To All Who are in Rome
Focus Text: Romans 1.1-4
Wise people do not accept every claim that they encounter; they weigh the evidence and draw conclusions based on the strength (or lack thereof) of the available testimony. It should be no different with claims of a religious nature. In fact when one considers the risks involved with accepting a false claim, nothing could be more hurtful than to be taken in by a “peddler of goods” in the spiritual arena. Perhaps that is why Paul purposefully introduced himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ at the very outset of some of his epistles. He knew that he could “measure up” to the claim and he also knew that those who were false apostles (2 Corinthians 11.13) would fail to pass an honest examination of credentials.
The Romans were no stranger to authority; they were accustomed to dealing with governors, judges, rulers, senators, and most significantly, with the emperor. Therefore, given the risks involved with religious claims, and the Romans’ savvy with dealing with authority, it is no wonder that Paul began his letter to the Romans with this claim, “Paul, …called to be an apostle. The stakes were immediately placed on the table; either he could pass the scrutiny that such a claim was sure to bring, or he would fall short under close examination. But, how was anyone to know whether his claim was true or false? Such is the gist of our study today.
Not every one is an apostle in the sense that Paul used the term in Romans 1.1; though the word can be used to refer to anyone sent on a mission that clearly is not its meaning here. To see that it has a “technical” usage in Scripture, all one has to do is consider Paul’s rhetorical question to the Corinthians when he asked, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?” (1 Corinthians 12.29). The fact Paul was capable of performing the “signs of an apostle” (2 Corinthians 12.12) was significant in distinguishing him from others who had not been so appointed by Jesus Christ. Along with the signs of an apostle came the authority of an apostle. In writing to the brethren at Thessalonica, Paul commended them because they had received his word “… as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (2 Thessalonians 2.13).
It was this authority that gave him the right to command the brethren in certain places to take specific actions (1 Corinthians 7.10; 2 Thessalonians 3.4,6; Philemon 1.8; etc.). The authority of Paul was the authority which had been vested in him by the Lord Himself. Hence, with the authority came the ability to prove that authority. Just as any deputy by definition has the right to act in certain capacities for another, so an apostle had the right to act for the Lord in certain capacities. Likewise, a deputy is given credentials to demonstrate that he is in deed an agent of the one who commissions him. Such was the case with Paul. He was not at all bashful or timid to make the claim of apostleship; he could talk the talk, but he could also walk the walk!
Such is not the case with self-proclaimed apostles today; they are religious charlatans who seek to deceive others for their own purposes. If you don’t believe it, put them to the test! God has not left Himself without witness on this or any other matter of eternal import!
1. How do we know that the word apostle was used at times in a technical sense?
2. What would be involved in the signs of an apostle? Would such signs prove his apostleship?
3. Why would Paul want others to know that he was an apostle? What difference would that make to the readers of his epistles?
4. Is it rude, or somehow improper, to ask those who make religious claims today to back them up with appropriate evidence? Is it wise to do so? Why, or why not?
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