Called to Service
Paul had not yet been to Rome: the church had been planted by other gospel-tellers. His strong desire to visit them had been frustrated by circumstances which the Lord allowed (Romans 1:11-13), prompting Paul to write a long letter. In it, the apostle gives a detailed explanation of the gospel to help Christians understand the basis of their faith (Romans 16:25-26), teaching them to recognise and avoid false teaching, remain united, evangelise effectively and answer tough questions (Romans 16:17-20). The Letter to the Romans unlocks many of the Old Testament pictures explaining the personal work of Jesus Christ, and gives the reason for His life, death, and resurrection. Paul’s frustrated ministry desire was all part of the Lord’s plan – not only to teach the church in Rome, but also to teach us, whether we are Jews or Gentiles (Romans 1:16).
Paul dictated the letter when he was staying in Corinth during his third missionary journey, but it was written down on papyrus by Tertius (Romans 16:22). In Cenchreae, a village nearby, lived a businesswoman called Phoebe. She also served the Lord in the village church and was planning a business trip to the Imperial capital. Paul entrusted her to take the scrolled papyrus to Rome and personally deliver it to the church leaders (Romans 16:1-2).
Many people claimed to be religious teachers, and although Paul already knew some people in the Roman church (Romans 16:3-15), he knew his authority would be questioned. So, he presents himself transparently as a 'servant' of Christ Jesus, who set him apart for gospel ministry (Galatians 1:15-17). He was not a religious dictator but had willingly bound himself to Jesus Christ as a lifelong slave (Exodus 21:2-6). He knew he did not own himself anymore, being bought at great cost to Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:20). His calling to follow Jesus Christ in specific apostolic (sent out) ministry was unmistakable (Acts 26:12-18). He accepted that his life was to be spent in gospel proclamation.
Paul's calling and ministry task was unique; and we must fully respect the authority delegated to him by Jesus (Acts 9:15; Acts 26:17-18). His mouth and pen have been God's chosen instruments to build the church of Jesus Christ worldwide. Some of his teaching is hard to receive because it goes against the grain of our age, as it would also in Rome (2 Peter 3:15-16). Some of it opens our eyes to the majesty of God's salvation plan. Some of it will correct and encourage us. But all of it is God's truth, so none of it can be rejected. As we go through this letter, do share it with another believer at work or at home. Discuss it, pray together and allow God to teach you so that, like the church in Rome, you are better equipped to live confidently for Jesus.
© Dr Paul Adams