Calvary Road Baptist Church

“PAUL’S PURPOSE . . . YOUR PURPOSE”

Romans 1.5-6

 

Let’s take a quick look at two individuals. First, a peek into the life of a fellow named Axelrod. Axelrod is an adult male of above average intelligence who has always shown a great deal of promise in his life, but who has never seemed to fulfill any of that promise. If you knock on Axelrod’s door on Saturday morning, you’ll likely find him still in bed. If you knock on his door just before he leaves for work on any weekday you’re sure to see him furiously and feverishly trying to eat, get dressed, and get into the car and on his way to work. Axelrod is very typically late, and filled with good excuses for his tardiness. If you come by and visit Axelrod on almost any evening, you are guaranteed to see him watching television or playing a video game. Axelrod is always in front of some screen. Beginning to get the picture of why Axelrod has never fulfilled any of that promise? On the other hand, there is Jason. Jason gets up early on Saturdays because there are things he has to do. Jason gets dressed in the morning at his leisure, eats his breakfast deliberately, and walks to his car because he has plenty of time. Jason typically shows up a bit early. And if you drop in at Jason’s house you almost always see him actually doing something. He is either reading a book, working on a project, or engaged in some meaningful interaction with his family. Though he watches television and surfs the Internet occasionally, he tends to find such activities boring and intrusive into his life.

Why are these two men’s lives lived so differently? Why does one man seem to live life according to a plan and the other seems to live a life that characterizes aimlessness and confusion? Why is it likely that Axelrod will argue with his wife (if he were married) and Jason likely will not? There are all kinds of explanations, but the explanation for these two entirely different kinds of life that I want to put forward this evening has to do with purpose. Though there can be many other factors, to be sure, the Axelrod kind of guy is usually a person with no discernible purpose in his life, while the Jason kind of guy is usually a person with a discernible purpose. You see, if a guy or a gal has a purpose, and if that purpose is important and meaningful to him, he will organize his life and will plan his life around that purpose so that he can accomplish that purpose. And let me tell you, the key to personal fulfillment is to discover your purpose for being and then to do all you can to achieve that purpose.

Obviously, only the child of God can ever truly discover and realize what his or her purpose for being really is because it is God Who establishes each person’s purpose in life and then brings him into existence to fulfill that purpose. And when that Christian discovers his purpose for being and then seeks to accomplish that purpose, his life will be a real life, filled with joy, and blessing, and tremendous satisfaction. I suppose the most successful Christian life that is presented to us in the Bible is the life lived by the Apostle Paul. Now there was a man who had joy unspeakable and full of glory. There was a man who accomplished things for God. There was a man whose life had meaning. What personal satisfaction he enjoyed at the end of his life.[1] And why? Because he had known what his purpose was and he had given himself to the fulfillment of that purpose.

At this time, we are going to examine Paul’s statement of purpose to the Christians who were in Rome. And as we examine Paul’s purpose we shall, in turn, discover our own purpose. Then, of course, it will be up to each of you to make sure that you seek to fulfill your purpose and end up living a Jason kind of life and not an Axelrod kind of life. Read with me from Romans 1.1:

 

1      Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

2      (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

3      Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

4      And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

5      By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

6      Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.

 

Four questions need to be asked from our text, which is Romans 1.5-6:

 

First, LET’S ASK WHAT PAUL WAS

 

Paul was an apostle. But let’s review the subject of apostleship, so we have that concept clearly nailed down. The word “apostle” refers to someone who has been sent, usually sent with a message. And in the Biblical context in which the word is used it always refers to one sent with a message. But there are four kinds of apostles in the Word of God:

First, there is what is called the Apostle of our profession. This is how the writer of Hebrews identifies the Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews 3.1:

 

“Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”

 

And in the highest sense of the word apostle, Jesus Christ was sent from heaven’s glory to this planet earth with a divine message of love, forgiveness, salvation corresponding to His glorious mission of securing our salvation on the cross of Calvary and by His resurrection from the dead.

Second, there are the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ. Luke 6.13 informs us that the Lord Jesus Christ called His disciples alongside one day and chose of them twelve, who He also named apostles:

 

“And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.”

 

Of these twelve, remember, Judas Iscariot was the traitor who betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Then, after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, and after Judas Iscariot’s suicide, Acts 1.16-26 describes the Church meeting whereby Matthias was chosen to succeed Judas Iscariot as one of the twelve, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Further, we know from Matthew 19.28 that these twelve apostles will someday sit in judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel.

Third, there are those termed the apostles of the churches. Let me caution you that the phrase “apostles of the churches” does not appear in the English Bible, but the phrase “messengers of the churches” is found in Second Corinthians 8.23. The word “messengers” there translates the Greek word “apostles.” These, too, are those sent forth with a message. But whereas Jesus Christ was sent by the Father, and the twelve apostles were sent by Jesus Christ, these men are sent with a message by Churches just like ours. The modern term that is used to describe “messengers of the Churches” is missionaries.

So, we have the Apostle of our profession Jesus Christ, we have the twelve apostles; we have the apostles of the churches, and finally, we have the Apostle Paul. Paul is in an apostolic category all by himself for a number of reasons. First, he is Jesus Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles. Second, he is an apostle who is not, according to his own testimony in First Corinthians 15.5, one of the twelve. One other reason for Paul being in a distinct apostolic category will be dealt with momentarily. So, when the question is asked, “What was Paul?” the answer becomes quite obvious. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ, but uniquely so. He was unlike any other apostle.

 

Next, LET’S ASK HOW PAUL WAS WHAT HE WAS

 

If Paul was an apostle, but uniquely so, the question of how Paul became what he was helps us to understand his uniqueness. About himself Paul wrote,

 

“By whom we have received grace and apostleship.”

 

“The mediation of Christ is something upon which the apostle will reflect again and again throughout this epistle. Here we find it for the first time.”[2]

 

Thus, the phrase “By whom” lets us know that it was through Jesus Christ that Paul received “grace and apostleship.” But what does “grace and apostleship” mean? Is Paul referring to receiving “grace” as a commodity and also “apostleship” as another commodity, or is he identifying his apostleship as something which was graciously bestowed upon him?[3] Perhaps a look at how “grace” and “apostleship” came this man’s way will answer the question for us.

Remember the wickedness of Saul of Tarsus? By his own testimony, Paul informs us that before his conversion he, as the man named Saul from the city of Tarsus, was a zealous and passionate persecutor of Christians everywhere.[4] An accomplice in the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, Saul also received authority from the Jewish religious hierarchy to hunt down Christians wherever they might be found, to then incarcerate them, and to then bring them to Jerusalem, bound, for trial and punishment.[5] So hot was his hatred toward believers that Paul later describes himself as the chiefest of sinners, First Timothy 1.15. Truly, Saul was a wicked man for all his strivings to be good.

Remember, also the witness to Saul. Before the death of that great Christian Stephen, he presented the claims of Jesus Christ in the synagogue of the Libertines in Jerusalem, which was in all probability the synagogue that Saul had attended.[6] In that arena, according to Acts 6.9-10, Stephen spoke with irresistible wisdom and spiritual power. So you can imagine what the preaching and teaching of Stephen about Jesus Christ, along with his dramatic strength and fortitude as he was being stoned to death by the savage multitudes, did for the onlooker Saul. That it stirred his conscience and convicted him, there is no doubt.

Third, Saul was apprehended by Christ.[7] Most of you remember the story in Acts chapter 9. Wicked Saul, who had been witnessed to by the preaching and the martyrdom of Stephen, was on his way to Damascus to persecute believers in that city. While in the wilderness between Jerusalem and Damascus the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul in a blinding light and confronted him with his sin, showing him that by persecuting Christ’s people he was actually persecuting Christ![8] Saul’s response to all of this? Many years later, listen to the words of Paul as he relates that experience to Agrippa in Acts 26.13-19:

 

13    At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

14    And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

15    And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

16    But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

17    Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,

18    To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.

19    Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision

 

We need go no farther than this. We know what Paul is talking about when he writes “we have received grace and apostleship” to the Romans. It was in that heavenly vision that Paul was both confronted concerning his salvation and convinced of his purpose for being. Paul is informing the Romans that his apostolic office, which he received at the time of his conversion in Damascus three days later, was the gracious gift from the Lord Jesus Christ, and that it was wholly of God and completely undeserved by Paul. He was not made an apostle with authority over them because he was such an accomplished Christian, but by the sovereign choice of God the Father who gave his position to him as an undeserved gift in the Lord Jesus Christ, every bit as undeserved as his life in Christ.

 

Third QUESTION. WHY WAS PAUL WHAT HE WAS?

 

Though we were given a hint in Paul’s testimony to Agrippa, from Paul’s words to the Romans comes the natural question of why was he graciously made an apostle? For at least two reasons:

First reason:

 

“For obedience to the faith among all nations.”

 

There are two very interesting words in this phrase. First, there is the word “obedience.” Though I cannot recollect the source, I recall reading that at the time Paul was alive this was an extremely rare word and was felt by many that Paul alone introduced this word into Christian usage. And the meaning of word? Primarily obedience to God and God’s commands.[9] Seven times Paul uses this word in Romans. The second important word is “faith.” The importance of this word is obvious to anyone who has ever read Romans through. Sixty-one times Paul uses the word, forty times as a noun and twenty-one times as a verb. So, what does “obedience to the faith” mean? It obviously refers to obeying the Gospel, hearing Christ’s claims on the sinner and responding with repentance and faith. But it means more than that. Throughout Paul’s letter to the Romans the point is made that there is little if any, difference between faith and faithfulness, little, if any, difference between trusting God and obeying God. “Obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience. . . Paul called men and women to a faith that was always inseparable from obedience - for the Savior in whom we believe is nothing less than our Lord - and to an obedience that could never be divorced from faith - for we can obey Jesus as Lord only when we have given ourselves to him in faith.”[10] So, why was Paul made an apostle? The first reason is this: So that people would respond to what they heard. And what they would hear is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s plan of salvation. But beyond that, and in complete agreement with the Great Commission of Matthew 28.18-20, that folks who come to know Christ would also observe all things whatsoever He commanded. Paul’s commission, Paul’s purpose, was to bring the lost to Christ, to see then them live lives of consistent obedience to Christ, producing Christians who respond with obedience to the spoken instructions of God’s Word.

Second reason:

 

“For his name.”

 

Is that all? “For his name?” My friends, “for his name” is more than enough. Remember, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the Father. What Paul is suggesting is that he has an overarching general purpose that accompanies the specific purpose which we just looked at. Understanding that a name means much more in the Bible than simply the words you use to call someone to the supper table, but is intimately connected to someone’s reputation and how he is known, I would suggest that Paul’s purpose is also to see that Christ is glorified, and His name is exalted. That fits in nicely with Philippians 2.9-11:

 

9      Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10    That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11    And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

So we see, as the Romans certainly saw, Paul was working in concert with God’s stated purpose. Friend, that is the key. Paul found that his purpose was in perfect agreement and harmony with God’s purpose. No wonder his life was filled with such joy, such victory, such a sense of conquest during even the darkest hours. He was co-laboring with God to exalt the name of Jesus Christ by bringing men to obedience to Him as Lord. And this was not confined to simply obeying the Gospel. It included obeying Him as a manner and habit of life after conversion, as well.

 

NOW FOR THE FINAL QUESTION: WHAT ARE WE?

 

We understand that none of us in this room who are believers was saved and given apostolic office. None of us in this room who are saved were knocked off a camel or a donkey by the glorified Christ appearing in a heavenly vision. But if all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for us, we must ask how Paul’s experiences profit us? That same question could have been anticipated by Paul to have been asked by the Romans, so he supplies the answer in verse 6:

 

“Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ.”

 

Notice the parallel that we have here. Hasn’t Paul already informed the Romans that he was a “called apostle” of Jesus Christ? Yes. He did that back in verse one, which occurred only seconds earlier as this letter was read aloud. Here is the parallel. Just as Paul was called, they are called. And though they have by no means been called to apostolic office, as Paul was, and were not delivered from sin in as dramatic a fashion as was Paul, they are just as justified in the sight of God as he is and just as called to service as he is. That is the parallel.

Now, may we surmise the purpose for the Roman’s lives? And when we surmise their purpose, have we not established our own purpose? I submit to you that the reason Paul was as fulfilled and joyous a Christian as he was was because he knew exactly what his purpose for existing was. He never needed to ask himself, “Why am I here? What am I doing?” He knew. Further, he indicates to the Romans that although they do not have the same office that he holds (they are not apostles), they are called just as much as he is. And I would submit to you that he is trying to persuade them that just as he has been given major responsibility for getting the Word out to all nations, they, as a part of the “all nations” should work with him to get the job done. That is their purpose, and our purpose, too.

 

Paul’s life had no legitimate purpose, at least none that he could understand or appreciate until he came to know Jesus Christ. And until you have been saved from your sins and been given Christ’s resurrection power for living you will never appreciate or fulfill your legitimate purpose for existing.

“But I’m going to eat, drink, and be merry.” You go ahead and try that. “I’m pursuing my education or my career.” Go ahead. “Well, I’ve got other interests at this time in my life.” Fine. “I work to keep citizens safe.” So they can live to a ripe old age and then go to Hell?

You are presently in the midst of a room full of people who have discovered by painful and tragic lessons that only Christ fulfills. Only Christ gives joy. Only in Christ is there legitimate purpose and meaning. Only Christ can provide a genuine sense of accomplishment and meaning to life. Come to Christ.

And you Christians need to give heed to what I have just said. Some believers want God’s salvation, but not God’s way of life. They want salvation without surrender to Christ’s Lordship. May I remind you of two things if you are among the confused? First, your own experiences of life right now probably give testimony to the futility of trying to acquire fulfillment in life without doing those things that are pleasing to God. You know by experience that not even the child of God can find satisfaction in a self-willed life. Isn’t that right? Come on. Be honest about it. Admit it. Second, remember that Paul’s purpose was not fulfilled when a person had received Christ. And the Great Commission has not been satisfied when a sinner is saved. No, the purpose is accomplished when there is “obedience to the faith.” That means faith in Christ and faithfulness to Christ. Are you faithful in obeying Christ? If not, friend, then you are in need of some serious reflection concerning what the Word of God actually teaches.

Whatever your personal need is, whether it is obedience to the Gospel resulting in the salvation of your soul, or obedience to your Lord Jesus Christ as a Christian resulting in the joy and peace of an obedient life, I challenge you to discover your purpose and then set out to accomplishing it. Abandon the Axelrod approach to life and embrace the Jason approach to life as a Christian.

__________

[1] 2 Timothy 4.7-8

[2] John Murray, The Epistle To The Romans - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), page 12.

[3] Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 3, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 479.

[4] Galatians 1.13-14; Philippians 3.6

[5] Acts 7.58-8.3; 9.1-2

[6] Acts 6.7-10

[7] Philippians 3.12

[8] Acts 9.4

[9] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 1028.

[10] Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle To The Romans - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), pages 52-53.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org