Romans Chapter 1

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

Paul considered himself a bond-servant of Christ – someone willing to relinquish all his rights and serve Christ for no pay of any kind. All the writers of the New Testament epistles considered themselves to be bond-servants. Perhaps this was why God inspired them to write Scripture.

An apostle is someone who preaches Christ to people who have never heard of Him before. He starts churches in places where there were no churches before.

You can’t just decide one day to be an apostle; you have to be called. Unless you have been called to a ministry it is futile to engage in that ministry – you might actually be a hindrance instead of a blessing. So don’t covet anybody else’s ministry. Instead, ask God to show you what He wants you to do, and then do it in the strength of the Holy Spirit.

God sets some people apart for a unique ministry. For Paul, this unique ministry was to give the gospel to the Gentiles.

This is the first time the word ‘gospel’, or ‘good news’, appears in the book of Romans. Therefore, it is good to pay careful attention to how Paul describes this gospel. Most Christians think that the gospel is concerning the salvation of man, but it isn’t.

Really!

I will show you why in a few moments.

2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,

God promised this gospel before it actually became a reality.

What was God’s modus operandi? How did God go about doing things when He wanted to communicate to man? He spoke through His prophets. Their words became the Holy Scriptures (Amos 3:7).

Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.

If you want to understand the mind of God, His nature, and His plans, you need to study the Scriptures. Don’t rely on commentaries and books, but go directly to Scripture. Ask God to open His word up to you, and learn from Him. Getting your information second hand – through a commentary or through non-inspired words – is not the best way to understand the mind of God.

3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh,

4 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,

Here is where Paul defines the gospel. And he doesn’t even mention the salvation of man!

So clearly, the gospel is not concerning the salvation of man.

As Paul says in verse 3, the gospel is concerning Jesus.

There are two important things about Jesus that are the essence of the gospel. The first is that Jesus was a man, just like His brethren (i.e. those who are born again) (Heb 2:17). That’s what Paul meant when he says ‘born of a descendant of David according to the flesh’.

The second thing is that He ‘was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness’. In other words, the Holy Spirit (i.e. the Spirit of holiness), who is an expert on holy living, examined Jesus’ entire life while He was a man on earth and affirmed that He did not sin even once (which is another way of saying that He was the Son of God, an exact representation of the nature of God (Heb 1:1-3)). That is why God raised Jesus from the dead. The resurrection was proof that the man Jesus didn’t sin even once. Incidentally, most people who celebrate Easter (the resurrection of Jesus) don’t really know why the resurrection is important.

The gospel is concerning these two facts about Jesus.

Now you might be skeptical and think that may be Paul was saying that accidentally in the first chapter of Romans. But check out 2 Tm 2:8.

2 Tm 2:8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel,

Paul defines the gospel in the same way in 2 Tm 2:8!

Further, check out what Paul says in 2 Tm 2:7, just before he makes this statement.

2 Tm 2:7 Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

You see, there is something deep here that the Lord has to open our eyes to.

When Paul thought of the gospel he thought of two things, and neither of them were directly regarding our salvation. They were regarding the amazing fact that God is so holy that even when in the weak, frail form of man He still did not sin.

It is one thing for God to not sin when in the form of God. God cannot be tempted (Jas 1:13). When you are not tempted it is no big deal if you don’t sin. The question is: can God not sin when tempted just like you and me? If He cannot, then He cannot righteously send Satan or man to Hell.

Jesus emptied Himself of divine qualities (Phil 2:5-7) and became like man (Rom 8:3) with the ability to be tempted (Heb 4:15) and the possibility of sinning (that’s what it means to be in the likeness of sinful flesh). And yet He did not sin! How on earth did He do that? That is the mystery of godliness referred to in 1 Tm 3:15-16.

That is the gospel – that God was able to overcome sin even as man. Therefore, He can judge evil, and can send Satan and evil men to Hell. It is indeed good news that evil can be judged. Just imagine if evil could not be judged – everyone who did evil against you would get away with it. But now they can’t.

The gospel then is not primarily that God can righteously take man to heaven but that God can righteously judge Satan and send man to Hell.

This is the gospel that the church should really preach. That’s what Paul says in 1 Tm 3:15-16.

1 Tm 3:15-16 15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. 16 By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

What must the church be a pillar and support of (i.e. preach openly) and get everyone to confess? It must preach that Jesus came as man, without any extra power (except the indwelling Holy Spirit) and did not sin. The angels saw it, and the Holy Spirit affirmed it, and took Him up in glory (i.e. raised Him from the dead with power).

Satan does not want man to know that God can righteously judge him. That is why he tries to hide this aspect of the gospel from man.

Remember what I said earlier about understanding the mind of God by reading His Word rather than getting second hand information from commentaries and books. This is a good example of why I say that – I doubt that you’ll get the above definition of the gospel from any commentary or book.

Now there are aspects of the gospel that result in our salvation, as Paul mentions in 1 Cor 15:1-3 and Eph 1:13, but the central truth is the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4). It’s like this: if you order hamburger and fries, the hamburger represents the fact that God became man and did not sin, and the fries represent the fact that Christ died for our sins and we can be saved. Without the hamburger, the fries just don’t cut it.

5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about {the} obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake,

Our ministry is for His Name’s sake, not our name sake. If you are trying to build a name for yourself as a great preacher or teacher or prophet or theologian, you’ve got it all wrong!

Along with a ministry, such as apostleship, or any other ministry, you need grace (i.e. help) to be effective.

The purpose of ministry is to get people to believe the correct things, and that belief should lead them to change their lives and obey God. This is the obedience of faith that Paul is talking about. The purpose of ministry is not to make money. When you measure the effectiveness of your ministry, ask yourself whether the people you minister to have sound doctrine and live lives that are pleasing to God.

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.

Paul wished grace and peace from God to the recipients of his letters. He understood the value of having God on your side (i.e. peace with God) and having God’s help in getting stuff done (i.e. grace from God). To have any value in the kingdom of God you need grace and peace from God.

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

9 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,

Paul served God from his spirit. What does that mean?

When you speak a word of encouragement to a brother you serve God with your body. When you sing a hymn of praise you serve God with your soul. When your motives are proper and you do things for God because you consider yourself a bondservant of God then you are serving God in your spirit.

In verse 9 the gospel is referred to as the gospel of Jesus. It is the good news about Jesus.

10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.

Paul was thrilled to see faith in the Romans and wanted to meet them.

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

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.

Paul’s desire was that the Roman Christians be established in their Christian walk.

Paul was also open to receiving from them – he didn’t think that he was so spiritual that he needed nothing from them.

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.

14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to 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.

Paul had plans, but God often had other plans. If Paul had a chance to visit the Romans before he wrote this letter we might never have had the book of Romans.

Notice Paul’s desire to have fruit among the Romans. He was not satisfied to have fruit among the Corinthians and Galatians and Ephesians and Colossians and Philippians. There was such a great desire in him to maximize his usefulness for Christ. He considered himself under obligation to preach the gospel to everyone.

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.

Here we see Paul mentioning the salvation aspect of the gospel. Paul understood that the gospel was concerning Jesus, but he did not neglect to use the fact that people can be saved through the gospel.

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."

Here again, we see that the gospel is about the righteousness of God. That is, the gospel is about the fantastic things that God did and made available because God loves doing what is right, in as much as you are capable of believing (i.e. from faith to faith).

For example, you can believe that God does not exist, and if that’s all you are willing to believe, God will let you believe that. But you can go further and believe that God exists and that He loves good and hates evil, and you can stop there. Yet further, you can believe that God will judge evil and reward good. Yet further, you can believe that God has made forgiveness of sins available.

And so on. It’s like having a bag of treasures from which you can keep pulling out – all according to how much you are willing to believe.

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

19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

The wrath of God is a very scary thing. We don’t often spend time thinking about the wrath of God because we’ve never really seen it in action.

The truth that is being suppressed is the truth about the existence of the true God.

The truth about the existence of God is evident to all men because man is a spiritual being and is therefore able to know the existence of God who is Spirit.

When we behave unrighteously we suppress the truth about God’s existence because we act as if God does not exist and will not judge the unrighteous.

The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness – there are no exceptions. It doesn’t matter how important you are, or think you are, and how great your accomplishments are.

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Evidence for the existence of God is not just within man but also from without. Even Einstein’s Theory of Relativity requires the existence of a Creator.

21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,

23 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.

When a person refuses to acknowledge the existence of the true God they can’t thank God for all the good things they receive from God. Further, they end up creating their own god and thus insult the true God even more.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.

25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,

27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

28 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,

When a person does not honor and thank God then God gives them up (i.e. He withdraws His grace from them) and so they end up doing really terrible things.

The USA took the name of God out of its government and schools and after that there was a rise in homosexuality – just as Paul describes.

29 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;

When you see a nation exhibiting the above behaviors you know that God has given up the nation because the nation did not honor and thank the true God. You can expect the wrath of God to fall on such a nation.

32 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.

These people not only behave badly, but they also encourage and approve of others who do so. That is, they are no longer ashamed of their behavior.

The above verses describe people who love to sin. They don’t want to stop sinning. They are unrepentant. What Paul is saying is that they can expect God’s wrath.


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