Paul, Servant and Apostle – Romans 1:1

Paul describe himself with three “titles” in Romans 1:1. First, he is a a servant of Christ Jesus. The term “servant of Christ Jesus” should be understood in terms of Old Testament background rather than Greek/Roman culture (Cranfield, 50).  On the other hand, James Dunn sees Paul drawing on his Jewish background in the phrase “servant of Christ Jesus.” Dunn suggests Paul has Isaiah 49:1-7 in mind here, since Jews naturally saw themselves as servants of God (Dunn, 6).

Paul in Prison RembrandtSecond, Paul as called to be an apostle. The noun κλητός refers to an invitation, but here it has the sense of a “divine calling.”  Paul’s divine appointment, however, is not simply to be a Christian, but to be an Apostle. This is a special commissioning that only was given to a few who were witnesses of the resurrection, and therefore carried a special authority. To be an apostle is to be an “authorized agent or representative” (Cranfield 52).

Third, Paul says he was set apart for the gospel of God.  “Set apart” might refer to Paul’s separation from Judaism, or his missionary activity (Acts 13:2.)  But it is more likely that the separation that Paul has in mind is his “consecration to a future task,” specifically the task of bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles. The verb ἀφορίζω is used in the LXX for the setting aside the firstborn male animal to God (Numbers 15:20). But it is also used for consecrating Levites to God’s service (Numbers 8:11) and of God’s separating Israel from the nations to be his people (Lev. 20:26). The idea of separation for service to God seems to be Paul’s point here. When was Paul set apart by God? This could refer to his conversion on the Roman to Damascus, but Paul claims he was separated for his ministry before he was born (Gal 1:1:15).

Paul was separated to the gospel of God. Paul is separated to the gospel of God. This would resonate with both a Jewish the concept of Gospel as well as a pagan/Roman worldview (Cranfield 54-55).  The Romans considered important events in the life of the Emperor as εὐαγγέλιον and celebrated them as “good news.”  This is in contrast to the true good news of salvation. The early church would have understood the difference between the normally plural “good tidings” of the emperor cult and the singular εὐαγγέλιον (Dunn 10). The phrase may be based on Jesus’ own use in Matthew 11:5 and Luke 7:22.

Paul therefore begins this important letter with a declaration he is God’s servant and a chosen representative to present the good news, to declare what God is doing to redeem people in the present age.

Since Paul has not personally met the Roman churches who will read this letter, this opening line establishes Paul’s authority. Why do you think that was necessary at this point in Paul’s career? He writes this letter after establishing churches in Asian Minor and the eastern edge of Europe. It would seem as though he was well-known. Is there something else going on here in this opening address of the letter?




15 thoughts on “Paul, Servant and Apostle – Romans 1:1

  1. I feel that the first part of the letter to the Romans is Paul’s way of telling the Romans that he is qualified to be telling them things. Which he then goes into a game plan as for what he wants to show the churches of Rome. Longenecker in TTP says that Paul gives a report in Romans 1:8-15 that, “sets the letter in the context of Paul’s desire that he and the Roman Jesus-followers be mutually edified” (TTP, 178). Paul plans on stopping in Rome on his way westward to Spain. He needs support, but realizes that the church in Rome needs warning before he gets to them and just asks for money. In stating that he is a servant of God, an apostle, and the he is set apart for spreading the Gospel, he is making it clear that he is on their side, and not just doing these actions that they have heard of him from to get their money and take it for his own use. Paul is claiming that he is only kingdom minded, traveling and spreading the Gospel on commission from God and the Holy Spirit.

  2. I believe that Paul letters were written to all the people in Rome. Paul says “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people” (Romans 1:7). The members of the Rome church are the ones, who Paul is targeting. Paul wanted to visit the church in Rome, however his responsibility towards other churches have made it hard for him to do so. I believe that Paul purpose for his letter was to address two main things. First, Paul wanted to simply explain the gospel of grace to the members. Second, Paul also wanted to address the tensions which was occurring in the church between the Jews and the gentiles.

  3. I think that the way the beginning part of the letter was written to tell the Romans that he was qualified to be telling them the many things he was going to be telling him. I think that by opening the letter this way, Paul was communicating with those who he has not yet met that he is important enough for them to listen to. This will probably help with spreading the Gospel to the people of Rome.

  4. The letters were written to all of Rome, and I feel like it was his way, in the beginning of them, of telling the people of Rome his qualifications. It is the members of the Roman church that Paul is trying to target. There are a few things that Paul had responsibilities towards the church first that made very difficult for Paul to visit the Roman church. So the purpose of the letters could be to talk about a couple of things that are of importance. The one thing is to tell them the gospel and that he is on the side of the Roman church, not against them. And another is telling them what is occurring between the Jews and the gentiles. He is only trying to spread the gospel as far as possible.

  5. First of, that greeting was necessary to introduce himself in a way that he would probably do if he was there in person. Because of the fact that he hasn’t met them in person, he felt the need to introduce his background as a way to clear any possible doubts of mistakes. Second the greeting was a way that he found to express his desire to be with them (Romans 1:11-13), before he get to the main issues that he wanted to approach. When asking the church’s assistance to his ministry in West Italy (Spain), I believe Paul was asking more than just financial assistance (which he didn’t ask specifically), he was also asking for prayer and moral support.

  6. I agree with athompson and Jodi I think that Paul is stating that he really is qualified. He is saying he is a servant of Jesus. It shows humility (being a servant), but it also shows that Paul is working for Christ. He then says he is called to be an apostle. This invitation becomes important once scripture is canonized. If Paul was not an apostle his writings wouldn’t be considered scripture. One of the criteria of the letters found was that it needed to be written by an apostle or someone who witnessed Christ. The last part of the greeting is him saying it was God’s push that he is doing what he is doing. Paul seems to be making his case for why he’s writing and qualified to write. The citizens knew only skewed ideas of Paul. “Most of the Christians in Rome knew of Paul only by reputation (and a controversial one at that)” (TTP 178). Its not this is who I am and more of this is what God has called me to do.

  7. The introduction of Paul’s letter to Rome is packed. His threefold identity statements are bold, and show his knowledge of where his actions and authority comes. “Servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…” He claims to act as a servant declaring what had been promised through the prophet’s of God. When he claims to be called, it is evident he is claiming to be called by God Himself. Not only that, but his description of Jesus is of utmost importance. “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” (Rom. 1:3) Paul is claiming the resurrection of Jesus the Christ as authority for his ministry, for without the resurrection, what would Jesus be? The angle I take is this: The message was heard by Romans who in no way wanted to be ‘servants’ because ‘servant’ meant ‘slave’ to them also. It took extreme humility for the Romans to accept this teaching. Paul was not the Messiah however, so converts could not only come to Christ, but continue in the ministry (Rom: 1:6)? If someone took on the lifestyle of a servant, imitated Christ, and sowed the Gospel wherever he or she went, despite his miraculous road to Damascus encounter, that person could serve Christ the same. Paul was, perhaps, divulging his identity and call to the Romans, because he had never visited them, but his culmination of asking for money. As Longenecker puts it, “Paul sends this letter to believers in Rome precisely because he has his eyes set on preaching the gospel in “Spain”… (TTP, p.168) He sought monetary supplement to continue his ministry, which is not a bad thing. But in doing so, he reveals a myriad of theological insight.

  8. I love Paul Apostle so much.I love the way he was working for God.I pray one day I shud have a revelation about him.I want God Almighty to show how Paul was.

  9. it really stuck out to me that it said Paul was not just called to be a Christian, but a “apostle” one that has a special call. that is to have a higher standard then just any regular person. this reminds me that we are also called to a higher standard and taking what Paul talked about into practice is a Vidal thing to do in our walk with Christ. I think we can read Paul’s writings and realize that we are called and set apart that we are servants of God ones who relay the message of the gospel to a broken word and Paul did just that to a confused and broken word and churches. this was a interesting post kind of of reaffirmed things I knew already but gave a good insight on Paul and what his is exactly called to. i could also see that the set apart could mean that he is set apart from the Jewish traditions and not meaning what we think because we tend to think he is set apart from the world but it could mean his people. but that is something that you would need to do extra research on and compare scriptures.

  10. “Why do you think that was necessary at this point in Paul’s career? He writes this letter after establishing churches in Asian Minor and the eastern edge of Europe. It would seem as though he was well-known. Is there something else going on here in this opening address of the letter?”

    I believe that it was necessary for Paul to establish is authority and give his credentials at the beginning of his letter to the Romans for a few reasons. First, he didn’t start the Roman churches and he hasn’t visited them, so he is unknown to them. While it is possible his reputation may have reached the Roman churches, it is best for Paul himself to state his qualifications. Secondly, there may be some false rumors spreading (Moo, 47) about Paul and the gospel that he preaches. Thus, establishing his authority would allow him to fix any rumors. Thirdly, I believe it is similar to when someone meets a teacher in class for the first time and they often talk about their degrees and where they studied at. Since they are going to be teaching others, it is important that they are qualified and that the class knows their qualifications. Likewise Paul is going to be teaching his doctrines to these Roman churches and they need to trust who he is, and what authority he has to teach them. Fourthly, and this is something I can’t necessarily find proof of, but since Paul was a pharisee that persecuted Chrisitians and that was commonly known about him, he may be trying to establish authority to show he isn’t just a regular convert to Christianity, but he is an apostle and even more, he is personally called by God to preach the Gospel (Romans 1:1).

  11. Paul was set apart in more than one way. Paul was a Pharisee before he was an apostle. The name Pharisee means “set apart”. We know from Scripture that Paul was a zealous Pharisee. After the stoning of Stephen, in Acts 7:54-8:1, Saul was determined to capture off those who followed the way and have them jailed. And while on his way to Damascus he had his “coming to God moment”. In which the Risen Christ appeared to Saul (Acts 9:4). God had told Ananias to “Go; this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel (Acts 9:15).” After that Ananias goes and cures Saul of his blindness. Saul then choses to follow God and changes his name from Saul to Paul.
    He might be addressing the Roman church in a way that addresses his authority and reaffirms those claims. He also hasn’t been to the Roman church yet, so he might be trying to establish creditability with the church. He could also be writing so that people would know his name. But not in a way to achieve fame but rather that, when people speak of his name, they can easily identify him. And can be used as witnesses of his ministry work and journey.

  12. I believe even though Paul might have been well known at the time he did the right thing by establishing exactly who he was and what he was about. I think that was important to do because if the church did read the letter without knowing who he was they would have no reason to believe or listen to what he has to say.I also Believe the reason for him doing so is to let them know that he is speaking on the behalf of himself but for God, which is very important seeing that he was writing to a church. That way they could know what his purpose is from Paul himself instead of through rumors.

  13. I think this letter to the Romans was necessary for Paul to write because Paul did not go to the Roman’s and he did not plant a church there. For the Romans they could give not give credit to Paul for what he is telling them because they have zero idea of who he is. He is telling them the authority that he has so he can be taken seriously. Paul is writing these letters to all people of Rome but is trying to target the Roman church. It is important for Paul to tell them about the Gospel and the importance of Jesus and for Paul to state his qualifications it will allow the Romans to take him seriously. “Most Christians in Rome knew of Paul only by reputation (and a controversial one at that” (TTP 178). Paul knowing that the Romans were most likely upset with him for not stopping there the letter was very much needed. Paul needed to remind them that he is a servant of God who has experience the Christ which gives Paul the authority to guide them and the church in the direction that Paul see’s fit.

  14. Paul wanted everyone to know who he was and to not mistake him for someone else. This was his way to establish to the Romans that he was credible even though he did not start their churches. They could believe and trust him. Paul is focusing his attention on the people of the Roman church. He had not yet met them, so he needed to let Rome know that they could trust him. Paul needed prayer and money from Rome to continue supporting his ministry in Spain. In Thinking Through Paul, Longenecker states “Paul sends this letter to believers in Rome precisely because he has his eyes set on preaching the gospel in Spain” (Longenecker, 168). Paul worked for God and was his servant. He was called by God which was important to him to let others know that. As you read, Paul was also known as an apostle. Professor Long states in his article that “This is a special commissioning that only was given to a few who were witnesses of the resurrection, and therefore carried a special authority” (Long, 2015). He was a teacher of God’s word. Paul was not just a regular convert to Christianity as Christ called him on the road to Damascus. I think that it was very important for Paul to introduce himself the way that he did. Just like when you meet someone new, typically they tell you a little about themselves. Paul did just this to show he was a man of faith.

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