In November, 1515 there was a priest by the name of Martin Luther who himself was known as an Augustian monk, who was the professor of sacred theology in the Catholic university of Wittenberg. And to his students he began to expound the epistle to the Romans. And from November of 1515 to the following September of 1516, he daily spent himself in the understanding of that epistle. And as he daily prepared his lectures, he became more and more appreciative of the centrality of the Pauline doctrine of justification by…what?…faith. He writes, “I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, `the righteousness of God.’ Because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous. Night and day I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby through grace and sheer mercy he justifies us by faith. There upon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise, the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning and whereas before the righteousness of God had filled me with hate, it now began to fill me inexpressably with a sweet love. The passage of Paul became to me the gateway to heaven.”
Luther said, “Romans is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel.” John Calvin said, “If a man understands it, he has a sure road open to him to the understanding of the whole of Scripture.”
It quotes the Old Testament more than any other New Testament book, 57 times. The most common words in Romans are the word God–153 times, the word law–72 times, the word Christ–65 times, the word sin–48 times, the word Lord–43 times and the word faith– 40 times. It’s about God, the law, Christ, sin, the Lord, faith and all the ramifications of those terms.
Write out the gospel in your own words, and place it in the envelope. Place the envelope somewhere it won’t get thrown away. You’ll need to recover this envelope with your written gospel at the end of the series.
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”
We’ve already read in the previous weeks how Saul came to be Paul. This was not only a transformation of a “religious zealot” into a “humble servant” but a radical transformation from a “persecutor” to “teacher”
Think of what it felt like to start the letter to the church in Rome with his name… Think of how hard it would be to sign your checks, send an email, or sign a card with a name different than the one you’ve had your entire life… Imagine what was going through his mind as he began with his new name, his new identity in Christ. BOLDLY proclaiming “I am not Saul, the chosen one, I am not Saul the one that was prayed for, my name is not in honor of the King of the past, my name is a representation that I am a new creation! I am not the same! What righteousness I had before is garbage compared to knowing and being loved by Christ! Don’t mistake it, don’t get it wrong, my name is Paul.”
“A servant of Christ Jesus.”
Servant?? What happened to “I came not to be served by man, but to serve and give my life as ransom for many.”
God is not served as if he needed anything.
Acts 17:25 “nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.”
There is a difference between one who does a service and one that is a slave.
1 Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 7:22 “For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.”
If we understand the phrase “Servant of Christ Jesus” to mean “one who gives a service to God” Then we run the risk of Contradiction…
Because God’s word says in Acts 17 that “He is not served by human hands” there must be a difference in meaning of “servant” in Romans 1:1 and “serve” in Acts 17..
Consider this… A service generally involves a transaction.. So you have your shoes shined.. You pay $5 to the man, he shines your shoes, you walk away. The payment is equal to the service..
Or consider the oil change. Most places that claim to be in the “car service” business know that for every oil change, there will be an equal payment of time spent, and materials used. You drive away, not to see them again, until the next time you need it changed..
Now what would you think of a man that came to your door and said “I am a Shoe Shiner, this may sound crazy but I want to be your shoe shining slave.”
Or the car service man.. “My name is Greg, I will be your car service slave.”
What does that mean?? That means, whenever you desire, at any time, you can have your shoes shined, your oil changed, free of charge. No payment necessary, this is your slave. Slaves are not free to leave, they are not free to make demands, you are the master of your slave.
So it is with God. You are a slave to Christ! You come to God and you spread your arms wide, and say “Take my life. All that I am. Anything I have is rightly your’s. I am your slave.”
But God is not just the master of slaves. He is the Father of His children. He says to you “Come, enjoy all my blessings. This house of mine, is your’s, you come live with me. Abide with me. Though you are a slave to me, you are a slave to Righteousness, a slave to Grace, a slave to Joy, because you are my slave you will be satisfied! You have been bought with a price and you are not your own!”
“Paul a servant of Christ Jesus”
“Paul a slave of Christ Jesus”
What a good thing it is, to be a slave to Christ! There is nothing greater!
“Called to be an apostle”
Apostle: One who is sent away. A messenger.
Can you imagine? This man, who once traveled through cities, with the message of persecution, the message of law and punishment. Called to a new message! Deny your ways! Here is The Way! You have brought judgement to many, for the sake of your personal righteousness. You have been Called. You have been blind physically to match the blindness of your heart. This is your life without me. Blind!
Now you have received your sight, you have been called to carry my message to the nations. Reaching those that are blind, calling them to open the eyes of their heart!
A shiver runs down his spine and in his veins, remembering that moment.. the moment he heard God call “Saul!! Why are you persecuting me?”
It echoes in his mind all day long.. Literally! Literally hearing the audible voice of God! And it wasn’t a good news! God was calling out to Saul “WHY ARE YOU PERSECUTING ME??”
“Set apart for the gospel of God”
Not only are you a slave, not only are you called, but you are set apart!
The roads you have walked are headed no where. Now you travel on the straight and narrow. You have been called to bring this good news! The gospel of God! The power unto salvation! Though the world be behind you, Christ is before you!
Though you have doubters, enemiess of the cross and friends alike, though you are on your own, you will never be alone! No amount of money, no job, no security, no comfort, no amount of friends and family will ever compare to this calling! No greater joy that to be set apart! The gospel is your life.. What will you do when you grow up?
I will proclaim the Gospel!
What has more weight?
Are you pressured to let people know where you work?
As if there is more security and more respect to have degrees, and to have an outstanding position, the Executive Director, The President of a prominent financial institution?
Are these more desirable responses to people than the gospel?
Does the promise of eternal life with Christ look pitiful compared to 60 years of wealth?
Do you say to God “Who have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You!” Psalm 73
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, Called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”
For Next Week: Read Romans 1:2-17