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 I travel around Chicago I see a lot of storefront churches that claim to be apostolic or they are even pastored by Apostle such-and-such. It seems like a grand title, and it also seems charismatic. When I see the world ‘apostle’, it connects in my mind with anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Despite the lowly status of ‘slave’ or ‘servant’, Paul also owns the lofty title of ‘apostle.’ He is not an apostle because of his own authority, but Jesus exercises his authority in calling Paul. Mathew 10 shows us clearly how apostles are made. Jesus confers upon the disciples his authority and designates them as apostles. As apostles, these 12 men are to go into the world as Jesus’ representatives and make a difference. An apostle is one who is sent. They are also a representative of the one who sends them.
So how is Paul and apostle if Jesus commissioned and sent his 12? Paul was commissioned by Jesus, too. After bursting into Paul’s life on the road to Damascus, Jesus met with Paul in the wilderness (Galatians 1:17) and commissioned him for service. Paul, then ends up sharing the qualifications of the original apostles. They were all instructed by Jesus, given authority directly by him, and they went into all the world to communicate the good news.
Paul knows that he is not called an apostle because of his own worth. It is by grace that he is given such a high status by the one whom he persecuted.
Although we are not apostles in the original sense of being taught directly by Jesus and commissioned by him, we are apostles in a lesser sense. We have been taught the words of Jesus as his apostles have taught us in scripture. We know the good news of Jesus and how life with him transforms the soul and transforms the world. We have been commissioned to go into all the world and make disciples. So, we too, should have a spirit of evangelism that burns in us. We should see ourselves as missionaries.
The idea of missionaries has been somewhat hijacked by the professional missionary of the 17th-20th centuries. We have all listened to exotic stories of adventure from foreign lands. I know because I was enthralled by those stories and set sail from England many years ago. However, as one who now lives far from the country that I call home, I have seen the weakness of our exotic definition. Just like we define a minister as the one in the church that we pay, so we define a missionary as the one in the church who raises support or who lives in the 10-40 window. We are all called to be ministers and we are all called to live missionally.
So is Paul talking of himself in this passage just like any one of us could? No, not really. He is claiming a position among the first apostles with their elevated status. This will lend his letter more authority and credibility for the task that he is about to perform. The most direct application is not that we should be missionaries too, like Paul. The most direct application is that we should pay close attention to what Jesus communicates through his servant apostle Paul. Although it is all well and good to read books by Christian writers, like the newly published 20 Things We’d Tell Our Twentysomething Selves, Peter and Kelli Worrall (the authors) lack the authority and credibility of Paul. Reading the letters of Paul, even before the New Testament became what it is, were more authoritative than reading the works of Julius Caesar or Aristotle.
- What is the second thing that Paul claims to be?
- What does apostle mean ( maybe look it up?)?
- In what ways is Jesus as apostle different from Paul the apostle, different from John Kelly (see above) the apostle?
- How should we redefine ourselves as an apostle?
- How should Paul’s status as apostle change how people read the Book of Romans?