Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 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,5 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, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 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.
When my appetites speak to me I sometimes obey them. I eat too much or play too much. My body suffers, but at least I am not a slave to my passions. I have a choice to bring myself under the rule of God. I am his slave. I am his servant. In doing that I have freedom from the other masters who would have dominion over me.
The slavery in the passage is not like the slavery in the south. Roman slavery did relegate humans to something less than the image of God, but it did not treat them as cattle and work them on plantations in quite the same way as those who owned slaves in the South of The United States. In Israel slavery was different again. It had unique aspects like The Year of Jubilee. Sex-trafficking is an example of modern slavery. People’s rights are taken from them and their bodies are sold at a profit. Slavery is not a positive image and so many translations soften the impact by replacing the word with ‘servant’. Whichever way you look at it, though, Paul is talking about a person who gives up their rights and submits completely to the will of another.
Paul is a servant of Jesus, the Messiah. We are all servants of someone. Paul has made his choice to serve the Messiah, or Christ, Jesus. Christ is such a loaded term. It speaks of cosmic majesty and historical destiny. Jesus is so transcendent to Paul that he lays his life down before him. Paul had been a slave of the Jewish legal system, but as he will explain later that system was killing him. Others around Paul were a slave to their passions, but Paul had not been one of them. The truth is that human freedom is not a freedom from masters, but it is a freedom to choose which master will rule over us. Like Paul, I choose Jesus.
May I surrender the illusion of my own freedom from masters. Let me choose you each day and be glad that my master is so good and gracious.
- How does Paul describe himself first?
- Who is his master?
- Why might Paul use this as his opening identification?
- To what things are people enslaved today?
- How does slavery to Jesus mean freedom?