Paul was an apostle who was called by God to bring the gospel to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles in Rome that he is writing to are believers in Jesus.
Through the power of the Spirit, the Apostle Paul has received the ministry of grace. Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners because he persecuted the church (1 Timothy 1:12-16). Paul watched and approved the stoning of Stephen, the first church martyr who died for his testimony of Jesus. Paul guarded the coats of the stoners, so he was an accomplice to Stephen’s murder (Acts 7:57 – 8:1). But God turned Paul’s disobedience into a passion for grace. God’s grace that accepted and forgave Paul, even though he had done horrible things, is the same grace Paul passionately taught. In fact, it is Paul’s teaching of grace that causes the competing Jewish authorities to slander Paul’s teaching of God’s good news.
The power of the Spirit also appointed Paul to the office of Apostle. In order to be an Apostle to Jesus one had to have been with Jesus in person, to have seen Jesus in His resurrected form, and been appointed by Jesus or the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts was written by Luke, a traveling companion of Paul, in part to document Paul’s conversion and appointment to the office of Apostle. It is important that Paul establish this authority as an Apostle because this letter is written to answer slanderous charges against Paul’s authority and teaching.
The result of the empowerment by the Spirit in Paul, both of grace and of apostleship, was to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles (non-Jews). This was Paul’s special commission from God, to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). Since Rome was the center of the Gentile world in every respect, defending his teaching against slander in Rome is vital to accomplishing the mission the Holy Spirit appointed Paul to pursue.
The phrase “obedience of faith” anticipates the theme verses of 1:16-17 that the way to a righteous or just life is through faith, not through law.
The Apostle Paul is writing to the Gentile believers in Rome. This is the only letter Paul wrote to people he did not already have a connection with. Paul had a hand in founding the other churches he wrote to, and spent time (in person) establishing each church. Paul wrote letters to the churches in the cities (or areas) of Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. These were Greek cities (or areas in the case of Galatia). All except Colossae, Ephesus, and Galatia were physically located in the area of modern-day Greece and Macedonia. Colossae and Ephesus were cities in modern-day Turkey that had been colonized by the Greeks. Unlike Paul’s letter to the Romans, the rest of his letters were written to encourage, teach, and exhort people who already knew him.
Paul also wrote letters to individuals that are included in the New Testament. These are leaders helping him in his church-planting work, such as Titus, who Paul left in Crete to appoint leaders there, and Timothy, one of his primary disciples. Despite not knowing the Roman saints personally, he knew enough about them to know their faith was real, and he knew that if the slander against his teaching was accepted by these renowned believers it could have a negative impact on his appointed Apostolic ministry.
It is interesting to think that Paul’s difficulty in having to answer slander charges against his ministry resulted in this incredible letter, an unforeseen benefit to believers past and present.
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
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