A Man In Christ
Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”
Next to our Lord Jesus Christ there might not be anyone as important in the Bible as the Apostle Paul. In the Book of Romans, which might be the seminal work of the entire New Testament the very first word we read is “Paul.” Paul is so important as the first and greatest of the church’s missionaries and is the articulator and systematizer of its theology. If Paul was not converted on the road to Damacus two-thousand years ago, then Paul was a charlatan, his writings are not true, and Christianity is bereft of its single most important teacher after Christ.
Paul is without a doubt the author of this book which is really a letter that he wrote to the church in the city of Rome. This was a largely Gentile church, the word Gentile meant two things. First of all it meant anyone who was not Jewish, secondly it also meant anyone who was not a believer in Christ. In this context it means that this church was filled with mostly people who were not Jewish. There were some Jews in the church but for the most part it was made up of Gentile converts to Christianity.
Who was Paul? In Acts 21:39 in answer to a Roman commander he identifies himself as a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which he called “no ordinary city.” Tarsus was a Greek city, the seat of a well-known university. Paul was apparently from a well to do family, we can assume then that he received an outstanding Greek education in Tarsus. He demonstrates some evidence of this by occasionally quoting from the pagan poets.
While Paul’s Greek education and was no doubt formative, the most important education Paul received was his education in Judaism. Paul was the son of a Pharisee, he was trained and sat the feet of the great Jewish theologian Gamaliel in Jerusalem where he gained a thorough knowledge of Jewish law and traditions. Paul, who was then Saul, became a Pharisee himself and as he says in Philippians, “as for zeal, a persecutor of the church.” In fact, in Acts 9, which records Paul’s conversion, he was on the way to that city to arrest Christians and most likely kill some of them. He was a zealous persecutor of the church who without a doubt absolutely hated Christians. We first meet a young Saul (Paul) at the end of Acts 7 in verse 58 where we are told that he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death after he preached the gospel. Chapter 8 verse 1 says, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.” Verse 3 says, “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
But God did graciously save a fire-breathing Saul on the road to Damascus and Saul became “Paul,” the first word in the book of Romans. Next it says that Paul was “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” Paul was what today we might call a “type A personality.” He was a super achiever, so he could have introduced himself in a lot different ways. He could have cited his family tree, his degrees, his success in founding churches – even his writings, after all he wrote 13 of the books in the New Testament. But Paul does not do this. Why? It couldn’t have been because he was embarrassed about these things; he mentions them elsewhere. It certainly couldn’t be because he didn’t value them. Paul blows past those achievements because what he is most concerned about simply overshadows them. Above everything else, Paul viewed himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s writings are filled with Jesus. Here in Romans for example, in the first seven verses, Jesus is mentioned by name, pronoun, or title, or a descriptive phrase eight times. Many of us are convinced of the truthfulness of Christianity. Perhaps we can even articulate the great doctrines of the faith. We know the language we know our theology, but do we love Jesus? Are our thoughts constantly consumed with Him? Is Jesus at the forefront of our minds? Is He the center of our lives? Is the beginning and the end? When we talk with one another, do we speak of Him most often? Are we completely content to let the honors of the world pass us by, so long as we can be known as servants of Christ Jesus?
This is what is wrong with modern Christianity. Contemporary Christianity is one of personalities, plans, and programs. Its one of buildings, books, and internet views. It is not a faith of those who love Jesus, it is instead shallow, selfish and constantly shifting to the comings and goings of our culture. As we grow in grace, we will think less of the world we live in and more of Him. Why? Because as Paul says in Galatians 2:20 He “loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Are you like Paul? Are you a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus?” Or have you just added a little smidgen of Jesus to an already cluttered life? Jesus does not bid us to add a little bit of Him to our lives, He asks us to surrender. Have you like Paul, surrendered you life, your dreams, your hopes, your family to Him? I pray that you will.