Romans 1:1-7 (1)
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Who are you? Paul had to introduce himself to these Roman Christians. How he does so can be instructive for us today.
He tells them he’s a servant, a sent one, and set apart. Servant, or slave, to Jesus Messiah. One sent on his way by this Messiah, a messenger. His life given over to the gospel of God.
Servant, sent one, set apart – who are you?
Paul identifies himself to the Romans in terms of the three P’s that make us human beings who we are –
our Priorities, that is, our deepest convictions,
our Passions, that is, what energizes us and moves us to action, and
our Practices, that is, what we do.
Paul’s priority is God’s claim on his life. He is God’s creature, hence God’s servant. Paul embraces this divine claim on him. His life is not his own.
Paul’s passions are governed and channeled by God’s call. Apostle. Sent one. Messenger. Ambassador. He comes and goes at another’s behest. His life is not his own.
Paul’s practices grow out of his priorities and passions and reflect them to those who observe him. And they reflect the One who sent him.
Who are you? What are your priorities, passions, and practices? How well aligned are they? Imagine three people walking down the street arm in arm. As long as they are going the same direction, at the same speed, in stride, they will progress nicely toward their destination. Let one, two or all three of them decide to go different directions, move at different speeds, or alter their strides, they will quickly break apart no longer be aligned with each other.
That’s how it is with us. As fallen human beings our priorities, passions, and practices push and pull against each other, out of sync, out of step, thus Paul’s famous cry later in Romans (7:21-25):
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
And it is precisely Jesus Messiah who has freed and reintegrated the chaos of Paul’s three P’s into the symphony of coherence and integrity we find here.
One last time, who are you?