A bond-servant - called, set apart - Not ashamed.
Romans 1:1-17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as 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 born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God. It is important that we fully grasp the meaning of these words. A bond-servant is defined in the dictionary as: one bound to service without wages, aka a slave. The meaning in the context is a bit different. A bond-servant is one who even though they were eligible to become free, chose to remain in service to their master forever. God requires service of no one. He has created us with a free will, the ability and right to choose whether or not we will serve Him. It is important that we understand though what Jesus says in Matthew 12:30: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Similarly 1 John 4:2-3 says: By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. We each have a choice of whether or not we will serve God and Christ, but by default, if we do not serve God we serve the devil.
Paul says he was “called as an apostle.” The dictionary defines an apostle as: one sent on a mission, in particular a first or prominent missionary to a group or region. In truth every believer should view themselves as called to be an apostle. We all have been called by Christ to be His witnesses. We have been commissioned to a mission. Each one of us has groups or areas where we have prominent influence, whether it’s in our own homes, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, our local community or a more structured mission or ministry, Like Paul we are called to be apostles. Paul says he is: set apart for the gospel of God. We tend to think of the Gospels as the stories or the accounts of Jesus. The Greek meaning of the word gospel is either as a noun, meaning good news or as a verb to bring good news. So what Paul is saying is that he is set apart to bring the good news of God. Jesus often referred to the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. He said the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matthew 4:17), it is within us. (Luke 17:21) It was the good news of the benefits and promises of the kingdom which Jesus Himself preached and declared. There is of course the gospel of the cross, forgiveness from sin through the sacrifice of Christ, for all who believe and repent. The cross though, while it is the way to salvation, reconciliation and restoration is not the end of the good news, it is the beginning. The cross is the vehicle or pathway to the kingdom. The good news doesn’t end with Jesus death on the cross. The good news is that He is risen. Jesus rose from death and through the cross we too can live a resurrection life. Far too often when we share the gospel we focus on what people should do, when in truth we should focus on what Jesus did and all that we have been given through the cross and the resurrection. That’s the good news, because of Jesus the kingdom of heaven has come. He said on the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
Today’s text ends with Paul saying: I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” Paul made a choice to serve God. He responded to the call of apostleship, recognizing that he was sent by Christ to be a missionary, a prominent influence for the gospel to the regions and people wherever he was sent. Although many times, he himself was shamed, in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, Paul lists some of the things, some of the shame he endured: …imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Paul suffered much shame, but he was never ashamed of the gospel. Paul recognized, himself having been saved by Christ, that the gospel, is the power of God for salvation. If we, like Paul will be faithful to the choice we have made as servants of Christ, set apart and called to be prominent influences in our regions and among people, we too will endure some shame. The world might mock us, we might be chastised, suffer hardships and even be punished for the sake of the gospel. Regardless of the shame we may endure, we should never be ashamed of the good news we have been called to declare. No shame we could endure could compare to the shame Jesus endured for us. It’s not what people must do, but what Jesus has done.
The good news is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. They, those who will believe are why we have become bond-servants, why we are called as apostles. We are to bring the good news of the kingdom to them. But even more, because through the cross and the resurrection, the kingdom of heaven is within us, we are more than those who declare the good news. We are more than those who pray as Jesus taught us to pray. We are the answer to, the fulfillment of that prayer.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May I, through my words and my life, both declare the good news and be a vessel which brings the kingdom to earth, everywhere I go and to everyone I meet. I am Your bond-servant and I am not ashamed. Amen.