The Purpose of Paul’s Letter to the Romans

From beginning to the end Paul specifies his
purpose in writing to those who were “called imagesto be saints”  ~  “called of Jesus Christ.”  Only those would read the letter would know his purpose.  Only those who were “loved of God” would understand his words.

In the first chapter: Paul, from God’s work in him, has received “grace and apostleship for obedience of faith.”

In the last chapter: “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ,… according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen  (Romans 16:25-27)

Without anything else these two quotes are a front and back cover, encasing the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ~ its purpose; its work; its glory to God alone.

Martin Luther, a forerunner of the Reformation and a discoverer of the hidden truth of a relationship with God being in “righteousness by faith alone” did not come to his understanding on his own volition, but as Paul, by the “effectual working of His power.”

What does righteousness have to do with faith?  Righteousness, a word ending with the suffix “ness” indicates a condition, or state of being.  No man, since Adam, exists in this state, but, in God’s sight, all exist in a state of “sin and death” ~  “there is none righteous.”  Existing is not the same as living.  All men are  “dead in sin and trespasses” before God, except for the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

This state of righteousness is a condition based on God’s own righteousness as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ.  We fell from this state, with Adam; but are restored to this state in Jesus Christ.  This new condition that we share with Him is a state of being “righteous.”  And if we share this state with Him we are “right” before God and will do what is “right.” (Hebrews 13:21)  When Jesus said that we must first “seek His kingdom and His righteousness” He did not mean that this would be a natural seeking on our part, but the result of His working in our hearts and lives.

Psalm 1 is as clear as Paul’s writing.  Those who are “blessed” to be called by the Holy Spirit, through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, will experience the love of God’s law and meditate on it day and night; bearing fruit in its season, and prospering in Him.

imagesObedience of faith is the response and outworking of His own power in the heart and life of the believer. By His own grace He brings us to faith.  It is not a cheap grace, nor a cheap faith ~ one that we conjure up on our own.  It is a powerful faith that draws us to Christ (John 6:44-45) and keeps us always seeking Him.  Faith is the root of the seed of God’s word; obedience is the fruit.

Read Paul’s letter to the Romans with this understanding, and the desire for such a faith that works obedience to the heavenly Father that created us and redeemed us.  And as Paul “beseeches” the believers in Rome ~ by the same “mercies of God” that has saved us ~ we present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God  ~  the only reasonable response.  This holy desire for Him to work all that He desires in us is the nature of righteousness and obedience.

Not being “conformed to this world,” but being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” is the desire of all who have found their righteousness in Christ alone, and will prove in us what is the will of God in all that is “good, acceptable and perfect.”  (Romans 12:1-2)

In the middle of Paul’s letter we see the overall purpose of God for us, as believers ~
to be conformed to the image of His Son.  (Romans 8:29) Only He can create; only He can transform what He has created, and make us what He wants us to be.  Let us, with a voracious desire, seek to be all that He has redeemed us to be.  He will by the authority of His Word, and the power of His Spirit make us all that He wants us to be ~ obedient children of faith.

Dear heavenly Father,  attend to the hearts of your children today.  Bring us on your wings of love close to you. Nestle our hearts unto your precious word, that they never be separated from one another.  Show us your ways, teach us your paths, lead us in your truth and teach us; for Thou art the God of our salvation.  On Thee do we wait all the day.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen

 

The Ultimate Bible Study

It is interesting that as we get older we sometimes return to the simpler things biblewith which we began.  When I first started teaching there were three things I looked for in the text I was studying:
Identification (who are the characters in the text?)
Implication (what is going on in the text between      the characters—what, where, when?)
Application (what difference does studying this text mean to me?)
The truths of God Word were first to be understood in my own heart.
These, by the power of God’s Spirit, taught me what I needed to know before I could teach anyone else.

We can read God’s Word simply because of curiosity— someone we know reads it, talks about it, places their trust in what is written.  Some are new Christians seeking to know how they are to follow Christ and live the new life.  Others are older and continue to thrive on the bread of life.  They love it; they live it, preach it, and teach it.

Before the Reformation only the priests of the Roman Catholic Church had access to the Scriptures, and other people relied on them for their knowledge of God.  Now many people have access to God’s Word in many translations, but have no thought of how valuable it is.  The Word and the power of God that comes with it are available, but few really read and study it for its greatest purpose.  Considering the three things used for previous studies we tend to look for the Application before we have an Identification and Implication.

Why is this? —I think, because we already have a mind-set before we read it.  We have already learned through our own culture, and our human nature—our man-centeredness— to look for where we fit in and how things are going to affect us.  Are we not to read the Bible to learn how we are supposed to live, what we are supposed to say, what we are supposed to do in our relationship to God and others?  Yes, but not at the expense of the truth itself, which much of the time is twisted and distorted to fit our own preconceived notions.  We can easily take God’s Word and make it say what we want it to say, instead of allowing the Word to do its work in conforming us to it.

So, what is the challenge here—for me, in going back to this simple method (but concentrating on the one point of Identification) and for you, as you read this?  After all my years of reading and studying I have come to the conclusion that the ultimate Bible study is to begin with our Bible in hand before the throne of grace, then opening it with new hearts, new minds, new eyes, expressing our need for a new vision of Him.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy,
and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

We are in need of the Father’s mercy.  He has given us a great high priest who knows our infirmities, who sits at the Father’s right hand to intercede for us.  He has promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.  (Luke 11:13) As I write these articles/letters/prayers I continue to teach my grandchildren what I think is the most important thing in life, according to the first and great commandment taught by our Lord—that we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbor, as ourselves.  (Matthew 22:37:37-40) We cannot love Him unless we know Him.  This is our greatest need, and we can only know Him as He reveals Himself to us.  As we would go “online” looking for information, our main “Search” in the Holy Bible is for God.  He has His own “site” with His own profile.  Throughout His Word, from Genesis to Revelation, the person of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, reveals Himself.

“And this is life eternal,
that they might know thee the only true God,
and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
John 17:3

I challenge you, and myself, to read through the Bible this year with this main purpose – Identify the person, purpose and power of God.  The implications that we find as relating God to man will by His Holy Spirit become evident, and in time will place us in relationship with Him. The supernatural power of God draws us out of ourselves to Him.

The power of the Trinity is the work of our Creator in His creation.  The authority of God’s own Word effectually transforms us by the renewing of our minds.  (Romans 12:1-2)  No longer am I looking for what I am supposed to be, do, or say, but, as I am caught up in Him the Word of God does its work in and through me, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:6,12,14).  As the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) supernaturally circumcises my heart, regenerating, renewing, sanctifying, living out the truth in my circumstances, He is conforming me to the image of His Son.  (Romans 8:29)

If we read and study, seeking to see Him only, to know Him, and what He reveals of Himself, the things we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer—His name, His kingdom, His will,  become evident as uppermost in our hearts and minds.  Instead of being man-centered we can be His God-centered, Christ-focused people, a people after His own heart, in the unity of the Spirit, together seeking to do all His will.

”For the word of God is quick, and powerful,
and sharper than any two-edged sword,
piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit,
and of the joints and marrow;
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 

If we accept this challenge, He can, in light of His beauty and holiness and our great need for His Word to do its work in our hearts, bring us to see ourselves as sinners.  The same authority of His Word  brings the needed salvation, repentance and sanctifying work through His power working in us.  We find that over the centuries, throughout all of history Jesus (God) is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly
above all that we ask or think,

according to the power that worketh in us.”
Ephesians 3:20

Those who truly seek Him are drawn to Christ and to each other.  The conversation of His people are more and more about what we have learned from our Father, and our Lord, of His Spirit, His power, and His kingdom, than what we have learned about man and ourselves.  There is an excitement about the new wine, the new things that he teaches us about Himself everyday.  His Spirit, by his Word of power (Hebrews 1:3)  make us a people of prayer, praise and proclamation of our great God and Father, Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ.  Our desire and understanding of the preaching of the Word are continually heightened.

You may have already done this; if not, I pray that you will, with me, take this challenge.  Whenever we read, let us stop, and ask the Holy Spirit to focus the light of our reading on God, what He says about Himself, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He promises to do.  In the Old Testament we may read for awhile without finding any mention of His name, and then suddenly come to where He fits in the events and relationships, and see how He is in control of all things.  In the New Testament we focus on Christ, the Son, as He reveals God, the Father.  What is said about the three persons of the Trinity?  What does Christ say about Himself, what does He do, and what is said about Him?  We may want to jot down in a journal anything new that He reveals of Himself.  We will find many things about Him that we never saw before. Let us meditate on what we read about Him. I believe the eyes of our understanding will be enlightened (Ephesians 1:17) and our lives changed.

I pray that He will erase any pre-conceived ideas, distortions, and false images we have of Him.  I pray that the authority of His Word, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will identify the true and living God to us. (1 Corinthians 2:10, Romans 10:17)  As we continue daily at His throne of grace let us first seek His kingdom and His righteousnessWhere there is no vision—when we are lacking the true and powerful revelation of God— people perish.  Let us ask for faith to believe all that we read about Him. Let us pray that He will transform our lives and reform His church, bringing light into the darkness of this world. (Philippians 2:15-16)

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth:
it shall not return unto me void,
but it shall accomplish that which I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
Isaiah 55:11

He promises that we shall find Him, if we each, seek Him with all our heart.  We may not fully understand what we find, but if we accept it at face-value—the truth revealed in His Word and in His Son, Jesus Christ, the living word ~ we, beholding, as in a glass the image of the Lord, shall be changed into His image, from glory to glory.
(2 Corinthians 3:18)

The Bible with its many books is a canon in itself, revealing God and His covenant relationship with man.  We need no other book to reveal God to us, but I believe that what His Spirit and His Word are doing in us is being recorded in heaven. (1 Peter 1:12; Ephesians 3:9-10)  He is making history in us for future generations to know Him—not us, but Christ, revealed in and through us—for His glory and our joy.

“And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery,
which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God,
who created all things by Jesus Christ.
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus
throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”
Ephesians 3:9, 21

Dear Father, by your grace, let the authority of your word to be commanded in us by the power of your Holy Spirit; that we may know you, and love you and our neighbor  ~ more and more.  In Jesus name ~  Amen.

Fran 1/08 (From 50 Days of Prayer and Praise)