Summary: Paul explained his call to the Romans and what he called them to do
December 23, 2001 Romans 1:1-7
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dear Friends in Christ,
When I was in grade school I had a classmate who was in his own little world. He would be out on the playground and start playing an imaginary baseball game against himself. He wasn’t a bad kid or anything, and he generally got along with the other kids. But everyone just lived with the understanding that he was in his own little world.
God uses the same term to describe Christians. We are foreigners and aliens in this world. Even though we live in it, we are not of it - we live in our own little world. So many times we feel like we don’t belong. We feel odd. But when Paul addresses the Christians in Rome, he wanted them and us to know -
You Have Been Called to Belong
I. You belong to Christ
Paul started out his letter by telling them who it was from - Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God. Notice how Paul describes himself - as a “servant of Jesus Christ.” That word for servant is doulos - literally meaning a slave. In the Roman world, the whole idea of being a “slave” was completely insulting. A slave would lose any freedoms he or she had and would be completely dominated by his master. So it might sound surprising for Paul to start out by designating himself proudly as a slave.
Paul uses the same term to describe Christians in Romans 6:22 when he says, you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God. It still has a sour taste, doesn’t it? We tend to equate slavery with a chain around the neck and the ankles - or with the way the African Americans were treated when America was first coming into it’s own. Even being a “servant” isn’t real popular in our country. The typical American doesn’t like people telling them what to do, and we don’t like people telling us what to believe. Home businesses appeal to people by telling them that they can be their own boss.And so the Methodist church is appealing to people with the theme, “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” One other church’s flyer said, “we are in a constant search for the truth. We want you to decide for yourself what to believe instead of being told what to believe.” The idea is, “we don’t enslave you by telling you what to believe - we let you do and believe what you want.”
How come Paul didn’t mind calling himself a slave? First of all, because he knew what it was like to be a slave of the law - a slave of a false religion - that told him the only way to get right was to live by the strict legalism of the Pharisees. It meant never feeling adequate. It meant always having to do something to try and feel better. It meant having the threat of hell constantly paraded before him. Within this work righteous religion Paul was actually a slave of Satan, and on his way to hell, even though he didn’t know it. His “faith” had him going here and there and trying harder and harder to get right with God, feeling more and more guilty. He was locked into this religion.
But then, while he was on the way to Damascus, Jesus called (Paul) to be an apostle and set (him) apart for the gospel of God. When Jesus appeared to him on the way to persecute Christians, Paul realized who this Jesus really was! He was the true Messiah, descended from David. He really did die and rise from the grave - paying for Paul’s sins. Paul then realized that he wouldn’t be saved through living the life of a Pharisee, but only through faith in the life and death of Christ! With a new look at the promises of the Old Testament - Christmas took on a whole different meaning to him! It wasn’t about the birth of a false prophet. It was about God becoming man through the line of David, to shed his blood and save the world! In that moment God broke the chains of the law from Paul’s neck. He no longer belonged to the Pharisees. He now belonged to Christ! But when God set him free with the Gospel, he was now comforted with the promise of holiness and forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Since Jesus bought him, he had a free salvation. Jesus now owned him, but He didn’t abuse him as Satan did. He treated him well - fed him, clothed him, comforted him, and forgave him.