April 28, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Romans 1:5-7 (NRSV)
[We] have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints . . . .
You are one of Christ’s people because God wants you, seeks you, and loves you. God’s calling is an expression of God’s desire to be in relationship with you. So, though it’s right for you to seek to understand what God is calling you to do with your life, remember that, above all, God is calling you into relationship with him.
Today’s devotion is part of the series God’s Transformational Calling.
In the opening verse of his letter to the Romans, Paul introduces himself as “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle” (Romans 1:1). He is an apostle – a divinely-authorized messenger of the gospel, sent to plant and nurture churches – not because he chose this role for himself, but because God chose Paul and made this choice known by calling him. Paul had a distinctive, special calling.
Yet right after introducing himself and his particular calling, Paul made sure the Roman Christians knew that they were also called by God. God had called them “to belong to Jesus Christ” (1:6) and “to be saints” (1:7). In a previous devotion in this series, I explained what it means to be called to be saints, which I paraphrased as “God’s special people.” I won’t repeat here what I wrote there. But I do want to think with you about what it means to be “called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
The Greek behind this translation reads literally, “called of Jesus Christ [klētoi Iēsou Christou].” Almost all English translations agree that “of Jesus Christ” means something like “to belong to Jesus Christ.” You can see that use of language in 1 Corinthians 1:12, where Paul reports that the Corinthians were saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos” or “I belong to Cephas” or “I belong to Christ.” In Greek they were saying, “I am of Paul,” “I am of Apollos,” and so on. So, when it comes to Romans 1:6, we rightly understand that Paul identified the Roman Christians as “called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
This phrase reiterates things we have seen previously in this series on God’s Transformational Calling. First of all, we’re reminded that we are Christians because God has called us. Yes, we responded to God’s call through faith. But our faith wasn’t what initiated relationship with God through Christ. God’s call came first. God initiated. We responded.
Second, the fact that we are “called to belong to Jesus Christ” underscores the fact that being a Christian is first and foremost a relational reality. Yes, we are also called to contribute to God’s work in the world. Yes, we are called to live in a way that honors and glorifies God. But, fundamentally, God calls us into relationship with the triune God through the gospel. We are called to belong to Jesus Christ, to be Christ’s people in the world for his sake, to be his servants, his disciples, and even his friends (John 15:15).
You are one of Christ’s people because God wants you, seeks you, and loves you. God’s calling is an expression of God’s desire to be in relationship with you. So, though it’s right for you to seek to understand what God is calling you to do with your life, remember that, above all, God is calling you into relationship with him. The more you live into this primary calling, the more you’ll be prepared to receive and to live out the other callings God has for you.
Do you think of yourself as belonging to Christ? If so, what difference does this make? If not, why not?
What other relationships do you have in which the language of belonging might be appropriate? What does this suggest about your relationship with Christ?
Do you really believe that God seeks relationship with you? Or is this one of those things you know to be true but have a hard time really believing deep in your soul?
Set aside some time to reflect on the fact that you have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. Think about how this fundamental truth about your calling might transform your life. Talk with God about what you are learning.
Gracious God, thank you for calling me. Thank you for calling me, not only into a life of service to you, but also and fundamentally into a life of relationship with you. I am so grateful that this relationship doesn’t depend on me, but on you.
Help me, Lord, to live each day in relationship with you, attending to your guidance, seeking your glory, enjoying your love. May the fact that I belong to you be the defining reality of my life, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Gospel of Salvation—Paul’s Vocation (Romans 1:1–17)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.