ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ — “…of Christ Jesus…”
When last we looked at Romans 1:1, we saw that Paul presents himself immediately as a “slave” (δοῦλος). We explored that confounding Bob Dylan idea: “you gotta serve somebody.” In the words of the frog-throated cultural prophet: “it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord…but we all gotta serve somebody.” Here, Paul is telling us who he serves: Christ Jesus.
First and foremost, let’s note that this phrase (Christ Jesus) tells us to whom Paul is enslaved. Jesus owns, in every sense of the word, Paul. For Paul, Jesus has bought him with a price, i.e. he has been bought by Jesus’ efforts on the cross.
So, who is this Jesus anyway?
Let’s start with the term “Jesus.” Jesus was a man. He lived prior to Paul, sometime in the early 1st century CE. The life of Jesus is described by bunches of people in lots of different ways. The “definitive” accounts of his life are contained in the four gospels which are the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There are myriad extra-biblical accounts of Jesus and his activities, but most Christians take these four to be the heart and soul, the backbone, of the Christ story.
Bottom-line: Jesus was a man.
Now, let’s turn to this word “Christ.”
Simply put, Christ means “anointed.” Jesus was anointed by God as the Lord because he was God himself, God incarnate, God in human form. Fully divine and fully human — this is the core of the mystery of Christianity.
Because Jesus is the anointed, the messiah, the Lord, the King, Paul has gladly allowed himself to be enslaved to Jesus. He has put himself in servitude to Jesus. It is this Jesus that Paul hopes to tell all of the Gentiles about. It is this Jesus whom he preaches. It is this Jesus whom Paul believes he is working for, whom Paul believes he is being beaten, spurned, scorned, and imprisoned for. This is the guy.
Another bottom-line: Christ is King.
That sentence sums up Paul’s view (and mine) on the matter of who this Christ Jesus is.
Let’s look at what we have so far:
ΠΑΥΛΟΣ ΔΟΥΛΟΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ ΙΗΣΟΥ
PAUL SLAVE [OF] CHRIST JESUS
If Paul were able to write his epitaph, I think this might be exactly what he’d like carved in stone for eternity. Consequently, when he introduces himself to a brand new group of believers, a group that he hopes to visit, this is where he starts.