Monday, September 2, 2013

The King's Slave

Reflections on Romans 1:1
Rom. 1:1 (NIV84) Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God
When we introduce a speaker at a conference, we usually try to impress the audience with the qualifications and accomplishments of the person they are about to hear. If someone were introducing Saul as a young man, he might refer to him as a Hebrew of the Hebrews from the tribe of Benjamin (one of only two which remained loyal to the line of David), a natural-born citizen of Tarsus but raised in Jerusalem, educated by Gamaliel, living according to the strictest sect of the Jews, and advanced in his religion beyond many his own age.

As an older man, Paul, as he was known when he wrote to the Christians in Rome, mentioned none of those things. His former status and accomplishments had become rubbish to him. Instead, he introduced himself as a servant, not a paid servant, but a bond-servant, a slave, one wholly owned and subject to a master. His master was King (Christ/Messiah) Jesus. Paul was not a free man, and he was not writing to the Roman Christians to promote himself or his own agenda. He had no will but the will of King Jesus.

Although he was a slave, his message was important because he was an apostle (messenger, ambassador, envoy) of the King. To this he had been called on the road to Damascus. He had been called not merely to salvation but primarily to service. Jesus said he was his chosen instrument to carry his name to nations, kings, and the people of Israel (Acts 9:15). Paul had been called by Jesus himself (Gal. 1:1) and appointed an apostle to the nations (Acts 22:14-15; 1 Tim. 2:7) so his service or ministry was of great importance (Rom. 11:13) though he himself was a slave.

Paul's service as an apostle or envoy was important because he had been set apart or designated as one to carry the good news (gospel) from God. As a minister of King Jesus, he had the "duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles (nations) might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:16 NIV84). The victorious King had appeared, and he was offering gracious terms of peace and countless blessings to those who served him. They could not afford to ignore the message he sent through his slave and envoy Paul.

Like Paul, all Christians are slaves of King Jesus.  We are not our own because we have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We were called, not merely to salvation, but also to serve the one we confessed as Lord (Col. 3:24). We are set apart to live the gospel, to do heaven's will on earth (Matt. 6:10) so that our King may be made known to all and so that our God may be glorified (Matt. 5:16). For Americans who value individualism and freedom, it may be difficult to live as slaves of our Lord, but Paul said quite clearly, "He who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave" (1 Cor. 7:22)