LETTER TO THE ROMANS… INTRODUCTION
I don’t think there is a book more fitting and more appropriate for the Protestant Reformation than the Book of Romans. Why would I say such a thing? In AD386 there lived a young man whose father was a pagan and whose mother was a devout Christian. This young man devoted himself to a life of immorality, yet his mother continued to pray for his soul to be saved. This young man after a night of immorality was walking along a garden where a copy of the New Testament was chained to a bookstand. As he was walking from his night of immorality, he overheard some children playing and singing a refrain to one of their childhood games: “Tolle lege, tolle lege” which means “take up and read” So this young man whose conscience was troubled went to the Scriptures that were there in the garden. He allowed the volume of Bible to fall open where it would, and in the providence of God it fell open to Romans; and this young man’s eyes opened for the very first time. Where Paul wrote, “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Romans 13:11-14
As he read those words on
the pages of Scripture.
The Spirit of God took them and pierced, and crushed, every bone to the very depths of this soul. And through the power of the Word of God, with the Spirit attending it; this young man was converted to the Christian faith. We know him as Saint Augustine of Hippo.
The impact this letter had on Augustine would later impact another man in 1515. An Augustinian monk who pursued his doctrinal studies in the works of Augustine, was entrusted to a university to be the professor there of Biblical Studies. He already delivered his series of lectures on the Psalm and now it was his turn to do the same with the Book of Romans. As he prepared for his lectures on Romans he came across something Augustine said about the righteousness of Christ. Augustine said “That when Paul speaks of the righteousness of God in Romans 1, it is not the righteousness by which God himself is righteous, but the righteousness He freely gives to those who put their trust in Christ.” It was this statement and the study of Holy Scripture that this man understood the gospel for the first time. The letter to the Romans removed the burden of the Law, which was keeping him from seeing God and His grace. He understood what grace and freedom really meant; it was through Paul’s teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith alone that Martin Luther stood against the whole world in the 16th century Reformation.
John Bunyan was so inspired as he studied the theme of Romans in a Bedford jail that he wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress”
I share these stories for one reason! It is the power of God unto salvation and this letter alone has impacted so many saints over the course of many years… from the Apostles, to Augustine, to John Calvin, to Jonathan Edwards and to you and me. The Book Of Romans has brought spiritual salvation and freedom, to so many people, who were slaves to sin and death. The Book of Romans could stand alone as the greatest letter ever given to the church.
The epistle to the Romans is the
greatest of Paul’s epistles.
It is the most concise and compact system of theology in existence. The theme of this letter is “The Gospel Of Christ” Which Paul boldly proclaims, “For 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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17 This letter has delighted the greatest truth-seekers and captivated the minds of the intellectual elites. Yet it will bring tears to the humblest of souls and refresh the simplest of minds. This letter addresses so many important truths to the Christian faith and the church; it is no surprise this letter is highly accepted by all theologians.
The First Three Chapter’s Deals With The Issues of Our Depravity and Our Sin Nature. (1, 2, 3)
Paul unfolds clearly the doctrine of sin as he illuminates our hearts under the microscope about our natural disposition. He reveals a picture and condition to the human wickedness in both the Jews and the Gentiles. 1:18-v19 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” 2:5 says “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.” 3:23 says ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
The Next Three Chapters Unfold The Great Redemptive Plan Of Salvation. (4, 5, 6)
Paul contrast between the fallen Adam and the perfect Christ. The ruin wrought Adam and the glorious redemption accomplished in Christ alone. As we read in Romans 5:10-12, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“
The Next Three Chapters Paul Explain To Us The Doctrine Of Sanctification. (6, 7, 8)
Paul shows us the principles of sanctification are death to self, and sin, through the cross of Christ. And life through His resurrection delivers us from the bondage of the Law. This sanctification we have is liberty and glory to God, through the Spirit that abides with us. 6:4-6 says “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” 8:37 says “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
The Next Three Chapters Paul Reminds Us Of His Providential Decrees. (9, 10, 11)
God’s purpose for man and His glorious plan, which is to reach its fullest at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. God’s providential purposes in respects to the Jews and Gentiles at His glorious coming. God’s sovereign and providential plan to redeem fallen sinners through the preaching of the gospel. 9:18 says “He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever he wills.” 10:17 says “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” 11:36 we read “For from Him, and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.”
The Remaining Chapters We See Paul Instruct Us In Orthodoxy That Is Put Into Orthopraxy, Practical Dedication. (12, 13, 14, 15, 16) Practical service by His children through the Spirit. Living the full gospel in and out of our lives for His glory and our good. Biblical doctrine, which has deep spiritual implications, and practical applications. To the needs, obligations and relationships of our Christian life.
“Living sacrifice” 12:1
“Let love be genuine” 12:9
“Live in harmony with one another” 12:15
“There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” 13:1
“Love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” 13:8
“Put on Christ and make no provisions for the flesh.” 13:14
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” 14:19
“Let each of you please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” 15:2
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” 16:16
The Book Of Romans answers many questions concerning man and God.
What is the good news of God?
Is Jesus really God?
What is God like?
How can God send people to Hell?
Why do men reject God and His Son?
Why are there false religions and idols?
What is man’s biggest sin?
What is grace and what does it do?
How can a sinner be forgiven and be justified at the same time?
Why is living a faithful Christian life such a struggle?
For whom did Christ die?
Why are there sexual perversions, hatred, crime, dishonesty, and all other evils in the world?
What is the standard by which God condemns people?
How can a person who has never heard the gospel be held spiritually accountable?
Can man keep God’s law perfectly?
As you study this letter the answer to those questions and more will be answered. But first we need to start here! It’s impossible to understand the Letter to the Romans without understanding the author. Here is a man who was once an accomplice to murder, persecutor and ridiculer of the church. After his divine encounter with Christ all that changed as Paul identifies himself as the worst of all sinners as he explains to Timothy. “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Tim 1:12-16
F. F Bruce called Paul “Apostle of the heart set free”
No man was more free than the apostle Paul, his life consisted in pleasing the Lord. “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10
Paul as a man who was sought by God, confounded by God,
and converted by God.
In the Book of Acts we see Paul’s conversion story in chapter 9. “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do. The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."" Acts 9:3-16
This letter to the Romans is a demonstration
of that reality.
God commissioned.. Paul to carry out the gospel to the nations. Paul, commissioned by God, to impact the church and this world with glorious gospel. Paul, commissioned by God, to speak right into the hearts of sinners. Our great God and King, who sought you, confounded you, and converted you for His glory.
God’s sovereign and unfolding plan, and the commission
calling sinners to Himself.
It is said about Paul “There was both a means and end to his ministry. The end of his ministry was ‘the ends of the world’.” What Jesus said, Paul took seriously. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8. Again! It’s impossible to understand the Letter to the Romans without understanding the author. We see who the writer is by his opening greeting to these dear saints.
1. Paul is a servant, a slave to the Lord Jesus Christ. (v1)
Why is this important to know? Paul was a slave, which indicates he was so entirely given up to the will of his Master. So much so, he counted his life no, longer his own but the absolute property of his Master. He desired no will of his own and lived only to please and glorify Christ. Servant….in the Greek is “Doulos”, this is not a hired servant who could come and go as he pleases. A “doulos” was a person who had been purchased, and once purchased he became his Master’s possession. As Paul, reminded the church in Corinth. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Cor 6:19-20
Paul knew what it cost for him to be purchased from the slave market. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Acts 20:28. Paul is a slave to his Master. In this case his Master was the Lord where we get the Greek word “kurios” The supreme use of this word is given to Jesus alone, which means “the sovereign one”. Here, his readers know that he is a slave to the Lord of the universe.
The supreme and sovereign God
who rules all things.
The one who’s name is above all names. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11. Christ sets us free because, “Everyone born of the Spirit is set free from slavery to sin.” 2 Cor 3:17
Christ sets us free from slavery to the flesh, as he calls
us to royal liberty of slavery to Him.
Paul is letting the readers know that we are not autonomous or independent.
To think otherwise is unconverted and living in bondage. We have been purchased from the market to a freedom under His grace and mercy, as we are royal slaves to Christ. Put yourself in Paul’s shoes…. Paul was known only by his reputation to the large Christian community in Rome as a hater and persecutor of the church. To build upon trust and the relationships of those in the church he boldly sets forth his credentials and his message. What Paul is saying by calling himself a slave would help the people understand who has authority over his life.
2. Paul Is Also Called To Be An Apostle. (v1)
Why is this important to know? The criteria for apostleship were…. First, was having been a disciple of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Second, was having been an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. Third, was having been directly and immediately called by Jesus. Example of this is Acts 1:20-26. “….You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” Acts 1:20-26
It’s important to understand that not all disciples became apostles. Jesus set out seventy disciples on one occasion but there were only twelve apostles. A disciple is simply “a learner or a student.” The word “apostle” means simply “One who is sent”, an apostle does not ….volunteer for that office, or called by your peers, but divinely called by God. Jesus said the apostles “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16
So if the criteria are these three qualifications
how does Paul fit in?
He fails the first two.
He was never a disciple during Jesus’ earthly ministry
He was never there to witness Jesus’ resurrection.
This leads to the debate of our ages of Paul’s authentic apostleship; but this is why his conversion story is on the Book of Acts. His divine encounter with the Lord Jesus Himself, destroys all arguments or doubt to his apostleship in Acts 9..
But also see Paul confirmation to his apostleship in his letter to the church of Corinth. “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Cor 15:8-10. By God’s providence and divine intervention Paul was called to the apostleship by the Lord Himself. Just as the Lord called the apostles in the gospels; these thirteen men were commissioned by Christ Himself as apostles. The scriptures declare that Paul increased in strength and boldness for the gospel after his conversion. “And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.” Acts 9:21-22
3. Paul Was Set Apart For The Gospel Of God. (v1)
“Set apart” means “segregated” he had a specific task to do. Paul was commissioned to proclaim the gospel “good news” about God. Set apart is like setting aside the first fruits, consecrating to God as in the Old Testament. In Leviticus we read “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Lev 20:26. Paul who was once a… self-appointed Pharisee, was now set apart divinely by God Himself to the ministry of the gospel.
This divine calling to gospel ministry was set apart by God’s grace before he was even born. “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles…” Gal 1:15-16
Paul’s calling to gospel ministry was directly instructed by the Holy Spirit. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2-3
Paul knew the cost, the dangers, of what the gospel demanded; souls were at stake. And God purposed Paul to be a voice of the gospel as God commissioned the other apostles. This is why Paul would encourage Timothy with these words. “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Tim 1:6-12
The word “Gospel” is used 60 times in this epistle alone. Paul makes it very clear in the opening of this letter to let everyone that there is no confusion regarding the specific good news about which he was speaking.
“This was not man’s good news but God’s
good news for man.”
This was Paul’s calling and God was the source of His servanthood, calling to apostleship and the set apart ministry to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul, previously known as Saul, was a man who by our standards a hater of the gospel and the church…. a wicked man who seeks to do harm to the bride of Christ. A man never to be trusted as a Friend, or as an Allie. But that’s why it’s the power of God unto salvation, that’s why it’s God’s good news and not man’s.
Paul was living proof of God’s great
love and mercy.
Paul once a man, who opposed Christ and His church, has now been set apart, commissioned by God Himself to be the chief spokesman of the gospel. Maybe it’s because of his past history…. A man divinely called by God to go tell the world about a scandalous grace as Paul is prime example of that grace. The book of Romans has penetrated so many hearts to the saving grace found in Christ alone.
Amazing, considering who we are
apart from Christ.
John MacArthur said in his commentary, “One cannot help wondering why God would condescend to bring good news to a world that rejects and scorns Him. No one deserves to hear it, much less to be saved by it.”
Perhaps this is why Paul was so effective in his ministry. And why he expresses himself the way he does, in his opening letter. As one theologian said “Who knew better than Paul just how good the good news really was?” Paul was living proof of God’s great love and mercy, as God appointed him to be the chief spokesperson for the church. This letter that is before us is filled with riches, freedom, liberty and goodness, which we have through Christ and His good news. Christ who is our Master….who called us, set us apart for His glory and His gospel.