Lesson 2: The Gospel Defined (Romans 1.1-17)

The Greeting (Vs. 1-7)

  1. Compare with other of Paul’s greetings. Eph. 1:1-2; Phil. 1:1-2; Col. 1:1-2; 1Thess. 1:1.
    • All of these greetings share a common structure:
      • Paul introduces himself (and any associates)
      • Paul states who he is addressing
      • Paul greets them with grace and peace.
    • These same elements are found in Romans, but there is much more said in the Romans introduction than in the others. This material is significant in setting the tone of Paul’s message.
  2. The gospel defined:
    1. The gospel and Paul’s calling. He makes it clear in vs. 1 that his calling to be an apostle was for the purposes of the gospel. Looking at Paul’s conversion accounts we see that this entailed his mission to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:15,21; 26:16-18; cf. Gal. 1:15-16). We see this also in vs. 5.
      • This gospel (including acceptance of the Gentiles) was not a Pauline invention, but one of God’s promise through the prophets (vs. 2) An example of this is found in vs. 3-4. According to the flesh, Jesus was of David’s seed (see Jer. 23:5-6; Ezek. 34:23-31; etc.) He was the Jewish Messiah. However, according to the Holy Spirit He was God’s Son. This brings to our minds the prophecy of Psalm 2:7-8. The Son of God was not simply a Jewish Messiah, but Lord of the nations! Note: this may help set the stage for the flesh-Spirit struggle in chapters 7-8.
      • In describing himself as Jesus’ slave in vs. 1, Paul may have been alluding to another prophecy, the promise of God’s Servant who would restore Israel and the nations (Isaiah 49:1-8). No, Paul was not claiming to be the Servant of prophecy, but as slave to Christ he was aiding in His work.
    2. The gospel’s aim was to “bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations”
      • True faith responds! Paul NEVER took issue with the necessity of obeying whatever God said. The issue that Paul will have with Law in this letter is to be seen as the tension between Jewish national sanctification (via Law) and the universal gospel message of justification via the gospel (i.e. obedient faith in Christ).
      • There may be an intended contrast here between Jewish obedience to Law (i.e. cirucumcision, sabbaath, etc.) and saving, obedient faith in Christ. Paul’s point again is that the gospel that teaches obedient faith was to be made available to all the nations.
      • This was “for the sake of his name.” Thought seems to be that Gentile acceptance of the gospel would bring glory to Christ’s name (see Romans 15:9). Contrast with Jewish disobedience in Romans 2:24.
    3. Gospel (vs. 1-4) = obedience of faith (vs. 5) = part of the called, loved & saints (vs. 6-7).
      • All of these are terms that the Jews took for themselves, but through the gospel they are extended to the nations. Not by Law, but through the gospel.
      • This understanding will help us with such passages as Romans 8:28-30.
  3. In short, the gospel as defined in these verses is the fulfillment of God’s promise that salvation could come to all (both Jew and Gentile). The gospel should produce “the obedience of faith” in those who hear (both Jew and Genilte), resulting in their being part of God’s called people, His beloved, His saints.

Paul’s Desire To See Them (Vs. 8-15)

  1. They had been in his prayers (vs. 8-10). Paul both thanked God for their faith, and petitioned God that he could finally visit these saints. We know that Paul planned to visit them (Romans 15:22-24; Acts 19:21).
  2. Paul was assured that if he visited them, both parties would be encouraged by the faith of the other (vs. 11-12)
  3. The reason Paul hoped to visit: to reap fruit (vs. 13-15)
    • Ties back with his apostolic commission. His whole purpose was to reap fruit for Christ, so his hope was to do that in Rome as well.
    • Paul was indebted to the Gentiles. Not that Paul was in debt to them, but he was in debt to Christ his Lord! Again, it was the Lord’s will that Paul carry His gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 22:15,21; 26:16-18)
    • Thus, Paul’s true desire to visit Rome was tied to Jesus’ desire for him to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Theme Of The Letter (Vs. 16-17)

  1. Why would anyone be ashamed of the gospel? If by “gospel” we simply mean God’s ability to save, it’s hard to imagine anyone being ashamed of it. However, in context of what we’ve already read, “gospel” involves God’s promised plan to incorporate the Gentiles into His saved people. Others of Jewish background would find this offensive and shameful. In fact, we have a recorded incident where another apostle was “ashamed” by this gospel (see Galatians 2:11-14).
  2. However, in view of his obligation to the Gentiles, his apostolic commission, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel. He knew that this was God’s power by which both Jew and Gentile could be saved. It is God’s power to any who will believe.
  3. It is in the gospel that God’s righteousness is revealed.
    • This phrase has been the source of much debate and confusion. For Luther, Calvin and a host of others viewed the “righteousness of God” as man’s ability to stand right before his God. Since no man can do that of his own accord, he is dependend on God to make him righteous. Such theories as Calvin’s imputed righteousness (i.e. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us) are the result.
    • However, it is more in keeping with the Old Testament to speak of God’s righteousness as “his loyalty and faithfulness to his own promise/covenant word,” (McClister).
    • In other words, the “righteousness of God” is His keeping the promises He made to save the Jews and the Gentiles (see again Isaiah 49:1-8). It is in the gospel that His promise is kept. It is in the gospel that God is faithful to His promise.
  4. The phrase “from faith to faith” (NASB) is difficult and many interpretations are given. But in light of what we’ve already discussed, the best meaning seems to be, “from God’s faithfulness (to his covenant promises) to man’s response of faith.”
  5. Paul concludes the thought with a supporting Scripture. Habakkuk 2:4 is again understood in terms of God keeping His promises. In Habakkuk’s day the promise was that God would save His faithful ones, even as the Babylonians were poised to destroy the nations. God kept His promise then, He keeps it now. His righteousness (covenant faithfulness) is fully revealed in the gospel.

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