Curated Passages: Devotional Emails for the Heart & Mind
READ TIME: 3 MINS
5 Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. 6 You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles. 7 To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1.5-7 CEB)
The Passage in Context
In this short passage we gain an earthshattering insight: Paul and his friends are apostles who have one goal—to invite gentiles to become faithful to Israel’s God through Jesus of Nazareth. The magnitude of this vocation, calling non-Jewish persons into a lifestyle of worshiping Israel’s God, is unprecedented in the first century world. There are multiple layers to this, one important layer notes that this particular God is an exclusivist. Where it might be possible to believe that multiple deities exist in God’s realm of reality, even as Christ-followers/Jews, it is impossible to add other divine beings into their worship rhythms. As a friend has said about families who choose to have an only child: one and done. “No gods before me” is thoroughly unique to Judaism (and what would become called “Christianity”). And yet this exclusive God has become radically inclusive through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. God’s family is now for everyone: but there is a cost.
Imagine how many non-Jewish people would have been completely caught off guard by this emerging Jesus movement. “You mean, we’d have to stop worshiping the emperors, Roma, Pax, and our tribal gods?!?” And Paul’s answer in the face of such confoundment would be that his role in God’s unfolding story is to “bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience” to Jesus! All. Meaning, every single person to be “all in” on Jesus. Talk about a vocation that requires God’s grace! Of course, this will not happen in Paul’s lifetime, but he will do everything he can to share with non-Jewish people that Jesus Christ is Lord. They, too, can have a place in God’s covenantal family. But, this means that all other so-called gods are off limits—a restriction that for many was experienced as the truest freedom they had ever known. They were no longer enslaved to the “elemental forces of the universe” (to quote Paul elsewhere) but were freely enlisted as servants of King Jesus.
The Passage for our Formation
Paul directs his words to Gentiles in Rome, because what he has to say in this letter targets them specifically (as will become clearer as the letter progresses). Their vocation in life had changed. No longer were they working to contribute to the flourishing of Rome. Now, in all they did (to use Pauline language from other places), “whether in word or deed” (Col. 3.17), “whether … eat[ing] or drink[ing],” they were working for the “glory of God” (1 Cor. 10.31) and “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3.17). The cost of this shift would bring potential harassment. Yet the gift of grace and peace from the Spirit of Jesus would prove to be a reward worthy of that sort of whole-life investment.
When you know what you were made for, you find deep joy in embodying that vocation. As followers of Jesus, we believe that we are all called to follow Jesus no matter the cost and to be co-ministers to our broken world. Some of us may have additional callings: to be pastors, evangelists, ‘apostles’ (here, I use the term broadly, meaning ‘sent ones’), teachers, or church leaders of various sorts. But no hierarchy exists in Christ. We all must count the cost of following Jesus and decide if we will be “all in.” No matter our 9-5 job; no matter our role in society: we all are invited to represent Christ wherever we go. Paul’s point is that God is “all in” on humanity through the work of Jesus to redeem creation and that we are invited to have a role Christ’s ongoing work of healing the world.
Almighty God, open my eyes in this moment to imagine how I might count the cost of following you and discover more of the grace and peace you offer through the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: amen.
To join Curated Passages, fill out the form below: