Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God,
There are no significant textual transmission issues in this verse. The word order of the Name is reversed in the Textus Receptus.
- 1. The name "Paul" is Latin and signifies something "small" [Strong's].
- 2. Because Paul identifies himself (unlike the unsigned epistle to the Hebrews), we must assume he brings everything about himself to the table but knows that his readers only know him by reputation and, thus, must deliberately bring what he really wants them to think about to the table.
- a. We know that the Scripture originally identified him as 'Saul'. At Acts 13:9 Luke makes the transition from 'Saul' to 'Paul' and the name 'Saul' is used no more in reference to him except in Paul's defense before convened authorities when he told them of his experience with God's 'Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?' [Acts 22:7 and 26:14].
- b. We know that the appellation "Saul" means "one desired or sought after" and it seems to be an idea that Paul shunned once he got his spiritual feet under him. For Paul, "Saul" had too much of the negative overtones of King Saul's determination to remain in the center of attention. And, as apostle to the Gentiles [Romans 13], it is probable that he took on a Latin name in order to more clearly identify himself with the Gentiles.
- 3. Because he specifically identifies himself in two particular ways, we must assume that he wants us to focus upon these two particulars rather than anything else we know about him.
- a. Being a bondservant of Christ Jesus is no small matter.
- 1) This particular self-identification was only used by Paul in Romans, Philippians, and Titus as 'introductory' material. It is significant that the only letter he wrote that was directed toward people he had not visited or gotten to know begins with the servanthood thesis.
- 2) A large umbrella concept of the Kingdom of God is the concept of it being a servant-kingdom.
- a) Putting "Christ" before "Jesus" (as the Nestle/Aland 26 does) emphasizes the "kingly" identity of Jesus.
- b) Emphasis upon the kingly identity of the servant's master brings the question of the nature of the master's kingdom to the text.
- c) That the master has bondservants says something about the nature of His kingdom.
- 3) Putting the self-characterization of servanthood first is emphatic and calls for the orientation of our minds in the direction of servanthood as an over-arching orientation.
- a) There is no true understanding, even at core-central, if the umbrella is not grasped.
- i. All logic requires some pretty basic premises (umbrellas).
- ii. All logic requires consistency not only between the basic premise(s) and the deduced extensions, but also between any particular deduced extension and all other deduced extensions.
- b) There is no genuine grasp of any kingdom reality that does not have servanthood as a guiding concept. [Mark did not give us a picture of the Servant God for nothing!]
- 4) Putting "Jesus" after "Christ" brings the meaning of that name into the discussion at some level.
- a) That "Jesus" means "Savior" ["...you shall call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins..." - Matthew 1:21] bends our thinking in the direction of Paul's connection as a servant to the Savior.
- b) It is highly likely that this connection is given as explanation for Paul's clear boast regarding his servanthood.
- i. Servanthood is a despised identity in this world.
- ii. Anyone who would boast of being a servant must have a good reason for going against the entire world's perception that being such is not good.
- c) There is one realm, even in this world's perception, in which servanthood is not a bad idea: the realm of love.
- i. Only the most depraved argue that to love means to force others to submit to the inclinations of the "lover".
- ii. All men of any reason admit that to love means to seek the pleasure of the beloved.
- d) We conclude, then, that Paul was a bondservant of the Christ because He had loved Paul, and because Paul reciprocated that love.
- b. Being a "called apostle" is also no small identity issue.
- 1) In Philippians 3:12-13 Paul says that he seeks to "apprehend" what he was "apprehended" for; the point being that grace apprehended him for the identity of 'apostle to the Gentiles' [Acts 9:15-16; 22:10-15; and 26:15-18] and he wanted to 'fulfill his ministry' so that he could be said to have lived up to his calling [see Romans 11:13]. Verse 5 of this text even connects grace and apostleship and if the apostleship is epexegetical to grace, it is clear that Paul saw grace as imparting a new identity that was to be pursued with vigor.
- 2) The translation "called to be an apostle" is just a tad misleading.
- a) There is no doubt that Paul was called "to be" an apostle.
- b) But there is a perfectly good "to be" verb in Greek that Paul refrained from using.
- c) The absence of the "to be" verb implies that Paul considered himself to be a particular kind of apostle -- the "called" kind.
- i. There are, after all, other kinds of "apostles" -- i.e., self-appointed apostles, false apostles who mimic demons who transform themselves into angels of light in order to deceive, and apostles who are made such by others who over-exalt them as leaders.
- ii. The "called" kind of apostle is an apostle by virtue of his "calling" -- i.e., Paul was not put into the position of this identity by the actions of anyone except God, and God's particular action that put Paul into this identity was His "call".
- 3) The identity issue that is raised by the term "apostle" is fundamentally connected to two issues: authority and information.
- a) An "apostle" acted in the stead, and on the behalf, of his "sender".
- b) As a surrogate "actor", he exercised the authority of his "sender", and the exercise was fundamentally at the information level ['my master desires this, not that']. The apostle did not necessarily "do" all that the Sending Master desired, but he did make known what that Master wanted done by whomsoever He wanted it done.
- c) 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 strongly implies that being an apostle includes being a visual witness of the risen Lord [Ananias told Paul that he was appointed to see the Righteous One -- Acts 22:14]. This text also argues that the "seal" of apostleship is the changed lives of those who respond to the message.
- d) In Galatians, where Paul argues that his apostleship was genuine, there is no reference to the seeing of the Lord, but, rather, the inescapable logic of being able to preach the Gospel without having been taught it by men.
- c. The perfect, passive, participle "separated" is from a word which is used in the New Testament to refer to the action of bringing distinction between two or more -- a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats; the angels separating the wicked from the just; birth pangs separating a child from the womb; people pulling away from other people because they don't like what those "others" stand for or do; selecting someone to do a specific job with which the "rest" will not be directly involved; etc.
- 1) Paul clearly understood and taught that he had been specifically 'separated' from many other 'issues' so that he could be 'about the Father's business' in regard to the Gospel.
- a) The 'Gospel' in this case is characterized as being "God's", as opposed to being the gospel of grace, or the gospel of Jesus Christ, or any of the other descriptive titles that are applied in other texts.
- b) The 'Gospel of God' is a bigger umbrella than most other characterizations: it implies a larger inclusiveness and, as it happens in Romans, that inclusiveness involves the panoramic scope of God's present plans regarding the way men adjust to the reality of the Gospel in their living.
- 2) It is this sense of 'separation from' that probably provided the roots of Paul's exhortations to vigorously pursue the specific will of God that is made manifest by the work of the Spirit in the lives of each individual as a particular participant in the coming Kingdom.
- a) Paul saw himself as specifically pointed in a particular direction that automatically excluded a host of other directions and, by necessity, excluded a host of behaviors that would normally not be a 'problem' for a saint.
- b) Clearly [Romans 12] Paul did not feel this kind of 'pointedness' was unique to him. He saw our 'pointedness' as our 'stewardship' that was to be embraced if one wants to hear the 'well done, good and faithful servant' at the end.