- Paul calls himself a slave (only here, Philippians with Timothy, and Titus; desmios in Philemon).
- He also calls himself an apostle, one set apart for the gospel (his most frequent letter opening).
- This gospel, this good news of an extraordinary sort, was promised beforehand in Scripture.
- What is this good news proclamation? It is the good news of God's Son, Messiah Jesus.
- He was David's seed according to the flesh; he was appointed Son of God in power when he was raised from the dead. This seems part of the good news.
- These verses, 1:3-4, are perhaps an early Christian "creed" of some sort.
- The gospel is the power of God for salvation (1:16).
- The gospel reveals God's righteousness, beginning with His faithfulness (1:17).
- The Roman audience was probably mostly Gentile (1:5-6; 13; 15:16).
- Paul had often planned and been prevented from visiting them (1:13).
- Paul's mission plan was to go where the gospel had not been preached (15:20).
- Paul hoped to use the church as a base to launch a mission into Spain (15:24).
- He was currently on his way to Jerusalem (15:25), likely at Corinth (16:1, 23). He was likely taking the offering of 2 Corinthians 8-9 (15:26). He fears possible persecution there (15:31).
- God's righteousness shows itself in His enactment of the gospel of Christ Jesus (1:17).
- Salvation is for everyone who has faith, Jew first, then Greek (1:16).
- God's faith to all leads to a faith response by believers (1:17).
- 1:18-3:20 present the problem: "all have sinned and are lacking the glory of God" (3:23).
- 1:18-32 particularly reference Gentile sins, although Paul never directly mentions them as such. These verses are somewhat of a "sting operation." Paul is trapping the self-righteous person of Romans 2.
- God's wrath in Romans 1 is probably both future and "realized" wrath. It is in part wrath already in play in the world by way of God's abandonment of sinners. But it is likely also wrath coming on the Day of Judgment.
- The basis for this wrath is the fact that while all should have known God and glorified Him as such, they have instead turned to idols (Gentile sin #1).
- Therefore, God gave them up to sexual immorality. Paul highlights homosexual sexual activity as an example (Gentile sin #2).
- God also gave them up to many other kinds of wicked behavior, the vice list of 29-31.
- Now Paul turns the tables on the person who relied to a large extent on their Jewish identity for their acceptance before God, including perhaps some of the more superficial aspects of the law.
- This person doesn't recognize his/her need for repentance too (2:4).
- Now the future dimension of wrath comes in view. God will judge everyone on the basis of their deeds on the Day of Judgment (2:6). He will judge both Jew and Gentile alike without favoritism simply because of their Jewish or non-Jewish heritage (2:9-11).
- Paul mentions some Gentiles who will be accepted because they demonstrate the Law written on their hearts (2:15, 27). This is likely a reference to Gentile believers in Jesus who have the Spirit, which enables them to keep the Law. Law must therefore here be understood more in terms of a kind of core Law rather than the Law in its fullness.
- Jews who don't keep the Law will be condemned despite the fact that they are Jews.
- Paul now reaches the climax of this line of thinking. God has imprisoned all under sin. No one will be considered right with Him on the basis of their law keeping.
- 3:21-4:25 present the solution to this problem of sin. The faithful death of Jesus and human faith in what God has done through this event solve the sin problem.
- The faithful death of Jesus solves God's righteousness problem (3:22). God is seen to be just and the one who makes just any one who has faith like Jesus did (3:25-6) in the one who could save him from death (2 Cor. 4:13-14; Heb. 5:7).
- God is shown to be just because Jesus' death is like an atoning sacrifice (3:25; cf. 8:3). It secures redemption (3:24). He died for our sins (4:25; cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).
- The way in which we appropriate this benefaction of grace is by trust in Christ, that is, in what God has done through Christ (3:22).
- There is no room for boasting about this, for no amount of keeping the Jewish law merits this grace. We simply trust in God's grace and return Him the honor due.
- This does not of course cancel the idea of law. We affirm the righteous standard of the Law as correct (again, apparently vetted of its Jewish particulars).
- Abraham models this theology of "justification," of being found innocent before God.
- Paul's opponents apparently argued that the seed of Abraham are the seed of promise and they were given the sign of circumcision.
- Paul argues that Abraham was deemed right with God because he had faith in God (4:3). This happened before he was circumcised (4:10). Circumcision was only a sign of this after the fact (4:11).
- Abraham is the father of all who are justified by faith, both Jew and Gentile (4:11-12).
- It is by faith, then it is by grace, not by obligation on God's part (4:5).
- Faith in this chapter is directed not on Christ, but on God as the one who raises the dead (4:17, 24) and justifies the ungodly (4:5).
- Romans 5-8, in my opinion, deal with the implications of justification by faith while we are here on earth waiting for the "redemption of our bodies" (8:23).
- First, we have peace with God (5:1) as we hope for glory (5:2).
- But this time may also be one of suffering (5:3; 8:18).
- But it is a great hope we have. We will be saved from God's coming wrath (5:9). We will live!
- While sin and death came through Adam, justification and life comes through Christ.
- Paul now steps back and places justification into its narrative context.
- Sin and death entered the world through Adam.
- From Adam to Moses, they died without the law, even though they did not know the law and their sin wasn't taken into account (5:14).
- The law entered so that sin would increase (5:20). Where there is no law, there is no transgression (4:14; 5:13). The law brings wrath (4:15).
- The obedience/faithfulness of Jesus has made possible the justification of many (5:19; 3:22).
- One question that justification by faith raises is the function of the law and sin for the justified. Romans 6 and 7 work out that question.
- So since justification comes by God's grace through our trust in him, should we sin--violate the law more to get more grace (6:1)?
- Paul emphatically says no (6:2)! Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies (6:12).
- In baptism into Christ, we are buried with him so we can live a new life (6:4)--we sinned before; now we don't. He was raised for our justification (4:25), both legal and then literal.
- We used to be slaves to sin; now we're slaves to righteousness (6:17-18).
- So we must offer the "members" of our bodies as instruments of righteousness, not instruments of unrighteousness (6:13).
- Romans 6 is so clearly about doing righteousness, that it is hard to understand what Paul means by saying "you are not under law but under grace" (6:14). Yet he has said earlier that he stablishes law (3:31).
- Romans 7:1-6 uses the image of marriage to clarify what he means by not being under law. A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives (7:2). But when the husband dies, she is free to marry another (7:3). So we have died to the law through the body of the Messiah and now we bear fruit to God.
- This is a difficult logic for us to follow, but Paul implies that we can only keep the righteousness of the law if we die to it. Those under the law are "in the flesh" and bear fruit to death (7:5-6).
- So what was the purpose of the [Jewish] Law, then? Is it evil? Is it to blame?
- No, the law is holy, righteous, and good (7:12). It told me what wrong was (7:7).
- But sin overpowers a person through the Law (7:11). The law is the power of sin (1 Cor. 15:56). Sin actually makes a person sin even more once they know the law (7:13).
- In 7:14-24, Paul vividly and dramatically describes the plight of a person who wants to keep the Law, but finds that s/he can't because of the power of sin over them.
- Paul dramatically ends with the plea of this desperate person: "who will free me?" (7:24). As in 6:17 he answers, "thanks be to God." Through Jesus Christ we can be freed (7:25a).
- After reviewing the place of the believer in salvation history in 5:12-21 and anticipating questions from someone about the continuance of sin and the purpose of the Jewish Law, Paul returns in Romans 8 to the state of the justified person--no condemnation and freedom from the law of sin (8:1).
- Jesus' death has done what the law couldn't do (8:3). And now the righteous expectation of the law can be fulfilled by way of the Spirit (8:4). Those in the flesh cannot please God (8:8).
- The Spirit of Christ is what identifies a person as belonging to God (8:9).
- And the One who raised Jesus will also through the Spirit raise our mortal bodies in resurrection (8:11).
- This Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are sons of God (8:16).
- So we may suffer now, as Christ did, but our bodies, like the whole creation, will be redeemed (8:18-25).
- The material world is enslaved to corruption just as the default state of our flesh is enslaved to the power of sin (8:20-21).
- The Spirit intercedes as we wrestle with suffering (8:26).
- But it will all work together for resurrection in the end, for good (8:28), and we will be conformed to the [resurrection] image of the Son--God has predestined this to happen for those whom He foreknew (8:29).
- Wow--God really loves us! Why would we fear any opposing force!
- Romans 9-11 deals with another question of this present age. What about Israel? They were clearly God's people, God's elect. Why haven't they responded to the gospel like the Gentiles have?
- Paul assures the Romans that he loves his own people and wants them to be saved from God's coming wrath (9:1-5).
- Paul may refer to Jesus as God in 9:5. It depends on how you reconstruct the punctuation. On the whole, Paul tends to reserve being over all for God the Father (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28), so on balance I have some doubts that Paul was thinking this. It remains, however, very possible.
- God's word is not to blame for Israel's failure to believe--not all in Israel are truly Israel (9:6).
- Various stories in Genesis demonstrate that God chooses some and doesn't choose others, and He does so before they have done anything.
- The clay has no right to complain about God's choices in mercy and hardening--He's God, the Potter (9:20).
- And God has currently chosen to show mercy on the Gentiles and to harden Israel (9:25-29).
- And He is not showing mercy on Israel because they did not place their trust in what God was doing through Christ, while the Gentiles are putting their trust in him (9:30-33).
- They are instead pursuing righteousness by way of the Jewish Law instead of by trusting in Christ. But Christ is the goal of the Law (10:4).
- Paul contrasts the two kinds of righteousness, the one by works the other by faith (10:5-6...). Those who call on the Lord Jesus will escape God's wrath, will be saved (10:13). This is believing that God raised him from the dead and thus, confessing him as Lord, Messiah (10:9).
- Paul is one sent to the Gentiles--they won't have faith unless they hear and they won't hear unless someone is sent like him (10:14-17). Israel by and large has not listened (10:18-21).
- So is that it for Israel? It is not.
- It is not, first of all, because there is a remnant that has believed (11:5).
- But is not as well because it is still possible for hardened Israel to be saved (11:11, 25-26). This fact undermines any approach to Romans 9 that sees predestination as some fixed and unchangeable concept. It is after the fact language--we know what is predestined as we see what happens. We know Israel is predestined to be hardened because it is hardened.
- So if God cut out the natural branches in order to graft in the Gentiles/in response to their unbelief and boasting (notice the duality: one a statement of predestination, the other a consequence of human choice), then if the Gentile believers become arrogant, he can cut them out as well.
- All Israel will be saved (11:26). God's election of Israel is irrevocable (11:29).
- What a mystery! (11:33-36)
- Paul now turns to practical matters of the believers at Rome. In consequence of all that has gone before, here is how they should live.
- They should present their bodies as living sacrifices (12:1). This recalls what Paul said in Romans 6 about presenting their members and instruments of righteousness.
- Romans 12-15 will clarify what it means to have a transformed mind.
- First, it means not thinking more highly of yourself than of others (12:3).
- Those in Christ form one body--imagery like 1 Corinthians 12. Different gifts.
- Miscellaneous admonitions in 12:9-21, most of which have to do with loving one another and clinging to the good. Love is after all the fulfillment of the law (13:8)
- Material here on submitting to authorities over you. Implies agreement with governments punishing criminals (including capital punishment and war--he bears the sword) and taxes.
- Love fulfills the law, is apparently the essence of having the law written on our hearts.
- Augustine became converted from conviction occasioned by 13:13.
- Perhaps Paul has heard of divisions at Rome like those at Corinth between the "weak" and the "strong."
- The "weak" are those whose consciences will not allow them to eat meat because of the possibility it would have been offered to an idol. Similarly, weak Gentiles might feel the need to observe the Jewish Sabbath.
- Paul says these things are a matter of personal conscience. The food is neither clean nor unclean in itself. Faith is what is important, even though a person can be wrongly convinced about their faith.
- The strong should not despise the weak and the weak should not pass judgment on the strong (15:1).
- See above at the beginning.
- Many think this may have been sent to Ephesus rather than to Rome. Would Paul know this many people in Rome in such detail? Priscilla and Aquila were in Ephesus last thing we knew... and in 2 Timothy! The first convert of Asia is there (16:5). Some manuscripts do not have chapter 16.
- Phoebe is a deacon of Cenchrea--the masculine word, not deaconess! Romans 16:1-2 is probably her letter of reference. If this is to Rome, she is probably conveying the letter and would perhaps read it to the churches in Rome as a substitute for Paul's presence.
- House churches!
- Priscilla mentioned before her husband (16:3).
- Many women co-workers!
- Paul apparently considers Junias an apostle. She and her husband were in Christ before Paul (16:7).
- Tertius is likely the secretary who wrote down the letter (16:22).
- Gaius, Erastus are significant in the Corinthian church. Perhaps the whole church of 40-50 could fit in Gaius' house.
- Erastus, Corinth's aedile, perhaps paid for a pavement with his name in it that you can still see at Corinth.
- The doxology is quite possibly not original to the letter (16:25-27).