STUDIES IN ROMANS

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2002

STUDY ONE: INTRODUCTIONS - ROMANS 1:1-15

Paul introduces himself (1:1):

Paul here introduces himself to his readers. He identifies himself as:

  1. a servant of Christ Jesus indicating his allegiance and commitment;
  2. 'called to be an apostle indicating his divine commission; and
  3. 'set apart for the gospel of God indicating his mandate.

In identifying himself in this way Paul establishes his authority to write to the believers in Rome.

For further study:

[1] Study the accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts 9:1-31; 21:40-22:21; 26:1-32; and Galatians 1:11-24. As you study these passages find verses that give you answers to these questions:

  • Was Paul (Saul) always a servant of Christ Jesus?
  • How did he become Christ's servant?
  • What does it mean that he is an'apostle
  • What was the central issue in his change of attitude to Christ?
  • In what way did Paul's (Saul's) life change when he believed in Christ?

[2] What do you think that Paul meant when he said he was 'set apart for the Gospel of God'?

Was it that he felt called to do nothing but preach the Gospel to unbelievers? Or was it that he felt compelled not only to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers, but also to teach its true and full significance to believers, clarifying its meaning and implications, and defending it against the false interpretations which so quickly were attached to it?

Paul introduces the gospel (1:1b-3a, 9):

[1] It is 'the gospel of God'. This teaches us that the Gospel originates in God. It comes from God. It is God's idea. This immediately prohibits any tension or division between the God of the Old Testament and the Father of Jesus. They are one and the same. It also prohibits any tension or division God the Father and God the Son. In preaching a Gospel centred on Jesus Christ Paul did not for a moment consider that in doing so he was turning his back on God. Rather the Gospel is God's Gospel, God's good news.

[2] To further enforce this point Paul teaches us that the Gospel was 'promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures'. Not only is the Gospel's God's Gospel, it is also something that has always been in God's intention. It is not something altogether new, not an innovative attempt to redeem fallen humanity. From the first embryonic prophecy of the crushing of the serpent's head (Gen 3:15), to the fully-fledged description of the Servant of the Lord (Isaiah 52:13-53:12), the whole of Scripture points forward to the coming and sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ. Rather than contradict and nullify the Old Testament, the Gospel fulfils, validates and establishes the deepest significance of the Old Testament.

[3] It is about 'his Son'. Here the whole content of God's good news is encapsulated in two words: 'his Son'. God's good news is about 'his Son', not primarily about the cross and what happened there, not primarily about the salvation of sinners, but primarily, over and above all else, the Gospel is about God's Son. This is stated again in 1:9 where Paul refers to 'the gospel of his Son', again identifying the person of Christ as the centre of the Gospel. If in our supposed telling of the Gospel we have failed to tell people about the true, divine identity of Jesus Christ, we have in fact not told them the true Gospel at all.

For further study:
  1. To fill out your understanding of the Gospel as God's Gospel, study the following: John 3:16, 34-36; 4:10, 34; 5:19-27, 36-37, 43; 6:40. As you read other areas of the Bible you will come across many more.
  2. Study the following passages which refer to the whole of Scriptures anticipating the Gospel: Luke 10:24; 24:25-27, 44-48; John 5:39-47; 1 Pet 1:10-12; and Hebrews.
  3. Study the sermons in Acts, asking yourself: What is the focus of attention? Is it the person of Christ, or the work of Christ? Did the apostles preach 'Christ' or did they preach 'salvation' as the primary focus of their message?
  4. For extensive study on [3] go to the Who is Jesus studies on this website.

Paul introduces Jesus (1:3-4)

  1. He is God's Son. To make this statement meant to claim for Jesus Christ equality with God. A 'son' is, without reduction, of the same essence as the 'father'.
  2. He is, according to his human nature, a descendant of David. Paul links Jesus with all the prophecies relating to the Davidic king who would one day rule God's people.
  3. Paul repeats his affirmation of Jesus' divine sonship: Jesus was, through the Spirit of holiness, declared to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. Here Paul teaches that the resurrection of Jesus confirms his deity. Why is this? Because the resurrection means that Jesus' death was not a death for his own sins, that he had no sins of his own for which to bear the death penalty. That in turn means that when Jesus made the claims that he did he was speaking the truth - when, for instance, he called God his Father, when he said 'I and the Father are one' (John 10:30), when he said that seeing him was seeing the Father (John 14:9). All of Jesus' claims are validated by the resurrection. If he was a blasphemer, just a man claiming to be God, as his opponents maintained (John 10:33), then he would have needed to pay the death penalty for his own sin, and the resurrection would not have occurred.
  4. He is 'Christ'. The English 'Christ' translates the word 'Christos' which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew 'Messiah'. Again Paul identifies Jesus as the subject of Old Testament prophecies, this time the prophecies concerning the Messiah - the Anointed One, who would come to save and lead God's people.
  5. He is 'our Lord'. We can very easily slip over this word 'Lord' in our familiarity with it, but we should not lose sight for a moment that 'Lord' is one of the common Old Testament names or titles of God. God is the Lord. The Lord is God.
For further study:
  1. For Paul's fullest description of Jesus, go to Colossians and study chapters 1 and 2 in depth, making a list of all of Paul's descriptions of who Jesus is.
  2. To prepare yourself for Paul's teaching later in Romans, look again at verses 3 and 4. Paul actually indicates that there are two ways of looking at Jesus Christ: we can look at him simply'as to his human nature as Paul once did (read 2 Corinthians 5:16) - and see just a human descendant of David. Or we can look at Jesus Christ according to the Holy Spirit - and see the Son of God. These two ways of looking at Jesus are written in the Greek as kata sarka and kata pneuma: 'according to flesh' and 'according to Spirit'. 'According to flesh' basically means what you see is what you get - you look at Jesus, and all you see is a man. 'According to Spirit' means that there is more to this than meets the eye, there is a dimension here that is only discernible when the Spirit of God enlightens our understanding. Read again the story of Paul's conversion in Acts 9, and you will observe the change take place. Saul, seeing Jesus solely 'kata sarka - according to flesh', is charging to Damascus with the zealous intention to squash the name of Jesus, that blasphemous individual who dared to presume to claim equality with God. But there on the road, out of the blazing glory of the presence of God, the voice of God speaks, and in answer to Paul's 'Who are you, Lord' the voice of God says 'I am Jesus!' From that point onwards Paul can no longer see Jesus merely 'kata sarka'. From that point onwards he sees what he could not see before: that Jesus is indeed the Lord, the Christ, the Son of God. He now sees and knows Jesus 'kata pneuma - according to Spirit'. And everything is changed. This is the only letter in which Paul introduces Jesus to us in this way, and he does so in anticipation of a parallel contrast which he will make later on in this letter.
  3. For extended study go to the 'Who Is Jesus?' series on this Website.

Paul introduces his ministry (1:5,)

Paul sees Jesus Christ as the source/origin ('through him') and goal/purpose ('for his name's sake') of his ministry. His ministry was not his idea, nor is he in it to make a name for himself. It is a Christ-focused, Christ-centred ministry. He also sees his ministry as 'grace', that is, as something that he did not earn, deserve or merit. Both his ministry and the ability to pursue it are a gift. It is also an 'apostleship' - a mission or commission, a being sent out by God - with a purpose: 'to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith'.

For further study:

Notice what Paul calls people to - the obedience that comes from faith.

  1. What do you think he means? Check out: Matt 4:17; 7:12-29; John 5:24; 6:29; 8:31,32; Rom 6:17; Gal 5:7; 2 Thess 1:8; Hebrews 3; 4; 5:9; James 2:14-26; 1 Pet 1:22; 4:17. In what way(s) can we understand 'obedience that comes from faith' to be the appropriate response to the Gospel? Some people set up an antithesis between faith and obedience, yet here Paul links them intimately. Why? And what, if any, is the difference between 'obedience' and 'the obedience that comes from faith'?
  2. Make a list of what current preachers 'call' people to in evangelistic messages. How many of these bear any real similarity to Paul calling people to 'the obedience that comes from faith'? How many of these are genuine, biblically validated, calls?
  3. As you progress further through these studies in Romans, remember this statement of Paul's, and ask yourself 'Why did Paul express it this way, at the beginning of this particular letter, where he is addressing both Jewish and Gentile believers and endeavouring them to relate to each other in a way that expresses the Gospel?

Paul identifies his readers (1:6-8)

It would be easy when we read some parts of Paul's letter to the Romans to forget that his readers are already believers, and because of that, to misunderstand his meaning. He here identifies them as 'among those called to belong to Jesus Christ', 'loved by God' and 'called to be saints', and mentions their faith which 'is being reported all over the world.' Paul's readers are true believers in Jesus Christ; they already belong to Jesus. They already are loved by God. They already are 'saints' - set apart by God, for God. They already have faith. Paul is not writing to them to bring them to the point of faith. Rather, he is writing to them to spell out the implications of their already existing faith. He is not writing to them to bring them to Christ. Rather, he is writing to them so that their already existing union with Christ will find expression in the way they relate to God and to each other.

Paul's introduces his priorities in relation to the Romans (1:8-16)

Although Paul has not yet met the Roman believers he already has them firmly fixed in his heart and mind. He thanks God for all of them (8). He prays for them all the time (10). He longs to come to see them, but has been prevented (10-13). He considers himself obligated to all people, so he is eager to preach the gospel to them (14-15). Considering that he has just stated that their faith is being reported all over the world, this is an interesting and informative comment. It gives us the insight that to 'preach the gospel' was not limited to initial, conversion-generating preaching, but included explanatory teaching of the meaning and implications of the gospel in the on-going life of the believer. Most of Paul's letters contain this kind of gospel teaching, and we know from his letters that the care of the churches and the preservation of the purity of the gospel within the churches lay heavily on his heart. This burden he affirms in verse nine where he states that he serves God with his 'whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son'.

Those who truly know the Gospel know that its impact is not initial only. Indeed the more one knows and understands the Gospel, the more one realizes that it is increasingly impactive for every moment of the believer's life. It is decidedly as the characters of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia found when they entered Aslan's real country after the Last Battle: 'The farther up and the farther in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside.' The more a believer studies the message of the Gospel the bigger he/she understands it to be. So, Paul was eager to preach the Gospel - to expound its depth and its greatness, even, no, not just even, but especially to those who had already embraced it. He longs to see them and strengthen them through his ministry (1:11).