Called to Service
Paul had not yet been to Rome: the church had been planted by others. While he was staying in Corinth, a Christian woman, Phoebe, was preparing a business trip to the Imperial capital (Romans 16:1-2). Paul's desire to stabilise the church in Rome, providing them with a detailed explanation of the gospel, was enabled by a trusted courier. The letter was designed to help the Christians to evangelise and answer tough questions.
Paul knew his authority would be questioned. So he presents himself transparently as a 'servant', a 'called one', a 'sent one' and a 'set apart one'. He was not a religious dictator, but had willingly bound himself to Jesus Christ as a lifelong slave (Exodus 21:2-6). He knew he did not own himself any more, being bought at great cost to Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). His calling was to follow Jesus Christ and the calling to specific apostolic (sent out) ministry was unmistakable (Acts 26:12-18); and he accepted that his life was to be spent in gospel proclamation. Unlike the travelling philosophers of his time, there was nothing in it for Paul (indeed he was at pains to stress that he received no money where he ministered). His life was devoted to serving Jesus by making known the reason for His life, death and resurrection.
Paul's calling and ministry task was unique; and we must fully respect the authority with which he writes. His mouth and pen have been God's chosen instruments to build the church of Jesus Christ worldwide. Some of his teaching is hard to receive because it goes against the grain of our age, as it would also in Rome. Some of it opens up our eyes to the majesty of God's salvation plan. Some of it will correct and encourage us. But all of it is God's truth, so none of it can be rejected. As we go through this letter, do share it with another believer at work or at home. Discuss it, pray together and allow God to teach you so that, like the church in Rome, you are better equipped to live and witness for Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams