For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:12-13
Paul lays out the basic claim for his role as the missionary to the Gentiles, as he explains God’s plan through Christ Jesus, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” His expansive outreach was based on the belief that God’s plan of salvation had always included all the inhabitants of the earth, that Israel’s chosen status had positioned that nation to reach out in truth and love to all nations, and that Christ Jesus’ action on Calvary had fulfilled God’s desire to offer salvation to all. Paul was convinced that there was nothing new about God’s concern for those persons outside Judaism. God’s call of Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, included these words, “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). So, as Paul began his work to reach beyond his own people and to share the love, blessings, truth, and grace of God with the Gentiles, he did so in the confidence that he was standing in the center of God’s eternal will.
The problem Paul faced was that as the faith had been institutionalized, it had turned inward. The passages about all the people of the earth had been re-interpreted to mean all the Hebrew people of the earth. Thus, there was no effort to extend the faith. Instead, Jews were instructed to pursue purity by segregation, to have little doings with Gentiles, and to avoid contact with sinners. Such instruction led to the development of institutionalized beliefs that God’s compassion, mercy, and grace were limited to a select group of people.
Paul was chief among those who believed and taught such things prior to his encounter with Jesus Christ. His conversion – and indeed all conversions to Christ – included not simply a new understanding of himself in light of his faith, but a whole new understanding of others. Paul’s new insight was anchored deeply in the ancient teachings of Israel that God “is generous to all who call upon him,” and in the recognition that “the same Lord is the Lord of all.” In Paul’s context, such beliefs took focus in a shocking affirmation, “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek.”
One of the signs of new life in Christ is an incredible compassion for others, especially for those previously held in contempt. It seems to be the case over and again that those in Christ become peace-makers and sense a strong calling to invest themselves in breaking down the dividing walls of hostility. Such was the case with Paul. Such is the case with you and me. Faith in Christ does not merely transform our relationship with God, it also radically transforms our relationships with those who share this world in which we live.
Lord Jesus, live in my heart and make me an instrument of thy peace. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston.