A Reputation Worth Having

 

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:8

8First, I thank God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world


Boice, in his introduction to Romans 1:8, begins with a compare and contrast of reputation using two characters from Shakespeare. To one reputation “is depicted as worthless, unimportant” (As You Like It, Act II, Scene7). To another, Othello, we read “I have lost my reputation! I have lost my immortal part, sir, of myself, and what remains is bestial!” (Act II, Scene 3). So which is it, is reputation unimportant, or is reputation immortal? The answer is that it depends on what we have a reputation for.

Paul speaks about a reputation that the Christians in Rome had acquired, and Paul thanks God for that reputation. Their reputation was for their faith, and that faith was being spoken about all over the known world. Other Christians were talking about the faith of the Roman Christians, and what was more is that this faith was being practiced in the highly immoral city of Rome. Paul thanks God for that faith and the reputation that has spread because of their faith. While some reputations might be important, this was a reputation that was worth having. Why is a reputation for faith worth having? Let’s look at Romans 1:8 and find out.


  1. A Genuine Faith
    1. It is important to distinguish genuine faith from nonbilibcal appearances of faith.
      1. For some faith is thought of chiefly as a subjective religious feeling, entirely divorced from God’s written revelation
      2. Credulity becomes another substitute for real faith. Wishful thinking is not genuine faith.
      3. Third false faith is optimism. Here think Norma Vincent Peale where faith in self, faith in job or faith in God are all the same thing.
    2. Why does Boice say that the faith of the believers at Rome as a genuine faith? There are two reasons:
      1. First, their faith was in Jesus Christ and in the gospel, which centers in him.
      2. Second, this is a faith that God hiimself brought into being and not something that welled up unaided in the heart of mere human beings.
        1. Paul thanks God for these Christians and does begin by praising them for their commitment.
        2. If faith were a human achievment then Paul should have praised the Roman Christians. He doesn’t do that.
    3. Robert Haldane wrote that in thaking God for the faith of those to whom he is writing “Paul…this acknowledges God as the author of the Gospel, not only on account of his causing it to be preached to them, but because he had actually given them grace to believe.”
    4. Calvin says of this verse, “Faith is a gift of God.”
    5. Is your faith like this? Is you faith a faith that is worked in you by God, as a result of which you have believed on his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as your Savior?
    6. if you faith is like the faith of the Roman Christians, then it is a reputation worth having, becuase it will bring praise to God himself, who is the author of that faith.
  2. A Contagious Faith
    1. This was not a faith that was merely talked about, but it was a faith that was picked up and communicated by others. The church grew because of this faith.
    2. This is suggested in verse 17.
      1. The phrase being referred to can be interpreted two ways.
      2. In Greek the verse contains a repetition of the word faith in a phrase that literally reads “from faith to faith” (ek pisteos eis pistin).
      3. First interpretation, as the NIV translates it, is “by faith from first to last.”
      4. The literal second translation, “from faith of one who has believed in Christ to another who comes to believe as a result of the first Christian’s testimony.”
      5. Both translations are possible, but whatever transalation you hold to there is no doubt that this is the way the gospel spread in the first Christian centuries.
    3. Remember there was no modern media to get the word out, for the most part news spread by word of mouth.
    4. If we think in New Testament terms, we will be concerned with both quality of our faith and with its contagious nature.
    5. We will be concerned that people talk about Christianity and inquire after Christ as the result of our lives and those of our fellow beievers.
  3. Faith That Encourages Others
    1. The faith of the Christian church in Rome was an encouragment to others, even to Paul.
    2. Did Paul need encouragement? Of course he did, we all do.
    3. In verse 12 Paul speaks of this mutual encouragment, “that you and I may be mutually encouraged be each other’s fatih.”
    4. If you are engaged in spiritual warfare you need encouragement, but what is going to encourage you? God of course.
    5. God, who works through human instruments, uses the genuarione, growing faith of others to encourage.
    6. Do you not rejoice when you hear about the faith of others, faith that is being practiced in the public regardelss of the popular sentiment of the mob.
    7. Boice makes a point to include this important thought: He himself is encouraged when the blessing of God occurs welsewhere as the result of some else’s work. WHy? Because it means that he is not alone in the work. It means that there are others soldiers in this spiritual warfare and that victory is in the strong hands of one true commander.
  4. Faith: The Central Item
    1. The last reason the reputation of the Christians at Rom was worth having is that faith is the essential item in life. Faith in Jesus Christ is what matters.
    2. While knowledge and good works are neccessary, it is faith alone, faith in Christ as Lord and savior that is essential to our salvation. Which comes first for the Christian, faith or good works? Faith does.
    3. Hwere is what Boice thinks we do:
      1. We first evaulate other works first on the basis of size. We are more impressed by the 10,000 member church than the 250 member church, or even smaller.
        1. We must not think that a small church is depreived of the blessings of God. Think about the house churches in China that are run underground.
        2. We can thank God for numerical growth, but what we should be especially thankful for strong faith.
      2. Another thing we do is evaulate churches based on the number or type of programs.
        1. The more original the better.
        2. Do programs prove God’s blessings.
        3. The Roman church was know first and formost for it’s faith. In all probability they had 0 or very few “programs”.
      3. Boice also thinks we are too easily impressed by big buildings and big budgets.
        1. We are probably to be pitied in this area if this is how we evaulate churches.
        2. There should be a proper concern for budgets and buildings, but it those things should never be used to evaulate the faith of the churcg.
        3. The Roman churcn probably just met in houses, yet it was church whose faith was known throughout the world.
        4. Is the church you attend known for its faith or its numbers, budget, buldings, and programs.
    4. It is by faith that we “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (@ Cor. 10:5)
    5. “This is the vitory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (I John 5:4″)
    6. If you are searching for a church, look beyond buildings, programs, and budgets. Look first for strong faith in its members and its ruling body.

Personal Reflection

8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses to Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). I start with this verse because I believe it develops a connection between Acts 2 and the early church in Rome. These were the words of Christ after his resurrection and he was meeting with some men, mainly apostles. What Christ gave in these words were not a request or a plea, it was a command. When we jump to Acts we read about the day of Pentecost and who were there on that day. In verse 10 of chapter 2 we find that there “…visitors from Rome” there. We covered this in the outline above, but I bring it up to make this point. When Christ gave the command to witnesses to the ends of the earth, the visitors from Rome, who were probably not there when Christ spoke those words, knew instinctively that this was something that needed to be done. There is strong evidence that it could have been these visitors from Rome who started the Christian church in Rome. I believe these visitors were also baptized and were part of the “…three thousand added to their number that day.” (Acts 2:41). These visitors from Rome were also in the group, I believe, that were part of the fellowship of believers who stuck around and witnessed the miraculous signs, broke bread, prayed after the day of Pentecost. We are not told how long this went on, but, eventually the visitors from Rome returned to Rome and it was at this time they founded the church.

Faith: (Greek – pistis; latin – fides, “trust” or “belief”) In Christianity, belief, trust, and obedience to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is the means of salvation (Eph. 2:8-9) or eternal life (John 6:40). Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will. (McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, p. 100)

“Faith is the attitude whereby a man abandons all reliance in his own efforts to obtain salvation, be they deeds of piety, or ethical goodness or anything else. It is the attitude of complete trust in Christ, of reliance on him alone for all that salvation means.” (Tyndale, New Bible Dictionary, p. 366 – 367)

I keep reading the above definitions over and over. Not to memorize them, but to comprehend what faith means, what faith is. I find myself coming back to Hebrews 11:1-2, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. This is what the ancients were commended for.” I have always struggled with what real faith looks like. I’m sure I’ve seen it at times. There was my mother, a women of deep faith who trusted God in all times, good or bad. I think of my friend David, who rests solely on the work of Christ for salvation. I think of King David, Abraham, Job, Luther, Calvin, the Disciples, Paul, the list could go on forever. All those men who I have read and studied, men of faith who trusted God for salvation. All these people knew that salvation came not from within themselves, but from God showing grace to his people and God calling them to salvation and providing his son, Jesus Christ, as the avenue for that salvation. As much as I have witnessed faith in action, I know that I have failed many times at living a life of faith.

I am sometimes embarrassed at my weakness, at times complete lack of faith. When I talk about being weak in faith, for me, I mean I don’t always trust God to take care of my future. I have, for the better part of my life, believed that my salvation rests in the work of Jesus Christ. I have come to gladly embrace the truth that it was God who called me to salvation, and that I had no part in the act of salvation. While understanding the previous two points is a large part of what faith is, faith is more than this. Faith also includes a daily trust in God for all things needed, and knowing that God is sovereign. I fail miserably at the first part, and it is fear that holds me back from trusting daily in God for all things. Fear of what might happen if you put all trust in God, is a faith killer. I do not count myself yet at the point of putting complete trust in God for daily living, as a result I believe it hinders my ability to minister to others, to live a life as full as God would want me to live, to be a living testimony to the life changing power of a gracious God who loves me. I guess the next hard question to answer is why? The answer to “why” will be saved for another time.

Faith is a gift from God and is strengthened through daily prayer and study of God’s word. When I say “study”, I don’t mean casual reading of the text. Study means actively digesting God’s word through memorization, meditation, and prayer over God’s word. Prayer that God would open the mind to the lessons of his holy text, to comprehend it, to open our hearts so that the Holy Spirit can infiltrate the heart and mind. If we can get to this point then we begin to understand the awesome things God did and become a living witness to the faith of those who have gone before us. Our faith is strengthened by reading how God interacted with those others who lived a life of faith. Read the entirety of the holy text and focus on the faith of those you read about. Read the great examples of faith in Hebrews 11. Read about the New Testament writers and the faith they lived daily, even unto death. Read about the early church fathers, and the reformers. Read about men of faith who gave their lives to preach the word of God, and they did so fearlessly.

Here is what I do know, the stronger your faith, the more fearless you are when talking about the gospel. A week faith makes you feel ashamed of the gospel and holds you back from talking about the gospel to those who need to hear the good news. I know, because at times I don’t live the gospel because sometimes I feel that shame. I shouldn’t, but it is what weak faith produces. A strong faith releases you from the worries of this world so that you can be about the business of the one true God who has called you to salvation. A strong faith is a visible faith and I refer back to the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, “Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will.” You cannot separate faith from you daily life. A strong faith will seep into everything you do in life, what you say, what you think. This is the type of faith Paul talks about in Romans 1:8. A strong faith is genuine, it is contagious, it encourages other, and it is the central theme of your life.


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