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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 11

A General Survey of the Epistle to the Romans

A Declaration of Paul's Official Relation

The Saints of God

The transition to "the saints at Rome" is beautiful. Paul has stated his commission to be an apostle to all nations. Since they are included in his apostleship to all nations, he easily makes the transition to them: "Among whom are ye also." By means of this, he justifies the writing of this letter to Rome, because his field is the world. Note three things about "the saints."

Called of Jesus Christ

The meaning includes the idea of possession. You might read it like this: "They are called Jesus Christ's." They are the called ones belonging to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ called them, but He also called them to be His own.

Beloved of God

Christ is His beloved Son, and if we are His, then we are beloved, because He is beloved. We are "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

Called to Be Saints

The words "to be" are italicized because they were added by the translators. Excluding them, it reads: "Called saints." Paul does not say, "called to be saints," as if sainthood were some goal to be attained in the future. They are not to be saints - they are saints. They are "called saints." If the present church at Rome believed that doctrine, it would sweep away and destroy forever that awful, unscriptural doctrine of special sainthood to be attained. Not only could the Roman church learn at this point, but also the Protestant churches.  If we believe what Paul teaches here, there would be more saintly lives among the saints. A Christian whose life is not what it ought to be often gives this excuse: "I don't pretend to be a saint!" It doesn't matter what you pretend to be - if you are a Christian, you are a saint! It is not humility to refuse to take that name that God has given us but unbelief, masquerading in the role of humility. Does the world expect anything of a sinner? Not a thing. Does the world expect anything of a saint? It certainly does. If a man that has taken this position falls, every man will jeer at him, saying, "There is your saint!" To accept the position of saint demands living in conformity with the position. Those who do not want to take that position know that they do not intend to live in accordance with that position, and therefore they refuse to take it.

God never goes to a sinner and tells him to try to attain to sainthood. He picks us out of the mud, and He says, "You are  a saint." We are not making believe. We are holy and must live in accordance with our position. This is never attained by striving, but by taking possession of sainthood, remembering our position, and living in accordance with it.

The salutation closes with "grace and peace," which can never be separated. They flow together from two persons who can never be separated - God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

The words of Dr. Beet conclude the discussion of Paul's first sentence:

"Paul's opening sentence is a crystal arch spanning the gulf between the Jew of Tarsus and the Christian at Rome. Paul begins by giving his name, he rises to the dignity of his office, and then to the Gospel he proclaims. From the Gospel he ascends to its great Subject Matter, to Him Who is the Son of David and Son of God. From this summit of his arch he passes on to his apostleship again, and to the nations for whose good he received it. Among these nations he finds the Christian at Rome. He began to build by laying down his own claims: he finishes by acknowledging theirs. The gulf is spanned. Across the waters of national separation Paul has flung an arch whose firmly kept segments are living truths, and whose Keystone is the Incarnate Son of God. Over this arch he hastens with words of greeting from his Father and their Father, from his Lord and their Lord."

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 12 - "An Expression of Paul's Personal Feelings")

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