In our study of Paul's letter, we will look at God's righteousness and our proper response to that knowledge. This epistle (letter) was written by Paul to the Christians that were in Rome. The "church" in Rome was started without any apostle actually being in the city. People that Paul and his companions had led to Jesus and taught while they were in the Roman colonies traveled to Rome and some moved there to stay. They, in turn, followed the example of Paul and his fellow servants and spread the gospel throughout the city.
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God -" NIV translation
Paul introduces himself first as a servant but the actual meaning is that of bondslave which is a servant for life who only does the will of his master. Then, he introduces himself as an apostle and it is interesting to note that Paul did not usually throw around fancy titles. There are many today that get caught up in a fancy name/title and lose sight of their calling but Paul always kept his focus on Jesus and God's will for his life. The final part of his introduction of himself is that he is "set apart" and this means anointed just as priests and other things were set apart for God's use in the Old Testament. This calling (anointing) was of God and not by his will or by any degree/proclamation of anyone else. Jesus simply showed up (in person) and told him that he was to be an apostle.
"the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures" NIV translation
Paul (as Saul) was trained by one of the most famous teachers of the Jewish Law and he knew the scriptures very well. He is reminding the people that he is not preaching something new because all of the Scriptures pointed to the coming of Jesus Christ.
"regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David," NIV translation
he term "regarding" is very mild compared to the actual meaning and more accurately could be described as "encircling". The entire gospel is centered around Jesus Christ and, as the scriptures promised, He was related to King David.
"and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord." NIV translation
Jesus was not only a descendant of King David but was also the Son of God. It was made obvious by His resurrection from the dead.
"Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith." NIV translation
Paul is telling the reader of his qualifications for the ministry and it is a very good example for us. First, we see that the purpose in his ministry and any other must be to proclaim the name of Jesus the resurrected Son of God. Then, we see that it is through grace (an unearned gift) that Paul received the call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Many people of today want to call themselves apostles but, as we see with Paul here, you cannot just simply call yourself an apostle as they were personally given that title by Jesus Christ. The last part of the verse reminds us that the ministry is not simply a call to accept Jesus as Savior but also as Lord which means we are called to obedience to our Master.
"And you also are called to belong to Jesus Christ." NIV translation
Paul is reminding them and us that the call to salvation is for all men. When Jesus went to the cross, He paid the penalty for all sin that ever was or ever will be as sin was defeated at that time. The call is to simply accept what has already been achieved.
"To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." NIV translation
Paul addresses this letter to the saints in Rome. A saint is one that has been sanctified (set apart) for God's use and that includes everyone that accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. It is not an act of a "church" or any person but is entirely from God. Paul gives the traditional greeting of "grace" which the Gentiles used as well as "peace" which the Jews used. Both come from God and together are a picture of the unity in the faith.
"First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you." NIV translation
Paul consistently prayed for the people that had heard the gospel and put it into practice. He lets us in on his prayer for the Roman Christians as he says that he is thankful that they are known for their great faith. Then, we see that Paul is praying that God has finally opened the door to allow him to visit. Paul is specific in his prayers as well as consistent.
"I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong - that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each others faith." NIV translation
Paul was first and foremost a teacher of the gospel and here we see two reasons why he loved to share the Word. First, he wanted to teach so that those who heard would be built up in the faith. That is the purpose of any gift that God gives to His people. The second reason that Paul loved to teach was that in doing so he was encouraged just as the student was encouraged. Sharing the Word and seeing people take it to heart built Paul up so that, when times got tough, he could remember that his labor had a purpose and that it was effective.
"I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles." NIV translation
Are you impatient? Take heart; Paul is telling us here that he had made many plans to go to Rome but that God had intervened. We see Paul explain that he knows now that God was preparing the place for a harvest at the proper time.God's timing is perfect in all things and even the apostle Paul had to be reminded of that.
"I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome." NIV translation
Paul did not limit his ministry to a little group of people instead he felt obligated to preach the gospel to everyone that he could. We have that same obligation because we have the same Savior.
"I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." NIV translation
Why was Paul compelled to preach? The answer is found in this verse and it is the simple fact that he knew the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul sold out to Christ on the road to Damascus and there was no shame in telling everyone about it.
"For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" NIV translation
The power that is revealed in the gospel is God's power to overcome sin and provide a way for men to have a restored relationship with Him. Righteousness is simply a proper (right) relationship between each of us and God. It was only made possible by God sending His Son to pay for our sins and the righteous will live by faith in that Son and the payment that was made.
"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." NIV translation
There are no excuses for saying that God doesn't exist. His very power and nature are on display by His creation. There are many who try to "suppress the truth" but all you have to do is take a look at everything around you and ask yourself how it came to be. The only logical answer is that all things have been created and therefore there must be a Creator.
"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened." NIV translation
As we see here, simple knowledge of God doesn't please God. We are called to worship and glorify His name. When we do not do so, everything else becomes meaningless.
"Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." NIV translation
Many that the world calls "wise" do not believe that God exists. In fact, many worship created things in place of the Creator. Some may call it being a "nature lover" or other seeming harmless name but it is really just plain old idolatry and foolish.
"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another." NIV translation
The people that Paul is talking about knew the truth but didn't like it so they twisted it to fit their own purposes. They turned their backs on God and so He allowed them to follow the desires of their heart which led to all kinds of sexual impurity.
"They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Amen." NIV translation
The people turned their backs on God and His Word. It began with statues and other idols but even went to worshiping pleasure especially physical pleasures. Instead of giving glory to God who created everything, they lifted up the creation to worship.
"Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in them the due penalty for their perversion." NIV translation
"Because of this" is talking about the verse before and the fact that the people turned away from the Word of God. Then, we see that God allowed them to pursue the desires of their hearts (God grants us free will). In this case, it is talking about homosexuality as we call it today. God created a man and a woman to be together and this is what we call marriage. The sexual relations outside of this type of relationship are called "shameful lusts" and go against the very Word of God. This is a sin but we must also remember that God does not rank one sin as worse than the other. Although there may be other earthly consequences such as disease, the penalty is ultimately separation from God. This sin, like any other, must be paid for and this involves turning back to the Word of God and calling sin what it is.
"Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." NIV translation
God loves us so much that He is willing to let us go our own way. When we go our own way, we will end up doing things which aren't good for us or others around us.
"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless." NIV translation
What a description of life without God! Sin may start with what we think of as being something small but, as we see here, that first step leads to many more. God is love and so, when you turn your back on Him, there is no love for anyone anymore as it becomes all about yourself.
"Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." NIV translation
Not only do they do these evil things themselves but they encourage others to do the same and they know better. This is happening so much today as even leaders of "churches" have abandoned the Word and approve of things that are contrary to the very Word of God.