Paul Introduces Himself to the Romans
About 57 AD, Paul wrote his letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul was on his thied missionary journey recorded in Acts 20. He was traveling through Macedonia and Greece collecting an offering for the destitute church in Jerusalem. Paul stopped in Corinth, Greece and wrote his letter to Rome. He wanted them to know it was his intention to travel to Rome after he delivered the offering to Jerusalem. The churches in Asia Minor and Greece were well established so Paul was planning a new missionary journey to Spain. He wanted to make Rome his new base of operations. Although the Romans knew of Paul, they had never met him personally. Paul wanted to write them in advance of his arriving to give them his systematic presentation of the gospel he was preaching to the Gentile world. Paul said in Romans 1:15 that he was eager to preach the gospel in Rome, and he was eager to impart his spiritual gifts to them. Why was Paul so eager to preach the gospel? “It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”. This is an amazing statement that there is life changing power in the message—the good news about Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “power” here is dunamis, the word we get dynamite from. This is appropriate because the GOSPEL IS DYNAMITE.
History is full of examples of this power changing people’s lives. Many famous men were saved while studying or listening to the gospel in Romans. Augustine was converted through reading Romans. Thomas Aquinas’ thought and writings were most influenced by Romans. Martin Luther was a Catholic priest, but could find no peace or assurance that he was forgiven. Finally, in studying and teaching Romans his life was transformed. Luther launched the Reformation from Romans 1:17. John Wesley had been a missionary and a minister for years, but was actually not converted until he went to a Bible study on Romans and he “felt his heart change”. Robert Haldane started a great revival in Switzerland and France in 1816 by teaching Romans. Karl Barth, in 1918 wrote a book on Romans which changed the 20th century church.
So Much Meaning in One Short Verse
Paul’s introduction has always amazed me in how he identifies himself. If you and I were trying to introduce ourselves to potential supporters, we would want to impress them. We would tell them of all our education, degrees, and accomplishments. Paul had accomplished incredible things for the Lord, and yet he introduced himself as “a bondservant of Christ”. The Greek word for servant here is “doulos” which was the word for a bondservant owned by a master. Typically a bondservant had been bought and paid for. The servant’s will was altogether consumed in the will of the master. Paul is expressing his sense of indebtedness to Christ. He lived with the awareness that he was not his own, he was owned by Christ. Paul lived for Christ. Paul told the Corinthians, “I am under compulsion, for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel”. His relationship with Christ determined his identity. Paul knew he had been bought with a price—“the precious blood of Jesus”. Paul also wrote that he was “called as an apostle”. Paul had a sense of mission. He was called to do something important, and he was called by the Creator of the universe. Therefore Paul would not be turned away. When warned not to preach the gospel, Paul said, “I must, I can’t not preach the gospel.” The Spirit informed him that prison awaited him in Jerusalem, but Paul went straight there. God called a unique man to be the major spokesman for His “good news”.
“Apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, and means a person who is sent by God. The phrase “called as an apostle” establishes the authority of the message of the author of Romans. It is like saying—no mere man is writing to you, this is from God and has the authority of God behind it. Apostle could be used for anyone sent by God but in the New Testament it takes on a special meaning for a particular office in the early church made up of the eleven original disciples of Jesus plus Paul. Thus the author of Hebrews explains how the inspired Word of God was passed on from Jesus to the apostles and then to us in the Bible—“after the Word was at the first spoken through the Lord(Jesus), it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb. 2:3-4).
Paul ends his introduction of himself in verse 1 by saying “ he was set apart for the gospel of God”. He is separated unto God to do something of great importance. Many people are set apart humanly speaking as successful, rich, brilliant, talented, but Paul was distinguished as a servant to preach the gospel of God. By itself, the word gospel means good news, but as in this case joined to “of God” it takes on a special meaning. It is the good news that God will deliver us from our sin, free us from our burden of guilt, and give meaning to life because it is “of God”. It was not man’s good news, but God’s good news for man.
Why would God lower Himself to bring such good news to a world that rejects and scorns Him? The unconditional love of God can be the only answer, and Paul was the perfect example of the object of God’s undeserved love. Paul had opposed Christ and persecuted the church, but God made him the Church’s chief spokesman. THEREFORE, PAUL KNEW JUST HOW GOOD THE GOOD NEWS REALLY WAS.
Will you join me in studying this incredible letter so rich in doctrine and theology that it played a major part in changing the world? Will you pray that it would also light a fire in us?