The views expressed in this article are mine. Not everyone will agree with its content and I am alright with that.
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is denied by almost no one that Paul the apostle is the author of the letter to the Romans in the New Testament. From the onset, Paul identifies himself in three ways. First, Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus. This view of himself comes from an Old Testament motif of a slave who in love binds himself to his master for life. It comes from Exodus 21:2-6 which says, 2 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. 3 If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.” Paul, therefore, has indicated in this very first description of himself that he has sold himself out completely for his Master, Christ Jesus. He is bound to Him and desires to be with Him permanently.
In modern day, we really do not understand this motif as well as people would in Paul’s day. The word used in the Greek language is doulos which means slave or servant. But this word is translated by the New Testament writers (such as Paul) to mean bond-servant. Few today truly understand the force of this Biblical idea of selling oneself to serve another permanently for life. Moreover, this does not connote a sense of drudgery but rather honor and privilege. In Paul’s estimation, it is an honor and privilege to serve Christ Jesus in the way that he is.
Various verses in the Old Testament reflect this idea of being a bond-servant:
- Israel is called a bond-servant in Isaiah 43:10 – “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.”
- Moses is called a bond-servant in Joshua 14:7 – “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.”
- David is called a bond-servant in Psalm 89:3, 4 – 3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4 I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.” Selah.
- Elijah is called a bond-servant in 2 Kings 10:10 – “Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the LORD has done what He spoke through His servant Elijah.”
Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.
Second, Paul identifies himself as one called as an apostle. To be called denotes someone whose participation or presence has been officially requested by one who has the authority to summons; especially a request to which refusal is not an option. In other word, when the Lord Jesus Christ stopped Saul on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9) and summoned Paul to do the work of His ministry, there was not an option for refusal to this call. Rather, Paul is called as an apostle, that is, as an envoy of Jesus Christ who commissioned him directly to serve Him. Paul is therefore a spokesman for Jesus Christ and has been invested with the authority to speak on His behalf. He is Christ Jesus’ ambassador (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10-21).
Paul identifies himself as one called as an apostle.
Third, Paul identifies himself as being set apart for the gospel of God. When Paul was first set apart for the gospel of God, Ananias is told by Jesus Christ in Acts 9:15, 16: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Other apostles and ministers of the gospel of God also recognized Paul as being set apart for the gospel of God in Acts 13:2: “While ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Paul himself understands that he has been set apart for the gospel of God in Galatians 1:15-17: 15 ” But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” Notice how Paul sees himself as being set apart even from my mother’s womb. In other words, he knows that God had chosen him to be his instrument…to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.
Paul identifies himself as being set apart for the gospel of God.
Purpose of the Writing
Simply put, the purpose of the writing of Romans is to reveal the promised gospel of God. God promised this good news through the prophets of old. We read just in Isaiah the following: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (7:14). “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious but e way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (9:1, 2). “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard int he street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law” (42:1-4). “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted…Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because he poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (53:4, 12). “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (61:1-3). These are just a few of the verses in the prophet Isaiah’s writings telling of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The gospel of God is the good news of Jesus Christ! Paul continues his writing by declaring three things about Jesus Christ of whom he is speaking. First, Jesus Christ is born a descendant of David. This means that He comes from a kingly estate which makes David’s throne lasting from generation to generation. Second, Jesus Christ came according to the flesh indicating His earthly life, a reference to its weakness. However, this phrase still implies that He was more than mere human; He is still God but One who came in human flesh. It would have been sufficient to say that He was a descendant of David, but the implication is what is key. Third, Paul says He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from he dead. Jesus Christ is the appointed Son-of-God-in-power. He was designated as the One who would be resurrected from the dead never to die no more. Although He came in the weakness of human flesh, He was raised from the dead with power. It is the same power when Jesus Christ says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The authority is the power that has been given to Jesus Christ. Because of His resurrection from the dead, He is Lord! He conquered death, the grave, and hell. He is the first to be resurrected from the dead never to die again. This is the good news of Jesus Christ! He lived, He lives, and He shall forever live because He was resurrected from the dead. He is the One who gives us life now because He was raised from the dead. He has conquered death once and for all.
Paul then quickly moves to his own credibility. He received the grace of the gospel of God. His apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake can mean one of these four things: 1) bringing people to obedient to the faith; 2) the obedience faith produces or requires; 3) believing obedience; or, 4) obedience, namely faith, in which faith further defines obedience. I believe that all the options are viable options. When we preach the gospel of God which is Jesus Christ Himself we are bringing people to obedience to the faith. Moreover, we are seeing how obedient faith produces fruit in the lives of those to whom we preach. This faith is something that brings about obedience in the lives of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. And, finally, the faith that we have received by grace further defines what it means for us to be obedient to the One who has saved those of us who have believed Him unto salvation. Paul’s mission, then, is to bring as many Gentiles (he being a Jew) to obedience to faith for the sake of Jesus Christ’s name. In other words, as a Jew, Paul the apostle believed that he had found the Messiah of which the prophets of old spoke.
This is the gospel of God and this is Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to the Roman believers.
Recipients of the Letter
This letter is to those who are the called of Jesus Christ. The called of Jesus Christ are denotes someone whose participation or presence has been officially requested for something; especially a request to which refusal is not an option. So many people today disagree with this notion of not being able to refuse this call. However, in Paul’s mind, this is not an option when God calls a person to salvation. Man is not autonomous from a Sovereign God who calls, who summons, someone to Himself. His will cannot be thwarted by man even in the most minute circumstance. These who are called to salvation are both the Jews and Gentiles and Paul believes that those who have believed in the gospel of God are those to whom he is writing. These called of Jesus Christ have confessed with the mouth Jesus as Lord, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). And those who have believed are those who are beloved of God in Rome. The beloved are those who are dearly cherished and loved by God. This word beloved may also mean that these are preferred above all others and treated with partiality. God loves those who believe. God is with those who have trusted Jesus Christ. God calls these saints as well, a person who has been set apart to be holy and blameless in Jesus Christ. Paul is writing to the called who are saints in Rome and offers a benediction toward them: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He prays that God’s grace and peace will be upon them as this letter is sent to these believers.
The recipients of this letter are to both Jews and Gentiles alike who have trusted Jesus Christ unto salvation.