Romans 1:1-7

Thursday Evening Bible Study

February 28, 2008


The letter of Paul to the Romans is considered Paul’s most important letter. This is why it is placed in front of all his others writings.

When and Where

It was written by Paul in the spring of either AD 57 or 58, while he was visiting Corinth.

Paul had been in Ephesus for three years. Eventually problems began to develop when the silversmiths of the city resented the fact that their idol making business was going downhill because so many people were becoming Christians. A riot followed and Paul decided it was time to leave town and head to Macedonia (Acts 20:1-4) then on to Corinth.
(Acts 20:2-3 NKJV) Now when he had gone over that region and encouraged them with many words, he came to Greece {3} and stayed three months. And when the Jews plotted against him as he was about to sail to Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.
It’s while he’s in Greece, in Corinth specifically, that he writes this letter to Rome.

The Human Connection

When Paul writes this letter, he had not been to Rome yet, but there were more than a few people there who knew him.  Romans 16 lists over 25 people that Paul sends his greetings to in Rome, even though he’s never been there Himself.

One of the interesting couples in Rome were Priscilla and Aquila (Rom. 16:3).

(Rom 16:1-5 NKJV) I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, {2} that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

Phoebe is the one who is delivering the letter to Rome. She is from Cenchrea, which is Corinth’s seaport on the Aegean Sea.
{3} Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, {4} who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. {5} Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.
Priscilla and Aquila were in Rome. These were Paul’s old buddies whom he had originally met on his first trip to Corinth (Acts 18:2). Though Paul met them in Corinth, they themselves were originally from Rome, and had fled when Claudius had kicked all the Jews out of Rome. They were tent makers like Paul, and he had stayed in their home. When Paul left Corinth a year and a half later, they went with him as he sailed to Ephesus. He left them in Ephesus where they soon ran into a young preacher named Apollos. They were in Ephesus when Paul returned to begin his three year stay (1Cor.16:19), and the church met in their home. At some point during Paul’s stay at Ephesus, they left Ephesus and went back home to Rome. By the time Paul leaves Ephesus and makes his way around to Corinth, they’ve already been re-established in Rome, and already have a church meeting in their home.
As we’ll find out when we get to Romans 16, these aren’t the only people Paul knows in Rome. In Romans 16:5-15, he mentions at least 25 other people by name whom he knows in Rome.

What it’s about

Though Paul will cover a lot of different topics throughout the letter, his main reason for writing appears to be to explain his gospel, the message of good news that he has preached around the world. He will clarify how a person is made right before God. We call this the doctrine of justification. Everywhere Paul has traveled, he’s run into Jews who would argue with him that a person has to keep the Law of Moses in order to be right with God. Even some Jews who had come to believe Jesus was the Messiah would follow Paul from city to city and place the Christians under the bondage of the law, even demanding that the Gentile believers become circumcised in order to be saved. Paul will show us that it’s only by believing in Jesus that we receive a right standing before God. That indeed is good news.

:1-7 Salutations and greetings

:1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ,

In the Greek, the first two words are paulos doulos, or, “Paul, a bondservant”

bondservantdoulos – a slave, bondman, man of servile condition.  Some have connected this word with the description in Exodus of the man who has served as a slave for six years, then has the opportunity to become free, but instead of freedom chooses to continue to serve his master because he loves what he’s doing:

(Exo 21:5-6 NKJV)  "But if the servant plainly says, 'I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,' {6} "then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.

After piercing the ear, the servant would wear an earring showing that he was a willing servant of his master.

We think this is what is meant by the prophetic description of the Messiah as a servant by Isaiah:

(Isa 50:5 NKJV)  The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not rebellious, Nor did I turn away.

David also writes about this prophetically:

(Psa 40:6-8 NKJV)  Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. {7} Then I said, "Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. {8} I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart."

When you think about it, Paul could have introduced himself in any number of ways.

To me, it would seem completely appropriate for Paul to start off this letter letting them know just who it is that is writing to them, like:

“Paul, the awesome, powerful, authoritative miracle-working church-planting apostle of Jesus Christ”

After all, think of what Paul has done by this time.
Along with Barnabas, he helped establish the great church in Antioch.
Also with Barnabas, he helped start the Galatian churches in Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.
He went on to start even more churches in Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth.
And if that weren’t enough, he had the incredibly powerful three year ministry in Ephesus where he had set up a base of operations that had reached all of Asia Minor.
Paul was a man with a reputation. While in Ephesus, people were even stealing his old sweat rags and getting healed from them.

But Paul could never introduce himself that way. He belonged to Jesus Christ.  He was simply a servant.


The best is at the bottom

The disciples had this desire for greatness:
(Mark 9:33-37 NKJV) Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" {34} But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. {35} And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." {36} Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, {37} "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."
Jesus said that if you wanted to be a great person in God’s sight, then you need to work at being last, at being the servant.
The example of taking a child in His arms was a sample of what being a servant is all about.

It’s not too often that we as “grown-ups” don’t have time to be bothered with kids. After all, we have more important things to do. We have important things to discuss, important plans to make.

Jesus took time for the children.

I guess you could make a point that Jesus didn’t discourage the disciples from having aspirations of greatness, He simply changed their ideas of what it took to get there. I’d say that the disciples didn’t catch on too quickly. In the next chapter, James and John are asking Jesus if they can have the best spots sitting next to Jesus when He sets up His kingdom.
(Mark 10:42-45 NKJV) But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. {43} "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. {44} "And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. {45} "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
Jesus’ measure of greatness was not how many people you could order around. It was in how many people you could serve.
Right up to the end, Jesus was still trying to get this point across to His disciples.
(John 13:1-17 NKJV) Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, {3} Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, {4} rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. {5} After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Washing feet was the job of a servant. People in ancient days walked the city streets in open toed sandals. The streets where dirty, dusty, and filthy.

Apparently at the last supper no one wanted to be known as the least of the disciples by washing everyone else’s feet.

…{12} So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? {13} "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. {14} "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. {15} "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. {16} "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. {17} "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

Jesus taught by example that the disciples needed to learn to be servants. Jesus was a servant. Blessing comes from being a servant.

I Wonder

You know, Lord, How I serve You

with great emotional fervor in the limelight.

You know how eagerly I speak for You at a Women's Club.

You know my genuine enthusiasm at a Bible study.

But how would I react, I wonder,

if You pointed to a basin of water

and asked me to wash the callused feet

of a bent and wrinkled old woman

day after day, month after month,

in a room where nobody saw and nobody knew?

– Ruth Harms Calkin

Strive to be a servant.  It’s the best we can be.

:1 called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

Two more phrases that Paul uses to describe himself:

called to be an apostleapostolos – a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.

Though the word originally meant just a messenger, it became attached to a certain type of ministry, one of authority and power.

Paul never talks about making himself an “apostle”. He always has it clear that it was God’s idea, it was God’s calling.

separated to the gospel of God

Paul has a purpose in his life. He has something that makes him different from what he used to be. His purpose wasn’t unique. It is the same purpose that all disciples have. His purpose was to be a part of sharing the good news of God to the world.

(Mat 28:19-20 NKJV) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
Jesus told His disciples not just to win converts, but make disciples of people around the world. He said that all the things He had taught them should be taught to the new disciples, including making more disciples.

What Paul writes for the next couple of verses is an elaboration of what the “gospel” is.

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

:3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,

:4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Paul goes on to describe what he calls the “gospel”. We like to think that the “gospel” is a certain static list of doctrines that must be preached to people in order for them to be saved. For example, some suggest that you must always talk about the fact that a person is a sinner. Some suggest you must always talk about repentance, turning from sins. Those are certainly important parts of the bigger picture, but Paul notice that Paul doesn’t even mention those things.

Elements of the gospel:

1.      It was fulfilled prophecy

The Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus Christ.
When people want to know why I’m so sure I believe the correct things about God, I like to point at the fulfilled prophecies. They show that this is something bigger than just men sitting around coming up with things to talk about.

2.      The gospel is about Jesus

He is God’s son. He is the Christ. He is our Lord.
He is the center of the gospel. There is no good news apart from Jesus Christ. When we think of the gospel in regards to forgiveness of sins, we must talk about Jesus. He is the one that died for our sins.

3.      Jesus was human.

He was born of the flesh.
He was of the line of David, meaning He was Jewish royalty.

4.      He was divine.

He was shown to be the Son of God with power through the Holy Spirit and through His resurrection.

5.      He rose from the dead.

This shows the power of God.

:5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,

:6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

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

A better way of looking at verse 5:

(Rom 1:5 NLT) Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.

you also are the called of Jesus Christ – Paul reminds these believers in Rome that they have been chosen by Jesus Christ.

Some folks struggle with the idea that God calls or chooses us. I’ve learned over the years to enjoy it.

When I was in elementary and Jr. High I wasn’t the most coordinated guy around. I know what it’s like to stand on the line while everyone else is chosen for the team. I know what it’s like when the two team captains argue over who is going to get stuck with you.
I think I like being “chosen” by God.

called to be saintssaintshagios – a most holy thing, a saint

It’s too bad that the Roman Catholic Church through the years has twisted this word to signify some special kind of a Christian.

But to Paul, it was intended to all the believers in Rome.

When you become a Christian, you become a “saint”.

Grace and peace

Though this is in one sense the “typical greeting” from one Christian to another, it says what our life is all about.

The typical Jewish greeting was shalom, or, “peace”.
Yet in the Christian church, it was “grace” and “peace”.

If you don’t know God’s grace, then you won’t know God’s peace.