These are my sermon notes for the sermon on the 9th June 2013 at Nowra City Church on the first 17 verses of Romans 1
Background to the book
“This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.”1
“It is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam.”2
The Book of Romans is one of the most profound books in existence; it is certainly one of the most valued parts of the Holy Scriptures.
It has been appropriately termed the Cathedral of the Christian faith.
Its profound theology and impressive style were reason enough for it to be assigned the first place among the Pauline epistles.
When Paul wrote this epistle to the church in Rome:-
that congregation must have already been in existence for a number of years, for Paul writes that he had desired to visit them “these many years” (15:23).
To him this church was strong enough to help him carry out further missionary activities.
They are not called recent converts; they are not treated as having been improperly instructed, but seem to have been an organized and well-grounded congregation (15:14, “filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another”).
The epistle deals with no major error in the church; nor does it have to deal with organizational principles.
It was a church that was universally famous (1:8), and not merely because it was in Rome.
The Roman church was a group that had a large Jewish element, but was also filled with Gentile converts from paganism, both free as well as slaves.
How the church in Rome was started is unclear.
The Roman Catholic view is that Peter founded it; another view is that Roman Christians from Pentecost in Jerusalem made their way there.
But it may simply be that several Christian families or groups from Pauline churches in the East settled in Rome and grew together.
An Immense Multitude
According to the end of the book, there were several congregations meeting in the city. At the outbreak of Neronian persecutions, Tacitus says that the Christians in Rome were “an immense multitude.”
The Place and Date of Romans
Based on the material from Acts and the Corinthian epistles, the Book of Romans clearly indicates that it was written from Corinth on Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul had never visited Rome; but after fulfilling his mission of mercy to Jerusalem, he hoped to go to Rome en route to Spain (Rom. 15:23-25). At any rate, the date of the book is probably 60 A.D.
The chronological order of the Pauline epistles is about as follows:
First and Second Thessalonians,
First and Second Corinthians,
and Second Timothy.
Romans is placed first among Paul’s letters in the New Testament not only because it is his longest work, but because it also furnishes a massive and basic theological frame-work for the whole collection of the apostle’s writings.
The Theme of the Book of Romans
The theme of the book centers on the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16,17).
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,[a] for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”[b]
Paul is deeply concerned that his readers understand how a sinner may be received as righteous by a righteous God; and how a justified sinner should live daily to the glory of God.
Most commentators have said that verses sixteen and seventeen of chapter one are a concise summary of the content of the epistle.
But C. K. Barrett goes a step further to say that it is not wrong to see in them a summary of Paul’s theology as a whole.3 Perhaps we can be very precise here. Perhaps in the text of Habakkuk 2:4 as it is used in Romans (and elsewhere), we have a pithy expression of the essence of the doctrine of the Word of God—”the just shall live by faith.”
Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.
The Structure of the Book of Romans
The book falls neatly into an introduction (1:1-17),
A doctrinal section on justification (1:18—5:11),
A doctrinal section on sanctification (5:12—8:39),
A parenthetical section on Israel (9:1—11:36),
A practical application section (12:1—15:13);
A conclusion (15:14—16:27).
Breakdown of the Chapter.
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
Paul begins his magnificent letter with the longest of his salutations.
In 1:1-7 he tells them
who he is (1:1),
gives them the heart of the gospel (1:2-4),
the nature of his mission and ministry (1:5)
and addresses the audience he has presumably never met (1:6-7).
In this first verse Paul sets out for his readers three important facts;
1) his master;
2) his office;
3) his purpose.1
First, Paul considered himself a slave or bondservant (dou`lo”) of Christ Jesus. While it was unthinkable to a cultured Greek that a relationship with a deity would involve the concept of slavery, it was not at all uncommon for a Jew.
Undoubtedly the background for the use of the expression “a bondservant of…” is to be found in the Jewish Old Testament scriptures so that it does not connote drudgery, but honor and privilege.
It was used of Israel in general at times (Isa 43:10),
10 “You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me.
but was especially associated with famous OT personalities including such great men as Moses (Joshua 14:7), David (Ps 89:3; cf. 2 Sam 7:5, 8) and Elijah (2 Kings 10:10): all these men were servants of the Lord.
7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.
“I have made a covenant with My chosen,
I have sworn to My servant David:
2 Kings 10:10
10 Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab; for the Lord has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.”
Though there is indeed much honor in the use of the expression, for it was an extreme privilege to serve YHWH, it was not Paul’s desire in this context to simply place himself among venerated OT saints, or express his gratitude to be a servant of Christ Jesus (though both are true), but rather to communicate in plain terms his commitment and devotion to the Messiah Jesus. Though there are several reasons for his allegiance to Christ, it is ultimately due to his recognition of who Jesus is. Paul’s insertion of “Christ Jesus” into the OT formula “a servant of YHWH” shows the high view of Jesus that he maintained. He considered Jesus worthy of the same obedience and devotion as YHWH.
Would you consider yourself a servant of the lord?
In what way does that manifest?
Is there a heart adjustment to be made in this area in some part of your life?
Take a moment to lead Nowra City Church in a prayer of fresh commitment to be a servant of the Lord.
Next, Paul was called to be an apostle (ajpovstolo”). With the use of the term apostle, Paul moves from his allegiance to Christ to his authority to speak on Christ’s behalf.
It was God who called him in history to become his spokesperson for the gospel.
25 Yet I considered it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier, but your messenger and the one who ministered to my need;
1 Corinthians 12:28
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
Thus the apostolic gift was foundational to the development of the church (Eph 2:20; 4:11). This latter meaning is the sense Paul intends here. He is about to communicate revelation from God and the Roman church needs to know that as a servant of Christ, and one called as an apostle, he has the authority to do so.
Next, while Paul was keenly aware of his allegiance to Christ and conscious of his foundational role in the church as an apostle, he also knew that the particular expression of his servanthood and apostleship was by means of being set apart (ajfwrismevno”) by God for the ministry of the gospel (eujaggevlion) to Gentiles.
Being ‘set apart’ has in it the idea of consecration and total devotion to the service of God.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
that is, set apart before birth, but more than likely since it follows called it refers to Paul’s dedication to the gospel at the time of his call to apostleship.3 The gospel refers to God’s saving activity in Christ and comes from the Hebrew term rvb (bashar) in the OT.4 It means to proclaim good news, especially of victory (e.g., 1 Sam 31:9).
In Summary – this is referring to Paul’s dedication to the gospel – which is God’s saving activity in Christ. What level would you say is your dedication to the God’s saving activity?
How does your dedication to God’s saving activity manifest?
Do you invite people to church?
Do you share about your faith to unchurched family and friends?
Do you pray for your unchurched family and friends?
Does your dedication to participate need an adjustment?
Lead the church in a prayer committing afresh to being dedicated to God’s saving activity/
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
The mention of promised beforehand in the holy scriptures indicates that Paul views the gospel about Christ as naturally arising out of the OT and supported by it.
We will see his use of OT scripture in chapter 4 to demonstrate just such a truth and that the proper interpretation and fulfillment of OT hope is in Christ. This will be critical in his discussion of the Law throughout Romans and the place of Israel in God’s plan of salvation.
3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,
Having already stated that the gospel was promised beforehand in the OT, Paul now moves on to further define it.
Notice that Jesus was God’s son before his resurrection from the dead. The mention of David links Jesus with all that was promised to David in 2 Samuel 7:8-16, Ps 72, 89, etc. and asserts his true and enduring humanity.
2 Samuel 7:12
12 “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.
4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
The reference to the Holy Spirit as “spirit of holiness”. This is an uncharacteristic phrase (Semitic) for Paul. The use of this expression along with other un-Pauline markers in the text may suggest that Paul is drawing on church tradition with which his readers may have been familiar.
5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,
The nature of the grace to which Paul refers here is linked closely with apostleship and must be viewed as that enablement which works itself out in the context of one’s divine calling and vocation.
God’s grace is an enabling factor that empowers you in your ministry call – and everyone has a ministry call.
Back to Verse 5
Here we have one of the many universalistic statements of Paul concerning the scope of the offer of salvation in Christ. Though Jesus came as the fulfillment of OT promise he is not for the Jew only, but indeed for the Gentiles as well. His name is that of YHWH (10:9-10) and he is Lord over the entire world.
The tension between particularistic theology and universalistic theology. This verse should settle it once and for all.
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
The reference among whom you also shows that a good number, if not the majority, of the Christians in Rome were Gentiles. Further, Paul says that these Gentile Christians are called to belong to Jesus Christ. For Christians, all of reality is wrapped up in a relationship—a personal relationship with their Lord to whom they gladly belong. He has bought them with a price (1 Cor 6:19-20) and they are secure in him (Rom 8:38-39).
1 Cor 6:19-20
19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a] and in your spirit, which are God’s.
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Do you feel secure in your relationship with God?
Do you feel loved by God?
Encourage the congregation to meditate on this verse throughout this next week.
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says that these Christians are loved by God and called to be saints. The reference to them being saints is in accord with their attachment to Christ, through faith, and not as a result of their deeds.
Though their calling will affect their lives, here the focus in on their status before God; they are holy in his sight. Paul ends his rather lengthy salutation with a commendation of grace and peace, the former being the efficient cause of the latter.
Does the grace through which you are saved bring peace into your life?
Prayer Spot – Pray for people’s revelation of grace and increase in peace in their life.
In his salutation Paul wants his readers to know that he is a slave of Christ in the spirit of important OT personalities, and that he is an apostle with authority and set apart to the ministry of the gospel. The gospel he preaches has its antecedents in the OT and is about God’s son who was of regal descent and was declared the Son of God in power by the Holy Spirit in consequence of his resurrection from the dead. On the basis of Christ’s Lordship Paul had received grace and apostleship to win the Gentiles to obedience to Christ. Those in Rome constituted part of the field assigned to the apostle’s ministry.
Desire to Visit Rome
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
· In this next section, vv. 8-15, Paul wants to tell his readers how he longs to visit them in order that both they and he will benefit from each other’s faith.
· The faith of the Roman Christians had become known probably throughout Asia minor and all the way back to Palestine and Jerusalem.
· Indeed, the fact that people had bowed the knee to Christ in the capital city was significant for the cause of Christ around the world. For this Paul was extremely thankful to God.
Is your faith known?
What is your faith known for?
What could you do to increase the fame of your faith? (In a good way)
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,
It was common for the apostle to assert his constancy in prayer for other christians, both for those whom he had ministered to as well as those he had not (1 Cor 1:4; Eph 1:16; Phil 1:4; Col 1:3; 1 Thes 1:2; 2 Thes 1:3 Phlmn 3).
1 Cor 1:4
4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,
The term serve connotes the idea of worship and is so used in the Greek OT to refer to Israel’s commitment to worship YHWH (Ex 20:5; Deut 5:9) and in her desire to leave Egyptian captivity and worship/serve God in the desert (Ex 7:16). Thus Paul’s service in the gospel of God, in that he preaches it to others and prays unceasingly for them, is really his deep expression (cf. in my spirit) of worship to God.
I am deeply challenged by the thought of what do I pray about without ceasing.
Have you ever analysed your prayers over a 6 month period?
Think through what you have prayed for even this week – what is the consist area of prayer?
10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
It was Paul’s strong desire to be able to visit the church in Rome, and not just to use it as a base of operations for the Spanish mission (cf. 15:24), but to contribute to the church (1:11). In any case, he was not entirely certain that God would grant the request.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
In fact, whatever the gift is, it will lead to their strengthening.
Commentary quote “Would that all christians would have this mindset. To seek to strengthen others by contributing to their spiritual needs is truly a sign of a deep relationship with Christ. Not only did Paul preach the gospel, and defend it, he also lived it.”
Does your faith strengthen others?
How would you do this
Would you make a commitment today to follow the example of Paul and aim to strengthen others? Certainly giving encouragement is one primary way of strengthening people.
13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
Paul had often tried to come to the Romans but was unable.
He says the same thing in 15:22 where the pressing need to establish new churches and promulgate the gospel in other areas hindered him from coming.
Thus we may assume that this is what he means here in 1:13. Paul maintained a tremendous zeal for the gospel to go to the Gentiles and that he have some fruit among them referring probably to both new converts as well as spiritual growth among the christians.
Verse 14 and 15
14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
The fact that Paul knew he had been set apart for the gospel of God (1:1) led to his deep conviction that given such a privilege he was now in debt to all men, that is, to preach the gospel to them. It is clear that Paul means all men by the description he gives.
Scholars have put forth many suggestions, some better than others, but the most reasonable seems to be that the first pair refers to cultured Greeks as well as Barbarians, that is, those who were not Greeks. Thus we have here a reference to all of Gentile humanity. The second pair, the wise and the foolish, could be a further explanation of the first pair or simply a cross section of Gentile humanity including those who thought they had achieved some intellectual status and those who obviously had not
Are you ready to preach?
Do you have an elevator pitch for your faith?
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,[a] for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
Paul was certainly not ashamed of the gospel for as he saw it, it was the power of God to save men, both Jew and Gentile alike. He will explain how it not only saves from the penalty of sin, but also from its power and ultimately from its very presence.
It has the power to bring anyone into a right relationship with God through Christ at the moment they believe in God’s saving action in Christ. The reference to the Jew first and also to the Greek is not merely temporal such that the Jews were the first to hear the good news, but also one of priority for the promises of salvation through God’s messiah were first given to the Jew. This theme will be developed at length in Romans 9-11.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”[b]
The word for takes us back to the preceding idea in v. 16 about the gospel being the power of God for salvation.
How is that so? Paul knows that the gospel saves because it reveals the righteousness of God.
We may understand the expression righteousness of God in a broad sense referring both to God’s saving activity and the resultant status of those who have been saved; they are now in a right relationship with him.
It is not simply a reference to his character, though all that he does in saving men and women flows from his righteous character.
The reference to from faith to faith has been variously interpreted throughout the history of the church:
1) it refers to the faith of the OT saints to the faith of NT saints;
2) from an immature faith to a more mature one;
3) from a Law-oriented faith to a gospel-oriented faith;
4) from the faith of the preacher to the faith of the hearers;
5) from present faith to a future faith;
6) from God’s faithfulness to man’s faith, etc.
The point of Habakkuk’s comment in the OT is that it is only by sheer faith that one can ever comprehend the seemingly difficult things God does
Thus we may say that, by the phrase from faith to faith, Paul is simply arguing that it is by faith and faith alone that one receives this righteous status and understands God’s work of saving sinners. This doctrine, Paul says, is anticipated in the Old Testament as (kaqwV”) the quotation from Habbakuk 2:4 argues.
But its function is to substantiate the claim that the gospel is appropriated only by faith.
It is enough to say that by faith is probably to be taken with the righteous rather than will live as we have translated it. (But cf. the Greek OT and the Hebrew text which take by faith with will live).
Thus the point Paul is making is that the person who is righteous by faith, will live. Paul uses this text in a way somewhat different than it is understood in the OT. The reader is urged to compare the two.
I trust this has deepened your understanding of these verses
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