“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God…”
Establishing one’s personal identity is all the rage these days. But as I am wont to quote, “There’s nothing new under the sun”. The purpose in doing so has always been to dictate how you are treated. What has caused a great deal of confusion for my generation is that modern identities need not be based on reality. The “modern” tendency toward adopting impossible identities stems from the idea that people are co-creators with an impersonal, yet thinking, universe in forging a personal reality, built on a personal truth and a vibratory frequency.
It is nothing so grand as that. The truth is that despite claims of evolutionary progress we are still extremely vulnerable to the temptation to “be as gods”. Our government is moving to codify this thinking as law. The Department of Health and Human Servies has declared preferred pronouns must be adhered to without a basis in reality and its employees may be terminated for non-compliance. The Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission has jumped on board ruling intentional, continued use of improper pronouns or names creates an unlawful, hostile work environment. Terminology we are all familiar with by now.
The New Testament epistles are letters. If you’re old enough you may remember handwritten letters. The Epistle to the Romans is considered by many to be Paul’s great theological and practical treatise on Christianity. Interestingly enough, Paul begins the letter by identifying himself.
He identifies himself as a servant. Peter and James adopt the same identity in their letters. So, the greatest names in the history of Christianity all claim to be servants. Perhaps they understood Jesus’ teaching that the greatest of all Christians is also the servant of all.
Nobody wants to be a servant, do they? Servants have no rights, but to serve the whims of their master. Their entire living is dependent on a master. When that master is Christ, everything changes. Satan once asked, “Does Job fear God for naught?” (Job 1:9). The inference is that Job’s service had brought him family, riches, and admiration. Not bad for a servant.
Paul identified as being called. This makes sense because servants are called to certain duties—they have purpose, direction, and a place in the world. To this end, God has given them the gifts of the Holy Spirit as a means to fulfill their calling.
Paul said he was called to be an apostle, that is, he was sent as a representative. That is not some high church position, every Christian is called to be an apostle. Paul claimed to share a common identity with all other Christians. He asked the Corinthians once if all were apostles, if all were prophets or all teachers. The generally accepted answer is no. That answer is also generally wrong. Are all apostles, prophets, and teachers as occasion demands. Walling off a portion of your life from God’s use is the act of an unprofitable servant.
Finally, Paul identified as being separated unto the gospel of God. This was not a holier-than-thou boast. It meant the gospel had changed him. When darkness covered the land of Egypt, Israel had light in their dwellings. Jesus called on His disciples to be the light of the world. Christians are in the world as common people, but they are different in the eyes of God by reason of a single act.
They have made Christ, the Light of the world, their Lord and Master. He dwells in them and gives them the opportunity to shine with His Light.
Socrates urged people to know themselves. How do you identify?