Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 1:1
1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God…
Boice opens up his series of sermons on Romans, Romans 1:1 to be specific, with a story about Lord Lyttleton and Gilbert West. They were friends who had taken it upon themselves to disprove Christianity. To them two items had to be disproven to disprove Christianity, first was the resurrection of Christ, and second was the conversion of Paul. As is the usual case during the work something began to change them. In then end the books they wrote were not what they had set out to write. Both wrote books in defense of Christianity. It goes without saying that the resurrection of Christ is foundational to Christianity, but how important is the conversion of Paul to Christianity. Needless to say Paul was the most articulate in laying out the theology of Christianity as well as being the one who wrote the most profound doctrinal books covering everything from how the church should conduct itself to how husband and wife should treat one another. It was God who chose Paul to carry this message, and it was God who guided Paul in the writing of the many letters to the different Christian churches of the time. Paul was unabashedly committed to Christ and we begin to take a look at this in verse of one Romans chapter 1.
- Paul – The Man from Tarsus
- Paul is indeed the writer of Romans and we meet Paul in the very first word of this important book of the New Testament.
- Remember, much of the New Testament was written mainly for a Gentile audience and in his early days Paul, a fanatical jew, would never have any concern for a group of Gentiles. Especially Gentiles who would claim Chist as their risen Savior.
- Who was Paul?
- In Acts 21:39 we find that Paul is from Tarsus in Cilicia. Tasus was a Greek city and the place of a well known university. We can assume Paul, being from a wealthy family was well educated.
- We know that Paul trained under the esteemed Rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem where he acquired a thorough knowledge of Jewsih law and traditions (Acts 22:3).
- He was the son of a Pharisee (Acts 22:6)
- He was so zealous of Pharisaic ideas that he was on a personal mission to eradicate Christians.
- Charles Hodge: “Paul, the most extensivel useful of all the apostles, was…a thoroughly educated man.”
- From time to time Christians become skeptical of secular education or even of natural gifts or talents, supposing that these must be opposed to anything doen by God’s Spirit. Three questions to ask:
- What mand did God most use in the period of history covered by the Old Testament? Moses obviously.
- What kind of educaton did Moses have? It was a secular education. Not only was it secular it was the best secular education being raised by the daughter of Pharoah.
- What mand, aside from Jesus Christ, did God most use in the periof history covered by the New Testament? Obviously Paul, a man who had the best education of his time.
- Education isn’t evil. Education is neutral. As will most things, what we do with education can make it evil or good.
- A Servant of Christ Jesus
- As important as Paul’s education was, there was something that was even more important. Paul was a converted man.
- Paul was in love iwth Jesus Christ, and it was his love for Christ that alone explains the nature and rigor of his life’s work.
- Paul was very accomplished and he could have introduced himself in many different ways, but he chose the way that would define his life “A Servant of Christ”.
- These questions we ask ourselves are good ways of testing our own Christianity:
- Do we love Jesus?
- Are our thoughts constanly occupied with him?
- Is he at the forfront? Is he the center?
- Is he the beginning and the end?
- When we talk to one another, do we speak often of him?
- Are we content to let the honors of the wprld passby, so long as we can be known as Christ’s servant?
- One of the chief problems with contemporary Christianity is that it has become a religion of personalities, plans, programs, buildings, books, and bargains.
- Contemporary Christianity is the the faith of those who love Jesus and as a result it has become a shallow and selfish faith which shifts according to the ebbs and flows of cultural standards.
- Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ accomplishes a number of things:
- Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ puts him in the same category as those to ohome he is writing.
- Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ Jesus emphasizes that his chief funtion as a disciple of Christ is service.
- Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ reminds his readers that he is nevertheless Christ’s servant-a servant of Christ first and a servant of man second-and that he is writing to them in this capacity.
- Called To Be An Apostle
- This phrase follows the idea that Paul saw himself first and foremost a server of Christ and then a servant of secondly.
- What is an Apostle?
- For some it means little more than disciple.
- Acts 1:15-26 is the best passage to beging to understand what an Apostle is.
- Must have known the risen Lord and been a witness to the resurrection.
- Must have been chosen for the office of Apostle.
- They were not only to be witnesses to the world, but they were to witness in an extraordinary, supernatural sense.
- Because they were apostles God spoke authoritatively through them.
- By calling himself an Apostle, Paul reminds the reader that he is no ordinary person, but rather a person who has been given a message that should be received as the very words of God.
- Today we are to take these words from Paul as the very word of God still and when we read them we must consider the full weight of their meaning. They should weigh heavily in our lives and everything we do and every decision we make.
- Set Apart for the Gospel of God
- Before Christ Paul was a pharisee and the meaning of that word meant “separation” or “a separated one.”
- Before Christ Paul was set apart to the Pharisaic traditions and all the legalism that came with that tradition.
- After meeting Christ Paul was freed from the stringent legalism of the Pharisaic life and became separated unto the Christ and the Gospel.
- Do you know what it is to be released from a negative legalism into the liberation fo a positive Christianity?
Paul could have introduced himself by talking about his education because we know he had the best education that money could buy. Paul could have opened Romans talking about his family name and his heritage or station. There were a number of different ways Paul could have started the letter to the Roman church, but he picked the opening that would draw the attention of the people. This is an opening that would not only draw the attention, but would help him to identify with the Roman church as he did not start this church and had never visited it. More importantly, Paul wanted to convey a message of what his fundamental philosophy was toward life. He a servant of Christ, an apostle, and set apart for the gospel. These three descriptors drove Paul’s life and permeated through his life. They defined his mission in life, his final goal in life, and they consumed his life with a never ending hunger to know and serve Christ
I sometimes think about how we introduce ourselves. Today if we, as Christians, introduced ourselves to others the way Paul introduces himself people would probably think we were mad, crazy even. Although I suppose the context of that introduction would dictate what people thought about us. If we introduced ourselves that way while worshiping with the body of Christ, then we would be save, at least I would hope so. Trying that introduction during a job interview or to people as we walk down the street would earn us a peculiar stare. The kind of stare that would convey “hey that person is a blithering nut”. When friends introduction us to others they usually say our name and then may mention what our occupation is, who we are married to, who our children are, and so on. Would a friend introduce us as “Bob, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God”? Of course not! Yet we have Paul opening a letter up by letting strangers know what he considers to be the most important things about who he is.
I think about how I introduce myself and I give information to others what I think is important about myself. “Hi, I’m Todd and I’m a systems engineer” is what I usually say. When I first read these opening words of Paul I didn’t think much of them, but this is what personal reflection is all about when it comes to scripture. Reading the Gods word and figuring out how it applies to your personal life. As I considered these words, mulling this over in my head over night, I began to wonder what was most important in my life. What is the one message I want to get across to people of who I am. Can I say that I am a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be one of His, and set apart for the gospel of God? Internally, I can say it, but does it show externally? I would have to answer that question in the negative most days and I am filled with shame and guilt as I write. Am I sold out enough to Christ to confidently introduce myself the way Paul introduced himself? Hi, I’m Todd, a servant of Christ, called to be a witness and set apart for the gospel of God. When we pray let us pray that we would be filled with a desire to proclaim ourselves to be servants of Christ, witnesses to the gospel and set apart for the gospel of God.