“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).
We have seen in the previous blog that Romans 1:1 is the closest thing to a business card Paul ever wrote; it is the most elongated introduction of himself given in any letter. In it, Paul reveals how he thinks of himself as a “called” man. First and foremost, he is a servant of Christ Jesus. We saw that he uses the word doulos, translated in some of our newer versions as a bond slave. That was the word the Greek translators used of the servant who, out of love for their master, became a servant forever (see Exodus 21:1-6).
Paul goes on to say that he was “called to be an apostle” or, as some versions express it, a called apostle. This reflects back to when Jesus apprehended Paul on the Damascus Road. Not only did the risen Lord save Saul of Tarsus when he appeared to him, he also revealed to him his life calling. God called him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. This was not something Paul was taking on himself but something to which Jesus Christ called him.
Paul verifies this calling when he asks the Corinthians, “Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?” (I Corinthians 9:1). There has been much debate in the Church over the last two thousand years as to whether or not God intended the apostle Paul to be the twelfth apostle, filling the place of Judas in the Apostolic Company. Time will not allow us to enter that discussion here. Suffice it to say, Paul saw Jesus himself, which was the foremost qualification for apostleship in the New Testament.
In the previous blog, we saw how Paul’s description of himself as a “servant of Christ Jesus” applies to us. It presents us with a question: Are we serving Christ out of legal duty and obligation or out of love? Sadly, many believers are serving out of legal obligation rather than out of love.
Paul’s description of himself as a “called apostle” also has an application to us. We should be able to fill in the blank; “called to be a _________________. It’s not just apostles God calls, but every believer can fill in the blank, being called to something. Perhaps a woman can fill in the blank, called to be a mother for that is certainly a calling. Perhaps a man can think of himself as called to be a small business owner. In other words, God not only calls pastors and apostles but others as well to various stations of life. Martin Luther pointed this out in his teaching:
I read (again) recently the story of Sealy Yates as told by Nancy Pearcey in her groundbreaking book, Total Truth. Sealy was a young man when he accomplished his life dream of entering law school. Sealy was the first man in his family to attend college of which he was proud. Graduating from law school with honors, he married his high school sweetheart and together they were having their first child. Truly things were going well for Sealy.
Little wonder than that everyone was surprised when they saw that Sealy fell into a deep depression. How could a man who had everything going for him become depressed? What they didn’t know was that years before, Sealy had responded to a Gospel message at a church and gave his life to Jesus Christ. After joining the church, he was taught that if he wanted his life to count for God, he would have to become a pastor or a missionary. But Sealy had no gifts for either of these realms. So, he determined to become a lawyer and fill his schedule with as much church work as he could possibly handle.
But now that he had reached his life goal to become a lawyer, he carried a low-grade guilt that his life really didn’t count as much as it would of if he had become a missionary or pastor. It was then that he discovered a Christian legal problem that taught how lawyers can share the gospel with their clients. Since clients usually seek legal advice when they are in trouble, Sealy found a natural way to share Jesus with his clients. Far from having to go into professional ministry, Sealy realized that his life could count for God right where he was.
When I first came to serve the local church where I presently as pastor, it had a rich history of supporting foreign missions. I continued to assure the church that we would be as committed to missions as we had been. But I told the church that I not only wanted to continue to send missionaries to Africa, but also send men to be Little League coaches and football coaches. I stressed my belief that these were valid mission projects that people could do in the natural course of life.
Are you living as a called person? Are you realizing that God has you right where you are and has a kingdom purpose for you in that place? When you realize that God has called you to be his doctor, lawyer, business owner, and stay at home mom, life is infused with kingdom purpose. Find out what God has called you to and do it for his glory.
If you are interested in hearing more about Gospel identity, check out Neil’s 6-part teaching series: Whom Shall I Fear. Just click here: https://neilsilverberg.com/shop/