If you wish a real blessing in your life – or a fresh touch of the Holy Spirit – turn to Romans Chapter 1 – In this first verse, every word is significant and weighty.
The main theme of this book is to learn the right way of getting right with God – through faith in Jesus Christ – ‘righteousness’ – or being right in the eyes of God.
The letter opens with the name of the writer – a familiar form at that time – and although he goes on to deal with major topics – there are greetings – from a brother in Christ – it has to be more than formal.
Paul was a ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ of Jesus Christ. Paul has been described as a religious aristocrat – a scholar who had been to University – but now, he is not his own – he had been brought with a price – the blood of the Jesus Christ.
Slaves had no rights in the Roman Empire – of the 120 million people in the Roman Empire 60 million were slaves.
Paul had signed away all his rights, to become a willing slave of Christ Jesus.
Paul had been brought up to look for the Messiah – and in this letter, Paul is saying to the world – “I have found the Messiah – I have found the Christ”.
The one thing Messiah-seeking Saul of Tarsus needed to know – was that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was alive. Circumstances were transformed radically, at Damascus, when that knowledge became part of his personal spiritual experience
It is better to be a slave of Jesus Christ than to be ‘slaves to sin’ – ambition – drugs – alcohol – money – fragile temporary success – or whatever it might be.
Paul was called. He did not just receive the call of Jesus Christ – he obeyed it – and he makes it clear that it is God who has called him – and who motivated and inspired him. Paul introduces himself – and gives his credentials – because his desire is to go west to Spain – and to have a base in Rome, just as he had a base in Antioch.
We are called to belong – and we belong to obey.
He was an apostle – a sent one – the Latin root is missile – or missionary – but notice that Grace comes before Apostleship. Verse 5.
Paul was set apart – separated – one who was different. We are different – separated from certain things – set apart for the will of God and the work of God.
We are separated for the Gospel of God – the good news of God – getting right with God and being right with God – the good news of being forgiven – cleansed – born again, to eternal and everlasting life.
‘Set apart’ comes from the same root as ‘Pharisee’ – now, he was set apart for God.
‘Reserved for Jesus Christ’ – it is the word that would be used if you went to a function and you saw on a seat the sign – “Reserved”.
Paul was reserved for God.
He wanted to be used by God following that dramatic encounter in Damascus.
The word for servant – DOULOS – or more accurately translated ‘slave’ – is used over 100 times in the New Testament – and means – one who gives himself up to another’s will. Paul’s life and service is used by Jesus Christ in extending and advancing Christ’s cause among men – devoted to another, to the disregard of one’s own interests. ‘Doulos’ is a very strong word.
In verse 3 he writes about Jesus Christ our Lord – Lord signifies the owner of the slave – who had absolute authority over that person.
We hear a lot today about ‘slaves’ and ‘slavery’.
The New Testament has much to say about slaves – and also with regard to ‘Masters’.
God knew what was going on – He has something to say about this matter.
The Roman letter was recognised early in the Church – how significant and important it was for belief and doctrine. It is a foundation document – which unlocks so much Christian truth.
Romans is not a lecture from a professor to his students – but from a pastor to people he cared about spiritually – wanting to see his people grounded and founded in Christ – growing up as mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Verses 11 and 12.
We hear today about what identifies us – ‘Black Lives’ – ‘Climate Change’ – political alignment. Paul’s identity was being ‘in Christ’ – ‘for me to live is Christ’.
Children ask, ‘what is this for’ – even adults ask, ‘what is this for’ – but do not go on to ask – ‘What am I for?’ Ask Paul, and the answer would come – “I am for Christ.”
That explained Paul, as well as describing Paul – but note this, he was not only a servant or bond-slave of Jesus – he was an apostle – called by God – loved by God.
Verse 6 – You are called to belong to Christ – cared for – loved – protected – forgiven – knowing who you are in Christ, as you belong to Christ.
The Gospel is not a novelty. We are not involved with something superficial – on the periphery of life – no – this is the Will of God for the salvation of man and mankind.
F. F. Bruce said – “Watch, when you read and study the book of Romans, because you never know what is going to happen.”
John Wesley was mentioned in our recent Bible reading notes. Romans played a significant part in his conversion journey to real faith in Jesus Christ.
On 24 May 1738, Anglican Clergyman, John Wesley, who was not yet converted, was in Aldersgate, London, that Sunday Evening. The preacher was reading Martin
Luther’s Preface to the Book of Romans, when Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed. John Wesley was converted. He never intended leaving the Church of England, but very seldom can an old formal system cope with the New Wine of the Holy Spirit, which God gives.
Take up the book of Romans – read it – study it – at least read these opening verses today – and then read on – you never know what may happen – you never know what the consequences may be.
“Almighty God – even as we read these opening verses of Paul’s letter to the Romans – speak to us. Loving Jesus, move by your Holy Spirit and stir our hearts and move our emotions and bend our wills – as You have done down through the ages, as men and women have picked up Your Holy Word, and suddenly the fire of loving discipleship is lit. Hear our prayers and use us in this needy world. Amen”
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