Paul spent 10 years from A.D. 47 to 57 in evangelizing the territories east and west of the Aegean Sea. During those years he concentrated on Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. His first campaign concluded with the planting of Churches in Iconium, Philippi, Thessalonica, Corinth and Ephesus and many other cities in the area. During the winter of 56-57 A.D. Paul spent considerable time in Corinth at the home of Gaius as he prepared to take the offering taken up by those churches to Jerusalem to help in famine relief. During the early days of A.D. 57 Paul used a secretary Tertius (16:22) to dictate his heart to a Church that he had never visited in hopes of preparing a visit in the future. By this time the Church in Rome had already begun to impact Roman society as the wife of a high-ranking Roman commander had been acquitted of embracing this so-called superstition. Three years later Paul had the opportunity to visit Rome as a prisoner. Four years after that (seven years after the writing of this letter) Rome was devastated by fire set by the madness of Emperor Nero and he blamed this superstition sect called Christianity as the culprits. What this reveals us the rapid growth of Christianity no doubt enhanced by this letter and Paul’s visit. In the book of Acts chapter 28 Paul comes to Rome and in the 17th verse Paul is seen ministering in Rome. In the 16th chapter of Roman’s Paul mentions 26 people he knows by name in Rome no wonder they came to meet his 4 years after the letter was written.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a description of the “Power of God let lose upon the ruin of man.” It boldly proclaims that God through His Son Jesus has found the only way to justify all of ungodly fallen humanity. As long as we think we are good enough to earn heaven or God’s favor then we don’t have a chance. Through this glorious letter we will be on that road together as we learn that God has more for us than changing our destination; He wants to change us into the image of the very one who has changed our destiny. The 16 chapters of Romans has “Remodeled” many lives:
- Augustine was converted by reading a few verses in the 16th chapter
- Martin Luther’s heart was changed by reading one verse 1:16
- John Bunyan while in jail studied the letter and was so inspired he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress
- John Wesley was reading Luther’s commentary on Roman’s and was transformed
Romans was written 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection and 8 to 10 years before Paul’s death. Based upon Paul’s letter the church was made up partly of Gentiles and partly of Jews. The wide acceptance of the Gentiles into the faith apart from Jewish conversion had been dealt with at the council in Jerusalem many years earlier but the widespread appeal this had upon the Gentiles had not been anticipated as in most churches apart from Jerusalem the gentile believers outnumbered the Jewish believers. This pushed Paul for the need to write about the teaching of “Justification by Faith” (1:16-17). The question that loomed for the early church was “How was it possible in spite of everything that most of the Jews were still rejecting their Messiah?”
Vs. 1-5a Fourfold description of Paul
God is the most important word in this epistle, it occurs 153 times in the book; an average of once every 46 words – this is more frequently than in any other New Testament book. Paul tells us four things about Jesus who is the gospel:
- Vs. 3 He is God’s Son:
- Vs. 3 He was born the seed of David according to the flesh
- Vs. 4 He was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead: It was the resurrection that revealed to us Who Jesus has always been.
- Vs. 1, 3, 6 and 7 Jesus is not only a man he is also the Christ anointed King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.
Most every New Testament letter follows the same pattern:
- First there is the introduction made up of the greetings and thanksgiving. In this case this makes up the first 15 verses and is divided into the greetings in the first seven verse followed by the thanksgiving in verses 8-15.
- The next section of the letter is the reason for writing also called the “statement of purpose”. For the most part these are usually found in proximity to the introduction and will sum up what the main teaching of the letter will be.
- After this comes the bulk of the letter or main teaching in which the reason for writing is given in more detail and clarity.
- Finally, we have the closing of the letter which can be anywhere to a few verses to a whole chapter.
Vs. 1-5a After his conversion, Saul of Tarsus changed his name to Paul. As Saul his name meant “requested one” as Paul it meant “little”. No one can know for sure the reason for this but perhaps it was for ease of travel “accessibility” as Saul being a Jewish name would have made it more difficult to travel. Perhaps the name Paul was a nickname due to his small stature? One thing is certain from Paul letters is that the name fit his view of himself after his conversion as he no longer saw himself as “The Man in Demand” instead he saw himself as of “little importance”. I think there is a lesson in this name for all of us when we become “little” we become much more “accessible” to others! One of the keys to powerful preaching is powerful humility! Paul gives a fourfold description of himself:
- Bondservant of Jesus Christ: He calls himself a servant by choice of Jesus Christ and he does so to a city of over a million people with half of those being slaves. He regarded himself as a purchased possession of his Lord and Master Jesus. As a bondservant he owned nothing and was nothing apart from his Master. His time, talents and treasures were at all times at the disposal and use of the Master to use as He saw fit. To any other person such ownership would be despicable and revolting but because it was to the One who had saved him by the shedding of His own blood Paul viewed this position as the greatest one any human could ever experience. If one is a salve of Jesus than they are no longer a slave to the passions and moral depravity of the former life. Thus, we must become a slave of Jesus to be freed from this world!
- Called to be an apostle: Second Paul identified himself by his calling which was to be sent out as an ambassador of the King of Kings to a world that didn’t recognize His right to reign as King. This means that such a calling was not by Paul’s work or design, his appointment came from none other than Jesus his master. Paul elsewhere refers to this calling as threefold:
A. Gal. 1:15 It was at his birth long before Paul was aware of it.
B. Acts 9:15 Tells us that it was commissioned at his conversion.
C. Acts 13:2 Tells us that it was specific to the work in Antioch among the Gentiles.
Now you may called to be His ambassador and be a carpenter, you may be called to be His ambassador and be a schoolteacher, home maker or you can fill in the blank that fits you.
- Separated to the gospel of God: Concentration follows consecration and commission, Paul reveals. As such Paul declares that his one and only purpose of his life was devotion to spreading the “Good News” about his Master. This was his aim and goal in life, and he was going to employ every effort and provision supplied by God to accomplish this.
- Vs. 5a Through Him we have received grace and apostleship: Here Paul reveals the only need equipment to accomplish the goal “Apostolic Grace”. Paul had no worries with regards to the provisions of the task because he knew that the task would never be able to outlast God’s provisions to accomplish them.
III. Vs. 5b-7 Fourfold effectiveness of the gospel
Having given us his fourfold description of himself Paul moves on to a fourfold description what this was to be used in verse 5b-6:
- For obedience to the faith: This phrase only occurs twice in this letter here and at the end in 16:26. Faith always implies submission and surrender which always leads to glad obedience. Paul’s aim was to see people gladly surrender their lives over to loving obedience to the Master.
- Among all nations: Here we see range and scope of Paul’s aim; it was universal in nature and not selective. It was not limited by geography or by those within that geography. As such Paul knew no limits within his service to see all whom he came into contact with both hear of His Masters “Goodness” and have opportunity to know of this “Goodness” personally.
- For His Name: It was the Name above all names that Paul was delighted to proclaim because Paul had personally encountered the blessing of acquaintance with His master. This was Paul’s motivation in all he did was to bring honor and glory to the name that had redeemed him and would redeem all who trust in the Name of Jesus.
- Among whom you also are called of Jesus Christ: Finally, Paul concludes that there was personal responsibility to willing surrender to a relationship to Jesus. Just because Paul was passionately dedicated to his calling, and they heard the word didn’t make it automatic that they were going to personally know the love of the Master. They like Paul would need to heed the call and appropriate His grace.
Vs. 7 The words “to be” are in italics which means that in the original they aren’t there and were added by the translators. As such this should read “To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints.” There are folks that want to categorize Christians and give some a special title if they meet a certain amount of works. But according to the Bible there are only two categories of people “Saints” and “Anits” and if you are a believer in Christ than you are a saint. There was a young boy in a church that had beautiful stained-glass windows of the so called “saints” and his Sunday school teacher asked the class “Who are the saints?” and he replied, “They are the people who the light shines through.” In Paul’s time the Greeks would greet each other with the word “grace” and the Jews would greet each other with the word “peace” but Paul links the two greetings together but place grace before peace as you will never know peace until you have first experienced grace. So, if today you find that you have no peace I suggest to you that what you need is a fresh encounter with Him who is full of Grace and truth! You will have the “Peace from God” when you have first have the “Peace of God”. In religion the “Law” shouts “responsibility” but in relationship the Lord loving says, “Just respond and the work will be done because the price has been paid!” And in responding to Jesus love you will do more than you will ever do under the pressure of the law of religion.