As we journey through this weighty epistle, I will occasionally provide some notes for additional study. You will find these notes, rather than simply restating the sermons, will hopefully provide some additional thoughts that complement what was preached. The two messages on this section – Romans 1:1-7 – can be found here: Part 1, Part 2.
Defined by the Gospel of God
The world is filled with bad news. Sin is the real root problem of all that bad news.
Paul tells us here in Romans that there is good news – that in Christ:
- sin can be forgiven
- selfishness can be overcome
- guilt and anxiety can be removed
- life can indeed have meaning and hope
The Preacher of the Good News
Paul was chosen by God to be one of the major spokesmen for His glorious Good News.
Paul – a bondslave (1:1a)
Paul’s identity was bound up in being a slave of Jesus. The word “servant” is literally slave or bond-slave – one whose will is swallowed up in the will of his master. See Exodus 21:2-6 and Deut. 15:12-18 for an example of a bond-slave. To be a bondslave was an expression of love and humility. Slaves were the lowest of the low. Paul wanted this emphasized before showing his credentials as an apostle. Paul wants it emphasized that positions of honor are provisions of God’s grace. The most important thing to Paul was not who he was but “whose” he was. To be a believer is to embrace God for who he is. Servanthood or being a slave of Jesus is a natural extension of believing in the living God.
God’s glory does not reflect brightly in the hearts of men and women when they cower unwillingly in submission to His authority, or when they obey reluctantly, or when there is no gladness in response to the glory of their King. The only submission that fully reflects the worth and glory of the King is glad submission. (1 John 4:19, 5:3; Matt. 25:14-30) True worship is a response to true views of God (John 4:24).
Such faith comes out of a new heart. This is the essence of being “born again.” Being born again is not a theological label, but it is a reality where sinners are transformed from people who seek “self-esteem” to people who esteem Christ! (John 3:3; John 1:12-13; Eph. 2:1-3; Jude 19; 1 Cor. 2:14; Ezek. 36:25-27; 37).
Paul – a called apostle (1:1b)
He was called to be an apostle. This was no human appointment. Paul did not volunteer; nor was he elected; he was divinely called (see Acts 9:15; 26:16-18; Gal. 1:1; 1:10).
Sorting out the meaning of Apostle
Chosen by Jesus Christ
Apostles with a Big “A” are those who were chosen by Jesus Christ. They were men who filled a unique role in the early church. (Directly called by Christ; eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ who sent them; signs of an apostle [ability to do signs and wonders and miracles to verify their stewardship and message]) (Mark 2:13-17, Acts 1:12-26, 2 Corinthians 12:12)
Apostle – means one who is officially sent as an authoritative delegate of another. Paul has been called or set apart. He was commissioned and authorized by Christ to represent Him and speak for Him and provide a foundation for His church through true and authoritative teaching. (Eph. 2:20, 3:5)
Where is the foundation of the apostles for the church?
In the deposit of apostolic writings – the New Testament Scriptures. So let us not receive the book of Romans as a message of man, but of Christ! (1 Thess. 2:13)
Representative of a Church
Apostles with a small “a” are those who function as representatives of local churches. This is a broad category that could contain many varieties. (2 Corinthians 8:23, Acts 14:14)
Paul – set apart for the gospel of God (1:1c)
Separated – in the fullest sense (permanent and complete). Paul was called, set apart, and sent (see Acts 13:2-3). Paul was living proof of God’s great love and mercy. Who knew better than him just how good the good news really was!
The Promise of the Good News (1:2)
“which He promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures”
We have seen how Christ called apostles to represent Him and speak for Him and to provide a foundation for His church through their writings – the New Testament Scriptures. The New Testament apostolic message is “the gospel” – the gospel of God Himself. The gospel of God is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. What God was planning and preparing then, He fulfilled in the coming of Christ. (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45; Luke 1:67-79; Acts 26:22-23; Eph. 3:3-11; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 9:9-10)
God can be trusted. He keeps His promises. He brings them to fulfillment in greater and more glorious ways than we could have ever dreamed. (1 Cor. 2:7-10) It had never come into the heart of man just how God would fulfill the promises made “through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” Man looked for a “carnal” fulfillment. God’s way was much higher and far more glorious (Isa. 55:8-9). Most of the Jewish people in Paul’s day expected that the Messiah would come with power and political sway. They assumed he would defeat the oppressive rulers of the world (the Romans) and establish an earthly kingdom in Jerusalem and give Israel the preeminence. But Jesus died. He was arrested, beat up, mocked, and crucified. What kind of deliverer was this? A GREAT ONE!!!
Notice that it says “through” His prophets. These writings are holy – separate from all other writings – God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).
The Person of the Good News (1:3-4)
“concerning” – Greek = “peri” (i.e. perimeter) – means to encircle
In other words, the Gospel is all about Jesus Christ and what He has done. Any “gospel” that encircles anything in the place of Jesus is not the gospel of God.
Notice all the titles used here:
- His Son (eternally God)
- Jesus (Savior)
- Christ (Anointed One)
- Our Lord (Sovereign Ruler)
The title, God’s Son, is a title of the Second Person of the Godhead – eternally God. In the role of Sonship, Jesus submitted and was obedient to the Father’s will. It is in this sense that the Father is greater (John 14:28).
“who was descended from David according to the flesh” (i.e David’s son)
The Son of God existed before He became a human being. Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; Matt. 22:41-46. The Son humbled Himself in becoming a man – to die as the promised Lamb of God (Phil. 2:5-11).
He was born in the line of King David. He was the promised Messiah – that Anointed One who would bring in God’s kingdom and rule as king in the line of David. He would conquer the enemies of God’s people and bring in righteousness and peace forever. He would be the “yes” to all God’s promises. (2 Cor. 1:20; 1 Chron. 17:10-14; 2 Sam. 7:11-13) Through the cross Jesus gained His great victory and brought in the promised Kingdom!
Jesus is the only begotten Son – the only true child – because of His divine nature (John 10:30). All others (angels, Adam, Israel, believers) are created objects of love. The term “descended” in v. 3 is literally “became”. It is a statement of transition from one state to another (i.e. took upon Himself a human body).
As a Son in the flesh, Jesus displayed the Father to mankind (John 1:14, 18; 14:7-9; Col. 1:15). As a descendant of David in the flesh, Jesus inherited the right to restore and rule David’s kingdom (Isa. 9:7). Jesus was wholly man. This is a necessary part of the Good News.
… and David’s Lord
Any question as to whether Jesus is God is answered in the resurrection. This affirmed that what He said was true.
“declared” – Greek = “horizo” – literally to mark out by clear signs (see John 2:18-19). The horizon is the line between earth and sky. The boundary between earth and heaven is the Son of God.
“Son of God in power” – (or with authority) – Son of God – Deity. It is the resurrection that divides or distinguishes Christ from the rest of humanity. He already was the Son of God. The resurrection gave full proof of that fact in a mighty or powerful way. The ability to conquer death is a power belonging only to God Himself. Jesus as the conquering King was given all authority over the eternal kingdom of God (Matt. 28:18). Thus, Jesus as wholly man (v. 3) and wholly God (v. 4) was able to give us this Good News!
Acts 2:29-36! The term “with power” refers to authority (i.e. Matt. 28:18). He has been raised up to David’s throne at the right hand of God on high. God was satisfied with the finished work of Christ. As a result, Jesus has been exalted as the reigning Lord of all. (Jer. 23:5-6; Isa. 11:10-11; 25:9-12)
Isa. 35:10 – The coming of the Son of God as the Son of David would mean everlasting joy in the presence of God for all the ransomed of the Lord. The gospel of God is the good news that the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is here. The Lord reigns! Repent and believe the gospel!
Thus we see that salvation is first and foremost a Person (Matt. 11:28-29; John 6:37; John 1:12). It is not simply receiving a set of facts. Jesus must be received as the Lord that He is. Many people are surprised when we tell them that the Bible nowhere talks about “asking Jesus into your heart,” or “accepting Jesus as your personal Savior.” Christ is not offered to us in the Bible as only a Savior. He is heralded to us as the Lord who is, by virtue of His finished work, a sufficient Savior. The apostles never offered Christ’s saving benefits apart from His Lordship. Man does not set the terms on which God will save him. Salvation is not on man’s terms, for man is an enemy of the King – a traitor – a rebel in His kingdom. Thus, man is in no position to bargain. Jesus is Lord and thus, the call goes out, “Repent!”
At the heart of sin is rebellion to the rightful claims of Christ as Lord (1 John 3:4; Matt. 7:21-23). The gospel of the apostles demands that man must repent from that rebellion before there can be true forgiveness. The problem is not merely that sinners refuse to believe certain things are true, but rather, it is their refusal to bow their heart and life in allegiance and faith to the Lord that those truths set forth. Man’s greatest problem is not ignorance, but rebellion (Ps. 2).
Christ is everyone’s Lord right now. We do not “make” Christ Lord. We merely acknowledge gratefully, gladly, and willingly, what is already true. We submit in repentance and faith to the Christ who is the all powerful Lord (Acts 2:36; 17:30-31; John 5:22). God has highly exalted Christ and has put you in His hands. The issue is not you accepting Christ, but His acceptance of you that matters.
2 Cor. 4:5-6 – When Jesus went to Lazarus in the tomb, did He say, “Lazarus, I have a deal for you. If you take the first step, then I’ll grant you life”? Salvation is of the Lord. Don’t point a sinner away from God and God’s power to himself and his own ability and say, “Now it’s up to you.” I’m glad that is not true. We do not tell sinners that their only hope is in themselves. We want them thrown to the ground in utter hopelessness and tell them, “Your only hope is the grace of God. You’d better call on Him!” Jesus, the powerful Lord, is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him. The ground of our hope is not what we do but what He’s done. Look unto Jesus and be saved (Isa. 45:22-23).
The Spirit of Holiness Testifies of Christ’s Exaltation
The coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and therefore the beginning of the New Covenant era was confirming evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be. (Acts 2:16-39)
The Provision of the Good News (1:5a)
Two provisions are mentioned here:
Grace – unmerited favor (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense – 1 Cor. 2:9) – as opposed to “mercy” which withholds judgment which is deserved. See Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:24, 27-28; 4:4, 16. God’s grace is poured out through the risen and reigning Son of God in power. There is no grace towards sinners apart from the life and death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3:26). Grace is not something we have a right to. Jesus obtained it for us. We get it freely because of the obedience and death of another.
Apostleship – Paul functions as an apostle through grace (Rom. 12:6, 3; 15:15b-16). Paul’s service is given by grace and empowered and enabled by grace (Rom. 15:8; 1 Cor. 15:10). Thus, all the glory goes to the Lord (i.e. “for His name” v. 5c). (See also Phil. 2:13; Rev. 4:9-11)
Every believer has a spiritual gift as an unmerited part of our salvation (1 Peter 4:10). In Paul’s case, his ministry was that of an apostle. Our gifts are for the building up of the church – the kingdom of Jesus. This is such grace that Jesus brings us into a partnership with what He is doing and allows us to participate as He works through us by the Spirit.
The Purpose of the Good News (1:5b)
For “the obedience of faith”
(see Eph. 2:8-10). James 2:14-20 and 1 John 2:4-5 are clear that if there is no obedience, there is no genuine saving faith. Our obedience manifests our faith (compare Rom. 1:8 with 16:9a). Matthew 7:21-27 tells us that profession means little apart from obedience to our Lord. Faith is not saving faith if it does not produce a life that desires to live for Jesus Christ. The judgment of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16-27 was not looking for a deed that would earn the child. He was looking for a deed that would prove that the child was already possessed by birth.
for “the sake of His name”
It is all for His name’s sake – for His glory! The primary purpose of the Gospel is not for man’s sake but so that God can receive glory (3 John 7; 2 Cor. 4:5-6).
Obedience that does not spring from faith is filthy rags (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 14:23; Heb. 11:6). It is for His name’s sake that we bring forth fruit. It is His fruit and thus, He rightly gets the glory. And faith’s heart motive is to see Him glorified as He so richly deserves. The believer’s desire is that the name of Jesus might be known and loved and treasured and exalted and glorified. God’s aim in history and in all that happens is that His name may be known and worshipped. Thus God makes all our salvation and all our ministry and all our obedience dependent upon His grace – because the Giver gets the glory! (Psalm 115:1; Psalm 50:15; 2 Chron. 16:9; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; Isaiah 48:9-11; 1 Peter 4:11)
For God to spread and exalt His name is our only hope, for in ourselves we have no hope. To exalt Himself is the most loving thing God could do. Our joy depends upon it!
The Privileges of the Good News (1:6-7)
“loved by God” – Rom. 8:39; Eph. 1:6; John 17:23
“called” – Matt. 20:15-16; John 15:16; 17:9; Acts 13:48; Ro. 9:14-15; 11:5; 1 Cor. 1:9; Eph. 1:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2:10; 1 Peter 1:2; Rev. 17:8, 14
“saints” – holy ones – set apart for God