For the past few months now my morning devotions and meditations have been on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Yesterday I bought Phillip Melanchthon’s Commentary on Romans and while reading and adding some quotes to my notes I decided it might be a good idea if I wrote down my devotional thoughts for three reasons; 1.) To help me keep track of my thoughts 2.) to improve my written communication skills and 3.) To receive some feedback from the people who read this… all two of you. Should I count myself in that total? If I’m not supposed to count myself, then total is one. (Thanks wife for reading this.)
All joking aside, Bible verses used for these devotions will be done using the ESV translation. I debated if I should use my own, but in the interest of keeping the verbiage consistent throughout I think that sticking with one translation is probably best. At least I think that way now, who knows how I’ll think about this in about a month or two.
Romans 1:1-7 Part I
1. Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2. which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3. concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4. 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, 5. 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, 6. including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7. To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve seen the movie Legally Blonde a few times and I’m manly enough to admit that I like it, even if it is a chick flick. For those who don’t know, the main plot involves an early twenty-something fashion major, Elle Woods, played by Reese Witherspoon, (or is it Tracy Flick?), who follows the young man she thought was the ‘one’ to Harvard. Many see her as just a typical blonde bimbo, but through study and hard work she gets in. After one class a professor asks his assistant, “Do you think she just woke up one morning and said, ‘I think I’ll go to law school today’?”
Elle Woods is nothing like St. Paul. St. Paul didn’t just wake up some morning around the Spring of 57 A.D. and say to himself, ‘Self, I feel like writing a letter to the Jewish and Gentile converts in the church of Rome. I’ll write something about doctrine, Law and Gospel, how Christ saves, justification, sanctification and what righteousness is. The people will love it. They’ll acknowledge that I wrote this letter, but others that I’ve written they’ll ignore, and bicker constantly if I, in fact, wrote them – which I totally did and am going to. I predict that some theologians of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries are gonna be kinda dumb’. (Fine, maybe Paul wasn’t thinking that last part, but I do, so deal with it.)
No! Right off the bat St. Paul is telling those Roman Christians, and us today, yep even you, the guy or gal that’s bored and staring at their computer screen instead of getting work done while contemplating if you should watch Legally Blonde tonight, (you totally should), that he is a slave to Christ and an apostle.
Why is being an apostle so important to take note of? Simply put, an apostle is not like you or I. Paul “has been immediately called by Christ to teach the Gospel, and he has a sure testimony with respect to his doctrine—that it is divine— and it is certain that he has the Holy Spirit, that he does not err in doctrine, and that he is able to teach everywhere in all churches” (Melanchthon).
If we have trouble believing that Paul, who was one of the biggest antagonists of the early Christians, who was self described as a “Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil 3) that lead others to stone Stephen in Acts 6, was converted and made an apostle as he states, then what happens when Paul starts talking about how we’re justified, or declared righteous before the Father?
Likewise, if we try to justify ourselves against the harder teachings of Paul against our sinful nature and flesh, and say that Paul only wrote to a certain audience at a certain time we are calling everything that Paul wrote about as null and void. The ultimate conclusion of this nullifying of Paul leads to nothing more than me trying to save myself because Christ didn’t die for me. Christ only died for those first century Christians. I’m my own savior, which means I’m totally and irrevocably screwed.
No! Paul’s words were for those Christians in Rome, for you, me our grandparents and great-grandchildren. Paul writes about Christ for all to read and hear. Not just those first-century Christians.
It was this apostle’s calling to write about Christ, who descends from David according to the flesh, or according to David’s ‘seed’. The same seed, according to Luther, that was promised to David in Psalm 132:11 “The LORD swore to David a sure oath from which he will not turn back: ‘One of the sons of your body I will set on your throne.'”
This ‘seed’ of David wasn’t just a man, but the Messiah Himself incarnate. Paul is stating that Christ, as the seed of David, has ‘all the Messianic promises centered in him’ (Lenski). He was fully Divine, as the Son of God and fully Human as ‘the seed’ of David. The same Christ though “himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Ph 2:7-8).
This is the Christ that Paul was sent to preach about, that he wrote to the Christian in the Roman Church about, that Paul wrote to you about. This is the Christ that was, is and always will be the Word made flesh. The same Word that prophets like Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah preached, prophesied and wrote about.