“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.” (Romans 1:9-10)
When listening to Romans 1 today in my car at lunch, I really took notice at how theological and yet how affectionate Paul was when he wrote his letters. It wasn’t just informational theology, it was affectionate theology, theology tempered with love. Paul very clearly did not let up on difficult points that needed addressing, and yet he did so with deep love for those to whom he was writing. And this because of the love shown to him by Christ. It was not just some academic exercise for Paul to write Romans, but everything he was about to tell them had love attached to it, even the boldness and depth of the mind-bending doctrines of Romans 9, which has at its heart both the unfathomable kindness and frighteningly harsh severity of God.
At the end of the letter in Romans 15:14-16, Paul says, “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder…” Yes, Paul was very bold at times, for instance, when he says things like, “But who are you oh man to answer back to God?” and also the repeated statements, “May it never be!” But when going back to Romans 1, he was very lovingly affectionate. The whole letter was prefaced with and ended with love. This is convicting to me because I can tend at times to be very informational and not affectionate. May God have mercy on me, that I would portray affectionate theology toward those I encounter.
I think the pattern exhibited by Paul in the verses mentioned needs to be closely observed within the Reformed community in particular, because though we may, by God’s grace alone, have come to see particular doctrinal points in a clearer manner (giving God credit for that), we make the conveying of those doctrines simply academic at times. But it is both academic and affectionate at the same time. Obviously there are more and more awesome exceptions, which I hope becomes the majority of the confessing Reformed community. Paul starts and closes his letters with love and affection. By God’s grace, may we do the same to all we encounter, especially those who are adamantly opposed to us.