1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…
Magisterial, the greatest theological treatise every written, Paul’s crowning dissertation—these are just some of the descriptions of this great piece of literature that we call “Paul’s Letter to the Romans” or “The Book of Romans.” From the earliest times his writings were collected and circulated as a single collection—and the collection always began with the book of Romans. Virtually all ancient writers, including heretics, attribute the authorship of this writing to the apostle Paul. It was most likely written after 1 and 2 Corinthians, while he was on his way to deliver the benevolence collection to the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. This was at the conclusion of his third missions tour (Acts 19-20). Internal details would point to a date for writing of about A.D. 56, with Paul finally reaching Rome around A.D. 60.
The impact of this book cannot be overstated. In it we find the carefully laid out, theologically reasoned presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What Jesus came to do as He ministered some three and half years, Paul elucidates in logical and theological terms. Whereas Jesus was the Gospel story, Paul is the commentary on the Gospel message. John the Baptist was the forerunner of the Christ; Paul was the after-runner of the Christ. While the prophets, such as Isaiah, were the foretellers of Christ, Paul was the after teller of Christ. But make no mistake about it, Paul was all about Christ and his writings are saturated with Him.
That which he desired for himself, “that he might know Him,” is what he desires for all—and that is the reason for his voluminous writings, especially in this book of Romans. His writings have profoundly affected the knowledge of Christ through history, over against religious institutions that continually pull away toward man-made, man-centered efforts to knowing God. The ancient theologian Augustine, the reformer Martin Luther, and Christians today have been hugely affected by the writings of this man, Paul. Why? Because God uniquely used him to convey the truth of Christ.
Paul clearly saw himself as “an apostle,” one sent on a mission to proclaim the Good News (i.e. the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. He saw it, not as a choice, but as an obligation—he was sent by Jesus (Acts 9:15-16, Gal 1:15-16). He was, as his favorite self-description goes, a “bond-servant of Christ.”
Lord, I want to “know Him,” Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ. I commit to spending time each day this year getting to know Him better. Amen.