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Three Things That Made Apostle Paul Great

Today, I am going to begin a study with you on the book of Romans. But as I was going through that Book, the manner in which Paul introduced himself struck me as a bit unusual.There was something about that introduction that revealed to me why this humble guy became one of the greatest apostles of Jesus Christ. This is how the New King James Bible puts Romans 1:1

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,
separated to the gospel of God”.

There has to be something to this introduction, because Paul made sure to begin all his letters, except Hebrews, this way. I don’t think Paul was a vain babbler, do you? So, I began to ask myself, ‘What is the point that this man of God was trying to make by this repeated introduction?’ I really think he wanted us to learn something, after all, ‘learning is an exercise in redundancy’. Jesus would often repeat himself, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you…’ Peter would defend his repetition of certain truth by saying, ‘Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you…’ I Peter 1: 13.

You say, ‘OK, I get it. What was his point?’ Let us then look at that one-sentence introduction to find out what Paul meant to tell us, the way I see it.

The first thing he said was, ‘Hi, I am Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.’ We see here someone who was not ashamed to be who he was. ‘I am Paul, not Peter, or James’. There was, in my mind, a complete acceptance of who he was. But notice, the greatest thing is what he said next. ‘I am Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ. The word Paul used was, “doulos”, a Greek word for bond-salve, one who is the complete property of another. I don’t know about you, but I think that is a most unusual way to introduce oneself. It is even more remarkable because Paul seem to be happy about it, as if to suggest that it is a thing of honor to be a bond-slave, the complete property of Jesus Christ.

Well, yes it is. It is a great honor for Christ to ‘capture’ a soul so entirely that He is the owner of such a life. This was Paul’s greatest secret. In fact, on the ship to Rome, he ‘boasted’ about this same issue, ‘For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve’ Acts 27:23. Or, this one in Philippians 3:7-8, ‘But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.’

As you listen to that kind of intense comment, you can’t help but wonder, ‘What is wrong with this Paul. Is he out of his senses?’ How can he rejoice in the fact that he is owned by Another? How can an individual lose all things for this person, and still count all his loss as nothing? It beats our imagination. It stares sharply in the face of our what-is-in-it-for-me Christianity, and rouses our selfish soul from its slumber.

Yet, this is the very beginning of a meaningful walk with God. It is this very fact - a total surrender to the Person and will of Jesus Christ - that made Paul who he was, not his call to apostleship. This blessed yieldedness that calls all but nothing, and counts Christ to be all in all. It is clear, the person who will count with God is someone who can truly say with Paul, ‘I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’ Galatians 2: 20.

The second thing Paul said about himself is equally revealing. He said, ‘Did you know I am a man on assignment from God? I am an apostle of Jesus Christ.’ He knew not only the source of his life and the nature of that life; he also understood his life assignment. He was called to be an apostle, a sent one, not to the Jews but to non-Jews. Once he knew this fact for sure, he gave all to fulfilling it. He may read his own account of this in Galatians 1:15- 24.

This one thing I think we need to notice, Paul discovered his assignment by revelation. It was a divine call. He did not presume his way into apostleship. He merely discovered, and responded, to the heavenly call. Isn’t it time to ask God for his assignment or mission for you? Many times, when Christians talk about discovering purpose, they actually mean discovering their unique assignment or mission in this earth. There is something, a ‘good work which God has pre-ordained that you should walk in it’ on this side of eternity (Ephesians 2: 10). Let us be content to stay in our calling and not wish or try to do something else He has not called us into.

Lastly, Paul concluded his intro by saying, ‘You know what? I am sure dedicated to my assignment. I am separated to the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ This guy is hitting on something here. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). In other words, it takes the gospel to fulfill his mission as an apostle. So, he made a choice to commit himself to this gospel. Paul understood the power of concentrated focus that avoids distraction and eliminates dissipation. But do we? Literarily, are we committed to the gospel, to the word of God? Isn’t it still the power of God to bless, save and uplift any soul? The postmodern world may celebrate relativity and shun absolutes with all its might, but dare we not stay true and focused to the gospel that brought us to grace and peace?