Introduction: The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul between 57 – 58 AD. During this time, Paul was in transit from Corinth to Jerusalem to deliver the gifts that the gentile churches had put together to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Romans contains the oft-cited ‘Roman’s Road’ verses that can be useful in summarizing the Gospel message (3:10-12, 23; 6:23; 5:8; 10:9-10, 13; 5:1; 8:1, 38-39). Paul uses this letter to help cement the doctrines and theology of the Church at Rome since there was no Apostolic overseer there at the time.
1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was customary during Paul’s day to begin a letter by telling the reader who was the author of the letter. Paul introduces himself as a Doulos, or bondservant, of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostolos, or messenger of the Gospel of God. Paul then summaries what that Gospel is, and includes the church at Rome under the call of God.
Explanation of Delay (8-15)
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13I want you to know, brothers,c that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians,d both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Paul then demonstrates his gratitude for the faith of those in Rome, and his longing to be a part of the work of God there, to be able to contribute something of value to the church, that they and he might be mutually encouraged in the faith. He also explains that He longs to come to Rome, but has been prevented by circumstances.
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,e as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”f
God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness – How we got here: (16-32)
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Paul pulls no punches once he gets going in the doctrinal messages of this letter. He sets the stage by pointing to the fallen human condition, and how man came to be so evil. This is an overarching explanation of how man came to be so totally corrupted that he would reject even the natural order, leading to homosexuality, and why there is so much wickedness present in the world today. We see Paul dispel the concept of the ‘innocent native’, the idea that it is unjust for God to condemn one who has not heard the Gospel. Paul states that all men are guilty before God because they knew of Him, and yet rejected Him; choosing instead to worship the creation rather than the Creator. He wraps up by stating “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Paul states that each man has been given ‘general revelation’ regarding the Creator, God, through creation each of us can see God’s power and eternal nature. This is not to be confused with ‘Special Revelation’ which is contained exclusively in the Bible.
Does this apply to every man, or only those who exhibit these characteristics?
Bible: Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” – This Psalm was written by David after his sin with Bathsheba, it is an excellent example of how we should repent before God of our sins.
Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – The Lord is prophesying through Jeremiah of Israel’s coming judgement for their sins against God.
Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind..” – Paul writing to the church at Ephesus, reminding them of the work of Christ on the Cross.
Psalm 143:2 – “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you.” A prayer for mercy.
Isaiah 53:6 – “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” – Isaiah 53 is a clear portrait of the work of the coming messiah, read it, then read the Gospel of Matthew, it’s almost as if Isaiah were present in Jesus’ day.
Mark 10:18 – “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” – This comes from a well-known encounter of a rich, young, ruler and Jesus in which Jesus exposes the ruler’s hidden sin.
Ecclesiastes 9:3 – “This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that the same event happens to all. Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.”
Yes, and yes, although not all men commit the same sins. Paul is describing in general terms the progression of mankind’s fall from Adam until Noah’s day. Right before God pronounces judgement on the earth in Genesis it is recorded thus: “5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5. While you or I may not have engaged in certain sin, it does not mean that the propensity to sin was any less in us than in others; what does it matter how dead one is? Dead is dead. But, what Paul was intending was to paint the hopeless position of the natural man we will see this theme continue in the coming chapters of Romans.
The question I want us all to ponder over in the coming week(s) is how much of myself is reflected in this description of those upon whom God is pouring out His wrath? Do you neglect the worship of God as cited in verse 21? Are you ungrateful for the bountiful blessings that God has provided you (21)? Have you been guilty of exchanging the truth of God for a lie, and worshiping the creation rather than the Creator (v25)(idolatry)? These are not rhetorical questions, but are necessary ones! Answer them in your own heart, examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), and place your faith and hope in Christ alone.
Next week read Chapter 2 and prayerfully consider what you are reading, be prepared to discuss it when we meet again.