Study On The Book Of Romans If you would like to comment on one of the lessons simply click on the title of the lesson and you will be take to the lesson page where you will find a comment section at the bottom.

*The material for these studies is from Jon Courson’s Commentary by Thomas Nelson Inc., R. Kent Hughes Preaching the Word series by Crossway, and Warren W. Wiersbe’s Commentary by Chariot Victor Publishing,  and  from James Montgomery Boice’s Expositional Commentary published by Baker Books, and from The Message of Romans, John R. W. Stott published by Inter Varsity Press, unless otherwise noted.

Romans 1:18-20 Natural Revelation

 

No one likes to talk about the wrath of God, particularly if it is thought of in relation to ourselves. But if we have to think about it, as our study of these verses obviously forces us to do, we find ourselves reacting generally in one of two ways. Either (1) we argue that wrath is somehow unworthy of God, a blotch on His character, and therefore a mistaken notion that should be abandoned at once by all right-thinking people; or (2) we reply by denying that we merit God’s wrath, that we  don’t deserve it. This second reaction is the more serious of the two. So it is the one Paul tackles in the development of his argument for the need we all have of the Christian gospel.

Romans 1:18-20 contains three important concepts, which together explain why the wrath of God against men and women is justified. The first is wrath itself. It is being revealed from heaven against the ungodly, Paul says. The second is the suppression of the truth about God by human beings, a point picked up and developed more fully in verses 21-23. The third idea is God’s prior revelation of Himself to those very people who suppress the truth about Him. These concepts need to be studied in inverse order, however. For when they are considered in that order – revelation, suppression, and wrath – they teach that God has given a revelation of Himself in nature sufficient to lead any right-thinking man or woman to seek Him out and worship Him, but that, instead of doing this, people suppress this revelation. They deny it so they don’t have to follow where it leads them. It is because of this willful and immoral suppression of the truth about God by human beings that the wrath of God comes upon them.

Revelation of God in Nature: It’s important to begin this study with some important definitions and distinctions. First, a definition: natural revelation means what it sounds like, namely, the revelation of God in nature. It is sometime called “general revelation,” because it’s available to everybody. Natural revelation is distinguished from “special revelation,” which goes beyond it and is the kind of revelation we find in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the revelation of the Bible’s meaning of the minds of those who read it by the Holy Spirit. When Paul talks about knowledge of God made plain to human beings as he does in this text, it is the general or natural revelation, not a specific scriptural revelation that he has in mind.

The second concept that needs to be defined here is “knowledge of God.” This is necessary because we can use the words know or knowledge in different ways. (1) Awareness: To begin on the lowest level, when we say that we know something we can be saying only that we are aware of its existence. (2) Knowing about: Knowing about something goes a step further, because knowledge in this sense may be detailed, extensive, and important. (3) Experience: The word know can also be used to refer to knowledge acquired by experience. (4) Personal: The last kind of knowledge is the highest and most important level. It is what we would call personal knowledge, the kind of knowledge we can only have of God, of ourselves, or of any human being. When the Bible speaks of knowing God in a saving way, this is what it has in mind. It involves the knowledge of ourselves in our sin and of God in His holiness and grace. It involves the knowledge of what He has done for us in Christ for our salvation and actual coming to know and love God through knowing Jesus Christ. It involves head knowledge, but also involves heart knowledge. It expresses itself in piety, worship, and devotion. It is what Jesus was speaking of when He prayed, “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

In the context of our text, of the four senses mentioned it is basically awareness, or nature that reveals God in such a way that, even without the special revelation of God that we have in the Bible, all men and women are at least aware that God exists and that they should worship Him. This awareness of God will not save them. But it is sufficient to condemn them if they fail to follow nature’s leading, as they could and should do, and seek out the true God so revealed.

Eternal Power and Divine Nature: Paul is precise here as he explains what the natural revelation involves. It consists of two elements: first, “God’s eternal power” and, second, God’s “divine nature” (v. 20). The second means quite simply that there is a God. In other words, people have no excuse for being atheists. The first means that the God, whom they know to exist, is all-powerful. People know this by definition, since a god who is not all-powerful is not really God. We can express these two ideas philosophically by the term “Supreme Being.” “Being” (with a capital “B”) refers to God’s existence. “Supreme” denotes His ultimate power. What Paul is saying is that nature contains ample and entirely convincing evidence of the existence of a Supreme Being. God exists, and we know it. Therefore, when people subsequently refuse to acknowledge and worship God, the problem is not in God or in the lack of evidence for His existence but in our own irrational and resolute determination not to know Him.

It’s important to understand that the revelation of God in nature is the limited disclosure of God’s existence and supreme power. There is no revelation of His mercy, holiness, grace, love, or the many other things necessary for us to learn if we are to know God savingly. Still, we are not to think of this limited revelation as minimal, as if somehow its limited quality alone can excuse us. According to the Bible, this natural revelation of God, though limited, is nevertheless extensive and overwhelming in its force. God’s revelation of Himself in nature does not stop with the external evidence for His existence, power, wisdom, and kindness, but it has what can be called an internal or subjective element as well. That is, not only has God given evidence for His existence; He has also given us the capacity to comprehend or receive it – though we refuse to do so.

Suppressing the Truth: This brings us to the second point of Paul’s argument in this section of Romans, the point that justifies and leads to God’s wrath; it is the human rejection of the revelation God has given. Paul’s description of what people have done in regard to natural revelation is in the phrase “who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (v. 18). Why do we do this? It’s because we prefer sin to that to which the revelation of God would take us.

If, as Paul maintains, the revelation of God in nature is fully adequate to condemn people who do not allow it to bring them to worship and serve this true God, how much more terrible and awful is the case of the vast numbers of people, particularly in our country, who have not only the natural revelation to lead them to God but also have the Bible and the proclamation of its truths in virtually every town and hamlet of our land and (by means of radio and television and social media) at almost any hour, “without excuse”? The people of Rome were without excuse, and they had nothing but nature. No Bible, no churches, no preachers! What about us who have everything? If we reject what God tells us, we are a thousand times more guilty. No excuse! “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb. 2:3).

Romans 1:18-20 Reflection Questions:

What is your opinion of the “wrath of God,” do you believe it still applies in today’s world as it did in the Old Testament days?

Why do you think this country has so many atheists?

Who do you know to invite to church?

Romans 1:16-17 Confidence in the Power of the Gospel

 

Paul’s confidence in the power of the gospel, an underlying and recurrent theme of the book of Romans, is revealed here in two of the most powerful and cherished verses in all of the Bible. Paul had to be one of the gutsiest guys in all of history. This bow-legged, poor-sighted, little Jewish rabbi was ready to preach the gospel in Rome.

Rome was a city wherein anti-Semitism had reared its ugly head, resulting in waves of brutal persecution. Rome was the home of Caesar Nero, the madman who was determined to exterminate Christianity. Nero, the one who dressed thousands of Christians in the skins of lambs and threw them to wolves and lions as he cried, “Where is your Good Shepherd now, little flock?” Nero was the one who dipped Christians in hot wax and lit them as candles in his garden while he shrieked, “How does it feel to be the light of the world now, Christians?” Rome was the entertainment capital of the world with a moral standard so low it would make Hollywood blush. Rome was the military mecca where generals and captains paraded pompously on the backs of black stallions. Rome was where the accepted greeting of the day was, “Caesar is lord.”

For a Jewish Christian who claimed no other Lord than One who commanded no army, One who made His triumphal entry on the back of a donkey, One who was pinned to a Cross by Roman soldiers, to preach a message of repentance in Rome, would take guts indeed. Why could Paul not only declare that he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel, but that he was ready to preach it in Rome? In this study I’d like to suggest eight reasons why we shouldn’t be ashamed of this gospel.

The Gospel is “Good News”: The first reason why we should not be ashamed of the gospel is the meaning of the word gospel itself. It means “good news,” and no rational person should be ashamed of a desirable proclamation. It’s good news about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. It is the best news imaginable.

The Way of Salvation: The second reason why we should not be ashamed of the gospel is that it is about “salvation.” And not just any salvation, it is about the saving of ourselves. Left to ourselves, we are in desperate trouble. We are in trouble now because we are at odds with God, other people, and ourselves. We are also in trouble in regard to the future; for we are on a path of increasing frustration and despair, and at the end we must face God’s just wrath and condemnation. We are like swimmers drowning in a vast ocean of cold water or explorers sinking in a deep bog of quicksand. But there is good news! God has intervened to rescue us through the work of His divine Son, Jesus Christ.

God’s Way of Salvation: The third reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that it is God’s way of salvation and not man’s way. How could Paul be proud of something that has its roots in the abilities of sinful men and women or is bounded by mere human ideas? The world doesn’t lack such ideas. There are countless schemes for salvation, countless self-help programs. But these are all foolish and inadequate. What is needed is a way of salvation that comes not from man, but from God! That is what we have in Christianity! Christianity is God’s reaching out to save perishing men and women, not sinners reaching out to seize God.

The Power of God:  This leads to the fourth reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, the matter he chiefly emphasizes in our text: The gospel is powerful. That is, it is not only good news, not only a matter of salvation, not only a way of salvation from God; it is also powerful enough to accomplish God’s purpose, which is to save us from sin’s pollution. It’s important to understand what’s involved here, for it is easy to misconstrue Paul’s teaching. When Paul says that “the gospel…is the power of God for salvation,” he is not saying that the gospel is about God’s power, as if it were merely pointing us to a power beyond our own. Nor is Paul saying that the gospel is the source of a power we can get and use to save ourselves. Paul’s statement is not that the gospel is about God’s power or even a channel through which that power operates, but rather that the gospel is itself that power. That is, the gospel is powerful; it is the means by which God accomplishes salvation in those who are being saved. He means that is, it’s the actual preaching of the gospel that the power of God is demonstrated in the saving of men and women.

A Gospel for Everyone: The fifth reason why Paul was not ashamed of this gospel is that it is a gospel for everyone – “everyone who believes.” It is “first for the Jew” and then also “for the Gentile.” Paul’s phrase has led readers to think that he was saying that the Jew was above the Gentile or than other people. But of course, this is not what Paul intends. In this text Paul means exactly the same thing Jesus meant when told the woman of Samaria that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Both were speaking chronologically. Paul’s point is that the gospel is for Gentile and Jew alike. It is for everyone!

Salvation Revealed to Sinners: The sixth reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that God has revealed this way of salvation to us. If God had not revealed the gospel, we would not know of it and would be living with the same dreary outlook on life as the unsaved. But the gospel is revealed. Now we not only know about the Good News but are also enabled to proclaim God’s revelation. When Paul says that the gospel of God “is revealed,” he is saying that it is only by revelation that we can know it. It is not something we could ever have figured out for ourselves.

A Righteousness from God: The seventh reason why Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that it concerns a righteousness from God, which is what we need. In ourselves we are not the least bit righteous. On the contrary, we are corrupted by sin and are in rebellion against God. To be saved from wrath we need a righteousness that is of God’s own nature, a righteousness that comes from God and fully satisfies God’s demands. This is what we have! It is why Paul can begin his exposition of the Good News in chapter 3 by declaring, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (v. 21).

By Faith from First to Last: The eighth and final reason why the apostle Paul was not ashamed of the gospel is that the means by which this glorious gift becomes ours is faith, which means that salvation is accessible to “everyone who believes.” What does Paul mean when he writes “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last?” The meaning of the phrase is that the righteousness that is by faith (the first “faith”) is revealed to the perceiving faith of the believer (the second “faith”). This means that the gospel is revealed to you and is for you – if you will have it.

Romans 1:16-17 Reflection Questions:

Have you ever been ashamed of the gospel?

How are you proclaiming the gospel?

Do you have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?

Romans 1:14-15 The Gospel is a Debt to the World

 

The NIV says “I am bound” and the RSV says “I am under obligation” which should be properly translated “I am [a] debtor” (AV). What Paul is saying in a sense is that he is in debt, not because he has borrowed anything from the Romans, but because Jesus Christ has entrusted him with the gospel for them. Several times in his letters he writes of having been “put in trust with the gospel”. It is true that this metaphor is one of stewardship (or trusteeship) rather than indebtedness, but the underlying thought is the same. It is Jesus Christ who has made Paul a debtor by committing the gospel to his trust. He was in debt to the Romans. As apostle to the Gentiles he was particularly in debt to the Gentile world, both to Greeks and non-Greeks (literally “barbarians”), both to the wise and the foolish (v. 14). Why did Paul feel this way? Because he was amazed at the goodness of God that saved him so radically at the very time he was erring so greatly.

Actually, the gospel has always been for everybody. God reminded Peter that the gospel was for Roman military officers, like Cornelius, as well as for those, like the Jews, were ceremonially “clean. (Acts 10:34-35). Jesus showed the geographical scope of the gospel’s proclamation in Acts version of the Great Commission (Acts 1:8). How easily we forget this! Christians forget, or at least willfully ignore, that the gospel is for people other than themselves. Unbelievers argue, as an excuse, that the gospel is for other types of people.

The gospel is for you if you are among the educated of our world. You need this ancient Christian gospel. Whatever your educational attainments, however wise you may be, you are still a sinful man or woman and are cut off from God who made you and to whom you must one day give account for your many sins. You are mortal. One day you will die. You will enter eternity with or without the Lord Jesus Christ – just as surely as any other man or woman. Your intellect and education are great gifts. But it is God who has given them to you. And if you do not thank Him for these gifts and use them in ways that honor Him, you are more deserving of judgment than those who are unintelligent. You need a Savior. The apostle Paul had one of the best educations of his day, having been taught in the wisdom of the Greeks as well as in the religious traditions of Israel. He was a Roman citizen too! But Paul learned that the gospel of the crucified Son of God alone was true wisdom.

The Greeks called “barbarians” all who were not Greek, the next category of people to whom Paul says he was obliged to preach the gospel. “Barbarian” did not have the negative overtones to the Greeks as it has for us, barbarians were people who didn’t speak Greek. Although the word “barbarian” didn’t have quite the negative overtones it has for us – some of the “barbarians” were quite cultured people – it nevertheless had some. Greek was the language of the educated. Since the histories, epics, and plays were in Greek, to be a barbarian was to be cut off from this cultural storehouse. Perhaps you are a person who feels yourself similarly disadvantaged. I suppose there are more people today who feel themselves to be cut off from the mainstream of society than there are people who feel a part of it.

You may feel cut off because of a lack of educational opportunities, or because of your race, or because of your low income, which shows in the clothes you wear, the neighborhood you live in, the car you drive, and many other distinctions. We too often forget that Jesus Christ didn’t go first to the wise, wealthy, or influential citizens of His day, but to the everyday people, whoever and wherever they were. The important people didn’t like Him for it! They called Him a friend to drunkards and sinners. Nevertheless, that is where He went. His friends were carpenters, fishermen, tax collectors, and others who worked hard for a living. After His death and resurrection, when the gospel began to spread beyond the geographical borders of Israel, it was among the working people – often among slaves – that it advanced most readily.

At the close of his statement of obligation to the Greeks and non-Greeks, the wise and unwise, Paul explains his views by declaring, “That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” When he mentions “you who are at Rome” Paul isn’t adding a new category, for the Romans fit within the earlier Greek or non-Greek, wise or foolish groupings. The church at Rome included every conceivable type of man or woman and was therefore itself all-embracing. In essence Paul is saying, “The gospel is for you, whoever you may be and wherever you may find yourself.” The gospel is for everyone everywhere, whoever you are, you need the gospel. The world needs the gospel and the gospel it needs is the whole gospel of God’s grace to sinners through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. If you are not a Christian, you need to hear this and come to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior. If you are a Christian, you need to make this great news known to other people, as Paul did!

Romans 1:14-15 Reflection Questions:

Jesus has committed the gospel to your trust; what are you doing to share the gospel to the world?

What are some of your prejudices that you may have in regards to spreading the gospel?

If you are not a Christian, get with a Christian to help you come the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior!

Romans 1:13 Unanswered Prayer

 

I think most of us have heard the story of the little boy who was praying for a bicycle for Christmas. His was a poor family, so when Christmas morning came there was no bicycle. A friend of the family, who was not too sensitive about such things, said to the boy, “Well, I see God didn’t answer your prayer for a bicycle.” The boy replied, “Yes, He did; He said No.” Most of us are aware that No is an answer every bit as much as Yes. But I have always felt that the story of the little boy’s prayer doesn’t quite get to the heart of the prayer problem. To receive a bicycle might be nice, but it is clearly not essential. Nor is it spiritual. Most of us understand that when we pray for things like bicycles – a better job, more money, success in a business deal, or the resolution of certain personal problems – there is no real reason why we should expect a Yes answer. God may give what we ask for, but again He may not. We accept that. But what about prayers that really are spiritual? What about prayers that are (or at least seem to be) unselfish? What happens when these prayers are not answered? This is where the real problem with prayer lies and why the people who have trouble with it are not the novices in prayer, as we might suspect – novices do not expect much from prayer anyway – but rather the church’s mature believers. It is the saints who feel the burden of unanswered prayer. It is the godly who wrestle with it strenuously.

In the case of Paul’s prayer, recounted in Romans 1, we have a superb example of precisely this problem. Why is it such a good example? First, it is a prayer by an apostle. This doesn’t mean he is without sin, of course. Nor does it mean that all of Paul’s prayers were spiritual. Second, Paul’s prayer was a proper prayer: It is to the Father on the basis of the atoning work of Jesus Christ and, although Paul doesn’t say so explicitly, it was undoubtedly also in the Holy Spirit. There is one more thing to see about this prayer, the third item: It was a prayer for right things. Paul might have prayed for something that would only have enhanced his prestige or personal comfort; that is, he might have prayed selfishly. But that was not the case here at all. He wanted to assist in the spiritual growth and fruitfulness of the Roman believers. This was an entirely worthy and quite spiritual motive. Yet, Paul was prevented from coming. His prayer was not answered positively. Paul doesn’t suggest a reason why his prayers were unanswered, and the fact that he doesn’t opens the door for us to reflect on why prayers like this – including the best of our own prayers – go unanswered.

There may be several reasons why perfectly proper prayers may go unanswered and what we may learn from this. The first is: Unanswered prayer may be God’s way of teaching that we are not as necessary to the work we are praying for as we think we are. This is clear in Paul’s case. Paul had been praying that he might be permitted to travel to Rome to serve and strengthen the Roman Christians. But noble as this desire may have been, it is also clear that the believers in Rome were doing quite well without him. They were doing well without any apostle or noteworthy teacher. Paul testifies to this when he records that their strong faith was being reported on all over the world (v. 8).

The second reason why perfectly proper prayers of ours may be unanswered is that God may have other work for us to do. This seems to have been the chief (perhaps the only) reason why God did not send the great apostle to Rome earlier. Paul speaks of his ministry among the remote cities of the Gentiles as a fulfillment of Isaiah 52:15 in the fifteenth chapter of Romans. Then he adds, somewhat unexpectedly, “This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you (v. 22). Paul recognized that delay in reaching Rome was for the sake of the Christian mission elsewhere. We need to learn this too, and be content through learning it.

The third reason why our prayers may go unanswered for a time is the hardest to understand: There may be spiritual warfare of which you and I are unaware (2 Cor. 12:7, 9; Dan. 10:1-14). Spiritual battles are mysteries to us because we cannot see the warfare. But there are spiritual battles, and we need to know about them. They are an important reason why some of our prayers go unanswered.

In the last study I asked the question, “Does prayer change things or change people?” I answered, “Both.” Prayer changes things (or circumstances) because it is a God-ordained way of changing them. But prayer also (perhaps chiefly) changes people, as pointed out. It’s important that we return to that point now, because, in addition to all that has been said so far, one important reason for God not answering prayer is deficiency in us. And so, prayer needs to change us before it changes circumstances. What needs changing in us?

1)Unconfessed sin: There are more verses in the Bible saying that God will not answer prayers than there are verses that say He will, and one of the chief categories of verses that deal with unanswered prayer concerns sin. 2) Wrong motives: James spoke of this when he said, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). 3) Laziness: It is said of Elijah that he prayed “earnestly” that it would not rain and that it did not rain for three and a half years (James 5:17). Prayer was a serious business with him. One reason our prayers are not answered is that we are not really serious about them. 4) We are too busy: Sometimes we are too busy to pray “earnestly.” If we are too busy to pray, what we are really saying is that we consider the things we are doing to be more important than praying. Idols in the heart: Is an idol keeping you from having prayers answered? Is that idol a person, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a wife, a husband, your children, is it your job, your lifestyle, your social position, your worldly reputation, your image of yourself, and are you  determined above all else to be “successful”? To place anything ahead of God is idolatry! 6) Stinginess in our giving: If you do not give to the needy, God will not give to you when you ask Him for something (see Prov. 21:13). 7) Unbelief: The greatest cause of failure in our prayer, and the area in which we most need to be changed, is unbelief. If we do not believe God’s Word unquestioningly, why should we get what we pray for? Is it any surprise that our prayers are unanswered?

Here you are someone who has been praying earnestly for something for a long time and has not had an answer. As we have seen, there are numerous reasons why a positive answer may be delayed, all the way from spiritual warfare in the heavenlies to our sin or unbelief. What are to do? Should you keep on battering the brass doors of heaven with ineffectual petitions? Or should you accept God’s rejection? Should you quit praying? The answer is in Jesus’ parable of the importunate widow, which Luke tells and teaches us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Prayer may change us. It may change history. But whatever the case, we must keep on praying! Paul kept praying, and he got to Rome eventually.

Romans 1:13 Reflection Questions:

How do you feel when your prayers go unanswered?

Have you ever realized that your prayers of being answered positively were being delayed? If so how did you respond?

Why do you think you prayers are not being answered?

Romans 1:9-12 Prayed for Constantly

 

This study is not a “how-to” for an effective prayer ministry. Rather, it’s a glimpse into the apostle Paul’s own prayer life – into his pattern of prayer for Christians in the growing church at Rome – and is therefore a model for us as we think about our own prayer patterns, or lack of them.

There are a number of things I want you to see about this passage, and the first is this: A strong prayer life is not the least bit inconsistent with vigorous and fervent service for the Lord. It shouldn’t be necessary to say this, of course, but we often separate the two in our thinking. We reason that some are called to be “prayer warriors” and some are called to work. Some people are called to a special ministry of prayer perhaps because of some physical handicap. Prayer warriors are needed. But this doesn’t mean that those who are active in Christian work (or any kind of work) do not also need to be strong in praying for God’s direction and blessing. Here is where the example of Paul is so helpful.

Prayer is not inconsistent with vigorous Christian activity. On the contrary, and this is the second point: Prayer directs Christian service properly. Again the apostle Paul is our model. We can think of examples of people who are engaged in Christian work but who don’t seem to be going about it in the right way. Either they use the world’s methods, which produce the world’s results. Or else their goals seem to be secular rather than truly Christian. As we read what Paul says about his prayer life in this chapter, we see that this was not the case with him. He prayed about his work, and as a result God directed it to be done in a spiritual way and for spiritual ends. He says several things about it: Paul’s service was sincere, or wholehearted; Paul’s service was gospel-centered; and Paul’s service was for others.

Prayer will overcome an undue oppression from criticism. Prayer will redirect our energies, so we will not be so tired. Prayer will strengthen us for doing what needs to be done in spite of our tiredness. Prayer will keep us from temptation.

The third point of this passage is that prayer makes the service of the praying one effective. If you are praying for someone, don’t think your prayers are ineffective just because God is not using you to fulfill the request. God has infinite means at His disposal. He may be answering your prayers by others’ service. When Paul prayed that the way might be opened for him to come to Rome, he prayed, as he tells us, that the door might be opened “by God’s will” (v. 10). That is, Paul was praying first that the will of God might be done and only secondly that he might come to Rome. Paul did get to Rome eventually. It wasn’t when he would have chosen, and it certainly wasn’t in the manner he would have chosen. But he did get there, and God did use him to reach many in the capital. Were Paul’s prayers answered? Of course, they were. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16b KJV).

There is one last thing I want you to see in this study. Not only is prayer not inconsistent with a life of active service for Jesus Christ, and not only (on the contrary) does it direct that service and make it effective – Prayer also changes the one praying so that he or she increasingly becomes the kind of person through whom God can accomplish His purpose. This was true of Paul. By temperament he was not a particularly gracious individual – at least, that is how it seems to me. In his early days he was cruel. He killed those who disagreed with him. Even after he became a Christian I’m sure he had his bad moments. He quarreled with Barnabas over John Mark, for instance. Yet how gracious he is in this letter! Paul writes of his desire to visit Rome “so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong” (v. 11). But no sooner has he said this than Paul, not desiring to set himself up above the believers at Rome as if he were somehow superior to them, immediately adds as an important qualification “that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (v. 12). That is an insight into the life of a man who had been changed by prayer and who was being used by God greatly.

Sometimes people ask, “Does prayer change things, or does prayer change people?” It is a good question, and the answer probably is “both.” Prayer does change things, since God responds to prayer and frequently alters circumstances because of it. James points to this result when he says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2b). On the other hand, I’m convinced that far more frequently God uses prayer to change us. Because by it He brings us into His presence, opens our eyes to spiritual realities, and makes His perspectives ours.

Romans 1:9-12 Reflection Questions:

How would you compare your prayer life with Paul’s?

Have you lost your desire to serve others (either secular or Christian work)? Prayer can help.

How has your prayer life changed you? Journal on it and give thanks to God!

Romans 1:8 A Reputation Worth Having

 

In the first chapter of Romans, in a section that is second, informal introduction to his letter (vv. 8-15), the apostle Paul speaks about a reputation that the Christians at Rome had acquired, and the important point is that he thanks God for it. Their reputation was for faith, and what Paul tells us is that their faith was being spoken about all over the world. This does not mean that every individual in every remote hamlet of the globe had heard of the faith of the Roman Christians, of course, but it does mean that their faith was becoming widely known – no doubt because other Christians were talking about it. “Do you know that there is a group of believers in Rome?” they were asking. “Have you heard how strong their faith is, how faithfully they are trying to serve Jesus Christ in that wicked city?” Since Paul begins his comment by thanking God for this reputation, it is apparent that however worthless some worldly reputations of some worldly person may be, this reputation at least was worth having. Why is a reputation for faith worth having? The text suggests four reasons.

  1. A Genuine Faith: The first reason that the reputation of the Christians at Rome was worth having is that the faith on which it was based was genuine. It was a true faith. This is an important place to begin, because there is much so-called faith that is non-biblical faith and is therefore a flawed and invalid basis for any reputation.
  2. A Contagious Faith: The second reason why the reputation for faith that the Christians at Rome had was worth having is that it was a contagious faith. I mean by this that it was a faith not merely heard of and talked about throughout the known world, but that it was also a faith picked up by and communicated to others. Because of this faith, the Roman church grew and the gospel of the Roman congregation spread.
  3. Faith That Encourages Others: There is a third reason why the reputation for faith that the church at Rome had was worth having: it was an encouragement to other believers elsewhere, including even the apostle Paul himself. In verse 12 Paul speaks of this as an anticipated outcome of his proposed trip to Rome: “that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” That expectation was still future. But Paul could look forward to it and speak so confidently of its happening because reports of the Roman Christians” faith had undoubtedly already been a source of encouragement to him.
  4. Faith: The Central Item: The last reason why the reputation of the Christians at Rome was worth having is that faith, and not some other attainment or virtue, is the essential item in life. Faith in Jesus Christ is what matters. Knowledge is good; Christianity considers knowledge quite important. Good works are necessary; without them we have no valid reason for believing that an individual is saved. The fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) – is essential. But faith alone – faith in Christ as Lord and Savior – is essential. For “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6a). Without faith no one can be justified.

I wonder if we have the spirit of the apostle at this point. Is this the way we actually evaluate other Christian works and testimony? I think we evaluate other works first on the basis of size. When we hear of a church that has ten thousand members, we are ten times more impressed than if we learn of a church that has only one hundred members. Let me be clear, I’m not against large churches. I’m glad for them; large churches can do things smaller churches cannot do. We may thank God for numerical growth, but what we should be especially thankful for is strong faith. Is this what we modern Christians are known for; strong faith? Is our faith, like the faith of the Roman church of Paul’s day, spoken through-out the world?

Another thing we do is evaluate Christian work on the basis of programs. The more the better! Or, the more original the better, particularly if the people involved can write a book about it! Again, I’m not against programs. Right programs are for the sake of the people and rightly minister to them. But is this the proper way to evaluate churches? Do programs prove God’s blessings? You know the answer to that. I don’t think the fledgling, first-century church at Rome had many programs, certainly not the kind of things we mean by programs. But it was a famous church – and rightly so. For it was known for what was essential, which is faith! Is that what we are known for? Do people say to us, “How strong is their faith in God and in Jesus Christ”?

I think we are also impressed by big budgets and big buildings. Again, I’m not against either budgets or buildings. Without adequate financing many worthwhile Christian works cannot be done, and without adequate meeting spaces much important activity is hindered. Still, a proper concern for budgets and buildings is quite different from evaluating a work on the basis of how large the budget is or how spacious and modern the church structure has become. The Roman church of Paul’s day probably just met in people’s houses. Yet it was a church whose faith was known throughout the world. Are we known for that? Or is the best thing that other Christians can say about us is that we have a seven-figure budget or impressive church structures?

Faith really is the essential thing, not members or programs, not budgets or buildings. It is by faith that we “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). The apostle John said “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Romans 1:8 Reflection Questions:

What is your reputation in the world? What is the reputation of your church from your community? What will you do to enhance that reputation for God’s glory?

What is your definition of a genuine faith? Is it biblically based?

What do you think people are saying about your church? Is it strong in faith?

Romans 1:6-7 Paul’s View of the Roman Believers

There was a great deal of travel in the ancient world, much more than we might suppose. Rome was the center of these comings and goings. Undoubtedly, people who had been brought to Christ as a result of Paul’s Gentile mission went to and from Rome, and many undoubtedly settled there. This would explain how Paul came to know as many of the Roman Christians as he did, and it would explain why Paul wasn’t hesitant to write to this church to seek its prayer support for his trip to Jerusalem as well as its financial backing for his projected missionary excursion to Spain (Rom. 15:24, 30-31). It would also explain why, although the church was undoubtedly composed of both Jews and Gentiles, Paul writes to these believers largely as Gentiles. We see this as early as verse 6, where the phrase naturally picks up from the description of Paul’s commission in verse 5: “to call people from among all the Gentiles.”

The interesting thing about the end of this introduction to the letter is what it tells us about the spiritual origins of these people. Here is a group of people who were in the midst of a corrupt pagan society, yet were entirely different from the mainstream. How did they get to be different? How did they become Christians? In these verses Paul tells us four important things about the early church at Rome.

1.       The Christians at Rome, like all Christians, were called to belong to Jesus Christ. This is a general description of Christians, which is different from the similar phrase “called to be saints” that occurs in the next verse. What does it mean? Some people have read verse 6 as if it were describing Christians as people “called by Jesus Christ,” because the Greek can be translated that way. But the NIV is undoubtedly correct when it inserts the words “to belong to.” The sense is not that Jesus has called Christians – that is a work usually attributed to God the Father – but rather that, as a result of God’s calling, Christians are attracted to Jesus and have their true life in that relationship. A Christian is one who belongs to Jesus Christ. That is what makes him or her different and why such a one inevitably seeks the company of others who also belong to Jesus. Does this describe you? Do you belong to Jesus Christ? If you do, you will live like it. If you do not, you are no true Christian, regardless of your outward profession.

2.       The Christians at Rome, like all Christians, were loved by God the Father. God’s love is an electing, saving love. So the statement “loved by God” actually describes how those who are Christians come to belong to the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place. Some think that people become believers by their own unaided choice, as if all we have to do is decide to trust Jesus. But how could we possibly do that if, as we have seen Paul say, each of us is “dead in…transgressions and sins”? How can a dead man decide anything? Some have supposed that we become Christians because God in His omniscience sees some small bit of good in us, even if that “good” is only a tiny seed of faith. But how could God see good in us if, as Paul will later remind us: “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Rom. 3:12). Why then does God love us? The answer is “because He loves us.” There is just nothing to be said beyond that. It is love and love only. The most important thing is that God has loved us. Therefore, we should love and serve Him.

3.       The Christians at Rome, like all Christians, were called to be believers by God. Here is the same idea that occurs earlier in the phrase “called to belong to Jesus Christ”; but although the meaning of the verb is the same, the emphasis here is different. In the earlier phrase the emphasis was on what is means to be a Christian. A Christian is one who belongs to Jesus Christ; this is his identity. Here the emphasis is on the call itself, and it is a follow-up to the truth that Christians have been loved by God. First loved; then called. Left to ourselves, we are all spiritual corpses. We cannot do anything. But when God calls savingly, some of these spiritual corpses come to spiritual life and do God’s bidding. Anyone who has been saved by God has heard this call in some way and has responded to it.

4.       The Christians at Rome, like all Christians, are called saints. Here “saint” does not mean what it has come to mean in large sectors of the Christian church: one who has attained a certain level of holiness and is therefore worthy of some special veneration or even hearing human prayers. In the Bible, being a saint or being sanctified always means being separated to God and His work, precisely what Paul said of himself in verse 1 in the words “set apart for the gospel of God.” Having been loved by God and called by Him, to live for Him and work for Him in this world. This is why the faith of the Roman Christians was “being reported all over the world,” as Paul says it was in verse 8. Because they had been called by God and were separated to Him, these believers were different from the culture around them; and people noticed it! Their being saints was not the cause but the result of their election.

The one who has been loved and called by God does obey God and does follow after Him. Yet this involves struggle. It requires the grace and peace of God each step of the rugged upward way. When Paul closes his introduction with the wish that the believers at Rome might experience “grace and peace…from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ,” he is not merely passing on a traditional Christian greeting. He is wishing them what they, and we also, need every day we remain on this planet. We have been saved by grace. We must live by grace also. Just as we live moment by moment by moment by drawing on His favor. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b); and peace? We always need peace, for these are not peaceful times. Only fools think them peaceful. These are troublesome times. But those who are in Christ and are drawing on Him for their strength live peacefully in the midst of them.

I close with Paul’s own prayer for those great Roman Christians: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” What great gifts these are! What a wonderful and inexhaustible source of supply!

Romans 1:6-7 Reflection Questions:

What Psalm is Paul quoting in Romans 3:12?

How are you loving and serving God, because He loved you first? How are you responding to God’s call?

Do people today notice the difference in those who profess to be Christians? Do they see a difference in you?

Are you drawing on Jesus Christ for your strength to get you through these troublesome times we are all going through?

Romans 1:5 The Obedience of Faith

 

In the Greek text the first seven verses of the book are one long sentence, not an unusual form for one writing in good Greek style. Nevertheless, there has been a natural and significant climax at the end of verse 4 in the words “Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is the point to which the earlier verses have been leading, and it would have been quite proper, as well as good Greek, if Paul had ended his sentence there. Why doesn’t he do this? Why does he add the thoughts in verse 5 before the wrap –up to the introduction in verses 6 and 7? The answer is that Paul has spoken of Jesus Christ as “Lord.” Must Jesus be Lord if one is to be saved by Him? If He must, this will have an effect on the way we understand the gospel and obey Christ’s command to evangelize the world!

The key words of verse 5 are, “to the obedience that comes from faith.” There are two ways this phrase can be interpreted. First, it can be interpreted as referring to the obedience which faith produces or in which it results. I don’t think this is the true meaning. But it’s worth noting that, even if this is the correct interpretation, the point is that Paul is saying that true biblical faith must produce obedience. If the “faith” one has does not lead to obedience, it is not the faith the Bible is talking about when it calls us to faith in Jesus Christ. Yet the case is even stronger than this, because a proper interpretation of the phrase is not “unto obedience to which faith leads” (the first interpretation) but rather “unto obedience, the very nature of which is faith” (the second interpretation). Or, to turn it around, we could say, “faith which is obedience.”

This is an extremely important matter. It’s important because it affects how we understand the gospel and how we seek to obey Christ’s command to evangelize. What’s missing in today’s contemporary approach to evangelism is the recognition that sin primarily is disobedience and that God commands us to repent and repudiate it. So, when the gospel is preached, it must be preached not merely as an invitation to experience life to the full or even to accept God’s invitation. It must be preached as a command. (This is why Paul is so concerned to stress his role as an apostle, as one called and commissioned to be God’s ambassador.) We are commanded to turn from our sinful disobedience to God and instead obey Him by believing in and following the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior.

This is the way Paul preached the gospel, though we frequently overlook it because of our own weak methods. Look how Paul concluded his great sermon to the Athenians; “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed…” (Acts 17:30-31). In God’s name, Paul commanded the Greeks to repent of their sin and turn to Jesus. It is the same in Romans. The weakness of much of our contemporary Christianity can be traced to a deficiency at precisely this point. By failing to present the gospel as a command to be obeyed we minimize sin, trivialize discipleship, rob God of His glory, and delude some into thinking that all is well with their souls when actually they are without Christ and are perishing.

Yet as we draw toward the end of this study, I must add that although the demand that we repent of sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ is a command, it is nevertheless a command that comes to us in the context of the gospel. Remember, the gospel is not bad news; it is good news. Above all, it is the good news of God’s grace. I suppose that is why the word “grace” appears in verse 5 – for the first time in the letter. The word “grace” appears twenty-two times in the epistle. “Grace” is one of the great words of Romans and a wonderful concept. What is “grace”? Grace is often defined as God’s favor toward the undeserving, but it is more than that. It is actually God’s favor toward those who deserve the precise opposite. What we deserve is hell. We do not even deserve to hear the gospel, let alone experience the regenerating work of God within, by which we are enabled to turn from sin and obey Jesus. We deserve God’s wrath. We deserve His fierce condemnation. But instead of wrath, we find grace. Instead of condemnation, we find the One who in our place bore God’s judgment and now lives to rule over us.

There is one other point to be made. It is only the gracious love of God that motivates us to be His ambassadors. We are not apostles, as Paul was, but we have a corresponding function. We are God’s witnesses in this world, and, like Paul, we are to take the gospel to the nations. What will motivate us to do that and will actually keep us at it when the going gets tough? There is only one thing: remembrance of the grace of God, which we have first received. Paul said this in 2 Cor. 5:14-14, 18: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again…All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Romans 1:5 Reflection Questions:

Is Jesus Christ your “Lord”?

Does your faith in Jesus Christ produce obedience?

In what ways do you show your obedience?

Romans 1:2-4 The Gospel of Jesus Christ

 

Verses 1 and 2, taken together, reveal that Paul saw his preaching as an extension of the ancient Old Testament message: Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. His task was not to proclaim a theological novelty. The gospel was in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul longed to announce “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the (Old Testament) Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:3). According to verses 3 and 4 his task was to preach that Christ was both human and divine. Verse 3 stresses Christ’s humanity by avowing that He “was descended from David according to the flesh.” Verse 4 equally stresses His divinity by saying, “(He) was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit (or His Spirit) of holiness by His resurrection from the dead.”

Who Is Jesus Christ? We find Paul’s answer in verse 3 “his (God’s) Son.” We can also look to the great confession of the apostle Peter, recorded in Matthew 16. Jesus explicitly taught who He was in John 8:58 and 10:30; and when Thomas fell down to worship Jesus after His resurrection, confessing Him “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), Jesus accepted the designation, then gently chided Thomas, not for worship but for his earlier unbelief. This is the sense in which Paul begins to unfold the content of the Christian message. Already he has called it “the gospel of God,” meaning that God is the source of this great plan of salvation. Now he adds that the gospel concerns “his Son.” This means that Jesus is the unique Son of God and that the person and work of this divine Jesus are the gospel’s substance. We do not countenance any modern nonsense about a “Christless Christianity.” We begin with the eternal Son of God, and we confess that everything we believe and are as Christians centers in the person and work of that unique individual.

The God-Man: Jesus is not only unique in His divine nature, He is also unique in that He became man at a specific point in human history and now remains the God-man eternally. No one else is like that. No one can ever be. This brings us to a remarkable section of Paul’s introduction in which every word is so precisely chosen and of such significance that, even apart from Paul’s claims to be writing as an apostle, we ought to think of Romans as more than a “merely human” composition. In verses 3 and 4, a brief message of only twenty-eight Greek words (forty-one in English), Paul has provided us with and entire Christology.

Great David’s Greater Son:  There is a debate among those who have studied Romans as to whether the church to which Paul was writing was predominantly Jewish or predominantly Gentile or a mixture of the two. Paul saw the gospel as growing out of its Jewish roots and makes that point frequently. An example occurs in the words “descendant of David” in verse 3. This phrase appears in the long sentence describing the two natures of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it goes beyond what we might have thought necessary for the apostle to say. When Paul says “the descendant of David,” it brings in the matter of Jesus’ Jewish ancestry. There are several reasons for this: 1.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul gives substance to his main contention, namely, that Jesus was a true human being. 2.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul gives a specific example of the things “promised beforehand” by God “in the Holy Scriptures.” 3.) By referring to Jesus as a “descendant of David,” Paul prepares the way for the exalted title he is going to give Him at the end of this great sentence, namely, “Lord.”

The Sovereign Son: This brings us to the last point of these verses, based on something Paul says about Jesus in the second half of his long descriptive sentence regarding the Lord’s two natures. He says that Jesus “was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” How are we to understand the phrase “with power?” The most common way of understanding these words is to relate “with power” to “His resurrection,” as if Paul was thinking of the resurrection as a striking revelation of God’s power. Using this approach, the words “Spirit of holiness” would be seen as a proof of Christ’s deity. But the Bible doesn’t actually speak of the Holy Spirit’s raising Jesus from the dead. A second understanding links “with power” to the declaration of Christ’s deity. That is, it views Paul as thinking of a powerful or effective declaration, one that accomplishes its ends. It’s significant, however that in the Greek, the text literally reads: “… declared the Son of God with power according to a spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” This gives us a third understanding of what is going on in this sentence. In this view the words “with power” are linked to “Son of God,” so that we might more properly understand Paul to be speaking of “the Son of God with power” or “the powerful Son of God,” which he is declared to be by the resurrection.

The point of this should be clear to everyone. It is not merely a case of Paul’s declaring that the resurrection was a demonstration of the great power of God or even that the resurrection was a powerful demonstration of the validity of Christ’s claims. It is not that at all. Rather, it is actually a strong declaration about the Lord’s own person – precisely the purpose of this entire section and the point on which Paul will end. It is a declaration that Jesus is the sovereign Son of God and therefore rightly the “Lord” of all men as well as the Savior.

The conclusion of this study is that Jesus Christ, the very essence of Christianity, is your Lord and that you ought rightly to turn from all sin and worship Him. You may dispute Paul’s claims. But if they are true, if Jesus is who the apostle Paul declares Him to be in this epistle and others, there is no other reasonable or right option open to you than total heart-deep allegiance and to heed His call – the call of the gospel – and follow Him!

Romans 1:2-4 Reflection Questions:

Who is Jesus Christ to you?

Do you think of Romans as a “merely human” composition or as “God breathed?”

What type of church do you think Paul was writing to, was it predominantly Jewish or predominantly Gentile or a mixture of the two?

Romans 1:1 Paul’s Introduction to the Romans

 

Paul begins his letter with an introduction that is longer than usual. It is also more theological and personal than any of his other epistles’ introductions. The apostle is tremendously concerned that the Roman people receive what he has to say – that they not “turn him off” before they have read his arguments. Thus, he reveals himself and his theology, hoping that if they understand something of which he is and what he believes, they will give him a hearing. Paul’s introduction introduces us to deeper and more productive levels of spiritual life.

“Paul” – The Man from Tarsus: Here is the man who meets us at the very beginning of our study, in fact at the very first word. Who was Paul? In an appeal to the Roman commander of the Jerusalem garrison, recorded in Acts, Paul identified himself as a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which he modestly called “no ordinary city” (Acts 21:39). Tarsus was a Greek city, the seat of a well-known university where we assume that he received an outstanding Greek or pagan education in Tarsus. He shows evidence of this by occasionally quoting from the pagan poets (see Acts 17:28). Important as Paul’s Greek education may have been, however, there is no doubt that his education in Judaism was the chief factor in his academic and intellectual development. Paul was a son of a Pharisee (Acts 22:6) and became a Pharisee himself, trained under the renowned Rabbi Gamaliel in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3). Education in itself is neutral. It can be used for good or for evil. What matters is whether it is given to God to be used by Him as He wills. In his early years Paul used his education and zeal to oppose Christianity. It was only after he had his dramatic encounter with Christ that he was able to use these important tools rightly.

A Servant of Christ Jesus: This leads to the next set of words in Romans: “a servant of Christ Jesus.” As we have seen, Paul was a thoroughly educated man. But important as that is, it is necessary to add that he was also a thoroughly converted man. Paul had met Jesus Christ, and from that moment he was never his own man. He was a servant of the Lord. Paul was a super achiever; he could have introduced himself by a long list of accomplishments. But Paul overlooked these achievements because what he is most concerned about simply overshadows them. Above all else, Paul saw himself as a servant of the Lord. Paul’s description of himself as Christ’s servant accomplishes a few other things worth noting: 1) Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ puts him in the same category as those to whom he is writing. In other words, it identifies Paul first and foremost as a Christian. In essence he is saying, “I’m like you. Like you, I, too, have been purchased by Christ and am His follower.” 2.) Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ Jesus emphasizes that his chief function as a disciple of Christ is service. This is worth noting, because it is a missing element in many of our fellowships. 3.) Paul’s description of himself as a servant of Christ reminds his readers that he is nevertheless Christ’s servant – a servant of Christ first and a servant of man second – and that he is writing to them in this capacity.

Called to be an Apostle: What is an apostle? The misunderstanding of this word involves a misunderstanding of much about Christianity. The best passage for understanding the meaning of the term apostle is Acts 1:15-26, in which the eleven apostles elected a twelfth to complete their ranks after the treachery and death of Judas. This episode teaches that an apostle was to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that he was also necessarily chosen and equipped by Jesus for this function. The apostles knew that they were to witness in an extraordinary, supernatural sense. Because they were apostles, God spoke authoritatively through them, so that what they said as apostles carried the force of divine teaching or Scripture. We see this clearly in Galatians, in which Paul defends his apostleship. By calling himself an apostle in Romans, Paul reminds his readers that he is writing as no mere ordinary man but rather as one who has been given a message that should be received by them as the very words of God. This also has a bearing on ourselves, for it tells us how we are to receive the book of Romans and benefit from it. If we would profit by it greatly, we must receive it as what it truly is – a message from God to your hearts and minds – and we must obey its teachings, just as we would be obliged to obey God if He should speak to us directly!

Set Apart for the Gospel of God: The third phrase Paul uses to introduce himself to the believers in Rome is “set apart for the gospel of God.” In the days before his meeting with Christ on the road to Damascus, Paul was a Pharisee, and the meaning of that word is “separation” or “a separated one.” This is the word Paul uses of his commitment to the gospel. When Paul met Christ, a life-shattering change occurred in him. Before, he was separated from all manner of things, and as a result he was self-righteous, narrow, cruel, and obsessive. Afterward, he was separated unto something, unto the gospel. That separation was positive – expansive and joyful, yet humbling. Paul never got over that divinely produced transformation. Nor should you!

Romans 1:1 Reflection Questions:

What type of education do you have? Have you turned it over to God for Him to use as He wills?

Are you a “servant of Christ Jesus”, if so, what does that mean to you? How are you Christ’s servant?

Who do you put first, serving man or serving Christ?

Do you know what it is to be released from a negative legalism into the liberation of a positive Christianity?