Romans Chapter 1:1 – 1:15

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book Timequake, people are forced to repeat their actions, right or wrong, because of an event that occurred on the whole earth. After the timequake is over they continue to be apathetic in their choices and cannot seem to snap out of it except for one man. This man is famously quoted, trying to persuade people to start living again, “You were sick, but now you’re well, and there’s work to do.”

That statement, in effect, sums up what the book of Romans is talking about. We were all sick, or in fact dying, and lost in sin, but now we are well, through the power of the blood of Christ, and there is work to do.

To be even more succinct, the theme can be summed up in one word: “RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

God does not just save us, clean us and dump us. he saves us, cleans us and employs us.

Any time you study the plan of salvation we must begin with the condition of man. In order to hear the good news, you must first know the bad news.

What we see in Romans 1:16 – 3:31 is mankind’s sinful state.

Paul opens by reminding us that he is first a servant, and that he is called to be an apostle. The idea of being a servant to Christ is repeated often in greetings by Paul (Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1) and by others (James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1, Jude 1:1, Revelation 1:1). The Greek doulos here could literally be interpreted as slave. It serves that purpose here, and is alluded to later in the epistle by Paul.

Being a slave in the first century did not carry the connotations that slavery in America carries today. While certainly it was not a position to be envied, one could end up being a slave in a variety of ways.

  1. Poverty – A debt that could not be paid
  2. Theft – If you were caught stealing
  3. Exercise of paternal authority

In addition, slavery was not a permanent state. A slave might be released:

  1. Upon satisfactory remission of all claims against him/her.
  2. Recurrence of the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:40)
  3. Expiration of six years from the time that his servitude commenced
  4. The rabbinists had added that upon the death of a master with no son to take over

I think Paul gives us a look into a more complete understanding of his use of the word here in 1:14 as a debtor. Jews and Greeks alike would have understood Paul to mean that he owed Christ a debt that he cannot pay.

In addition, the idea of a slave carries with it the idea that he is one who does not have control over his own actions, but is continually subject to the will of the master.

Paul views that he owes this debt to all men, and the Christ paid the debt and therefore Paul owes Christ. (Romans 8:12 and Romans 5:8)

By the title of apostle, he is showing that he is a servant of the highest rank with a great deal of stewardship entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 9:16, 17).

To be an apostle he must have:

  1. Seen the Lord after his resurrection, and been ear and eyewitnesses of what they testified. (Acts 1:21, 22; John 15:27) Paul was no exception to this (1 Corinthians 15:8, 1 Corinthians 9:1)
  2. Called and chosen to that office by Christ. (Luke 6:13; Galatians 1:1)
  3. Must be inspired to qualify them for their work (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:10-15) In this way they were secured against all error and mistake through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Their word should be received (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
  4. Power of miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:43) 2 Corinthians 12:12
  5. Mission was universal.

We also find that Paul understood God’s role in shaping his life. Galatians 1:15, 16

Further, Paul has a full understanding of God’s role in salvation. It was God that took divine initiative. I find it interesting that in the story of Abraham sacrificing Issac we seem to focus in on Abraham, his faith, his sacrifice, his feelings. When it comes to the death of Jesus, we seem to find it easier to focus on the the one being sacrificed.

The whole initiative of the process of salvation is with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “The will of God in Christ Jesus…”  also look at 2 Corinthians 5:18-20.

Galatians 1:4 “Jesus who gave Himself for our sins, according to the will of God.”

God devised the means and Christ fulfilled it. 2 Samuel 14:14 makes this point as well. God knew our miserable condition and sacrificed so that we would have hope.

Further, it is this goodness and love of God which leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4; 8:39; 12:1)

  • Gal. 4:4 God sent His Son in the fullness of time.
  • 2 Cor. 5:21 God directed Jesus Christ to be sin for the sake of men.
  • 2 Cor. 9:15 Jesus is the unspeakable gift of God.
  • Rom. 6:23 The gift of eternal life is the gift of God.
The gospel of Christ had been promised in the Old Testament. Is. 2:2, 3; Mic. 4:3; Is. 40:1-10.
In one sense God proclaimed the good news to Abraham (Gal. 3:8) but as something far off and indistinct.
Because of Paul’s unique make-up, he is able to beautifully portray the gospel as the close connection of two covenants. One grows out of the other.
In 1:3-4 Paul contrasts Christ’s human nature and His divine nature.
As early as verse 5 we get the idea of obedience of faith. There is something in faith to be obeyed. Obedience to Christ demands that we must yield to His demands. Here, as elsewhere in the epistle, the idea that salvation is of grace alone and that salvation requires no act on our part is obliterated. Such doctrine is not found in scripture, and in fact is repugnant to the true gospel.
Verses 10 and 11 show us Paul’s desire to visit them, but subject to the will of God. Chapter 16 shows us that he has close association with many that are there. There is certainly an inward conflict of feelings.
Interestingly, verse 12 shows us that one of the reasons Paul wishes to see them is so that he can be comforted by their faith. Inspiration and apostleship does not rise one above the depressing or discouraging influences around them. Paul longs to be lifted up and encouraged.
Paul closes this section in verse 15 by showing that he wants to use all of his ability to preach the gospel to the world.
Paul then enters into a meta-section in verse 1:16-3:31 describing all of mankind’s sinful state.