Consider the following for a devotional today: In Romans 1:1-7, notice that there are at least three major themes that make for a solid foundation of the Christian life, a life which seems much more dull or lost or frustrating if one of these three elements is missing:
1. Relationship – More than a “book”, we must remember that Romans is a “letter” written by a person and his friends (probably temporarily in Ephesus) who were writing to their friends in Rome. There is an established relationship with a deep history and a deep future. Paul, along with several close people (chapter 16) is writing to dozens of people whom he knows (chapter 16). Here in the first sentences of this letter, Paul greets them with earnest sincerity. 1:1 = Paul \\ 1:5 = us \\ 1:6 = You \\ 1:6 = dear friends \\ 1:7 = yours. Paul sincerely offers his friends a blessing at the start of this letter: “Grace and peace be yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Is there a greater altruism you could have for someone than that? Perhaps the first lesson to learn from the book of Romans is that the Christian life is based upon personal relationship.
2. Gospel – More than a “letter”, we must remember that Romans is also Paul’s culminating explanation of the implications of a resurrected Jesus. Even in this first sentence of Romans we learn a significant introduction into what the Gospel is:
- A promise of God from the Prophets in the Scriptures (more on this later… but again, actual people in an actual place at an actual time in the past writing about the Gospel which was to come).
- About God’s Son, Jesus.
- Who was an actual human being who was actually born into the lineage of Israel’s great King David.
- Who was proven to be God’s Son when he was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit. Uh, yeah– That’s a pretty big deal.
- Who has given Paul and others the privilege and authority to tell all people in all places what God has done for them [more about this later… but don’t miss here that it has something do with relationship, reconciling people who were separated by brokenness (e.g. Gentiles and Jews) with God and each other]
- So that people will believe in Jesus and obey Jesus
- So that Jesus’ name will be given glory.
3. Calling – Just like being called for dinner or called on the phone, God calls people into both a relationship and a responsibility of Gospel. Gospel means “Good News” — and God wants the people with whom he has relationship to share that relationship with others. Paul is called (1:1), his friends have been called (1:5), and his friends in Rome who are receiving this letter have been called (1:6). It is because God loves them so much that God has “called” them. Have you been called? Well, odds are that if you are reading this post and studying this passage because you have a yearning to deepen your relationship with God and learn how to better relate with others, then God has called you into the Gospel. Be careful now, because Paul is going to spend more than a dozen chapters explaining what being called into a relationship of Gospel is all about.