I have recently began to do another study of Romans. As I was ready to begin reading through my copy of the Scripture, I was anticipating the joy of zig-zagging through all my previous notes, markings, and highlights as a hunter knowing that God had something fresh for me. Well, it didn’t take long. In fact, it took just 3 words.Paul begins with “Paul, a servant…” (1:1) and I was hit, not so much with the ESV word of “servant”, but the deeper emotion that Paul is trying to convey. He is announcing from the beginning of this inspired work “I AM A SLAVE”. I don’t begin letters that way. I usually try to begin emails sharing what I know or just getting to the point of something. If I am actually writing someone new I will tend to give my credentials or job title or something that will move them to want to read the rest of the message.Paul begins with “I AM ENSLAVED.”Knowing what I do of Paul (see Philippians 1 and Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1) I am picturing his joy as he writes “I am a slave OF Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart…“. As I read, I was reminded that slaves are usually marked in some manner with a type of branding to set them apart from others. Something that will make every one aware that this man or woman or child belongs to another. A marking that will reveal that this person is not entirely left freely to himself, or to his own will. He is enslaved. He is marked, branded, owned by and set apart for another.What is it that “brands” Paul? Who is it that owns Paul? To who’s will is he bound to? He continues to reveal that as a slave he is set apart ” for the gospel of God…”. A few lines later he confirms this by referring to Jesus Christ as Lord. He’s not really using the same language as LORD used in the law, this word is communicating that Jesus Christ is his MASTER. The Gospel of God has enslaved him to a Master and that Master is Jesus Christ.He’s branded (set apart) by the Gospel – which is simply the good news about His Master!There’s no shame or embarrassment. He’s not embarrassed or ashamed because he knows all to well just how powerful this Master is (1:16). Therefore, it is with great pleasure he begins his opening line telling the Romans – “I am enslaved to the story and message of my Master.” And with that, Paul begins his letter to the Romans in which he’ll present to them what brands him – the good news about a good Master. That He (Christ) is no ordinary master and this is no ordinary enslavement. This…is freeing. This… is empowering. This…is satisfying. He knew what I’m knowing more and more every day, that there is a slavery that is powerful and life-giving because there is a Master who gives life – and being “owned” by His will and His plans and His majesty is a gift, not a curse.Oh praise Him with a thousand tongues! And my I embrace the chains of His grace that links me to my Master…forever! He’s that good. He’s that satisfying.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore!”–Psalm 16:11