27 January 2014

Romans 1:1-7

“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (v. 1)


This passage must rank among the most challenging, not to say convoluted, opening greetings from a church leader hoping to win sympathy from a congregation he is yet to visit!

Two themes only to be highlighted.

The first is 'good news' (or gospel). Its roots lie in the ancient Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament). Its finest flower is Jesus. Humanly speaking, Jesus was a Jew descended from King David. Perhaps Paul implies that Jesus was seen by his followers in Judaism as the 'new David', or Messiah (also translated as 'Christ'). But that was not the strength of Paul's appeal, especially to Gentiles (non Jews). Paul bases his gospel and his faith not on a human judgement but on God's verdict on Jesus and God's vindication of him. By the powerful act of raising Jesus from the dead, God revealed Jesus to be God's Son. This divine declaration inspired some Gentiles and Jews to accept Jesus as the bearer of ultimate authority for their lives and for the whole universe. Jesus is 'Lord'. And as Augustine was to observe in the 4th century, service of the Lord Jesus is not enslavement but perfect freedom - a life of trust, love and praise in harmony with the purpose and meaning of God's creation. Paul himself spoke of this as the "obedience of faith" (v. 5).

The second theme concerns Paul's distinctive role - given to him, of course, by the Lord Jesus. Paul was called and commissioned as an 'apostle' (an authorised messenger whose values and life-style embodied his message) to Gentiles of every nation. He proclaimed God's good news about Jesus where Jesus was not known. He guided and cajoled Gentile Christians everywhere (including Rome) to practise faith and obedience.

To Ponder

  • However we express and explore the Christian faith in today's world, there can be no compromise on the centrality of Jesus. What most fascinates you about his story?
  • Paul emphasises integrity in the lives of Christians. How are you best helped to work through the questions and dilemmas of contemporary life, so that you are given confidence that your discipleship is authentically Christian?
  • Paul's role as an apostle has inspired generations of Christian leaders, lay and ordained. What are the challenges in the modern Church in both accepting the authority of Church leaders and also offering them critical support in the development of their ministry? 

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.