Romans 1:1 — Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
The word “called” means appointed or invited. As I wrote in Romans 1:1 — Part 2, Paul’s calling had nothing to do with his own initiative. He was on his way to Damascus to persecute followers of Jesus when that same Jesus appeared to him in a totally convincing way.
What, exactly, is an apostle? The word means ambassador or messenger. When He was on earth, Jesus chose 12 men to travel with Him and learn from Him. His purpose was to have them go to all the nations to preach the message of the risen Messiah, and then when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28). In Acts 1:21-22, when the 11 remaining apostles were choosing Judas’s replacement, they had these requirements: Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.
But why another apostle? The nation of Israel rejected the Messiah again after the resurrection, culminating in the stoning of Stephen and the persecution led by Paul. The kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament was set aside for a time and a new message was to be given to the world. The message of the kingdom that the 12 apostles were teaching wasn’t discontinued, but it was delayed.
It wouldn’t make sense for the original 12 apostles to change what they were teaching. So God called a new apostle to bring the new message. That new message is the main topic of the book of Romans, so I’ll get into it a lot more later.But one more word here to show that something changed between the time Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and the time of Paul’s ministry. Remember what Jesus Christ told the apostles — to preach to the entire world (Mark 16:15).
In Galatians, Paul writes about a conversation he had with James, Peter and John (some of the same men that Jesus Christ had given His Mark 16 instructions to). Here’s what Paul says: And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision (Galatians 2:9). No longer were the original 12 going to the entire world — they were concentrating on Jews. It was left to Paul to be the apostle to everyone else.