Privilege and Authority

“Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey Him, bringing glory to His name.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭1‬:‭5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Paul is making a bold statement here. Because of his position as an Apostle he claims to have a God-given authority “through Christ”. Is that an assumption on his part or does he really have a mandate? The answer is that he received a clear mandate from Jesus at their encounter on the Damascus Road (Acts 9), an encounter that was so dramatic that it totally changed his life. To the extent that in Galatians 1:1, Paul said of himself, ” …I was not appointed by any group of people or any human authority, but by Jesus Christ himself and by God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead.” That’s a mandate that nobody will mess with or deny him!

In today’s verse, Paul also used the word “us” rather than “me”. Paul therefore must have been writing this letter as part of an apostolic team, but the exact nature of who was in the team is lost in the mists of time. Regarding who originally established the early church in Rome, tradition has it that the foundations were laid by Christians, probably new believers, travelling there, perhaps on business, or on returning home – we do know that some Jewish visitors from Rome heard Peter’s Acts 2 sermon. (Acts 2:10). The Apostle Peter also is credited with having an influence on the nascent Roman church.

In his letter, Paul said it was a privilege to share his message, his Good News, with the Gentiles, the non-Jews, wherever he went. And he did so with every opportunity that he had at his disposal. By all accounts he was a confident and persuasive preacher, and won many an argument with the Jews he found in places he visited. But his real heart, his real mission, was to see the Gentiles converted to be followers of Jesus. And that to him was a privilege. Notice that his message wasn’t to tell the Gentiles what God had done for him, but what God had done for them. A difference in emphasis, but one we should note because it makes the sharing of the Good News more personal and relevant.

This verse finishes with the goal of Paul’s message to the Gentiles – “that they will believe and obey Him, bringing glory to His name.” Paul’s aim was not to have a cosy chat about theology with a few like-minded people. He was fired up with an urgency to get people into God’s Kingdom, and in the process, giving God the glory.

As we read this verse, we note that Paul said he was an Apostle. But surely the job description he wrote was more that of an Evangelist. The two roles can overlap but, as we see in many places throughout Paul’s letters, his heart was in establishing and nurturing churches, an Apostle’s goal.

We pilgrims too, in a sense, are Apostles and Evangelists in that we are tasked with serving our Master, Jesus, in sharing the message of the Good News of what God has done for us. It is important that we follow up our testimonies with encouraging new believers to become part of a Bible-believing, God-fearing, local church. And if there’s not one, then perhaps we should start one. That was how the early church was established. We read in Acts 2:46, “They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity”. Jesus confirmed such an approach when He said in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them”. If Jesus is with us, we cannot fail! Today, we call such Christian gatherings house churches. Not a modern phenomenon at all – the concept was well established before our ornate and vast church buildings and cathedrals were built.

So, pilgrims everywhere, go for it! “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Who indeed! In Acts 2 there was a day when the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the early disciples caused absolute mayhem. People came running to find out what was going on. And at the end of Peter’s sermon we read, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptised and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all“. But before we talk down such events, we must remember that Peter was just a fisherman. Not a learned Bishop, or professor of theology. He was nobody special except for one thing – he had met Jesus. We pilgrims have met Jesus too. Haven’t we?

Dear Father God. We thank You for all You have done. We thank You for extending Your grace and love to all mankind. We reach out to You today, in praise and worship. Amen.

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