Grace and Apostleship

by LA UBF   09/02/2006     0 reads



  Grace and Apostleship

Romans 1:1-7

Key Verse 1:5

1. Read v. 1. How does Paul introduce himself? What can we learn here about the Biblical position of a Christian? 

2. Read vs. 1-4. What does this passage show us about: a) the origin of the gospel; b) the foundation of the gospel, and; c) the contents of the gospel? 

3. Why is it important to know that Jesus is the Son of God and Christ the Lord? (Cf. John 20:31)

4. Memorize v. 5. What does this verse teach us about: a) the purpose of a Christian life and b) the contents of ones’ calling as a Christian?

5. What does the expression "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" show about the blessed position of the recipients of the Epistle addressed to the Romans? 

6. Read v. 7. What further truths does this passage reveal about the blessed position of a Christian? 



Grace and Apostleship��

 Grace and Apostleship

Key Verse 1:5 

Romans 1:1-7

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.

Today we would like to think about the Apostle Paul’s vision to share the gospel with all peoples on earth. 

No one among us can claim the title “apostle” and say “I am an apostle sent by God. Listen to me!” But inasmuch as Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations, we too can think about the example of the Apostle Paul, and by learning of his example, we can participate in the Lord’s world mission work. 

First, a servant’s attitude

Look at verse 1. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus…” This is the first point we need to consider in serving the Lord’s world mission purpose. Paul was a man of great learning. If he lived here in the U.S. in our day, he could have easily earned many Ph.D’s. Most importantly he was an apostle.

But he does not refer to himself in that way. He first calls himself a “servant” of Christ Jesus. In those days servants belonged to the slave class. A slave did not have any personal rights. He owned nothing for himself. He just worked and all his work was for his master, and when his usefulness was gone, he just died, and that was it. Because a servant belonged to the slave class, the master did not have to give him any kind of reward. Naturally, the Apostle Paul did not demand the church to pay him. For the most part, particularly during the early days of his missionary life, he lived as a self supporting man. Living as a tent maker, he earned a living for himself. And yet his first priority was always to serve the Lord by preaching the gospel to all people on earth. 

From a human perspective it may sound too much for one to live as a servant of someone else. But, it is not so with the life of a man who lives as a servant of Jesus Christ. In fact the life that lives as a servant of Jesus Christ is the most blessed life. Why? Before answering the question, we need to ask questions like: “Who am I serving?” Or “Who is my boss?” This question is relevant to all of us, because believe it or not, each person is serving someone. In my case on many occasions I end up serving myself, so I myself am the master over myself. And each time I try to serve myself, I have to admit that I am really not a good master over myself. Rather I am a master who is forgetful, lazy, stupid, and full of a lot of other bad traits as well. But it is not so with Jesus Christ. He is the most graceful master. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace. Most importantly in one of the recent daily Bible passages, Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad.” Jesus is the good Lord. So as we serve Jesus, Jesus will make us to be good people. Then out of his goodness, we can bear lots of good fruit, and we can do that even without ourselves knowing it.

Second, a sense of calling

In verse 1, Paul says that he was “called” to be an apostle. Let us consider the word “called”.

On many occasions we wonder how come the Lord God was able to use the Apostle Paul so powerfully. Was it because of Paul’s super-intellect, or because of his super-human zeal? No. In my opinion, here is one of the secrets, that is, Paul had a clear sense of calling. 

When you think about it, not all people who are called have a sense of calling. The Apostle Peter is an example. Being one of the Twelve, he did receive calling from Jesus. Yet, later, he ended up denying Jesus three times. Why? Obviously he forgot the purpose of the calling. Later however, Jesus visited him and reminded him of the calling. Thanks to Jesus’ labor of love, Peter reconfirmed God’s calling upon him. And the Lord God used him powerfully. Remembering his past failures, then, Peter encouraged the early Christians undergoing persecutions, by saying, “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall…” 2 Peter 1:10

Practically however it is not easy to remember God’s calling upon our lives. On many occasions we easily think and say to ourselves, “Look! God called him, but not me.” Usually we say like this because we think about ourselves particularly our failures too much. And the more we think about ourselves, the more we despair. But we must remember that God even called a man like Abraham. Who was Abraham? First of all he was a senior citizen and an idol worshipper. And God called him not because of him but because of God’s grace. 

Every once in a while a pastor I know gets criticized by people some of whom are close to him. Each time this kind of event hit him the pastor used to entertain negative thoughts about his calling. Then he ends up losing all power to do God’s work. This happened to him just three days ago. Then, entertaining dark thoughts about himself, he turned on the radio. On the radio a pastor was preaching. The sermon was truly boring. So he was about to turn off the radio. But as he was about to turn it off, the pastor said, “Even Lazarus was dead, and yet Jesus called him. So what is your problem?” This struck him. He repented. And he started working on his message. 

Third, a clear understanding of the work we are called to do  

A third reason why Paul was fruitful in serving the Lord’s world mission purpose was that he had a clear sense of the work he was called to do: that is to preach the gospel. Look at verses 1-3 again. Here he says that the Lord God set him apart for the gospel, which is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died on a tree for our sins, and was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

In this world there are a lot of good messages we can talk about. But compared with the gospel, all these messages, no matter how good they may sound, are sheer garbage. Why? It is because it is only the gospel of Jesus that can help man overcome the power of sin and death. 

For this reason, the Apostle Paul said, 1 Cor. 2:2, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Of course Paul knew and talked a lot of other things. But his point is that what sinners need is the gospel, not a bunch of do’s or don’ts. 

We must be very careful about this for living inside of the Christian community, it is so easy for us to demonize others with what we think is right. Christians demonize Muslims, Muslims demonize Christians. And legalism creeps into our life ever so subtly. A pastor I know is still struggling with this problem, namely legalism. Through many struggles, he came back to his senses, to know that he is the worst kind of sinner. Then, through studying this passage he repented again: he decided not to talk about anything but the gospel, in associating himself with others. 

Another point we can consider here is that while we should not neglect all other duties such as relief mission, or the need to heal people, we must never forget that the main focus is to preach the gospel. The Apostle Paul was able to heal, and help the poor, but he devoted himself mostly to serving the gospel. 

Fourth, a thankful heart for the mission to serve 

The fourth reason why Paul was very fruitful in serving the Lord’s purpose is that [in my humble opinion] he had a very thankful heart, for he was thankful for God’s grace and for the work he was called to do. 

Look at verse 5 again. “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.” 

Here, Paul put “grace and apostleship” side by side.  This indicates that Paul regards both grace and apostleship as equally important to his life. This also indicates that he deeply “appreciated” not just the value of the grace but also of the work he was called to do. And a thankful heart stems from an appreciative heart. 

So let us stop for a moment and think about grace and apostleship. 

(1) Grace

In the Bible (NIV), the word "grace" appears 131 times. We see it a lot less in the Old Testament (8 times), and a lot more repeated in the New Testament (123 times). 

We love grace. The word grace itself is graceful. Each time we hear the word grace we feel good. In a month or so a pastor I know is expecting a granddaughter. He wants to call her Grace. But his son is concerned that there are too many "Graces" in U.B.F. The pastor understood, so he suggested his son to use Grace as a middle name. 

But what does “grace” mean? We can find an answer to this question in Genesis 15:1-6. Let us open the Bible and read this passage. Verse 5 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord credited it to him as righteousness.” Suppose there was a man named Mr. Incredibly Rich. Suppose there was another man named Mr. Totally Broke. Assume further that out of compassion Mr. Incredibly Rich approached Mr. Totally Broke and said, “I’ll give you one billion dollars for free. Please go to Bank of America, the Downey Branch, and open a bank account, secure a free check book, and give me the following information: your full name, the account number, and the routing number.” Suppose that Mr. Totally Broke believed in Mr. Incredibly Rich, and complied with what Mr. Incredibly Rich asked him to do. Supposed Mr. Incredibly Rich indeed got the money wire-transferred from his own account to Mr. Totally Broke’s account. Mr. Totally Broke is no longer broke. He too joined the millionaire’s club. And the transaction that transpired, especially the exalted standing of Mr. Broke is called “grace”, for he did not “earn” the rich standing by his efforts, but through the “gift” which came to him all thanks to the compassionate heart of Mr. Incredibly Rich. 

The Bible teaches us that man is truly poor, not merely because he is poor financially but mainly because he is poor spiritually, and then morally, ethically, and so on. Romans 3:23 explains this concept by saying, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But faith, Jesus changes the standing. It makes the unrighteous to be righteous, all by God’s grace. In Romans 4:16-5:2 the Apostle Paul explains the changed status of each believer, which came by grace. Let us read this passage. Romans 5:1-2 reads, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” 

The equation must be balanced. On the one side of the equation there is God. On the other side there is a believer, a man who believes in God who promises to make him justified, upon himself demonstrating his faith in the Savior Jesus Christ. God is an incredibly rich person, rich in every meaning of the word rich. We however are all broke. So there is no balance. But faith makes the equation balance. And this balancing act of faith is called “grace.” 

(2) Apostleship (or for our own purpose, “the mission to serve” 

The word "apostleship" is kind of scary. But apparently it was not so with Paul. So let us stop being scared and think about it particularly its blessedness. 

When we examine the life of the Apostle Paul based on the book of Acts and his epistles, we see that Paul deeply appreciated the value of the work Jesus asked him to do. 

Here in verse 5 we find another example of him appreciating the full value of the work he was called to do. 

But not all people who have received God’s grace are faithful to serving the work God called them to do. Why? Most likely one of the major reasons is that while people appreciate the value of grace, they do not fully appreciate the work they have been given to do. A Christian I know used to think that way. He used to think that the work itself is a great “burden”. But we must remember one thing: that is, just as the grace of salvation is a gift from God, but also the work to do itself is a great gift from God. 

Say, “Work is a blessing”.  The Bible abounds with passages describing this truth. Prominent among them is Matthew 20:1-16 (the parable of the workers in the vineyard). There we see the owner of a vineyard going out to the streets and hiring workers at different hours: very early in the morning like 6 a.m.; then 9 a.m.; then, 3:00 p.m.; and then 5:00 p.m. At the end of the day, the owner gave all the workers the same wage. The ones who got hired first complained saying that the owner was unfair. But the owner said, “Friend, I am not being unfair to you.” Why? The answer is obvious. In the Lord’s vineyard, the opportunity to work for him itself is a “reward”. 

A pastor I know kept learning that this is really true through his struggles to take up many of the crosses he was called to bear, particularly the cross to teach the Bible. On many occasions he wanted to do his own thing. For example instead of going out and having a Bible study with someone, he wanted to goof around and do yard work. So he secretly wanted his sheep to cancel the Bible study appointments. But, reluctantly he goes out and keeps the appointment. Then, it was he who was blessed by the Bible study first. So nowadays if anyone asks him for a Bible study, he drops everything he does, and goes for it. 

One word: grace and apostleship   




  Grace and Apostleship

Romans 1:1-7

Key Verse 1:5

This passage shows us: Paul's prayer to practically conquer the Roman Empire (the whole world) with the gospel faith. So, we want to think about the gospel faith as a means to preach the gospel to all nations. 

1. Read v. 1. How does Paul introduce himself? What can we learn here about the position of a Christian? 

* a) A servant of Christ; b) called to be an apostle; and c) set apart for the gospel of God.

* a) His servantship: he had an Old Testament background. He was thoroughly trained as the Pharisee of Pharisees, in regard to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. During the Old Testament period, they could not even pronounce the word 'God', so they used sign language. Jesus humbled himself to the point of a servant of all, yet, this does not mean that we can regard Jesus carelessly. Jesus is equal with God. Many people think Jesus as a mere friend, or even a servant, regarding Jesus as if Jesus is his personal 'gofer', asking Jesus to do this or that for them. But, Paul was different. He understood that Jesus is God, and he finds himself as a servant serving Jesus who is God. In those days, the servant's position was no different than that of a working machine. 

b) He had a clear sense of calling: calling comes from God. This calling makes man to be immovable in serving the mission under all circumstances. The word 'apostle' means 'the one sent by God (Jesus)'. To be called by such a man as the President of a nation, is good, but to be called by God is an absolute blessing. It provides man with an opportunity to be used by God. Apostle Peter encouraged us to make our election and calling sure. Cf. 2 Peter 1:10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall... At first Peter wasn't sure of this calling, so he fell for a while saying, "Man, I am going out for fishing." (John 21:3 But, later he realized that he did not choose Jesus, but Jesus chose him. Then, he no longer lived for himself, nor before men. He lived before God, being loyal to God alone, not fearing men, but fearing God alone. 

c) He had a clear definition of mission: this may be called 'spiritual job description'. The expression 'set apart for the gospel of God' shows that he knew what he was called to do. Once one has a clear sense of mission, he can concentrate his efforts on what he is called to do. Many people struggle to serve Jesus in one way or another, such as helping the poor with humanitarian services such as medical services, food services, etc. We need to help the poor, but even if we did many humanitarian services, when we neglect preaching the gospel of God, we are not fully doing the job to save a soul. Humanitarian services are emphasized by all other religions such as Buddhism, etc. But, only Christianity comes with the gospel of God, and Apostle Paul knew what he was called to do. As a result, wherever he went, he always strove to serve the gospel of God, in the best way possible.

2. Read vs. 1-4. What does this passage show us about: a) the 'origin' of the gospel; b) the foundation of the gospel, and; c) the contents of the gospel? 

* a) The origin of the gospel: it came from God. This shows that Gospel is not a man made story. Many people say many bad things about God saying that God is cruel, sadistic etc.. But, God's message to us is neither cruel nor sadistic, for God's message to us is summed up in the gospel, which is the good news of Great joy that will be for all peoples' on earth. 

b) The Holy Scriptures are the foundation of the gospel. There are many books published in human history, but no books ever published to this date talks about the gospel, but only the Bible talks about the gospel. Mainly, it is in the form of the promise recorded in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The Old Testament tells us the promise about Jesus coming, and the New Testament tells us the promise about Jesus' second coming. Specifically, the promise about Jesus traces back to Gen. 3:15, then to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob, to King David, and so on. This promise was handed down from generation to generation, until finally Jesus was born in Bethlehem at God's right time. 

This practically means that this gospel is truly trustworthy, and therefore believable. The universe may disappear, but the word of God recorded in the Holy Scriptures would never disappear. 

Romans 1:2 The gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures

* a) His Son Jesus: This is the best gift God can give to us. Jesus is the only Son. Yet, God gave his one and only Son for us. He could have crushed us for our inequities, but he rather gave his one and only Son on whom he put all of his wrath for our sins. (Cf. Isaiah 53:4,5)

b) Jesus' uniqueness is found in vs. 3 and 4. He is unique in that i) he is of royal descent, that is, he came from the line of King David as promised in the Bible i.e. as in 2 Samuel 7:13-16, and ii) he is the only one who rose again from the dead, for God proved Jesus' being the Son of God, by raising Jesus from the dead. 

The expression 'through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead' means 'the Holy Spirit worked to raise Jesus from the dead, for it is the greatest miracle of miracles. Important: people (Sanhedrin members) killed Jesus for Jesus' claim that he was the Son of God, charging Jesus with blasphemy, but God proved that Jesus was right, and the Sanhedrin members were wrong, by raising Jesus from the dead. 

Cf. Luke 22:70,71: They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips." Subsequent to this event, Peter said later in Acts 2:36 that the very one they killed was established by God as the Christ, the Lord of all. 


c) The Christ, the Lord of all: This means that for those who believe in Jesus, Jesus will be the source of salvation, but for those who do not believe, Jesus will be the stumbling block, as in 1 Peter 2:8 And, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. Cf. Phil. 2:10,11 which shows that whether we like it or not, we will have to face Jesus. I Peter 4:5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 

3. Why is it important to know that Jesus is the son of God and Christ our Lord? (Cf. John 20:31)

* a) Jesus is the only way for us to be saved from the power of sin and Satan. Cf. John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. See also Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

b) Jesus also declared that he is the way, the life, and the light. (Cf. John 14:6)

c) In order to drive a car, you need to know how to drive it. Likewise, in order to be saved from the power of sin and Satan, you need to be taught the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Sin separates man from God, so man in sin is like a flower cut from the root and put in a vase. To be connected to God the source of life, one must solve their sin problem, and no one except Jesus can solve our sin problem. That is why Luke said in Luke 1:77 To give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins...

4. Memorize v. 5. What does this verse teach us about: a) the purpose of a Christian life and b) the contents of our calling as a Christian?

* It is to live for Jesus' name's sake. Practical way is to preach the gospel so people would repent and turn to God in and through Jesus. Magnify the name of Jesus! That was Apostle Paul's motto, in words, and in action, and in his whole life. (1 Peter 2:9  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.)

Eating, sleeping, studying, or in everything, do it for Jesus' name's sake. 

2 Corinthians 3:3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

* Romans 1:5 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.

Notice: a) the coverage is 'all Gentiles'; b) the ultimate purpose is to lead people to the obedience to God even as Jesus obeyed God to the point of death. Consider therefore obedience as the end product of our struggle, noting that only by faith in the gospel, can we achieve obedience to God and his precepts. 

5. What does the expression "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ" show about the blessed position of the recipients of the Epistle addressed to the Romans? 

* They too are called to be like Paul. In fact, Christians are all called by God. We are called to be Christ’s person, carrying out Jesus' will on earth.

6. Read v. 7. What further truths does this passage reveal about the blessed position of a Christian? 

* a) we are loved by God; b) we are called to be saints; c) we have access to the grace (rather than legalistic treatment like from step parents) and peace (rather than anxiety, and sense of guilt) from God.