Romans 1:1-7 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (2) which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, (3) concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh (4) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (5) through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, (6) including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, (7) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
So here’s what we’re going to do with this passage. First we’re going to look at the context. Then we’re going to break it up and study every phrase of every verse. Lastly, we’re going to think about applications. Sound good?
Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Rome about 57 years after Jesus was born. Most people think that Jesus was around thirty something years old when he was crucified, so assuming that that’s write, we can guess that this book was written about 20-30 years after Jesus left the earth. We know from verses 8-15 that Paul was not the one who brought the gospel to the Romans. By this time, the gospel had already spread there and several churches had been established in Rome. Paul has apparently heard of the faith of the churches in Rome and is sending this letter to them to give a clear explanation of the need for justification by faith because of sin, the results of justification by faith, and how the gospel was or wasn’t received by the his fellow Israelites and the significance of that. I don’t know that much more about the context, so that’s all for now.
Paul. What do we know about Paul? Most of you know that Paul, previously known as Saul, had an amazing conversion story. He was a zealous Jew who persecuted Christians. He was travelling to the city of Damascus to go arrest more Christians when he saw a great light that blinded him and heard Jesus say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”, and gave him directions on what to do to regain his sight. From then on, Saul was a changed man. Paul, the new Saul, was called to be the apostle to the gentiles. His job was to share the gospel with the people who weren’t Jews. No longer was he the one persecuting Christians; now he was the Christian being persecuted. Paul suffered many thing, but he remained faithful to Jesus and continued the work of the gospel. He wrote most of the books in the New Testament.
“For the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures”
What is the gospel of God? The gospel of God is that God would send his son to suffer and die, to pay the penalty for our sin in our place, and to rise again, proving his power of death and therefore defeating Satan. God did indeed promise that these things would happen through prophecies which are recorded in the old testament.
Why is it significant that these things were prophesied beforehand? There are many reasons why the prophecies are important, one being that they verify the legitimacy and truth of the Bible and the gospel. We know that the Bible must be true, because many times, it makes predictions that can be historically verified to have come true. Whether or not that is the particular reason why Paul mentioned it that way, I’m not sure.
“Concerning his son”
I think it’s very important to note that the whole Bible is about God’s son, even the parts in the Old Testament about the history of Israel, or the parts of the epistles that were instructions for how Christians should live. One really helpful thing that I’ve learned which not everybody realizes is that the Bible, though made of many smaller parts, is really one big story of God’s plan of redemption through Christ for the world that he has created. It’s all about Jesus and how he brought redemption to the world. In different ways, each book of the Bible either gives the background information that we need to know in order to make sense of the gospel (Genesis and the other books of the Bible about Israel’s history), predicts the gospel (Books of the prophets), describes the gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which are the gospel books), or tells us how to respond to the gospel (The rest of the New Testament). Even in these individual books, certain chapters or sections might fit into different categories. For example, the section we are studying today both describes the gospel by telling us things about it and also tells us how to react to the gospel by showing how Paul reacted to the gospel. See? I hope I didn’t make that too confusing Moving on!
“[Jesus] was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”
Whew, this is a long sentence (especially since that’s not even all of it!). Jesus was descended from David according to the flesh. On earth, Jesus was considered to be the son of Joseph, since Joseph was his earthly father. Joseph was a descendant of King David. Therefore, Jesus was a descendant of King David. So according to the flesh, according to his physical ancestry, he was of the line of David. According to the Spirit however, he was declared to be the Son of God, since he had risen from the dead. I might not be completely correct on this, but I take “according to the Spirit” to mean that through the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts we are able to see by his power in rising from the dead, and understand and declare, that he truly is the Son of God.
“Through him we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.”
It is through Jesus that Paul has received grace. It is also through Jesus that he has received the apostleship to bring the gospel to other nations, so that the people would obey God by placing their faith in Jesus and following him. The Roman Christians to whom Paul is writing are included in this group of people who have received the gospel through the work of those who brought the gospel to other places like Paul did.
Finally, we reach the last verse of the greeting of chapter 1, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Paul is simply stating that this letter is to the Christians in Rome, reminding them that they are loved by God and were called to be saints, and greeting them. (When the word “saint” is mentioned in the Bible, it means someone who has been made holy through faith in the righteous blood of Christ. All Christians are saints, in the Biblical sense of the word. It’s important to not confuse this with the way Catholics use the word saint.)
Woah! I’ve finally got through all of the verses! You didn’t think I’d ever finish, did you? Now for the less technical stuff: application! I just have two points of application for you today, although I’m sure there are many others that we could think of too. 🙂
-We need to be studying the whole Bible. We can’t understand the prophecies about Jesus and why they’re important if we don’t even read them! If we skip over all the Old Testament books describing Israel’s history, not only do we miss out on a huge chunk of God’s story, a lot of analogies mentioned in the gospels like Jesus being the “Lamb of God” won’t make any sense, and neither will the book of Hebrews. Yes, I realize that it’s a lot harder to study these parts since they aren’t as easily applicable. I’ve failed on this a lot too. But we really need to be reading the whole Bible and watching how it fits together instead of just picking out the parts we like best.
-When we do read the Bible, we need to think about how what we are reading tells us about God/Jesus and his character. Part of our human nature is a desire to think about ourselves. It’s really easy to start reading the Bible with just the mindset of “What’s in here that’ll make me feel good? What parts are about me?”. But that’s not really how it’s supposed to be. Application is obviously an important part studying the Bible, but it’s equally important, or maybe even more important, to learn more about the greatness of God. Because after all, it’s God’s story, and he is the hero of his own story.