Do you ever wonder what our purpose and goals are? I am not talking about standing at the door of a grocery store and passing out Jesus loves you tracks; I am talking about our hope and destiny. Well, I have and the conversations I have had with God sound a little like this. If this is not real and there is no home with you, living in peace, something I have rarely experienced, then I might as well go party with the fools, or eliminate some of the world’s bullies. In other words, without this hope, there is no purpose.
Regardless of how I occasionally feel, there is hope and the promise of a life with the Father in this place we call heaven. All of His promises are for real.
Paul’s words in his letter to the group of believers in Rome begins to spell that out to them.
Romans 1:1-3 NLT This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. (2) God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. (3) The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life, he was born into King David’s family line,
Since I previously elaborated on Paul and this idea of being a slave of Christ Jesus, I will bypass that and move on. We make huge assumptions about the amount of time and the quality of that time that Paul spent with some of these groups of people. If he had, then they should have understood the calling(s) placed on Paul, but apparently, they did not, so Paul begins to tell them that God chose him –
- To be an apostle
- and that he was sent out to preach the Good News about Jesus Christ.
Let’s pause here for a moment.
Paul was, without doubt, a disciple, although not among those that Jesus hand-picked to walk with Him. That word merely means one disciplined; and Paul, when he went by the name Saul, was an adept disciple among the Pharisees.
If someone wants to claim discipleship, you should be asking, for and of what? Consider how MMA fighters discipline themselves in multiple fighting styles to take on and defeat whatever comes against them; isn’t this is the goal and purpose of Apologists, such as Ravi Zacharias and others.
I am not good at Apologetics as my memory is not working so well anymore. I think about the religious groups that occasionally come to our door; most are young, trained to argue their theologies, and their memories are not betraying them as mine does.
We would certainly expect an apostle to be a disciple or disciplined one. Apostles, on the other hand, are typically thought of as one set forth in the authority of another (like a pastor) – in our case, Jesus Christ. I, like many of you, assumed that an apostle was so much more than merely being a pastor. I suppose I got that impression because speakers with titles came to a couple of the churches I went to. The pastors in both cases made a big deal about these speakers, almost as if we should bow to them, and how they were not only an apostle but the pastor at their own churches. In the case of one church I attended, these guest speakers poured out accolades upon my pastor, announcing that he too was also an apostle (at one of them Pastor was almost like one of us in the sense that he rode a motorcycle with us.) For me, the problem with all this is that there are the implications that this man who assigns himself the title of apostle is automatically demanding that you treat him differently, almost as if he were some pontifical ruler.
Definitions of an apostle read like this: Apostle – one sent forth. In the New Testament, the term was applied to the twelve disciples whom Jesus sent forth to preach the gospel and to be with him during his ministry on earth. It also implies ‘one commissioned’ – a Hebrew word which signifies that the person is not merely a messenger but a delegate, bearing a commission, and, within the limits of his commission, wielding his commissioner’s authority. And, finally, A person sent by another; a messenger; envoy. This word is used as a descriptive designation of Jesus Christ, the Sent of the Father (Hebrews 3:1; John 20:21).
So, with the little we know about the Apostle Paul let’s see if we can match Paul with some of these characteristics I see in this definition above?
- One commissioned.
- not merely a messenger but a delegate
- bearing a commission
- wielding his commissioner’s authority
- A person sent by another;
Paul was all those things, as he preached and taught a message of good news.
I, Paul, am a devoted slave of Jesus Christ on assignment, authorized as an apostle to proclaim God’s words and acts.
(Romans 1:1a MSG)
It doesn’t take a vivid imagination to picture what life was like under the oppressive rule of the Pharisees, and the Roman law. A hot shower and a flushing toilet were unheard of, for anyone to stand their ground against the constant draw toward selfish hedonism could have been unbearable. Not so dissimilar to how we live today.
So, what to them would have been good news?
To the Jews, who longed for the Messiah to come and rule over them in a peaceable kingdom, good news meant just that. There is a problem with that, as their Jewish leadership only just a short time before, they rejected and killed the Messiah. (Most Jews did not know that Jesus death was all a part of the more excellent plan to redeem humanity.)
Those outside of the Jewish religion might have only seen the oppressiveness of Roman rule, or the lack of sustenance. The good news it seems means different things depending upon the condition. The sad part is that we, with our inherent brokenness, do not realize that the sadness we feel comes from brokenness inside of us which calls out to be redeemed and longs for the hope – the good news.
“God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
What exactly did God promise?
While most might miss the promise in Genesis chapter three, it is there. Genesis 3:14-15 NASB
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life; (15) And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
God, speaking to Eve about her descendants/seed, promised that they would bruise him/the serpent, on the heel. This ability to damage the serpent, no less than the promises made to Abram, were taught and passed along through oral history.
Genesis 12:1-3 NASB Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; (2) And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; (3) And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
- A land
- a great nation
- I will make your name great
- And you shall be a blessing
One last thing.
- I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed.
How could all families on earth be blessed since there are atheists, and diverse religions not accepting of the one true God? The answer is only found in Jesus, and the price He paid on that cross. That price was more than enough to cover all humanity, for all time, obtaining their forgiveness.
You would think that what Jesus did on that cross should have removed everyone from any list destined for the great white throne and any eternal damnation, and it did. Sadly, we know some will follow Satan to his destruction, so how do I explain that? Simple, since no man comes to the Father, but through Jesus, the Son, then there has to be an acceptance, not only of who He is, but what He did for the individual. Because you and I cannot see the heart, we do not know what that looks like. I am quite convinced that it does not have to look like some standardized religious experience. So, this blessing is obtained through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
We should be able to grasp some of Paul’s direction at this point, and one of those directives was to preach the Good news, which Paul spells out in the following verses.
- The Good News is about his Son. (Romans 1:3 NLT) Jesus, and
- He was shown to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4 NLT)
- In the gospels, we are introduced to family lineage. This heritage is something intensely relevant in the Jewish community, as it is traceable to King David’s family line, and the information we are given fulfills prophecy.
- He, Jesus, was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the words of Jesus who said,
- He is Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Romans 1:5 in the NASB it reads like this – “through whom we have received grace and apostleship.”
The NASB has that word I struggle with, apostleship, so let’s look at it in another translation and see if it makes any more sense.
Through whom grace has been given to us, sending us out to make disciples to the faith among all nations, for his name: (Romans 1:5 BBE)
An emissary, which we are, is merely one commissioned on behalf of another, most often thought of as a representative. Every nation has its ambassadors, but I wouldn’t want to have someone who is drunk trying to represent me, but that is another story. Look at these words in the CJB version, “promoting trust-grounded obedience.” Trust must be developed, and it is built through words and actions. Doesn’t that imply that we are to demonstrate those words and actions ourselves?
- (This grace and apostleship) includes you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah. (Romans 1:6 CJB) Unless you were born of Jewish heritage, you were considered a gentile, but through your acceptance of Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah you have been grafted into the rootstock, Israel. Since that grafting took place, we who follow Jesus are part of the vine that God pours His heart and life into. This integration into spiritual Israel is a disappointment to those who believe in replacement theology. To others, salvation is something distant that they can never attain, nor be accepted into, but you are wrong. Redemption and love like you have never known is only a breath away, as you, by your acceptance, hand your life over to Jesus the Messiah, and accept the mercy and grace that was paid for at the cross.