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The Epistle to the Romans

So often pastors, expositors, Bible teachers are asked what book of the Bible they would chose to have if they could only have one book for the remainder of their lives. The consensus is consistent in the answer...the book of Romans.

Of the thirteen epistles written by Paul, Romans includes the second longest introduction.

This introduction extends from v 1 through to v 17. It is only exceeded by the first two chapters of Galatians that comprise Paul's introduction of that letter. Galatians however needed a longer introduction because it was Paul's first epistle and it dealt with a problem in the Galatian churches, the problem of legalism.

Here, the epistle to the Romans does not deal with a specific problem. But Paul had never been to Rome at the time of its writing. So he includes a longer introduction to explain who he is, not so much by credentials (as in Galatians), but by person, who he is and why he is writing.

If we were to take a broad overview of Romans we would see two major themes separated by a parenthesis regarding Israel.

Romans 1-8, Our relationship to God

Romans 9-11, Paul's desire for Israel to be saved

Romans 12-16, Our relationship one to another

If we look at this epistle chronologically, as it fits into sequence with the other letters of Paul we can see a pattern:

Galatians: 48 AD, a strong stand for grace. Legalism having no part in the Christian way of life.

I and II Thessalonians: 52 AD, the individual relationship of believers to one another and the believer's anticipation of the return of Christ

I and II Corinthians: 56 AD, the cooperative responsibilities of believers in the local church. These are the epistles on ecclesiology, the function of the local church.

And then Romans: 57 AD, written from Corinth to a church Paul had never visited. The letter is somewhat impersonal but objective. It deals with the doctrine by which we function as Christians, such as:

Justification by faith

Living by grace and power of the Spirit

Serving the Lord with one another

In Ecclesiastes we note that Solomon's major theme was that we, as believers, enjoy life as we obey God's Word.

And these are not antithetical concepts. The reason we can enjoy life is because Christ has set us free from the Law and the oppressive laws of man. And that truth, which is explained in practical terms in Galatians, is now explained in theological terms in Romans.

Romans is without a doubt the crown jewel of the epistles.

It has changed the course of Christian history more than once. During the reformation it was the one letter that Martin Luther used to defend his position that we are saved by faith alone, that we live by faith alone, and we live according to the Scriptures alone.

Of this letter Luther said: "It is the true masterpiece of the NT, and the very purest Gospel, which is well worthy and deserving that a Christian man should not only learn it by heart, word for word, but also that he should daily deal with it as daily bread for man's soul. It can never be too well read or studied. The more it is handled the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes."

The French expositor Godet observed: "The reformation was undoubtedly the work of the epistle to the Romans as well as that of Galatians. Spiritual revival in the church will be connected to a deeper understand of this book."

Harry Ironsides said of Romans: "It is the most scientific statement of the divine plan for the redemption of mankind. It is the orderly setting forth of the Gospel that the mind of man craves, the declaration of man's need along with the gracious plan of God's salvation which culminates in His glorification."

It has been said that Romans is not an epistle about the Gospel it is the Gospel and to be ignorant of Romans is to be ignorant of Christianity.

Chapter 1

Romans 1:1

"Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God."

The style in which ancient letters were written differs from ours. The old world letter began with a three part salutation which included the writer's name, the person addressed, and a word of greeting.

Anything else added in this portion of a letter was seen as being very important.

Consider that in v 1 Paul states his name, then it is not until v 7 that he mentions the ones addressed and not until then to we find the cordial word of greeting.

So everything after the word PAUL in v 1 and prior to the phrase the beloved of Rome, in v 7 is an unusual addition to the salutation.

BUT IT IS A VERY IMPORTANT ADDITION because it tells us of the real writer behind the letter, the Lord Jesus Christ.

So even as he identifies himself, Paul does so in Christ. He begins with his name, Paul.

His Hebrew name was Saul, meaning "asked for". But he used his Roman name Paul, which means "little".

Use of this name shows an orientation to grace, he did not try to make anything out of himself that he was not. Paul was little, the Lord was great.

"A bond-servant of Christ Jesus"

Three statements of who Paul is. (Remember, while some knew him many others did not):

A bond-servant of Christ Jesus: As Paul begins this letter to those he did not know he takes the low road, not trying to impress them with who and what he is but with what the Lord Jesus has done in his life.

Paul has freely given himself as a bond-slave to Christ. Even when he was stopped on the Damascus road he responded to Christ by calling Him Lord.

The word bond-servant is DOULOS, which means "slave". The gentile mind of the Romans would see this as a bond-slave, one who serves under debt, so the translation is accurate.

The greatest bond-servant in history was the Lord Jesus Christ. He is described prophetically in the OT as God's servant.

In Philipians 2:7 we are told that Jesus Christ emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

More than 50 times in the NT the believer is referred to as a SERVANT.

But we are also referred to as Saints, Children of God, the Beloved of God, Christian (taking the very name of Christ), Priests, Ambassadors, Friends of Christ, and many other titles much more noble that that of Servant.

But the first way Paul identifies himself is as a Servant.

BECAUSE THERE IS GREAT NOBILITY in being the servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords:

A Servant can be described in five ways:

1) The master has a legitimate expectation of obedience from his slave.

2) The slave has a legitimate expectation of provision from his master.

3) The slave's primary duty is to serve his master.

Ephesians 6:7, "With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men."

4) The secondary duty is to serve the ones his master directs him to serve:

Galatians 5:13, "For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another."

5) Therefore, as slaves of Christ we are to please Him, while we serve one another.

"called as an apostle"

Paul then identifies himself as one who is called an apostle.

 , Lesson 1 This office established by the Lord Jesus Christ at his ascension was the highest ranking office of the church age.

It was given to the eleven disciples and to a few others. The apostles to the church such as Paul and John had authority over a number of churches. The last apostle was John who died in about 95 AD.

Here again he is directing attention away from himself and to the Lord.

The word CALLED can be used for an official or royal invitation and for the discharging of the duties of an office.

Both aspects are in view here. Paul was called or invited by Christ to this office and as a servant he would then discharge the duties of this office.

This word CALLED which is KLEITOS is an adjective which is descriptive of the one who is called. It is found 10 times in the NT, three times in the salutation of this epistle.

We are all as believers called by Jesus Christ (v 6) and we all are called to a position, that of Saints (v 7).

This word CALLED and the corresponding verb has three directions:

1) Looks back to our calling at salvation

2) Looks ahead to our calling into eternity

3) Looks now at our calling to service:

PRINCIPLE: Our calling or purpose in life is directed by God, we are in his hands. What he calls us to be and what he calls us to do is far more important than what man calls us to be and do or even what we call ourselves to be and to do.

AND HERE IS THE POINT: Our identity must be determined by Him, not by others or by self.

Paul's identity was that of a Servant, and as an Apostle.

And Apostleship was defined by credentials and obligation:

1) His credentials were validated and authenticated by the miracles he performed:

II Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

2) His obligation was to evangelize and to edify believers by laying a foundation of Bible doctrine for the church.

Ephesians 2:19, "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone."

And it is that obligation that he now mentions at the end of verse 1.

"set apart for the gospel of God."

The third thing Paul says about himself is found in this phrase.

First, the word "gospel", which is found more than 100 times in the NT, refers to Good News. And that good news is the truth that God has for believers and unbelievers. It is not limited to salvation information, but to the full counsel of God's good news to man.

The word SET APART is AFORIZO, "to mark off boundaries".

It is a perfect tense in Greek, indicating that this had been done in the past and the results continue in the present.

Paul was a marked man, marked by the Lord for the Gospel.

Our English word HORIZON comes from this Greek word; the horizon is that which marks off the boundary between earth and sky.

So Paul was marked off by God for a ministry and that was to evangelize and to build up the church.

Paul was marked off by the Holy Spirit in Antioch for ministry.

Acts 13:2, "And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."

NOTE: He was ministering already. He had left Tarsus and was involved in the service to the church in Antioch and then was called by God.


Paul knew who he was, do we know who we are?


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