Paul’s Greeting to Rome, 1:1-7
Growing up in rural Alabama, we did not have telephones in our area for the first several years of my life. Letters and postcards (not the vacation type) were especially important to my family during that time. I can remember my mother exchanging postcards almost every week with her mother, “Big Mother” Tomlin. A letter in our time is typically an email or perhaps some sort of social media. Communication is so important. Get that church directory and call someone.
Paul begins his letters in the customary way of the first century, by introducing himself. In the case of Romans, he presents his credentials. Paul had not been to Rome when the letter was written, and mentioning his authority was important. He never wore his apostleship with pride, but he was one sent with Christ’s authority and he was to be heard. The word apostle means “one sent with authority.” But notice that Paul mentions being a servant before mentioning his apostleship. First and foremost, Paul was a bondservant of Jesus Christ. This was not a demeaning position for him. Jesus had saved his soul and thus Paul owed him a lifetime of grateful servitude. When Paul obeyed Christ in Damascus, he signed on with Jesus for life and eternity. The same should be true of us all. We are servants who willingly serve the Lord. Jesus himself set the example, saying, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).
A study of Paul’s conversion in the book of Acts shows that Paul had a choice both in the matter of obeying the gospel, and in accepting Jesus’ charge to evangelize as an apostle (Acts 9:18, 26:19). God set him apart for the gospel cause. He had great work planned for Paul, and Paul did not disappoint. God would have us all saved and working to save others, but the choice is ours. Why delay (Acts 22:16)?
Paul ties the Old Testament and New Testament together masterfully in verse 2, stating that God promised the gospel (good news) of his Son through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. This refers to the sacred writings of the Old Testament. Prophecies of the Christ or Messiah are known as messianic prophecies. These abound, and they are often referenced in the New Testament. Isaiah 53 is a classic example.
God promised and delivered salvation. Paul hurries to say that God powerfully declared Jesus to be his Son by the resurrection. God had done so during Jesus’ ministry (Matt. 3:17, 17:5), but the crowning event was the resurrection. On Pentecost Peter concluded that since God has raised Jesus and seated him at his right hand in heaven, Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:32-36).
Paul stated that he and others had received grace and apostleship, God-given ability, and responsibility to call people to Christ through preaching. The obedience that comes from faith is trusting submission to the Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:24; Matt. 7:21; 2 Thess. 1:8).
The letter is addressed to the saints in Rome, those called from the world to belong exclusively to Christ. Saints are living people who are fully committed to Christ. Grace and peace to you.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.