Who Paul represents (Romans 1:1-6)
Paul begins by introducing himself. He calls himself a slave or servant of Jesus Christ. By this Paul indicates that does not act on his own will, but that of his master (Galatians 1:10; I Corinthians 9:16-17). Such a designation has been common in both the Old and New Testaments (Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:1; Psalms 18:1 (title section); Jeremiah 25:4; James 1:1; II Peter 1:1; Jude 1). As Christ’s servant, he was called by Jesus to be an ambassador or apostle of Him (I Corinthians 9:1; I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11). His appointed task was to serve the Gospel of God (Galatians 1:11-24). The word aphorizo, translated as “separated” or “set apart” means to have a boundary or limits placed on him. It could refer to his personal selection from among the rest of mankind (Acts 9:15) or it can refer to the task he was given.
That gospel was not recent innovation. It was something God promised would come and was announced through the prophets (Luke 1:70; Acts 13:32-33; Galatians 3:8). The focus of this good news announced from old was Jesus Christ. A small sample can be found in Genesis 3:15; 49:8,10; Deuteronomy 18:18; Psalms 16:10; 22:1-31; 40:1-17; 110:1; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 53:1-12; 63:1-3; Daniel 9:24-26; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9; and Malachi 3:1.
Jesus was born of the flesh, being a descendent of David (Matthew 1:1; Luke 3:23-38; John 7:42; Acts 2:30). This was significant in the fulfillment of God’s promises. But even more significant is that Jesus was also shown to be the Son of God, the key witness being his resurrection from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-11, 43). That power, though, also evident earlier (Acts 10:38). Thus, according to the flesh Jesus was the son of David, but according to the spirit of holiness (the opposite of flesh), he is the Son of God. Jesus was made the son of David, but he was proven to be the Son of God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 14; I Peter 3:18).
It was through this Jesus, the Son of God, that the apostles received grace and their duties as apostles (Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:1-3). The grace could be the gift given to all Christians, but Paul saw his appointment as a great gift (Romans 15:15-16; Galatians 2:9; Ephesians 3:2, 7-8). Their duty was to bring obedience to the faith among all the nations (Acts 6:7; Romans 16:26; Jude 3). The gospel was never limited to the Jews alone as some contend (Romans 15:18; Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:18-20). The church in Rome is an example of this gospel being spread. They were called by Christ through his apostles. This commission was expressly given to Paul (Acts 9:15) and was given with Jesus’ authority.
1. Why does Paul say “gospel of God” instead of “gospel of Jesus Christ?”
2. Is the “spirit of holiness” in Romans 1:4 a reference to the Holy Spirit?
3. Given that Paul begins and ends Romans talking about “obedience of faith,” can Romans be used to argue faith without works? (See also: Hebrews 3:18-19; 4:2, 6; James 2:14-26).
4. Why does Paul put so much emphasis on his credentials?
To whom the letter was written (Romans 1:7)
Paul’s letter is written to the Christians in Rome, but that doesn’t mean he expect the letter to be limited to Rome. Like all his letters, they would be circulated among the churches (Colossians 4:16).
Having responded to the call of Christ among the nations, Paul reminds them that they are also called to be saints – people set apart for a special and holy purpose. These people are loved by God (Colossians 3:12) and Paul relays the Father and the Son’s blessings upon them (I Corinthians 1:3; II Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; I Thessalonians 1:1; II Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 1:3).. No one but a writer inspired by God could honestly speak on behalf of God in such a manner.
Paul’s desire to visit (Romans 1:8-15)
Paul appreciates the existence of such a strong community of Christians in Rome. Their faith is talked about throughout the world. Here “world” is understood to be the world of the Roman empire. It was a city on the hill (Matthew 5:14). God is witness to the fact that Paul continually prays for them (Ephesians 1:15-16; Philippians 1:34; Colossians 1:3-4; I Thessalonians 1:2; 2:13).
Paul serves God with his whole being in teaching the gospel of His Son. This isn’t only an outward service. Paul means everything he says and it is a service he voluntarily gives.
In particular, Paul has been asking God for permission to go to Rome. That he prayed to go by any means becomes ironic given that Paul arrives in Rome as a prisoner. It was an answer to his prayers, but probably not in the way he expected.
The desire to go to Rome has been a long one (Acts 19:21; Romans 15:23), and not without purpose. Paul wants to be able to bestow on them some spiritual gift to further establish them. Most assume Paul is speaking of giving spiritual gifts, such as in Acts 8:14-18. But notice that Paul is speaking of giving a part of a single gift. That gift would establish them and encourage both Paul and them. It is a topic that Paul returns to in Romans 15:19 and Romans 16:25. He is speaking of giving them a better grounding in the gospel (Ephesians 4:13; II Thessalonians 2:15-17). He also speaks of having fruit among the Romans as he had in other Gentile areas (John 15:16; Colossians 1:6).
He is coming, not to rule but to help (II Corinthians 1:24). To see others faithful to the Lord was a comfort to all the apostles (I John 1:4; II John 12; I Thessalonians 3:8). Paul has a debt to repay because he was made an apostle to teach the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Romans 11:13; I Corinthians 9:16). His salvation is linked to the Gentiles’ need – both the cultured (Greeks) and the uncultured (barbarians), both the learned and the untaught.
Though Paul had plans to go to Rome for a long while, he had been hindered from making the trip so far. Exactly what had prevented Paul is not mentioned, which means it is the subject of much speculation. But what is important to understand is that Paul is as ready as he ever can be to preach the gospel in Rome.
1. Compare Romans 1:8 and Romans 16:19. What do you conclude concerning what was known about the church in Rome?
2. If Paul wanted to impart some spiritual gift to establish the church in Rome, could the church in Rome have been started by an apostle?