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 just love how Paul isn’t just some random dude standing on a box outside of Comiskey Park or preaching in a subway saying that Jesus is the Messiah or worse, that Paul himself is. Instead, Paul as an apostle should be read and understood as ‘God Himself speaking with us’ (Melanchthon).
This means that Jesus’ ordaining wasn’t just random, but from the beginning of time. “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” 1 Peter 1:20-21.
Jesus Christ our Lord, true man by the ‘seed of David’ and true God by ‘the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead’ is the Messiah that was first promised in Gen 3:15 who will “bruise the serpents head”. This is the Messiah that was testified to by all of the prophets, that died and was resurrected three days later, thus completing the Lord’s plan of salvation for those Roman Christians, you, me and for the whole world. Thank God that nationality doesn’t matter, only Christ matters and those that are called by Him and saved by Him. Jesus is what matters.
That’s right, this plan of salvation that Jesus completed wasn’t just for the Jews only, or the Gentiles only, or for those who are fans of the White Sox or the Cubs (a fate worse than death), or for those who are right handed only, but for all the “nations who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” who, with those Romans, are “beloved by God”.
Paul uses the Greek word agapētos (beloved) which is from agapē. In Matthew 3:17 God the Father calls Jesus his “beloved” or agapētos. C S Lewis in his book The Four Loves describes agapē as the love of God that is full of charity, also called ‘charitable love’. This is the love that all other loves try to serve. This is God’s love that only He has for us, that we are called to try to emulate, but fail without God’s love being given to us first in Jesus Christ.
I believe that there is no coincidence in Paul using agapētos. He could have just as easily called the Christians of Rome God’s phileo, or a love that one has for family and friends, but phileo isn’t good enough. It doesn’t show the true depths of God’s love for those Roman Christians and for me.
Paul ends with ‘grace and peace’. This ordering is very important. It’s like an ingredient list on the side of food packaging. The most abundant ingredient is always listed first. In this case grace is more abundant and necessary than peace, because peace is that which flows from grace like water from a hose.
The grace that God gives are His undeserved gifts, and Paul isn’t referring to a prosperity gospel that says if God loves me then I’ll receive a ton of money. I also believe that Paul isn’t referring to earthly gifts in general, although God does give those gifts undeservedly as well. Instead, Paul is referring to the gifts of salvation that we, and those Roman Christians, don’t deserve and do everything in our sinful natures to reject because we are like dogs that return to their vomit (Prov. 26:11) and we really like our vomit because it tastes better than the life giving food that is God’s Word. The gifts of grace He gives are the Word and the Sacraments. For it is through the Word and the Sacraments that we receive His Son, grace incarnate.
The peace, true peace that follows is always of product of grace and flows freely from it. For when we have received grace we have also received peace. This is the same peace that Christ gives to us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This is the peace that “removes the torment of conscience” (Luther). Thanks be to God!