“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
In the last part of our study we looked at verse 5 – “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” Now we move to verse 6 – “among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.” Even though it’s a different verse, it’s part of the same sentence.
Paul is reminding the Christians in Rome that they are part of the special ministry God gave to Paul – “we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.”
Rome was the largest metropolitan city in the Roman Empire. It was founded in the middle of the 8th century BC and expanded during the next several centuries to become one of the largest and most powerful empires of the ancient world. It’s estimated that during the time of Christ and the early Christian Church, the Roman Empire covered more than 2.5 million square miles and had about 20% of the world’s population.
The population of the City of Rome at the time Paul wrote his letter to the Christians there may have been as high as one-million people. Men, women, children, artisans, soldiers, slaves, government officials, rich and poor … it would have been made up of a wide variety of people groups making for a challenging ministry for a Jew preaching the Christian Gospel. Also keep in mind that Nero was emperor of the Roman Empire when Paul wrote his letter to the Romans – another challenge to ministry.
The Roman Christians were part of the “all nations” called to “obedience to the faith.” The Roman Empire was made up of many individual countries and many citizens from those countries lived in the capital city of Rome. Their beliefs about “God” would have included monotheism (one God) and polytheism (many gods).
The Roman Empire held strong beliefs about the importance of the “will of the gods.” They saw themselves as religious (religio) and pius (pietas) and believed that having good relations with the gods was a major reason for the continued success of the Empire. Some elected officials served as religious priests (augurs and pontiffs). A primary duty of these priests was to maintain peace with the gods (pax deorum). One of the titles of Roman emperors was Pontifex Maximus (Greatest Pontiff) and served as the high priest of the College of Pontiffs in the religion of Roman paganism.
“… among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ …”
The Apostle Paul called both Gentile polytheists and Jewish monotheists to worship Jesus Christ as God. Christians, no matter their earthly race, are “the called of Jesus Christ.” This perspective caused Paul and other Christians difficulty because it placed them at odds with the state religion of Rome. In spite of that, Paul told Roman Christians to submit to the authority of the government in earthly matters (Romans 13).
The phrase “the called of Jesus Christ” is kletoi Iesou Christou (κλητοι ιησου χριστου) and means the “invited, summoned.” The word kletoi came from the word klesis which was used for receiving an invitation to a feast. It was a high honor and privilege, especially for slaves and poor citizens of Rome, to be invited by someone of a high position to attend a royal feast. The invitation (calling) of Jesus Christ was much higher than any invitation an earthly ruler could bestow on a person.
The word kletoi is an adjective and was used to describe a person. In this context Paul claimed that Christians were the “called” of Jesus Christ. Paul used the word kletos in verse 1 to describe how he was a bondservant of Jesus Christ, “called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.” Paul also used the word in verse 7 of chapter 1 and verse 28 of chapter 8 in his letter to the Romans. He had used the word in similar ways in an earlier letter to the Christians in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:1-2, 24).
“… To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints …”
Paul used the word again in verse 7 – κλητοις αγιοις – “called saints.” He made it clear from the beginning of his letter that he was writing to “all who are in Rome.” He defined them further by saying they were “beloved of God” and they were “called to be saints.”
The words “beloved of God” are αγαπητοις θεου. The word “beloved” is a translation of the Greek word agapetois, an adjective which means “esteemed, worthy of love, favored, loved dearly.” In the usage of Romans 1:7 Paul was describing the relationship of Christians to God – “beloved of God.” Paul also used the same word to describe Christians love for each other in his letters to the Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. The word agapetois comes from the word agape – unconditional love. Christians are highly esteemed, greatly favored and deeply loved by God.
The believers in Rome were also “called to be saints.” The words “to be” are not in the original and were added by translators to help with understanding. The literal is “called saints” (κλητοις αγιοις), which means they were “invited, summoned” (to be) “saints.” The word hagiois identified something or someone as set apart for sacred service. To be set apart “to” also carried the idea of being set apart “from.” In the case of Christians we are set apart “from unholiness” and set apart “to holiness.” The Christians in Rome were “called” of Jesus Christ, “beloved” of God and “called” to serve God.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul greeted recipients of his letters with the phrase “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” in most of his letters (e.g. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 1:3). He changed the greeting slightly in his letters to Timothy and Titus – “Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.”
There’s more here than just a traditional greeting in the ancient world. The Apostle Paul included Jesus Christ with the Name of God – “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The grace and the peace come from God – Father and Son. The first 7 verses of Romans are clearly Paul’s “Statement of Faith” that Jesus Christ is “our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
Our calling is to obey Him and serve Him. Period.
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.”