Summary: In this sermon we notice five divine privileges that belong to all Christians.
Today we come to the end of Paul’s introduction in his letter to the Romans. Paul used the ancient format of beginning his letter with the sender’s name, followed by a brief summary of the gospel, then the recipient’s name, and a greeting. Today, we are going to look at the recipients of Paul’s letter and the greeting. So, let me read Romans 1:7:
"To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:7).
In writing to the Christians in the imperial city of the Roman Empire, Paul’s goal was to clarify the content of the gospel for them. He gave the Romans a summary of the gospel, which was the center of his preaching and mission, which was a divine one.
Now Paul told the Roman Christians something about their own position in Christ.
There are many Christians who do not know all the wonderful things that happened to them the moment they believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you do not know what happened to you the moment you became a Christian.
A newborn baby has no knowledge whatsoever of the biological processes that brought him into being. A baby does not know of the physiological changes which take place in his little body when he comes out of the dark waters of his mother’s womb into the sudden light of this world.
In the same way, a new Christian often has no idea of the divine process by which eternal life is received. He often has no understanding of all the privileges of his new inheritance that are his from the moment that he is made a partaker of the divine nature.
Today, I want you to notice that Paul sets before the Roman Christians five divine privileges that belong to all Christians because of their position in Christ. Paul says:
(1) that they are loved by God,
(2) that they are called,
(3) that they are saints,
(4) that they are the recipients of grace, and
(5) that they are the recipients of peace from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
I. Loved (1:7a)
The first divine privilege that belongs to all Christians is that they are loved by God. Paul addresses the recipients of his letter by saying, “To all in Rome who are loved by God” (1:7a).
This is no bland statement, as if Paul was only declaring that it is God’s nature to love and that these Roman citizens, like all people everywhere, were therefore loved by God. That is not the way the Bible speaks of God’s love. The Bible usually speaks of God’s love as an electing love, a saving love. So the statement “loved by God” actually describes how those who are Christians come to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place.
So, how do Christians come to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ? Some think that people become Christians by their own unaided choice, as if all we have to do is decide to trust Jesus. But how could we possibly do that if, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 2:1, each one of us is “dead in . . . transgressions and sins”? How can a dead person decide anything?
Others think that we become Christians because God in his omniscience sees some small bit of good in us, even if that “good” is only a tiny seed of faith. But how could God see good in us if, as Paul will later remind us in Romans 3:12, “all have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one”?
Why, then, does God love us? The answer is. . . “because he loves us.” There is nothing to be said beyond that. He simply loves us because of who he is and not because of who we are.
A lady I know discovered the truth that God loves us because of who he is and not because of who we are. This is how she put it in a letter:
"Later on I went to visit a friend. He has suffered from cancer for two decades or more. He has been given no more than two weeks to live. His wife is caring for him at home in a hospice environment. I went by to offer a few hours of relief. He has a tracheotomy and can just mouth words. When I arrived, I went right in. He was lying [naked] in his bed covered only with an 18 inch square cloth over the groin area. He weighs no more than 80 lbs. I greeted him with a kiss and told him how happy I was to see him and that I loved him. His eyes were wide open as he mouthed the words, ’Like this?’ It was though I was jolted with an electric prod. Of course I loved him—without question. I just kissed him again and said, ’More than ever!’"