Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Apostleship; Why it's crucial.

Romans 1:1 "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."

The introduction of Paul to the Roman church which he gives himself is more about Jesus than it is Paul. This brief introduction tells the purpose of Jesus and what Paul's mission is relative to Jesus.

Paul first calls himself "a servant".  The very act of serving is in imitation of Jesus Christ himself.
Matthew 20:27 (ESV) "...and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Here it is said by Jesus himself  who "came not to be served but to serve". How was it that Jesus served? He was the ultimate slave. He came "to give life as a ransom for many". Of course his desire is "that all be saved" (1 Timothy 2:4), but when Jesus said that, he was being pragmatic. He knew that most would reject him, but came to give everyone an opportunity. That includes the heathen gentiles, including the Romans!

Part of the age old "mystery of God" is that salvation had always been for all. It wasn't just a Jewish thing which they thought because they are God's chosen people. God's grace was offered to the Jew first. They got the gift of grace first,  but most of them rejected it. God knew they would so God's Plan all along was that salvation was for everyone!

Because we are to be Christ-like, that means many things: we are to be righteous, set apart from the world, steadfast, faithful, loving and a servant to others. Jesus' servitude was being the redemption of all mankind  (Matthew 20:27 above). We can't do that so we become "a slave" to others (ibid). Paul made another point: "separated unto the gospel of God". "The gospel" means "the good news" and that "good news" is that Jesus came to save us since we can't save ourselves.

If a person has not been "born-again" they have no hope. The "born again" experience, which is the necessary ingredient to be saved from eternal destruction, is the moment in time when a person realizes that no one can save themselves; but Jesus can. At that instant the person is enlightened. It's the time when a person quits depending on the god of self and places their confidence (faith) in Jesus Christ! It's the moment they see "the Light" and turn to Jesus for salvation.

Paul saw the Light when he was made blind. In absolute darkness only did he see the Light. It was the truth about Jesus which dawned on Paul. Although once he was set apart to persecute Christians because he failed to have Light, once he got the Light he was set apart to tell "the good news" about Jesus. The irony here is that the One who he once hated and persecuted, he now loved so much that his life was turned around. The old person Saul became the new person Paul as he was "born again"!

"Separation" (verse 1) is sanctification. Paul, as we are to be, was set apart. Of course "Set apart from what?" is the question to which the answer is "the world".  The born again person who has seen the light leaves this worldly kingdom and becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God. That's the gospel, or good news, from God. As new persons we are to live in a new kingdom. We are to be set apart from "the flesh" and submit ourselves a living sacrifice. We donate that self and become a servant to others in imitation of Jesus Christ who did that for us!

If Paul had failed to separate himself from what he was, his message would have been meaningless. However, many Christians tell the good news, but they don't believe it enough themselves to allow change from the old person to the new, from the world to the gospel wherein the "good news" exists!

Verse 2 says that this promise "the gospel", was foretold by the prophets in "holy scripture". That's what we call "The Old Testament". Scripture is all about Jesus from Genesis to Malachi. It tells the "good news" before the "good news" was ever born. That's imperative to understand because there are not two gospels, but one. "Old Testament" scripture is also "the good news". What was hidden before was made manifest. That was the mystery of God of which Paul has much to say later on!

"The gospel", the good news is all about God's Son Jesus Christ (verse 3). Jesus was in the beginning before he was made flesh. John the Baptist said that the one who came after him was before him. Jesus always WAS and being there always Jesus is I AM, God himself. Of course because no man had heretofore seen God and lived, Jesus was born in the flesh for two reasons: 1) that we can see God face to face and 2) to save us from eternal punishment! Not only was Jesus the Son of God, but he too was from the seed of David. In other words, he was and IS God and Man.

The importance that he IS the of the seed of David is critical in that he is totally human although he is completely God as well. He was tempted as we are tempted and felt what we feel. Because the Holy Spirit came UPON him and had not yet FILLED him, I believe that he faced the three temptations of the devil as others did when they received the Holy Spirit. In other words he faced temptation just as we would without any special provisions because he is God.

"The flesh" which he was made of, was just like ours although we were made in his image (how he was to be when he became incarnate).  The flesh is the medium of exchange between the world and the kingdom of God.  When Paul was separated from the world he controlled the flesh, but not on his own because the Comforter, or the Ghost of Jesus, had come to carry him.  The Holy Ghost is how we cheat Satan. Because Jesus faced Satan as man, we can face Satan with the Jesus' help because his Ghost is always with us!

It's important to distinguish between "Holy Spirit" and "Holy Ghost". Holy Spirit emanates from God and is his essence which was available to righteous people at all times. David had the Holy Spirit because God was with him! However, he didn't have the Holy Ghost because Jesus had not yet died. When Jesus ascended he immediately returned in spirit form. The spirit of a disembodied person is a "ghost". Actually, the Ghost of Jesus is with us now as he Comforts us as we battle the flesh. Paul had a great battle with his own flesh because he was, according to him, "a chief sinner".

In verse 4 Jesus is declared to be powerful. After all he defeated Satan did he not? When Satan was defeated Jesus had God's Spirit on him as protection from bodily harm, but like Job, Jesus could have chosen sin, but didn't. God put a hedge around Jesus, but it was the seed of David who chose God. Jesus stood with God, not under a forbidden tree. He had seen first hand the first Adam stand under the forbidden tree rather than The Tree of Life, and the second Adam (Jesus) chose right! The protection of God's Spirit was power to defeat Satan's going to and fro!

Because the Holy Spirit came down on Mary, Jesus is the Son of God. Because he is holy is from whence his power came. Jesus didn't need Satan to gain the power Satan tempted with because he already had the Spirit of God on him. He was endowed with power when he was baptized by John as the Spirit came upon him. The Son of Man was tempted, but he faced Satan not alone, but with God. That's how we face principalities of darkness as well. Paul faced them the same way!

Verse 4 speaks of "the resurrection from the dead". Being born again is when a person comes to see that one cannot resurrect oneself, that because God resurrected Jesus, resurrection into eternal life can only be through Jesus. He is the Way to eternal life! There is no other way. When a person comes to that conclusion and trusts that since God resurrected the Son of Man, Jesus, each of us can be resurrected as well. Verse 5 tells how we can be resurrected. It is by grace. That's a gift from Jesus (not a work). That's crucial because works implies that we can save ourselves! Remembering that we become born again when we realize that we can't do that, only Jesus can, then we must accept the gift and deny any credit on our part. That's essential to being born again. Most people can never get over themselves! Salvation is "getting over yourself" and making that god of self a servant to others and having trust in Jesus, not oneself.

Verse 5 says that we also have received apostleship. Apostleship is carrying the word of Jesus to others. Why would we do that? Because we love others, That's obedience. Apostleship is obedience to do what God tells us to do! What are we to do? Tell the world about Jesus. That's how we show love because we desire that no one shall perish, just as John 3:16 says that's how much Jesus loves us! Incidentally, tolerating others lifestyles is not how we show love. Love is shown by offending because suggesting that one is damned without Jesus is offensive to those who live in sin!

Matthew 10:34 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Paul's "Sword" as is ours is "the word of God". It offends! Paul didn't come to show tolerance to those who were unrighteous, but to condemn them. Did most hate him? They sure did because he offended there gods, all their "selfs"! The gospel is not about being tolerant. It's about obedience!

Verse 6 indicates that even the Romans were called to salvation. This is Paul revealing the mystery of God. Romans were ALWAYS part of God's Plan. He never had Plan A, B nor N. His plan from day one was Jesus dying for everyone and it was never by works, but by grace. It was faith which saved Noah and Abraham and is the same faith which saves us. Their faith was even greater because they believed in what would come about and we need only believe in what has happened. This is "the faith of Abraham" and his willingness to sacrifice his only son (a work) was recognized as faith. Faith without works is dead, according to James and Abraham's faith was manifested in works!

Romans were pagans, hedonists, and great sinners. Paul in verse 7 called them "beloved". Why" Because "God so loved the world!" That includes the Romans and that includes you and me! Why was Paul there? To give them the word so that the Comforter could call them to sainthood. Don't be confused here. We can never be saints on our own because saints still sin! However, because Jesus took our sins from us and paid the price it is Jesus who made us saints! As saints we should behave as saints by following his commands! That's how we show our love for him. Therefore, saints are those who love Jesus enough to be willing to allow change in themselves. That's our living sacrifice we are called to do! We allow God to circumcise our old hearts and give us new hearts, going from old persons to new persons - being born again!

Paul wraps up his introduction by crediting God and Jesus for their gift of salvation which is grace. Sure God gave his Son in our place, but Jesus, as the servant of ours, gave his own blood and life for us. He felt the sting of death for us so that we never need fear the sting of the second death!

The entire reason for Jesus is summed up in these few passages. Everything there is crucial. Then we see that because of God's grace, the grace we are to show, is both to serve God and our fellow man!

Many of us don't have a problem serving God; it's just others we have difficulty serving! However, how we serve God is by serving others! I don't experience being served by fellow Christians much myself. Some despise me! On the other hand I know I am not serving others as I must! It's not optional. God doesn't give us a choice. We are to mimic Jesus and be servants. We serve by loving. I miss that mark and God tells me that I do. I write this instant as a cheap way of loving others, but others don't see  it that way. The loved one must have a face and I write to faceless people.  I need to do better and so do you!

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