Romans 1, Part 1
Oct 05, 2010
Paul begins his epistle this way:
(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. . .
Wow. Paul loves to speak volumes in a single sentence.
Paul, the Bond-Servant
First, he considers himself a bond-servant, because he is like a freed slave who has returned to his Master voluntarily. His ear has been bored to the Door, Jesus Christ, showing that his ear has been opened to hear and know the love of Christ. This law is found in Exodus 21:5, 6,
(5) But if the [freed] 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.
Boring a hole in the ear lobe spiritually signified opening the ears to hear the Word of God, as we read in Psalm 40:6-8,
(6) Sacrifice and meal offering Thou hast not desired; my ears Thou hast opened. . . (8) I delight to do Thy will, O God; Thy Law is within my heart.
The voluntary bond-slave delights to do God's will, because His Law is written in his heart, rather than being imposed upon him from the outside. This passage applies to Jesus Himself, as we read in John 4:34,
(34) Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work."
Most Christians desire to God's will. The problem is in knowing His will. We must be led by the Spirit in our daily life, but also we must know the Scriptures to see the examples of men in the past who were led by the Spirit and who did the will of God. Paul defines the will of God more specifically in Romans 2:18, saying,
(18) and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law.
When Paul calls himself a bond-slave of Jesus Christ, he recognizes Christ as his Master. A slave does what his Master says. What the Master commands is His Law, whether it is written in Scripture or by direct hearing. His will is expressed in many ways. The slave is given commands only because he does not already know the will of the Master. But as time passes, the slave gets to know his Master and knows His will without being told.
Even so, the slave may not agree with the Master. He may know the Master's will and yet be resentful of it or disagree with it. Agreement is proven when the time of release occurs, for then the slave may go his own way or return as a voluntary bond-slave for the rest of his life.
In this case, Paul says that he has returned to become a voluntary bond-slave because he not only knows His will, being instructed out of the Law, but he is also in agreement with Him. For this reason he later gives testimony to the Law in Romans 6:12, saying,
(12) So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
It is this very agreement that makes Paul a voluntary bond-slave of Jesus Christ. Thus, at the very outset Paul establishes his knowledge of the Law and his agreement with it. This sets the tone for his entire epistle, which is largely a commentary on the purpose of the Law itself. That purpose, as we will see, is first to establish the will and mind of God; secondly, it is the standard of righteousness by which the whole world is measured, judged, and found wanting (3:19).
Against this backdrop of universal condemnation comes the provision of Jesus Christ, who upheld the Law by paying its Law's full penalty so that the world would be saved.
Paul the Apostle
An apostle is "one who is sent." Every true apostle has a divine commission with the authority to do a particular work. Paul's commission was to preach the Gospel to the ethnos ("nations"). This was simply the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19 and 20.
As the details of this calling were revealed, Paul came to understand this to mean that the gospel and the promises of God were to be distributed as a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:3), giving all men of faith equal access to God as full citizens of the Kingdom. It was his commission to break down the dividing wall that characterized Judaism (Eph. 2:14). He discovered also that he was God's antidote to the Judaizers within Christianity who had tried to remain tied to the temple in Jerusalem and the mindset instilled in them by that dividing wall.
Paul Set Apart
If an apostle is one who is sent or commissioned, a priest is one who is set apart (consecrated) for divine service. Anyone who is set apart must be willing to take the lead, even if no one follows. He must be willing to follow a lonely road or blaze a new trail in the wilderness, so that others may come afterward with greater ease and with maps.
Paul was commissioned by Christ Himself on the Damascus Road, but it was many years later before he received the double witness that actually established his commission and sent him out on his first missionary journey. Acts 13:2 says,
(2) And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apartfor Me Barnabas and Saul [Paul] for the work to which I have called them."
Verse 9 says, "But Saul, who was also known as Paul. . ." Paul was his new identity in Christ, whereas Saul was his fleshly name given to him in Judaism. Acts 13:9 is the last time that Luke calls him Saul, because from then on he wanted to be known by his new identity. Paul discusses his two identities in Romans 7, as we will see later.
The Gospel Promised by the Prophets
Paul says that the gospel was "promised beforehand through His prophets." Modern perception is that the gospel is purely a New Testament innovation. But Hebrews 4:2 (written by Paul, I believe) says that the Israelite "Church in the wilderness" under Moses also heard the gospel: "For indeed we have had gospel preached to us, just as they also. . ."
Paul says that this gospel was "concerning His Son." Every time the Old Testament prophesied of Jesus Christ, it was an element of the gospel. It was the "good news" of a Savior who would save us from sin and its effects. It was also good news of a righteous King who would arise after the kingdoms of men had proven themselves to be incapable of ruling God's creation with true justice and equity by the love of God.
The Scriptures tell us that the Messiah was to come of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and then more specifically of the lineage of David (Ps. 89:29). Jesus' mother was Mary, who was of the lineage of David, and it was through her that Jesus was "the son of man." This term refers to His lineage from Adam ("man"). Adam was given dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26), and this Dominion Mandate was passed down as part of his Birthright in an unbroken succession through Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and finally Jesus.
That was His earthly heritage that gave Him authority ("dominion") in the earth as its highest King.
This is the first part of a series titled "Romans 1." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones