by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 2 Study # 1 March 30, 2004 Lincolnton, N.C.
(021)Thesis:For there to be a receptive attitude in the hearer of the Word of God, there must be a sense that the bearer of the message has a beneficial intent toward the hearer.
Introduction:In our last study we wound up our consideration of Paul's introduction to Romans. We saw that Paul sought to provide a content of doctrine for the Romans that would enable them to experience a consistent supply of grace and peace from God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord. It is this framework of apostolic intention that needs to cover all of our studies in Romans from this day on. Now, as we move into the body of his letter, we note that he says "First...". As we look at what he considers to be "first" in what he has to say, we are struck by the fact that it doesn't have a lot to do with what most of us would call "heavy duty doctrine". Instead, what we find is that his "first" content has to do with his attitude toward God in respect to the Romans. This might be a bit of a surprise to us if we think that the "first" things ought to be crucial truths of the faith. What we find is that the "first" things have to do with creating a receptivity to those crucial truths of the faith. Paul "first" reveals his own attitude as he begins to write this content of the "Gospel of God". It is by the revelation of this "attitude" that he expects his readers to be willing to give him a hearing, or, in this case, a "reading". Interestingly, it is not the fact that he claims to be an apostle that the Spirit uses to influence the Roman believers to give heed to his words. Rather, it is the fact that his words spring out of a positive attitude toward his readers that will influence them to consider them. This is a general principle that we can learn from: if we wish people to come around to our way of thinking about God, we must want that for their sakes and not ours.
I. The Issues Involved in Paul's Attitude.
A. A particular perception of God.
1. Paul did not use gratitude gratuitously as we often do.
a. He understood the difference between being "glad" and being "grateful".
1) We often use "thank you" to express things other than gratitude.
a) We may use it to show our desire to be genial.
b) We may use it to show the joy that is in our hearts.
c) We may use it to express appreciation for something.
2) Paul used "thank you" to express his understanding that he had been 'graced'.
a) The word was coined to express 'the expression of grace to another'.
b) Then it went through a shift in which it came to be an expression of the realization that grace had been expressed...i.e. "thank you".
b. He understood the significance of what God had done by raising up the church in Rome.
1) It was his assignment from God to raise up a church in Rome.
a) At his conversion he was told that it was his assignment [Acts 26:13-19].
b) From then on, he spent his efforts in attempting to fulfill that assignment [1 Corinthians 9:16].
2) By raising up the church in Rome, God had clearly "graced" him by doing for him what He required of him.
a) This is the fundamental definition of "grace".
b) This was within the expectations of the apostle of "grace".
3) And not only was this grace given, there was a second action of grace.
a) The content of the faith was spread into all the world by means of the impact made by that "grace-produced" church.
b) This was also Paul's assignment; but, it was fulfilled by another as God worked in grace to Paul.
c. He also understood that "grace" is not to be "distorted".
1) "Grace" is to be our expectation; but it is never to be our "demand".
2) We are to function by grace so that we are enabled by God to do the will of God (and, as we do, we will be grateful in every situation as we see His enablement) and we are to be grateful when God enables someone else to lighten our load.
2. He never distanced the grace of God from the only and fundamental instrument of grace: Jesus Christ.
a. There are many ways in which the grace of God is demeaned.
1) Most times, it is misdefined so that grace is not grace.
2) In those times that it is properly defined, there is still some danger in thinking that grace in God has eliminated justice in God.
a) Justice is never eliminated; it is suspended in application to particular cases.
b) Grace is never outside the boundaries of the only and fundamental instrument. We must never get to where we think that God will be gracious just because He is gracious, nor may we ever get to where we think that God will be gracious to us apart from Jesus Christ [He cannot be; else Christ would not have died--for it was the death of Christ under Justice that allows God to be gracious].
b. Even the expression of gratitude should not/cannot be legitimately expressed apart from Jesus Christ.
B. A particular perception of the believers in Rome.
1. Paul saw them as "grace-developed-fellow-laborers" in his task.
2. Paul saw them as people with whom he had "common-cause" and for whom he had significant respect.
II. The Issues Involved in Paul's "First" Expression of His Attitude.
A. Paul understood the dynamics of "hearing".
1. There are all manner of blocks to a receptive hearing.
2. One thing that tends to render all of those blocks as ineffectual is a perception of the speaker by the hearer as "for" him.
3. An honest (or even dishonest) expression of respect by the speaker predisposes the hearers to a willingness to listen.
B. Paul also understood the difference between speaking as an apostle and speaking as a grateful admirer.