As we continue the series on Romans, running keywords in each verse, I stumbled on perhaps an interesting word and that of “separated” in Romans 1:1. God says in His word – “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God”. But what does ‘separation’ mean? And what was Paul separated from? Today I would like us to understand this better and what it means and how important these words are for us today.
Firstly, the definition of separation is probably very familiar to us as we consider portions of scripture regarding biblical separation, separating from sin, separating from the world. Webster’s dictionary defines it as disconnect, disunited and parted.
But obviously if something is to part, or disconnect it must be from something. For example, in Genesis 13:11 we see Lot separating from Abraham – “Then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other.” In Deuteronomy 10:8, we see God clearly separating a people, the Tribe of Levi from Israel, “At that time the LORD separated the tribe of Levi, to bear the ark of the covenant of the LORD, to stand before the LORD to minister unto him, and to bless in his name, unto this day.” So clearly we can see when separation takes place in the Bible, it’s from one thing to something else.
So the next question, what was Paul separated from in Romans 1:1? Now that’s an entirely intriguing question given in the immediate context of the statement (Romans 1), it doesn’t give you “from what”, it merely states the “to”, or in this case the unto – “separated unto the gospel of God”.So we know directly from the reading that Paul was separated, divided, parted and disconnected from something to be put aside for the Gospel of God (to preach, teach and give his life for it’s dissemination). What a blessed mission granted to Him by God (Acts 9 for more details).
But back to the “from”, so what was He separated from? The commentary in my bible says this was holy biblical separation, that is from the world, or perhaps from all things sinful. I would partially agree with that but I believe there is a much stronger answer if we divide correctly the word of God. Looking up cross references on the word “separated” leads us to, Galatians 1:15, “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,”. Here in Galatians Paul is giving some accreditation to who he is, his mission and how he was called, and we see here, that from the time he was in his mother’s womb, God had set him apart unto “grace”. This is starting to paint a picture. Could this be our answer? No but it paints an important picture of the flesh, law and grace. Let’s reference another verse, Galatians 1:23, “But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.” This is Paul, emphasizing the great scholar taught by Gamaliel, this is Paul the great zealot of Israel who persecuted the church of God, but now there is a change in him, and now he is preaching and teaching the faith he was prior trying to destroy. So what’s the answer then, what was Paul separated from, and unto the Gospel? Quite simply from “religion”. Paul was a zealot of the law, and fervent in it’s traditions and practices, that is, he was religious.
What makes ‘biblical christianity’ different from all the world religions (including Judaism), is relationship, not religion. No more is one bound to do because it is required, no more is one bound to behave in a certain manner, no more is one asked to live in a certain manner, no, Jesus Christ died, reconciled us to Him, by His own life being our payment (our substitution) for our sin, and thus we are not constrained by commandment, but by love! That is a huge mind shift and change when you are ‘saved’. Sadly the modern day church is not only to separate from the “world”, but also the fancies and delusions of “religion”. This “form”, this religion is living their lives conforming to a set of practices as merit for self. This is that religion that Paul was separated from, that great delusion of service to God, but nothing more than hot air. God only desires we relate to Him, love Him, desire Him and honour Him in our thoughts and decisions. And when we love Him, we will fulfil the law of God!
May we be granted the wisdom to identify “religion” and know that we not separating from the world alone, but also that which appears moral, appears holy, appears true, appears noble and appears God-led.
In Christ, For Christ