Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God (Romans 1:1)
As leaders, our focus is always on moving people from where they are to where God wants them to be. There are many methods to leading people, but primarily it begins with us understanding we can’t lead someone to a place we haven’t been before. In this post, our goal is to draw some key characteristics of one of the church’s more successful leaders, Paul the apostle.
The first mention of Paul’s identity to the Romans is that of a servant. Then he reveals his calling to be an apostle. After that, still in his opening sentence, he proclaims he has been “set apart” for the gospel of God.
At first glance, Paul’s introduction to the Romans is one that carries much influence. Looking closer at his choice of words, servant and apostle are probably the most noticeable. The word Servant leads us to an understanding of humility and submission. Then the word Apostle brings us to think of confidence, influence and authority.
In our world, many desire the authority of an leader, with never truly understanding the humility of a servant. Even in ministry we desire the platforms of the apostles and the influencers, without ever seeing the duties and responsibilities of the servants. Interestingly, Paul makes it very clear as much as people see him as a leader, he sees himself as a servant. Throughout scripture we see leaders with the understanding and function of a servant BEFORE they ever become actual, life-changing leaders.
Jesus’ words are gold when it comes to a servant:
even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28 ESV)
So even Christ Himself, the greatest leader who ever lived, knew that true leadership begins with servanthood.
By stating that Paul is called to be an apostle, he lets us know that this is something God is constantly working in him. Although he may be functioning as an apostle in the text, he almost has this feel that he’s still becoming what God has called him to be.
Calling is constant.
Our prayer should be that God is constantly calling us to a deeper love and revelation of Him. The confidence to do what He has called us to will come with the time that we spend with Him. Jesus gives us the order of which we are called to Him in Mark chapter 3:
And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons. (Mark 3:14-15 ESV)
Notice the order of Jesus’ call.
- So that they would be with Him
- And that He could sent them out to preach
- And to have authority to cast out the demons
So before we every experience the successes of public ministry, Jesus makes it clear that we first must experience private intimacy with Him. It is there we discover our call, and get sent out to preach, and finally have authority. But we will not have authority, without first having intimacy. We can not being pouring the Gospel out of our hearts until it has been poured into our hearts.
The final part of Paul’s opening statement is that he has been “set apart” for the Gospel of God. Firstly, I am intrigued that Paul recognizes he has been set apart. As a young leader myself, I know that it’s difficult to walk in your calling when you don’t acknowledge and accept that you are called. The word “holy” comes to mind, which means to be set apart. And throughout scripture calls and challenges us to be holy.
Secondly, Paul states that he has been set apart “for” the Gospel of God. Letting us know that everything that ever happen to him was for one reason, to promote the Gospel of God. Anything that ever went wrong in his life was “for” the Gospel.
Often times in life, we stagger to understand why things are happening. We seek for a true understanding of why we went through things. But in that stage of going through it, we are mostly thinking of our own lives. All the attention is focused on our own discomfort. It is not until we begin to invest in the lives of others (like Paul is doing in this letter to the Romans) that we realize why we went through what we went through.
Lastly, Paul lets us know that this is the “Gospel of God”. We have heard of many Gospels up to this point in the New Testament. But not a Gospel that belongs to God. Paul lets us know that if Christ is the subject of the Gospel, ultimately God is the source of it. I won’t try to draw too much here. So let’s look at the word Gospel for now.
When you think of religion, the first things that usually comes to mind is rules. The parameters, boundaries, and almost limitations, if you will, of what members of that religion cannot do. So, religion says, “to properly connect with God you must meet a certain set of standards.” Religion is advice.
Now, the Gospel is not advice. Advice is what you ought to do if you want to achieve, and ascend to a certain level of life. The Gospel (which means “Good News”) is not advice, but The Gospel is News. The Gospel is the announcement of what has already taken place. So rather than us doing, adapting, and adjusting to become like God, the Christian Gospel shows us that God became like us, in the form of Jesus Christ. So literally, when we couldn’t get to God because of our sin, The God of the Gospel came to us, and opened the way to Him eternally.
Deep I know, and I may have gotten a little off track from Paul’s first verse of the letter of Romans, but I pray you are helped by this. We serve a God that isn’t looking for perfection, rather He’s looking for people who can admit they’re helpless. The whole point of Christianity is not to reveal our need for a checklist and moral standards, but rather it’s to show us our need for a Savior!