To All Who are in Rome

Focus Text: Romans 1.1-4

It is only reasonable that the book of Romans would contain some of the deepest and most complex theological themes of the entire Bible. This is true because of the audience to whom the Holy Spirit appealed through Paul, the human author of the book. Rome was the literal capital of the “civilized world” at the time the book was written. As such, it was a melting pot for every imaginable human philosophy. The Greek culture blended with Rome and produced one of the best educated societies of the era as well as one of the most licentious cultures. Education and riches did not stem the tide of ungodly thoughts and deeds; rather, it almost seems as if these two hallmarks of Rome fueled the appetites for worldliness in her citizens. Hear Paul as he addresses his letter to the believers in this culture.

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1.1-4). Rome was not a stranger to the concepts of human servitude and they were certainly familiar with the principles of the bondservant. Thayer says of this word in this context that it means “…1a) a slave; 1b) metaph[orically], one who gives himself up to another's will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men; 1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests.” It is particularly noteworthy that the word carries the idea of servitude, but moreover that it can connote “…one who gives himself up to another’s will.” It is that aspect that we address in the remainder of this message.

Paul was a servant, but not against his will. He voluntarily enlisted in God’s army, he voluntarily went daily to the battle, and he voluntarily worked tirelessly to enlist others to fight for the same cause. From a viewpoint of human will, Paul was free to put aside his allegiance to the Christ at any time; there were no supernatural or physical constraints laid upon him. He served because he wanted to serve! The status which Paul enjoyed as a volunteer is the only status available with the Lord’s army; no man can serve in it except he of free will wishes to do so. When many of the Lord’s disciples turned and walked no more with him (John 6.66), they were free to go; nothing constrained them apart from their own consciences. So it was, is, and always will be so long as time stands.

The power to choose is especially powerful at this the beginning of a new year. Many people make resolutions at this time of year. However, the power is not in the resolution, it is in the power to choose! It is easy to conceive a plan; it is quite another thing to stay the course that makes it happen. Paul changed courses when He met the Lord on the road to Damascus and never looked back! He had the power to look back, but he refused to betray his conscience and truth! May all your resolutions be equally as righteous, and may you invoke the same steadfast spirit as did Paul in following the Lord. Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…

Questions:

1. Why did the average Roman citizen understand the concepts of servitude?

2. Why was Rome a melting pot for many different philosophies?

3. Why would a letter to Rome be expected to bear such deep theological marks?

4. How important is the concept of “free will” in the matter of the Gospel? When did the reality of man’s free will first come into play? When will it cease?