“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 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, 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, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
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.” (Romans 1:1-7 ESV)
Sometimes I wonder if Paul came up with a rough draft before he had his thoughts scribbled down on paper, or was he really just this elegant all the time. What a powerful introduction to what would become a life-sustaining, cornerstone book of the Bible. In one fell swoop he introduces both himself and gives the core tenants of the gospel.
If you don’t know, Paul wrote Romans to the church at Rome that he had not had the chance to visit yet. Some feel that he wrote the letter to prepare the Roman church to be his base of operation for his desired ministry to Spain. It is also possible he knew his life was in danger and wanted to write a comprehensive record of his teachings. In either case Romans is as complete of a teaching on God, Christ and life in the faith as you can find in the Bible. As you walk through Romans it takes you through the Old Testament to Jesus saving work into the revelation of what new life in him looks like and finishes with a section on practical application of this new teaching.
So, how does someone start a book of such importance? With an incredible little intro. Paul introduces himself, but he quickly moves himself out of center stage and instead focuses on his master: Jesus and God’s gospel. In this passage we see that the gospel was promised, and that it concerns Jesus. We see that he is messianic, royal from birth, but fully God. We see that his divinity is “declared” by his resurrection from death.
Interestingly we see that Paul switches to talking about “we.” We have received grace. We have received apostleship. Who is we? It can only mean all of us. Christians. Paul sees apostleship as a gift that is given to the church, a thought he develops more in Ephesians 4. Finally, he gives them a formal greeting where he essentially prays for them to receive both grace and peace.
This intro highlights the humility of God’s servant. Paul would have been well known in the church. He is following a standard letter writing pattern where he begins with an introduction of himself and includes a blessing for the recipients health. Yet he quickly leaves himself to point to Jesus. Paul was a successful pastor and evangelist. Yet this intro is not about him. He doesn’t list out his accolades, or reasons why the Romans should listen to him. Instead he reveals the theme of his book: Jesus Christ and his gospel. On top of that he gives them a summary of the Gospel so simple that the Romans could use it to explain Jesus’ saving work on our behalf to anyone they came into contact with.
The question that resonates through this to us is: do we reflect that level of humility and passion for Jesus. A passion that turns a simple introduction into an elegant explanation of who Jesus is? Of course, Paul is writing to Christians. He isn’t surprising non-Christians with a sermon they aren’t looking for, but the concept remains. Jesus says “you are the light of the world…let your light shine before others that they [the world] might see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” Right from the beginning of the book of Romans we are challenged about what is the true center, the true purpose we have for our life–us or God?