make US right in His sight. This is the theme of Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians. Throughout his ministry, Paul wrote 13 letters. We started out reading about Paul’s ministry in Acts, taking breaks to study his letters as they may have occurred chronologically within Luke’s story of Paul’s ministry. So far we have looked at his letters to the churches in Galatia, Thessalonica and Corinth. Now let’s look at his letter to the Christians in Rome.
As we saw in Acts and see again in Romans 1:8-15, Paul had a strong desire to go to Rome. He knew the gospel had reached Rome, probably when the Jewish believers were scattered following Pentecost, but he longed to go to Rome to explain the gospel to those who were new to the faith.
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours…I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit…I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News. – Romans 1:10-15
God knew of Paul’s desire, probably placed that desire in Paul’s heart, and promised Paul he would make it to Rome. Paul was finishing up his third missionary journey and had already sent off this letter to the believers in Rome. His intention was to head for Rome but he had one more stop to make along the way. This is when I want to yell – No, Paul, don’t go to Jerusalem! Go straight to Rome – do not pass through Jerusalem, do not stop by to make a delivery!
You see, during his third missionary journey, Paul had received offerings or gifts from the Gentiles to take to the believers in Jerusalem. He needed to deliver those gifts to them before he could head to Rome. What Paul did not know when he wrote this letter is that he would be arrested in Jerusalem and personally escorted to Rome…in chains. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back to the letter Paul sent the Romans before he arrived.
The believers in Rome had come to faith in Jesus Christ, which had set them free from their sin. But now what? Paul’s role was to explain the gospel to them so that they would know how to live now that they had been given eternal life in Christ Jesus. Paul starts his letter by introducing himself – not for the sake of them knowing him but for the purpose of the Romans seeing who THEY are in Christ.
This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News…Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.
And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. – Romans 1:1,5-7
Paul starts out saying – this is MY identity and this is MY purpose. He goes on to say – this is YOUR identity and YOUR purpose. You have been called! You belong to Jesus! You are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people – set apart and consecrated for His purposes. Your identity isn’t about who YOU are but about who HE is. Your purpose in life isn’t about YOU but about HIM.
The world around us wants to identify us by our messes and mistakes, by our storms and shipwrecks, but when we encounter Jesus, when we come to accept Him by faith, our identity changes. It is no longer about our unrighteousness, nor is it about our self-righteousness – it is now about HIS righteousness. When God makes us right in His sight, our identity changes and our purpose changes and our destiny changes – Praise God.
Matthew West shares the story of a young man who went from being a pastor’s son and star athlete to a drug addict. His story of recovery and redemption is a story of victory. He used to introduce himself, “Hello. My name is Jordan and I’m a drug addict.” Now he introduces himself, “Hello. My name is Jordan and I’m a child of the one true King!” Matthew wrote an incredible song from this young man’s testimony, one of my favorite songs of all time. [http://www.matthewwest.com/the-stories/the-story-hello-my-name-is/]
In what ways have we allowed the world to identify us? Do we look at ourselves and find our self-worth in all of the mistakes we have made, defining ourselves by the trail of debris left by the storms in our past? If so, God is calling us to find our identity and our purpose in Him. It is not about our unrighteousness or about our own attempts to be self-righteous, but about HIS righteousness. God makes us right in His sight! “Hello. My name is Sherry and I’m a child of the one true King!”