The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:5-7, pp. 69-88
Posted by Robert C. on March 20, 2013
[Thanks, David G., for sending in the post below.]
through whom we received the grace of apostleship to bring about, for his name’s sake, trusting obedience among all the Gentiles, among whom you are also called of Jesus Christ) – to all that are in Rome, beloved of God and called as saints: grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
At first I thought it odd that I, together with the other reviewers, would be writing commentary on a commentary of Romans. It seemed like too many layers once removed. But Faulconer has written no ordinary commentary. In fact, it’s not a commentary at all. It is rather an exercise in reading scripture slowly, very slowly. For Faulconer, this is an exercise that began over thirty years ago and is, no doubt, still in process of revision and expansion. His exercise teaches us above all else that there is very much more in the scriptures than we at first realize. If we can slow down and deepen our study, much will be gained.
In the seven verses of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and in Faulconer’s coverage of these verses in his first eighty-eight pages, we gain a much deeper appreciation of who Christ has called Paul to become and of how Paul’s service in this calling mimics Christ’s work by trying to make saints of us, collectively.
Paul catches the Romans attention by highlighting his bondage to his calling – which bondage is a form of grace, a form that invokes trusting obedience in Paul and invites it of all nations. The saints at Rome may become holy if they accept their service to God, if they submit to the obedience to which He has called them.
Thus Faulconer leads us into a deep discussion about how grace is not to be thought of in opposition to works, about how our callings – that is, the things which God requires of us – obedience, driving to the hospital late at night to bestow a blessing, wiping runny noses, or trying to remember the words to that Primary song – are “spiritual gift[s],” about how love and obedience “can be equivalents” and about how we really do need to trust God more than we do.
One of the many powerful passages between page 69 and page 88 is Faulconer’s observation on saintliness. Paul reminds us in verse 7 that we are called as saints. Faulconer attends to “saints” as plural:
Though in scripture holiness has more to do with our being called than with our actions, the calling to be a saint carries with it the obligation to be pure. . . . That the Greek word for saint indicates purity shows that there is more to being a saint, to taking Christ’s name upon ourselves than membership in the formal organization of the church. We become saints by being called and set apart for God’s purposes, and we remain saints by striving to meet the obligation of purity that such a calling entails. . . . accepting the call to fulfill divine purposes qualifies a person for a token of [Christ’s] purity . . . . Interestingly, the word saint does not usually appear in the New Testament in the singular except when referring to Jesus. . . Christ’s redemption and our humble submission to him make us saints (83-84).
The last two weeks remind us all that Rome is still very much the center of the world as we know it. We have Paul as much as Peter to thank for it (Cicero, and Augustus, and Constantine, too). Rome stands in for the world as a whole, in some sense, and for that which pulls us away from our trusting in the covenant God offers us. That is to say, the saints at Rome, like those struggling to be saints everywhere, are in danger of forgetting their callings. Peace be unto you, Paul says through the ages. Faulconer observes that Paul is calling to us about the sometimes painful peace won through repentance, the discomfort of having to gird up your loins and once more try to trust the only trustworthy one around.
Paul was called as an Apostle and a slave: Paul was called to love, Paul was called to obey. Paul calls to love. Paul calls to obey. All of this calling, including mine and yours, is from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!
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