A friend sent me Chuck Swindoll’s daily devotional that discussed Psalm 131, the shortest psalm. He described how one can easily pass over this masterpiece in the hunt for a “significant” one. It reminded me of the introductions to many of Paul’s letters. These are often run-on sentences that twist our tongue. We tend to avoid them; however, they are worthy of being a separate book on their own.
Many of them serve as thanksgiving. In Romans, he adds further information before that. Let’s take a look.
Romans 1:1-6 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
I don’t think it is possible to catch all this in passing. For now, let’s break it down into some chunks to walk away with.
First, he identifies himself as someone specially appointed to be a mouthpiece of God’s. We learn more of this personalized appointment throughout the letters written by Paul himself and others. He is someone with specific authority to speak on behalf of Jesus.
Second, Paul makes it clear that nothing in his message is new. In fact, it was all laid out throughout the centuries in Scripture. Because these things came to be, they inherently elevate themselves above contrary writings of human reason. It’s hard to argue against proven prophecy.
Third, Jesus is crowned the Son of God through his resurrection. Not only was this prophesied in Scripture, Jesus himself spoke of it. He was not the only person ever raised from the dead, but he was the only one who predicted his own resurrection. This is so incredible that it is almost too much to even ponder for believers. While non-believers may intellectually ascent to it, it is only because they have not truly examined it. Non-believers will not truly accept the resurrection.
Jesus himself explained this in his story of The Rich Man and Lazarus. If you recall, the rich man was sent to Hades to be tormented in the flame. He begged Abraham to warn his brothers by sending Lazarus, who also was dead but on the “other side” of Hades – by Abraham’s side. This is what Jesus said about that:
Luke 16:29-31 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
I witnessed this first hand with a men’s group in the Episcopal church. It is a liturgical church that recites the Nicene Creed every single service. All the men said they believed it true that Jesus was raised from the dead – until, that is, they were really pressed on this. This, in fact, one day came to be and all of them began to bail on the resurrection. It was incredible and very alarming. It also explained why none of them could give a testimony or demonstrate re-birth in the Spirit. They were dead men mindlessly reciting a pledge without having any concern to their false witness. Deception. That’s a better word.
What about me? Am I any different. I will tell you this, I am at a complete loss to explain Jesus’ resurrection. I’m even at a further loss to explain where Jesus is right now, other than “up”. Still, when I go there, when I really quiz myself about these things, I am comfortable with not having the answers. What I do know is that Jesus did something radical in me and changed me like I never thought I would allow. I am the recipient of his miracle. I know LOTS of people that had the same thing happen. I have dug deep into scripture and found it true. In fact, the deeper I go, the more convinced I am that it is the ONLY truth. I still can’t explain the resurrection, but I know that it cannot honestly be proven false. By scripture, by the evidence, and intellectually, it is true. Yes, I believe and doubt at the same time. However, at the end of the day, I believe when pushed into the corner. I no longer care if others think I’m a lunatic because of it. I have repented.
Finally, Paul tells us what he is doing and why. He is spreading the Gospel to others whom Jesus has called. He does so and gets his energy from God. Without a doubt, a rational person would not do all of this if he was lying. Think of all the beatings Paul has willingly subjected himself to. Furthermore, his mere human strength would not be enough to keep him going. He gets his energy from Jesus.
Yup, Paul’s introduction is complicated, but it is packed with truth. It is easy to skip over, but it is worthy of much study.
Father, thank you so much for the bible. I shall never exhaust its riches. In fact, the more I dig, the more wealth is evident. It is another view into infinity. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers