Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Courtney Doctor’s new study, In View of God’s Mercies. Order your copy or view a free sample at lifeway.com/mercies.
Thanks to Twitter®, Instagram® stories, and texting, we’re growing more and more accustomed to brief blurbs and snappy phrases. The short, pithy sentence captivates us. If we’re not careful, we can “like,” “heart,” or retweet based more on the entertainment value of the sentence than on the validity of its contents. Conversely, the first seven verses of Romans are one long sentence! (I guess Paul’s middle school English teacher forgot to teach him about run-on sentences.) Because we’re not used to reading such a long string of ideas, we will need to slow down and pay attention in order to understand what Paul was saying.
Paul described himself as “set apart for the gospel” (Rom. 1:1). He wanted to make sure his readers began to understand what the gospel is—one of the main themes in his letter to the Romans. In this study, we will learn more and more about both what the gospel is and what the gospel accomplishes.
The gospel is all about Jesus, who He is and what He has done. But Paul wanted his readers to understand that while the events central to the gospel—Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection—were unique, the gospel is not new news. The Old Testament points to the coming of Jesus, and the New Testament proclaims that all the Old Testament promises have been fulfilled in Jesus (Matt. 26:56; Luke 24:27; 2 Cor. 1:20). This means that you and I, from where we stand in the story of redemption—after the resurrection and before Jesus comes again—have the key to understanding the Old Testament. The key is Jesus!
The first seven verses of Romans 1 say,
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The relationship between obedience and faith is an important one. Faith comes first. We don’t receive salvation through obedience, we receive it only through faith. God first gives us the faith we need to believe, and then He calls us to respond to this great gift by living a life of joyful obedience. Obedience flows from faith.
God’s eyes have always been set on the whole world. He told Adam and Eve to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth . . .” (Gen. 1:28, NIV). He told Abraham that he would bless him so “all the families of the earth [would] be blessed” through him (Gen. 12:3). Jesus told His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19, NIV) and be His “witnesses . . . to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The plan of God has always been to make a people for Himself and for that one people to be from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Or as the disciple John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine).
In line with the heart of God, Paul longed to see the gospel go to all the nations. Paul hoped the Roman Christians would help send him to Spain to preach the good news there (Rom. 15:22-24). One reason he was so “eager to preach the gospel” to the Christians in Rome was because he wanted them to be eager to proclaim it with him to the ends of the earth (Rom. 1:15).
Let’s close by going back to that phrase “obedience of faith” in verse 5. One author said it “means bowing the knee in trusting submission to Jesus the Lord, both at the start and all through the Christian life.”1
If you are a follower of Jesus, you and I are to be ready at all times to explain to others the reason “for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).
Want to learn more about In View of God’s Mercies? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at lifeway.com/mercies.
We’re excited to announce that the In View of God’s Mercies Bible Study Book includes continual access to all 9 of Courtney’s teaching sessions. You’ll simply redeem the unique access code printed in the back of your Bible study book to access the videos.
If you’re a group leader, use promo code MERCIES20 to get 20% off when you buy 10 or more In View of God’s Mercies Bible Study Books on lifeway.com. (Offer valid through 3/1/22.)
Have more questions? Check out our FAQ about this change here.
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- Christopher Ash, Teaching Romans: Unlocking Romans 1–8 for the Bible Teacher, eds. David Jackman and Robin Sydserff, vol. 1, Teach the Bible (Ross-shire, Scotland; London: Proclamation Trust Media; Christian Focus Publications, 2009), 55.