1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made 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: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 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.
God is the author of all Scripture
3:16,17). But Paul is the one through whom God sent this
letter or epistle. Paul needs little introduction to the Bible student.
He identified himself as a servant, one who belongs not only in the employ
of another, but the very property of another like an owned slaved. He belonged
to Jesus Christ. He was called to be an apostle; one sent, a special messenger,
one who could and would speak on behalf of another with authority. Paul
mentioned in Galatians 1:15,16 that "it pleased God, who separated me from
my mother's womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that
I might preach him among the heathen." I do not understand that Paul was
called to preach at his birth, but Paul says the same God that allowed
him to be born was the God who called him to his task. He was separated,
set apart, especially appointed for the spreading of the gospel of God.
This gospel was promised by the prophets and their prophecies were written in the Holy Scriptures. Paul asserts the predictive nature of the Old Testament prophets whose predictions find fulfillment in the New Testament, even in Christ. Note also the reverence expressed for the Scriptures, the "holy scriptures." The gospel was about Christ, centered on Christ and depended on Christ.
Christ was of the fleshly lineage of David as had been prophesied, but He was more than a son of David. He was, and is, the Son of God and so declared in a powerful way, no less than the demonstration of power by the resurrection from death. His "spirit of holiness" was certain. This meant His Deity was unquestionable because He had been raised from the dead as was foretold concerning the Messiah. The "spirit of holiness" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the nature and attributes of Christ as a divine being. In other words, the passage affirms the human and divine nature of Jesus Christ. "According to the flesh" is the human nature through David, and stands alongside "according to the spirit of holiness" which shows the divine nature since He is the Son of God and was proven to be by the resurrection. In essence Paul states that Christ was human because He came through David, but He was also divine because He came from God and is Deity, the divine nature being affirmed because He was raised from the dead.
Paul states that it was from this resurrected Son of God that he had received grace and apostleship. An apostleship was much more than a discipleship. We who are Christians are all disciples, but not all are or were apostles. Certain specific qualifications had to be possessed to be an apostle (Acts 1:21,22,24). Special calling to the task was necessary to be an apostle. A certain work they were given to do. Inspiration was granted them in the revelation of truth. It is a profitable study to learn the credentials of an apostle, of whom Paul was one, though not of the original twelve, but "as one born out of due time," (First Corinthians 15:8), "but not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles." (Second Corinthians 11:5). See chapter twelve and verse three for more on this point. The goal and design of this grace and apostleship was to provoke obedience among people everywhere and for the sake of Christ and to His glory and for His name.
Notice the phrase "unto the obedience to the faith." It is essentially the same phrase that appears at the end of this epistle (chapter sixteen, verse twenty-six). This is significant because in Romans we see the way of salvation to be a system of faith. Calling it a system of faith is one proper way of defining it. There are other definitions equally suitable. But this system of faith is not merely a system of mental assent. While faith (belief) is an essential part of it, it is made clear at the outset of this epistle that an obedient faith is the kind of faith that is under consideration.
The Greek text does not include the definite article "the" before the word "faith" as is found in the King James Version. The American Standard Version renders the phrase literally as "unto obedience of faith," both here and in chapter sixteen. Marginal reading says "to the faith" in the ASV as it appears in the KJV.
The truth can be seen in either presentation. Whether the phrase is emphasizing how one must obey "the faith" (the system of faith, the gospel plan, the religion of Christ), or whether one must possess the kind of faith (belief) that obeys, in either instance obedience is made essential and stressed at the start and finish of Romans.
Among those who had been obedient to the faith were the Roman brethren. They had been "called" of Christ. They had not been called to be an apostle like Paul. Their calling was different from his in the sense he was called, not only to salvation as were they, but also to be an apostle. Their call was not miraculous, direct, mysterious, emotional or visionary. But every person who comes to Christ comes as a result of being called. We are called by the gospel (Second Thessalonians 2:14). As one hears the gospel, he hears the call of God. As he learns and is taught, he is drawn to Him (John 6:44,45). Christians are called "out of darkness into his marvelous light." (First Peter 2:9). How appropriate is the church identified as "the called out."
Note the affectionate expression in verse seven directed to the Christians at Rome, "beloved of God." This not only expressed God's attitude toward His people but Paul's attitude toward his Roman brethren.
The term "saint" carries the idea already expressed in the term "called." The saint is a holy, cleansed, sanctified, set apart person. The term is synonymous in the New Testament with a Christian.
Those familiar with Paul's writings will note how the Holy Spirit uses the phrase often characteristic of Paul when addressing and making opening and closing remarks to his brethren to whom he penned messages. "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Here is a recognition of the source of such blessings, his personal prayer for their welfare, as well as a recognition of the Fatherhood of God and the Lordship of Christ, named Jesus.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul opens by revealing his thanksgiving
for them. Their practice of the faith was such that they had gained a wholesome
reputation throughout the world. Take note that they were also known for
their obedience (chapter sixteen, verse
nineteen.) With the Romans it was
faith and obedience. Paul calls on God to witness his affirmation that
he never ceased to remember them in prayer. They evidently were on his
mind at all times, so great was his love and concern.
Paul says he served God "with my spirit." This is his way of saying he served God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. The inward man, of which he speaks more in Second Corinthians 4:16, was converted to Christ. He served God through the gospel. Can one serve God now apart from the gospel? Indeed not! Jesus is the way, truth and life (John 14:6), and we serve God through Him or not at all. Peter affirms the same thought in Acts 4:12. I take the phrase "in the gospel" to refer (1) to the state, the sphere, and the relationship to Christ that he enjoyed in which he was able to serve God, and (2) the area of his labors. He labored in the gospel of Christ.
In his prayers he requested it be in God's providence that he visit the brethren in Rome. He greatly desired to see them because there were certain benefits to be derived for both Paul and the Romans by such a visit. He wished to impart to them some spiritual gift. This means some miraculous ability could be bestowed upon certain ones upon whom Paul would lay hands. The apostles had such power. Whether there were some among them at Rome who possessed such abilities already we do not know. It is possible that some had been present in Jerusalem on Pentecost and were converted, and even then received some miraculous gift from the apostles before returning to Rome. However, this is speculation and not in the record. A degree of sufficiency is hinted in chapter fifteen, verse fourteen. Whatever be that circumstance, Paul wished to visit them so he could grant them such power.
These facts stand as additional evidence that miraculous powers were not given directly to the early Christians by the Holy Spirit but through the apostles. Without the presence of apostles and laying on of their hands for such a purpose, gifts could not be given and received. We also see additional evidence that at the death of the apostles and the death of those upon whom they had laid their hands, the exercise of miraculous or spiritual gifts ceased. Inasmuch as there are not apostles living now, and since all on whom they laid hands for such purposes have long since died, such gifts are neither imparted nor exercised today.
These gifts were to assist in making them "established." This obviously does not mean to bring them into existence as a church because they already existed. It means to "strengthen and make firm." By doing this there would come a second purpose for his visit; namely, a comfort to both Paul and the church at Rome by the mutual faith they shared. All in all, Paul saw great opportunity for mutual good to be produced if he could only visit them.
He expressed his desire that the Roman Christians know how much he wanted to come to them. He had been "let" (prohibited) so far. He states a third purpose he expected to achieve by his visit; namely, to produce fruit among them as he had produced among other Gentiles.
A fourth purpose was to pay a debt. Paul considered himself obligated to everybody. It mattered not who they were. His obligation was to let them become aware of the gospel, as he mentions in verse fifteen. It is difficult to determine just who may be included specifically in the terms "Greeks and Barbarians," but the main import of the passage is unmistakable. He had a duty toward all. Some have surmised "Greeks" referred to the wise or educated people; the "Barbarians" to the unwise or at least those who spoke a different language. Nothing in the text demands such a conclusion, but it is of little matter to the main thrust of his concern. To the extent of his ability and as opportunity afforded, Paul was ready to preach the certain message of the good news of Christ even there in the Imperial City, the very capital of emperor worship and paganism. His motive for desiring to do so is contained in the following verses where he speaks of the gospel itself. He wanted to preach the "gospel."
Verses 16, 17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
We do no injustice to say that Paul was
not only "not ashamed" of the gospel but he was proud to be identified
with it and preach it. He knew its worth. This worth was what made him
proud of it and grateful for it. What is the worth of the gospel? It is
God's power unto salvation. Salvation is the grand theme of the entire
Bible. To bring a doomed, damned and undeserving humanity from the grip
of Satan into the fold of spiritual safety with God requires great power.
Here is the power God has provided; namely, the gospel. Here is the story
The gospel, although given, is of benefit only to those who accept it. It has to be believed. The term "believeth" embraces more than a mere mental acceptance of the story of salvation through Christ, but an obedient response to what the gospel requires in order to receive what the gospel offers. The obedience of faith is a point that the book of Romans makes so clear.
The offer is not exclusive to any nation or people. We see how the gospel differs from the previous systems by which God had governed man. Equal benefit is extended to both Jew and Gentile. The Jews had it extended to them first (Acts 3:26), and this is understandable since the promises came through the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham. Also Jesus was a Jew and came to His own to save His people from their sins. Though the Jews had first opportunity, salvation is also offered and extended to the Gentiles with equal blessings and on the same terms.
This gospel is a revelation. What is revealed therein? Revealed in the gospel is God's righteousness or "the righteousness of God." This is not a reference to a holy attribute of God's character or nature, although none can doubt the goodness and purity of God in every respect. It is rather a reference to the way, the plan, the system, the scheme God has designed, devised and delivered to make man righteous. It is God's plan for justifying man from sin. Psalm 119:172, "My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness." It is not merely that God's commands are righteous, but that his commandments compose righteousness. In them can be found God's mind concerning God's way of making man acceptable to God. The salvation spoken of in verse sixteen is accomplished by the system or plan of God called in verse seventeen "the righteousness of God."
The salvation of verse sixteen originates with faith. The gospel that tells of this salvation and reveals God's plan for making man righteous is designed to produce the faith that is necessary. Here is the meaning of the phrase, "from faith to faith."
Salvation without faith is impossible (Hebrews 11:6). Salvation comes "from faith." The end result of the gospel which reveals God's plan to make man righteous is "in order to" faith. This latter thought is like the teaching of Romans 10:17, "Faith cometh of hearing and hearing by the word of God." The Word which reveals THE faith produces faith and faith produces salvation. Admittedly this is not an easy phrase to unravel and there are many thoughts good men have had regarding it. This view is entirely consistent with what is taught anywhere else in the Bible and in keeping with the context of the passage that has the gospel, God's power to save, under discussion. The prominence of faith and the production of faith are both emphasized by the quotation taken from Habakkuk 2:4 and repeated exactly or in essence several times in the New Testament, "The just shall live by faith."
Looking more closely at the phrase, we have presented to us a major theme of the book of Romans. We first ask, "Who shall live?" This partially has reference to an abundant life while here on earth, but more importantly to spiritual life resulting in eternal life. The answer is, "The just shall live." We have seen that the righteousness of God may be understood as God's plan for making man just, justifying man from sin, making him righteous. These shall have the life the Lord offers. We then ask, "By what means shall they have this life?" The answer is, "By faith, faith produced by the gospel, THE faith." Here then is the way to spiritual life. It is the way of faith, the faith the gospel teaches by which God justifies man and makes man righteous.
The tie between faith and salvation, the tie between the gospel and faith, gives explanation to the phrase, "The just shall live by faith." Taking the words as they actually appear in the Greek text, they say, "The just by faith shall live." This shows the method, plan, scheme God has devised. To exalt the idea of salvation by faith but not exalt the entire "faith system" and all that it involves is to do violence to this teaching and all other teaching that says salvation and life are by faith. Paul speaks of the faith system revealed in the gospel.
Verses 18, 19
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.
Something else in addition to God's plan
for justifying man is revealed from heaven; namely, the wrath of God against
all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. God's truth is directed against
evil and those who do evil. Such men that are described as ungodly and
unrighteous are those who "hold the truth in unrighteousness," or possibly
more easily understood, those who would restrain and hinder the truth by
their evil doing. The word translated "hold" is also used in Second Thessalonians
2:6 where the idea of restraint and holding down is evident. There are
those who would hinder, suppress and hold down the truth. Of what truth
does Paul speak here? Is it the truth of the gospel or truth that was revealed
before the gospel?
It cannot be doubted that evil men do hold down the gospel truth. Though this is true, the context indicates the truth which is specifically mentioned here as held down was truth revealed in times past that pre-dated the gospel. It seems that there was truth already revealed to men that they could have known because it had been shown them by the Lord. That truth they hindered and held down by choosing to live an unrighteous life. Placing the explanation of man's behavior (as described in the last verses of this chapter and the opening verses of the next) alongside the fact that certain truth had been held down even though it could have been known, the truth spoken of here as being held down by ungodly men was moral truth that came from God even before the gospel revelation.
Truth revealed before the gospel can be classified in two ways: (1) moral truth revealed in some manner to the Gentiles, although unwritten; (2) the law of Moses given to the Jews through Moses. Men who so lived as to hinder truth in either instance were objects of God's wrath. It is no less true today that when men hinder the gospel truth they make themselves the objects of God's wrath as did men in former ages who lived under different systems.
The gospel does reveal the way of justification. It also reveals God's wrath against ungodliness. Because this is true one might conclude the "truth" mentioned in verse eighteen means the gospel. But God's wrath against ungodliness was revealed even before the gospel.
Considering the context of the verses that immediately follow, plus the fact that this "truth" had already been shown to the ones under discussion in the next verses, it seems more consistent and reasonable to think the "truth" here refers to moral truth before the gospel. Paul is showing the need for the gospel because men had held down God's moral truth that they ought to have followed. They held it down by ungodliness and unrighteousness. This brought on them God's wrath. It is this wrath that the gospel is designed to lift from man.
This conclusion does harmonize with the general theme that is dominant in the first three chapters which emphasizes how all have sinned and all need saving from the wrath of God which is justly directed against sin.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Paul speaks of the "invisible things of
him," referring to certain unseen realities of God that have always been
true and discernible even though invisible. These realities that have always
been true are named as His eternal power and Godhead, having reference
to His divine nature. "The things that are made" means the realm of nature
and the creation. Since the creation men could have looked upon what has
been created and concluded there is a Supreme Being, there is a God of
power and divinity. It has been stated and justly so, "Nature declares
God is, and the Bible declares Who He is." The Psalmist says in Psalm
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork."
I am aware that some have stated that one can know nothing of God, not
even His existence, without the Bible, but this passage refutes that. But
the creation declares His glory and by implication His existence. We certainly
cannot know much about God through what God has created, but the investigation
of the creation itself prods one to believe there must be God.
However, men cannot know God in the sense of salvation by observing nature. This is at least part of the very message Paul gives here and in First Corinthians 2:14. God's mind must be revealed unto man, and has been revealed through the Word which has been given by the Holy Spirit. The man who would lean on nature to know the mind of God leans on a broken reed. Salvation and the plan that God has designed comes by the gospel.
But men can determine from the creation that God is and something of the power of His nature. Men have always had the opportunity and evidence to be aware of the reality of God and are therefore "without excuse" for their disbelief and evil conduct. Respect for the existence of God ought be sufficient to know there is a moral as well as physical realm.
Even though one could know the existence of the Godhead (Deity) through nature, he could not know the details of God's will nor man's duty to God except through revelation. The inference is clear that revelation in some manner at some time had been made even to Gentiles although we are not informed how, when or where. It may go back to the age of the patriarchs. Men did have access to revelation that first was given to Adam. But rather than having respect for what was revealed, even though they could have and should have been aware of God, they chose to ignore Him and were not given to glorifying Him. They were not grateful for the blessings from Him, but went another course. They became vain and empty and useless in what they did and thought. They acted as fools without understanding, and their hearts, minds and spirits were darkened by the sinful paths they pursued contrary to the moral truth God had revealed. They thought they were wise, but proved themselves to be fools. They thought it was in man to direct his own steps. They thought they could "do their own thing" and go their own way. But, alas, how deceived and wrong they were.
Rather than honoring God and giving Him glory, they did the very opposite. They turned to idolatry, making images of things God had created, but turning their back on the Creator. What was the result? Consider their conduct! It is the kind of conduct men have experienced whenever and wherever they have turned from God to idols and refused to allow God's will to prevail among them.
We emphasize a most important point. The Gentiles did have a law under which they lived. They sinned. Sin is a transgression of law (First John 3:4). Therefore, we know a law existed for them.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.
God, seeing their rebellious and degenerate ways, allowed them to go their own way. They dishonored themselves, dishonored their bodies, became unclean through their own lusts, took truth and turned it away and followed a lie. Their affections were vile in God's sight. The moral behavior God had designed and even the natural use of the body was perverted in the most base forms. Verses twenty-six and twenty-seven depict in discreet language the low perversions of which many were guilty, including homosexuality. Paul wrote that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7,8). Such is presented here as well. While they refused to accept God they received the fruits of error which was "meet" or suitable.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Since they restrained rather than retained
God, God allowed them to do as they wished because God does not force men
to do what is right even though He is grieved at man's sin. Man is a creature
of personal choice. God had created him in that fashion. God does not violate
man's power of choice. As a result, these of whom Paul writes became filled
with all manner of corruption as defined in verses twenty-nine through
thirty-one as "recompense of error." They knew God disapproved but did
not care about that. They knew God's wrath was against them in doing as
they did and that spiritual death would result, but they were not turned
even by that. They had pleasure in such things and were pleased that others
engaged in the same kind of sinful practices.
Some of the things "not convenient" (not fitting or proper) they committed are easily understood for what they are. Some need more explanation. "Wickedness" refers to a vicious disposition and desire to injure. "Debate" means strife, not argumentation of conflicting views. "Malignity" places the worse construction on everything. "Without understanding" is willful and preferred ignorance. "Without natural affection" is to have no love even for one's own children and family. Notice also in the midst of this catalog of abominations stands "disobedient to parents."
It is discomforting to take a candid look at the world and see the apparent increases in our own society of these very same marks of degeneracy and the acceptance and toleration of them. This was the case with men whose knowledge of God was not written nor given in forms like the gospel is given, or even as the law of Moses. Revelation had been given nonetheless. Such was the way of the Gentile world. While God was proving by and through the Jews that men need a Savior and are unable to walk correctly even with a law given by the Lord, He was also proving through the Gentiles that man, left to himself, does not evolve into something better and higher, but lower and more base. The Gentiles proved that man, left to himself, sinks into the pits of perversion not to be mentioned in the conduct of God-fearing people. He proved that man, left to himself, cannot and will not rise but fall, unable to live properly and surely unable to devise a scheme of redemption for himself.
With these words and the theme of the next chapter coupled with them, Paul establishes the greatness of the gospel and how necessary the gospel is. The gospel is God's power unto salvation. It is so necessary because of the sins people commit. In the gospel is revealed the way of salvation. It is the divinely given direction.
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