With Dale Ratzlaff
We pick up our study in Romans 1:7:
…to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine (Rom. 1:7-12 ).
That we are loved by God is a truth stated over and over again in Scripture. In fact, we see signs with “John 3:16” written on home-made banners and printed on billboards even along the freeways. This truth almost becomes commonplace. Yet the actuality that we are loved by God should be received with awe and wonder—the Creator of the universe became man for the express purpose of our redemption! More than this, He “called” us “saints”—holy ones “in Christ Jesus”. And this was not by our achievements but by His grace. If there was ever a time in world history that grace and peace were needed it is now. Some of us used to understand the Father as harsh and judgmental. Were it not for Jesus, we supposed we would be under the Father’s condemnation. Paul is quick to show that the Godhead (Trinity) is united: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
I found it insightful to note that it was the “faith”, not the deeds, of the Christians in Rome that was being proclaimed throughout the whole world. Without faith there is no Christian and no church. Paul thanks God that there are Christians in Rome.
Paul calls God to witness how he unceasingly mentions the Roman Christians in prayer.
Always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.
After reading this, I looked up some of the prayers of Paul written to other churches and people to get an understanding of his prayer concerns. Here is an example.
For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe (Eph. 1:15-19).
The content of Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer here in Romans includes all of the following:
- Thankfulness for the faith of the Roman Christians.
- That Paul at last, by the will of God, would be able to come to Rome.
- Paul prays that he may impart some spiritual gift to them.
- That his teaching ministry would establish them more firmly in their Christian faith.
- That he would receive the blessings of their ministry to him.
When I read descriptions of Paul’s prayer life, I realize by contrast my own lack of consistency and even truthfulness. Often people ask to be remembered in prayer. I always answer in the affirmative. I usually offer a prayer for them immediately after the conversation. Sometimes I will list the name in my prayer journal in my phone “Note” app, which is voice activated. But sometimes I get so involved in my other daily activities that these requests slip through the cracks. As I read how consistent Paul was in his prayer life, even calling God to be his witness, I realize that here is an area in which I need to grow, not only in faith, but in the discipline of prayer. The prayer journal is a good tool here. As I review entries of prayers offered days, weeks, or months ago, I see God answering many of them. Answered prayer is perhaps one of the greatest motivations to continue to pray.
Paul’s prayer topics were usually gospel, ministry, and others-centered. Here is another area in which I can grow. There is nothing wrong with praying for our personal needs. We are instructed to do so by our Lord, but these should not overshadow acknowledging the awesome God we serve; the thanksgiving for His many gifts, and gospel concerns for others.
In this passage Paul emphasizes the importance of Christian fellowship.
…that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.
Here is truth we who are—or were—transitioning Adventists (TAs) would do well to understand. With the teachings of Adventism ingrained in our thinking, many of us find it hard to find a church that is “comfortable” both in theological understanding and social acceptability. Too many TAs end up out of fellowship. When this happens all the “one another” aspects of ministry, of which there are many, cannot take place. While we may not agree with every sideline teaching and may dislike the social atmosphere, there is value in Christian fellowship. It is a two way street as Paul mentions. We are encouraged while encouraging. The writer of Hebrews states it like this:
…and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near (Heb. 10:25).
“Lord, thank you that I have received your grace and peace and that you have called me “a saint” based solely upon the righteousness which is “in Christ”. Help me to live like the kind of person you have declared me to be “in Christ”. Help me be consistent in both my prayer life and attendance in Christian fellowship that I may grow in Christ and be an agent of growth to others.
In Jesus name.