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Romans 1:1-2 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 5 secs

Paul: Gospel Summary
Romans 1:1–2
Romans Lesson #003
December 9, 2010

The purpose that Paul has for writing Romans is to clarify the relationship of the righteousness of God to the human race and how the human race, fallen in sin—including the moral person who thinks that he is good enough to somehow gain God’s approval, including the Jewish person who has the law, circumcision, the covenants and relies upon them—all come short of the glory of God, and because all have sinned it is necessary for someone other than a human being to provide the kind of righteousness that we need in order to gain favor with God; we can’t do it on our own. As Isaiah said in 64:6, “All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” The best that we do is still far below the standard of God’s righteousness. Righteousness always refers to the standard of God, which is His own standard of holiness and perfection.

The first seventeen verses of Romans chapter one introduce us to the basic ideas and theme that Paul is going to develop in Romans. A point of understanding: In any piece of literature that is well written there is an introduction and a conclusion. The introductory statements often are repeated or clarified in some way in the conclusion. The introduction is going to orient and focus readers on the basic ideas that are going to be developed within the body of the literature, and then the conclusion is going to tie it all together. The same is true for most of the books of the Bible. Paul begins in verse 1 of this chapter with a salutation that is interrupted by an anacoluthon (a fancy word for rabbit trail, going off on a side track) from the middle of the verse and down through verse 6 in which he emphasizes some of the main ideas that he is going to cover and develop within the body of the epistle. He begins by identifying who he is as “the apostle Paul” and that he is known to the congregation in Rome, not because he has been there—this is the only epistle that he wrote which was to a group with whom he had no face to face contact—he had never been to Rome.

Paul was born somewhere between AD 4 or 5 on the one hand, and probably 15 on the other hand. The first place that Paul is mentioned is at the martyrdom of Stephen at the end of Acts chapter 7. He is mentioned there as a young man standing by holding the garments of those who are stoning Stephen. He is called a young man. That is not a technical term. He was probably between the age of eighteen and thirty, we don’t really know exactly how old he was at the time but there are some hints that do give us these parameters in Scripture. It is indicated that based on where he was when he left Jerusalem, when he left Damascus and who was ruling in Damascus that he would have to have left Damascus before AD 40. Then if Jesus was crucified in AD 33, and most scholars in chronology place the stoning of Stephen somewhere around AD 35, and if Paul is a young man, say eighteen, that would mean that he was born somewhere around AD 17. If he was twelve years older then he would have been born somewhere around 5. He came to Jerusalem when he was fourteen to study under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). He would have arrived approximately at the time when Jesus began His public ministry. If he was a little older he would have already been in Jerusalem for maybe seven or eight years before Jesus began His public ministry. It is probably a fair deduction to say that with all the things that were going on around the ministry of Jesus, all of the discussion, John the Baptist’s ministry—Luke tells us that everyone went out to the Jordan to be baptized by John—and when Jesus began to teach the same thing, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” there were people saying “Who is He? Is this the Messiah?” These questions were being raised, so it would almost be unrealistic to think that Paul being in Jerusalem during this time would not have been aware of the presence and the teaching related to Jesus. We can’t prove it but it is a fair deduction based on the chronology.

Paul would probably have had some training already in Tarsus. Tarsus had a university that was highly respected throughout the ancient world. Many scholars believe with varying degrees of certainty that the apostle Paul was educated there because he demonstrates such a tremendous skill with language and logic and rhetoric that are evidenced within his writing that this would not have all been the result of his rabbinical training but that he had had some education prior to that. Tarsus was also a major center for tent making and it is believed that his father probably had a major commercial enterprise in manufacturing tents. Paul had a Roman citizenship and that would have come through his father. So we can assume that Paul came from a fairly well-to-do family of merchants who manufactured tents. By the time that Paul wrote Romans in the winter of 56-57 he would be approximately 20 years older, somewhere between 40 and fifty.

Romans 1:1 NASB “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called {as} an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” Paul speaks of himself by three things. He is a bondservant of Jesus Christ, he was called to be an apostle, and he was separated to the gospel of God. So Paul emphasizes his mission, which is related to his commission by Jesus Christ to be an apostle to take the gospel to the Gentiles. That is his message, the gospel, and that is what he explains in the epistle to the Romans. The first thing that he says about himself is that he is a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, the Greek word DOULOS which was a basic word that could mean either a servant who was in that position of their own free will or a slave. Paul’s use of the phrase that he is a servant of Jesus Christ has echoes of the phrase that is used again and again by the prophets of the Old Testament that they were servants of Yahweh, servants of the Lord. What this emphasizes is that they recognized that they were here on the earth for the primary purpose of serving the Lord and not their own desires, their own interests, their own agendas. They were given a divine mission to be carried out in terms of what God had instructed them. So the fact that Paul calls himself a bondservant of Christ first and foremost is a recognition that he had reached a point in his spiritual growth and spiritual maturity that his whole life’s purpose is subordinate to God’s purpose for his life.

But this word DOULOS is also used in a more fundamental concept in relation to the spiritual life. Paul had to reach this point first before he would reach a more mature expression of being a servant of God, just as we all do, and this is given in Romans 6:19 NASB “I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in {further} lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.” Remember, Romans 6, 7 and 8 describe the spiritual life. In this verse Paul states the fact that we were originally born slaves of unrighteousness but now that we are dead to sin every believer is to be a slave to righteousness. So he had to first come to a point in his spiritual growth where he learned that he had a new master. It wasn’t the sin nature, it wasn’t his own self-centredness, it was the Lord Jesus Christ because at the cross at the moment he trusted Christ there is this break with the sin nature. That tyranny is broken, we are to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, and now we are to live as slaves of righteousness. Once we get to that point in terms of our spiritual growth then being a servant of God becomes the natural next step as we recognize that we are here to serve God and not our own agenda.

The second thing that he says is he is called to be an apostle. The word translated “called” is KLETOS is one of two or three different ways Paul expresses this idea of being designated something by God. He is designated, given a commission as an apostle. That is what it means to be called to an apostle. At the point of salvation in Acts chapter eight when the resurrected, ascended, glorified Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul when he was going to Damascus to arrest a number of Christians, and said: “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” Those with him saw the light and heard the sound of the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ. They didn’t know what Jesus said because it wasn’t any of their business. Paul was then ordered to go to Damascus where he sight would be restored and the Lord Jesus Christ at that point told him that he would be His messenger to the Gentiles. So the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned the apostle Paul for a specific task. That is the core meaning of this world APOSTOLOS. In the New Testament an APOSTOLOS is a man who is officially commissioned by an authorizing agent—Jesus Christ, a local church or someone else—and given the authority to perform a task. In the New Testament there are three different kinds of apostles and they are distinguished by three different categories: who commissioned them, what they were commissioned to do, and whether the commissioning involved a spiritual gift.

Jesus Christ commissioned the twelve disciples who were called apostles in Luke chapter six to take the gospel to the house of Israel, and their message was: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” There was no spiritual gift involved. They were called apostles but that is not the same as what we have after the day of Pentecost. Then there was Jesus Christ commissioning the twelve to go to the world, and this involved a spiritual gift that was given to them when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and the apostles had the spiritual gift of apostleship, and it is a church age ministry. So there was an apostleship of Jesus in the time during the incarnation that is related to the house of Israel but it is not a spiritual gift, it is not a church age ministry at all, and then there is the church age ministry that began on the day of Pentecost that is related to this mission to the world. Then the third way in which the term is used and applied is to Barnabas and a number of other leaders in the early church who were not commissioned by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ but were commissioned by a local church and are sent out as missionaries. So that is a lower case apostleship, it doesn’t involve a spiritual gift of apostleship—though it may involve a spiritual gift of teaching or evangelism.

There are three things in Scripture that are requirements for someone to be an apostle. First, it was a gift that was given by the Holy Spirit. They were appointed by Christ, Ephesians 4:11, 12 NASB “And He gave some {as} apostles, and some {as} prophets, and some {as} evangelists, and some {as} pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” This clearly emphasizes that it is Jesus who appointed the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists and the pastors and teachers. He does the gifting by the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:8-11. Second, an apostle needed to be an eyewitness of the resurrection or have seen the resurrected Christ, and commissioned by Him—1 Corinthians 15:8, 9; Acts 1:22. Third, the apostleship was evidenced by an enduement by miraculous power, 2 Corinthians 12:12.

Paul was “separated to the gospel of God.” This is the Greek word APHORIZO, aorist participle. We don’t have the main verb here so it is hard to tell just what the grammatical function of this is. There is a connection between his calling to be an apostle and is being separated, appointed to the gospel of God. The idea behind the word aphorizo is primarily that which is separate or separated for some purpose, the idea of being appointed. It is that he is detached from the world and attached to or united to the cause of the gospel.

In that first verse Paul in just three phrases says a lot about who he is. He identifies himself first and foremost in a means of humility by saying that he is a slave or bondservant to Jesus Christ. The second thing he focuses on is his mission. He is called an apostle, which also emphasizes his authority to say the things that he is going to say and to explain and articulate the doctrine that he is going to articulate in this epistle, and that this calling to be an apostle is related to his being united to the cause of the gospel. As soon as he mentions the word “gospel” then he is going to say some things about what the gospel is. This is indicated in the next three verses. It is set up by a relative participle at the beginning of verse 2, which begins “which He promised.” The “which” refers back to the gospel.

Romans 1:2 NASB “which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures.” It is the gospel that God promised before, i.e. in times past, a similar idea to that stated in Hebrews 1:1. This is his main thought: the gospel, which God promised through the Old Testament prophets. That is his focal point. The gospel didn’t start with Paul. At the time he is writing Romans the term “holy Scriptures” would have referred to the Hebrew Bible, and he is not referring specifically to the New Testament. This was a standard operating procedure within the movement of those who understood and believed that Jesus was the Messiah promised and foretold in the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus used this exact approach many times in His ministry but one of the most obvious occurred after His resurrection when He appeared to two disciples, one of whom was named Cleopas, on their way to Emmaus. Luke 24:44 NASB “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’” He pointed out that everything that He did was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, clearly saying that there are numerous statements in the Old Testament that point to the Messiah so that when the Messiah comes the Jews would be able to recognize Him as the Messiah. [45] “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day.’”

Jesus said on the road to Emmaus that the Old Testament said that the Messiah must “suffer these things,” that the Old Testament taught that the Messiah would both rule and suffer. The second section of Isaiah focuses on the servant. In chapter 53 Isaiah wrote: Isaiah 53:1 NASB “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? [2] For He [this suffering servant in the future] grew up before Him [before God] like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no {stately} form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. [3] He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” He is rejected by His people, which is what happened with Jesus. [4] “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted.”

The Hebrew words that are used in verse 4 are the same words that are used in reference to the atonement of animal sacrifices. So the words that are used indicate that the suffering servant is going to bear in His body our griefs, our sorrows, our sin.

Isaiah 53:5 NASB “But He was pierced through for our transgressions [clear statement of substitutionary atonement], He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” He is punished that we might have peace. That is what Paul is going to talk about in Romans 5: the outgrowth of justification is peace with God.

Isaiah 53:6 NASB “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. [7] He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” What Isaiah is saying is that there is going to be this future servant and God is going to punish Him for our sin. [8] “By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke {was due?} [9] His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. [10] But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting {Him} to grief; If He would render Himself {as} a guilt offering, He will see {His} offspring, He will prolong {His} days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

This is one of the most precise prophecies in the Old Testament and yet there are some coming along today and saying this is not really talking about Jesus at all. That has proved to be wrong and debunked by many people, but we live in a horrible time today where people are just eviscerating the truth of the Scripture. Paul said that the gospel is what God promised through His prophets in the holy Scripture.