TODAY’S READING: Romans 1–3
Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans from Corinth at the end of his third missionary journey around 56 A.D. Perhaps all the messed-up theology of the Corinthians helped Paul to concisely and precisely unpack the gospel in this theological gem. Encountering bad thinking gives us opportunity to clarify and articulate what the Bible teaches.
Paul opened this letter by reminding his readers that he was called to be a missionary, set apart to spread the gospel of God in all the earth. He opened this marvelous letter with a phrase he then repeated three times in some form, a phrase which is, in fact, the heart and soul of the epistle: obedience to the faith among all nations. If we understand nothing else about Romans, we must understand that this “faith among all nations” theme is the fire that fuels the burning of Paul’s theology. Paul’s missionary heart beat with God’s missionary heart that there would be men and women from all nations who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul delighted that the faith of the believers from Rome was spoken about in the whole world. Paul viewed himself as a debtor to the Greeks and barbarians. It didn’t matter if the unreached gentiles were rich or poor, educated or ignorant, Paul keenly felt that he owed them gospel preaching; he felt this about the denizens of Rome as well. Yes, Romans is a theological wonder, but let us not forget that essential theology is missiology—the whole heart of God burns for His glory among all peoples and the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. To know and love God has the inescapable conclusion that we must love the nations and give our lives that every people group be represented in heaven. Written over our hearts must be the mantra: All glory to Jesus from all nations.
Because all false religions suppress the truth, using partial truths to strengthen their lies, the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven. Missionary messaging bluntly reminds the world that “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:9) wait for every person from every tribe of every age that does evil—and that damns everyone. Missionary messaging also offers hope that “glory, honor, and peace” (v. 10) are available to every race and people group, for there is no partiality with God (v. 11). Missions is the great source of all racial unity and blessed multi-culturalism, and it is only in the gospel that we truly avoid all prejudice. Outside the gospel all efforts at racial equality are weird. Missionary service is the best cure for racial prejudice, bar none.
Paul established in the first three chapters of Romans that the current game is all men are sinners and under wrath, and justly so, and that the end game is all nations obedient to Jesus. There is no one righteous, not one. All have sinned, yet all can be forgiven, for there is no difference. Jesus, both just and justifier, is the God of the Jew and Gentile. Romans gives us our theological missionary foundation: God’s great heart for all peoples and our eschatological promise that all the nations will be obedient.