Full Text for Romans- Volume 7 - Paul's Standing with the Church in Rome (Video)

No. 7. >> Hello. I'm Nick. If Paul did not found the church at Rome, how could he write them this lengthy letter and then expect them to read it and take it seriously? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: Hello, Nick. And welcome to our study in the book of Romans. And Nick, you ask a very interesting and important question. Because to state again, Paul did not found the church at Rome. And so from our you know 21st century perspective, we might think that Paul definitely had authority in the places where he had preached and in the congregations that he had founded. So that when he writes his letters to I and II Corinthians, he writes from a position of authority because he had actually founded their church. You might say they might look at him and see an existing pastoral relationship. But if Paul had never been to Rome, how could he write this letter and expect them to take it serious? And again note that Romans is the longest of the Pauline epistles that we possess today in the New Testament. So Paul actually wrote his longest letter and he writes from a very -- with a very authoritative stance, he will exhort them to live a certain way. And he does this to Christians, most of whom he has never seen face to face in person before. So it's a good question that you ask, Nick. And it's something that we should clarify. By what authority could Paul write this lengthy letter to the Christians in Rome and expect them to take it seriously? And expect them to actually listen to his exhortations and respond in the appropriate way. And Nick, all of this is based in Paul's office as an apostle. It is from his -- the basis of his apostleship that Paul writes this letter. Indeed, it's from the basis of his apostleship that Paul writes all of the epistles that he writes that we have in the New Testament. It's not so much on the authority of someone who has founded a church. Or who has a pastoral relationship. Although that truly is a part of what's going on in I Corinthians. But mainly it's who Paul was as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Now, the word apostle, if you were to do a word study on apostle in the New Testament, you would find that there are some people other than the 12 and Paul to whom this title is sometimes applied. And so it seems that apostles were people who may have served in some missionary capacity in a very general sense. But Nick, we have to point out the more technical use of the term when it applies to the 12 and when it applies to Paul. Jesus personally called the 12 and selected them out of the larger body of his disciples. And then gave them the authority to do what he was doing. To preach the kingdom of God. To cast out demons. And to heal. Well, one of those 12, Judas, betrayed Jesus and lost his apostleship. The others also deserted Jesus. But Jesus restored them after his resurrection. Then Matthias was selected to replace Judas's slot. We know that in Acts Chapter 1. So there were these 12 men who were seen to be apostles personally chosen by Jesus. And then Paul himself we know from Acts Chapter 9 in a very dramatic way on the road to Damascus, when he was persecuting the church was confronted by Jesus and personally called by Jesus also to be an apostle. Only Paul's apostleship was referenced specifically to the nations, to the Gentiles. And so if we look at the biblical testimony, there are these 13 very unique men, 14 counting Judas, who had the office of apostle given to them personally by Jesus Christ. Now, what is an apostle? An apostle is a spokesman, an ambassador you might say, who is sent by the person who sends him with the special and unique authority to speak in that person's name. So that when people hear the apostle speaking, they will take that word as not coming from the apostle but as coming from the person who sent him. Therefore, when you hear Peter speak as an apostle, it's really not Peter's word, it's Jesus Christ's word spoken through Peter. When you hear Paul speaking, it's not just Paul's word but it's Jesus Christ's word coming through his servant and apostle, Paul. This was a unique office that the church possessed that was never to be repeated in the generations that came afterward. The apostles did select and place people into the office of elder, pastor today. But the office of apostle, those who were personally selected by Jesus and then given the authority to be his spokesmen in this unique way, that has not been repeated in the history of the church. And so then when Paul writes to the Romans, it is on the basis of his possessing that office that he is an apostle. That he writes to them this lengthy and very authoritative letter and expects them to read it and take it as authority. Paul was very mindful of who he was as an apostle of Jesus Christ. And as we look at Romans 1, we can see how this plays out. Paul was mindful first of the authority that he possessed as one who was an apostle. And so Romans Chapter 1 Verse 1, this is in the opening when Paul identifies himself as the author. He writes: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus -- and that title servant people debate whether that was uniquely Paul or whether it would apply to all Christians. But then Paul goes onto specify how he was a servant. Called to be an apostle. Paul points that out when he identifies himself. He has the authority to write this letter to the Christians in Rome, even though he has not founded their churches. Even though he may not have a pastoral relationship with any of them yet. Because he is an apostle called by God. Paul goes on and says: Set apart for the Gospel of God. So he is an apostle called by God, set apart for the Gospel of God. And that gives him the authority to write a letter even to strangers. And if they are Christians, if they are disciples of Jesus, then they, too, should recognize his office and then take what he has to say seriously. You might say receive what Paul says as if it is really Jesus himself speaking through his spokesman through his apostle, Paul. Now, Paul was not only mindful of the unique authority that he had as an apostle but also of the unique responsibility that he had. With the authority came the responsibility for him to conduct that missionary work to the Gentiles. Why? Well, because Jesus Christ himself called Paul and sent him on this mission. So later in Romans Chapter 1 in Verse 14 we hear Paul express this sense of responsibility, as well. He writes: I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians. Both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who is in Rome. We see here that Paul is mindful not just of his authority but of the unique responsibility he has to conduct missionary work among the Gentiles. Among the non-Jews. In fact, Paul says he is under obligation. In other words, he has to do this. This is what his Lord and Savior Jesus has commissioned him to do. And he is under obligation. He has to carry out his responsibility. And so Paul mindful of his authority and mindful of his responsibility not just as an ordinary Christian but as one who has been called by Jesus to be an apostle, to be Jesus' spokesman it is with this in mind that Paul writes the epistle to the Romans. Now, Nick, one question we might ask is: Well, Paul was mindful of his authority and his responsibility to write such a letter. How did the Romans respond? Did they recognize Paul's authority? Did they recognize Paul's responsibility? Well, we do know from the New Testament that Paul's apostleship was questioned by some. And it seems a standard tactic for those who disagreed with Paul that they would actually attack his apostleship. Which was one reason why in Galatians and I Corinthians and II Corinthians, Paul defends his apostleship. Well, Paul doesn't really have to go out of his way to defend his apostleship to the Romans. So people surmise from this that these Christians may not be aware of the attacks upon Paul's apostleship. But they were probably certainly aware of who Paul was. Paul greets Priscilla and Aquila in the conclusion of Romans. Which means that these friends and co-ministers of Paul who had been in Rome were kicked out by Claudius who met Paul in the east have now come back to Rome. And so there's a good chance that many people in Rome did know Paul by reputation. And because of the ministry that he had conducted. And that they may have been favorably impressed to receive Paul seems evident that when in Acts 28 Paul finally is brought in chains to Rome, there's actually a group of brothers, of Christians, from Rome who come to meet Paul on the way. And then who escort him into the city of Rome. And so it appears that at least some received Paul's letter in the right spirit recognizing the authority and the responsibility he had to write such a letter to them. And then because this letter was preserved, we can assume that the Christians in Rome did receive this letter in the right spirit, recognizing that this came from one who was an apostle of Jesus Christ.