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Paul: A Servant Of Jesus Christ

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1)

How do you introduce yourself when you first meet someone new? What we say by way of introduction reveals a lot about how we identify ourselves and what we feel is important in our lives. Some people are sure to include titles when introducing themselves: “I am Professor John Jenkins” or, “Nice to meet you, I am Dr. Tom Thompson.” Sometimes, these titles also indicate what the person does for a living and, in many people’s opinion, this is often the most crucial information about a person. “Hi, I’m Fred Jones, CEO of Jones Enterprises.” “Pleased to meet you, William Smith, attorney-at-law.” Other people feel that it is who they are related to that is most important: “I am Mrs. John Smith” (i.e., my husband is of much greater prominence than myself) or, “This is Jane Rogers, First Lady of the Republic of Rogersonia” (i.e, the fact that her husband is the President of Rogersonia is what also defines her).

But what did St. Paul the Apostle, the great missionary to the Gentiles, the writer of more than half of the New Testament, formerly one of the most prominent members of the Sanhedrin feel was the most important facet of his identity? Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ. He was a servant of Jesus Christ. It is the One Whom he served that took the place of honor in Paul’s eyes, it was Him with Whom Paul identified himself. Even more than a servant, the word in the original here (doulos) means a “slave”; one who is in bonds, bound in service to another. More accurately, Paul is stating “I am Paul, a slave to Jesus Christ.” Since about a quarter of the population of the Roman world at this time were slaves to another, it certainly was not uncommon for people to identify themselves by the master they served. But Paul’s slavery was different. It was a voluntary servitude.

Jesus Christ calls us to serve Him, but He forces no one. The chains that bind us to Him are ones that we ourselves willingly put on. Even so, the man who preached so cheerfully of the liberty that is in Christ was happy to declare himself a bond-slave of the Same. For only in servitude to Christ is one truly free. We do not forfeit our freedom when we subject ourselves to the Lord, it is only then that we begin to know what freedom is. Before that, our slavery was of the most oppressive kind. We were slaves to sin; and sin is a cruel taskmaster leading every one of its servants to death.

Next, Paul tells his readers that he is “a called apostle” (as the original text more precisely reads). Paul chose to be a servant of Christ, Christ chose for him to serve as an apostle. This was the office in which he would serve God. Just as the many slaves of the governor of a Roman villa would all operate in different capacities within the household, so it is with those who serve Jesus Christ. Yet they are all slaves with none exceeding any other in status. The man who tends the garden is of no greater prominence than the woman who cooks the meals or the boy who draws water at the fountain. They are all servants of the same master.

Paul concludes his self-identification with the phrase: “separated unto the gospel of God.” Separated here carries with it a similar meaning as “holy”, “sanctified”, or “set apart.” Paul has been set apart for the use and purposes of God (which is what “holy” literally entails). Like the call to apostleship, this was also the choice of God — Paul did not determine himself that he would be separated or set apart for the use of God. Yet this was his life’s purpose, the assignment that the Spirit of God had for him to fulfill: the preaching of the Gospel. This separation suggests a sharp line of distinction drawn across the life of God’s servant, dividing into two all that he was before and all that he has been made by God. There is no intermingling of the two, no walking with one foot in the former and one in the latter. We are either separated unto God or we are not. And if we are separated then our every ambition, our every goal should reflect our earnest desire to serve Him and bring glory to His name. Paul had at one time been a different kind of separated man; separated unto the rigors and rituals of a religion that brought a different kind of slavery. But now he was separated unto God for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. At one time he was separated from God, now he was separated unto Him.

Paul would later write to the Church at Colosse:

“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

He reveals that he possesses these qualities and that his own life was hid in Christ by this very first sentence in the Book of Romans.

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8 responses

  1. Loren,

    This sounds like a whole other series in the making :- “We do not forfeit our freedom when we subject ourselves to the Lord, it is only then that we begin to know what freedom is.”

    Thankful to be separated unto Him. I just left your blog to re-read Deb’s blog http://iftodaywehear.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/be-mine/ I think they so go hand in hand!

    I want to be His willing servant. Aiming for that. (emphasis on the willing)

    I’m feeding a plenty. (Gleaning per Deb ) ;-)

    Blessings,
    ann

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  2. God bless you, Ann. Your comments make me smile!
    Loren this really got my attention. The being separated part meaning that we don’t have one foot here and one foot there. We either are or we’re not. Desiring to be willing, like Ann, and completely His. :) What a great introduction to Romans! Thank you and God bless! deb

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  3. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)

    How wonderful that He has separated us to himself! I think Deb’s post on Leviticus 20:26 (Be Mine) does go right along with this. This verse from 1 Peter shows us that God has done something with the Church just as he did with the nation of Israel, He has set us apart for His own possession just as He set them apart. The language Peter uses is very similar to OT verses like Deut. 7:6 and 14:12. We have been separated unto Him; He has said to us, “Be Mine” :)

    Thanks, Ann, for sharing these comments, I am always blessed by your insightful feedback :)

    Your friend in Christ,

    Loren

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  4. Ann’s comments are such a blessing (as are yours :) )

    You know, that part really got my attention, too. In studying and reviewing for this post, I was looking at the Greek word for separated. The word is aphorizo, a root word of the English “horizon.” I live on the coast and see the ocean pretty much on a daily basis. Just a few days ago, I was looking out across the water at the gray clouds moving in and thinking how flat and distinct the “horizon” is between the ocean and the sky (I dabble a little in oil painting and was reminded of using a ruler and tape when doing seascapes to try and replicate that perfectly straight line that separates water and sky). These thoughts came back to me when I was writing about Paul being “separated.” It struck me profoundly how there is absolutely no “bleeding over” between ocean and sky at horizon’s edge (and it completely spoils the painting if that line is even a tiny bit crooked or you have part of your “ocean” seeping into your “sky”).

    So it is with the life of the servant of Christ. I confess that there have been many times (and still are sometimes :( ) where the “ocean” of my old life has crept over into the “sky” of my new. I have tried to walk with one foot on each side of the “horizon” and it NEVER works!! I remember hearing Dr. J. Vernon McGee use the illustration on his “Thru the Bible” radio program of the horse races they would hold back in the Roman Colosseum. In one of the races, the riders would place a foot in one stirrup of two different horses and ride them straddling between both. It would always work out ok for a while, so long as both horses wanted to head the same way. But, inevitably, the time would come when the horses would each begin to head in different directions and the rider would be forced to choose to stay on one or the other.

    The Christian can only straddle the horizon for so long. Sooner or later, we have to pick which horse we will ride.

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  5. Oh wow! I loved that Loren . . .the horizon illustration, our oceans not to seep into our skies! And about the riders on two horses. You are inspiring me! Very poetic images . . .:) Thank you!!!! deb

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  6. Loren, This is another great post. I am reminded of the origin of the bond-servant, something slightly different than a slave. It is based on the Jewish tradition of the year of jubilee. Every 50 years, all Hebrew slaves were supposed to be freed of their obligation to their master. However, if a slave had grown to love his master, he could choose to remain with the master as a bond-servant, because a bond had grown between them. I suspect that only kind and loving masters had slaves who desired to become bond-servants. It is wonderful that we have a truly kind and loving Master to whom we can choose to submit our lives! Peace and Merry Christmas, Linda

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  7. “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” (Exodus 21:5-6)

    I absolutely love this passage! What a wonderful picture of the bond-servant of Christ; serving not out of obligation, but out of love. I believe that Paul had this exact statute from the Law of Moses in mind when he referred to himself as a “bond-servant” of Christ. I like what you said, “I suspect that only kind and loving masters had slaves who desired to become bond-servants.” It must have spoken more about the benevolence and kindness of the master when a servant chose such a path than any exceptional, unwarranted devotion on their own part. A good and faithful servant of Christ should not draw the attention of others to himself (thinking that he is of exceptional character for serving the Lord), but rather to his Lord and Master Whose loving-kindness compels him to willingly serve Him and commit himself to Him forever.

    Thanks, Linda, for bringing this up and pointing this out :) God bless you, and Merry Christmas to you also!

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  8. Who are you Loren?

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