Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.
–Romans 1:1

There are three ways that Paul described himself in the introduction to the book of Romans. First, he called himself a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” That word “bond-servant” could be translated “slave.” When Paul wrote this letter, roughly one-third of the Roman population were slaves. But a bond-servant was not just any kind of slave. This was a particular kind of slave described in Exodus 21. If an indentured servant had his debt paid off but chose to stay with his master anyway out of loyalty and appreciation of the master, then he could do so. He would become a bond-servant: one who served voluntarily. Paul was saying, “I am a bond-servant of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ paid my sin debt for me, but I am not free to do what I want to do. I am voluntarily pledging to follow forever my Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Second, Paul said he was “called as an apostle.” The word “apostle” is used 80 times in the New Testament, and it means “one who is sent forth.” In a general sense, we have all been sent forth to spread the news of Jesus Christ, but in a technical sense, there were only 13 true apostles–that is, people who witnessed the resurrected Christ, had an encounter with Him, and were called by Him as an apostle. When Judas betrayed Christ and died, he was replaced by Mathias. The 13th apostle was the Apostle Paul. He was the only other person who met the qualifications for an apostle. Paul had an encounter with the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, and God specifically called him to be the light to the Gentiles. Paul was saying to the Roman church, “I want you to know that I have been called as an apostle.” He said that not out of pride but to confirm to these people who had never met him before, “This letter I am writing to you does not come from my own authority; I am delivering the message that comes from Jesus Christ.”

Third, Paul said he was “set apart for the gospel of God.” That word for “set apart” comes from the same word we get “Pharisee.” The Pharisees thought they were set apart from other people because they were better than other people. Paul was a Pharisee, but he said, “I have been set apart for the gospel.”

Remember, when Paul was writing this letter, he did not sit down and write it himself. Instead, he had a secretary named Tertius (16:22). I want you to get the picture: Paul was pacing back and forth in the second-floor apartment where he was staying in Corinth. Tertius was taking down the dictation. Paul introduced himself to the Romans. The next thing Paul should have done was to say to whom he was sending the letter–to the saints in Rome. But when Paul said he has been set apart for the gospel, he could not help himself. When he said that word “gospel,” he launched into a description of the glorious gospel that he had given his life to promote. Beginning in verse 2, he gave a fourfold description of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good News from a Distant Land” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.