To go to the beginning of Romans Bible Study, click here...
To go to Lesson #3, click here...
To go to Lesson #3, click here...
Last week we took some time to go over the life of Paul from before his conversion all the way up to the time of the writing of Romans...approx. 57 AD...Twenty to twenty-two years after his conversion. We also briefly talked about Rome and some about the Roman church. Tonight, we want to begin looking at the letter itself.
We’ve looked at who wrote it and who it was written to, now we want to try to understand why it was written in the first place.
Unlike most of the churches which Paul wrote to, Paul did not found the church at Rome (which was actually not just one church but several house churches). At the time of it’s writing, Paul had never even been to the capital of the Roman empire. So, why did he write the letter? There is much speculation about this. Paul never gives a reason. But I believe we can read between the lines to come up with some clues.
Near the beginning of the letter, Paul expresses to the Romans that he has a strong desire to go to them. He makes a statement near the end of the letter expressing his intention to see them on his way to Spain. He believes that this is not just his thinking to go to Rome, but the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Yet, the Holy Spirit also made it clear to him that he must go to Jerusalem first...which was the opposite direction from Rome…(map) Why did Paul want to go to Rome? 1:11 says “that you may be established.” The church had probably been founded by Jews who were present at the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2, it states that among those who were converted were “visitors from Rome.” That must have brought back this new understanding with them to Rome...yet there doesn’t seem to have been anyone to help them get properly established, even though it had been well over two decades since Pentecost. So, one of the reasons that Paul wrote the letter was that, knowing that it would be awhile before he could go to them, he decided to write them a letter to help them become established. Because of this delay, we now have the book of Romans. As it would turn out, Paul would indeed come to Rome, but not as he thought. He would come to Rome as a prisoner. You can read the details in book of Acts. (Show map of Paul’s travels)
We hinted at another reason for the letter last week. About eight or nine years earlier, Emperor Claudius had expelled all the Jews from Rome. One ancient Roman writer stated that it had to do with agitation about “Christus.” Since the Romans looked at Christians as just a sect of the Jews, all the Jewish Christians were expelled two. This expulsion is actually referred to in Acts 18. About five years later, Claudius died, and the new Emperor, Nero, invited the Jews to return to Rome. Of course, the Jewish Christians were among those who returned. In that five year period, the church continued under Gentile believers. Just think about the confusion there must have been when all the Jewish Christians came back. No doubt, they had been some of the leaders of the church before the expulsion. Now, the two groups were having a lot of trouble adjusting to one another. This was a major reason that Paul wrote the letter. You will see him addressing Jews at some points in the letter and Gentiles at other points. He is trying to bridge the gap. In fact, a good bit of this book is addressed to Jews and Gentiles loving one another and receiving one another.
So now, having looked at Paul’s reasons for writing Romans, let’s take an overview of the book. I’ve looked at several different outlines of the book, and none quite satisfied me, so I pulled from several of these to make my own...actually two.
One of the most simple ways to look at Romans is to look at it in two sections…(slide)
The first section, chapters 1-11, is “foundational doctrines.” You’ve probably heard that term doctrine all your life, but what does it mean? It scares a lot of people, but actually at its root it just means teaching. I use the word “foundational” to describe these because these are core teachings of the Christian faith. They are things that every Christian should know. However, I must note that not all core teachings of the Christian faith can be found in Romans. For instance, there is virtually nothing about repentance in Romans. Does that mean it’s unimportant. No. Actually, I believe Paul assumes repentance. You have to go elsewhere to find a detailed description of repentance. That’s why we can’t just study one part of the Bible to the exclusion of all. We have to know “the whole counsel of God” and it’s not to be found in one place.
The section broad section is “Practical Applications.” This is chapters 12-16. This is how to practice the teachings of 1-11. These two work hand-in-glove. Doctrine unapplied to our own lives is worthless. However, practicing the Christian faith without understanding it’s underlying doctrines is hollow. There are organizations in existence today that began as Christian organizations, but are so far from there original roots that they are unrecognizable. Two of them are Red Cross and YMCA. These two organizations do a lot of good, but the root has long been removed. As far as I know, there is nothing in either of them any more that has any Christian basis. YMCA used to stand for Young Men’s Christian Association. Today, it’s not for the young only, for men only, for Christian’s only...and it’s not really an association. Need I say that you don’t have to know anything about the cross to work for the Red Cross. So we need both doctrine and practice.
Now, let’s back up and look at this another way. Here we have a more detailed outline of Romans (slide).
The first section is Paul’s Introduction. We will find in this section the theme of the whole book in verses 16 and 17. We will be talking about part of this section in a few minutes, and we will finish up the introduction next time.
The second section begins the heart of the letter. Romans 1:17 through 3:20 is all about our need for righteousness because of sin. We have in this section an indictment of Gentiles, then an indictment of Jews, and finally an indictment of both Jews and Gentiles. A summary of this section can be seen in 3:10 “...There is none righteous, no, not one…”
The third section is about “righteousness imputed.” (Don’t get scared by that word. We’ll talk about it when we get there.) It is about salvation. How we get to be righteous. Hint...it’s not by our own works! This section is from 3:21 - 5:21. Two key verses in this section are 3:21 - 3:22 “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed...through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe…”
The fourth section takes us a little deeper. It is about “Righteousness Imparted” or about “Sanctification. This section describes how we get to be saints. This section is from 6:1 - 8:39. Perhaps one of the highest and most beautiful sections not only in Romans but in the whole Bible is at the end of this section. A key verse in this section is 8:37...“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
The fifth section is where Paul begins to address directly the issues of Jews and Gentiles, specifically how it was that the Gentiles were able to come into the kingdom of God which was originally for Jews and how that the Jews excluded themselves temporarily from God’s kingdom. This section is chapters 9 - 11. This is a section about Righteousness Vindicated. It is also about God’s Sovereignty. A key verse from this section is 11:2 “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew…”
The sixth section is when we move into the way that we practice our faith in Christ. In other words, how we work out what he’s worked in us. This section begins with 12:1 and goes to 15:13. A key verse in this section is well known. 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
The final section of Romans is 15:14 - 16:27. It contains a personal message from Paul to the Romans, his plans to see them, greetings to those members of the church in Rome that he knew, and a final benediction.
Credentials - In the first verse, Paul gives his credentials. This is to be expected, especially since he is addressing a church he had never been to...most of whose members he had never met. If you had someone show up at your back door in a blue uniform who was driving a vehicle with flashing lights on top and said he had something to talk to you about, you would want to see some credentials, right? (See slide) What right did Paul have to address the Romans? That is what verse 1 is about. If his credentials weren’t valid, they would have no reason to listen to him. In fact, if someone shows up at your house saying they were a police officer, and they really weren’t, that’s a crime, isn’t it?
It’s important in the spiritual realm that we “examine the credentials” of those who want to speak into our lives. Not every messenger is from God. There are still today many false apostles and prophets. How do you know if they have the correct credentials? Most churches, if they are interviewing someone for ministry are going to ask questions like “what seminary did you attend?” “What kind of degrees do you have?” “How many letters behind your name?” I’m not against seminaries or degrees, but those are not the credentials that Paul had, nor or they the credentials that you and I should be looking at when we are trying to decide if someone has the right to speak into our lives.
“The only letter of recommendation we need is you yourselves. Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you. 3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. 5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.” (2 Cor. 2:2-5 NLT)
Notice where Paul’s qualifications came from. Not from men. They came from God. Notice also that Paul says that you are my qualifications...in other words, you...a church that I birthed through the Holy Spirit...are my credentials. So...if you want to know where a man is going...check out where he’s been. Here’s another qualification...
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13 NKJV)
It was actually members of the Sanhedrin who said this. They had all the credentials that any good Jew could ever hope to have...but they didn’t have what Peter and John had. Though Peter and John were “ignorant and unlearned men”, these educated and trained men marveled that these men had been with Jesus. They had an anointing that no amount of learning could provide. This is still true today...When examining credentials, we must ask first, has this man been with Jesus? Put another way, does he have the spiritual aroma about him as someone who has spent much time in prayer in the presence of God? Do you remember what Jesus said to Annanias when he told him to go to Saul of Tarsus and lay hands on him? We talked about last week. Jesus said to him, “behold, he is praying.” A praying man is not a man you have to worry about. A praying man may not have everything just right...but he will get right before too long.
What credentials did Paul present to the Roman church? He said he was a bond-servant….same word for slave. What an odd credential to present! A “bondservant” was a “love slave”. One who loved his master and voluntarily put himself under the authority of his master for life. However, it makes all the difference in the world who the master is that you are putting yourself under. Who was Paul’s master? Jesus Christ. Paul’s first credential was that he was bound in service to Christ. What’s the second credential? “Called to be an apostle.” What is an apostle? We get these word directly from the Greek. “Apostolos”. It means one who is sent out. One who is commissioned. Who sent him out? Jesus himself. He didn’t send himself out. He didn’t appoint himself. I’m afraid most who go out these days are self-appointed. Not Paul. Then the third thing that Paul mentions is actually just an explanation of what his apostleship consisted of. “Separated (or set apart) to the gospel of God.” Notice that the calling that God made of Paul also separated him...it set him apart. The original actually means to mark out boundaries around. There were things that Paul could not do that other men...even other Christians perhaps...could do. To use an OT word, he was consecrated. He was not his own. His will didn’t matter. His own personal desires didn’t matter. All that mattered was what his master desired of him...His master’s will was his consuming passion...and this should be the same for you and for me. We may not be called to be apostles...btw that office is still valid today...some do walk among us with that high calling...but we are all called to be set apart for our Master’s use. We’ll talk about that a little later.
Vs. 2 - What is that God promised before through the prophets? The gospel. The good news of the gospel was promised by the prophets in the OT, what was to Paul the Holy Scriptures. Can you think of a place in OT where the gospel was prophesied? How about this one?
] “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;” (Isaiah 61:1)
Vs. 3 and 4 tells us what that gospel is...these verses are a short synopsis of the gospel...This is part of Paul’s giving his credentials. He wants them to know that the gospel he preaches is the authentic gospel...it’s the real deal. What does this gospel concern? What is it’s focus? Doing good deeds? Feeding the poor? Social justice? No...His gospel concerned Jesus Christ.
That word “concerning” or is really an interesting word. The Greek is “peri.” Can you think of a word that we use that includes the word “peri?” (slide) Periscope. (slide) It means “all around” or “360 degrees”. So Paul’s gospel from first to last is about Jesus Christ. Everywhere you turn, it’s about Jesus. The letter to the Romans is all about Jesus. Any gospel that is not all about Jesus is worthless. Actually less than worthless. It’s from the pit of hell.
What does Paul say about Jesus in his gospel? Paul first states that Jesus was all man...He was of the seed of David. To a Jew, this would immediately bring to their mind the Davidic covenant. God had promised David that a son of His would always rule. This covenant could only have it’s fulfillment in Jesus. It was an everlasting covenant. However, Jesus was not just the Son of David, was He? Verse 4 says He declared to be the Son of God...not A Son of God but The Son of God. This points to His deity. He was all man and all God. The word “declared” means “marked out to be” or “determined to be”. What declared Jesus to be the Son of God? It was the resurrection? Does that mean that Jesus became the Son of God when he was resurrected? No...it declared Him to be the Son...It showed that He was the Son of God...with power...In other words, it was an emphatic declaration of His eternal Sonship. His deity.
Let me ask you? What was it about the resurrection that declared Jesus to be the Son of God? Was Jesus the only person who has ever been resurrected? No. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead during his ministry, including Lazarus. Was Lazarus declared to be the Son of God? Of course not. I see three things that set Jesus’ resurrection from the dead from every other one that has ever been.
- Jesus prophesied it...multiple times. He told the Pharisees that He would give them no sign but the sign of Jonah. As Jonah was three days and nights in the whale’s belly, so would Jesus be three days and nights in the earth…(Matthew 12:39, 40) He was telling them just as Jonah was “raised” after three days, so I will be raised.” He also told his disciples explicitly that He would be raised from the dead after three days. No one else in history has ever predicted his own resurrection...and then been resurrected!
- Every other person who was raised from the dead was raised by another man...not Jesus!
- “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses.” Acts 3:15
- Jesus was raised from the dead to live forever. Every other person who has ever been raised from the dead eventually died again.
- Hebrews 7:16 says He was a priest…”according to the power of an endless life.”
Now, look back at our text in verse 4. How was he raised from the dead? With power. That word will come up again later in the chapter and we’ll talk about it more then. Suffice it to say now that Jesus was not barely raised from the dead. He didn’t stumble out of the grave half dead and gradually regain life. No. He was raised with power. When God does a think, He does it with power. There’s no half-way with God. Think about the man Peter and John healed of lameness at the temple in Acts. He went leaping through the temple! It was done with power!
There’s one other phrase in verse 4. He was raised “According to the Spirit of Holiness.” What do you think that means? It’s interesting that this is the only time in the scripture that this phrase “the spirit of holiness” is used. It could be referring to the Holy Spirit. God raised Him from the dead through the Holy Spirit. Obviously the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Holiness can be the same thing. It could also mean that Jesus’ life was proven to be holy by His resurrection. If Jesus had committed one sin in his entire life...He could not have been raised from the dead. His resurrection was vindication that He was who He said He was. That He was the Holy Son of God. You can kind of take your pick.
So verses 3 and 4 are a summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Notice how quickly Paul moved from talking about Himself to talking about Jesus. That was part of his credentials. A man credentialed of God won’t talk about himself much. He’ll talk about Jesus.
Vs. 5 - Paul says through Jesus he has received grace and apostleship. If we are born-again children of God, it is only by God’s grace. God’s unmerited favor saved Paul...and it saved you and me. Notice that He says in the same breath that his calling to be an apostle was also through Jesus. The salvation that Paul had received from Jesus and his apostolic calling was for a reason...what was that reason? “For obedience to the faith among all nations (or Gentiles) for His name. He was called specifically to reach the Gentiles...the non-Jews. Just think with me about that a minute. This most Jewish of all Jews, this Pharisee of the Pharisees...was sent to the very people who he used to abhor. How like God to use the most unlikely person for this job! Notice that he was not sent to the Gentiles only to “get them saved” to use a current term. He was sent to them so that they might obey! NASB “to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles…” How much is this talked about today. We are saved to obey! To dwell with...to abide in Christ every day and every hour! WE ARE NOT SAVED TO THEN GO DO OUR OWN THING!
Vs. 6 says that these Romans that he is writing to are some of those Gentiles he was called to minister to. He calls them the called of Jesus Christ.
Vs. 7 He now identifies the Roman churches as being those this letter is addressed to. He once again addresses them as “called.” This is the third time we’ve seen this word in just seven verses. Must be important! In verse one Paul said that he was called to be an apostle. Verse 6 He calls those he addresses as “the called of Jesus Christ.” Now, you and I are not called to be apostles, but we are called to something. What are we called to? Called to be saints. What is a saint? Someone with a halo around their head, who lives head and shoulders above everyone else? No. What does saint mean? It means someone who is sanctified...who has been made holy. It implies that we have been set apart...just as Paul was set apart to be an apostle, we are set apart to be saints. We are called to live lives set apart for God...to obey Jesus in every way. Think again about Anannias. When Jesus spoke to him in Damascus, he was ready to obey...even though he had to swallow really hard! That’s what we’re called to be. Those who obey. Those who are sanctified for the Master’s use.
The end of verse 7 is the end of our study tonight. This phrase or one very similar to it was one that Paul used in every one of his letters. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We’ve gone through seven verses and he’s mentioned Jesus by name four times...It’s Jesus all around...360 degrees!