Rev. Ronald Burns
Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome. He had heard of the church at Rome, but he had never been there, nor had any of the apostles. The church had been started by the Jews who had come to the faith during Pentecost and had spread the Gospel on their return to Rome. As a result, the church had grown tremendously. Although many barriers separated them, Paul felt a bond with these believers in Rome. They were his brothers and sisters in Christ, and he longed to see them face to face.
He never met most of his believers there, yet he loved them. He sent this letter to introduce himself and make a clear declaration of the faith. After his introduction, Paul presents the facts of the Gospel and declares allegiance to it. He builds an airtight case for the lostness of humanity and necessity for God’s intervention. He also presents the Good News: regardless of a person’s identity, sin or heritage.
We are saved by grace (unearned, undeserved favor from God) through faith (complete trust) in Christ and his finished work. Through him we stand before God justified, “not guilty” regardless of what we’ve done in our lifetime; our slate has been wiped clean. With this, Paul moves directly into a discussion of the freedom that comes from being saved, freedom from the power of sin, freedom from the domination of the Law, and freedom to become like Christ and to discover God’s limitless love.
Paul, speaking directly to his Jewish brothers and sisters, shares his concern for them and how they fit into God’s plan. God has made the way for the Jews and Gentiles to be united in the body of Christ. Regardless of race or nationality, everybody fits into the plan of God.
He further explains what it means to live in complete submission to Christ: to use spiritual gifts to serve others, genuinely love others, and be good citizens. Freedom must be guided by love as we build up each other in the faith, being sensitive and helpful to those who are weak.
From the beginning to the end, the Gospel shows us how we fit into God’s righteous plan, how it is for us that are saved, and how we may be made fit for eternal life. By trusting Christ, our relationship with God is made right. In Proverbs 3:5, 6 (KJV) it says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding, in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
There are three commands that we must go by. First, trust, meaning we must totally rely and depend on God. Second, lean not, meaning don’t depend on your own native instincts. And third, acknowledge him- meaning to have fellowship and intimacy with God in all of our life. The result of such devotion is that God will make the paths straight before you. God and God alone is able to declare us to righteous because of faith and faith alone.
When writing this letter, not only did Paul have to introduce himself to the Christians in Rome, but he had to present his credentials as well. Paul had to convince the readers of that day that he had a right to send this letter. Why? Because Paul was a common name in those days. Anybody could go around pretending to be the Apostle Paul, but if you have the right credentials, it would make everything much easier when it comes to letting people know who you are.
I would be a fool to believe that there’s only one person named Ronald L. Burns in this country; I too, just like Paul had to prove who I was. Let me explain it to you. A few years ago, I kept getting letters and phone calls from creditors saying, I owe them money, and when was I going to pay them. For years I kept telling them, you have the wrong person. The people kept trying to convince me that I was the right person, and I kept telling them no. Yes, you are Ronald Burns and you owe us $500.00 dollars for the Sprint phone you bought from us. I told them on several occasions that I did not own a Sprint phone. Finally, they asked for my Social Security number, and when I gave it to them, they apologized and said, you’re not the Ronald L. Burns we’re looking for.
Paul had to let them know that he was a Servant of Jesus Christ, and by being his servant, Paul had enslaved himself to Christ, to be his servant and to obey his will. Paul humbly calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ and an Apostle. For a Roman citizen, which Paul was, to choose to be a servant was unthinkable! But Paul chose to be completely dependent on and obedient to his beloved Master.
An Apostle was “one who was sent by authority with a commission.” They were the ones who were privileged of have seen the risen Savior. Paul had an encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, and it was then that Christ called him to be an Apostle.
He also had to let them know that he was a preacher of the Gospel. I can hear some asking, “were you the one who persecuted the Christians, were you the one, who held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death?”
Just like the Apostle Paul, we Preachers, Christians, and Deacons have to defend who we really are. “Yes, I was the one who held the coats while they stoned Stephen. Yes, I was the one who persecuted the Christians. I was the one, who they used to call the town drunk. I was the one who was in and out of jail. I was the one who used to cuss like a sailor. I was the one who had the smart mouth and bad attitude.” But since Jesus knocked me off my high horse, I’m not what I used to be. I have a new walk, a new talk, and a new attitude. I’m on a missonary Journey, telling every man woman, boy and girl, Christians and Sinners alike on how to live for Christ and how we can make a change in our lives. How do I know? Because He made a change in my life and He can make a change in yours, if you let him.