Phil Cox


(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)

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Set apart for the gospel of God

20th July 2013

As we saw last week, the NIV translates the first words of Paul's letter to the church at Rome as:

Romans 1v1
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God

Last week, we looked at the word doulos, which means "slave" not "servant", and considered how great a privilege it it to be a slave of Jesus Christ. This week, let's look at Paul's statement that he was "set apart for the gospel of God".

The word "gospel" translates the Greek word evangelion, which means "good news" (I wish our modern translations would consistently use the term "good news" instead of "gospel", it would be easier to understand). Of course, evangelion is where we get the word "evangelical" from. I'm glad to call myself an "evangelical", but this use of the word is slightly strange, because you can't become a Christian if you don't believe the good news, and because "evangelical" has come to mean much more than that.

Paul had a particular reason than to think of himself as set apart for the good news:

Acts 13v1-2
In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off."

I think it's an important insight that Paul saw himself as set apart for the good news. That's what he lived for. He didn't dedicate his life to leading, or even to planting and establishing churches, although he did a lot of it. He dedicated his life to the good news. Planting and establishing churches was just how he served the good news.

Some Christians are set apart to be leaders. But there are some church leaders whom God never called, never set apart to lead. They just chose the job for themselves, for the salary or for the illusion of power. How terrible it must be to do such a job if God hasn't called you to do it.

And some church leaders who have been called by God think they're set apart just for leadership. Some think they're set apart to take decisions, or to preside at meetings, or to "officiate" when we break bread together. But more than anything else, church leaders are set apart for the good news. We're not set apart for our own ego, or the furtherance of our career, or for financial gain, or even to see our churches grow, but for the good news.

And every Christian has been set apart. Verse 7 says we're called to be saints" - holy ones. And I think we too are set apart for the good news. That is, every Christian is called to dedicate his life to getting the good news to those who need to hear it. Not all of us are financially supported by the church. Most of us are called to work as teachers, nurses, computer programmers, dustmen, accountants, and in other professions. But serving the good news is still our first responsibility before God.

Isn't it?

Isn't helping other people to discover the good news of Jesus Christ the greatest thing we can do on this earth?

Moving on to verse 5, we that our service to the good news is to call people from every walk of life into both repentance and faith:

Romans 1v5
... we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith

Paul says that, for him, being a slave of Jesus Christ means calling non-Christians not only to believe the good news but to obey God. The good news is a call to obey God - both to repent and believe in Jesus's redeeming blood.

Romans 1v6
And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Are you among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ? Do you accept the call? Will you dedicate your life to getting the good news to those who need to hear it? People out there are dying, and going to an eternity without Christ!

In verse 9, Paul writes of:

Romans 1v9
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son

We may have less opportunity than Paul, but we should surely take every opportunity we get. We can't serve the good news with all of our time, but we can serve it with all of our hearts, like Paul.

In verses 16-17 he says:

Romans 1v16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, "The righteous will live by faith."

If we're dedicated to the work of getting the good news out - to our families and friends, to our colleagues at work and to strangers, then we can't afford to be ashamed of the good news. They won't believe the good news unless we tell them what the good news is. And they won't be saved from their sins.

But the good news is good news! It's the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.It's absolutely wonderful. It's changed my life enormously. And, if you belong to Jesus Christ, it's changed yours too. How can we live with our consciences if we keep it to ourselves?