Romans 1

Romans 1:1

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

(a) Paul. Paul’s Jewish name was Saul, but in his letter to the Romans he uses his Roman name (Acts 13:9). The name Paulus or Paul means little, which is an apt name for someone who understood that God chooses the least, the last, and the weakest to display his glory (1 Cor. 1:27).

(b) Bond-servant. In several of his letters Paul introduces himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:1, Gal. 1:10, Tit. 1:1). Peter (2 Pet. 1:1), James (Jas. 1:1), and Jude (Jude 1:1) did the same and Epaphras was also known as a bondservant of Christ (Col. 4:12). This has led to confusion among some believers. Am I a son or servant of God?

Jesus, the Son of God, took the form of a bondservant (Php. 2:7). He was not confused about his identity, but he was servant-hearted (Mark 10:45). He is the Son who serves.

Similarly, when the apostles identify themselves as servants of Christ, they are saying, “We are the sons of God who serve in the manner in which Christ served,” meaning they served others (2 Cor. 4:5). They did not serve to curry favor with God, but to reveal the Servant-king to people. “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, so that I may win more” (1 Cor. 9:19).

It’s the same with us. Although we are free in Christ, we choose to serve in the name of Christ so that the orphans and slaves of this world might come to know their Father who loves them. Like Christ, we are the sons who serve.

Further reading: “Son, servant, or friend of God?

(c) An apostle; see entry for 1 Cor. 1:1.

(d) Set apart. Paul was set apart or separated for the gospel. Once upon a time, Paul had been a Pharisee or a “separated one.” As a Pharisee, he was separated for the law of God. But as a believer, he was separated for the gospel that reveals the grace of God.

(e) The gospel of God. In the first sentence of his most important letter, Paul introduces himself and his message, which is the gospel of God. This gospel concerns Jesus (Rom. 1:3) which is why Paul sometimes refers to it as the gospel of his Son (Rom. 1:9) and the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19). Since Jesus reveals the grace of God, Paul also refers to his gospel as the gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). Paul was eager to preach the gospel to those in Rome (Rom. 1:15).

Romans 1:2

Which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures,

The gospel of God reveals the Savior foretold by the prophets. All the promises of God receive their emphatic fulfilment in the Son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). A gospel that doesn’t reveal the Son of God is no gospel at all.

Romans 1:3-4

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,

(a) Concerning his Son. The gospel of God concerns or reveals the Son of God, for there is no other way to the Father than through the Son (John 14:6).

(b) A descendant of David. The Jews believed that the Messiah would come from the line of King David (Matt. 22:42). Jesus was the fulfilment of that belief (2 Tim. 2:8).

(c) According to the flesh. Jesus was born in the line of King David.

(d) Declared the Son of God with power. Jesus was both human and divine, a descendent of David and the Son of God.

(e) The resurrection, which was a stumbling stone for the religious Jews and foolishness for the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23), lay at the heart of Paul’s gospel, for without it the good news is no good at all (1 Cor. 15:19). A Jesus who died and rose again is a Jesus who saves.

Further reading: “Which Jesus are you trusting?

(f) The Spirit of holiness. God is holy and holy is his name (Luke 1:49). God the Father is Holy (Luke 1:49, John 17:11, Rev. 4:8) and so are God the Son (Mark 1:24, Acts 2:27, 3:14, 4:27, 30) and God the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:4).

Romans 1:6

among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

(a) Among whom you also. Paul heard the call of God and so have we.

There is a misperception that the call of God is mysterious and only directed to a select few. But God’s call goes out to all and those who respond in faith are the called of Christ.

(b) Called of Jesus Christ. In the first half of Romans, Paul highlights the call of God. “You are the called of Jesus Christ … called as saints” (Rom. 1:6–7). God’s call goes out to both Jews and Gentiles (Rom. 9:24–26). But in the second half of Romans, Paul highlights our call to God. “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). The Lord abounds in riches for all who call on him (Rom. 10:12), but how will they call if they have not heard (Rom. 10:14)? Believers are those who having heard the call of God call to God and are saved.

Romans 1:7

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.

(a) Beloved of God. Your primary identity is not “lover of God” but “beloved of God.” You cannot be the former unless you know you are the latter.

The original word for beloved (agapetos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and worthy of love. It is closely related to a verb (agapao) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. This word captures God’s heart for you. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child.

God the Father referred to Jesus as beloved (see entry for Matt. 3:17) and this term was used by all the epistle writers to describe believers (Rom. 1:7, 12:19, 16:5, 1 Cor. 4:14, 10:14, 15:58, 2 Cor. 7:1, 12:19, Eph. 5:1, Php. 2:12, 4:1, Col. 1:7, 4:7, 9, 14, 1 Th. 2:8, 2 Tim. 1:2, Phm. 1:1, 2, 16, Heb. 6:9, Jas. 1:16, 19, 2:5, 1 Pet. 2:11, 4:12, 2 Pet. 3:1, 8, 14, 15, 17, 1 John 2:7, 3:2, 21, 4:1, 7, 11, 3 John 1:1, 2, 5, 11, Jude 1:1, 3, 17, 20).

(b) Called as saints. You are not a forgiven sinner but a saint so live like one.

Throughout the New Testament, Christians are known as saints (see entry for Acts 26:18). Sanctified in Christ, Christians are a holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5). See entry for Holiness.

(c) Grace to you and peace. Most of Paul’s letters begin with this salutation or a variation on it (1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Php. 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Th. 1:1, 2 Th. 1:2, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, Tit. 1:4, Phm. 1:3). Peter adopts a similar salutation in his two letters (1 Pet. 1:2, 2 Pet. 1:2), as does John (2 John 1:3, Rev. 1:4). Grace and peace encompass all the blessings of God. The apostle of grace begins all of his letters with this gracious salutation. The grace or unmerited favor of God lay at the heart of everything Paul wrote.

(d) And peace from God. Since the Fall of man, people have hidden from a God they perceive as angry. As sinners we were alienated from God and hostile in our minds (Col. 1:21), but any enmity is from our side alone. Our Father’s heart is always for our peace. Peace is more than the cessation of hostilities. It is a state of quietness and rest, security and prosperity.

(e) God our Father. Jesus came to reveal a God who loves us like a Father and the epistle writers echoed this theme. Paul referred to God as Father more than forty times in his epistles. See entry for John 17:23.

Romans 1:8

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

The whole world. Jesus prophesied that the gospel would be preached in the whole world as a testimony to the nations (Matt. 24:14). Within one generation his prophecy was coming true (Col. 1:6, 23).

Romans 1:11

For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;

(a) Impart or share, not give. Spiritual gifts come from the Lord, not Paul. One way that gifts are imparted is through the laying on of hands (1 Tim. 4:14).

(b) Spiritual gifts include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpreting tongues (1 Cor. 12:8–10).

(c) Gift. The original word (charisma) is related to the word for grace (charis). Spiritual gifts are bestowed freely and cannot be earned.

(d) Established. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to edify and strengthen the church (1 Cor. 14:3–4).

Romans 1:13

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.

Brethren. In the New Testament, the word brethren typically refers to Christian brothers and sisters (see entry for Heb. 2:11).

Romans 1:15

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.

Romans 1:16

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.

(a) The gospel; see previous verse.

(b) The power of God for salvation. Salvation is all his doing, not ours (Tit. 3:5). We merely respond to what he has done on our behalf.

(c) Salvation. The original word for salvation means deliverance or rescue. Jesus is the great Deliverer who rescues us from our enemies (Luke 1:71). See entry for Salvation.

(d) Salvation to everyone who believes. All of God’s blessings, including forgiveness, salvation, righteousness and sanctification, come to us freely by grace and are received by faith. Faith does not compel God to forgive us or sanctify us. But faith is the conduit through which grace flows. See entry for Eph. 2:8.

Romans 1:17

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.”

(a) The righteousness of God can be contrasted with the righteousness of man (see entry for Matt. 6:33).

(b) From faith to faith. The gospel reveals a righteousness which comes from God and is received by faith (see entry for Php. 3:9).

(c) The righteous man is anyone who has been made right with God by receiving, through faith, the free gift of righteousness. See entry for Righteousness.

Romans 1:18

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

(a) The wrath of God. God’s wrath is a reaction to everything that contradicts his good, loving and just character. See entry for Wrath of God.

(b) Revealed. People intuitively know when they are acting contrary to God’s ways.

When we are about to step off the precipice into sin, something inside us warns that our actions are harmful to ourselves and displeasing to God. “I know I shouldn’t do it.” Our consciences bear witness that we are out of line (Rom. 2:15). “God wouldn’t like it.” It’s not that God is personally offended. But he hates it when we do things that lead to harm or hinder others from receiving his love.

(c) Ungodliness and unrighteousness is more than sin and wickedness. The original word for ungodliness (asebeia) means anti-God (it’s the antonym for a word that means revere or adore), while the original word for unrighteousness (adikia) means unjust. To be ungodly and unrighteous is to be opposed to God himself. Godliness and righteousness are gifts from God, so to be ungodly and unrighteous is to reject his goodness, and those who do that live under his wrath (see entry for John 3:36).

(d) Who suppress the truth. In the new covenant, faith is described as a rest (Rom. 4:5, Heb. 4:3), while unbelief is described in terms of actions and verbs.

Unbelief is rejecting Jesus (John 3:36) and denying the Lord (Jude 1:4). It’s thrusting away the word of God and judging yourself unworthy of life (Acts 13:46). It’s suppressing the truth (Rom. 1:18) and delighting in wickedness (2 Th. 2:12). It’s turning away (Heb. 12:25), going astray (2 Pet. 2:15), and trampling the Son of God underfoot (Heb. 10:29).

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