PAUL A SERVANT These opening seven verses of the book of Romans
moves from Paul to the gospel and then back to Paul in quick, then out into the world of
Jewish, but also Gentile worlds in quick, successive flourish. Notice this self-portrait
in the personal introduction. He presents himself as a slave bearing a commission from
royalty. Clearly, his announcement carried overtones of social degradationslaves had
no rights, no property, and no prospects; they existed to do the bidding of someone else.
Yet, when it is placed beside the next two word, Christ Jesus, we hear more
overtones of royalty and thus Paul bears a slave-of-the-king status.
AN EXTRAORDINARY BIRTH Jesus birth is but the beginning of the disruption
of this world by Gods intervention. Paul expresses this disruptive quality of the
gospel of Jesus in his very opening lines. Jesus, Paul affirms, comes from a Jewish
milieua long lineage of Jewish families and Jewish traditions. Yet, in the next
sentence Paul declares that he is now the universal savior of humanity: "through
Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God
has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his
NLT). For Paul, the divine energy that produced the resurrection of the Jewish
savior exalted him as savior of Jews and Gentiles. Why should God reach across the
boundaries established by the law to embrace the outsiders? Such is Gods nature. And
God still breaks beyond, permeates, tears down boundaries "to bring about the
obedience of faith among all the Gentiles." 
Paul deliberately allows himself to be defined by the gospel in
his opening remarks his self-description carry overtones of how he understood his call.
How are we defined by the gospel? How are we characterized by the news of the gospel? Can
Youve sat in the chair opposite an interviewer. "Tell me a little bit about
yourself," they ask us and then (especially if we havent prepped!) we have to
hurriedly decide what to disclose and what to withhold in a very brief amount of time. How
would you describe yourself from the perspective of Pauls phrase, a "servant of
reasonable to listen to this passage while keeping a pulse on the other lessons so that
this lesson more clearly delineates Psalm 80 and also Isaiah 7. Matthew 1 even more
particularizes the story of the gospel to which to previous passages have alludedat
least through the lens of Christian faith.
might consider a homily that spins around Pauls self-portrait. Paul clearly and with
meaning describes himself as "Jesus Christs slave" (v. 1, NLT). You
could explore what that title meant to Paul and his age, and what title before our name
would approximate the meaning. You could also shift to the royal description of Christ and
explore how Paul saw his call as being the ambassador of the Son of God.
few more additional thoughts Paul wasnt scouring the "help wanted"
section of the newspaper when the call came. Paul wasnt looking to be a celebrity.
The apostle rather frames his opening lines in the language of mission, divine call, and
complete obedience to Gods mission for him. In fact, in view of the "call"
he considers himself a slave of the one he represents, Jesus Christ.
the letter? Why not let Paul go chasing after his "call"? What possible impact
could this mission of a single man of Jewish origin have on non-Jewish persons from
another part of the world? As Paul rehearses his mission, he believes he is an apostle, a
special agent sent on an assignment with an announcementthe Good News. That GN is
what impacts Rome. Because of the gift of Pauls apostolic commitment to the
preaching of the euangelion, the possibility of a new relationship with God emerges
for the Gentile world, including the Roman citizens (vv. 5-6). Such generosity and shalom
is the result of the death and resurrection of Jesus which forms the core of Pauls
 Charles B. Cousar, Disruptive Hope, in Journal for Preachers
(Advent 2001): 30.