Singing through Romans: I Love to Tell the Story

I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a witness…to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Acts 26:16f

Three times in the Acts of the Apostles Luke recounts the story of Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord. Although each account varies based on the listening audience, one fact remains consistent. Jesus calls out — “Saul, Saul.” 

Whenever I read these passages I hear echoes of the Old Testament. When Abraham was tested by God, when he was told to take his only son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering, he heard a voice from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” When Moses was tending his flock, and saw a burning bush, from it he heard the Lord call his name, “Moses, Moses! When Samuel as a young child under the care of Eli the priest was sleeping in the temple of the Lord, the Lord called to him, “Samuel! Samuel!” 

In each of these great scenes, the word of Lord was calling them to be his witness. Abraham was called to be the father of Israel. His descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore, and through his off-spring all nations would be blessed (Genesis 22:17-18). Moses was called to stand before Pharaoh and deliver the people of Israel out of bondage. He was called to lead them to the Promised Land, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob (Exodus 6). Samuel was called as a prophet of the Lord, to deliver God’s word to Israel. Through him he would anoint David to rule over the house of Israel, to establish his throne and kingdom forever (II Samuel 7:15). Like Abraham’s and Moses’ and Samuel’s calling, the Lord was calling Saul as a witness. 

So often when we recall the story of Paul on the Damascus road, we relate it to Paul’s conversion. It is certainly true Paul was converted. He who was lost was found. He who was blind received sight. He who was dead in sin was made alive in Christ Jesus. While it is true Paul experienced a conversion, the Lord had something more in store for him. His conversion was not an end in and of itself. Tied directly to his conversion was his commissioning. He, like Abraham, Moses, and Samuel, was to bear witness to the might deeds of the Lord.     

Romans is that witness. As we move through this letter we do well to remember the greatness of this work is not its theological arguments, or doctrinal statements, or spiritual insights. What makes this letter great is that it bears witness to the power of God’s salvation in and through the person of Jesus Christ. It is all about his redemption and reconciliation. It is all about his righteousness and the resurrection. It is about having a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

And that was what Paul was all about! He was called to be a witness! Paul’s greatest joy was to tell the wonderful story of Jesus and his love.

How are you a witness for the Lord? Does it give you great joy to share Jesus with others? Is it the theme of your life? Paul loved to tell the story. How about you?

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory, of Jesus and His love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.

I love to tell the story; more wonderful it seems
Than all the golden fancies of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story, it did so much for me;
And that is just the reason I tell it now to thee.

I love to tell the story; ’tis pleasant to repeat
What seems, each time I tell it, more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story, for some have never heard
The message of salvation from God’s own holy Word.

I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
Seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’Twill be the old, old story that I have loved so long.

I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
To tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

~Arabella K. Hankey

We are saved to serve, to testify to the grace of God found in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Singing through Romans: Now I Belong to Jesus

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1, 6

We begin our journey through Romans with the first verse — not really the first verse but the man behind the verse — “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God…”

Paul reveals two things about himself. 

  • He sees himself as a servant of Christ Jesus.
  • He sees himself as an apostle of Christ Jesus — to share the Gospel of Christ Jesus.

It’s worth noting Paul’s description of himself is based solely on his relationship with Jesus. He can think of himself in no other terms. He was a servant of Jesus. He was an apostle of Jesus.  He had been set apart by God to share the story of God’s salvation. In other words, Paul’s identity was found in and through his relationship with Jesus Christ.   

We do well to remember Paul’s former life outside of Christ. He was the preeminent leader of those who directed their angry attacks against the followers of Jesus. He was one who went from house to house, synagogue to synagogue, and city to city on a search and destroy mission. He was the one described as “breathing out murderous threats” against those who testified Jesus as their Messiah. 

And yet, twenty-five years later, Paul had a new identity. What happened? If you asked Paul his answer would be quite simple. Using his own words:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, then to more than five hundred brothers, then to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. I Corinthians 15:3-9. 

Paul had seen the risen Savior and the ruling Lord! And with that, he gave his life to him in humble service. He had a new relationship. Now he belonged to Jesus. From one estranged to one embraced, Paul found his truest identity in belonging completely and wholly to his Savior. To personalize Paul’s own words, “I am not my own, for I was bought with a price” (I Cor. 6:19).

Do you find your truest identity in your relationship with Jesus? Is he what your life is all about? Do you belong wholly and completely to him? Is this the song of your life?

Jesus, my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow'r of evil can sever,
He gave His life to ransom my soul;
Now I belong to Him;

Once I was lost in sin's degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him;

Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me,
Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me
His precious blood, He came to redeem,
Now I belong to Him—

Now I belong to Jesus,
Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone,
But for eternity.

~Norman J. Clayton