Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, [Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ]
The word doulos, which we translate servant, properly means a slave, one who is the entire property of his master and is used here by the apostle with great propriety. He felt he was not his own, and that his life and powers belonged to his heavenly owner, and that he had no right to dispose of or employ them but in the strictest subserviency to the will of his Lord. In this sense, and in this spirit, he is the willing slave of Jesus Christ; and this is, perhaps, the highest character which any soul of man can attain on this side eternity. “I am wholly the Lord’s; and wholly devoted in the spirit of sacrificial obedience, to the constant, complete, and energetic performance of the divine will.” A friend of God is high; a son of God is higher; but the servant, or, in the above sense, the slave of God is higher than all;-in a word, he is a person who feels he has no property in himself, and that God is all and in all.
[Called to be an apostle] The word apostolos, apostle, from apostello, to send, signifies simply a messenger or envoy; one sent on a confidential errand: but here it means an extraordinary messenger; one sent by God himself to deliver the most important message on behalf of his Maker;-in a word, one sent by the divine authority to preach the Gospel to the nations.
The word kleetos, called, signifies here the same as constituted, and should be joined with apostolos, as it is in the Greek, and translated thus: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, constituted an apostle, etc. This sense the word called he in many places of the sacred writings; e.g. “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called,”kleethoomen CONSTITUTED, or made the sons of God. Since it is likely that no apostle had been employed in founding the church of Rome, and there was need of much authority to settle the matters that were there in dispute, it was necessary he should show them that he derived his authority from God, and was immediately delegated by him to preach and write as he was now doing.
[Separated unto the Gospel] Set apart and appointed to this work, and to this only; as the Israelites were separate from all the people of the earth, to be the servants of God: see Lev 20:26. Paul may here refer to his former state as a Pharisee, which literally signifies a separatist, or one separated. Before he was separated unto the service of his own sect; now he is separated unto the Gospel of God. On the word Gospel, and its meaning, see the preface to the notes on Matthew; and for the meaning of the word Pharisee, see Matt 3:7 and following.
(from Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)