Paul's Epistle to the Romans

 (1) Paul’s Personal Greeting
      Romans 1:1-7

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

Paul calls himself a bondservant (the Greek word is doulos, meaning bondslave) of Jesus Christ. Such a sense of utter devotion springs from an awareness of the great love Christ has demonstrated by His sacrificial death. In his mind, since a Roman slave was answerable only to his master, Paul was not just a servant to the Lord but a slave as well and answerable only to Him. He told the church at Corinth the same thing in his first letter to that church: “Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord” (I Corinthians 4:1–4).

In addition, Paul said he was “called to be an apostle.” He means that it was not his decision that made him an apostle. It was God’s decision, and God called him. The word apostle means “one who is sent.” Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (John 13:16). In the New Testament the word “apostle” has the technical meaning of one chosen by the Lord Jesus to declare the gospel. There are several things that must happen before a man can declare himself to be an apostle:
1. He must have seen the resurrected Christ. Paul said that the resurrected Christ had appeared to him: “Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8). Then Paul asks the question, “Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1).
2. Another proof that Paul was an apostle was that he had what we call “sign gifts.” He said that he could speak other languages, other tongues. I believe that when he went through areas which had unfamiliar languages he was able to speak their language. He had the apostolic gift of tongues.
3. He also had the gift of healing, and the records show that both Peter and Paul raised the dead.
4. He was a chosen vessel of God—“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”  (Acts 9:15).
5. He was personally commissioned by Christ—“So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6).
6. He was the recipient of divine revelation—“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:10–12).

There are those today who use the title of “apostle,” but are they really apostles—not according to the Bible.

Paul also says that he was “separated unto the gospel of God.” He was set apart for the ministry of the gospel long before the Damascus road experience—“But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace” (Gal 1:15). With the family background of Paul (Phil 3:5–6), he would have made an excellent minister to his people, the Jews. But in the providence of God, Paul was separated unto the gospel of God as an apostle to the Gentiles. “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).

By referring to the gospel as “the gospel of God” Paul means that man did not create the gospel. It is God’s gospel. We can take it or leave it, but the gospel was originated by God.

2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)

With the mention of the gospel of God, the apostle begins an explanation of the person of that gospel, Jesus Christ. The gospel did not begin with the coming of Jesus Christ but he mentions that the Old Testament prophets (he calls them His prophets) had promised it, both in clear-cut statements—“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14); and in types and symbols (e.g., Noah’s ark, the serpent of brass, and the sacrificial system). Paul indicated to the Jews that their Scriptures were really speaking of Jesus Christ. In 1 Peter 1:10-12 we read: “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,  searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.” 

The Old Testament books are holy scriptures, according to Paul. They are holy because they were divinely inspired by God. The prophets spoke clearly of a new covenant and of the Messiah whose sacrifice would make it possible.

3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

The gospel is not about Jesus Christ, the gospel is Jesus Christ. The gospel is the good news concerning God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is a descendant of David according to the flesh (that is, as far as His humanity is concerned). Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the promise that one from the chosen line would sit on the throne of David forever—“For thus says the Lord: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 33:17). 

The expression according to the flesh implies that our Lord is more than a man; it refers to His humanity. If Christ were only a man, it would be unnecessary to single out this feature of His being, since there would be no other. But He is more than a man, as the next verse shows.

4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

When we say that Jesus is the Son of God, we mean that He is a Son like no one else is. God has many sons. All believers are His sons—“to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:5–7). Even angels are spoken of as sons—“Again there was a day when the sons of God (angels) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord” (Job 2:1). But Jesus is God’s Son in a unique sense. When our Lord spoke of God as His Father, the Jews rightly understood Him to be claiming equality with God—“Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). He was not made the Son of God, but eternally is the Son of God.

The Lord Jesus is marked out as the Son of God with power. The Holy Spirit, here called the Spirit of holiness, marked Jesus out at His baptism and throughout His miracle-working ministry. The Savior’s mighty miracles, performed in the power of the Holy Spirit, bore witness to the fact that He is the Son of God.

There is an obvious contrast between according to the flesh and according to the spirit. It is a distinction between the two states of Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation. Christ’s humiliation came when He voluntarily was made in the likeness of men—“but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:7), and His exaltation came when He was resurrected by the Holy Spirit of God.

5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

It was through Jesus Christ our Lord that Paul received grace (the undeserved favor that saved him) and apostleship. For that reason, Paul regards his calling as a heavenly gift. When Paul says we have received grace and apostleship, he is almost certainly referring to himself alone. His linking of apostleship with the nations or Gentiles points to him and not to the other apostles. Paul was commissioned to call men of all nations to obedience and faith—that is, to obey the message of the gospel by repenting and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ—“testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”  (Acts 20:21). Paul wants to bring the nations of the world, both Jew and Gentile, into obedience to the faith (i.e., the body of doctrine which he teaches).  The goal of this worldwide proclamation of the message was for His name, and to please and to bring glory to Jesus Christ.

6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

Among those who had responded to the gospel were those Paul dignified with the title the called of Jesus Christ, emphasizing that it was God who took the initiative in their salvation.

Who are the called? Well, they are those who have heard. The Lord Jesus made it clear when He said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27). If you are following something or someone else, you haven’t heard Him, and you are not one of His sheep. The ones who hear and follow Him are the called ones. I never argue about election. For me it’s as simple as this: He calls, and you answer. If you have answered, you are among the elect, one of “the called of Jesus Christ.” Paul assures the Roman Christians that they are called ones.

7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Letter is addressed to all believers in Rome, and not (as in other Epistles) to a single church or person. The final chapter of the letter indicates that there were several gatherings of believers in the city, and this salutation embraces them all.

Paul states that these Roman believers are “beloved of God, called to be saints.” These two lovely names are true of all who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. These favored ones are objects of divine love in a special way, and are also called to be set apart to God from the world, for that is the meaning of saints. Sainthood is not to be identified with the practice of canonization which later arose out of the Roman church. The saint is one called of God and “holy,” that is set apart to God. The saints of Rome were beloved of God, which marks them out as the undeserving yet grateful recipients of God’s love. One of the interesting features of Paul’s epistles is that in every one of them these two words appear together, Grace and peace.

The grace mentioned here is not the grace that saves (Paul’s readers were already saved) but the grace that equips and empowers for Christian life and service. Peace is not so much peace with God (the saints already had that because they were justified by faith) but rather the peace of God reigning in their hearts while they were in the midst of a turbulent society. Grace and peace came from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, strongly implying the equality of the Son with the Father. If Jesus were only a man, it would be absurd to list Him as equal with the Father in bestowing grace and peace. It would be like saying, “Grace and peace from God the Father and from Abraham Lincoln.”

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