Romans 1:1-18 A Systematic Gospel Presentation
The book of Romans is one of the most systematic descriptions of the sovereign plan of salvation that we have in the entire Bible. Paul the apostle explains why we need to be saved, the means of salvation, and how to overcome our sinful nature to live the victorious Christian life.
Why did Paul write this epistle? The simple reason is that Paul didn't really know whether he would ever actually make it to Rome in person. Every place he went men and women were telling him that bonds and afflictions awaited him when he arrived in Jerusalem.
Therefore, while still in Corinth, not knowing whether he would ever get to Rome alive, he wrote this complete explanation of what the gospel is and how it should transform your life.
Paul’s Introduction and Greeting (1:1-7)
Paul Considers Himself a Slave (vs. 1)
These first seven verses give us Paul’s very basic introduction and greeting to those in Rome. Paul describes himself as a servant which literally means a bond slave or love slave of Jesus (Ex. 21:1-6).
Paul saw himself as a debtor, because he realized how much God had given to him. He is in effect saying in these verses, I am a slave of Jesus Christ, indebted to him for my life, for everything that I have, and everything He’s given me. I’m going to give Him what I can give Him, and that is my life of service.
Separated to the Gospel
He declares, "I am called an apostle and separated to the gospel of God." God separated him for a specific purpose – to bring a message. This message is called the gospel, which means good news. Here in Romans Paul tells us clearly what that good news is and where it came from.
Promised by the Prophets (vs. 2)
He declares in verse 2 that this gospel was promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The good news that he was proclaiming was not his own idea. No, all through the Old Testament is the promise that God would do what is revealed in the New Testament. God called Abraham out to journey to an unknown destination and said, "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you...Those that bless you I will bless.... Those that curse you, I will curse... In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3).
Paul comments on God’s promise to Abraham in Galatians 3:8, "The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying in you all nations shall be blessed." Here we see the gospel being preached to Abraham. And the ultimate descendent of Abraham, Jesus Christ, brought that blessing to the entire world.
In Psalms 86:9 it declares that all nations would worship before Him. In Isaiah 60:3, we are taught that the Gentiles would come to His light. In Hosea chapter 2, verse 23, God tells us that those who are not His people would one day be His people. Daniel shares about the end times when all people would come and worship before the Lord (Dan. 7:14). Not just the Jewish nation, but all nations would ultimately come into a relationship with the Father.
Concerning Jesus, the Man (vs. 3-4)
This gospel that Paul was separated unto was concerning an individual man, God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This gospel was specifically concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. This man Jesus, "who was of the seed of David, but also declared to be the Son of God." Paul wanted to make very clear who this person was. He was a man; He came through the physical family line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and ultimately David. Both Mary’s and Joseph’s lineage were of the house of David. He was a man, a human being, born like everyone else is born. However, He was more than just a man; He was also fully God, Who came in human flesh. He was declared to be [Greek: to be appointed or determined], the Son of God, by the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection proved that Jesus was more than a man.
In John 2 when Jesus was asked for a sign, He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again." John said, Jesus meant the temple of His body. The resurrection was the ultimate proof that He was the Son of God.
Through Whom we Received Grace (vs. 5)
This gospel is concerning a specific man. But Paul also received it through this man: [verse 5] "through whom we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith, among all nations." Through this man Paul received something very important, grace! Paul received the grace of God to fulfill his ministry as an apostle. He didn't achieve this; he received it by grace. That is the nature of grace. You can’t work for it, you can’t do anything to achieve it. You have to receive His grace – there’s no other way you can get it!
You Also are Called to Receive Grace (vs. 6)
Notice that Paul says here, "among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ." He not only teaches that he has received this grace, but you are called to receive it too. You are called to receive this grace for obedience to the faith for your calling and your particular ministry. The grace of God is the only way you can receive anything. You can’t be saved apart from God’s grace; you can’t serve Him apart from His grace; and you’ll never obtain the kingdom of God apart from His grace. But, do you hear yourself crying out for grace; do you ask for grace; how often do you ask for grace?
An important balance: Grace is not to be used as an excuse for sin or to allow us to continue sinning. Grace empowers you to be obedient. Yes, it covers a multitude of sin. But it also empowers you to be obedient to God’s Word.
Where must you first be obedient? You must be obedient to believe. Notice Paul said, the obedience of faith. You are commanded to believe. This means faith is a choice. Therefore, choose to trust in the Lord. Put your faith in Him, and from that point all obedience comes forth. It’s a natural result! As you allow His grace to produce faith within, you will naturally yield to obey Him. This choice to surrender in obedience of faith will enable you to obey Him in every other respect.
Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer (verses 8-14)
Thankful for the Witness of Their Faith (vs. 8)
Paul declares his thankfulness to God for the testimony that the church at Rome had. That church was a growing, moving, and powerful church. They trusted God, and Paul had had nothing to do with its being established, its growth, or its maturing. He had never been to Rome, but he had heard the reports from others. "Your faith is spoken of through out the whole world." What a testimony!
What Kind of Witness Do You Have?
What testimony does your church have? In your community, what testimony do you have personally at your job, with your friends, and with your family?
These Roman believers had a testimony so powerful that it reached around the world. The world heard about this faithful and trusting group of believers. I pray that is our testimony. But, we've got to walk in faith, believing Him, and obeying Him.
Prayer as a Spiritual Service (vs. 9)
Paul goes on in verse 9 to describe his prayer life. He says, "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." However, prayer is considered by most to be one of the most difficult aspects of the Christian walk. Why?
Notice Paul’s Faith
It takes real faith to pray to an unseen God, over issues that you don’t many times see any answers to immediately. It takes even more faith to pray when you don’t even know those you are praying for. Paul prayed for this church, for people whom he had never even met! Note that he considered his prayers for them ait spiritual service.
Here is a Service You can Practice
Did you know that prayer is a real spiritual service that you can perform? I don’t think we believe that, or else the prayer meetings in the church would be just as well attended as the preaching services.
James teaches that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Many times you don’t see that it avails much, but your prayer is still doing a tremendous work. That’s what faith is all about. Real faith deals with things that are not seen (Heb. 11:1). The effectual working of His power in your life, and those you pray for, is the response God gives to real believing prayer. He will do it, He has promised to do it, but do you believe that? If you believe, then you will pray and you’ll pray often.
I've met people that have said to me, "I don’t have any abilities, nor do I think I have any gifts. I don’t even know what I could do for the Lord." Some have physical handicaps. One man in our church who was blind said this to me once. I told him, you can pray. Ultimately, this man became the head of our prayer chain and was greatly used of God. Therefore, pray, because there is real power in prayer. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man or woman will avail much.
In verse 11 Paul exhorted that he not only wanted to pray for them, he wanted to come and minister to them in person, that they might be more fully established in their walk with Christ. But, he explains, I've been hindered. He doesn't tell us what hindered him until chapter 15. There he declares that he just had too many opportunities to preach the gospel (Rom. 15:18-22).
Why Paul Wanted To Visit Them (Verses 15-18)
Not Ashamed of the Gospel
Paul now tells them why he was so eager to go to Rome. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation, for everyone who believes: for the Jew first, and also for the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, as it is written: ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness."
The Gospel Reveals God’s Power (vs. 15)
Notice the word for is repeated four times in this section. In verses 16 through 18, Paul gives the four reasons why he was so eager to preach the gospel. A good synonym to use in place of the word "for" would be "since" or "because." Therefore, because of these reasons Paul wanted to preach the gospel.
The first reason was that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:
Paul was obviously not ashamed of what he was called to speak to the world. However, it is the reason why many times we don’t share the gospel with others. It’s because we are embarrassed and afraid to be mocked or ridiculed for our beliefs. This is being ashamed of the gospel. Some are ashamed to be known as a believer because they are portrayed by the media as foolish or unscientific to be a Christian. But, notice some other examples of Christians who struggled with fear and shame and why.
Timothy was ashamed of the gospel because of fear. He was afraid of getting persecuted (2 Tim. 1:6-8). I think that this is a primary reason why we are ashamed of the gospel of Christ too. Isn't this what holds you back? Here are two basic reasons why fear dominates us.
First, fear dominates us because we have no power. In Acts 1:8 it says that we will receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon us, "and you will be My witnesses." In Acts 4 it reveals that when the disciples prayed; they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31). Here is where the boldness comes from that you need. Without that boldness you will be fearful and ashamed. If you sense that you don’t have that power and boldness, ask God for the power of His Holy Spirit to fill you, to empower you, to embolden you to speak His Word. If you do, He’ll give it.
I have had numerous situations in my life where I’m sitting next to someone and I know the Lord wants me to share the gospel with them. I know that I've got the answer to share with them, and yet I feel ashamed to even bring the subject up concerning Christ. Everybody feels like that at some time. When this happens, I have prayed, "Lord, fill me with Your power." Instantly I will sense that boldness fill my heart. Therefore, I challenge you to try it. Try it just once and see what happens. You’ll be touched by the power of God.
Second, fear dominates our hearts because we just simply do not know how to answer people’s questions. However, I encourage you that the Scripture says that the righteous man studies to answer (Prov. 15:28). He studies so that he might know how to answer the questions that come his way. In 1 Peter 3:15, we are told that we are to be ready always to give an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within us. Therefore, if you don’t have the answer you’re going to be afraid to speak. God will give you the boldness if you ask Him to fill you, and you diligently study His Word to have your answers ready. There are also many good books you can pick up on the subject.
The second reason Paul was eager to preach the gospel was because he knew it was the power of God to salvation, for everyone who believes. The Word of God is powerful. In Hebrews 4:12 it says the Word of God is quick, and powerful. Don’t try and convince someone with your own ideas, just share the Word of God. It is powerful; it always accomplishes its purpose. Every person that hears it to has to make a decision, yea or nay. The Word of God always accomplishes this purpose.
In 1 Peter 1: 23, it says, we have been born again, not by corruptible seed but by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. His Word naturally produces faith in the hearts of those who will receive it (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, you must speak God’s Word to others if you want to see them come to Christ.
God’s Word also purifies. Jesus said, "you’re clean through the word which I have spoken unto you" (John 15:3). It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6). It cuts through the darkness, and lets the light shine into men’s hearts. Because it is the truth, Paul said, "I’m eager to share it. It’s powerful!" Everyone who believes it definitely will see the power of God manifest in their lives. There are many that hear the word, and don’t believe it. They will never see its power. Yet, to everyone who believes, He will send forth the living power of his Spirit into their heart, and they will never be the same.
The Gospel Reveals God’s Righteousness (vs. 17)
The third reason Paul wanted to preach the gospel was because the righteousness of God is revealed in it.
What is God’s righteousness? It is who God is, and what he has done for mankind. He is righteous, His character is righteous, and so is what He has done. When a person reads the Scripture, they see God. They see who He is and the love and righteousness of His works. Ultimately, they see their need for righteousness because they also see that they are unrighteous. Then the gospel message reveals how a man can be made righteous in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel Reveals God’s Wrath
The fourth reason Paul wanted to preach the gospel was because he knew what happens to men when they don’t receive the righteousness of God. The gospel also reveals the wrath of God against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. He also explains what this unrighteousness of men has done. He puts the creation all around us, and every man has that truth. If a man suppresses the obvious truth that creation reveals its Creator, who should be worshipped and thanked, and turns his back on the gospel, then ultimately he will experience the wrath of God.
The book of Romans is a balanced message. We need to hear about the righteousness of God and the wrath of God. We all like to hear about the love of God. But, there is another side to the gospel message and it deals with wrath, not upon believers, but upon the world. That message should excite you! It should excite you with the realization that there are many people who are lost, and who don’t know that message. They are in deep trouble. There is no way for them to extract themselves from their sin; you are the one who has the message that can rescue them. If you don’t share it, those people will experience the wrath of God. If they don’t know, how can they believe? Someone has got to share it with them.
It’s like a doctor who has the knowledge and the ability to cure disease and help someone who is dying. What would you think about that doctor if he walked by somebody laying on the street who is bleeding to death and he did nothing? You’d say he was a pretty callused individual and that he obviously doesn't really care about people.
We have the cure for the fatal disease that our world has contracted. If you don’t share the gospel you are just as bad. If you do care, then you’ll share the message with someone. There are people all around you right now that you can share the message with. Won’t you ask God for His help to do it? They may reject, they may make fun of you, they may want to argue with you, but at least you've shared the love of Christ. Then it’s their decision, it’s their choice. The responsibility is upon them, not you.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ." It is the power of God unto salvation. May you share it!