Summary: Paul calls himself a servant of Jesus Christ. This is what we are, primarily, as Christians, whether we sit in a pew or stand in a pulpit.
In the conventions of his day, the letter writer Paul introduces himself at the beginning of his correspondence, and then mentions the ones to whom his epistle is addressed. In the case of the Epistle to the Romans, Paul’s introduction is a little longer than usual. Paul is not writing to people he knows, nor to churches which he has himself established. He is writing to a group of Christians about whom he only knows by report.
Paul calls himself “a servant of Jesus Christ.” This is what we are, primarily, as Christians, whether we sit in a pew or stand in a pulpit. We need not trumpet abroad our Christianity in a self-righteous manner, nor surround ourselves with the pomp that belongs to kings. We are servants, or, as the word is, slaves of Christ. He is our Master.
On the other hand, Paul also calls himself “a servant called to be an apostle.” Paul’s apostleship is indeed wrapped up in his calling by Christ. He was the one born out of time, who deems himself not worthy to be called an apostle because he persecuted the church of Christ. But we are what we are in Christ, and Paul was not only suddenly and wonderfully converted on the road to Damascus, but was also shown what great things he must suffer for Christ, and was named the Apostle to the Gentiles.
By definition an apostle is a messenger, a sent one. Paul was sent to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. In writing to the Romans, Paul had to walk the line between his humility as a servant of Christ, and his authority as the Apostle to the Gentiles, with full awareness that he was still a stranger to the church in Rome.
Paul also speaks of being “separated unto the gospel of God.” Being a separated one was no new concept for Paul, the former Pharisee. Paul was separated not so much from anything as to the gospel, which is here called “the gospel of God.” Such is the commitment which we should all have to the good news entrusted to us.
Paul here emphasises that the gospel originates not with men, but with God. It is God’s good news for the world of mankind. By way of parenthesis, in Romans 1:2 Paul explains how the Scriptures of the Old Testament had prepared the way for the gospel.
The gospel of God to which Paul was separated, set apart, was “the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
The name Jesus speaks of salvation.
The name Christ is the same as Messiah, the anointed. Jesus is prophet, priest and king.
It stands to reason that if Jesus is our Saviour, He is also “our Lord.”
Jesus, we are told, was “made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” The Gospel according to the Apostle Paul here proclaims the miracle of the incarnation. He who is the Son of God from all eternity was “made (according to the flesh) of the seed of David.” He was made man. Through Mary, He was born into the family of David. Through Joseph, He was also adopted into the royal line of King David.
Romans 1:4 is the other side of a creed declaring the dual nature of Jesus. In the previous clause we have the incarnation, what He is “according to the flesh.” Here we have the proclamation by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God, as attested by His resurrection from the dead. He is the Son of God, no longer dwelling in meekness (gentleness) and lowliness, but invested with power from on high. He has overcome death on our behalf, the wages of sin, and He will return in glory to receive His own to Himself.
Returning to his own autograph, Paul speaks of himself as one of those who has “received grace and apostleship” from the risen Christ. We have noticed already that Paul’s conversion and his calling are both bound up with each other. This is sometimes the case with those called to other ministries of the gospel.
Grace is sometimes described as undeserved love, the free favour of God. That is a description of conversion, from first to last.
Having received grace, Christians are called to faith. This is not merely to make an emotional response to the gospel, but also to commit ourselves to a new obedience. Paul numbers the Romans amongst those who have made this positive response in Romans 1:6.
The ultimate goal of all preaching is seen in the words “for His name” at the end of Romans 1:5.
The first and foremost goal of preaching is to bring glory to His name.