Today we will be starting our in depth look at the book of Romans. Chapter 1 verses 1 through 17 contain the normal features of New Testament letter introductions. The identification of the writer, the identification of the readers, a thanksgiving, and the theme of the letter. In verses 1 through 6 we see the identification of the writer, “Paul.” In verse 7 we see the identification of the readers, “the saints of Rome”. In verses 8 through 15 we see a thanksgiving, “thanks for the Roman Christians”. And in verses16 and 17 we see the theme of the letter, “the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ”. In verses 18 through 32 we see that Paul begins to teach about universal sinfulness. That Gentiles and Jews are equally under sin’s power and cannot find favor with God by any action of their own. Paul stresses that only through faith can you be made right in God’s sight.
In verse 1 Paul identifies himself as a servant of Jesus Christ, this name was what the Lord Jesus himself directed His disciples to use as their identifying name and it was the customary name which they assumed. The proper meaning of the word servant, is a slave, one who is not free. It expresses the condition of one who has a master, or who is at the control of another. It was often applied to courtiers, or the officers that serve under a king. In an eastern monarchy the relation of an absolute king to his courtiers corresponded nearly to that of a master and a slave. “Slave” is expressive of dignity and honor and the servants of a king denote officers of a high rank and station. It is also applied to the prophets as those who were honored by God, or especially entrusted by him with office. In Isaiah 42:1 and 53:1 the name is also given to the Messiah, whom is Jesus Christ. Paul uses it here to denote his acknowledging Jesus Christ as his master, as indicating his dignity, as especially appointed by him to his great work, and as showing that in this letter he intended to assume no authority of his own, but simply to declare the will of his master, and theirs.
Paul goes on and states I was called to be an apostle. By using called Paul means not merely to be invited, but the sense of appointed. It indicates that he had not assumed the office himself, but that he was set apart to it by the authority of Christ himself. It was important for Paul to state this because the other apostles had been called or chosen to this work and he was not one of those originally appointed.
Paul then states I was separated into the gospel of God. Meaning, I was designated by God that I should make it “my business” to preach the gospel. Set apart to this, as the special, great work of my life; as having no other object for which I should live. It is called the gospel of God because it is his appointment, it has been originated by him, and has his authority. The function of an apostle was to preach the gospel and Paul regarded himself as separated to this work. It was not to live in splendor, wealth, and ease, but to devote himself to this great business of proclaiming good news, that God was reconciled to people in his Son. This is the sole business of all ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.