Living Life WithIn God’s Narrative.
Romans 15: 7 – 33; Romans 16.
The church at Rome was mostly Jewish, but Gentiles formed a sizable number. As Paul did not plant the Roman church, his mode of communicating was very different from his other epistles. He was more accommodating and spared no effort orienting the believers on his personal and ministry motivations, quite apart from theological grounding. He concluded the preceding passage (i.e., Rom 15:1-6) by emphasising Christ’s exemplary humility in the service of others, as he sought to encourage the Jewish and Gentile believers to persevere in staying united as a witnessing community. Paul employed several thematic Scriptural passages to support the portrayal of God’s redemptive intention for mankind, irrespective of racial, national and other cultural distinctive. It is the same Christ who preached truth to the Jews as well as to the Gentiles (Rom 15:7-14), and the same Christ who is in each believer (c.f., Col 1:27). Paul’s own entirely self-effacing testimony (Rom 5:15-19) provided a compelling vignette of a transformed life of humility, delineated by grace in God’s call on his life, and consumed by the claims of the gospel of Jesus Christ toward the lives of those around him. After conversion, his was a life that grew to become other-centred, an unmitigated acknowledgement of the centrality of Jesus Christ in His divine endeavours through him.
The narrative of man’s salvation and our ongoing testimony in Christ is never about us, nor about our accomplishments, it is certainly about the loftier story of Yahweh and His eternal plan to subsume His whole creation in Christ (c.f., Eph 1:10). And to be involved in God’s global mission is to learn to lay one’s life down for His inestimable priority for the gospel’s sake, expressly where it has never been heard before. Our involvement not unlike Paul’s example, do not preclude the entirety of our financial and material commitment (Rom 5:20-29). The hallmark of a maturing person in the eyes of the world is to be fiercely independent and self-sufficient when assailed by difficulties and doubts. However, Christian maturity is gauged on the basis of our overall reliance on God; Paul further demonstrated a sober view of his own limitations, and he knew that the tasks he pursued were greater than his capabilities (c.f., Eph 6:19-20), as he requested prayer concerning the ministry, the opposition he faced, and his journeys to Spain and Rome (Rom 15:30-33; c.f., Acts 20-28).
In the final chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, as expected, we were introduced to a diversity within the church. Listed were sisters, fellow workers, beloved, first convert, kinsmen, fellow prisoners, servants in prominent households, brethren, a city treasurer, and brothers: in all, 26 names of individuals and 2 families, many of whom he had never met, but a few had risked their lives serving with him earlier (Rom 16:1-16; Rom 16:21-23). Paul was thankful to God for their commitment to and perseverance for the gospel. In the middle of these appreciations, he warned the believers against individuals who caused the type of dissension he described earlier (c.f., Rom 14:1–15:13). Paul counselled the Roman believers to be wise about the divisive ways of such people and to take comfort in God’s imminent victory over them (Rom 16:17-20). Disciplinary issues in the Christian community have persistently been the bane of her testimony, and it is significant that Paul reminded the believers that in handling these problematic individuals or anyone for that matter, they were to apply a practiced obedience towards Christ’s teaching – always to be wise in doing good and innocent in what is evil, with the probability of restoration in mind (Rom 16:17-20; c.f., Matt 10:16-20). The Apostle then ended his letter with a doxology of worship to an omnipotent God, who strengthens His people in Christ as they faithfully obey His teachings, as prescribed in the Scriptures (Rom 16:25-27).
It is a lot more straightforward to be committed to God’s work in the world when we are continually refreshing our awareness of what He’s doing; where knowing some specifics about what is ongoing would more likely involve us in His work. No doubt, regular intercessory prayer will aid our passion for God’s redemptive purpose and draw us into deeper involvement with the work of His kingdom. Put simply, our spiritual narrative is inextricably linked to God’s eternal story of His purpose in creation.