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?

An Introduction to the Book of Romans


Welcome to this study on the Book of Romans! It’s a formidable task to begin a study of Paul’s great letter to the Romans, and exciting too. I felt those emotions as I studied it many years ago, and I still feel them. There are very good reasons for these feelings. For one thing, Romans has probably been the object of more intense study by more highly intelligent and motivated individuals than any document in human history. The Epistle to the Romans has been called “the Fort Knox of Bible doctrine.” Seventy-five percent of Bible teachers today said if they could teach from just one book, it would be this one.

No reasonable person would dispute that the book of Romans is one of the most powerful and influential books ever written. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans has been the written force behind some of the most significant conversions of church history. St Augustine, the most brilliant theologian of the early centuries, came to conviction of sin and salvation after reading some verses from the thirteenth chapter. Martin Luther recovered the doctrine of salvation by faith from his study of Romans 1:17 and went on to lead the Protestant Reformation. While listening to the reading of Luther’s preface to the book of Romans, John Wesley felt his heart “strangely warmed” in conversion and became the catalyst of the great evangelical revival of the eighteenth century. John Bunyan was so inspired as he studied the great themes of Romans in the Bedford jail that he wrote the immortal Pilgrim’s Progress.

Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is still transforming people’s lives today! Imagine! You and I can read and study the same inspired letter the brought life and power to Augustine, Luther and Wesley! And the same Holy Spirit who taught them can teach us! You and I can experience revival in our hearts, homes, and churches if the message of this letter grips us as it has gripped men and women of faith in centuries past.

All roads lead to Rome. Thus, Paul would no doubt conclude if all roads lead to Rome, all roads must also lead from Rome. If I can get to Rome, he must have thought, and share the gospel, it will spread rapidly and reach the entire world. At this point in time, Rome’s ship of state was sailing along quite nicely, but below-deck, having lost her moral bearing, the empire was already beginning to sink. Aware of this, Paul desired to go to the Imperial City not only to launch the gospel from Rome, but to bless the people in Rome. Although his plan was strategically brilliant, he was unable to get there. But instead of feeling defeated by what he couldn’t do, Paul grabbed parchment and pen, and did what he could do. Unable to go to Rome, Paul instead penned a letter to the Romans and, because he had never been to Rome, he was able to concentrate solely on life-changing, impacting, revolutionary theology. You see, in his other epistles, Paul addressed the problems and personalities unique to the cities to which he wrote. Not so with the Book of Romans. Paul did what he could do, and I’m so glad, because, just as all roads lead to Rome, truly, the road to revival leads through the Book of Romans.

There is no doubt about the power of the book of Romans. The study of it produces genuine excitement and genuine trepidation – excitement because of the possibilities the life-changing themes of Romans bring to us, and trepidation at reasonably expounding their massiveness. I would invite each reader to offer the following prayer as we begin the study of this great book:

Father, I know that a humble spirit is indispensible to learning. And I pray that as I now consider the themes of Romans – so great, so history-changing, and sometimes so familiar – that through the study of them You will give me a spirit of humility, that I will be constantly leaning even from the familiar. I pray that the power that was exhibited in the lives of Augustine, Luther, Wesley, and so many others – that power which comes from understanding the fundamental doctrines of the faith and appropriating them in  life – will be seen in me. Give me a continued spirit of humility. May I continue in prayer throughout this study. May Your blessing rest upon my life. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Reflection Questions:

As we go on this journey through the Book of Romans together there are a few questions I would like you to ponder: Is this the first time for you to study this letter to the Romans? If so, I will have a few questions at the end of each session which I highly recommend that you journal on them to get the most out of each session. If you have any questions on the topic feel free to use this blog to ask me or write them down and ask your pastor.

If you have studied Romans before, what would you like to get out of this study this time? As you go through, ask yourself these few questions: What is Paul’s worldview at the time he wrote this letter? How does he come up with this new discipline we call, in retrospect, “Christian theology”, while being around all the different pagan gods? What are his basic beliefs and how does that affect his mindset, motivations, deeds and words. What is his normal practice and how did that change on the road to Damascus? How did his education influence his letters? In other words try as best as you can to put yourself into his shoes.

Above all pray that the Lord opens your mind and heart to the message He wants you to see. Talk to Him and converse with Him, He loves it when we do and put the lessons you learn to work into your life. I know God will bless you abundantly because that’s who He is!


*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.

Isaiah 66:1-24 The Arrival of the End (Part Two)

* The material for these studies is from Barry G. Webb’s “The Message of Isaiah”  by InterVarsity Press; and from J. Alec Motyer’s “The Prophecy of Isaiah” Commentary by InterVarsity Press.

I will comfort you (vv. 12-17): Isaiah is almost ready now to bring his grand vision to a close by drawing out its full missionary implications. But first he has some comforting words for the faithful within Israel. For them the prospect of Jerusalem’s coming destruction by God was exceedingly painful. They could not view it with the equanimity of which others might be capable. Did the sentence passed on Israel mean that Jerusalem had no further place in God’s purposes?, and what of their own place in the new order of things?

His first word for them picks up and confirms all that has been said about the future city of God in preceding chapters. The New Jerusalem will be everything that the old failed to be – a city of peace, rich to overflowing with the blessing of God (v. 12a). And those who grieved over the passing of the old will be comforted in the new (vv. 12b-13). The faithful need not fear that they will be discarded with apostate Israel; the New Jerusalem will be the home of all God’s faithful people, the old as well as the new. His second word answers the disquiet they feel at the severity of the sentence passed on Israel. Is it not unreasonably harsh? The answer is that it is no more so than the judgment He will visit on all His enemies everywhere, Jew and Gentile alike (vv. 14-17). The judgment that begins with the House of God has its significance not simply in itself but in what it points to. It is a sign of the final universal judgment to come. It puts the whole world on notice! If the whole world has been put on notice, what of those who remain ignorant? How is the revelation to be published? How are the nations to be apprised of the judgment to come and the means of escape from it?

To the ends of the earth (vv. 18-24): This last, tremendous paragraph contains God’s entire program for the evangelization of the world. It is summarized in verse 18. In a word, God’s fundamental response to the evil actions and imaginations of His creatures is one of grace. His gathering, rescuing activity, once restricted to the dispersed of Israel, is to be extended to all people. He will come and gather people of all nations and tongues so that they may see His glory (v. 18). The goal of mission is the glory of God, that God might be known and honored for who He really is. How this goal is to be achieved is spelled out in what follows.

God will set a sign in the midst of the nations (v. 19). In context this can surely be nothing other than the wondrous birth of verses 7-8. It is the whole miraculous complex of events which occurred when Israel was judged and the church was born, and the “survivors” are the faithful remnant of verses 12-16. The final proof that God has not rejected them is that they have been chosen to spearhead His mission to the nations. The mention of grain offerings in verse 20 introduces the figure of a great harvest, and with it what must have been one of the most startling and controversial aspects of Isaiah’s missionary vision. It is the nations that are harvested, and the converts from all nations that are presented to the Lord as holy offerings. Converted Jew and Gentile become covenant brothers (v. 20), united in a new kind of priestly ministry in which both alike, in due course, share in the privileges and responsibilities of leadership (v. 21). What a stunning accurate portrayal this is of things to come!

Only one reflection remains, and it has to do with the origin and outcome of God’s mission, its beginning and its end. Verse 22 contains one final word of assurance to faithful Israelites, the true children of Abraham of the Old Testament period. The promise of an enduring name and many descendants will not fail; they will have their perfect fulfillment in the new heavens and the new earth, where the redeemed of the entire human race will offer unending worship to their Creator. But the final verse contains a chilling reminder that those same promises to Abraham implied judgment. They confronted man and women with the unavoidable responsibility to respond: to bless or curse, and be blessed or cursed themselves. The last verse does not detract in any way from the victory of the previous verse, but rather testifies to the completeness of it. God will not stoop to conversion by force. He will give us what we choose, and be glorified as much by His righteous judgment as by His saving grace.

At its most fundamental level, this closing paragraph brings us back to the basic truth that God is Creator, and therefore Ruler, of His world. The book of Isaiah, like the Bible itself, moves from the heavens and the earth (v. 1:2) to the new heavens and the new earth (V. 66:22). God’s mission is simply the outworking of the intentions He had at the beginning, expressed in the blessing He pronounced on the first pair and confirmed in the promises He made to Abraham. And Isaiah leaves us in no doubt that the key to it all is God’s perfect Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. How eloquently and simply the apostle John put it! Isaiah, he says, “saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about Him” (John 12:41). In the second half of the book the new creation unfolds from His saving work like a bud bursting into bloom, and the last verse challenges us never to take it lightly, but to ponder (as we shall for all eternity) the greatness of our redemption and the terrible fate from which we have been saved! What can we do, but worship Him?

Isaiah 66:1-24 Reflection Questions:

How are the questions in the second paragraph answered in the gospels? Where?

Are we any closer to spreading the Word today, if so, how?

How are verses 66:12-17 a comfort to you? Journal on it.

What are you doing to help with the “great harvest”?

Do you plan to be blessed or cursed? Are you for God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit or against them? Spiritually, it’s a matter of life or death! If you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, get with a pastor to walk you through on what to do!