Romans 1:5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.
Reading the Bible in different languages has a number of advantages, most particularly that it makes us look at things from different angles, rather than getting caught in a mental rut. (Reading different English translations can help there as well, but I think not quite as much.) The first thing that struck me just now is that where the NIV says “apostleship,” the Japanese says, “the job of apostle.” To me this drives home what is written elsewhere about functions in the Church being assigned by God. “Apostle” isn’t just a title, it’s a job description. My understanding is that the Greek word indicates a representative, someone designated to act in the name and authority of another. That’s not at all something you could claim for yourself, if it weren’t assigned by the one with the authority. I am saddened by people who stick “Apostle” in front of their name on their business card and demand, rather than earn, deference and respect. Here, Paul expresses the purpose of his being designated a representative of Christ: to call people to the obedience of faith. This isn’t a difference between the Japanese and the English, but it’s important to note that genuine faith in Christ will generate obedience to Him. There are sadly many people who claim to believe in Him, and perhaps expect to go to heaven on that basis, but who live their lives in total disregard for what He has said to do. We forget that the Great Commission includes the words, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20) “Believe, and live as you please,” is a terrible distortion of the Gospel. Islam is a terrible distortion of the character of God, but it’s worth noting that the word itself means “submission.” Just as he does with everything else that is good, the devil twists “the obedience of faith” into a religion that has enslaved countless people over the centuries. When you believe in God who is both all-powerful and so loving that He sent His Son to die in our place, then you want to obey Him, as perfectly and as fully as He will enable you to do so. This is the faith to which we are called.
This is very close to home, because the closest modern English equivalent to “apostle” is “missionary.” Growing up in a missionary family, I was aware that my father carried authority that others didn’t have. He certainly didn’t wave it around, but it was widely recognized, even among other missionaries. He was constantly being asked to be on the board of this that or the other, and I think that contributed to the heart condition that took him at age 64. I too am a missionary, though I have no “sending body.” Back when we were in negotiations with the Baptist mission board my wife expressed clearly that we’d rather be “Lord sent” than “board sent,” and I agree completely. I do not rank myself with my father, but I do recognize that the Lord has given me authority and responsibility. Those two can never be separated! Though the church here is small, I find that when I meet with other believers and even church leaders, my words are respected and even anticipated. That is humbling. I too must exercise the obedience of faith, striving to please the One who has sent me, for His glory alone.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and for Your incredible grace toward me. Help me fulfill each task You have for me, pleasing You alone, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!