In this lesson we will study the unusually elaborate opening of the letter to the Romans. In it Paul not only introduces himself to the believers in Rome, but he also expresses his conviction in the gospel he has been entrusted with and his earnest desire to share his faith with them.
Did You Know...?
- Rome (1:7) was “the city-state in Italy that became an empire ruling much of the western world at the time of the beginnings of Christianity” [ref]
- Identification and Salutation (1:1-7)
- Thanksgiving and Longing (1:8-15)
- Gospel of Christ (1:16-17)
Record what Paul says about him and his relationship to the gospel.Hide Answer
1. He is separated to the gospel of God (1)
2. He sees himself as a debtor to all men, and this understanding motivates him to preach the gospel to those who are in Rome (14-15).
3. He is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ (16).
How would you describe his attitude toward the gospel?
Compare his attitude and your attitude toward the gospel.
What are the three things Paul says about himself here?Hide Answer
1. A bondservant of Jesus Christ
2. Called to be an apostle
3. Separated to the gospel of God
What is the gospel about (i.e. “concerning”)?Hide Answer
The gospel is concerning the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord (3).
How does Paul identify Jesus Christ: a. In terms of His physical descent? b. In terms of His divinity?Hide Answer
a. He was born of the seed of David according to the flesh (3).
b. He was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (4).
What is “obedience to the faith,” and how are we to obey the faith?Hide Answer
“Obedience to the faith,” which Paul speaks about again in the closing of the letter (Rom 16:26), is the outcome and goal of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The phrase, which is more accurately translated as “obedience of faith,” refers to obedience that is based on faith. True faith in the Lord is not merely agreeing with some facts about Jesus, but submission to Him as Lord, resulting in a way of life that conforms to His divine nature. Whereas we were once sons of obedience, following the lust of the flesh and living under God’s wrath, we now belong wholly to Christ and therefore ought to live to please Him in every way (cf. Rom 6:4; Eph 2:1-10; Col 3:1-4:6; 1 Thess 1:9-10; Jas 2:1, 14-17; 1 Pet 1:10-25; 2 Pet 1:3-4).
How does Paul identify the believers in Rome?Hide Answer
1. They are “the called of Jesus Christ” among all nations (6).
2. They are beloved of God (7).
3. They are called saints (7).
For what stated reason is Paul thankful to God?Hide Answer
He is thankful that the faith of the believers in Rome is spoken of throughout the whole world (8).
What is Paul’s purpose for longing to visit the believers in Rome?Hide Answer
Paul hopes to impart to them some spiritual gift, so that they may be established and may receive encouragement together with Paul (11-12). He also hopes to preach the gospel to those in Rome and thereby have some fruit among the believers (13-15).
Why does Paul consider himself as a debtor?Hide Answer
Paul considers himself a debtor to the Gentiles because of the commission God has laid on him to preach the gospel to them (cf. 1 Cor 9:16-17; Acts 26:17-18). In view of this obligation placed on him by God, Paul calls himself “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom 1:1).
What does this teach us about preaching the gospel?Hide Answer
Having received the command from our Lord to preach the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15; Mt 28:19), we answer directly to the Lord as to whether we have faithfully discharged our duty by letting others know about Christ. Like Paul, we are debtors to the lost souls of the world. We ought to always have this sense of indebtedness so we may be motivated to share the good news.
How does Paul describe the gospel: a. In terms of what it is? b. In terms of its end result?Hide Answer
a. The gospel is the power of God (Rom 1:16)
b. The purpose of the gospel is “salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).
In what sense is God’s salvation given to the Jews first?
What is the righteousness of God?Hide Answer
A survey of the Old Testament reveals that the righteousness of God describes a quality possessed by God the supreme King and Judge (cf. Ps 9:4; 45:6-7; 50:6). God’s righteousness is manifested in two related ways. On the one hand, God is righteous in the sense that He upholds perfect justice and takes vengeance on the wicked (Deut 32:4; Ps 11:4-7; Neh 9:33; Dan 9:14). On the other hand, God reveals His righteousness through His merciful and powerful acts of salvation for the sake of His people (Ps 98:2; Isa 46:13). While the righteousness of God centered on His chosen race in the Old Testament, Scripture also foresaw the future universal reign of God over all nations (Ps 9:8; Isa 51:5).
The righteousness of God as expounded in Romans reflects both aspects of this divine quality—namely, God’s justice and His mercy. Being the just Judge, God inflicted His wrath upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18). This includes the Jews, who had not lived up to the requirements of the law, and the Gentiles, who had failed to acknowledge God. While God does not leave sin unpunished, He was also true to His promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world through the righteousness of faith (Rom 4:13). By sending His Son Jesus Christ as the propitiation for sin, God revealed His righteousness by justifying all who have faith in Him, Jews and Gentiles alike (Rom 3:21-26). It is for this reason Paul writes that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel (Rom 1:16-17).
Verses 16 and 17 are closely linked in that the latter explains the former. Looking at both verses together, we notice that the righteousness of God is associated with “the power of God” and “salvation for everyone who believes.” The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel because the gospel manifests the power of God. The goal of this power is salvation for everyone who believes. Through the gospel God’s grace is made available to all, extending from the Jews to the Gentiles. Therefore, God’s mighty salvation, with its universal reach by means of the gospel, is the outward display of God’s righteous inward quality.
How is the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel “from faith to faith”?Hide Answer
The construction “from A to A” in Greek expresses range, duration, repetition, source and destination, previous state and new state or progression (Quarles, p. 13). Thus, we may understand Paul’s words in Rom 1:17 to mean that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel in a way that originates with faith and ends with faith.
If we view collectively all the righteous people in history who have put their faith in God, then the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith in the sense that, just as God justified the faithful in the past, Abraham being the prime example (Rom 4:3), He likewise continues to justify all who follow the same footsteps of faith, including Jews and Gentiles (Rom 4:11-12; 23-24). As the truth of the gospel unfolds in history, God’s faithfulness, impartiality, and mercy will ultimately become fully evident.
On the level of an individual believer, we may understand the phrase “from faith to faith” as indicating the Christian’s entire faith-journey. The justification he has received from God begins with faith in the Lord Jesus and is not based on the works of the law (Rom 3:28; 9:30; Gal 3:10-12). But he must live by faith through obedience (cf. Rom 1:5; 15:26). Faith (which is also translated “faithfulness”) in the Lord is not a momentary mental consent but a life-long commitment.
How does the quotation of Habakkuk 2:4, that the just shall live by faith, support this truth?Hide Answer
Habakkuk 2:4 characterizes the life of the just (also translated “righteous”) as one that is rooted in faith. The phrase “by faith” in Greek is identical to “from faith” in Romans 1:17. Secondly, the prophetic statement that the just shall live by faith also teaches that the righteous must persist in faith until the end (Heb 10:35-39; cf. Gal 5:5). Hence, Habakkuk’s prophecy also explains the “to faith” phrase in Romans 1:17.
In short, Habakkuk 2:4 has prophesied that the righteous shall live before God by means of faith from beginning to end. By justifying the believer through faith and granting him eternal life, God in turn reveals His own righteousness (Rom 3:26). For the justification of the believer is a sign of God’s justice, mercy, and faithfulness to His promises.
What are some reasons why a believer may be ashamed of the gospel?