Paul’s Salutation, Romans 1:1-7

While our “Dear John” letters usually include minimal details about ourselves, the ancient letter writers wrote differently. The writer placed his name first, the identity of the reader next, then a greeting.

Romans begins with the author, Paul, following this format. He identifies himself in three ways:

1) A “servant of Jesus Christ”

  • Although Paul was a Roman citizen, he no longer embraced the average Roman’s attitude that being a servant was uncool. Instead, Paul threw his energy into dependence and obedience to his new found Master. Paul’s former zeal for his ancestral tradition had garnered him honor and high ranking in Judaism. As a religious Pharisee, Paul’s fierce intensity targeted killing Christians because he thought they endangered Judaism (Acts 9:1-25). But after his conversion from Jesus’ confrontation, Paul declared himself Christ’s bondslave (Gal. 1:1-14).

2) “Called to be an apostle”

  • God chose Paul’s role. Paul responded by preaching Christ throughout the Roman Empire on three missionary journeys.

3) “Set apart”

  • God set Paul (formerly Saul) apart to serve Him by sharing and spreading the gospel.
Paul’s Purpose for Writing (vv. 2-6)

Paul declares his purpose for writing to verify his apostolic message. God had promised His gospel earlier “through the prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Some of these prophecies about Jesus Christ and the Good News are Genesis 12:3; Psalm 16:10; 40:6-10; 118:22; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 9:9-11; 12:10; Malachi 4:1-6.

In verses 3-4, Paul presents Jesus Christ as the center of the gospel. Jesus, descendant of King David, fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures predicting the Messiah coming from David’s line. Several New Testament passages also verify the Davidic descent of Jesus: Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-30; Revelation 5:5.

In relation to Jesus’ present exaltation, Paul cites “Jesus Christ our Lord” as “the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead”.

Grace & Peace

“Grace and Peace” combined a Christianized form of the Greek and Hebrew greetings (Shepherd’s Notes).

After receiving unlimited, undeserved forgiveness (grace) when meeting Christ on the Damascus road, Paul’s heart received a transformation. Upon following a new leader, Paul strove to fulfill his calling of sharing the Good News of Christ by aligning himself with God’s directives.

So What?

The same Jesus Christ who “set Paul apart” also invites us to be “saints”—set apart, holy, dedicated for His service; whether through formal or informal ministry. It is a great privilege and responsibility to share our Father’s Good News: Forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace—received through faith in Christ—available to all.

I like the following excerpt from my NIV Study Bible: “God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. Are you willing to let God do the same for you? You will never know all He can do with you until you allow him to have all that you are!”

Gospel Power, Romans 1:16-17

Over lattes, a friend and I found ourselves chatting about our beliefs. Her jaw dropped when I told her I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative truth and revelation to us. She could hardly believe I didn’t rely on any other religious writings/teachings. But at the time, I struggled to give her a reasonable explanation why I thought this. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve since found the following verses in Romans helpful. These two verses clearly state why the gospel is so important while stating a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” – Vs. 16-17

What is the Gospel Power?

God’s effective power, through His Holy Spirit, initiates and leads one to salvation. His inspired words contained in the Bible give us enough information to know Him—His character, purposes, love, and expectations—and also teach us how to have a personal relationship with Him. When we read and heed God’s words, God grows our faith, which is a gift from Him. He also transforms us into His likeness.

Shepherd’s Notes suggest that the salvation Paul describes is more than forgiveness of sins. It includes the big picture of being delivered from the results of our sin:

  1. Justification – Being set right with God; deliverance from the penalty of sin
  2. Sanctification – Growth in holiness; deliverance from the power of sin
  3. Glorification – Ultimate transformation into the likeness of Christ; deliverance from the presence of sin
Three Power Points of the Gospel

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel’s Good News because he experienced God’s saving grace and life changing power in a BIG way. He also knew God’s salvation was available to everyone.

Shepherd’s Notes also observes the following gospel points in Romans 1:

  1. It’s the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 2)
  2. It centers in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 3-4)
  3. It is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)
So What?

When we discipline ourselves to study the Bible and pray, God will lovingly meet us right where we are. God will help us through trials and grow us in Him. He longs to bless us with life both now and forever.

How is your Bible reading going?

Related Posts: The B-I-B-L-E, Why Study the Bible?, Bible Study-The Holy Spirit’s Role

God’s Righteous Judgment, Romans 2:1-16

High-fives echo in response to the judge’s verdict on the Gentiles: “Guilty as charged.”

166163e41e3c9ac70768869d063e6d8bLike the last passage, I feel like I’m in a courtroom, but this time slinking down in my seat to avoid apostle-attorney Paul’s piercing gaze as his focus shifts from the Gentiles toward the Jews. No, I’m not Jewish, but Paul didn’t let anyone slide. Probably some Jewish heads nodded their approval when Paul pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan Gentiles. Paul lights into their condemning attitude like a firecracker (verses 1-10).

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” –vs. 1

Despite knowing God’s laws, the Jews failed to live up to it. Their sin may have been hidden in more socially acceptable forms. But Paul faults them for having a stubborn and unrepentant heart, treating God’s great kindness, tolerance, and patience with contempt.

Those who patiently and persistently do God’s will, however, will find eternal life (vs. 7). This may sound like a contradiction to his statement that salvation comes by faith alone (1:16-17), but he is stressing that our deeds follow in grateful response for what God has done.

Again, Paul warns of God’s wrath toward: self-seekers, those who reject the truth, and those who follow evil.

Judgment With or Without the Law

All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” – vs. 12

Paul weaves his case: Can the religiously privileged Jews expect special treatment because they’ve been given the Mosaic Law? This gave the Jews greater responsibility for following it.

Or could the Gentiles receive an easier verdict for not having God’s Law? Certainly God’s revelation through the Law made His will more fully known. But God made Himself known to the Gentiles through nature and the inner law of conscience.

Conclusion

Paul concludes that all—Jew and Gentile—are guilty of violating God’s Laws. People are condemned for what they do with what they know, not for what they don’t know. God doesn’t play favorites. God patiently waits for our repentance. But a time is appointed when He will judge everyone’s secrets when we stand before His throne. No one will stand apart from the saving grace found in His son, Jesus Christ. (For more on God’s judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.)

So what?

The sins we’re tempted to point out in others are often the sins we struggle with the most. Like King David, we need to consistently ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin so we can seek His forgiveness.

Ps. 51Those of us who have grown up in Christian families could be considered today’s religiously privileged. Are we focused on living according to what we know? Or are we passing judgment on those around us?

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.

Righteousness Through Christ, Romans 3:21-31

If you feel buried with the depressing news of God’s condemnation of our sin, hold on! 8eac46465563cf7c764bde3ab6662c60

Paul brings us great news: We can be declared not guilty—justified—by trusting Jesus Christ to remove our sins.

Paul’s meeting with the risen Christ on the Damascus road radically changed his dependence on the Law and his stance that he was righteous by following the Law (Phil. 3:6). In this passage, he writes of the righteousness found through Jesus Christ.

Attested by the Law and the Prophets

In verse 21 Paul expands on Rom. 1:2 to include the Law with the prophets in bearing witness to God’s saving acts in Jesus Christ. Interestingly, the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in the New Testament.

Experienced through Faith in Jesus Christ (vs. 22-25)

Paul reminds us of our verdict: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (vs. 23).

But he doesn’t leave us stranded in God’s just death penalty toward us due to our sins. Instead, Paul affirms that God made available a right relationship with Him by trusting His Son, Jesus Christ.

Sweet Grace

Grace: The free favor of God in salvation. Unmerited, unearned “kindness and love of God our Savior toward us” (Titus 3:4).

I thought my cousin’s picture depicts a great response to God’s grace.

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Photo credit: Kendall Smitherman

Paul’s uses three metaphors to illustrate what God has done for sinners through His Son, Jesus Christ (vs. 24-25):

  1. Courtroom: In this setting, we see a condemned person who hears his/her charges have been completely cleared.
  2. Slaves: In Old Testament times, a person’s debts could result in his being sold as a slave. The next of kin could buy his freedom (redemption) and set him free from bondage. Jesus paid the price of our sin, death, so we can go free.
  3. Ritual Sacrifice: The wrath of God has been removed from the guilty person.
God’s Justice

In verses 25-26, Paul shows that God forgave all human sin at the cross, even those who lived before Christ came. Paul argued that God’s timing doesn’t mean He is indifferent to sin and justice, but rather: 1) He is just, and 2) He is the One who justifies—makes right with Himself—those who trust in Him.

The following points sum up this section:

  • Excludes Pride (vs. 27-28): When God’s grace is understood, pride vanishes. Why? Faith isn’t a deed we perform, rather, it exalts what God has done. Faith is based on our relationship with God, not on trying to attain right standing with God by keeping the Law.
  • Affirms God As God of All (vs. 29-30): Paul affirms that God is the God of both Jews and Gentiles.
  • Upholds the Law (vs. 30): Does faith “nullify” (abolish) the Law? As in the opening of chapter 3, Paul answers “Absolutely not!” Faith in Christ fulfills all the obligations of the Law. The NIV study Bible says, “When we understand the way of salvation through faith, we understand the Jewish religion better . . . . Faith does not wipe out the Old Testament. Rather, it makes God’s dealings with the Jewish people understandable.”
So What?  

When God confronts us with the gospel of Christ, we are invited to receive a righteousness and right standing before Him apart from following any legalistic religious code. What God has done through the death of His Son on the cross—providing payment for our death penalty—may be experienced by us through faith.

Why does God desire a relationship with us based on faith in His Son?

What are some results of justification by faith (God’s act of declaring us not guilty for our sins)?