There is no way I can write a complete commentary of each chapter or passage each week, but I will bring summaries of other commentaries mixed in among my own thoughts. Some passages I will go verse by verse, others will be sections of Scripture.
Romans is different than all of Paul’s other letters. Paul had nothing to do with the origins of the church and he had never been to the church. Paul often wrote his letters in response to issues in churches, but this letter is different. This letter seems to be much more about the “theology of Paul.”Paul wanted to visit the church in Rome and hoped to someday make it there, but either way he had words he needed to share with them. These are those words.
“William Barclay argues that you can divide the letter into 4 parts:
- Chapters 1-8, which deal with the problem of righteousness.
- Chapters 9-11, which deal with the problem of the Jews, the Chosen People.
- Chapters 12-15, which deal with practical questions of life and living
- Chapter 16, which is a letter of introduction for Phoebe, and a list of final personal greetings”.
- 1-7: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life[a]was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power[b]by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from[c] faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul begins this section as many of us would if we were writing to a people we did not really know. We would begin with a brief description of who we are. Every time I am invited to speak somewhere someone usually does an introduction, but if the introduction doesn’t really tell them about me then I add enough that hopefully the audience feels as if they know me a little bit. Then I usually tell them why I am there. I don’t tell them the whole story up front, but enough that they might listen. That is where Paul begins.
(We don’t want to miss that Paul calls himself a “slave” to Christ. This will be addressed more at another time)
Paul quickly jumps to reminding the church in Rome that this letter is all about the gospel. The “good news” that God came to earth in flesh and that His Kingdom has come. He is reminding them that this good news has been foretold for a long time and that God is who He says He is.
Paul gives a rundown of the fact that Jesus was foretold in the Scriptures (It cannot be overstated the connections that Paul continually makes, not just in Romans, but in all of his writings the connection that the Scriptures were always pointing to Jesus.), was a descendent of David (a reminder that Jesus is the rightful King of Israel, the rightful king of God’s people). This King is not just king of Jews, but is King of all and all are invited into His Kingdom. Both Jew and Gentile are invited in. This idea of all people, Jew and Gentile, being a part of God’s Kingdom is a central tenant to Paul’s theology. This idea of Jesus being King is set through a lense that says he is the “son of God” and that would sit a little uncomfortably in Rome where Caesar is the son of god.
We know he has conquered death and sin and through his Spirit he wants to do some new things in the world. God has already done a new thing and the good news transforms us because God is King through Jesus and we are invited into this life changing story.
We are, as Paul writes in verse 7, all invited to share the story of the “good news” that God’s Kingdom is here! Paul was writing to the church in Rome, but we get to listen in and are called to be participants in telling this good news.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters,[d] that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now)in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.
14 I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.
Paul makes sure that the people of the church in Rome are aware that he has heard about them, likely just as they heard about him. In other words, we hear the stories of the great things that are happening. Paul then shares that as he is sharing the message of the good news of Jesus he hopes that he can join them for a season and partner with them.
Paul is still setting up the credibility for what he is going to write to them in this letter. He wants to make sure they know that he doesn’t want to just to tell them how to live, but to share in life together. This is because Paul knows that it takes more than just words to reflect a life that has embraced the good news of Jesus. Paul ends this section with reiterating the fact that the message that Jesus brought of God’s redeeming work is for all people.
In verse 10 we see Paul making it clear that as a part of his life of worship, prayer is integral. He counts it his duty to be in prayer for the church. Not just the church in Rome, but all churches. It should be noted that this would seem a wise use of time for all people who call themselves disciples of Jesus.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[e] just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Paul does not want anyone to miss that Jesus came for all. It is obvious that he came to the Jews first, for he was a Jew. But, just as John the Baptist baptizing in the desert represents, Jesus came for all and the birthright no longer mattered. He came first for the Jews because they were supposed to be the blessing to the world and in many ways were so stuck on a nationalistic faith that they had missed God’s work as not seeing nation or race as important.
What Paul wants to make clear is that God’s expectation is righteousness. This is a righteousness that cannot be gained through the sacrificial system that the Jews had embraced, but a righteousness that is only gained through faith. A faith that comes through Jesus and His Kingdom breaking in, and reaching its culmination in the resurrection of Jesus.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Paul mentions the creation of the world because he is thinking of the fact that in his day no one believed the world happened by chance. The truth is that very few in our day believe the world happened by chance. Whatever method God used to create, whether it was a literal six days, some type of theistic evolution with Him fully involved, or something in between these two modes of creation we believe God is creator. Paul uses this idea and contrast it with the fact that there is the beauty of creation, but there is no way around the picture that has been painted through sinfulness in the world.
In God’s love he lets us go where we want to go. His desire is for us to come to Him, but we often choose things that we like instead. It is like the teenager who has done something that they know their parents will not approve, but rather than ask for forgiveness and seek to reconcile the relationship they ignore it. The teenager hopes the parent will never find out and if they do not find out then it must be okay. That is not what usually happens.
There comes a day when the parent lets the child go and live the way the child wants. The parent always hopes that the child will choose a way of life that the parent tried to instill in them, but often the child chooses a way of life that leads to destruction. The parent is heartbroken.
Paul then lists some of the things that break God’s heart. He writes in verse 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. What becomes apparent is that God did not force them to live lives that brought them near to Him, but instead loved them enough to let them go where they wanted to go.
God did not cause the rift that then came into the relationship. All of us, at one time or another, have chosen things that are not of God over a right relationship with Him. We have chosen sin. Just like when we have chosen to do something that causes a rift among our families and we must go apologize and reconcile the relationship, so too is God waiting, desperately I might add, for us to want to make our relationships right with him.
Paul in chapter one is laying the groundwork for his theological treatise. He is laying the groundwork to tell of how God, through Jesus, is reconciling all and helping all people to become righteous. The righteousness is for all who choose to embrace the God who is waiting as a great parent with outstretched arms. Paul has much more to say.
 Barclay, xxi (All references to Barclay will be from “The Daily Study Bible: The Letter to the Romans” by William Barclay)
 Barclay, xxv
 Greathouse, 39 (All references to Greathouse will be from “NBBC Romans 1-8 A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition)
 Wright, 4 (All references to Wright will be from “Paul For Everyone: Romans, Part 1 or 2” by NT Wright)
 Greathouse, 51.