Todd, to everyone who reads the blog, Greetings.
This is how letters started in the days of Paul. The sender to the receiver, greetings. A to B, hello. At the beginning of his letter to the Romans, Paul follows this tradition, but adds his own flair. His A section is 6 verses long!
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,” – Romans 1:1-6 (ESV)
When you read commentaries on Romans, they give many reasons for why he did this. Many are complicated, and most are conjecture. Good logical conjectures, but guesses nonetheless. Rather than trying to explain all of them to you, and then telling you why they are each right or wrong, I am merely going to share with you what jumped out at me as I read this.
I think Paul, as quickly as possible, got to the topic of Jesus and the gospel. Even in the introduction, the definition of himself, the real subject is Jesus. “The Content Object Subject of the Gospel is Jesus Christ,” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans). Paul moves the discussion in the letter away from him and to Jesus as fast as he can. I don’t think he is minimizing himself, just that he knows what is important and is getting to it. His identity, the only way he can introduce himself, is in his relationship to Jesus.
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints,” – Romans 1:7 (ESV)
And when he finally moves on to the B section, the “To” section, he defines them according to their relationship to Jesus as well. They are Christ’s beloved. They are called to be His saints. I love that description. They have to respond to the calling to become saints, but they are loved no matter their response. And the love precededs the calling.
What an opening! Here is who I am in Christ and what is most important to me about Him, and I recognize who you are in Him as well. For us to have this discussion, I must be defined in Him. This discussion must be about Him, who He is and what He has done. “Romans is ultimately a book about God: how he acted to bring salvation, how his justice is preserved, how his purposes are worked out in history, how he can be served by his people,” (Leon Morris, The Theme of Romans).