Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Designated Hitter: Romans 1:1, Part 1

The Silent Holocron, beginning this week, will devote Monday space to the following Sunday’s sermon.  I feel this will help not only me as I tweak the sermon prior to Sunday through any feedback you may feel led to give, but it will also help our voice interpreters by allowing them to prepare beforehand.  You’re getting the first one a day early, just because I feel that dang good.

In an attempt to see if Blogger for Word does the trick with my Greek fonts, I’m going to post my Greek work for next Sunday’s sermon using that tool.  You may need to download the SIL Greek font to read this work.  I hope many of you don’t.  But oh well.

Next Sunday I will begin preaching through the book of Romans.  Being in a Deaf church is conducive to the type of exposition Romans requires, because I cannot successfully lump large blocks of text together in a sermon.  More on that in my series on Deaf ministry.

But with no further ado, let us examine the Greek text of Romans 1:1.

PaÂlov doÂlov Cristo HIjso kljtèv ‡pçstolov ‡fwrism™nov e¸v eÇagg™lion qeoÂ

Transliterated, we have:

Paulos doulos Xristou Iesou kletos apostolos aphorismenos eis euangelion theou

Translated, we have:

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, one called an apostle, one who is being separated to a gospel of God

This is a very powerful verse.  Once we leave behind the book of Acts and begin to really get into the meat and potatoes of the New Testament, we encounter this statement from Paul.  There are three major words in this verse:

doÂlov- This noun can be translated either servant or slave.  It has traditionally been translated as “bondservant.”  The construction it begins is describing Paul as one who is enslaved to Jesus.

kljtèv- This is an adjective that can either refer back to “Paul” or to “slave.”  I believe the context of the verse points this adjective back to Paul, given that it begins a second construction in the phrase.  This construction is also descriptive, naming Paul as “a called one,” and specifically “one called (to be an) apostle.”

‡fwrism™nov- Now we arrive at what I believe to be the most important word in the verse.  This is a Present Passive Participle translated "one who is being separated" or "one who is being set aside," used descriptively of its noun, “Paul.”  Here are some bullet points that I hope will underscore why I think this is the most important word in understanding the verse:
  • The present participle indicates simultaneous action.  This means that Paul is at the same time a slave, a called one, and one who is being separated.  There is no distinction between the three.

  • This simultaneous action means that Paul was enslaved, called, and set apart at one moment.  In lay terms, the moment Paul was saved, in that instant he was also the Apostle Paul who preached the gospel.

  • The present tense indicates progressive, continual action.  This means that Paul is constantly being enslaved, called, and set apart.  This is an every day occurrence for Paul, not a one-time event.

  • This means that, in Paul’s mind, his salvation, sanctification, and service is something that happens daily; and not in the Catholic sense of works (confession, Eucharist, etc.) – it is a work of something outside of himself, as we will see in the next bullet point.

  • The passive voice indicates the subject is being acted upon by something outside of itself.  This means that Paul is saying very clearly that he is not the one who enslaved himself to Christ; he is not the one who called himself to apostleship; and he is not the one who set himself apart to the gospel.  Someone else did.

  • This is why it is important to understand that it is faith, not human works, that brings us to Christ.  It is the electing and providential work of God – not human effort – that saves us, determines our calling in life, and how we will fulfill that calling.

As you can see, this word theologically loads what otherwise could be a ho-hum introduction to the letter.  We could also say of this word as indicating Paul has been “designated” to the Gospel.  Paul is a slave who has been designated to deliver a specific message.  He is the “designated hitter” that God has inserted into His lineup!  More on that tomorrow.

Now, a slave does not have the right to designate his assignment, much less to whom he will be indentured.  This means there must be prior planning on the part of the one whom has procured the slave.  One does not just buy a slave indiscriminately.  There must be a plan in place for the slave before it is procured, and the slave-master, when looking over the market, would be thinking of the exact job description.  All that is left for the slave-master to do is procure the slave that he thinks best fits the purpose for which he is procuring the slave.

What this tells us is that Paul is indirectly referencing – hold on to your hats, now – election.  God owns all the slaves.  All of us agree with this (I hope).  However, as the master, He may select any slave for any specific purpose in His mind.  He goes to the slave-market that is the world and redeems certain of the slaves for the purposes that He has, and sets them to their work.  God does not have to redeem every slave; indeed, the master only selects those slaves of which He has need.  He has selected some and passed over others.

How arrogant must we seem, to God, to beat our chests and proclaim that we have a choice of whether or not to accept Christ?  We are slaves, and Paul will make that abundantly clear in later chapters of the book.  And as slaves, we have no legal rights whatsoever.  We do not even have the right of free choice.  This is why election is necessary – God must choose us before we could ever hope to choose Him.

With that, I will stop.  Tomorrow I will unveil my sermon outline and show how the discussion above relates to each point.  Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.  Enjoy!         UPDATE 5:43 PM: Before I forget, SIL Greek font rocks the casbah. Go get it and use it for all your Greek needs. It looks good on Blogger, but of course there likely will be the need to download it in order to view it online. I used it to write Greek research papers in the past, and the current version is even easier to use. There is also a SIL Hebrew font, but I don't currently have the link on hand--I'll have to dig it out. Hearne, look for that first verse of John 3 later this week now that I'm finally satisfied. I hope this offering will appease you until then!


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