Paul's Passing Thoughts

The Potter’s House: Sunday, October 7, 2012

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on October 7, 2012

        Introduction to the Book of Romans: “What’s in the Word, ‘Promise?’” Romans 1:2

Turn with me to Romans, and the first chapter as we continue the beginning of our journey in the book of Romans. Last Sunday, we examined what Paul meant when he wrote to the Christians at Rome stating that he wanted to preach the gospel to them. Paul did not intend to preach a deeper version of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but rather the full counsel of God concerning life and godliness. Often in the Scriptures, “gospel” is used as a term to describe the general truth and revelation of God. Let me demonstrate this, and what better book than the book of Acts which is a historical account of the original propagation of the gospel worldwide:

Acts 8:14

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.

Acts 12:24

But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.

Acts 13:5

When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.

In these examples, “the word” could easily be replaced with “gospel” and put forth the same truth.

Paul also explained in the letter to the Romans that he had been hindered for years by divine providence from coming to them for the purpose of, in my opinion, to preach the gospel to them in a deeper context; ie, what he referred to as the “full counsel of God” to others. And I think in our discussion of the gospel here, this brings up a very important aside that should be an addendum to last week’s message on verse one: when someone signs up for the kingdom, they are also signing up for the full counsel of God as the authority over their life. That is also “the gospel.” Think again on the aforementioned verses from Acts that we just read.

This is a beautiful thing. We don’t know where God might take the Potter’s House, if anywhere, but if we are founded on the authority of God’s word and the belief that the saints in general can interpret the Bible for themselves—anybody who disagrees with our interpretation, and feels that it is a major point of truth, can merely vote with their feet. The whole biblical concept of being united in the one mind of Christ found in the Bible is very powerful. Unity is based on agreement regarding truth. The clear premise in the Bible is the idea that it is objective truth that everyone should strive to agree on. We do not intend to merely give this lip service.

Now, as discussed last week, the letter to the Christians at Rome is a full orbed gospel treatise. It begins in 1:16, and ends at 15:21. This is important to note in our day because the “Five Word Gospel,” “Christ died for our sins” is all the rage, especially in American Christianity. The focus is on a meditation of nothing but the “personhood” of Christ and His “crosswork.” This is deceptively called the “objective” gospel, but the belief is that we are guided by meditating on nothing but this narrow concept which some say has an eternal depth that will never be fully understood.  Of course, this approach really leads to the mother of all subjectivity because it demands a five-word gospel interpretation of every Bible passage. Hence, books that are written that espouse this view such as “Cross Talk” which is a play on words that denotes the idea the Bible is about the cross and nothing else.

Therefore, in many cases, the apostle’s  masterful treatise such as we have in front of us today is routinely gutted of its deep truths concerning God, mankind, and everyday Christian life. With all prayer and diligence, we intend not to make the same mistake in this series. The five-word gospel and many other approaches to the interpretation of Scripture have resulted in a famine of truth in our day.

If we examine Paul’s words after the end of this treatise in chapter 15, the following is how he describes his want in finally being able to come to Rome:

22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. 25 At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem. 27 For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. 28 When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you. 29 I know that when I come to you I will come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.

Now, compare that with Paul’s reasons in chapter one:

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

The reasons prior to his treatise and afterward are: to impart spiritual gifts for strength; mutual encouragement; to reap a harvest among them; to fulfill his obligation to the Gentiles; to be helped on the way to Spain, and to enjoy their company.

Here is what I want you to note: the conjunction “so” in verse 15 does not necessarily connect with the idea that Paul wanted to come to Rome to preach the gospel, but could just as well mean that he wanted to then preach the gospel to them by letter because he knew it was likely that he would be coming to them in the near future. The fact that Paul then begins to preach the gospel in the very next verse bolsters this idea.

Not only that, it was Paul’s mode of operation to write letters, and then follow-up with a personal visit—undoubtedly to note the effect of the writings and to follow-up with any addendums or the answering of questions. In the big picture, this is what Christ has done. He has given His children their marching orders via the Bible, and He will return and follow-up accordingly. His original mandate is clear: to make disciples by teaching them to observe all that He has commanded. Those who focus on a five-word gospel, both leaders and congregants, should not be looking forward to such a day.

But back to Paul. This missionary mode can be seen throughout his life—the writing of a treatise followed by a personal visit from him or one of his trusted associates. In the conclusion of his letter to the Philippians, he hoped to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to follow-up on what he had written. In 2:19, he states specifically that he hoped to be cheered by whatever news Timothy might bring back to him. It is also interesting to note that Epaphroditus was an individual who excelled in the area of selflessness—the same quality that the Philippians apparently lacked.

Likewise, Paul states to the Corinthians that he would be following up his letters to them by personal visit. It is interesting to note that his follow-up visits were prefaced with the theme of the letter in mind. He told the Corinthians that he hoped to come in love as opposed to the sting of apostolic authority. He also wrote that he would answer questions in regard to other issues when he arrived. Frankly, this doesn’t square with a five-word gospel motif.

And I think we have the same mode in the letter to the Romans as well. Paul writes his gospel treatise, and intends to follow-up with a personal visit. That is how this letter should be viewed.

Let’s now look at Roman’s 1:2: “which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.” This verse is a really big deal. The gospel was “promised” in the “holy Scriptures.” There it is. It is either true, or not true. And if it is, and I contend that it is, the implications are profound. Think carefully about what Paul is stating.

God either keeps His promises or He doesn’t. This verse encompasses a dogmatic statement regarding the fact that the Old Testament was, and is a concise closed canon with its original meaning intact. If God promises, and if He keeps His promises, this can be assumed. In regard to the idea that mere men made promises on God’s behalf and wrote them on uninspired pages, history bares out that the written promises of the Old Testament have come true. Of about 1000 prophesies in the Old Testament, 300 concerned Christ specifically and have been fulfilled. Paul mentions one in the next verse; specifically, that Christ would be a descendant of King David.

It begs the question: If at least part of the Old Testament is proven to be written by Him that can only know the beginning from the end, why would God only superintend some of His promises and not others? And would He allow His promises to be integrated with promises that are only the ideas of men? These should be rhetorical questions, but I fear with some that name the name of Christ—they are not.

Furthermore, Paul called these Scriptures, “holy.” With these two words, Paul logically destroys innumerable volumes of human wisdom. These two words dispel the idea that holiness cannot work with and be associated with imperfection. In the case of Scripture being written on various earthly materials by flawed man, numerous translations only aid us in discovering the true intent of original meaning intended by God. He desires to colabor with man, and His transmission of truth is no exception.

Likewise, Christians who are still in mortal flesh that displays imperfection and outright sin are holy. How can this be? Paul will explain it in his gospel treatise that awaits us.

Lastly, in writing his gospel treatise to the Romans, Paul cites the Old Testament Scriptures at least forty-one times. The Old Testament was his authority—he obviously deemed it infallible and applicable to the truth he was teaching.

But with all of the controversy in our day about how the word of God should be taught, and especially in conjunction with the Old Testament, we have before us a grand opportunity to see firsthand how Paul himself did so. Remember, at least forty-one times, Paul uses the Old Testament to make his points.

Personally, I look forward to what we will learn together, and I hope you do also.

12 Responses

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  1. […] The Potter’s House: Sunday, October 7, 2012. […]

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  2. Argo said, on October 8, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Paul,
    Love what you are doing here. Still don’t agree with the idea of the scriptures equalling authority. Authority is force. People either obey or choose not to obey. I don’t see force anywhere implied. I wholly agree that scripture is inspired and true. But inspired and true are not the ingredients of inerrant and authority. Do you think authoritative is a better word? Meaning-has the power to effect the conclusions it presumes?

    At any rate, thanks for this. As always, I learn a lot.

    By the way, you’ll find yourself on my blog roll today!

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 8, 2012 at 9:21 PM

      Argo,

      Thanks, just got back from a trip. Need to get over to your blog and check it out–Susan and I have just really been burning it on both ends.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 10, 2012 at 9:19 AM

      Argo: likewise on the blogroll.

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  3. Bridget said, on October 8, 2012 at 7:07 PM

    Paul –

    This is a bit off topic, but what is the “Potter’s House” picture about? A “Potter’s House” church opened up down the street from me and when I Googled to see what they were about, I was not happy. I get a bit creeped-out every time a I see the name.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 8, 2012 at 9:18 PM

      Bridget,
      We live in a church. The family has always called it the Potter’s House. We just started our own services a couple of Sundays ago.

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  4. lydiasellerofpurple said, on October 8, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    Paul, I think you will find this snippet interesting concerning the context of Romans.

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 9, 2012 at 6:41 AM

      Lydia,

      Thanks. His thesis is close to mine. The other information is helpful as well. However, I am not going to focus on how Romans might have applied to the Christians in Rome specifically (Paul seemed pretty satisfied with where they were at spiritually),but as this gentleman notes, Romans is a general truth statement concerning salvation, life and godliness.

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  5. Bridget said, on October 8, 2012 at 10:38 PM

    I see. I’ll just have to make a disconnect in my brain then since that particular group tends to set up shop in small, house-like buildings 😦

    Thanks for the thoughts on Romans!

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 9, 2012 at 6:15 AM

      Bridget,
      Thanks, and could you send us some information concerning this group? We really don’t want to be associated with any wackos.

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  6. Jennifer Darr said, on October 10, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Thanks for the series on Romans! Looking forward to the rest 🙂

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    • paulspassingthoughts said, on October 10, 2012 at 12:22 PM

      JD,
      Thanks. The Potters House is our church now, so this is my responsibility to deliver a message every Sunday. One more message before we get into Paul’s primary purpose of the letter–the delivery of the expanded good news of God’s truth to mankind. This is God’s big picture concerning His world view.

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