“Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 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.” Romans 1:5-7
One of the polite criticisms I’ve heard from Christians about the Apostle Paul’s writings is that he is “wordy.” It’s important to remember how the Holy Spirit “inspired” the Bible writers. Paul wrote that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) The Greek word translated “inspiration” is theopneustos, which comes from the words theos (God) and pneo (to breathe). All Scripture (graphe) is given by God as He spiritually “breathes” on the writer.
As a writer I understand the concept of inspiration. It is a type of passion that moves a writer to write about what they care about, what interests them, what they find important and necessary. As a Christian writer I understand the concept of spiritual inspiration. It is a type of passion that moves a writer to write about spiritual things, things God cares about. I even have the spiritual sense that the Holy Spirit helps me study and write. However, I have never been “inspired” to write Scripture. No one has since the Apostle John wrote at the end of the 1st century AD. What that must have been like for Paul and the other writers of God’s Word – to have the Spirit of God “breathe” His Words into their minds.
Peter is another apostle the Holy Spirit “inspired” to write His Word. Here’s what Peter wrote about that process.
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:19-21
Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke “as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” The words “were moved by” are a translation of the Greek pheromenoi. It comes from the word phero, which means “to bear, lead, carry.” Luke used the word in Acts 27 to describe the ship he and Paul were riding on as being driven or carried by the wind. The word pheromenoi is a present passive participle, which means that something or Someone carried the holy men along as they prophesied. That Someone was the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit of God spoke through prophets, like Peter, John and Paul, to convey His Will. He used the personalities, skills, training and mental abilities of each man to communicate His Truth. Paul was skilled in critical thinking. He was trained in thinking, speaking and writing at one of the finest rabbinical schools in Jerusalem from childhood. He had been a Pharisee and special legal counsel to the high priest of Israel before Jesus called him on the road to Damascus to become His disciple and an apostle to the Gentiles. The Lord gave Paul many visions and insights into spiritual things (e.g. 2 Corinthians 12), which prepared him for receiving and writing God’s Word as the Holy Spirit “carried” him along.
Though some may view Paul’s writings as “wordy,” the Holy Spirit used the unique skills and calling of Paul to communicate the Gospel of God to the world in a complete and powerful way so that all nations would know of the great Gospel of the great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul made it clear from the beginning of his epistle to the Romans that he was a “bondservant” of Jesus Christ, called to be an “apostle.” He repeats that in Romans 1:5 – “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.”
What Paul does in verse 5 is put meat on the bones of his apostleship. As we saw in Acts 9 and 26, Jesus called Paul for a special ministry to open the door of faith to the Gentiles:
“… he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Acts 9:15
“I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:16-18
Paul, writing his letter to the Christians in Rome more than 20 years after his conversion, writes from both experience, revelation and inspiration. Paul understood that the reason he had received the grace of God and the call to apostleship was for “obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” Paul was laser focused about the Lord’s purpose for calling him to the special ministry to the Gentiles. God wanted (and wants) “obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.”
The Greek is – δι ου ελαβομεν χαριν και αποστολην εις υπακοην πιστεως εν πασιν τοις εθνεσιν υπερ του ονοματος αυτου.
The word hupakoen comes from hupo (under) and akouo (to hear) and means “obedience, compliance, submission.” The idea is of someone who is under the authority of another person (being subject to) hearing and doing what they are told to do (responding to a direct order). Paul, who ministered under the authority of Jesus Christ and was subject to doing whatever He said, called on Gentiles and Jews to “obedience.”
This obedience was “to the faith among all nations.” The words “to the” are a translation of the Greek word eis, which is a preposition often used to express purpose or result. Paul’s apostleship had the purpose of bringing about the result of obedience to the “faith.” The word “faith” is pisteos and means “firm persuasion.” It is in the genitive case in the Greek which is the case of description. Some scholars believe the word describes this as obedience to “the Christian faith,” while others believe it is obedience that proceeds from faith in Christ. Let’s look at the rest of the verse to see if we get a better sense of which view we should have of the words.
en pasin tois ethnesin translates as “among all the nations.” Paul presents the fulness of his calling by Christ to be an apostle to include pasin (all, every) tois (the) ethnesin (ethnicities, nations). The word ethnesin had originally meant “a multitude,” but was used during the 1st century AD for nations or groups of ethnic people. This was a specific designation that separated Paul’s special ministry to Gentiles. While Peter was surprised when the Holy Spirit sent him to preach the Gospel to Gentiles (Acts 10), Paul knew from the beginning of his call by Jesus and the Spirit that preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles was his special and specific responsibility.
huper tou onomatos autou translates literally as “on behalf of the name of him.” The word huper was a primary preposition in Koine Greek. It was understood as doing something “on behalf of” or “for the sake of” someone or something. Paul wrote that everything he did as an apostle to the Gentiles was “for the sake of” or “on behalf of” the name (onomatos) of Him (autou). The word onomatos is the genitive singular of the noun onoma. The Greeks, and other ancient peoples, saw a person’s name as both an identifier and describer. Your name identifies who you are and describes something about your character. Paul was saying that he preached the Gospel of God to the Gentiles on behalf of the Jesus Christ.
Speaking on behalf of someone connoted a position of representation. Paul was Christ’s representative to the Gentiles. Remember what Jesus said to Annanias? “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Jesus chose Paul to represent Him before Gentiles, kings and Jews. That’s what Paul is telling the Romans in verse 5 – “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”
It’s important when we read Paul’s letters to understand what happened as he wrote, what happened as his intended recipients read, what Christians have read through the centuries and what you and I are reading now. This is God’s Word. Paul spoke on the authority of God the Father, representing God the Son, directed and empowered by God the Spirit. Paul received grace and apostleship for the purpose of preaching the Gospel of God toward the result of obedience to the faith among all nations. What Paul wrote to the Romans was for the overarching purpose of the entire world knowing the Name of Jesus Christ.
Given this context it appears that the purpose of Paul receiving grace and apostleship was that people from all nations would come to faith in Christ and obey Him in faith. People are saved by grace through faith and the just live by faith. Everything begins, continues and ends with faith.
It’s important to remember that we are now Christ’s representatives to the nations. What does Jesus want us to accomplish for Him? “… obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” That’s our calling, our purpose, our goal – to see a world of Gentiles and Jews obey God through Christ Jesus the Lord.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”