This letter from the apostle Paul is surely pivotal, opening as it does the foundational truths of the gospel of God. Here are the first few verses:
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is a letter. A letter from a man named Paul, and addressed to certain people. It’s not written indiscriminately to everyone. This is not a book of advice, given to enable people to live a ‘good’ life. Paul is not writing a self help guide for the general public. It is written to a certain group, and that group is described at the outset. It’s not “to all that be in Rome……” But “to all that be in Rome who are beloved of God, called saints.” It is addressed to them, the faithful in Christ Jesus.
It was written by the Apostle Paul. Who was this man? He was a man with a wonderful history. Previously he was called Saul. This was his name in the life that he had before being called by grace.
In that old life he was the persecutor, the hater of Jewish believers in Christ. Hear him in his own words as he testifies before King Agrippa saying,:
“I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.”
This man would never cease to persecute those who, according to him, forsook the right ways of God and were turned aside to a deceiver and a false prophet. This sect which taught that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, must be stopped and wiped out.
But something happened to Saul as he travelled that road to Damascus. Full of fury, full of hatred towards the people and name of Jesus. Something extra ordinary occurred. Something unexpected, something so shattering that it turned his whole life around in an instant. Hear as he continues his testimony and relates the events of that remarkable day.
Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.
This is Paul,
Paul, a servant (literally a slave) and an apostle of Jesus Christ. An Apostle. One sent forth with orders, with a message, a good message. Glad tidings of great joy. A message with content from God himself. A Divine commission. Paul, separated, appointed by God, set apart from his previous way of life, unto the Glad tidings of God which concern his Son Jesus Christ. This good and gladdening message from God concerns God’s Son and was given to Paul, given to him who once persecuted the church of God, to proclaim and teach. This message had been promised long long ago by divinely appointed prophets. This message spoke of Jesus who…
came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth.
Never man spake like this man.
We have this book. We have the book of the prophet Esias (Isaiah), we can open it up at the very place where it is written exactly as it says.
The book of Esias was written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, but in the fullness of time, as those 700 years rolled by, the very one Esias prophesied about stood in the synagogue on the day of rest: the Sabbath. Sabbath means rest. It truly was a day of rest and relief, a day of good news to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and the bruised.
How he heals the brokenhearted, how he sets the captives free, how he gives sight to the blind, how he sets at liberty the bruised and what the acceptable year of the Lord is, is revealed in The gospel, and that gospel or ‘good news,’ is all about God’s Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; but declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.