1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
In verse one, Paul, introduces himself as:
"Bondservant of Jesus Christ"
Under the law bondservant bound himself to his master for the repayment of the debt this was common for Jews but always for 7 years or less. But the Law says that if the servant loves his master and does not wish to go free he could pledge himself and pierce his ear as a sign to be forever joined to his master. Like us, Paul owed Jesus a debt he could never repay.
"Called to be an apostle"
Each time you see the word called it is a sign of the sovereignty and will of God. As we discussed before "apostle" means "sent" reflecting their role as missionaries to the early church. As to the original office of Apostles this was reserved for people who were first hand witnesses to the risen savior.
"Separated to the gospel of God"
Paul was highly educated, religiously connected to the Sanhedrin council, and politically privileged by roman citizenship. He had the potential to do anything, but he chose to do just one thing, and that is preaching the gospel.
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,
Promised by God "through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures"
The cross, the church, and the coming again of the Lord Jesus are all hidden away in types and shadows of the Old Testament. Jesus is not only revealed in the New Testament but also in the Old Testament. The gospel begins in Genesis and continues through the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.
"the seed of David according to the flesh" "the Son of God with power according to the Spirit"
The gospel is about Jesus revealed as the messiah. His birth was promised, His life was perfect, His death was payment, and His resurrection was proof; Jesus is the Son of God.
Each time we get a glimpse of Heaven we see the angels declaring that God is Holy, completely pure, free of ALL CORRUPTION. John's gospel reveals Jesus as the "perfect image of God", so He is also Holy.
"Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience"
Remember the theme, righteousness comes from God. Through Him we receive grace. Through Him Paul was called and sent. Yet his purpose in all this is to achieve our obedience not to the Law but to faith, to reveal His righteousness in us.
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
They are the ecclesia - "an assembly of called out ones"; and so are we. God called out to sinful Adam in the garden; He called Noah out of the flood of judgment; He called Abram out of a land of idolatry; and He called Moses to lead Israel out of bondage into the land the promised. In Jesus we are called out of sin into righteousness.
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Because of His great love, God calls us to be saints, which means Holy, free from corruption, separated from sin, to God for His glory.
1. Grace – a Greek term meaning favor, producing pleasure or delight.
2. Peace – Shalom is the traditional Hebrew greeting wishing someone peace.
Grace always precedes peace. Without God's grace, there is no peace; for man is still at war with God in his sin (Rom. 5:1&2). This double blessing of "grace and peace" is a signature greeting of Paul (1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; I Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philem. 3).
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 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, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
Of course, we realize that EVERY word contained in Scripture in intentional and serves God's purpose; but humanly speaking, Paul's explanation in vv. 8-15 is just what the Romans need to hear.
He encourages and affirms them in verse 8 by mentioning their glowing reputation not only in the capital city of Rome but also throughout the Roman Empire. It's nice, when you're trying to live for Jesus in a difficult environment, to hear someone say, "Well done! You're right on track! Keep up the good work!"
Paul also tells them that he's been faithfully praying for them in verse 9. Paul hasn't met them yet, but he wants the church in Rome to know that he has been lifting them up to the Lord on a moment by moment basis. The power of prayer surpasses all physical, social, racial, and political barriers. Wherever people are and whatever people are going through, we can touch them and impact them through prayer! We struggle to consistently pray for our family and friends; yet Paul prayed for a church that he had never met, in a place where he had never been "without ceasing"!
Now look at verse 13 and see the providence of God. Paul and planned to go to Rome many times, and every time he tried, God would not allow it. So Paul takes this divine desire for spiritual fruit among the Romans, and pours it into this written document. So instead of only having 1st century converts in Rome, Paul has 2000 years of converts all over the world who were saved when the gospel is preached using Paul's letter. God's ways are often different from ours, because God transcends time to see from the beginning to the end. God is the originator of strategic thinking; He is like a Chess Master who has planned every move before the first piece is even touched.
14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
Paul explains in verses 14&15 that he is a "debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and unwise". "Greek" here refers to anyone who can speak the Greek language. The term "barbarian" means rough speech; referring to the many tribal and regional tongues spoken by those who were not well educated. So the "wise" or educated spoke Greek; and the "unwise" or uneducated did not.
If someone were to give me a treasure deliver to someone else, I am indebted to the one who gave me the treasure and, in a real sense, to the one who is supposed to receive it. As the middle man or trustee, I am indebted to both. Paul says, in effect, "I have been given the gospel, and I now have the responsibility – a debt to pay – to give this good news to someone else."
Too often we hold this gospel treasure, afraid that those, to whom we deliver it, will not see its value. But our responsibility is to deliver it. Each recipient will give an account to God of what we did with the gospel that was delivered to us.
In verse 15, the apostle speaks of his bold readiness to preach the gospel to those who are in Rome. When he preached it in Jerusalem, the religious center of the world, he was mobbed. When he preached it in Athens, the intellectual center of the world, he was mocked. When he would eventually preach it in Rome, the legislative center of the world, he would be martyred; but he was ready for that.
16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
Paul knew the gospel of Jesus Christ to be far superior to any religion or philosophy ever known on earth. His confidence is in Christ, the gospel is powerful because the work was completed on the cross and confirmed in the resurrection. This is not a 12 step program but a radical rebirth with a guaranteed new life, for anyone who puts their trust in Jesus.
Paul writes in verse 17, "For in it [the gospel] the RIGHTEOUSNESS of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith'" (NKJV).
In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed; God didn't change the rules and dismiss sin. He satisfied the justice of the Law by punishing His own Son as a sinner. He showed mercy to man with a redemption that we did not deserve. He demonstrated His love by exchanging the son's life for our rebirth. So Paul witnessed in faith trusting the power of the gospel, and we repent in faith trusting in the completed work of Jesus Christ. Then our saving faith is proven when we live by faith.
The Rev. John Lightfoot so fittingly said, "The whole law was given to Moses in six hundred and thirteen precepts. David in Psalm 15 brings them all within the compass of eleven. Isaiah reduces them to six, Micah to three. But Habakkuk condenses them all into one: "the just shall live by faith'". This is not an option; all who are justified by faith will live by faith, according to the scripture.
Questions for discussion:
1. Given the fact that the apostle Paul was: a scholar who had been trained by a renown Jewish master, named Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), a Roman citizen (Acts22:28), had encountered the risen Christ (Acts22:6-11), and had been given a personal vision of heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-5), why do you think he introduced himself as a "bondservant of Jesus Christ" in verse one? (see Phil. 3:4-8)
2. In verse 12 of chapter one, Paul expressed his desire to "be encouraged together with you [Roman brethren] by the mutual faith of both you and me". Why is fellowship with others that share "mutual faith" so important? (Think: spiritual gifts, physical goods, and the glory of God – Ephesians 4)
3. Can you boldly declare along with Paul, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ"? Or do you serve a secret Savior? Are you a clandestine Christian; a secret agent for salvation? Jesus said in Luke 9:26, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels" (NKJV). A faith that is ashamed in public was a sham in private. What are some ways that you can let people know that you're not ashamed of the gospel?