Romans 1:1 NASB
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”
Paul’s introduction to his readers in the Roman church begins with astounding humility. Not a humility to be confused with Pharisee’s false humility such as in Luke 18:11-12 but a humility that regards himself as a servant. The word “bond-servant” in the greek is doulos which means “one who gives himself up to the will of another”. This establishment of of Paul’s servitude not only demonstrates his absolute devotion to Jesus but also his authority in Christ. It’s hard for 21st century western culture to understand the slave/servant culture that Rome and even Israel had. But a servant of powerful person or someone of high position had more status, authority and freedom then a free commoner. So this duel position of Paul’s places him in a bond-servant role to Jesus but also with an authority from Jesus as well. It should be said that Paul’s initial claim to be a bond-servant to Christ Jesus sets the tone for a Christological approach to this letter. Everything he writes and believes and is trying to help us understand revolves around the person and nature of Jesus Christ and His work that was done through His death and resurrection. This is a doctrinal letter laying the foundations for our soteriology beliefs, however that all is fleshed out, out of our understanding of Christ. In order for us to understand this salvation we must understand and know the Savior.
His claim to apostleship was authenticated by Jesus Christ Himself. In Acts 9:3-28 Saul has an encounter with Jesus that changes his life forever and now instead of being bound to the law he is bound as a servant to Jesus. In Gal. 1:1 Paul asserts his apostleship has been given to him and he is being sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father. His apostleship isn’t being stated as a means to perpetrate authoritarianism to the church but as a description of the calling God has placed on his life to go out and spread the gospel and raise the church up. Early church fathers affirmed Paul’s apostleship as Ignatius said “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles.” (c.105,E),1.75.
Paul’s calling to apostleship wasn’t of his choice but God’s. And because of this calling he suffered greatly for the name of Jesus. Many of us desire the authority of Paul but few desire the suffering bond-servant life. He exercised his authority, and rightly so. Not out of pride or greed but out of a love for his Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul had also been set apart for the gospel of God. In Gaebelein’s Expositors Bible Commentary he states that Paul (or Saul) “as a Pharisee he had been set apart to a life of strict observances of the Jewish law and custom. Now his life work is to further the gospel, the good news God has for man.” Paul’s mission (as ours should be) is to make the name of Jesus known throughout the entire world. This entire letter is an explanation of God’s mission to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ. We are set apart for God’s purposes and in what is birthed from that is that we might help others find faith in Jesus to be set apart as well.