Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Romans 1:1-7

vv. 1-7: “Paul a slave of Christ Jesus, called an apostle being set apart for the Gospel of God, that which was proclaimed beforehand by his prophets in the holy scriptures concerning his son coming from the seed of David according to flesh, being appointed son of God by power according to the Holy Spirit by resurrection of the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience of faith among all the nations for his name, in which you are also called of Jesus Christ, all those in Rome, who are loved of God, called holy ones, grace to you and peace from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The above is my translation.

Often Paul begins his letters with a greeting to individuals in churches that he knows or with a greeting to the whole church, but Paul doesn't personally know these Christians in Rome. So, he introduces himself by saying: "Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called an apostle being set apart for the Gospel of God, that which was proclaimed beforehand by God's prophets in the Holy Scriptures concerning his son . . . " Paul makes clear three things: 1) he serves Jesus Christ; 2) he is called of God to preach the Gospel; 3) this Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecies of Israel which are recorded in the Holy Scriptures. And, then he says that this Gospel is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is a descendant of King David according to his human ancestry, and who was appointed the Son of God through the power manifest when God raised Jesus from the dead.

It is good to stop right here. Because a lot has been said by Paul. Maybe more than we can take in. By saying that Jesus is of the line of David, Paul shows that Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel's hope for the Messianic King who would bring salvation to Israel (Christ is another word for Messiah). By saying that Jesus was appointed the Son of God in power by God's resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Paul shows that God had given to Israel more than just the fulfillment of the Davidic hope for a Messiah, for God had given to Israel the very power of life through Jesus whom God raised from the dead. God had vindicated Jesus overagainst all his enemies and shown that Jesus was of God - indeed, God had declared him to be his Son. In the Bible, we hear that God speaks of Jesus Sonship when Jesus comes up out of the water after being baptized by John. Besides this, God speaks of Jesus Sonship only through the words of angels or the actions of God in Jesus. The great action through which God speaks the ultimate word about Jesus is the earth-shattering, history-breaking resurrection of Jesus from the dead. And, with this word of life out of death God speaks a word about all humanity of whom he has made Jesus the head.

Paul says: "Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience of faith among all the nations for his name." Through this Christ, of the line of David, who was appointed Son of God, we have received this ministry of the Gospel, Paul says. "To bring about the obedience of faith among all the peoples for his name." "The obedience of faith" is a phrase worth considering. Often we oppose faith to works, or belief to deeds. But, here Paul speaks of them together. He speaks of the obedience of faith. Because, as Paul knows, when trust/faith in God is born, so is right action. When we trust God and feel a sense of love for God, we want to do God's will. Obedience flows naturally from faith. As Martin Luther said: "good works come from a good heart." Faith heals the heart, and the healed heart gives rise to good and holy actions.

Paul celebrates the unity he has with the Roman Christians, and reminds them that they are set apart for this same Gospel ministry. To be holy in the early church usually meant being "set apart for a special task," and was not thought of so much in moral/purity terms as it was in later Christianity. To be holy certainly implied moral goodness, but the meaning was first focused on fulfilling a special task from God. Often a person, even of questionable moral character, can be sanctified when accepting a solemn task. That is certainly something to think about as we think about what it means to be holy. First of all, it means to hear and respond to God's call to live for God and to love our neighbors with God's love. When we do that, all of our sins and impurities somehow just fade into the background. And, so Paul calls the Roman Christians: "those loved by God, holy ones . . ." Not perfect ones, but "set apart" ones - people with a special and gracious charge to keep.

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