A Man in Christ (Part 2)
April 25, 2019
A Man in Christ (Part 2)
Romans 1:1, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”
Paul was an extraordinary man who was gifted in numerous ways but always viewed himself as nothing more and nothing less than “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” Paul identifies himself further “as an apostle,” in fact he writes that he was “called as an apostle.”
What is “an apostle?” Probably the best passage for an understanding of the meaning of the word “apostle” is found Acts 1:15-26. This was when the eleven apostles elected a twelfth one to complete their number after the treachery and suicide of Judas. Peter explained that it was necessary for the replacement to have known the risen Lord Jesus and to have been chosen by Him for the office of apostle. The disciples nominated two men who met the first qualification: Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. They then drew lots to see who Jesus would select and the lot fell to Matthias. So an apostle was to be a witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and he was also to be chosen and equipped by the Lord for the office of apostle.
But there is more to this term. This term in some measure applies to all of us. In Matthew 28:18-20 and in the first chapter of Acts, the Lord gives all of us the Great Commission. We are all called to be witnesses to Christ. So why then is the office of apostle a special one? The answer to that question comes in looking at the way the men who held that office regarded the office. They not only saw themselves as witnesses to Christ, but they knew that they were witnesses in extraordinary and supernatural ways. Because of the fact that they were apostles, God spoke through them authoritatively, so that what they said as apostles carried the force of divine teaching and Scripture. In Galatians 1:1 Paul emphasizes the divine nature of his calling and his writing: “Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead).” After that Paul then ties the nature and authority of the gospel to the office of apostle in verses 11-12, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”
By referring to himself “as an apostle” to the church at Rome, Paul is reminding his readers that he’s not just writing to them as some ordinary man but as one who has been given a message that should be received as the very words of God.
This has application to us as well. This shows us how we are to receive the book of Romans and the Bible as a whole and benefit from it. We can study the book of Romans as a strictly human book, but if we are to truly profit from it, we must receive it as it truly is – a direct revelation from God. As such we must obey its teachings, just as we would feel obligated to do if God had spoken to us directly.
That last phrase that Paul uses to identify himself here in Romans 1:1 is “set apart for the gospel of God.” Before God saved Paul on the road to Damascus, he was a Pharisee. The meaning of the word Pharisee is “separated one.” It’s interesting that this is now the word that Paul uses to describe his commitment to the gospel. You see, before God saved Paul, Paul was set apart to the Pharisaic traditions and life. Paul regarded himself as one set apart to excellence as a Pharisee. Pharisees would cross the street rather than pass close to some unworthy sinner. They held to very strict dietary restrictions and sacramental cleansings. The list of things a Pharisee would not do was a long list. But, when Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, a life-transforming change occurred in him. Before, he was separated from all kinds of things, and as a result he was self-righteous, narrow, cruel, and obsessive. Afterward, he was separated unto something, and that something was the gospel. That separation was positive – expansive and joyful yet humbling at the same time. Paul never got over that divinely produced transformation.
We shouldn’t either. Do you understand what it means to be released from a negative legalism into the liberation of true Biblical Christianity? Without a doubt in his new calling there were things that Paul did not do. He did not make provision for fleshly lusts. He did not lie or cheat or steal or commit adultery. But Paul never viewed this has something to be suffered as so many do today. Because you see he had a heart that was now set on something more, and that was so magnificent of a commitment that he always counted his calling to be the greatest of all privileges.