Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Yesterday the Explore Bible Reading Notes from the Good Book Company started into Paul's letter to the Romans. Just seven verses to kick off, but pure dynamite. Most readers will know of Paul's key-note summary of Romans 1:16 '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.' The Epistle to the Romans is Paul spelling out the gospel to the Christians in Rome, prior to him visiting there with a view to preaching in the centre of the known world, and going beyond, to Spain.

Paul is one of the apostles, one of the small band of people authorised by Jesus to spread and teach the authentic faith to faithful men, who in turn will teach it to others (2 Timothy 2:2). But how does he describe himself? 'Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle set apart for the gospel of God...' Apostle yes, mighty man of God, yes, but his primary identity is as 'a servant of Christ Jesus.' As the ESV footnote reminds us, 'servant' may also be translated 'slave' - much less pleasant in its connotations, yet perhaps more accurate.

In pastoral visits, and also in general, when I meet new people, I have to introduce myself. 'Hello, I'm Gary and I'm the new curate...' or something like that. There's perhaps a temptation to think in terms of greatness, and pedestals - certainly not self-promotion, but by some in church or society. We like to make much of ourselves and highlight our best features.

But for Paul, his identity is sure. It's not caught up in titles or orders or roles or functions or achievements. He's simply 'a slave of Jesus Christ.' I wonder how it would go down if I use that as my introduction?

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