“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach His Good News.”
Romans 1:1 NLT
Today we are starting a journey through the Book of Romans. This was a letter, or epistle, written (or probably dictated) by the Apostle Paul, and addressed to the early Roman church. It is a cornucopia of good Christian teaching and essential reading for every pilgrim on his or her journey to glory. We start by noticing three things about Paul from verse 1. His person, his status and his mission.
Regarding his person, we know a bit about his heritage. He was originally born in a place called Tarsus, and his given name was Saul. He was of demonstrably Hebrew stock and was brought up to be a strict adherent of the Jewish religion, even being taught by Gamaliel, a renowned religious teacher in those days. He was very zealous of the purity of the Jewish religion and he embarked on a crusade to eliminate the early Christians, convinced that they were all members of a dangerous and erroneous sect. He was present when the first recorded Christian martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death. We read in Acts 8:1a, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen…”. Then in Acts 9 we read of the remarkable and miraculous conversion of Saul from being a Christian killer to a Christian lover. From being a denier that Jesus was the Son of God, to a preacher of salvation in His name. We can read about the twists and turns of Saul’s early Christian life and how he became an Apostle in the Book of Acts. And for those who wonder, he started to be called Paul in Acts 13. The first mention is in verse 9a, “Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit…”. And that is the name he was referred to thereafter.
Regarding his status, right here at the beginning of his Roman epistle, Paul called himself a “slave of Christ Jesus”. Why was that? A slave in those days had no rights and his or her master could do with them what they liked. In the same way, Paul was totally sold out to his relationships and service to Jesus. Everything he did was in accordance with his Master’s instructions. His life was aligned to that of Jesus, the Son of God, who had appeared personally to him during his Damascus road journey.
Regarding his mission, Paul claimed in today’s verse that he was “chosen by God to be an apostle”. When was that? In Acts 9:15-16 we read what Jesus said to an early Christian called Ananias, “But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake””. I don’t think there could have been a better description or confirmation of Apostleship than that.
Paul claimed he was sent out to “preach His [Jesus’s] Good News”. And that was the driver that drove Paul through extreme conditions, at times involving real personal danger. In Acts 14:19 we read, “Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town, thinking he was dead“. All he had done was heal a crippled man in the name of Jesus in the process of sharing the Gospel, as we read in Acts 14:15, “ … We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them“.
Preaching the Good News is a responsibility of all Christians, including us pilgrims on our journey towards our eternal home. We may not all be Apostles, though some will be. But we all have the anointing within us to discern what is happening in the society around us and proclaim the Good News in times of unremitting bad news. It may be counter-cultural. It may be inconvenient at times. It may be costly, in terms of our time and money. But, like Paul, we are all “slave[s] of Christ Jesus”,going about our Master’s business. Our faith is nothing to be ashamed about, because one day it will ensure our future with the Master Himself. But sharing the Good News is not something we can opt out from. We read what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven“. Sharing our faith, our testimonies about what Jesus has done for us, is not a drudge. It is a privilege, and the joy that comes from seeing someone become a new member of our faith knows no limits.
Dear Father God. We thank You for entrusting to us the mission to spread Your Good News to those around us in our community, in our nation. Please empower us, and lead us into situations where we can move someone a bit closer to the door into Heaven. In Jesus name. Amen.