Obviously there is more to the context of Romans than just this. If some of you have the ESV study Bible, you will find that at the beginning of the Book of Romans there are several pages that are dedicated to providing a more in-depth survey of the book of Romans, and I would encourage you to read it in your spare time. It will help you in your study of this beautiful book.
Today, we are going to land the plan and start to walk through the forest of Romans, instead of flying over it. We are going to examine the hills, the valleys, the trees, and at times even the leaves. As I said last week, the study of Scripture is not a sprint, it is a marathon. So with that let us read our text, pray, and unpack God’s word.
- Romans 1:1-7 – “2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The Call of Paul
Paul begins his letter with his name. This was the common way to write letters during the sixth century. Instead of only ending with your name, like we do today, they would begin the letter with their name, which I must admit, makes way more sense.
The name Paul was not the only name that Paul had. As many of you know, Paul was also known as Saul. What many of you may not realize is that Paul's name didn't change when he became a Christian. Paul always had two names. Saul was his Hebrew name, for Paul was a Jew. And Paul was his Roman name, for Paul was a Roman citizen. Why did Paul tend to use his Roman name? We have all heard the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Paul was commissioned by Christ to be a light to the gentiles. And as Paul famously says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Therefore, he predominately uses his Roman name because his ultimate goal is salvation and he will do whatever it takes to remove stumbling blocks to Christ, including his name.
Slave of Christ
The next thing we see is Paul describing himself as “a servant of Christ Jesus.” Paul immediately defines himself by his relationship with Christ. Paul does not say, Paul a Pharisee, Paul a Jew, Paul a Roman, he says, Paul, a servant of Christ. For Paul, his relationship with Christ is where he anchors his identity. Paul was not ashamed of his Savior.
A number of you are aware that the word “servant” in verse 1 is the Greek word “doulos.” This was not an uncommon way for Paul to refer to himself, as a doulos of Christ. The ESV translation translates this to servant, but you will notice that it has a footnote by it, and the footnote tells us that the word can also be translated to slave. If you are using the NASB you will see that it is translated to bond-servant.
The best translation for doulos is the word slave. The root word for doulos is deo, which means to bind, to fasten with chains. Dulous is the word that Paul uses to describe Onesimus in his letter to Philemon. Onesimus was an actual slave of Philemon and in Philemon 1:16 Paul calls him a dulous, for Onesimus was not a free man. He was the property of Philemon. He was bound to his master, hence this is why Paul was sending Onesimus back to Philemon, because you just can't run away from your master.
Another reason that slave is the best translation for dulous is because of what we will eventually study in Romans 6. Just briefly turn there with me. Romans 6:20-22 says, “ For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.”
In this passage we see the ESV rightly translates the words doulos to slave. Why? Because they cannot deny the context of Romans 6. Paul is comparing slavery to sin against slavery to God. Freedom to sin against freedom to righteousness. When Paul uses doulos in Romans 1, he means the same thing as when he uses it in Romans 6. Remember, the book of Romans is one letter.
Therefore, in Romans 1:1 when Paul says that he is a dulous of Christ, he is saying that he is no longer a slave to sin, but is a slave to Jesus Christ. He is no longer chained to his sin, his is now chained to Christ. He has a new master over his will.
And as we jut read in Romans 6, this is not only true for the Apostle Paul, it is true for all Christians. If you are a born again Christian, you are a slave to God. He is now your Lord. He is now the authority in your live. In order for Jesus to be your Savior, he must also be your Lord. You can't have one without the other. Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Some of you may say, I don't want to be a slave, and to that I say, you do not have a choice. This is the essence of man. This is what it means to be human. There are only two ways to live, a slave to sin or a slave to God. Being a slave to sin leads to eternal death, and being a slave to God leads to eternal life.
Just this last week there was this annual celebration called Burning Man. Perhaps some of you have heard of it. It takes place every year in Black Rock Desert in Nevada, and 70,0000 people attend. And when people are asked why they come they say over and over again that the feel free; that they can be who they want and do what they want and no one will judge them; that it is a place where you can find yourself. You know what burning man consists of? Alcohol, drugs, and sex. These people think they are free, but the truth is that they are a slave to sin. And their master has drug them off into the middle of the dessert, and someday their master will drag them to the lake of fire.
So why do so many translations use the word servant and not slave? The reason is because of how loaded the word slave is. The ESV translation team states, “the word “slave” currently carries associations with the often brutal and dehumanizing institution of slavery in nineteenth-century America. For this reason, the ESV translation of the words ‘ebed and doulos has been undertaken with particular attention to their meaning in each specific context.” So the reason that the word doulos is translated to servant instead of slave in verse 1 is primarily based on a desire to be culturally sensitive. There is actually a video that you can watch of this debate that is very fascinating. Just google ESV slave debate, and it should pop right up. If you watch this video, you will see people like JI Packer, Kent Hughes, and Wayne Grudem sitting around the table with numerous other men discussing translation.
Now, I agree that we must be loving in regards to this topic, but it bothers me greatly that almost all translations are attempting to be politically correct at the expense of God’s Word. I say this because, I believe, the word servant fails to carry the weight that is intended in this text. When Paul uses the word doulos, he means slave, not servant. He wants the saints in Rome to know that he is chained to Christ.
Set Apart and Called
The next thing that Paul wants the saints in Rome to know is that he is “called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Last week we talked briefly about this, but lets take this a little deeper this morning.
Last week we examined how Paul was called to be an apostle on the road to Damascus. He was his way to arrest Christians and to hand them over be fed to Lions. And when you read this account in Acts 9, you will find that the call of Paul was nothing like an invitation. Paul wasn't asked to invite Jesus into his heart. Listen to what Jesus says to Paul in Acts 9:5, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The call was a command. You will be told what you are to do. This is the call that Paul is referring to. So what about the setting apart? When did this occur?
In a sense, the setting apart occurred at the call. But in another sense it occurred far sooner. The apostle Paul writes of this in Galatians 1:15, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16was pleased to reveal his Son toe me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone.” God chose Paul, before Paul existed. It was always the plan of God to call Paul. It was Paul’s destiny. And this makes logical sense. For let us not forget who is doing the calling, it is Jesus. And Jesus is God. And God is all knowing and all powerful. Therefore Jesus always knew that he would call Paul. To see it any other way is reject explicit Scripture and it reduces God to something less than God.
Set Apart for the Gospel
And what is Paul set apart for? The Gospel of God. What is the Gospel of God? As we have discussed many times, the word gospel is euaggelion. Which means a good tidings, good news. Prior to its use with the coming of Christ it was used to announce something that would produce great joy such proclaiming the end of a war; that peace has come, victory has arrived.
And this is exactly the picture that Paul paints as well in the prefix of his letter. The gospel that he is set apart for is an ancient Gospel. It is a message that the world has been waiting for. Verse 2 says that this gospel was “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh.” Who are these prophets and what are the holy Scriptures? It is the Old Testament, Genesis through Malachi. This good news that Paul was announcing was one that humanity had been waiting for since the Garden of Eden. The seed of Eve, the snake crusher, had finally come, and his name is Jesus. And this Jesus is not only the seed of Eve, but he is also the Son of God.
How do we know this? Verse 4, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that Jesus is no mere man.
Of the billions and billions of people who have lived on this planet all of them have died, all of them. Muhammad is dead. Buddah is dead. Solomon is dead. Alexander the great is dead. Ceasar Augustus is dead. Napoleon is dead. Everyone who has ever existed has died or will die. That is except one man, Jesus of Nazareth. How do we know this? The same way we know anything that happened in the past, eye witnesses who testify. Jesus appeared to over 500 different people over the span of 40 days. And then he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.
And once again, for what purpose? The gospel. Paul was set apart to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he has overcome sin and has overcome death. That victory has finally arrived. But it is more than just proclaiming. Look at verse 5, “we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”
The euaggelion of Jesus Christ is more than just words. The gospel has power. What power? To bring about the obedience of faith. I want us to think about something for a second. Today there are 2 billion people on this planet that claim to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, became a man, lived a perfect life, died on a cross for our sins and rose from the grave. 2 billion. I am one of them. I hope that you are one of them too. Why do we believe this? Why do 2 billion people claim to believe this? Why are there people in North Korea and Iran and Afghanistan placing their faith in Jesus Christ as their savior, knowing that they can be killed for being a Christian. What would cause them to believe something so dangerous?
This is the power of the gospel. The gospel brings about faith in Christ. Faith is not something that we conjure up within ourselves. Hebrews 12:2, Jesus is the “founder and perfecter of our faith.” And the gospel is the conduit of that foundational faith. I believe in Christ, not because I am smarter, I believe in Christ because God has lifted the veil from my eyes to the his glory in the face of Jesus Christ, and the means by which he has done it is the treasure of the gospel kept within the clay pots of man.
This is the new purpose of Paul in Christ. This is what he spends his days, weeks, months, and years doing until they cut off his head, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because he is a slave to Jesus, called by Jesus, and set apart for Jesus.
For the Sake of His Name
But there is even a greater reason that all of this. Paul shares the gospel to the nations, for the sake of his name. Look at verse 5 again, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,”
This is the ultimate passion of Paul; the name of Jesus his Lord. His greatest desire is that everyone would bow at the name of Jesus. He longs for the world to know that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. Paul pursues the supremacy of Christ in all things.
But here is the thing...Paul's dead. He died nearly 2000 years ago. He is not here anymore to take the gospel to the nations. And you know what? So are all the other apostles, Peter, John James...all dead. But you know what? Do you know who is not dead? We're not. You and I are not dead. And you know something else? Today there are approximately 6,700 unreached people groups in this world. That translates to 40% of the world have no believers within their community to share the gospel with them. No one. And without the gospel they have absolutely no hope.
So what are we to do? Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
We have two people in our congregation, Freddie and Jenn Jones, who are slaves to Jesus Christ. They have been called and set apart for the gospel. And next month they are going to spend one month in the nation of India. India alone has over 2,000 unreached people groups. Their purpose of going is to gather information so that we can do more to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of the name of Jesus.
Today, we have an opportunity to send them for the sake of his name. This morning we are going to take up an offering and send our brother and sister into nations. We can't all go to India, that is not the call for all of us, but that doesn't mean we can't partner with them in the spreading of the gospel.