The Messenger In Romans 1:1 Paul introduces himself by mentioning three things. First he describes himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ, the One to whom he was devoted. Before this Paul, then known as Saul, sought to destroy anyone who believed on the Lord. At that time he was a slave to the law and his religion. But all that changed on the road to Damascus when he quickly recognized Jesus Christ to be his Master and Savior. Next he introduces himself as an apostle, meaning “sent one.” In the verse “to be” is in italics which means it is not in the original Greek. So he already was an apostle when he wrote this book. Paul did not aspire to be an apostle nor did he choose this position for himself, but he had seen the glorified Lord and he was called by Him to be an apostle. Then, thirdly, Paul was separated to the gospel of God. After Paul met the Lord, Ananias visited the apostle with a special message from the Lord: You are a “chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15 NKJV). Paul was chosen to be a messenger, to preach the message of the gospel – and what a messenger he was! The Lord also told Ananias that Paul would suffer for His name’s sake. Paul experienced rejection at every turn, even from his own people. Notice that it says he was “separated to the gospel of God.” We too are to be a separated people – separated to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to live a life that is pleasing to Him in this world that rejected and despised Him.
What is the gospel of God? On several occasions it is called the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Romans 1:9 it is called “the gospel of His Son” and in verse 16, “the gospel of Christ.” The gospel originated with God the Father, not with humans nor with angels. The Son made it possible as it is only through Him that we can be accepted, justified and forgiven. He became a man and died on the cross to pay sin’s penalty, so that we can have a relationship with God through faith.
When Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans there was no New Testament. The “Holy Scriptures” consisted only of the Old Testament. Yet Paul declares that this gospel was promised before through God’s prophets (v. 2). This raises the eyebrows of the Jewish people, asking in amazement, “Do you mean that the gospel was promised in the Hebrew Scriptures?”
Let’s just look at a few of these verses. In Genesis 3:15 God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Notice it says the Seed of the woman, not of the man. This implies that the promised Seed would come in a supernatural way. He would not be born like you and me through the action of a husband and his wife. It was through the virgin Mary and the power of the Holy Spirit that our Redeemer, the Savior of the world was born.
Where would He be born? Micah 5:2 says, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah not only tells us that a ruler would come, but he indicates exactly where He would be born.
There are many such prophecies, but let me give you just one more. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” About 750 years before the coming of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesied that He would take our burden of sin upon Himself. He would provide redemption. How can we be sure about this? Because God’s Word says so! Man did not plan it or make it happen, but God promised it and He made it happen.
Who The Message Is About
Romans 1:3-4 tells us that the gospel is all about God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not only the eternal Son of God, but He is also a man – being “the seed of David according to the flesh.” The Scriptures teach both truths.
Verse 4 continues the thought by saying Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power.” God publicly proclaimed Jesus to be His beloved Son in Matthew 3 and 17, but His resurrection was an even greater public statement that He was the Son of God and that God was satisfied with His work. Jesus, the Messiah, died and was buried in a tomb, but God raised Him up on the third day and placed Him at the pinnacle of the universe.
No one else was ever raised from the dead in the same way that Jesus was raised – never to die again. Others, such as Lazarus, were raised to die again, but Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of the Father as the One in whom God found all His delight.
The Message Received
In Romans 1:5-7, Paul adds another detail about his apostleship: God commissioned him to preach the gospel to the nations of this world – and even today we are benefiting from Paul’s message. The Roman believers received the gospel as they were chosen by God and called by Jesus Christ. Every one of us who belongs to the Lord has been called. We would not have come on our own because, as John 3:19-20 says, men love darkness rather than light. They hate the light and would not come to the light on their own.
The Roman believers were saints by calling. “To be” implies that they are not saints yet, but that they would be some day. This is a false idea as “to be” is once again not found in the Greek text. So, they were saints already! A saint is one who is set apart for God. That is what we are called to be – set apart for God’s use. We are to devote our lives in a practical way for God’s purposes. We may not always act like saints but we are not any less a saint since when we were saved we became God’s possession. And one day soon the Lord Jesus will come and take us to be with Himself.
Things Accompanying The Message
Even though Paul didn’t personally know the Roman believers, he was thankful for them. He shows the concern and care he had for these saints. This should be our attitude as well about other believers that we have never met. We may not agree or see eye to eye, but nevertheless we should be concerned and thankful for them.
Then in Romans 1:8 Paul expresses his thankfulness for the Roman believers’ testimony of belonging to the Lord Jesus. Their faith was well known throughout the whole world – no doubt the entire Roman Empire. Is our faith that evident to those around us? If an unbeliever comes among us, will he be impressed by how we speak about our Savior?
Not only was Paul thankful for the Roman saints, but he always remembered them in prayer (v. 9). Paul was the kind of man who was totally committed to the service of the Lord and he was a man of prayer. In almost every one of his epistles Paul mentions prayer. For example: “continuing steadfast in prayer” (Rom. 12:12), “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18), “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6), “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2), and “pray without ceasing” (1 Th. 5:17).
Being one who had a genuine shepherd’s (pastor’s) heart, Paul longed to see the Roman believers (vv. 10-11). “Pastor” in Scripture is not an official title of the leader of a church, but it is one who shepherds the sheep of Christ, caring for the people of God. In this care, he desired to impart some spiritual gift to them. Does this mean that Paul had a bag of gifts to dispense to the saints? No, he was not the one to actually confer gifts to individual believers. That is the Lord’s work. Paul is saying that he wants to visit them to encourage and stimulate the gifts that the Lord had given to them. It is sad to see Christians who have been saved many years and are not established in the truth of the Word of God or exercising their God-given gifts.
Paul writes more on this topic in Ephesians 4:11-14: “And He Himself [the glorified Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” So the purpose of the gifts that the Lord gives believers is to grow the saints into maturity, to establish them in the faith.
He goes on to tell that he owes them, and many others, something (v. 14). In what way was he a debtor? He felt that because of his knowledge of the person of the Lord Jesus, of justification by faith and the righteousness that God provides, it was his responsibility to preach this good news to everyone in the whole world. Not only did he owe it to them, but he owed it to God because He had called Paul for this purpose.
He was ready to preach this gospel to those in Rome (v. 15). “Gospel” involves a lot more than just getting saved. That is the beginning, but in a larger sense it includes the whole body of truth. He desired to share all the truth that they may be established – something which the book of Romans does so well in presenting.
The Power Of The Message
Romans 1:16-17 are key verses in Paul’s letter. Before he speaks of the power, Paul says that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. We may think of not being ashamed when giving thanks for our food in a restaurant or wearing a shirt that says “Jesus saves.” Sadly it may be true that we are ashamed to be identified as a Christian. But Paul was not ashamed to be identified with the lowly, crucified Christ or with these despised people who were considered by the Romans to be of the lowest class.
Rome was the seat of world power, but Paul tells us that is nothing compared to the “power of God to salvation.” It is God’s “dynamite.” God revealed these deep truths to Paul. He learned that the holy God, who righteously and appropriately could destroy this wayward world that He had created for His pleasure, willingly took His judgment upon Himself so that sinful man can come into His presence. He did all of this without tainting His holiness. How is it possible? It is possible because of the gospel of our Lord Jesus. God is the source of this gospel, not man! God could not save us by power alone as the sin question had to be settled. Jesus paid that terrible price so that we can have a relationship with God.
This salvation is available to everyone, but only those who believe in the Lord Jesus will benefit from it. We cannot say, “Oh well, God loves everyone so I’m going to heaven” or “I’m not so bad.” No, that will not do. You must believe in the work of Christ, the Messiah, on the tree – His death, His burial, and His resurrection. God’s righteousness starts with faith and continues in faith. There is the initial faith that brings us salvation and there is the ongoing life of faith, that is, following the Lord Jesus throughout one’s life. Paul reinforces his teaching with a quote from Habakkuk 2:4: “The just shall live by faith.”
The Rejection Of The Message
Romans 1:18-3:20 takes the human race and brings them into the court of the living God. This is God’s evaluation of mankind – a picture so vivid and real that we might not like to see it. For all those who reject God’s offer of righteousness, these verses reveal to us what will be the terrible outcome.
So here God is conducting the court. Yes, He is pure and holy. He is the same one of whom Habakkuk wrote, “You [LORD] are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Hab. 1:13). This is the character of the Judge who renders a perfect, unbiased verdict.
The first group of people on which God passes judgment are the pagans, those who are idol worshipers. He then passes judgment on the moralist, the so-called moral people who pride themselves on their morals; and then the religious people, those who had God’s revealed Word in their hands.
The evolutionist claims that the human race is on the way up – getting better and better. But this section of Romans declares that man is getting worse and worse. He is in the process of deterioration! He is ungodly, evoking God’s wrath. Notice it doesn’t say that God’s wrath will at some future time be exercised against the ungodly, but it says it “is revealed from heaven” (v. 18). God’s wrath is ongoing against those who are excluding God from their lives. Such a person is saying in effect, “God, I have no interest in You or Your Word. I want to live my own life and I want nothing to do with You.” This kind of attitude only leads to unrighteous living. So what is God’s response to this condition of things? He says in effect, “If that is what you want you will suffer the consequences of your rebellion.”
Not only are they ungodly and unrighteous, but they go so far as to suppress the truth of God: “We don’t want it to be known, we don’t want it in our homes, our schools or even in our churches!” They set the truth of God aside.
Are There Any People Without The Message?
Some may ask the question, “What about pagans living in the deepest jungle of Africa or South America who never heard of God or the Bible?” Romans 1:19 says, “What may be known of God is manifest in them.” Every human being has a conscience announcing what is right and wrong.
Conscience was seen when Adam disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As soon as Adam and Eve ate from that tree, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:7-8). Their guilty conscience caused Adam and Eve to run from God. They became afraid of Him and hid themselves. This has been the pattern of mankind up to the present day. Rather than humbly facing God, confessing our sin and realizing that God actually loves us, our natural instinct is to run away from Him. Everyone is aware that he or she is accountable to the living God, the Creator. Yet man still tries to “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18).
Conscience is not the only witness of God. Romans 1:20 says that His creation is clear evidence of God’s divine nature and power. So there is double evidence of God available to every person: internally in the conscience and externally in creation. There is no excuse for a rebellious course! The final verdict on the unbelieving world in God’s court of justice is that they are guilty (Rom. 1:32) – guilty before a pure and holy God!
Listen To The Message!
What is the solution? The gospel of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah! His death on the cross can remove our guilt. How grateful we can be when our sins are forgiven. We can have a relationship with God, which we could never have based on our own merits.
God doesn’t necessarily judge sin immediately, but that doesn’t mean He is ignoring it (Rom. 2:5). Actually they are piling up. And, if there is no repentance on the part of the guilty one, the pile of sins continues to grow until the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgments will be revealed. But thank God for His gospel that is available to all who will receive it, eliminating that formidable pile of sins.
Are we who are believers guilty of not wanting God, or God’s will, in our lives? Unless we allow the Holy Spirit to control us, we too, because of our old nature, may not want God to participate in certain aspects of our lives. The Father wants to teach us to surrender our wills Him. There was only one Man who always wanted to do the will of His Father, and that is Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah.
For the believer, Philippians 2:5 says: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Fill your mind with the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. May we be more like Him!
By Gideon Levytam
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org