Today we begin a journey into the Epistle (or letter) of Paul to the Romans.
This is one of the most
Significant books in the Bible
For it contains the most
Comprehensive and clear
Explanations of the gospel
Of Jesus Christ
In all of the Bible.
God has used the study of this book as the means of launching most of the reformations and revivals in the church since the close of the apostolic era. Martin Luther said that Romans is “the chief part of the New Testament.” John Calvin said of Romans, “When anyone gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”
It contains a message so simple
That a child can understand it,
And yet so compelling and deep
That great minds have studied
It for years seeking to
Understand all of its treasures.
Donald Grey Barnhouse preached weekly from Romans for 11 years. William Tyndale said of Romans, “No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.”
We begin our own mining of the treasures of this book by looking at Romans chapter 1 and examining Paul’s introduction in the first 7 verses in which he explains who he is and his purpose in writing, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 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, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about [the] obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 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.
The Author – Verse 1.
Brief history of Paul: The author identifies himself as “Paul,” who is distinguished from all other “Pauls” as being the one who is a bond-servant of Christ Jesus and a called apostle who is set apart for the gospel of God. Paul first appears in the pages of Scripture under his Hebrew name, “Saul,” in Acts 7:58 at the stoning of Stephen. Saul was a young Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5) who had been trained under the great Rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He was very zealous for the Law of God according to the tradition of the Pharisees(Philippians 3:5-6), and so heartily approved of the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1) and became a great persecutor of the church. In Acts 9 Saul is on his way to persecute the followers of Jesus in Damascus and bring the bound back to Jerusalem. But Saul met Jesus on the way and the difference that Jesus made in his life is recorded in Acts 9:3-19.
Most of us are familiar with the story. As Saul approached Damascus, the Bible says, “suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He [said,] ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.” And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.” When Saul got up from the ground, he was blind and had to be led by the hand to Damascus. The Lord had revealed to a certain disciple named Ananias, that Saul was “a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Ananias met him and restored his sight and Paul was then baptized.
Saul’s conversion was
Nothing short of miraculous,
But such is the nature
Of the grace of God.
In Acts 26:14-18 Paul is giving his defense before King Agrippa and reveals some more of what Jesus had said to him on the road to Damascus, “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the [Jewish] people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.‘” Saul’s conversion from a persecutor of the followers of Jesus into being one himself was also his commission to preach the gospel. Saul immediately began to do so. After escaping a plot to murder him, Saul went to Arabia for three years where he learned and received revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12, 17-18). He then returned to Damascus briefly, then went to Jerusalem where he met with some of the Apostles. Saul escaped from another plot on his life there and returned to his home town, Tarsus, where he was ministering when Barnabas brought him to Antioch to start a church there (Acts 11:22-26). Later, he and Barnabas were commissioned to make a missionary journey starting churches throughout Asia minor (Acts 13). Paul would make two more missionary journeys, venturing to Macedonia and Greece on the these next two trips. It is probably while Paul was in Corinth on his third missionary trip that he wrote this letter to the Romans. This would be about 57 A.D.
A bond-servant: Paul’s identification of himself as “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God” traces back to his conversion. Paul understood clearly the grace given to him by God. Because of Paul’s former persecution of the church he considered himself to be the “chief of sinners” (1 Corinthains 15:9; 1 Timothy 1:15). He understood clearly that his life was no longer his own, but was now bound up in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20), and so he identified himself as a “bond-servant” (doulos) in the sense of Exodus 21:5-6, a slave that loved his master and did not want to depart, so he willingly made himself as permanent slave.
An apostle: Paul was called out by Christ and sent as his apostle. The word “Apostle” means, “one sent with authority,” and Paul went forward under Jesus’ specific commission to preach the gospel of God. There is a broader context in which “apostle” could refer to all believers since all Christians are to be witnesses of Jesus, but here, “apostle” is used in the narrow sense of those whom Jesus chose and commissioned to proclaim the gospel and lead the early church. Paul understood himself to be unworthy and the least of the apostles because of his earlier persecution of the church, and yet an apostle who was equal with any of the Twelve (Matthias replacing Judas) (1 Corinthians 15:9). There were those that sought to detract from Paul, but he demonstrated his apostleship by his teaching, his godly life, his personal encounter with Jesus, and by signs, wonders and miracles (1 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11-12(.
The Gospel of God – Verses 2-4.
Paul was specifically “set apart for the gospel of God.” Other apostles may have had other specific commissions, but this was Paul’s, and the proclamation of that gospel is the underlying theme of the rest of the book. As most of you are aware, “gospel” (eujaggevlion) means “Good News.”
But what Good News?
Paul is very specific
Here that it is the
Good News of God.
Paul then goes on in verses 2-4 to explain . . .
The nature and origin
Of this good news
That it is according
To God’s promises
In the Old Testament
Concerning His Son,
And then in verses 5,6 Paul further explains . . .
Its benefits in bringing
To them God’s grace.
Origin of the gospel – Verse 2.
Paul is writing to a mixture of Jews and Gentiles.
It is very important that he present
From the very beginning that
This Good News is what God
Promised beforehand through
His prophets in the holy Scriptures.
Paul would later show the importance of this to the Gentiles, but if he did not communicate this clearly to the Jews, they would not have payed any attention to Him.
The Good News concerning Jesus Christ
Was not a new cult doctrine,
But was in keeping with
What God has revealed
To and through His prophets
In what we refer to
As the Old Testament.
This sets it apart from
The speculation and musings
Of the Rabbis recorded in their
Traditions such as the Talmud.
One of the marks of false religions and cults is that their god or gods are inconsistent, contradictory, and do not keep promises. The true God is consistent and keeps His promises.
- God is not a man that He should lie or repent (Numbers 23:19).
- He is unchanging, so He does not contradict Himself (1 Samuel 15:29).
- He knows the end from the beginning and so His promises will always come true (Isaiah 46:10).
If Muhammed had understood this he would have also understood why the Jews and Christians rejected Islam, for Allah is a changing God who contradicts Himself. He is not the God of the Bible.
The God of the Bible is consistent,
Unchanging, and keeps His promises.
This truth is so important to the
Validity of the Gospel that Paul
Spends much of the book taking
The reader back to the Old Testament
To prove his argument.
There are more Old Testament references and citations in Romans than in any other New Testament book. Paul quotes from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Hosea, Joel, Habakkuk & Malachi. That is 14 different books of the Old Testament. Only Matthew quotes from as many different sources.
The Gospel of God which Paul presents
In Romans has its origin in and
Is consistent with the Old Testament.
It is for the Jew and the gentile.
The Promised Messiah – Verses 3-4.
The promises God made
In the Old Testament
Are Good News concerning
The coming of His Son, the Messiah.
Paul points out one of the prophecies concerning Messiah here in verse 3 that God’s, “Son was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh.” The Promised One, the Messiah had to be both deity and humanity. Jesus Christ is human of the correct lineage for He is a physical descendant of David through His mother, Mary (Luke 3), and He inherited the right to David’s throne through Joseph by adoption (Matthew 1). Many prophecies concerning Messiah that were fulfilled in the birth of Jesus. However, Jesus’ birth alone did not prove He was Messiah. It is one thing to claim to be the Son of God and another to prove it.
Paul points out in verse 4 that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God and the proof of it was His resurrection from the dead. Paul uses a passive participle of “declare” here for it was not just Jesus’ claim, but it was what was pronounced about Him.
Jesus disciples declared Him to be the Son of God. In Matthew 16:16 Peter professed, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In John 20:28, Thomas proclaimed Jesus, “My Lord and My God!” Even Jesus enemies understood His claim and in John 10:33 they said to Jesus, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out [to be] God” (cf. John 5:18). However, Paul does not rely on declarations of men, for men can be fooled and they can lie. Paul states here in Romans 1:4, as the NKJV better translates, the “He is declared [to] [be] the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
- At His baptism, Matthew 3:16-17 states that “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, [and] coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.’”
- At the transfiguration, Peter, James, and John all heard the voice from a cloud declare concerning Jesus who currently standing before them with His face shining like the sun and His garments as white as light, “this is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).
God declared Jesus to be His Son and the final proof of it is His resurrection from the dead. Only God, the giver of life, can raise the dead back to life.
Paul then gives the full title of the Son of God so there would be no confusion. The Gospel of God concerns God’s Son who is, “Jesus Christ our Lord.” “Jesus” is a form of “Joshua” and means “Yahweh is salvation.” “Christ” is the Greek equivalent of “Messiah.” Both meant “anointed one.” “Lord” is used because He is “God” and therefore “sovereign ruler of the universe.”
The Benefits of the Gospel – Verses 5-6.
In verses 5 and 6 Paul gives the benefits of the good news of God. It is through Jesus Christ our Lord that, “we receive grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ.”
Paul uses a plural, “we,” to refer to himself and those with him. At end of book, in Romans 16:21-23, we find there are several others that are with him. All of them have received grace from the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul, as mentioned earlier, was also specifically made an apostle by that same grace for the purpose of bringing to the Gentiles the Gospel of God which would bring them to the obedience of faith.
This is Paul’s first mention of grace
In association with the gospel,
But it will not be the last
For they cannot be separated.
The Good News of Jesus Christ
Is bound up in the grace of God.
“Grace” is “unmerited and unearned favor.” It is getting something good you do not deserve.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is
That though you are a sinner,
God extends His grace to you
Through Jesus Christ so that
You can gain salvation from your sin.
Salvation from your sin is something
Which you in no way deserve and
In which in no way could you possibly earn.
Paul will spend a large part of Romans proving that point.
The last phrase of verse 6 specifically applies this benefit to those Paul was writing to in Rome. They too were among those who are the “called of Jesus Christ” and therefore have been brought about to “the obedience of faith” because of God’s grace. They did not call themselves, but Jesus Christ has called them.
The Purpose of the Gospel – Verse 5.
The purpose of the gospel
Is the salvation of man,
But the ultimate purpose of
That is “for His name’s sake,”
I.e., for the glory of God.
That is important to keep in mind for it will keep the Gospel from becoming man centered. The Good News of Jesus Christ is not about man, but about the character of God. It is about His love, mercy, and grace of which we are simply the undeserving recipients.
Paul understood that the grace God had given to him was for the purpose of declaring the Gospel to others. That was the purpose of his apostleship, and that the proclamation of that gospel was to bring about the “obedience of faith” in others. What is this “obedience of faith?” Paul uses this phrase or a similar one in several places (Romans 15:18; 16:26; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Hebr3ws 5:9).
Salvation is all of God’s grace,
But that does not mean that
Obedience is not part of salvation.
In fact, obedience is an integral
Part of salvation and without
It you cannot be saved.
It is sad that the message of God’s grace has been so perverted and centered on man that such a central truth is seldom understood in American Christian society. I realize that some would brand me a horrible heretic for saying that, but the truth is the truth.
Obedience is not the means of salvation,
For that is all of God’s grace, and
No one can earn God’s favor or
Work their way to heaven
However, obedience is the first
Step of salvation and its result,
For that is salvation’s purpose.
When the gospel is proclaimed, the only ones that are saved are those that are obedient to believe the message. That is one aspect of what Paul says here. The purpose of his apostleship is to proclaim the Gospel message so that others will obey it in faith. The stress is on obedience to believe the message.
The other aspect of obedience flows out of the message itself. Jesus Christ is God in human flesh who has paid the penalty of our sin and break its power over us so that we might receive the righteousness of God by faith in Him. Since Jesus Christ is God, how is it that anyone can claim that obedience to Him is somehow optional? Since we are saved from sin to righteousness (Romans 6), how can anyone claim that striving against sin and toward righteousness living is somehow optional? Escape from hell is not the purpose of salvation, but only a wonderful consequence of it. The unrighteous go to hell after being judged according to their own works (Revelation 20). A profession of faith in Jesus Christ is not enough. The claim must also be true. That is why Jesus warned in Matthew 7 about the false teachers who would be known by their fruit of unrighteousness. They claimed to do all sorts of things in Jesus’ name, but in the end Jesus will tell them, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” That is why Paul warns in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to. “Test yourselves [to see] if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” 1 John 3:7-8 is just as straightforward, “Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
The proof of the claim is in the change in how you live.
Recipients of the Letter: Verse 7a.
It is important to note who Paul is writing to. Even though Romans is a systematic presentation of the Gospel, the letter itself is written to those who already profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. Paul is writing to, “to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called [as] saints.” Paul uses three terms or phrases to identify these people. They are the “beloved of God,” “called,” and “saints.” What wonderful truths. God set His love upon us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), called us in Christ to Himself (Romans 1:6), and set us apart unto Himself, which is the meaning of “saint.”
Many people have been saved simply by reading and studying the book of Romans, and there is no doubt that Paul rejoices greatly in God using it in that way. Yet . . .
The purpose of his writing was
To clearly explain the Gospel
And its ramifications to those
Who were already believers
So they would be able to accurately
Tell others this wonderful message of God’s grace.
Salutation: Verse 7b.
Paul’s salutation to them in verse 7 is, Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Those who are beloved of God and called of Jesus Christ to be saints can have God’s grace and peace. Only they can call God their Father because they have been adopted into God’s family through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Over the several months or so we are going to be carefully studying this Book so that . . .
We too might have a clear understanding
Of the Good News of God that is
Presented by His grace in Jesus Christ,
So that we can proclaim it to others also.
The theme of Romans is the Righteousness of God demonstrated in the gospel. I pray that it will be as enlightening, enjoyable, and edifying to you as it has been for me in studying God’s precious Word.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!