What empowers someone with global and historic influence? Confidence, wealth, power?
Paul had none of those things when he introduced himself in Romans 1:1, “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.”
“Paulus” is actually a Latin word meaning something like “little (man).” That is a very odd name since Paul, for much of his life, had been known by the Hebrew name “Saul.” You might remember King Saul in the Old Testament was a Benjaminite. He stood head and shoulders above the rest. He was the big guy, an obvious person to be king.
Paul’s Benjaminite mother hoped her child would rise to a place of honor and influence, so she named him after her famous relative.
So how did Saul, the big guy, become little Paul?
It might seem that God renamed him, but according to Acts 9:1, Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, Why do you persecute me?” The Holy Spirit calls him Saul in Acts 13:2, “Set apart for me Saul and Barnabas.”
I think Saul dropped his Jewish name because it sounded weird to Greeks and Romans.
But why would Saul rename himself “little guy”?
Notice too that the word “doulos” (slave) in Greek carries all the negative connotations that it carries in English. It was the lowest form of servant in the ancient world.
Yet Paul introduces Romans with the phrase, Little Guy, a slave of Christ Jesus.
I don’t think Paul had a low opinion of himself; he said those things because he was so caught up with the greatness of Christ. He was content to be a slave so long as his sovereign Lord was Jesus Christ. Paul saw service to Christ as the path to true greatness. His was not a man-centered view. For him, God was the key. If you get that right, you get everything else right too.
Paul wrote at 32 page pamphlet; we call it the book of Romans, and that 32 page book has changed the world.
Rather than boast of himself, Paul chose to boast in the Lord. Rather than trying to be a big shot on his own, Paul chose to make much of Christ.
In chains, impoverished, little Paul stood before the mighty emperor Nero. Nero had supreme power. Rome glittered with marble and gold; Paul had nothing but a God-given commission to preach the life-changing gospel of Christ. Paul was in rags, and Nero sat enthroned as supreme leader. But the day would come, as F. F. Bruce says, when men would name their dogs Nero and their sons Paul.
What if a similar path lies for us, to be exalted in our making much of Christ?