After Peter preached the very first apostolic sermon, we read in Acts
2:41-42, "So then, those who had received his word were baptized...
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching..."
Surely we need to know what the apostles taught those newly baptized believers in
Acts 2:42. When someone is spiritually born, we must know what to feed
the newborn child. So after the Apostles taught, "Jesus is King," what
was the Second Teaching of the apostles?
Perhaps their teaching would have expanded on Peter's "second teaching" in 2:38. First Peter had preached (acts 2:22-36) the proof that Jesus is King. Then, when the crowd believed (acts 2:37), Peter called them into four things:
- The gift of the Holy Spirit
Where, oh where in scripture can we find an apostle expounding on those four foundational teachings? Where can we find an apostle teaching believers he has never before met about repentance, baptism, forgiveness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit? We need to find a book of the Bible addressed to people who believe Jesus is King, but have never previously been taught by an apostle.
Romans. The first of the epistles is also the only epistle addressed to a people who appear to have neither been taught by an Apostle, nor taught by someone like Epaphrus who had apostolic endorsement as a foundational teacher. Since Romans is the only book addressed to a church who has not received apostolic discipleship, we may expect Romans to expound on the "second teaching" of Peter, the foundational truths of the faith. I believe Romans chapters one through eight is the "teaching of the apostles" mentioned in Acts 2:42, the elaboration of Acts 2:38.
Paul and his fellow writers specifically addressed most of their letters to people they had previously taught. To the Romans, Paul wrote not a backward letter to those he had left, but a comprehensive "forward" letter to believers he had not yet met. In Colossians (the only other forward letter), Paul stated explicit confidence in the foundational teachings they had already received from Epaphras (Col 1:7; 2:7; 4:12), but he showed no similar confidence toward Rome.
The "forward" writing method makes few assumptions, therefore lays down the most foundational truths. Paul only assumes the Romans are believers in the Kingship of Jesus. He addressed them as "called saints" of God in 1:7, briefly reminding them of evidence of the Christ-ship (Kingship) of Jesus. In his opening greeting, Paul said the "gospel of God" was about God's Son, born to David's royal human lineage and proven to be from God's divine lineage by rising from death. Paul then presented in the first eight chapters something every citizen of Jesus' Kingdom needs to learn because it underpins other kingdom truths.
Without a solid grasp of the first half of Romans (chapters 1-8), it is no wonder that so many Christians fail to properly handle the many truths which the apostles built in the other epistles. The other letters in the New Testament were addressed to believers who had already learned the "foundation of the apostles" (eph 2:20). The epistle to the Romans reaches out to the most neglected readers in all the New Testament. We need to know the same thing the Romans needed to know, the foundational truths of Acts 2:42: "they devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles." Like the Roman readers and the Acts Two audience, we have believed Jesus is King, but now what?
"The Most Neglected Believers" by Matthew Bryan was first published at www.matthewbryan.net on September 20th, 2013. All rights are reserved.