THE GOSPEL EXALTED

(Romans 1:1-17)

One of the greatest books in all the New Testament is the book of Romans. Chapters one through three really is one literary context; chapter 1:18 through 3:20 deals with the need for all men to be saved. The Apostle Paul is the indisputable author of this epistle to the believers in Rome. Paul whose former name was Saul was from Tarsus, a major city in modern Turkey. Apparently he was a son of an Aramaic speaking Jewish couple who had somehow won their Roman citizenship. But his name was changed to Paul; the reason is because when you take ‘Saul’ and put it into Greek, it becomes a derogatory term. So he took the name ‘Paul’, and ‘Paul’ means ‘little’. The traditional picture of Paul is not tall, dark, and handsome, but short, bald, bowlegged, bushy eyebrows and protruding eyes. He was not a pleasant-looking person; the Corinthians even described him as if he looked like the placenta of his mother (this Corinthians were really ugly to him). Many think it means perhaps of his physical stature of being little, but i personally believe it’s where he says “I am the least of the apostles” in Ephesians 3:8. The ‘least’ because he persecuted the church, and that would be the background of this term. “…a servant…” – has the idea of a slave who completely belongs to his owner and has no freedom to leave, or a “servant,” who willingly chooses to serve his master, or it’s possibly the Old Testament honorific title of ‘the servant of Lord’ ascribed to Moses, Joshua, and David. We’re just not sure what is, “…of Jesus Christ”. “called to be an apostle” – this is the longest of introduction of any of Paul’s letters. Now, the word ‘called’ is an emphasis on God’s electing and appointing power. We see in Galatians 1:15 about God’s preparation of Paul from his mother’s womb. Now ‘apostle’ is from the Greek ‘apostolos’ which means one who is sent with official authority. “…set apart to preach God’s Good News” – it’s a perfect passive participle, and signifies the fact that Paul did not volunteer; he was drafted in the real sense of the word.

Now look at verse 2, “the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” – this shows the relationship between the Old Testament and the New. The New Testament is not a changing of the Old, but an ultimate fulfillment. The true orientation of the Old is seen in the Person, life-death ministry, and the coming again of Jesus Christ (cf. Lk. 24:27, 44–47). So the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and Jesus is the key, and He is the central pillar of all that it is. You take Christ out of this thing, and you don’t have Christianity. He is the central message of the Good News, who on the physical side became a descendant of David. Now we know from Joseph, His divinity lineage is given to us in the Gospel of Matthew, and of course Joseph was not His father. The Holy Spirit is the One that miraculously had Jesus conceived in the womb of Mary. It was not a sexual thing, it was a supernatural thing. Now the reason that is significant is because of 2 Samuel 7:14 that predicts that the line of the Messiah will come through the tribe of Judah but specifically the root of Jesse. Verses three to four seem to be creedal hmyn which Paul cites to show that he and the Roman believers share a common faith. Notice if you would where it says, “…who as to his earthly life…” – i think this is extremely significant passage right here because it emphasizes the main truth in the New Testament about the full humanity of Jesus Christ, and the next phrase is going to emphasize the full deity of Jesus Christ. We must remember the Jews were not expecting the Messiah to be God Incarnate; that was a brand-new part of revelation. In verse 4, “and who through the Spirit of holiness…” – this is Hebraic way of talking about the Holy Spirit, and the identification between Jesus the Spirit is absolutely phenomenal. “…was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead.” – this is the idea that he became Incarnate, and then He lived and pleased God. And God affirmed Him by raising Him from the dead. It was God’s stamp of approval on the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. “Jesus Christ our Lord” – you see this phrase in 1 Corinthians 1:1 so clearly. We have here the term ‘Lord’ which is a term for Yahweh in the Old Testament. Since the Jews were afraid to pronounce the covenant name for God, they put ‘Adonai Lord’. It’s used by the authors of the New Testament to ascribe full deity to Christ. ‘Jesus’ is the name that was given to Jesus by the angel in Matthew 1:21, or ‘YahwehShua’ which means ‘Yahweh saves’ in Greek. “Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for His name’s sake.” – Paul feels his calling is a unique one; that God has sent Him to the Gentiles. The whole Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 was dealing with how to bring Gentiles into the church, not in Judaism but into the church to God’s free message of obedience that comes from faith. There is some difference of opinion on how to interpret this. I think it’s obedience of faith; i think it emphasizes the conditional element in our salvation. This single conditional element is found over in verse 16, where it says, “…salvation to everyone who believes:” – there is a condition. The grace of God is unconditional to all men, but the condition of man’s response by faith is throughout the New Testament (cf. Acts 6:7; 2 Cor. 10:5; 1 Peter 1:22). Faith is the condition that God has placed on man in responding to His unconditional love. Now notice in verse 6 it says, ” And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.” Paul was saying he was ‘called’, now he’s saying the Christians in Rome are ‘called’ as well. You might want to see Ephesians 1:4-11 how Paul teaches about the doctrine of Predestination which really gives us a backbone during the darkest days of our life, but at the same time the doctrine of man’s freewill of ‘whosoever will’ is so evidently true in his teachings. The church in Rome was not started by Paul; it’s going to be obvious in verse 10 and 13 through 15 that he did not know these believers. Paul’s purpose for writing this letter to these believers in Rome is to introduce his theology before he comes to pay a personal visit to them. I think the church started from the people ar Pentecost. We have no record of how the church started, and how it started in Damascus.

Now notice where it says, “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:” – there’s again an election to be God’s people. Now the word here’s ‘holy people’ or ‘saints’. it comes from the word sanctified, and it’s the ideal of being set apart for a particular task. We are saints positionally because we are related to Jesus Christ by faith, but hopefully as we know Him positionally we will be more like Him – for us to have a lifestyle of Christlikeness. In other words, we possess our position of being justified in Christ by a continuous lifestyle of Christlikeness, and both are extremely important. Now notice as it continues, “Grace and peace…” – now, i think this is the idea of linking the Greek greetings and the Hebrew greetings, grace which is ‘charis’ in Greek, and peace ‘eirene’ in Greek which i think reflects the Hebrew ‘shalom’. The Greek word for peace has the idea of reuniting of that which is broken. Only in God’s grace through Christ can the gap between God and man be restored and the peace be brought together (cf. Romans 5:1). “…to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” – this is a grammatical way of linking God the Father and God the Son, and is a very strong affirmation of the full deity of Jesus Christ.

Now notice in verse 8, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” – of course the ‘world’ here is the then known Roman world; wherever the church was. They were talking about the faith of the believers in Rome. In verse 9 Paul says “God is my witness…” – here is Paul taking an oath. He’s saying ‘I’m swearing to God, I’m telling the truth about my sincerity for you”. Paul swears quite often, and you might want to see 2 Corinthians 1:23; 11:31; 1 Thess. 2:5. So here Paul is swearing in God’s name his love and prayer for these Christians. Now notice where it says, “how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times;” – now this wasn’t a church he started but Paul must had a tremendous prayer list when he got down on his knees praying for churches and fellow believers. It must have took him hours to cover everybody that he was concerned about. In verse 10, really verse 10 in Greek grammar is a first class conditional sentence (assumed to be true), “…and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you” – now what he’s saying is, ‘I’ve wanted to come, and i’ve just been hindered’. And we see the ideal a little bit lower down in verse 13, “but have been prevented from doing so until now” – the same word here in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 says ‘prevented by Satan’. We don’t know what prevented Paul, but something did. Probably the pressure of the need of the churches that he had founded, but he said, “Listen Rome, i want to come. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong, in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” – And so Paul is really telling them, notice as he says in verse 12, “that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” – now here’s the purpose of Christian fellowship – the mutual edification of believers instead of arguing with each other. In verse 14, “I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.” – now when we say ‘Greeks’ we’re speaking about Greeks and Romans, for the Romans use Greek as a secondary language. Anybody who didn’t speak Greek, the older classical Greeks called them ‘barbarians’ because they kept saying “bar, bar, bar, bar, bar…”. What Paul is trying to say here is, “I owe all men a duty.” – Paul had a sense of stewardship about his call of preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles. What a sense of stewardship and commitment Paul had about what God had called him to do. Now verses 16-17 is really the theme of the entire book of Romans. One of my favorite passages in Romans is Romans 3:21 through 31 which is really a synopsis of the Gospel presented in chapters 1 through 3, and it really is an amplification of chapter 1:16-17. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel…” now, we learn in 1 Corinthians 1:23, the Jews were ashamed (a stumbling block) of the preaching of the Good News, because it preached Jesus Christ crucified. The fact that He was a suffering Messiah bothered the Jews. Now that He was crucified and resurrected bodily is what bothered the Greeks because they didn’t believe in the Resurrection. But Paul says, “I don’t care what the cultured people believe, be them Jews, be them Greeks, or be them Romans. I am not ashamed of the Gospel because I’ve seen what it does to change men’s life. “because it is the power of God…” – ‘power’ is where we get the word ‘dynamite’, ‘dynamic’, or ‘dynamism’ from. “… that brings salvation…” – now, the word ‘salvation is used in the Old Testament sense for physical deliverance, while in the New Testament it is more for spiritual deliverance and forgiveness. Both are included here. “…to everyone who believes:…” – really the word ‘believe’ and the word ‘faith’ all come from one Greek word ‘pisteuo’ which means to trust in Jesus or God as able to aid. “…first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” – that’s important because Jesus went to the house of Israel first, and the Gospel was preached to them first. But you know, they had to believe just like the Gentiles. You see, i believe this conditionality just like in John 1:11-12, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” – Jews and Gentiles must respond by faith. You might want to see Philippians 3:9 and Romans 3:21-31 for a complete understanding of man’s need to respond by faith. In verse 17, “For in the gospel the righteousness of God…” – now, the word ‘righteousness’ reflects an Old Testament term for a measuring reed or a straight edge. It’s used in the Old Testament more of a forensic righteousness. We’re right with God because we’re in a relationship with Him. As a legal standing, it doesn’t mean we’re not sinners; it means because of the death of Christ, and our acceptance by faith of Jesus’ gift of forgiveness to us, we have a right standing with God. We’re right with God through Jesus Christ, not through our own acts (though hopefully after knowing Him our acts are going to fall in line with His acts). Now notice where it says, “… is revealed” – this is the word ‘apokalupto’ where we get the word Revelation, the last book in the Bible from. It’s going to be very important because this is going to be repeated in verse 18. “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,…” – this basically is ‘faith from faith to faith’. Others interpret this as ‘it begins in faith and ends in faith’. Some say it should read, ‘by faith alone’, or ‘on the basis of faith’, or ‘nothing but faith’. What we’re really saying is, faith is the condition that God has chosen to lead man through Christ to Himself. Notice the last phrase of verse 17, “The righteous will live by faith.” – this is a quote from Habakkuk 2:4. This Scripture is also quoted in Galatians 3:11 and in Hebrews 10:38. Now, here’s what it says, that the upright man must live by faith. Faith here really means we must trust in the trustworthiness of God. Faith is not something we do; faith is our response to the faithfulness of God. We take God’s Word, we believe God’s Word, we have all of our settled hope not in ourselves, but in the trustworthiness of the promises and acts of God in Jesus Christ. So, faith is really trusting in the trustworthiness of God, and faithing in the faithfulness of God, and that’s what it really means.
(TO BE CONTINUED)