Romans 1

Paul’s introduction to the book of Romans and the consequences of rejecting God.

Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

7To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Paul introduces himself to the Romans, he uses three terms to describe who he is.  He is (a) “a servant of Christ Jesus,” (b) “called to be an apostle” and (c) “ set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1).  When someone is a servant (the actual word is “slave), they have no choice but to serve!  This was Paul’s attitude about his position before God.  He received both grace and apostleship from Jesus Christ  “to bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5).  Much of the book of Romans is written to define faith and show how that a life of faith leads to salvation.  Paul begins by asserting that Biblical faith is something that one can and should be obedient to.

The gospel is another major concept of the book of Romans.  Here, it is stated that God had promised the gospel “beforehand through his prophets” (Romans 1:2).  Paul also ends the book of Romans with an affirmation about the prophets of God writing about Christ (Romans 16:25-26).  After his crucifixion and resurrection Jesus took the time to explain the writings of the Old Testament to his disciples so that they would understand how that he had fulfilled what had been written (Luke 24:27, 44-46; see also I Peter 1:10-12).

In the midst of this introduction, Paul makes a profound statement about Jesus.  According to the flesh, he was a descendent of David (Romans 1:3; for the importance of this statement see II Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 132:10-11 and Matthew 1:1).  However, he was much more than that; he was declared to be the “Son of God” with power over death by his resurrection.  This resurrection is credited to “the Spirit of holiness” (i.e., The Holy Spirit) (Romans 1:4).  Paul states that the reason that it is important that Christ was raised from the dead is “that in everything he might be preeminent” (Colossians 1:18; see also Hebrews 2:14-15, Acts 17:31 and Revelation 1:5).  The resurrection of Christ proved that he was who he claimed to be: The Son of God (Matthew 16:13-17, John 1:14, 17-18 and John 17:3).

Romans 1:8-15

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

Even though Paul had never been to Rome, they were a part of his life through thankfulness (Romans 1:8) and prayer (Romans 1:10).  He wanted to come to Rome so that they and he could be mutually encouraged (Romans 1:12) and that he could “reap some harvest” among them (Romans 1:13).  One of the things Christians do for each other is provide encouragement.  While the world declares, “Come follow me; eat, drink and be merry!” Christians encourage one another to “Remain faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).  The harvest that Paul was hoping to reap was the salvation of souls (see Jesus’ statements in Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23, Luke 10:2 and John 4:37).  Paul felt an obligation to teach everyone he could so that he was “eager to preach the gospel” to them (Romans 1:15). 

Romans 1:16-17

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. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The theme of the book of Romans is found in 1:16-17.  The gospel is the God’s power for salvation to everyone.  Actually, the word he used that is translated “power” is very similar to the English word for “dynamite.”  Paul lists three characteristics of the gospel.  They are:

  • The gospel is the power of God for salvation
  • The gospel is available to everyone who believes
  • Within the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed

Over the next several chapters, Paul will explain what the gospel is.  The word “gospel” means good news.  However, the first part of the good news is really bad news.  Paul will explain the bad news first.  The bad news will dominate the discussion from here through Romans 3:20.  In order for man to understand his true position before God it is important for him to understand what has happened, that is that sin has separated him from God.  Isaiah explains, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).   The bad news is that everyone has sinned and sin builds a wall of separation between God and man.

Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Even though there are unrighteous persons who suppress the truth, man is “without excuse” because there are many things about God that are plain.  The creation itself brims with evidence of God and teaches us lessons about Him and His invisible attributes, specifically His eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20).   Since these can be seen through the creation, the results of failing to acknowledge God, as The Creator, are:

  1. Confusion – “they became futile in their thinking” (Romans 1:21; see also Ephesians 4:17-19)
  2. Callousness – “their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21; see also Ephesians 4:19)
  3. Intellectualism – “claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22; see also Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1; Psalm 115:4-8; I Corinthians 1:25, 27, and 31)
  4. Idolatry – “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (Romans 1:23; see also Isaiah 44:12-17 and Jeremiah 10:3-7)

Romans 1:24-32

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

When people fail to acknowledge God, the reaction of God is consistent and may be summarized in the four words, “God gave them up”  (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).  This is how “The wrath of God is revealed” (Romans 1:18; see also Ephesians 2:12).  The reason that “God gave them up” and that “The wrath of God is revealed” against them is that they stand guilty before God.  This is not just a “feeling of guilt” as one might hear a psychologist discuss with a client, but an actual moral guilt because these people had broken God’s teachings.  In other words, these people are guilty of sin.  The final result of sin, any sin, is separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), which leads to spiritual death (Romans 6:23).

When God gave them up, the degradation of those who did not (and do not) choose to acknowledge God follows a pattern that begins with (1) dishonor of themselves (Romans 1:24), (2) moves on to dishonor of others (Romans 1:26-27) and finally (3) ends up doing just about everything that should not be done (Romans 1:28-31).  The resultant attitude is a total hardness toward God and an acceptance of this lifestyle (Romans 1:32).  Notice the pattern that takes place: external (the behavior) follows internal (the thinking).  The scriptures are replete with examples of this happening (see Matthew 12:34; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17-24).  Once the thinking of men becomes ungodly and unrighteous, they want to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18).  The outward sign of this kind of thinking is ungodly and unrighteous behavior.  One of the lessons that is learned in this passage is that to God, all sin is equal and the result of it is equal.  This is because God is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13).   Therefore, envy, slander and being disobedient to parents is spoken of in the same context as murder and homosexuality.  All sin in the sight of God is serious enough to cause a separation between God and us.

Discussion/Thought Questions:

  1. In Romans 1:1 Paul described himself as (a) a servant, (b) called and (c) set apart.  How would it affect your life if you considered these to be descriptors of yourself?
  2. Describe someone who has been a spiritual encourager for you (Romans 1:12).  What are some of his/her characteristics that affected you?
  3. Paul felt an obligation to share his faith with everyone: the Greeks, Jews, Barbarians and Romans.  Do you feel personally obligated to share your faith?  Why or why not?
  4. Consider the results of failing to acknowledge God: (a) confusion, (b) callousness, (c) intellectualism and (d) idolatry.  Do you know anyone whose life mirrors these qualities?  How does she/he relate to God or does she/he?
  5. Paul lumps all sin from murder to being disobedient to parents and gossips to haters of God as being equal.  Is this fair?  Why or why not?

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