From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Romans Series – 2 of 43!

Last Sunday I began the 43-part series on Romans, focusing on 1:1-7, the greeting. This coming Sunday we’ll be looking at the next 8 verses: 1:8-15.

Paul’s laying out here his reasons for writing the letter. What’s striking to me is the tone of this passage. It’s not unusual for Paul to assert his authority as an apostle in the openings of his other letters. To asset, or to throw it around! But here in Romans, Paul is being downright deferential. In verses 10-13 he makes repeated statements that he’s wanted to come to Rome for some time, but was prevented. As though some in Rome (the capital of the world) were miffed that Paul the uber apostle hadn’t gotten around to seeing them. While that may be speculative, it’s clear that Paul wants to make clear that he really has wanted to come to Rome, and that the only reason he hasn’t is that he’s been “prevented”, and that’s he’s praying that God will allow it now. There’s some kind of diplomacy going on here.

Moreover, in verse 12 Paul seems to correct himself about what he said in verse 11. In v.11 he says he hopes to impart some spiritual gift to the Romans. But then in 12, as though to correct the implication that he, Paul, is the imparter of gifts and they, the Romans, are the receivers of his spiritual largesse, Paul says “no, wait – it will be mutual encouragement, by your faith and mine.” It appears that Paul is bending over backwards to NOT assert his authority, to not even appear to be lording it over the Roman church.

Which is what makes verse 15 such a curveball, to me at least. Because in verse 15 he says he’s “eager to preach the gospel to you…” What? Paul’s eager to preach the gospel to an established church, a church whose faith is known throughout the world, a church Paul praises?

I remember overhearing a youth minister once talking on the phone about “bringing Jesus to this church”. To tell the truth, it made me mad. Who did he think he was? And who did he think we were – a bunch of pagans? We’re already Christians and we don’t need some young turk bringing Jesus to us! So, pastor smarty, how come Paul is eager to preach the gospel to the church at Rome?

It appears that the gospel is not only for pagans but for Christians too.

That’s the theme for this coming Sunday’s sermon – that the gospel is for Christians too. In fact, now that I think more about it, I think Christians need the gospel even more than pagans do. But to get more on that, you’ll need to show up this Sunday!

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