Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus (Rom 1:1a NET Bible)
The letter to the Romans is about the gospel or God's power that lifts us out of the miry pit and establishes our feet on solid ground. It's the outlandish rumor that God cares and has personally intervened to affect a rescue program. The gospel is not "help on the way; it's Help here and now!"
Romans answers the question, in ways profoundly beyond other discussions in the New Testament, of how an estranged person can be right with their Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Friend, the Lord Jesus Christ. The key word that unlocks much of its theology is grace or unmerited favor. Grace is the cornerstone around which the building of God's deliverance is built. Romans announces the good news that God has freely offered release and liberty to those who welcome Him as Liberator.
What is quite strange about this letter of grace, however, is the person whom God used to write it. First, he was a Jew writing to a largely Gentile audience. Second, he was a former Pharisee, and by his own admission, an arrogant, self-righteous legalist. As he says in one of his other letters, he considered himself faultless in his adherence to the Law of Moses (cf. Phil 3:1-6). Third, he was once a violent persecutor of the church and an enemy of the gospel.
But this man is now a different man than Saul the Pharisee, legalist, and persecutor. He had been captivated by Christ and enslaved to Him. God had taken the greatest legalist ever and used him to expound the blessings of grace! There's hope for all of us!
The one, singular passion of Paul's renewed heart was to know Christ and to make Him known (cf. 3:10-11)! The apostle was, in short, a living, breathing example of the transformation he speaks about in Romans! God knows how to grow perfect roses in volcanic ash. Paul was transformed from glorious ruin to grateful servant! He is God's example to all of us, His example par excellence!
In this context of spiritual transformation and new allegiances, Paul was forever conscious that firstly and ultimately he was a "slave of Christ Jesus." He was always cognizant of the rescue God had affected in his wayward life and he never tired of acknowledging Messiah's gracious claim on his present and future decisions. Again, he was a joyful, self-professed "slave...of Christ Jesus." He followed Christ's commands and he considered his life totally at his Master's disposal.
Now to Paul this slavery was not drudgery-nor has it ever been to anyone who has ever known Jesus personally. But ironically and mysteriously, by giving his life away to Christ, Paul's slavery had become true freedom and his desire to please His Master true fulfillment. I wonder if we understand this (cf. Matt 16:25).
Paul understood the honor of his high calling. After all, Abraham, Moses, David, and indeed Israel herself, were all "slaves of the Lord." Certainly he marveled at the prestige afforded the Christian and untiringly sought to express the depth of his gratitude through sacrificial and faithful service (Phil 1:21).
I wonder what would happen if we understood our lives in the same vein, as slaves of Christ Jesus. What would happen if today I gave my life totally to the Lord to be used for his purposes? After all, if I'm a Christian, He's my Master too! What if I sought the Lord in prayer and hung on his every word, seeking grace to obey at every turn (Heb 4:16)? Would He show me great and unsearchable things I do not know (Jer 33:3; John 14:21)? Would He open up His treasure of riches and lavish them upon me (Col. 2:3)? Would He take my soul into His presence and confide in me heavenly secrets that He only tells close, personal friends? Would He beckon me join Him on a voyage that would thrill my soul and lead to blessing for thousands of people? I wonder what the transformation of slavery will bring...I wonder...