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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Gospel of God's Grace # 8

A Study of the Book of Romans

A Declaration of Paul's Official Relation

The first sentence of the book of Romans extends through seven verses, contains 126 words, and includes the whole of the salutation. Packed with truth, it is worth considering by itself. The sentence consists of a simple greeting split into two parts by a "parenthesis." This greeting is in the first and the seventh verses: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God ... to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and to the Lord Jesus Christ." The parenthesis begins at the second verse and is introduced by the pronoun 'which." What calls for the parenthesis is the mention of the "gospel of God."

The literary construction of this sentence is very beautiful, and the unfolding of the ideas exquisite! It is almost like the unfolding of a flower - first the stalk, then the bud, then the full bloom, then the heart of it! It begins with Paul. What about Paul? Paul is a servant of Jesus Christ; he is called to be an apostle; he is separated into the gospel of God. We have been looking at the gospel, and suddenly we see Jesus. What about the gospel? It was promised a long time ago, Paul says, and it concerns God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. What about Him? He was descended from the line of David physically, and He was shown to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by being resurrected from the dead. Anything else? "Through him," Paul says, "I received grace and apostleship." And one more thing: "He called the saints that are at Rome." We had been looking at the Son of God, and suddenly we are introduced to the saints at Rome! What about the saints at Rome? Just three things: They are called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, called to be saints. And that is the unfolding of the first sentence.

There are just four divisions in this sentence: 1. the messenger of God, Paul, 2. the gospel of God, 3. the Son of God, and 4. the saints of God.

The Messenger of God, Paul

Concerning himself, Paul makes three definite statements: 1. he is a servant of Jesus Christ, 2. he is called to be an apostle, and 3. he is separated to the gospel of God.

Servant of Jesus Christ

There are no less than six Greek words denoting servitude, and from all these Greek words Paul might have chosen any on to express the idea of servitude to Jesus Christ. But he deliberately passed over the weakest of them and chose the very strongest word to describe the most absolute servitude. Picture a slave market: a slave is placed upon the block; the auctioneer stands up and auctions him off; somebody buys him, and he becomes a bondslave. Such a slave is called a "doulos." Paul says, "I am a "doulos" of Jesus Christ. I am a bondslave." In other words, Jesus has purchased Paul out of the market, and now all that he is and has - his time, his strength, his talents, even life itself - no longer belongs to Paul but belongs to Him. Paul loved to call himself a bondslave; that is the word he used over and over again in his epistles. It meant a great deal to him. He put it in the catalog even before his apostleship. It is a greater thing to be a bondslave of Christ than to be an apostle of Christ! So he is a bondslave first and afterward an apostle.

We too are the "douloi" of the Lord - the bondservants. That term ought to be precious to us; it not only expresses the idea of our servitude to Christ, but reminds us that our servitude is based on purchase. I am a bondslave of the Lord because He bought me with His own precious blood. If you remember that, you will love to be called a servant of the Lord. I am not only obliged to serve Him, but I am His possession! He is responsible for me - to take care of me and provide for me. 

Called an Apostle

There are two words in italics: "to be." Those italicized words were supplied by the translators to make a smooth transition. They ought to be left out here: "called an apostle." Or, to put it another way, he was 'a called apostle." It was not a future role, but Paul was an apostle the moment God called him.

Two things were necessary to quality a man for apostleship. The first was that he must have seen the Lord. Paul had that qualification. "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1). Paul connects his apostleship with having seen the Lord. "Last of all, as the child untimely born, he appeared to me also, for I am the least of the apostles" (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). So that is the first test of an apostle - he must have seen the Lord.

The other was that his call must come directly from the Lord Himself. They did not make apostles in the early days like they do today. Today they are made by succession, by election, by self-assumption; but Paul was a called apostle, and when he says that, our minds go back to that memorable day on the road to Damascus, when God struck him down. The Lord's chosen vessel" (Acts 9:15). It is almost identical to the words of Jesus to the twelve, for He said to them, "Did I not choose you the twelve?" (John 6:70). So Paul, like the twelve, was a chosen vessel - called directly.

Separated to the Gospel

There are three distinct separations that took place in the life of Paul. The first was God's hand on his life even from its beginning. "Separated me from my mother's womb" (Galatians 1:15). The second separation came on the way to Damascus, when God separated him from the world (Acts 9). The third occurred at Antioch, when the Holy Spirit said, "Separate unto me Paul and Barnabas for the work" (Acts 13:1-2). Three separations were in his life.

Paul was a purchased slave, a called apostle, a separated preacher. We can't all be apostles, for there never was another apostle after those first ones. There is not any succession to that office. Yet in the true sense, we can apply those three terms to ourselves: purchased, called, and separated. He purchased us with His own blood. He called us and now we are separated. Paul says that He foreordained, predestinated, called, justified, and glorified us (Romans 8:29-30). If you are a Christian, whether you live a separated life or not, you are separated nevertheless; and because God has called you, you ought to live a separated life. He bases saintliness on a fact, He says, in effect, "You are separated, now live up to it!"

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 9 - "The Gospel of God")

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