Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 1:2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
Who was Paul/Saul of Tarsus?
Saul was of the area known as Tarsus. Tarsus was along the Mediterranean Sea just northwest of Antioch in the region of Galatia (modern day Turkey). However, Paul was raised in Jerusalem under the instruction of a Pharisee named, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Ironically enough, it was Gamaliel who initially halted an effort to slay the apostles by allowing them to speak freely in Acts 5, where Saul of Tarsus was rather hailing believing men and women and committing them to prison.
Saul was a Jew, of the Tribe of Benjamin, but he wasn’t just any old Jew for he was a Pharisee and a pretty good one if he didn’t say so himself (which he did).
Philippians 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 3:5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Saul was also counted as a Roman, thus maintaining dual citizenship. He was both Jew and Gentile in one body. This will be key later in our study.
Acts 22:25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? 22:26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. 22:27 Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea.
Before Saul’s encounter with the Lord in Acts 9, he was operating as chief antagonist of believers – hailing men and women and committing them to prison. Paul was a card-carrying Pharisee and genuinely believed he was doing the Lord’s work by stopping this “blasphemous” mission these folks were undertaking.
(As a side note, keep in mind that Saul thought he was doing the Lord work and was very dedicated and “on fire for the Lord” (in his own mind). He was very sincere and was a model to the Jews around him. How often do we set ourselves on fire for God, so to speak, but in the commotion of self, we fail to witness the actual workings of God?)
But, God, who is rich in mercy, determined to use Paul nonetheless to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ. When he wrote to Timothy, Paul demonstrated that if you need a chief pattern of Christ Jesus saving sinners, then you need look no further than Paul – the chief of sinners. (1Timothy 1:15-16). Listen to how Paul speaks of himself as a Pharisee to Timothy.
1Timothy 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; 1:13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Paul began his letter to the Romans describing who he was and what it was that certified his claim. Paul said he was separated from his mother’s womb unto the gospel of God. This shows that God’s purpose for Paul didn’t come out of the blue when Paul was traveling to Damascus, but from the time Paul was born, God had purposed to use his life in a special way.
Paul was separated unto the gospel of God. “Gospel” simply means “good news” or “glad tidings.” We shouldn’t automatically conclude what that good news is without reading the context. Here, we have a succinct definition of what this good news is and that is that Christ was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead. Paul was separated unto this good news – that Jesus Christ lives!
Paul viewed himself as a servant (slave) of Christ. Our thoughts of slavery are certainly biased towards our own country’s history, but the idea of slavery, at a base level, is something we subject ourselves to daily. Do we not go to work for a master (employer)? Does not that employer determine our value? Does not that employer then pay us based on the value of our work?
But, what Paul would realize is that the Master, Jesus Christ, determines our value and determines what we are paid. Instead of the slave proving himself and being rewarded thereof, the Master, Jesus Christ, took the field of sin and plowed that field with a cross and watered it with His own blood. Not only did He complete the work required (“It is finished!”), but He reaped an eternal harvest at His resurrection and rewards believers with the bounty of that harvest! Paul’s worth (and indeed all believers alike) is the extent of the resurrection bounty of Christ.
Romans 1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul continued with his greetings and introductions beginning in verse 5. Much of this section of Chapter One is simply Paul speaking from the heart about his desire to come see these saints at Rome but reminds the Romans that he is also a debtor to the Greeks and the Barbarians. As much as Paul wanted to come to Rome, he knew he had a host of priorities to juggle, so a letter would have to suffice for now.
Paul was given grace and apostleship by the Lord Himself. If we examine the usage of the word “grace” in the King James bible, we’ll see it is used 79x outside of Paul’s writings (1.5x per book on average), but, “grace” is used 91x within Paul’s writings, or 7.0x per book on average.
(I’m excluding Hebrews from Paul’s writings as I’m not fully convinced he wrote Hebrews due to his statement in 2Thess. 3:17 – that every epistle he wrote would bear his salutation. Romans through Philemon begins, “Paul…”; Hebrews begins, “God…”)
But, the point is to demonstrate that grace is a much greater topic in Paul’s writings than we find elsewhere in scripture. This doesn’t mean grace didn’t exist outside of Paul’s writings, but simply Paul was given some special information about grace that caused him to highlight it so much.
At its root, grace carries the idea of “free” or a “gift.” Gifts are anything that bestows benefit to the receiver, free of charge. If there is a cost imposed upon the receiver, then it would be hardly classified a gift. The very apostleship that Paul was bestowed with was indeed a gift. The gift of Paul’s apostleship was not that he received an obligation to bear the good news of the resurrected Christ, but that he received an opportunity to bear this good news.
Paul also makes it clear that obedience is faith. Obedience often is reserved as a series of actions we do to make God happy or to give God cause to bless us. However, the obedience that God looks for is faith. God is pleased with those who are obedient – those who submit to Him by faith. Obedience isn’t to be found by walking the religious straight and narrow, but in the simple affirmation of taking God at His word.
These Romans were likewise called of Jesus Christ. To be called can mean to be summoned, but can also mean to be titled (as in, I am called Scott). I think we see both as viable here. The Romans were certainly summoned into Christ (which they responded to that summons by faith) and they were, like Paul, titled with the very identity of their Savior.
Paul reminds them that being called of Jesus Christ affords them the status of “beloved of God.” This isn’t just some frivolous title, but validates how God views believers. In Matthew 3, Christ is baptized and God speaks from heaven that Christ is His beloved Son. What does it mean to be beloved?
Beloved, according to Webster’s dictionary, carries the idea of being esteemed, being dear, being worthy of love, being the favorite. Jesus Christ is worthy of God’s love, is dear to esteemed of God, and is God’s favorite Son. And, by His grace, we have been welcomed into the Person of Christ and have been adorned with that very status. We are esteemed of God – we are dear to God – we are worthy of God’s love – we are indeed God’s favorite son! And, just as Christ is eternally beloved, so too we enjoy that unchanging reality!
From there, Paul transitions into his desire to come see them and makes mention of the Romans being a part of his prayers. Paul’s prayers (that we see recorded in Scripture) usually have something in common and that is they have the presence of thanksgiving. Even when Paul was in distress, he was thankful. The believers around the areas he traveled gave Paul such thrill that he repeatedly offered thanks for what they meant to him.
Although Paul couldn’t be there in person, he said in verse 15 that as much as was in him, he was ready to preach the gospel unto them who were at Rome. Were not these Romans already of mutual faith?
Remember, in verse 12, Paul wrote that they were of mutual faith. What faith? The very same faith that allows them to be titled of the Sons of God – the very good news of God that Paul was separated unto – that Christ is risen.
However, Paul said he was ready, through letter, to preach the gospel unto them at Rome.
What would this message be that Paul would share with the Romans? It was the good news regarding some things that were true of the Romans but they had not be informed of these truths yet. There were realities of what being in Christ entails and Paul prepared to enlighten the eyes of their understanding.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Paul has moved on from his salutations to unpack this thing he called, the Gospel of Christ. This is the message that Paul was ready to preach unto the Romans. He is not ashamed of this message because of what it means to him, as a believer. The good news of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.
If we look at the root word of salvation, we find the word, salve. A salve is something that brings healing and wellness and wholeness. The word salvation in scripture is not limited to a single definition, for we often find, through context, many different means of salvation. However, many read the word salvation and their minds automatically go to being delivered from sin. Often, we equate it with deliverance from sin, we are actually describing a different biblical term, Justification.
To be justified is to be reckoned righteous in the sight of God. When folks speak of “being saved” or “getting saved”, it is usually the idea of Justification that they have in mind – that moment when they no longer stood as unrighteous before God, but by faith, are now made the very righteousness of Him.
However, this is only an aspect of salvation. Salvation may be deliverance from Adam’s condemnation, but it is also deliverance unto the Grace of Christ. These Romans stood justified, as their mutual faith with Paul would suggest, but the additional information (the gospel of Christ) demonstrated the power of God unto salvation. This salvation is indeed all that is true about the one who is justified.
The good news of Christ having risen from the dead demands response – faith. But, for those who have responded in faith, there is additional good news of our salvation. This good news is Paul’s attempt to say, “Oh, by the way Romans, there’s more about Christ that I’m ready to preach to you.”
We also see something true about God’s righteousness in verse 17. The gospel of Christ demonstrates the reality of God’s righteousness and that it is from “faith to faith.” This is very important! We often take great pride in not front-loading the gospel with works, but how often do we back-load the gospel with works? How often do we say things like, “Well, if your saved, then you’ll do/not do… [fill in the blank]” The grand reality is that God’s righteousness, bestowed to us, is from faith to faith and there isn’t an ounce of performance, whether good or bad, that alters that! (And, thank God this is the case!)
All that God bestows upon believers is an open demonstration of his righteous judgment – it is by faith that He justified us and by that same faith, He poured out upon us the refreshing showers of salvation. Truly, our justification and our salvation are from faith to faith.
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Paul has left the salutations and intentions of the letter and is now on a full offensive against the unrighteous who reject God’s righteousness in favor of their own.
The audience at Rome was certainly a mixed bag of Jews and Gentiles, as we see Paul addressing both groups directly throughout the letter. Here in Chapter One, we find Paul looking at the history of Israel, from the standpoint of their rejection of God. (Note the similarities between Romans 1 and Deuteronomy 32)
There were those who had the truth of God, but this truth was held in unrighteousness. The idea of holding here is to suppress. Ungodly and unrighteous men, who had the truth, were suppressing the truth. What truth? Verses 19 and 20 – that which may be known of God was manifested or revealed in these folks because God openly showed it unto them. What did He show unto them? The invisible things of Him that from the creation of the world are clearly understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.
In other words, God specifically showed these folks how the things that are made clearly demonstrate the invisible things of Him – even demonstrate the eternal nature of God’s power and the aspect of His Godhead. Godhead simply defines the supreme pinnacle of His authority and headship. All that God is – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as manifested to us – is shown in His creation.
Paul says that these folks are without excuse. Some, when looking at Romans 1:20, conclude that it is teaching that humanity has no excuse to reject God because creation itself bears witness of His existence. In other words, ignorance will be no defense before the judgment of God. However, don’t lose sight of the context – these were specific people who were shown specific information. They were not ignorant at all – far from it! They were given the express privilege of knowing things about God but yet, they suppressed this truth with their unrighteous means.
Paul went on in verse 21 and following to demonstrate indeed what these folks did. (scripture passage to follow)
- They knew God, but glorified Him not as God
- They were not thankful (of what God privileged them to know about Him)
- They became vain in their imaginations
- Their foolish heart was darkened
- Professing themselves as wise, they only demonstrated their foolishness
- They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into the image of corruption
- God gave them over to their uncleanness, vile affections and reprobate thinking
- They dishonored their own bodies, leaving the natural use of the man and woman
- They changed the truth of God into a lie
- They worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator
- They received in themselves that recompense of their error
- They did not retain God in their knowledge
- They became all sorts of vile people
- They took pleasure in these things, knowing they that do such things are worthy of death
Romans 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 1:29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 1:30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 1:31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 1:32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Not only did these folks not retain the knowledge in their hearts that God had revealed unto them, they completely walked the plank into a sea foaming with their own foolishness. The knew they were worthy of death but carried forth nonetheless and took great pleasure in doing so.
There is a reason Paul brings this up and we find that reason as we move into Chapter 2.