As I prepare my Romans “The God Report” messages for our senior high group each week I will be posting some reflections and insights along the way. Let’s begin with the way Paul introduces himself to the Roman church.
One of the small group “mixer” activities we like to do is called “Myself in 10 Seconds.” Basically you go around the circle and each person says as much as they possibly can about themselves in 10 seconds. When I play it usually goes something like this (imagine me talking super fast):
I’m Jeremy. I’m tall. I grew up in Mound. I’m married to Keri. I like guitar, reading, blogging, golfing, watching The Office with Keri every Thursday, and I’m semi-addicted to Mountain Dew Voltage.
While it’s just a silly exercise it may reveal some of the things and people we hold most dear (“I’m married to Keri”), unique characteristics (“I’m tall”) and things we love to do (guitar, reading, blogging, golfing and The Office). More likely than not this exercise reveals the first things that pop into our minds when our turn comes.
What if we invited the Apostle Paul to join our game? What would Paul manage to spit out in 10 or 15 seconds about himself? I am having our senior high small groups explore this question this week as a way to get to know Paul. Let’s look at how Paul introduces himself to the Christians in Rome in the opening of his letter.
I am Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, I know this is a bit unfair. Paul probably had some time to prepare his letter, and wasn’t actually playing the game when he had his secretary pen this opening. But let’s go with it anyways for fun.
Here’s what I observe:
1. For starters the original Greek text lends itself toward our little game. Many translations try to clean up this first paragraph (vv. 1-7) by adding periods and breaking it up into multiple sentences. In the original Greek, however, Paul rambles out one long, run-on sentence as if he didn’t have time to stop and take a breath. Which is just what happens when you play “Myself in 10 Seconds.”
2. The first self-descriptive word after his name is “servant of Christ.” Mine was “I am tall.” Yikes! Paul’s primary identity is a “servant of Christ.” That is, not father or husband or scholar or teacher or short or tall or skinny or fat. He’s first and foremost a slave of Christ. Period. And that says a lot!
3. Paul spends one sentence describing himself before launching into an extended rant involving the gospel, God, Jesus, the Holy Scriptures, holiness, the resurrection, obedience, faith, grace and peace. And I went off on my hobbies, my interests, my hometown, my wife and favorite TV show. Yikes! Paul’s consciousness is saturated with the realities of God and he’s way more interested in talking about them than himself. The only other information we get about Paul is that he is “called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God.” Talk about a single-minded passion for the things of God!
4. Finally, Paul cheated. He totally went over the allotted time. I clocked him at 24.17 seconds! But Paul was a rebel stud who was always painting outside the lines and breaking the rules. And since he wrote most of the NT we’ll let it slide this time!
I love Paul! I’m looking forward to spending the year with him at Fusion and introducing him to our senior high students!