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Romans: Paul Introduces Himself

Paul starts out his let­ter to the church in Rome (Romans 1:1–18 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
This text is from the ESV Bible. Visit www.esv.org to learn about the ESV.
) by intro­duc­ing him­self, his mes­sage, his desire to vis­it with the Christians in Rome and final­ly, his desire to preach the Gospel — the Good News — to the Gentiles in Rome. The Good News is Paul’s focus. It is what he was called to preach. It is what we all are called to live. Romans is Paul’s ser­mon about the Good News and how we are to live it.

Paul begins by des­ig­nat­ing him­self as a slave, as an apos­tle, and as one set apart. All three are inter­re­lat­ed. As a slave of Christ Jesus, Paul must do what­ev­er Christ would demand of him. As one called to be an apos­tle, Paul is an autho­rized rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Christ. As one set apart, he has a spe­cif­ic job of preach­ing the Gospel, pri­mar­i­ly to the Gentiles. 

Slavery was com­mon in Paul’s day. It was a prac­tice that Paul appar­ent­ly dis­ap­proved of but he always taught slaves to accept their place and treat their mas­ters with respect. He uses this very strong term to indi­cate the strength of his bond to Christ, of Christ’s own­er­ship of Paul. We all should feel this strong sense of duty to Christ. We often say He is our Lord yet we dis­obey Him, run from Him, or just ignore Him. If we tru­ly believed we were bought and paid for by Christ on the cross, that we are His slaves, I believe we would not act the way we do some­times.

Some would tone down this term to ser­vant — some­one who will­ing­ly serves some­one else, sort of like a but­ler or maid. I believe that this is a mis­tak­en idea, prob­a­bly brought up because of the stig­ma of slav­ery, espe­cial­ly among Afro-Americans. Slavery has a very neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion and I under­stand the desire to not asso­ciate our servi­tude to God with that neg­a­tiv­i­ty. However, I am not sure ser­vant is strong enough of a word to indi­cate the way Paul felt. I believe he didn’t con­sid­er ser­vice to God a job to do with the option to find a new mas­ter any­time he want­ed. No, he was a slave of Christ’s. Jesus said his yolk was easy, his bur­den light. We should not fear or repu­di­ate our slav­ery to Christ for He is our Master. In Him we find rest.

Paul’s apos­tle­ship was appar­ent­ly called into ques­tion on more than one occa­sion (1 Cor 9:1–2 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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). Apostle as a term could be used as gener­ic as “rep­re­sen­ta­tive” and as spe­cif­ic as “One of the Twelve.” It was used to refer to sev­er­al peo­ple includ­ing a woman (Rom 16:7 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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), most like­ly in a gener­ic sense of some­one who had been com­mis­sioned by Jesus to preach the gospel. They were apos­tles with a lit­tle a. The word mis­sion­ary comes from the Latin trans­la­tion of the Greek word for apos­tle. Today’s mod­ern mis­sion­ar­ies are apos­tles (lit­tle a) called by Christ to preach the Gospel. 

Paul believed he had been called to be an Apostle (big A), equal in call­ing to one of the Twelve although he wasn’t one of the Twelve and was least of the apos­tles (see 1 Cor 15 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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and Gal 1–2 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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). Sometimes I think Paul was a man full of him­self and real­ly strug­gled to stay hum­ble — you can see it in the way he says, “I am an Apostle — Big A — but real­ly, I am the least of the apos­tles, lit­tle a.”  He felt the need to defend his author­i­ty to preach the Gospel but on the oth­er hand knew it sound­ed rather bra­gado­cious.  He knew he had been called by God and autho­rized by Christ to preach the Good News, espe­cial­ly to the Gentiles (Rom 1:5 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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). This was his appoint­ment, it was what he was called to do. He knew what he was all about.

No one today is an apos­tle in the truest sense of the word — one who wit­nessed Jesus’ min­istry here on earth and was com­mis­sioned to preach what they had seen. However, I do believe that there are those that have been called by Christ, just as Paul had been, to preach the Good News to the world. Today’s mis­sion­ar­ies are apos­tles (lit­tle a) in a very real way. They face the same chal­lenges that Paul faced almost 2000 years ago, includ­ing death. We need to lift them up in prayer con­tin­u­al­ly that they may ful­fill their call­ing.

Paul was set apart to preach the Gospel, specif­i­cal­ly to the Gentiles. Where the Twelve felt first and fore­most a call­ing to preach the Good News to the Jews, Paul had been called to the Gentiles. This isn’t to say that the Twelve didn’t min­is­ter to the Gentiles, they did. Acts 10–11 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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tells of how God shows Peter that the Gentiles were to be includ­ed in their min­istry.  I have to chuck­le every time I read the church’s con­clu­sion in Acts 11:18 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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. “We can see that God has also giv­en the Gentiles the priv­i­lege of repent­ing of their sins and receiv­ing eter­nal life.”  Hadn’t they lis­tened to Jesus? Hadn’t they seen His works among the non-Jews? Sometimes we need a real kick in the head to final­ly hear and under­stand what God would tell us.

The Body of Christ has many mem­bers yet we are still one Body. We are each set apart to do some­thing with­in the Body. Paul talks about this in 1 Cor 12 [show]ERROR: The IP key is no longer sup­port­ed. Please use your access key, the test­ing key ‘TEST
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. God has giv­en us through the Holy Spirit gifts that we are to use with­in the body. Some are called to preach and teach, some to pray for oth­ers that they may be healed, oth­ers to min­is­ter to the Body in prophe­cy and mes­sages in tongues. Yes, those are the more vis­i­ble gifts but Paul also says there are some who are called to the more invis­i­ble min­istries with­in the Body. We don’t always see who mows the lawn or vac­u­ums around the church build­ing but they have a call­ing, a min­istry just as impor­tant. Some are called to secret­ly pray for oth­ers, to pro­vide extra finan­cial help to the church, to pro­vide food, cloth­ing, and shel­ter to the needy.

Paul’s call­ing was a very vis­i­ble one. It was his pas­sion, to preach the Good News and it shows through­out his writ­ings. Some of us have a very invis­i­ble call­ing but it should still be our pas­sion. Very few may ever know of that pas­sion but God, who sees all things, will reward us for fol­low­ing that call­ing and mak­ing it our pas­sion.

If you were to intro­duce your­self in light of your rela­tion­ship to God, how would you do it? Could you claim to be a slave of Christ Jesus? Could you define what God has called you to do? What gift(s) has the Holy Spirit bestowed upon you for min­istry among the church and/or in the world?

Next week, we look at Paul’s syn­op­sis of the Gospel he was to preach. Look for­ward to shar­ing with you. And please, if you have any com­ments, be sure to sign-up, log-in and share your thoughts.

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