Romans Lesson 1: 1.7, 13-17 - COMPELLED
INTRODUCTION: Rom. 1:1 identifies the apostle Paul as the author of the Book, and it is thought to have been written between 56 and 58 A.D. from Corinth during his third missionary journey. The book is primarily a work of doctrine that advances the general theme of the God's revealed righteous-ness in the gospel of Jesus Christ, which can be subdivided into four parts: (1) righteousness needed, 1:18-3:20; (2) righteousness provided, 3:21-8:39; (3) righteousness vindicated, 9:1-11:36; and (4) righteousness practiced, 12:1-15:13. In terms of overall practical application, the book makes it clear that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, and that every "good deed' we've ever done is as filthy rags before the holy God. We were formerly so dead in our trespasses and sins that only the grace and mercy of God could save us. God expressed that grace and mercy by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place. When we turn our lives over to Christ, we are no longer controlled by our sin nature, but we are controlled by the Holy Spirit. If we make confession that Jesus is Lord and believe that He is raised from the dead, we are saved and "born again" (i.e., regenerated). Offering our lives as a living sacrifice, our Worship of the God who saved us should be our highest desire. The best single application of Romans to ours lived is to "not be ashamed of the gospel" (Rom. 1:16), but instead, be faithful and fruitful in proclaiming it!
IMMEDIATE CONTEXT: This first section (1:1-17), introduces the general theme of the Gospel as the Revelation of Righteousness of God, which includes Paul's opening salutation (vv. 1-7) a thanksgiving (vv. 8-15), and his statement of the overall theme (vv. 16-17). As the longest introduction of any of Paul's letters, Paul goes into more detail here because (a) he didn't found this church and (b) had never been to Rome, and (c) felt he needed to clarify his interpretation of the gospel for the Roman readers. One noteworthy feature of this section is that many of the themes he advances here will be concluded at the end, in the final doxology (16:25-27), specifically: (1) Paul's apostolic authority; (2) the fulfillment of the OT Scriptures; (3) the gospel that centers on Jesus Christ; (4) the obedience of faith; (5) the mission to the Gentiles; and (6) the glory of Jesus Christ and God the Father.
Read Rom. 1:1-2 - A SERVANT APOSTLE PROMISED THROUGH HIS PROPHETS
1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,
v. 1a: "Paul" - Before his conversion, Paul was known by the Hebrew name "Saul." The Latin name he took, "Paul," literally means "small," which may have been adopted as a mark of humility that would have smoothed the progress of his travels throughout the empire.
v. 1b: "a bond-servant" - There are two Greek words for "servant," (doulos and diakanos), the latter from which we derive the word "deacon." But doulos, as used here, literally translates to slave, which implies that Paul isn't setting his own agenda but acting for someone else under superior orders. For Roman Gentile Christians, the phrase, "doulos of Jesus Christ, would bring to mind the slaves of Caesar, who, despite being slaves, sometimes wielded a lot of authority, while for Jewish Christians, it would identify him with Abraham, Moses, and the prophets as servant-slaves of God.
v. 1c: "called as an apostle" - Having established his humble status as a slave, Paul flips the coin and asserts his authority as an apostle (Gk. apostalos), lit. a message-bearer, who is one of the select group chosen by Jesus to carry on His work whom God has called much like He called Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, which raises his status alongside the great figures of Jewish history.
v. 1d: "set apart for the gospel of God" - By this, Paul means he wasn't "set apart" by choice but by the will of God. Elsewhere, Paul says God set him apart for this even before he was born (Gal. 1:15).
v. 2: "which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures" - The Roman church is thought to have been a mix of Gentiles and Jewish proselytes, and Paul includes this verse for the latter group to make it clear that the gospel he preaches was not his invention but promised by the OT Scriptures. Notice he uses the verb "promised," not predicted, which connects back to the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and reaffirmed to Moses. The term "prophets" includes OT authors like Moses and David, men not typically labeled as prophets, but with whom God made covenants.
TRUTH 1: Paul confirms that the gospel is not a new concept but is the fulfillment of promises made by God in the Old Testament. Paul included v. 2 for the Jews in the Roman church to make it clear that the gospel he preached was not his invention but what God had promised in OT Scriptures.
Read Rom. 1:3-4 - DECLARED TO BE THE SON OF GOD WITH POWER
3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
v. 3: "concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh" - Jesus was David's son "according to the flesh." OT Scripture promised that the Messiah would be descended from David (Isa. 11:11; Jer. 25:5-6).
v. 4: "who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord" - Jesus was God's son "according to the Spirit of holiness." While Jesus demonstrated great power before His resurrection-over demons, physical diseases and disorders, storms, and even death itself (Jn. 11)-His ultimate display of power was the resurrection. This unimaginable power, "by the resurrection from the dead," as the "first fruits" of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20), is multiplied infinitely to confer the promise of resurrection on those saved by faith alone in Jesus Chris alone. The ending phrase, "according to the Spirit of holiness," also connects this great power of Jesus to the Holy Spirit in this New Covenant Age. In the phrase, "Jesus Christ our Lord," "Jesus" refers to His human name, "Christ" to His title (Gk. = anointed one; Heb. = Messiah), and "Lord" (Gk. Kurios), which translates to the Heb. name "Yahweh" in OT Scripture, to His spiritual authority and power.
TRUTH 2: Jesus' ultimate display of power was the resurrection. While Jesus demonstrated great power before His resurrection-over demons, physical diseases and disorders, storms, and even death itself (Jn. 11)-His ultimate display of power was the resurrection. This unimaginable power of the resurrection as the "first fruits" of resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20) is multiplied infinitely to confer the promise of resurrection on those saved by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
Read Rom. 1:5-7 - THROUGH WHOM WE HAVE RECEIVED GRACE AND BEEN CALLED
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
v. 5: "through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake" - Paul sometimes refers to himself in the first person as "we." Although he was a persecutor and enemy of the early church, Paul received "grace" (God's undeserved favor) when he encountered the risen Christ on the Road to Damascus. Christ showed Paul grace, not only by choosing him, but by empowering him for his mission. The point here is that without grace, no person has any hope of fulfilling his or her mission. Paul's mission (to the Gentiles) was, in effect, to bring the gospel of Christ to all people everywhere. When he refers to "the obedience of faith," it's not just the faith that initially saves but the ongoing, dynamic faith that transforms lives to be consistently obedient God's call. Being called a "Christian" isn't just a label but a description of how we live and what we do-a life's vocation.
v. 6: "among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ" - Here, Paul reminds his Roman listeners that they are one church among many that he has been called to serve, and while not a founder, he is empowered by apostolic authority to tell these Romans they've been "called of Jesus," like him.
TRUTH 3: Being called a "Christian" isn't just a label but a description of how we live and what we do, in other words, our life's vocation. When Paul referred to "the obedience of faith" in v. 5, it's not just the faith that initially saves but the ongoing, dynamic faith that transforms all of us to live a life that's consistently obedient God's call.
v. 7: "to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" - By "all," Paul means to include Jewish as well as Gentile Christians. Today many people associate the term "saints" (Gk. hagios) with the 12 apostles or people canonized for great Christian deeds; however, in the NT the word is plural in 56 of 57 occurrences, which means it's a reference to a group of people, a church like us. The word literally means "holy ones or set apart" and reflects the quality of the life we are expected to live-out. Paul's use of the word "grace" (Gk. charis) here isn't simply a casual greeting but a truth that is central to the entire letter, as we will see over and over as we move into this study. And he adds to grace the word "peace" (Gk. eiréné), similar in meaning to the Heb. shalom, describes the kind of wellbeing that comes from a deep relationship with God. With charis and eiréné, a believer is made whole.
TRUTH 4: Paul's use of the word "peace" describes the kind of wellbeing that comes from a deep relationship with God. And when "peace" is combined with "grace" (God's unmerited favor), a believer is made whole.
Read Rom. 1:13-15 - I OFTEN PLANNED TO COME; I AM OBLIGATED
13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
v. 13: "I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles" - Paul had long wanted to visit the Roman church, which had grown and prospered without his help, but was "prevented" (some suggest he'd been drawn to other locales [e.g., Macedonia, Achaia] where the gospel hadn't yet been heard). The complimentary phrase "fruit among you" seems to refer new Gentile believers who by that time comprised the largest segment of the church. Some scholars suggest that the Roman church may have actually originated from Jewish pilgrims from Rome who had been present at the Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10), 27 years before Paul wrote this letter.
v. 14: "I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish" - When Paul says he's "under obligation," he doesn't mean he's indebted financially or materially to them but is morally bound by his calling to serve and minister to them. The "Greeks" refer to Roman citizens who speak Greek and follow Greco-Roman culture and the "Barbarians" to non-Greek speakers of other cultures (e.g., the rest of Europe and North Africa). Taken together with the phrase, "both to the wise and to the foolish," Paul is saying that he's been called to preach the gospel to people of all stripes all over the world.
v. 15: "So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome" - You might wonder why Paul was so "eager to preach the gospel" to people already saved. As we will learn in this study, for Paul the "gospel" was not just a call to initial saving faith but the call to continue in a day-to-day walk of faith with Christ that imparts a noticeable and observable lifestyle to others.
TRUTH 5: According to the Paul, the "gospel" is much more than a call to initial saving faith. Paul makes it clear that the gospel includes the call for believers to continue in a day-to-day walk of faith with Christ that imparts a noticeable and observable lifestyle to others.
Read Rom. 1:16-17 - FOR I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
v. 16a: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel," - Why would anyone think that Paul-of all people-would be ashamed of the gospel? He addressed this provocative statement to Christians who lived in Rome-the center of power in the civilized world-who, because of their lack of their stature and influence, might be ashamed of the Christian message. We see this in our own nation today where expressions of faith and the evangelistic message don't fit current ideas of "political correctness."
v. 16b: "for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" - Salvation from what? Let's look at it. The primary "power" of the gospel is eschatological: Christ saves us from separation from God which results in a regeneration that enables us to live eternally in the presence of the Father. But is this life, Christ has saved people from drugs and other destructive behaviors, from self-hatred and meaningless living-and the gospel even has the power to save "everyone who believes," including the most 'un-savable' criminals-murderers, rapists, etc.-you can imagine.
v. 16c: "to the Jew first and also to the Greek" - By "Greek" Paul is referring to Gentiles. While his ministry is predominantly to Gentiles, he recognizes the priority of Jews in God's plan of salvation. Jews enjoyed centuries of a special relationship with God, however; with the advent of Christ, there is no longer Jew or Gentile, or free or slave, or male or female, because all are one in Christ Jesus.
TRUTH 6: Following Paul's example, we should never be ashamed of the gospel. It's very possible that any of us could find ourselves confronted by a situation where we might be tempted to be ashamed of the Christian message. We see this in our own nation today where expressions of faith and the evangelistic message don't fit contemporary ideas of "political correctness."
v. 17a1: "For in it the righteousness of God" - When Paul speaks of the "righteousness of God," does he mean the righteousness that is characteristic of God or the righteousness that God imputes to those who have faith? This issue has been debated by many scholars over the ages, but we might say "both" rather than "either or." While God is totally and perfectly righteous, the gospel is good news first and foremost because God has chosen to share his righteousness with us and by his grace, has chosen to justify us through redemption that comes by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
v. 17a2: "is revealed from faith to faith" - We could know nothing of God's righteousness or grace unless God revealed them to us. Yet, it requires faith to "see" what God has revealed. So, it is through faith that we see God's righteousness and through faith we experience righteousness.
v. 17b: "as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH" - Here, Paul is quoting Habakkuk 2:4, where the prophet contrasts proud people with people of faith. Habakkuk was saying that the spirit of proud people was "not right in them," but that "the righteous will live by faith."
TRUTH 7: We would know nothing of God's righteousness or grace unless God revealed them to us. At the same time, it requires faith to "see" what God has revealed. So, it is through faith that we see God's righteousness and through faith we experience righteousness. This what Paul means when he says that "God's righteousness is revealed from faith to faith" in v. 17.
PRAYER: God, our Father in heaven, we come before your throne this morning with thankful hearts, praising You for the love, mercy, and grace You constantly show toward us as individual Christian believers and as a Church. We thank You also for granting us another opportunity to freely assemble together as a class to learn the truths of Your inerrant and holy Word. We ask, Lord, that You will use this time of study and learning to strengthen each member of this class in his or her Christian walk and use it to bind us together in love and unity as we strive to build Your church. We ask, God, for Your divine direction in the future of this church today and in the days to come. Especially, Lord, we ask that You will guide our Bro. Phillip as he continues to lead us and our Pastor Search Committee as they continue to seek the Shepherd You've already chosen for us. Finally, Lord, as Paul taught us this morning, please help every one of us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, so that others inside and outside this church will see His image in us and be drawn to it. In the name of our perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ, I ask all these things, AMEN.