Summary: The three fold call of every believer
Turn in your Bibles to Romans 1:7 and while you’re doing that I’ll tell you a story.
A group of 30-year-old friends got together for a reunion and were discussing where they should go for dinner. Somebody suggested that they meet at the Glowing Embers Restaurant because the wait staff there is young and beautiful. They all agreed.
Fifteen years later, at 45 years of age, they met again and discussed where they should have dinner. Somebody suggested the Glowing Embers because the food there is very good. They all agreed.
Another 15 years later at 60 years of age, they once again discussed where to meet. Somebody suggested the Glowing Embers because you can eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant is smoke free. They all agreed.
Another fifteen years later, at the age of 75, the group discussed again where they should meet. Somebody suggested that they should meet at the Glowing Embers because the restaurant is handicapped accessible and they even have an elevator. They all agreed.
Finally, 15 years later at the age of 90, the same group of friends discussed one more time where they should meet for dinner. Somebody suggested that they should meet at the Glowing Embers because they had never been there before. And they all agreed.
Romans 1:7 “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire, which was the world wide power of the day. The city of Rome would have been the epi-center of politics and government. The Roman Emperors lived in Rome and so did the Senate and so, this city in their day would have been very much like Ottawa or Washington. Everybody who was anybody lived and worked there.
Rome was also a very wealthy city and one that was filled with every kind of perversion, they had the extreme violence of the arenas and every sort of immorality imaginable. And yet they were also very religious and their religion was heavily influenced by Greek mythology and the practice of Emperor worship.
Rome was also a home to "outsiders" from every culture of the day, including Christians and Jews. Christianity had become a major presence in the city by the late 40s and like most Christians the Roman believers didn’t gather in a single congregation but they had several small groups that gathered in house-churches where they’d worship, fellowship, and study the Scriptures. Paul referred to one of these groups in Romans 16 that was led by his friends Priscilla and Aquilla.
And as far as Rome was concerned, they were tolerant of any kind of religion as long as they kept two rules. One they had to tolerate everyone else religion and two, they had to worship the emperor. And of course, this was a problem because both the Jews as well as the Christians believed in one God and both refused to worship the emperor.
For these reasons, the Christians and Jews began to experience intense persecution. The Roman Emperor Claudius banished all Jews from the city in 49 A.D. and the Christians began to experience greater persecution under the next emperor who was Nero and Nero can only be described as a brutal pervert who had an intense dislike for the Christians. So, although many claimed Rome was the crowning achievement of mankind; others considered it to be the sewer of the universe.
And the believers at the time of Paul’s writing were facing persecution from the outside as well as conflict from within and it was for these reasons that Paul wrote to encourage believing Jews and gentiles alike, how they should live and worship together not only for their mutual benefit but also because of the trying times ahead.
Paul uses four words in verse 7 that would have been common to the Jewish mind but the average Gentile wouldn’t have a clue, but by sharing together they could enjoy the riches of their Christian faith.
The first of these four words are ‘beloved of God’ which would have been an unusual term to the Gentiles because every kind of gentile faith or religious practice had the idea of God needing to be paid off because He was angry. And then second, there’s ‘saints’ and saints were the set apart or sanctified ones and the gentiles all felt like they were born to be part of this world and not separate from it. Then third, there’s grace which to the Jew was the unmerited favor of God but the gentiles felt they had to work for God’s favor and not just receive it. And then finally, there’s the peace of God and in the Jewish mind they gained peace through the Old Testament sacrifices and then through the ultimate sacrifice which Jesus’ death on the cross but the Gentiles felt they had to continually be making sacrifices and could never find peace but hoped that in the end his good works could outweigh his bad.