This letter was written by the Apostle Paul while he was in Corinth (58 A.D.) to Christians (predominantly Gentiles) who lived in Rome. It was probably delivered to the church by Phoebe, who belonged to the church at Cenchrea, near Corinth (16:1). At the time of it’s writing, Paul was gathering a collection for the poor who were in Palestine. When the money was together, he traveled personally to Jerusalem to deliver it. His intention was to then travel to Rome and afterward to Spain (15:24). However, his plans were changed when he was arrested in Jerusalem. Eventually, Paul would make it to Rome, but as a prisoner who was going to trial before Caesar. Though Paul had never been to the church in Rome he had many friends there…as can be seen in the fact that in chapter 16 he names 26 people that he was familiar with. He did a similar thing in his letter to the church in Colossae. The book of Romans systematically presents the doctrines of the righteousness of God and justification by faith. If we were to summarize the great theme of the book, it would simply be the Doctrine of Salvation (1:16-17). A general outline of the book is:
Romans 1-8 The Principles of Salvation
Romans 9-11 The Plan for Salvation
Romans 12-15 The Practice of Salvation
Romans 16 Personal Greetings to Christians in Rome
Romans 1-8 The Principles of Salvation
Romans 1:1-7-Paul begins by introducing himself to this church that he has never visited...though he knows many of the people there. He says that he is a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus.” This term speaks of someone who is a slave. Paul is saying that when he accepted Christ as his Savior he gave to Him all of his rights and decisions, his will became totally submissive to that of Jesus. Jesus became his absolute and supreme master. He then says that he was “called as an apostle”. This phrase states that Paul’s ministry as an apostle was not something that he had assumed for himself, or that had been conferred on him by men…but, he was “called” by God. His ministry had a divine initiative…he had 00been “set apart” by God, Himself. The purpose of his calling was to proclaim the “gospel of God” in order to bring Gentiles to the "obedience of faith" (:5). The “gospel” is the message concerning the provision of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ that had been previously foretold in what we today call the Old Testament. The culminating proof that Jesus was the One that the Old Testament had spoken of was His resurrection from the dead. Paul has been sent by God to proclaim this message to the Gentiles…that they might be brought to “obedience of faith”…that they might accept Jesus as their Savior and faithfully follow Him.
Romans 1:8-15-Paul tells the church at Rome that "your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world" (:8). What an incredible statement. Oh, that it could be said of our churches today! He tells them that it has been his desire for some time to go there so that he can teach them more about Jesus...and that they might in turn teach him…so that they might be “encouraged together” (:12). This has been a matter of prayer for him many times. But he has been “prevented” from doing so.
Now, brethren — Lest ye should be surprised that I, who am the apostle of the Gentiles, and who have expressed such a desire to see you, have never yet preached in Rome; I would not have you ignorant — I wish to inform you; that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you — See the margin. But was let (prevented) hitherto — Either by the greater necessities of others, as Romans 15:22, or by the Spirit, Acts 16:7, or by Satan raising opposition and persecution, or otherwise hindering, 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:18.
Romans 1:16-3:20 The Necessity for Salvation
Romans 1:16-17-Paul says that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of salvation because it is the revelation of God's righteousness...from "faith to faith". In other words, all that is necessary for salvation is found in the Gospel…from beginning to end and everything in-between. It can also mean that there are progressive steps of growth, from one step to the next step…and that the Gospel is totally adequate to lead the believer through this process.
Romans 1:18-23-Paul now demonstrates why salvation is necessary. God has made His existence clearly known to His creation and through His creation. Men have an internal awareness of His existence (:19) and external observation (:20) of His existence. As the necessity of the existence of air can be seen when the wind blows among leaves; so the necessity of the existence of God can be seen by observing creation. While the wind may not be seen…it’s effect is. And while God may not be seen…His effect is. “His invisible attributes” speaks of aspects of His nature. Notice what can be learned about God in this general revelation of His creation (nature, the natural world): 1.-His eternal power; 2.-His divine nature.
eternal power and divine nature
It does not mean that this power has been exerted or put forth from eternity, for the very idea of creation supposes that it had not, but that there is proof, in the works of creation, of power which must have existed from eternity, or have belonged to an eternal being. The proof of this was clear, even to the pagan, with their imperfect views of creation and of astronomy; compare Psalm 19:1-14. The majesty and grandeur of the heavens would strike their eye, and be full demonstration that they were the work of an infinitely great and glorious God. But to us, under the full blaze of modern science, with our knowledge of the magnitude, and distances, and revolutions of the heavenly bodies, the proof of this power is much more grand and impressive. We may apply the remark of the apostle to the present state of the science, and his language will cover all the ground, and the proof to human view is continually rising of the amazing power of God, by every new discovery in science, and especially in astronomy. Those who wish to see this object presented in a most impressive view, may find it done in Chalmer's Astronomical Discourses, and in Dick's Christian Philosopher. Equally clear is the proof that this power must have been eternal. If it had not always existed, it could in no way have been produced. But it is not to be supposed that it was always exerted, any more than it is that God now puts forth all the power that he can, or than that we constantly put forth all the power which we possess. God's power was called forth at the creation. He showed his omnipotence; and gave, by that one great act, eternal demonstration that he was almighty; and we may survey the proof of that, as clearly as if we had seen the operation of his hand there. The proof is not weakened because we do not see the process of creation constantly going on. It is rather augmented by the fact that he sustains all things, and controls continually the vast masses of matter in the material worlds.
Godhead - His deity; divinity; divine nature, or essence. The word is not used elsewhere in the New Testament. Its meaning cannot therefore be fixed by any parallel passages. It proves the truth that the supremacy, or supreme divinity of God, was exhibited in the works of creation, or that he was exalted above all creatures and things. It would not be proper, however, to press this word as implying that all that we know of God by revelation was known to the pagan; but that so much was known as to show his supremacy; his right to their homage; and of course the folly and wickedness of idolatry. This is all that the argument of the apostle demands, and, of course, on this principle the expression is to be interpreted.
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible,
For additional information on the evidence of God’s existence as found in creation see:
But men (1) “suppress the truth” (:18). The word “suppress” means to restrain, to hinder. They know that the existence of God is true but they simply refuse to admit it…they have made up their mind ahead of time that they will not believe in Him. This leads them to be (2) “futile in their speculations” (:21). Having abandoned factual observation and unbiased reasoning of the truth as revealed in creation…they are now arguing on a purely subjective, speculative, and individual basis. They are not arguing in order to discover the truth, but to win the argument. Truth is not relevant. So, their attempts are “futile”…meaning void, empty, serving no purpose, and accomplishing nothing of value or meaning. This had an affect on them…(3) they began to believe their own lies, their own press releases, and “their heart was darkened” (:21). As a result, “they became fools” (:22)…
Fool, Foolish, Foolishly, Foolishness:
primarily denotes "dull, sluggish" (from a root muh—, "to be silly"); hence, "stupid, foolish;" it is used
(a) of persons, Mat 5:22, "Thou fool;" here the word means morally worthless, a scoundrel, a more serious reproach than "Raca;" the latter scorns a man's mind and calls him stupid; moros scorns his heart and character; hence the Lord's more severe condemnation; in Mat 7:26, "a foolish man;" Mat 23:17, 19, "fools;" Mat 25:2, 3, 8, "foolish;" in 1Cr 3:18, "a fool;" the Apostle Paul uses it of himself and his fellow-workers, in 1Cr 4:10, "fools" (i.e., in the eyes of opponents);
(b) of things, 2Ti 2:23, "foolish and ignorant questionings;" so Tts 3:9; in 1Cr 1:25, "the foolishness of God," not moria, "foolishness" as a personal quality (see C, No. 1), but adjectivally, that which is considered by the ignorant as a "foolish" policy or mode of dealing, lit., "the foolish (thing);" so in ver. 27, "the foolish (things) of the world."
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G3474&t=NASB
Finally, they have (5) "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God…", (:23). This means that instead of worshipping God, Who is “incorruptible”…
- uncorrupted, not liable to corruption or decay, imperishable; 2. immortal, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G862&t=NASB
…they have decided to worship that which is “corruptible” (things of this earth that will die and decay). Their very existence demands an answer for how they came into being…but they have already determined that they will not believe that God created them…so, they attribute creation to another source. Because God’s existence has been so clearly revealed in creation and because their actions have demonstrated their total denial of God…God’s wrath, His judgment will be poured out on them. Therefore, they need to be saved.
Romans 1:24-32-Paul now explains God's response to their denial of Him...He turned them over to the consequences of their behavior. It is interesting that Paul makes a direct correlation between their philosophical and theological beliefs in verses 18-23, and their immoral behavior in verses 24-32. The first will inevitably lead to the next. God "gave them over" (He allowed the natural outcome of their errant beliefs and immoral behavior to lead to their inescapable consequence) in their spirit (:21-23), their intellect (:24-25), their bodies (:26-27), and their morals (:28-32). As a result, they are totally and thoroughly consumed by “ungodliness and unrighteousness” (:18). Sometimes God’s judgment involves simply allowing sin to take it’s natural course…to allow it’s consequences to happen without interfering. Despite all of this, there is still an awareness that there are consequences for such behavior. But it isn’t enough for them to simply hold to these beliefs on their own and to be willing to face God’s judgment. They are not satisfied with that. Instead, they encourage others to do the same…regardless of the consequences that they too will face (:32).
Prayer: Lord, I am not looking for acclaim or recognition for our sake...but it would be wonderful to think that our church has such a good reputation in our town that people in the community would be speaking of it in a good way, even as Paul said they did about the church at Rome. Please help us to be the church You want us to be. Help us to be a model for other churches...that our worship, and fellowship, and ministry would be of such a quality that others can look at us and see what it is that You desire. Please, Lord, help us to glorify You as a body of believers.