Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,” (Romans 1:1, NASB95)

Our brother Paul uses an interesting word in the opening sentence of his letter to Rome.  He writes that he was “set apart” for the gospel of God.  Paul picks the word “set apart” with a specific purpose in mind.

The word that we translate “set apart” is the Greek word: ἀφορίζω [aphorízō].  The Zodhiates Word Study Bible says it means: “to separate, select to some office or work.”  Then it continues:

The Pharisees, the sect to which Paul belonged before his conversion (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phil. 3:5), got their names from this word, which meant to separate (aphōrisménoi, separated ones). This is probably what Paul alludes to in Rom. 1:1 where he who was before separated unto the law, or to the study of it, now says of himself that he is separated to the gospel.

Think about it, all of his life until his encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul was a “separated one,” a Pharisee.  He was set apart to become an expert on the law of God and to dedicate himself completely to it.  After his radical encounter on a rocky road leading to Damascus–where he was going to pursue and persecute Christians–Paul became separated to something entirely different: the gospel of God!  He would spend the rest of his life, indeed he would lay down his life for the cause of the good news of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross and the joy of Christ’s resurrection.

May we follow in Paul’s footsteps and not be Pharisees of the Law, but Pharisees of the Gospel.