Summary: In the opening verses of this letter Paul introduces himself to the believers in Rome. When he wrote this letter he had never been to Rome, so naturally he gave a brief description of himself and his special status in the church.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE PASSAGE:
John Kenneth Galbraith, in his autobiography, A Life in Our Times, illustrates the devotion of Emily Gloria Wilson, his family’s housekeeper: “It had been a wearying day, and I asked Emily to hold all telephone calls while I had a nap. Shortly thereafter the phone rang. Lyndon Johnson was calling from the White House. ‘Get me Ken Galbraith. This is Lyndon Johnson.’ ‘He is sleeping, Mr. President. He said not to disturb him.’ ‘Well, wake him up. I want to talk to him.’ ‘No, Mr. President. I work for him, not you.’ When I called the President back, he could scarcely control his pleasure. ‘Tell that woman I want her here in the White House.” (Reader’s Digest, December, 1981)
In the opening verses of this letter Paul introduces himself to the believers in Rome. When he wrote this letter he had never been to Rome, so naturally he gave a brief description of himself and his special status in the church. Some of them he must have known personally (Chapter 16) but probably many of them he had never met. At the time this letter was written the writer always opened with his name, rather than closing with his name as we do today. No doubt there were many men by the name of Paul so he had to further identify himself and convince the readers that he had a right to send the letter. He presents his credentials as follows:
1. He is a servant of Jesus Christ (1:1a). The word Paul used for “servant” is the word “slave.” There were an estimated six million slaves in the Roman Empire at that time so people could easily identify. Paul had enslaved himself to Christ.
2. He is an apostle (1:1b). The word means "one who is sent by authority with a commission." One of the requirements for an apostle was to have seen the risen Christ. Paul saw Christ when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1 9).
3. He is a preacher of the Gospel (1:1c 4). Gospel means "the Good News." This is the message that Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose again, and is able to save all.
4. He is a missionary to the Gentiles (1:5 7). Paul’s special commission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, and this is why he was planning to go to Rome. (v. 5).
Having stated his commission, he next discusses their call. “Ye are called of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Later in the epistle Paul discusses in detail what is involved in his call (8:28-30).
Ask To whom has God called me to be a witness? What can I do this week to fulfill this call?