To The Church In Rome
Romans 1:1 NASB
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,
Paul’s introduction to his readers in the Roman church begins with astounding humility. Not a humility to be confused with Pharisee’s false humility such as in Luke 18:11-12 but a humility that regards himself as a servant. The word “bond-servant” in the greek is doulos which means “one who gives himself up to the will of another”. This establishment of of Paul’s servitude not only demonstrates his absolute devotion to Jesus but also his authority in Christ. It’s hard for 21st century western culture to understand the slave/servant culture that Rome and even Israel had. But a servant of powerful person or someone of high position had more status, authority and freedom then a free commoner. So this duel position of Paul’s places him in a bond-servant role to Jesus but also with an authority from Jesus as well. It should be said that Paul’s initial claim to be a bond-servant to Christ Jesus sets the tone for a Christological approach to this letter. Everything he writes and believes and is trying to help us understand revolves around the person and nature of Jesus Christ and His work that was done through His death and resurrection. This is a doctrinal letter laying the foundations for our soteriology beliefs, however that all is fleshed out, out of our understanding of Christ. In order for us to understand this salvation we must understand and know the Savior.
His claim to apostleship was authenticated by Jesus Christ Himself. In Acts 9:3-28 Saul has an encounter with Jesus that changes his life forever and now instead of being bound to the law he is bound as a servant to Jesus. In Gal. 1:1 Paul asserts his apostleship has been given to him and he is being sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father. His apostleship isn’t being stated as a means to perpetrate authoritarianism to the church but as a description of the calling God has placed on his life to go out and spread the gospel and raise the church up. Early church fathers affirmed Paul’s apostleship as Ignatius said “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles.” (c.105,E),1.75.
Paul’s calling to apostleship wasn’t of his choice but God’s. And because of this calling he suffered greatly for the name of Jesus. Many of us desire the authority of Paul but few desire the suffering bond-servant life. He exercised his authority, and rightly so. Not out of pride or greed but out of a love for his Savior Jesus Christ.
Paul had also been set apart for the gospel of God. In Gaebelein’s Expositors Bible Commentary he states that Paul (or Saul) “as a Pharisee he had been set apart to a life of strict observances of the Jewish law and custom. Now his life work is to further the gospel, the good news God has for man.” Paul’s mission (as ours should be) is to make the name of Jesus known throughout the entire world. This entire letter is an explanation of God’s mission to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ. We are set apart for God’s purposes and in what is birthed from that is that we might help others find faith in Jesus to be set apart as well.
Romans 1:2 NASB
which He promised beforehand through His Prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
God had promised the gospel to those who would have faith in Him. His promise is eternal, and it came long before Paul was alive. The prophets spoke of the Messiah who would come and save Israel and this promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ is what was promised and prophesied of. Paul is appealing to a mainly Jewish readership and uses the Holy Scriptures as the basis for his arguments and pleas. These Jewish readers who have confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior unmistakably understand the gravity of where Paul is going with this letter. Though it is simply an introduction, he is laying the ground work for his dogmatic theology. First; the promise of God for the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ, second; this centuries old prophecy has been fulfilled which the Prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah foretold, third this all ties in to the written Word of God. The Holy Scriptures is still Holy and true. Jesus didn’t nullify the Scriptures, He simply fulfilled them. Paul isn’t trying to strip his Jewish brother and sisters of their long heritage. No! In fact, he is reinforcing their heritage and long history of faith in God with the promised Messiah. Later on in the letter we will see more about how the Old Covenant God created with Israel has been replaced with a New Covenant. Again, this replacement of the Old Covenant doesn’t make the “Old Testament” invalid or useless. Without the Old Testament we wouldn’t have a proper understanding of the fall of man and sin, the Mosaic and Levitical Laws that gave us a moral measuring rod and a premonition of what was to come, the Prophets who pointed us toward the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant God would make with His people. This appeal Paul makes to the Holy Scriptures should not only solidify uncompromising faith in God’s words to us but should also be an encouragement to search scriptures and to know and understand these promises and prophecies God has made. We can be confident that His Word stands true and is a guide to our salvation.
Romans 1:3 NASB
concerning His Son, who was born of a descendent of David according to the flesh,
In the previous verse (2) we are told that everything that was promised by God through the prophets was brought forth by His Son. Paul makes this statement very clear, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is divine, eternal and a part of the God-Head. Paul doesn’t give an explanation of Jesus’ role as the Son of God other then He was the one who was promised to save Israel, the Messiah. What stands out to me in this verse is Paul’s ability to briefly show us (or the Jewish Christian readers of that time) that everything God had been working towards; the Mosaic Laws, the Levitical Laws, the sacrifices, the promises of a savior and a final answer to all of the suffering they’ve endured since Abraham is finally concluded and exalts Jesus as the culmination of it all. Jesus was the key to all of the Jewish laws, traditions and sacrifices and He is God in the flesh. Make no mistake, Jesus was fully God, fully man. He is the Son of God and in perfect unity of the Trinity. Yet, He came in the form of flesh and walked the earth and suffered as we do. The purpose in Paul stating both Jesus’ divinity and his humanity is to help us better understand how God’s plan of redemption was made possible. We will dig deeper into this in later passages but the premises of this paradox is that only by the death and resurrection of Jesus could we receive salvation. By being fully God, His death was a sufficient payment as the atonement for our sins. His humanity enabled Him to suffer and die. As Charles Ryrie said it, “Without the incarnation we would have no Savior, Sin requires death for its payment. God does not die. So the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. But the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We must have a God-man Savior, and we do in our Lord.”
As Paul then flows into this statement that Jesus who is the Son of God is also born out of King David’s line. As David prophetically wrote in Psalm 2:6-9 and Isaiah in his prophecies 11:1. We see how important this is for the readers of this letter to understand. Jesus is from kingly lineage, He is the One whom the perfect Scriptures speak of and he was born as a man in the flesh just as you and I are. I think Jewish readers would appreciate this a lot more then us Gentiles. Their heritage and years of faith in God are now being fulfilled. It would be a similar feeling to us today, seeing the Second Coming of Jesus and the fulfillment of 2,000 years of waiting for Jesus to return as He promised. Paul was right to open his letter this way, he establishes the person of Jesus in the God-Head and His complete divinity while on earth and at the same time His humanity and being made a man. The rest of this letter is built on this foundation of who Jesus is and what He did.
Romans 1:4 NASB
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,
This passage gives us a clear description of who Jesus was. His status and nature weren’t contrived by zealous followers or by historians misconstruing words. Paul lays out once again, the foundation for this letter, which is the person of Jesus and His standing with God the Father. He is declared the Son of God, not through adoption or by allegory. He is proved to be divine and a part of the Trinity by power, through the demonstration of His resurrection enabled by God in accordance of the Holy Spirit. The term “Spirit of holiness” was a Jewish term synonymous with what we today say “Holy Spirit” or “Spirit of God” which is a part of the Trinity. We do not hold to the view that the Holy Spirit enabled the resurrection of Jesus because this is attributed to the work of the Father (1 Peter 1:3). The reason for the mention of the Holy Spirit’s agreement to the resurrection of Jesus is to show the complete working of the Trinity towards the Gospel. Jesus’ sacrifice of dying on the cross, the Father enabling Jesus to resurrect from the dead which shows Him to be the Son, and all of this happening according to the Holy Spirit’s agreeance.
The resurrection is the proof in the pudding. So many people had doubted Jesus’ Messianic role despite the healing’s, miracles, authority and fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Hardened hearts saw the impossible become possible and they still were unbelieving. The resurrection was Jesus’ final act on earth to show who He really was. It is because of the resurrection and only because of it that we can have faith in Jesus and have a hope for an afterlife. Without the resurrection there is no hope. Without Jesus coming back to life, He would just be another false prophet. It is because of the resurrection that all His claims of heaven and hell are true. We trust in His resurrection not only that it was real and not metaphorical, but that it was sufficient to save us from our sin. This simple, short verse, is our hope. It is the hope that Jesus is who He claimed to be, the Son of God.
Romans 1:5 NASB
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 continues his thought from the previous passage that Jesus is the one through whom he received grace. It is only by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that grace was made possible to Paul and to us. This letter of introduction gives a train of thought that flows like this:
God’s purpose was to give us a gospel (good news).
Promised by the prophets of old according to God’s infallible Word.
Made possible by Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah.
Verified in His position as the Son of God by the resurrection.
Which has now enabled us to receive grace.
This perfect harmony of God’s workings, purposes and perfect execution of the plan to save His people is laid out for us in the first five verses of Romans.
On the other hand, as Paul reveals his apostleship has been received by Jesus as well, this passage does not refer to us as did the first part regarding grace. The greek word apostole “a sending, a mission” was a title reserved for a small group of people, it was an authority and role in the early church that only those who witnessed the resurrected Christ were allowed to have (Acts 1:22). Paul was sent by Jesus himself and received this position of apostleship only because Paul was a witness to Jesus, on the road to Damascus where his life was forever changed. Though the idea of what an apostle does (one sent forth) still exists today in the form of missionaries and evangelists, we must not claim the position of an apostle because that is not for our taking. The work of sending people out to share the gospel will continue till the return of Jesus but we must be very careful to not assume positions God has not reserved for us. There are Christian movements today, that seek to reinstate “apostolic” positions and authorities. Don’t be fooled! God knew what He was doing 2000 years ago by putting these limitations on the church, let’s trust His wisdom and not assume positions that has not been given.
Paul continues to show that the grace given him and his apostleship are for the purpose of bringing about the obedience of faith for the Gentiles. That’s us! This letter is written to Jewish Christian’s and he is writing them to help them better understand God’s big picture plan to incorporate all the nations into His plan of salvation. It may have been very easy for Jewish Christian’s to believe that they were going to be the sole receivers of grace because they are the true descendants of Abraham according to the flesh and faith in Jesus. But Paul is opening the can of worms and showing them that God has had His eyes on the world. His plan of salvation was never going to be restricted to the physical descendants of Abraham but ANY who would have faith in Jesus and obedience to Him. We get a glimpse of this plan through the Proselytes of Judaism. Non Jews who were outside of the faith could come in and become a Proselyte. Essentially they’d adopt all Jewish customs, traditions and faith in the God of the Torah. Outsiders can now come in and are welcome into the faith of Jesus Christ. The difference is that the Proselytes had to become Jewish and observe the Law, now Gentiles can live in faith and obedience to Jesus without living under the weight of the Law, they’ll be under the Law of Liberty. And all of this is done to glory of God and by His sovereign will.
Romans 1:6-7 NASB
(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.
The called of Jesus Christ. Called as saints. This section of Scripture needs attention. A fresh reminder that we have been called (greek word kletos – called, invited, “of the call of the gospel”) by Jesus just as Paul’s readers were called of Jesus. This calling is both universal in nature that the gospel is extended to the world (John 3:16) but the calling is also an individual call from Jesus to each person. In Matthew 22:14 Jesus gives a somber truth to his hearers that “many are called, but few are chosen.” Meaning the calling of the gospel will go out to the Jews and the Gentiles and many will reject it. Few will actually have the faith to believe in Jesus and obey Him. Paul also mentions this call to sainthood. A weird concept for westerners to call ourselves saints but that’s the title we are given when we receive the gospel and become regenerate believers in Jesus (2 Thes. 1:10). This title of “saint” is something that will come into play later in this letter as we dig deeper into what a sanctified life of a believer entails and what the expectations from God are for His people in being set apart in holiness. Not just as a metaphor or future hope but as a real and current state of being while living on earth.
As Paul finishes the opening of his letter to the believers in Rome, he extends a pastoral blessing to them. Grace and peace. Two things we desperately need today, not only for ourselves to be received by Jesus but to also extend to others. Paul gives this blessing to the believers and should constitute a desire in our hearts to give grace to our fellow believers and pursue peace with each other. How easy it is for us to get so consumed with our own needs and desires and we forget to give and extend blessings to others. Like the Apostle Paul, let us pray for one another, bless one another and live out a life of grace in our fellowship and sustain peace with all people. Seek now, peace from God and give it to others. Seek His grace that has been so lavishly poured out on your sins and give it to others who don’t deserve it just as you don’t deserve it.
Romans 1:8 NASB
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.
Paul continues his long introduction (which will continue though v15) but as he’s transitioned out of speaking of himself, the gospel and God. He gives a heartfelt encouragement to the recipients of the letter with a genuinely deserved praise. He thanks God by prayer though the power of the Holy Spirit given by Jesus for the FAITH of the church in Rome. Their faith is was well known throughout the world. Rome next to Jerusalem, had become the epicenter of the Christian faith and despite trials and tribulations of following Jesus their faith had persevered and blossomed to the point that Paul felt they were worthy of this recognition. If there’s one thing we know from Paul, is that he doesn’t pull back any punches. He tells the truth despite how harsh it might seem. But that only makes his encouragement all that much sweeter. He is a loving father figure and apostolic leader of the church and he gives thanks to God for the real faith that has been produced by the church in Rome.
Such a valuable lesson we can learn from this quick encouragement Paul has given to the church. We need to be encouragers to fellow believers. And no, catching up on football games or asking about how work is, is not encouraging one another. Real spiritual encouragement is from the Holy Spirit. It is a tool used by God through His church to build each other up. Through encouragement and edification we find hope, love and faith rising up inside of us. We need to encourage each other more! Asking the Holy Spirit to give us words from Scripture, supernatural knowledge and wisdom and positive reinforcement for our fellow believers in Christ. Too many believers face trials and challenges in life with little to no spiritual support. We must imitate Paul, and when opportunity arises, to give needed and deserved encouragement. Let’s not be ashamed and give it! There’s a difference between flattery and insincere praise vs Biblical encouragement that God is pleased with. As you begin to take steps to encourage other believers on a consistent basis you will see how God uses you as a vessel to accomplish His will in building up His church. Withhold encouragement due to fear, insecurity or lack of maturity, you will not only miss out on being a blessing to others but you contribute to the stifling of encouragement in your church.
Romans 1:9 NASB
For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you,
An interesting idiom is used in this verse. The phrase “in my spirit” has the same meaning as “from the bottom of my heart” or “with all my heart”. Essentially, Paul is saying; “I serve God with all my heart in the preaching of the gospel of Jesus!” He’s laid everything down on the line for the gospel, held nothing back and makes the preaching of the gospel his priority in life. Paul reminds me of an olympic athlete that breaths, eats and sleeps training. Everything in their life points towards this one goal, to win. Paul is exactly like an olympic athlete but he trains and wins for the gospel. The question could be asked, what makes Paul such a devoted man of God that every fiber in his being serves God’s purposes? I think it’s the deep spiritual understanding of how great God’s grace is towards him. Paul views himself very humbly even though he is viewed as one of the father’s of the Christian faith. He is humble and devoted because he understood (better then we do) how terrible the wrath of God was against him as a sinner and how great God’s grace is towards him as a saint. It is because of this embracing and understanding of God’s grace that allows Paul to be single minded towards the goal of serving God.
It might seem odd that Paul uses God as “my witness” in how much time he spends praying for the church in Rome. But the church didn’t know Paul personally and had never met him. He doesn’t have a relationship with them but is writing a very personal letter to them. In order to show them just how much he appreciates them and wants them to know that they are loved is by revealing his “unceasingly” prayers to God for them. Devout Jews could spend hours a day praying to God in the mornings and evenings. Paul spent much time in prayer, but specifically much time in prayer for the churches abroad, including those in Rome. He wants them to know that God is the witness as to the prayers that are lifted up to Him. And we believers, believe in the power of prayer and how it moves mountains. No doubt, God used Paul to move mountains through his prayer life.
We can learn a valuable lesson from Paul’s prayer life. It should be unceasing. Meaning, we should continually be praying throughout the day as a manner of habit. We should be praying for our church, our family and all those God has laid on our heart to pray for. I think it’s easy to feel that prayer doesn’t accomplish much but if Scripture is a lesson in prayer, it shows that prayer is a mighty force that moves the heart and hand of God and is our spiritual weapon in this life.
Romans 1:10-11 NASB
(10)always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. (11)For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established;
Paul has been planning a trip to the church in Rome and has submitted this plan to the will of God. It’s interesting to note that even in the midst of Paul’s desires for good things (such as visiting and encouraging the church in Rome) he only moves forward as God wills him to. Now, there is no Scripture verse that Paul would have read that would have told him to wait to visit Rome. His desire is noble and good but he submits to the Holy Spirit who is speaking to him. Paul is a man that walks in tune with the Spirit of God. He believes that God is active in the role of guiding him where to go. This is through prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit. Now, it’s true, living life listening to the Holy Spirit is subjective to the confliction of our thoughts and desires. But Paul shows that there is a way to sift through the land mine of our heart and know the will of God. That is through obedience to Scripture and time spent in prayer. The Scripture is our guide to the truth which protects us from falling into false doctrine and theology. But that doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit doesn’t guide us through our life, showing us where to go and who to talk to. I think we would do well to begin thinking the way Paul does, he makes requests by prayer and submits to the will of God.
His intention of coming to visit them is not for selfish reasons such as to boost an Apostolic ego, but he desires to give a spiritual gift to them. The greek word used for spiritual in v11 is (pneumatikos) which denotes “appointed activities in the church”. Paul was planning on blessing them with a gift of prophecy, or teaching, or encouragement or maybe even healing. We don’t know exactly, but the point being, was that he planned to bless them with a spiritual gift. We could ask the question, what spiritual gift are we giving to those around us? Do we bless others with our spiritual gifts or withhold them. It’s easy to withhold out of fear or maybe not feeling competent in our spiritual gifts. But it is the Holy Spirit who gives us these gifts, and as we submit to the will of God and ask for spiritual gifts He gives them generously. Let us also submit to God in prayer and in His will and desire to bless others with spiritual gifts. It is not only beneficial to the church but it pleases God.
Romans 1:12-13 NASB
(12)that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine. (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 deeply desired to encourage and be encouraged by the believers in Rome. This wasn’t flattery, this was transparency in his need to be encouraged by other believers and to give them that blessing as well. This is all done by our faith in Jesus. It is by our conviction in the death and resurrection of Jesus that we have a hope for a future and a desire to encourage others in this conviction and hope. Life is tough, it’ll kick you when your down and place its foot on your neck while you struggle for breath. In God’s sovereignty, He allows suffering, and as we trust Him to see us through the struggles we use the tools He’s given us to help encourage each other. We often trivialize the power God has given us to build each other up. We don’t take the mantle of holding each other up in faith seriously. Paul, perceptibly explains how important the body of Christ is, and each member in it. In chapter 12 we will dive into this at greater length.
As Paul closes his thought, he shows his desire to “obtain fruit” from them. Meaning to see salvations from within their community or fruits of the Spirit from within their church. There ought to be fruit that is produced from the church, and shared with fellow believers and to be a blessing on the non believing. I think it is only right that Paul ought to expect something from the church when he visits. When a guest missionary visits our church, we bless them with encouragement, prayers, finances and a opportunity to share with us as well. A healthy church should receive honorable guests with such a goal in mind.
The reference to the “Gentiles” is Paul’s way of showing his readers that he had received fruit from other converts. This isn’t to guilt trip the church in Rome, but to help teach them how to be fruitful and generous people. There are few things more unpleasing to God then unfruitful and selfish people who know that it is God who has blessed them, but don’t acknowledge it with their actions.
Romans 1:14-15 NASB
(14)I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the 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.
The Greeks viewed everyone else on the outside to be a “barbarian”, and they also viewed themselves to be wise and most everyone else foolish, even the Jews. This reference Paul is making in his obligation is for all the work he has previously done for Jews and Gentiles, but also a reference to the barbarians in the western lands of Rome that had not yet been conquered. Even though Paul has already spent years preaching the Gospel, being shipwrecked, beaten and chased out of towns, he still feels obligated to spread the gospel far and wide. His zeal and obedience to God are supernatural. No man in the natural state of mind and heart would continue to strive the way he does and be so passionate unless he was empowered by the Holy Spirit. His eagerness to preach in Rome isn’t just necessarily for the church, but for the unsaved as well. Rome is so diverse, there would be Gentiles, Christians, and Jewish Christians. A melting pot of people from all over the continent. The phrase, “all roads lead to Rome” isn’t just a catch phrase. Rome, in it’s pinnacle of power and influence, gathered people from all over the continent by reason of travel, business or slavery. What a place to go to and preach the gospel! Many of the converts there would take the faith of Jesus Christ back to their homeland and others would be saved as well. Paul is both passionate for the gospel and strategic about it.
Romans 1:16 NASB
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.
As Paul begins with the theme of the letter, he asserts his unashamed allegiance to the gospel. He has witnessed firsthand the power of Jesus and it’s efficacy on the human heart and mind. Paul was persecuting Christian’s violently, then by the power of Jesus is radically transformed into a new man. How could he possibly be ashamed? It would be like someone who discovered the cure to cancer, you wouldn’t care who spoke ill of you, you’d just want to get that message out!
Salvation is a broad term. It encompasses so much; election, atonement, regeneration, justification, sanctification and redemption. All of this is accomplished by the gospel which is God’s act of power to save mankind. This power is deliverance from the state of spiritual death to spiritual life in Jesus Christ. So it must be defined, what is the gospel, and how is it power from God to save us?
Gospel – original translation “glad tidings, or the good news”. This good news is that the Kingdom of God is accessible and rewarded to those who have faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The power of God through the Gospel is the work of Jesus in His death and resurrection. There is literal power in what Jesus did on the cross and by His coming back to life. This power is mysterious and not completely understandable. But what we do understand, is that by Jesus’ work on the cross, power has been made accessible to man to be brought out of death and slavery to sin into life and righteousness in Christ.
This power of the Gospel is for everyone who believes. It has been widely accepted since the early church fathers that the extent of the atonement was made for all mankind, all the world. However, the extent of God’s forgiveness of sins is only made effectual to those who believe and have faith in Jesus.
Origen (AD 184/85-153/54)
“Such great things, then, He is, the Paraclete, the atonement, the propitiation, the sympathizer with our weaknesses, who was tempted in all human things, as we are, without sin: and in consequence He is a great High-Priest, having offered Himself as the sacrifice which is offered once and for all, and not for men only but for every rational creature. For without God He tasted death for every one. In some copies of the epistle to the Hebrews the words are ‘by the grace of God.’ Now, whether he tasted death for every one without God, He died not for men only but for all other intellectual beings too, or whether He tasted death for every one by the grace of God, He died for all without God, for by the grace of God He tasted death for every one.”
“No man is excluded from calling upon God, the gate of salvation is set open unto all men: neither is there any other thing which keepeth us back from entering in, save only our own unbelief.”
Paul concludes this thought, that the gospel will be preached to the Jew first and to the Greek as well. This isn’t out of spite to non Jews but just as Jesus preached to Jews, so Paul makes sure that the people that have followed the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob receive the good news first because they are the descendants of the promise of the Messiah. The gospel will be preached to everyone in between, even to outermost parts of the world. God’s plan is for all to hear the glad tidings of salvation and forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ.
With this theme in mind, it helps us better understand what this letter is about, informing his readers that salvation has been extended to those outside of Judaism, God’s plan of redemption is for the world.
Romans 1:17 NASB
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.”
This passage is a direct continuation from the previous passage as Paul affirms that in the gospel is the act of God’s righteousness. The gospel isn’t just God’s plan for salvation, it is His perfect way of demonstrating His character and integrity. Righteousness is in this sense action oriented. Often we think of righteousness as the legal standing before God such as in justification. However this use of God’s righteousness reveals God proving His commitment to the covenant He is making with mankind. God is holy and perfect, and because of this perfection only righteous humans can enter into His eternal Kingdom. So God reveals His goodness and purity upon the cross to allow us to be covered in that righteousness.
The phrase “faith to faith” has been debated over what it means exactly. But the most logical explanation is that as God’s righteousness was revealed on the cross, it is established in us out of faith and into faith. Meaning, our righteousness isn’t attained by deeds but by faith in the righteousness of Jesus, which we receive.
Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 to help his Jewish readers understand that the continuation of faith in God never ended. In fact, it has been since Abraham, that God considers man righteous by his faith. The Hebrew word used in this verse is “saddiq” which used under the parent noun “sedeq” denotes not just a righteousness and lawful standing before God, it is used in a action oriented way. As you study this word, as Habakkuk intended, you see that the righteous man is a man that does what God commands. A man that fulfills the decrees of God and is done by faith in God. This faith is real because it is proved to be real. God desires righteous people, and righteous people find their justification and holiness through the power of the gospel, but they prove their faith by action. This isn’t a works based salvation, far from it! Only by the blood of Jesus are we made righteous, but it is our faith in the blood that makes us righteous.
Romans 1:18 NASB
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
The wrath of God must be understood to accurately portray the gospel and God’s perfect will in our lives. Wrath is translated in the greek “thumos”. This specific use of the word wrath indicates strongly a sense of internal displeasing, anger from God. His agitation towards sin is revealed from heaven referring to judgement. God’s wrath is not like our wrath. We become angry in our flesh and lash out in passion that is not always aligned with righteous anger. God’s perfect and justified anger can’t be viewed as evil or misplaced. We must have an appreciation and fear of God’s anger towards unrighteousness. God cannot be Holy and just without placing His wrath upon those who are unrighteous. If He did not then He could not be Holy. For God reveals not only His righteousness through the action of the gospel but also His objection towards the very unrighteousness He is saving us from.
Specifically, Paul addresses men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This is intentional in showing the willful ignorance of the Gentile towards God’s holiness. They suppress the truth like someone who subdues their conscience and numbs it to the truth. Man suppress the truth and what is right by committing acts of sin and callousing the heart. The Gentiles did not have the Law of Moses but they still had the truth which God implants into our conscience where we know the truth but still violate it and suppress it with wickedness. It is through this suppression and acceptance of unrighteousness that God’s wrath is aimed and only by God’s righteousness can someone be spared of that wrath.
“We should understand that since God is eternal, His anger also remains to eternity. On the other hand, since He is endowed with the greatest excellence, He controls His anger. He is not ruled by it; rather, He regulates it according to His will. What I am saying is not contrary to what I have previously said. For is His anger were completely inextinguishable, there would be no place after a sin for satisfaction or reconciliation. Yet, He Himself commands men to be reconciled before the setting of the sun. In other words, the divine anger remains always against those who sin always…He who ceases to sin renders the anger of God extinguishable.
Lactantius (c. 304-313, W), 7.277 extended discussion: 4.529, 7.259-7.280.
Romans 1:19 NASB
because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
The continuation of this thought about man suppressing the truth in unrighteousness takes a turn in Paul’s explanation in how they suppress the truth. The truth that there is a Creator and a Maker that has given us a conciseness and spiritual compass from birth causes man to suppress this truth because it forces them to accept the fact that they will be accountable to this Creator at their death. That which is good and right are in our spiritual DNA. Though we are separated from God spiritually because of sin, we are still made in the likeness of our Creator. His character and moral attributes are within us for the simple fact that in Genesis 1: 26-27 God says, “‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Though we are not god’s, we are made in God’s likeness. That is to say we bear His image. Without sin, we would be the perfect representation of God’s image. Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, and we are made to be like Him. Not in glory and authority, but like a mirror that shows a reflection. We must be careful to never assume more likeness to God then allowed. It would be blasphemous to try and compare ourselves and believe that we are little gods. However, there is Biblical and theological evidence in Genesis of our being made in His image and our importance to God is shown through the atonement of the blood of Jesus.
God has purposefully implanted the truth in us. We suppress it and we suppress the truth in others lives. This truth forces us to acknowledge that there is a God that created us and is in authority over our lives.
The word “evident” is actually translated from the greek to our word “manifest”, which means to make visible, clear, to uncover or to reveal. God has made it clear within our hearts that doing wrong things shouldn’t be. Without even being taught, a child knows that abuse is wrong. If a child sees their mother being abused by their father, it causes fear, trauma and an acknowledgement that this shouldn’t be. This evidence of truth within us is innate and comes from our Creator because we are made in His likeness.
It is fair to say that the actual knowledge of who God is, is not revealed within us but must be learned. But Paul isn’t arguing over the need for people to hear the Word of God just yet, he is arguing that man knows right from wrong, God has given him this knowledge and yet man chooses to suppress it and not seek God but seek their own desires and unrighteousness.
Romans 1:20 NASB
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood thorough what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
Paul has laid out a clear case for the wrath of God against unrighteousness. Man is without excuse. God has given mankind the evidence of a divine Creator and yet they suppress the truth. From the beginning of creation, God has intentionally provided evidence of intelligent design and accountability to that Creator through His very creation of earth and man. By His sovereignty, He has given us enough evidence by His character involved in mans affairs, His mighty power that has created all things and left a signature of intelligent design and by the birth death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has He shown the world the evidence of His authority and demand for righteous living.
Atheists claim there is no evidence for a God. Christians disagree in that their interpretation of evidence, and their interpretation doesn’t negate the truth and what evidence God has given us. One person may say that there are many genders and that there is no denying that truth. But that is only their interpretation based on what they believe the evidence is for those many genders. Reality says that there are only two genders and that is done by design. Just because we don’t agree with the parameters God has set up for evidence of His hand in creation and demand for righteousness doesn’t mean we are right. In fact, the only way to know truth is to abandon our way of thinking and adopt God’s way of thinking and realize that He is always right and we are not.
The last portion of this Scripture can be challenging because it says “they are without excuse”. Even those who have not yet heard the gospel are still accountable to God for their actions. This may seem severe but who are we to question God’s wisdom? It is because of pride and a self deception that we think we know better then God, and that brought the fall in the garden of Eden. We suppress the truth of a creator and accountability so that we do as we please. We are all without excuse. This is Paul’s argument, we are willfully ignorant in order to satisfy our desires and we are self condemned.
After the great flood in Genesis, Jewish tradition says that God gave Noah seven laws to abide by. These laws even preceded the Mosaic Law and would have been known by all the descendants of Noah. So after creation and the oral story shared by Adam, the power of the great flood and its destruction of evil, Noah teaching his descendants the commands of God towards wickedness, mankind still chooses evil over good. Man knows who God is, has seen His power and hatred of evil and yet they still do what is wicked in His sight. This is the epitome of understanding right and wrong and suppressing the truth, making themselves without excuse on the Day of Judgement.
Romans 1:21 NASB
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they become futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Those who did not follow the Mosaic Laws still had an internal knowledge of a Creator. God reveals Himself to all mankind and the disobedience of man manifests in a lack of honoring God’s moral code that has been placed in us and even by the revelation of the Mosaic Law and by Jesus Himself. They neither honor Him nor give thanks. Man was created to worship and to be in covenant with God. Whether we want to admit it or not, God designed us to worship Him, and if we don’t honor and give thanks to Him in worship and servitude we end up filling a void in our life by worshipping other things. This is the futility Paul speaks about. They were unable to produce any useful results in their pursuits and opinions. They (the Gentiles) created idols and worshiped physical gods which replaced the One true God even though they knew the truth. Out of their suppression of the truth and their disobedience their hearts became darkened. They were foolish, thinking that they were wise in their own eyes and sought their own desires and wasted their lives in futility and wickedness. Man cannot escape worship. Man in past ages worshipped Baal, in the Roman Empire they worshipped the emperor and today we worship ourselves.
This darkened heart produces evil upon evil. As man suppresses the truth of God and righteous living the depravity of his heart sinks lower and lower. Take Sodom and Gomorra, their suppression of the basic human decency towards one another was so severe that all the men in the city wanted to rape the angels that were visiting Lot and his family. Their wickedness was so vile that there was absolutely zero respect for right living. Can you imagine visiting family in a foreign town and all the neighbors attack you and demand the right to rape you and your family. You’d think they were possessed by demons! Absolute depravity comes from darkened hearts that blot out God from their conciseness and soul.
Romans 1:22 NASB
Professing to be wise, they became fools,
Out of rebellion towards God, and suppression of the truth despite knowing there is a Creator, man thinks he is wise. Man thinks he knows how to correctly direct his steps in life and in this futile attempt, ends up becoming a fool. Today, a fool is seen just an idiot who makes foolish mistakes or someone similar to a sluggard. But Hebrews viewed a fool as being the bottom of the barrel in spiritual intelligence and obedience to God. Vine’s Dictionary puts it this way to explain the greek word “moraino” which Paul uses, “it is said of salt that has lost its flavor, becoming tasteless.” Man loses his senses that God has given him, his spiritual sense of right and wrong and need to worship the Creator. So he becomes foolish and thinking he is intelligent and understanding of the world.
How many people do you meet who have this attitude? They believe they have a deeper knowledge of he world and how it works and they don’t think they need to worship a Creator but instead they worship the created.
Romans 1:23 NASB
and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
We worship the created and not the creator. That’s Paul’s point in this passage, our suppression of the truth and living in unrighteousness has led to the worship of things that God has created himself. Paul is being very specific in the words he is using here, alluding to Psalm 106:20. Pagan worship was prevalent in ancient Israel, even to the point of the Exodus from Egypt when the Hebrews worshipped the golden calf. Despite the great evidence of God’s creation, law and incarnation, man exchanges the Creator for physical things that God Himself has given to man through His creation.
Man worshiped Pharaohs and Kings who are made in the image in God. But man is not God, only made in His likeness so to worship Him. Man worshipped animals and the sun and the moon for the blessings they provide in their lives. But this worship ought to be given to the One who created those animals and the sun and moon! Today, we are no different. We worship careers, and sacrifice our families for money, we worship our sex lives and sacrifice our children to the god of pleasure and connivance. We worship material possessions and horde treasures in our homes knowing we can’t take it with us to the grave. We worship entertainment and spend more time fixated to screens then we do to the Word of God. More time spent feasting our eyes on our phones and tv’s over time spent with God reveals our love of self and pleasure over our love of God. We don’t think of it as worship, but it is worship because we declare it more important then God with the time we spend with them.
The depravity of man hasn’t declined simply because our civilization is more advanced then it was 2000 years ago. We’ve simply deceived ourselves and suppressed the truth just like men and women before us. The only way out of this depravity is to humbly cast off all idols and not allow ourselves to be captive, thinking we are wise, when we’re just fools.
Romans 1:24 NASB
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
“Therefore” brings us back to the wrath of God earlier discussed in verse 18. All of the above issues of unrighteousness, suppression of truth, abandoning the worship of the One true God and worshipping the created and not the Creator brings God’s wrath upon mankind. This wrath is demonstrated by giving the Gentile over to their lusts. It’s like a total hands off approach by God, He sovereignly chooses to let them dig their heels in deeper and deeper in their depravity. Specifically, Paul addresses the impurity of the body with temple prostitution. This is in direct correlation to the last verse addressed where man was exchanging the worship of the Creator for things and animals. This continued thought brings about the impure acts that man engaged in with religious purposes. Later in verses 26-27 Paul will address the more common sexual impurity in the private life. This impurity is dealing with worship, which Paul was all to knowledgeable about, having visited many Gentile city’s where temple prostitution was all too common. It would be very similar to today’s worship of self and pleasure and engagement of porn. The method might look different, but mankind has a way of pushing God to the side and worshipping impure things.
Because God is just and He has limits to the grace he extends to people, He gives them up to their sin and they reap the consequences of it. Not just temporary consequences but eternal ones as well. We must understand, God is not unjust or unmerciful. He is withstanding of so much evil and sin in the world but there are times where it is so great, that He simply allows them to burn in their sin and reap the devastating consequences of it. It is also an act of mercy and love. As God allows sinful people to go further and further in their sin, not only do they receive everything they want and are justly accountable, but it can also be an opportunity for someone to hit rock bottom and see their need for a savior. Sometimes it takes living on the street, sticking needles in your arm to get that wake up call, that you need help from the sickness of sin inside you! We must not be angry with God in how He deals with people and sin. God doesn’t align Himself to our worldview. He doesn’t adopt new perspectives on culture and understanding of our feelings. He is holy and just, and in that holiness He extends mercy and also extends wrath upon those who are unwilling to come into covenant with Him. Maybe this seems harsh, but as we look throughout the Bible, this is how God deals with humanity. He is ever loving and forgiving and gives us more chances and grace then we deserve. But at some point, unbelief and unrighteousness are met with God’s holy wrath either in this life or the next, but surely and completely in the next.
Romans 1:25 NASB
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the the creature rather then the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
The exchange man makes that Paul is referencing is the “lie”. The “lie” is the denial that Jesus is the Christ and in exchange they worship false gods. This is the most grievous falsehood that anyone can accept. To deny that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world is to damm one’s self to eternal hell. This damnation is worse then the lie that Eve accepted at the garden of Eden. Her exchange of the truth for a lie cost her and Adam’s life in the garden and their innocence. But at the very least, Adam and Eve still believe in the One true God. The falsehood of denying Jesus and worshipping the created is breaking the very first and foremost of commandments. Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.” The denial of God and His Son Jesus, deny’s ones entrance to God’s eternal kingdom.
The question must arise, why do we exchange the created for the Creator? Why do we worship temporary things over the Eternal One? These questions could be a book in of themselves but I think it comes down to pride. Worshipping the One true God requires humility in submission to His will. It forces us to align our lives and actions with God’s. His ways are higher then ours, His will causes us to reform our way of thinking and living our lives. Worshipping created gods, whether its Baal the sun or ourselves, allows us to live and act outside of God’s intended purposes for our lives. It enables us to be selfish, lustful, angry, prideful and the captain of our own soul. I think this is why the gate to heaven is narrow, it’s not that its hard to come to Jesus, we make it hard by holding on to our gods.
Paul finishes his thought with a affirmation of God’s blessedness who is eternal and will outlast all false gods. Mankind has always been given the choice to worship or not worship the Creator, man has always been fickle in his allegiance to God, but He has always remained faithful in mercy and forgiveness to us.
Romans 1:26-27 NASB
For this reason, God gave them over to their degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
Out of worship for the created comes forth perversion in our lives. Paul addresses what is all too common in the greek culture which is homosexual relations. His readers would have understood exactly what he was talking about. And many of Paul’s future readers from greek backgrounds had possibly participated in these actions. Greek culture at the root of its issues was false worship of the created, and out of that comes the exchanging of God’s preordained plan of sexual activity and perverts it by giving in to degrading passions of homosexuality.
This exchange of the natural function began in Genesis 6. The “sons of God” as referred in Genesis 6:2 have another name given in the book of Enoch. They are called the Watchers. They were heavenly angels that “watched” over mankind and instead of maintaining their natural place as angelic beings watching mankind, they came and took human women and bore sons from them which are called the Nephilim. The Nephilim were essentially abominations of human/angel hybrids. They were giants that were killed in the flood of Noah and there was still a remnant of them left over that the Hebrews had to kill in the land of Canaan. Out of this unnatural union came great evil and suffering. Jude 1:6 explains what happened to them “And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgement of the great day.” In God’s perfect plan of order and natural functioning, both angels and mankind have rebelled against God and done what is right in their own eyes. When we exchange the natural functions God has ordained for us for unnatural ones, we incur the wrath of God. Paul says, “God gave them over”. God has simply left those who are bent on destruction and wickedness to let them self destruct.
When someone says, “Can I be a Christian and a homosexual?” The answer is, “what has God said?” Not our interruption, not our feelings and not what the world says. What does God say? He created a natural function for our sexuality, a blessed one. When we try to exchange this for something unnatural (homosexuality, adultery, fornication) we pridefully rebel against God. In todays society, we condemn anyone who speaks against homosexuality. In fact, its almost looked at as a hate crime. But if we truly believe in God’s Word, who are we to question what God has deemed natural and unnatural. The point in Paul addressing this isn’t to point a specific group out and make them look worse then other sinners, it’s to reveal the downward spiral that has happened to man: internal knowledge of God, suppression of truth, practicing unrighteousness, worshipping the created, exchanging natural functions God has given us for the unnatural, and receiving of the duty penalty of their error.
Romans 1:28 NASB
And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,
Man is wise in his own eyes. That’s what it seems Paul is conveying to us. They didn’t see it fit to acknowledge God anymore. They know He is the Creator, they know they are accountable for the unrighteousness in their life, they suppress the truth and worship false gods. Out of this rebellion towards God, He gives them over to a “depraved” mind. This word depraved is also translated as reprobate. In the greek word “adokimos” it denotes “worthless, castaway and rejected.” God literally given them over to their worthless and rejected mind to do evil things. There really is a sense that God is done with these people. Not that they can’t be saved if they have faith in Jesus, but because of their hatred of God they’ve made themselves intentionally void of God’s grace. They reject Him and He in turn releases them to further push themselves away from Him and into their sin. This is such a dangerous place to be in, knowledgeably rejecting Jesus causes one to fall deeper into a depraved mind and brings about more sin.
It may seem that Paul is going above and beyond to show his readers the problem of sin and mans depravity. But it is out of God’s mercy that He show us just how bad mankind has allowed themselves to get. Out of His mercy He wants us to see how much we need a Savior and how destitute we are without Him. Without our understanding of sin and its detrimental effects it has on the soul and our community we wouldn’t see a need for salvation and thus be lost from Him forever. Sin is offensive to God, and it is offensive to us to be confronted with how terrible it is. The next three verses go into even more detail of just how ugly sin is and how it weaves its way into all aspects of our lives.
Romans 1:29-31 NASB
being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips,(30)slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,(31)without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful;
Looking at this list, it packs a heavy punch to the conscience. This list though not completely exhaustive in sins, shows the reader that out a depraved mind comes forth all kinds of evil. Obviously, not every person commits all these sins, but these are many of the sins that are birthed out of the suppression of the truth and by not placing God on the throne of the individuals soul. When we suppress the truth we open ourselves to deception and out of deception comes rebellion towards God. Rebellion is the root of all these evils, at its core is humanity pushing God out of their lives. God has ordained law and order and out of that comes life and peace. Out of our rebellion comes death and destruction. All societies that have banished God from their nation have suffered greatly, not just with the sin that wreaks havoc in their culture but also the ultimate demise of that society as rebellion towards God brings God’s wrath.
It must be noted that Paul had originally been focusing on idolatry and homosexuality, something that typically would be a pagan’s achilles heel, but this list that Paul composes addresses many issues that Jews would have struggled with (Not that Israel didn’t have its fair share of idolatry). He is setting up his readers (who are mainly Jewish Christians) for the realization that they are condemned as well as the Gentile in their sins. He is strategic in coming full around to the theology that all are condemned before God, both the Jew and the Gentile. Without this realization of their sin, they would not understand both the grace of God and power of the sacrifice of Jesus.
Romans 1:32 NASB
and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
It’s interesting that Paul has continually reminded his readers that they knew the righteousness of God. They know and understand and yet still rebel. It’s like when someone who has cancer and the doctor offers them the cure and they plug their ears and close their eyes and pretend like the cure isn’t in front of them. They know they are condemning themselves but they don’t care. They know, but they reject the truth. Because of this, they are worthy of death. This may seem harsh, death for rejection of God’s commands. But God is holy and perfect. And it is our very entitlement and feeling of being owed mercy that shows our wicked pride and disdain for God’s holiness. It is only out of humility can we see how wicked we are and how great a need we have of the righteousness of Jesus to be right before God.
The devastating effects of training up others in wickedness brings about generations of havoc, chaos and destruction. In Genesis 19:4 it says that “both young and old, all the people from every quarter.” These were the men who wanted to rape the angels who were visiting Lot. The older men had given hearty approval of their wickedness and encouraged them to engage in homosexual rape of God’s messengers. This is why it is so vital that we understand how terrible sin is and why we have to cut it out of our lives. If we don’t get rid of that sin, we pass it down to our children. They are affected by it and often adopt it into their lives. Wickedness cannot have a place in our lives. If it does, we condemn ourselves to death and are worthy of it.