The letter to the Romans is recognised as Paul’s most comprehensive statement about the gospel. If someone were to ask us for a summary of the gospel, we could answer, ‘The Book of Romans.’ They might respond and say that it is a very long summary, to which we should reply that it is a very large gospel.
We know that the gospel can be explained at different levels. It can be done on a one to one basis or it can be done in a study group or it can be done through preaching in public. Further, it can be done by people of different intellectual levels or by people with very different ways of speaking.
How did Paul communicate the gospel? He did so as an appointed individual, chosen by God and recognised by the church as having special authority as an apostle. His description of himself in verse 1 highlights three things in which he gloried.
First, he saw himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. This means that he did what Jesus told him to do and Paul obeyed gladly. This is a reminder that true gospel proclamation at whatever level requires an obedient heart.
Second, Paul saw himself as a messenger with a specific task. An apostle was a special representative of Jesus. Paul was given this role by Jesus in order to set up churches in lots of places, to provide them with guidance, and to write under divine inspiration several books of the Bible, including the one he was writing at that time. He did this conscious that he was serving Jesus. We cannot serve Jesus as an apostle, but we should serve him according to our place and position in the church and in life.
Third, Paul knew he was ‘set apart for the gospel of God’. He had been taken from doing something else (he summarises that former lifestyle in Philippians 3) to engage wholeheartedly in spreading the gospel and teaching about it. And that is what he had been doing for almost three decades in all kinds of places. Again, he had a specific role, one that Christians today do not have. Yet they can learn from his example to be devoted to Jesus.