The apostle Paul was a separated man. He tells us here not what he was separated from, but what he was separated to, if we omit the parentheses. He was "separated unto the gospel of God concerning His Son."
God has spoken in this world, and He is still speaking. He has spoken of the Son, and He still speaks only of Him. This had an ENTRANCING effect on the apostle. We may not be up to it, but in our measure we also should know what we are separated to. The word saint which we bear is the statement that we are separated, and we are separated by the same grace that separated the apostle. He was, he says, a called and separated apostle, and those to whom he wrote were also called and separated ones - i.e., saints.
There is a system of things (connected with which all that God testifies is its badness) of which the first man makes himself the centre, and there is no end of what is said about him in this world. That is, the world has its man. A separated one is separated from all that, but he is separated to something. He is separated to God's centre, and to what God has to say about His Son. That is, there is a second Man, and there is a vast system of blessing connected with Him. As we are separated to, and instructed in what it is to, the separation from is seen in us; but do not try to reverse them. If you do, you will become legal. It is deep joy to see what you are separated to. The from side then becomes easy and but "dross and dung."
It is an immense thing when the soul realises that it is separated to this new order of things, wherein "all things are of God," which begins in the gospel, and which God is going to establish in power. No wonder that the apostle can say in view of it, and knowing that he now belonged to it, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." Power is now only connected with it. It is "the power of God unto salvation." Anyone may see today that power is connected with the gospel, while only weakness is connected with man apart from it, because death is on everything here. There is nothing that so proves man's weakness as death. He is absolutely powerless as to it. But there is no weakness in connection with the gospel. It is "God's power" for the deliverance of man from everything in this world, wherein, without it, he is but a miserable slave! It is the declaration of the triumph of God, and the proof of the triumph is seen in the Son of God - the victor over every effort of the enemy. He is seated now "far beyond all principality, and power, and might, and dominion." It is seen in His resurrection, and this is why "declared to be the Son of God in power by the resurrection of the dead" is introduced. It is because resurrection is the display of power.
"Declared Son of God by power." He was "crucified in weakness," but, as the saints will be, He was raised in power. Paul was a called apostle (his special ministry is in question here), and he was writing to called saints, that is to separated ones. The call had separated him, and it had separated them, to be henceforth associated with God's power - a power "by which he is able to subdue all things unto Himself." As to us, it will be displayed at the coming of the Lord.
Then there is another thing connected with the gospel (or rather, revealed in it), and that is God's righteousness. (v. 17.) In all that God has done, and in all that He is, He is right, and this is so with regard to all His ways with man. Since God is righteous, He must measure out to sin its deserts. This He has done in the cross, but in doing it He has terminated that side of things for Himself. The gospel is the announcement of this. It is good news, made good to us on the principle of faith. It is "to everyone that believeth." (v. 16.)
By contrast another thing comes before us. If righteousness now consists only in association with the gospel, all unrighteousness must come into and abide under the wrath of God. This he touches in verse 18. There is no doubt about what God will do with every form of unrighteousness. Saints cannot afford to be unrighteous. (See 2 Tim. 2:22.) Saints come under the discipline of God now for unrighteousness, and this proves what God will do with it when the whole mass of unrighteousness comes before Him. "Wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness," and this is because righteousness is established for God.
But unrighteousness and nothing else is the natural state of all men before God! Read the close of the chapter from verse 29 to end, and you will see this. The first charge is unrighteousness. Even the creation must, if considered, have taught men that there was a God. (Man did not like this, because it put a restraint upon his lusts. Then he cast off God, and idolatry came in. This is in reference to Gentiles, and the Romans knew very well all about what lie was writing, for Rome was full of idols. They knew it was true, for their idols allowed them the gratification of their lusts.) But God was not revealed in creation. His existence was demonstrated in it - "His eternal power and Godhead." But now He is revealed as acting in power in behalf of man, and He is revealed thus in the gospel, which is His power in favour of man when in this state of verse 19 to end.
I delight to think that I am (as seen in the good of the gospel) connected now and for eternity with power, and that I am connected also with righteousness, and with both now from the outset. All outside this sphere is weakness and unrighteousness. Moreover, it is all passing away to make room for these things "which cannot be shaken," but I am sure it is a great matter for saints to see that they are separated to all these things by their calling, and hence their name - saints. H. C. Anstey.
I have had a beautiful meditation. I saw the old man completely set aside by God in judgment, and the Holy Ghost setting up Christ here on earth. I got such a view of it - that God should have totally disposed of the man under judgment, and brought in a Man after His own pleasure - the totality - the completeness of it! Not an atom of the old man left before Him. You must ponder it to see its immensity. J. B. Stoney.