Let us continue this next section by leaning on the Lord for guidance and understanding in this study.
We left off making some preliminary commentary on the righteousness
of God defended in the book of Romans, or in other words, how God is
justified or declared right. Before we enter the courtroom of the book
of Romans, let us look at some peripheral details of the letter itself.
Tertius penned the letter dictated by Paul (note his greeting in
16:22 ). This is no strange thing in that Paul often had another person
actually put his words down on paper unless he personally decides to
write a note in (take a look at the letter to the Galatians and note
Paul’s passion). Apparently he had eye disease that greatly impaired
his vision. Based on some conjecture by people much smarter than
myself, it has been thought that the condition was not only damaging
but also visually unappealing.
Paul planned to visit Romans for some time. He had a great desire to
impart a spiritual gift and to be encouraged in the progression of the
gospel by being there with them. This great desire to visit Rome was
delayed out of necessity to carry a monetary gift from the Macedonians
to Jerusalem ( 15:22 -29). There perhaps were other circumstances that
kept Paul from going to Rome but it is very likely that God wasn’t
planning to have Paul go to Rome in Paul’s Way but in God’s way. If we
follow the events of the book of Acts chapters 20 onwards, we may
notice how a trip to Jerusalem turned into being shackled and sent to
speak before kings, culminating in a trip to Rome?as free in God’s
truth but in chains of imprisonment.
It is also noteworthy that the gospel had reached Rome ahead of the
apostles and Paul (the apostle to the Gentiles) specifically. The fire
of the good news of God was ignited in Jerusalem , burned through
Samaria and spread like wild fire throughout the region and beyond.
This conflagration burned so hot that even Paul had heard of the
tremendous faith of the Roman believers (1:8)!
How sad it is, with such astounding beginnings that as the years
went by Christendom lost that fire of the truth and embraced the glory
Paul took this moment to send this letter to Rome with a certain
deaconess (or servant if you will) from Cenchrea by the name of Phoebe
(16:1, 2). What dedication of this woman serving the Lord with such
might, that she would traverse over land and sea to bring to Rome a
letter from a Jew.
Imagine the Romans of that day. The government protected the Jewish
populace, but the people, the actual Romans had a growing disdain for
them. “These Jews with their single God and their exclusivity!” It
would be no stretch of the imagination to think of that polytheistic
world, saturated in opposing philosophies and thoughts. Personally, I
don’t think I would even have to close my eyes to imagine a place where
so many cultures and belief systems blend and engender “respect for all
religions and beliefs” with idols and temples everywhere. A person had
their pick of the crop when it came to religion and such a person may
even walk down the street dropping a few pennies of respect in the dish
of the worship alters throughout the region.
Then there are the Jews, with their temple in Jerusalem , void of
images by this time in history. The Jews with their “One Living God”. A
God who none could see and whose people separated themselves from the
nations. The Jews, who would not offer a similar respect to the idols
around them. “How dare they!” may be a Roman’s response.
Yet; Phoebe, probably well off financially, remained with the Jew
Paul as the Greek (?) Tertius penned this letter, patiently waiting to
take it with her to the brethren in Italy . What service. What
With such discussion of humility, let us now move onwards to consider the very first verses of the letter to the Romans.
If there was ever a moment in time when a theologian could take a
moment to list his credentials in writing a letter of this magnitude,
it would be the moment that Paul began his construction of the letter
to the Romans. In today’s day and age, men (very often) aren’t allowed
to speak at the Sunday morning pulpit if they don’t have a degree or
two under their belt, one of those being theology. Such a person
without these degrees shouldn’t dare consider a position in the
church?he would be laughed or chased out of the building…or both.
Why not start this letter with his Hebrew name Saul? A King who was
head and shoulders above all of the other Israelites and was anointed
by God Himself via the hands of Samuel. A name of honor and renown
which struck terror in the hearts of the Christians earlier in his
career. Why not list his credentials as a former Pharisee or hi-light
his studying under the feet of such a grand teacher as Gamaliel? Why
not begin with the intensity of his calling by the Lord Jesus Christ
After all, he was writing to the very capital of the Roman Empire ,
the very seat of authority, the heart of culture. These people were
learned and civilized and if any people should be written to with some
dignity in the writer, it was these people.
Yet note this man’s humility and sense of honor at the feet of Jesus
Christ. He completely strikes off his Hebrew name, settling on his
Roman name attributing himself with the gentiles he is writing to. He
starts off the letter as Paul, a servant (1:1).
The word here for servant is doulos , and the meaning of
that is much deeper than a man-servant. This is the most abject, the
most servile form of a slave. The slave which is born into slavery and
has no ties to a former life. A slave whose will and purpose is
swallowed up in the will and purpose of his master. His readers would
see this and know that the man writing them was attributing his
complete life devoted to another…and Paul doesn’t disappoint in getting
to the name of his master…Jesus.
In the Roman Empire , the Caesar owned certain people born into slavery. These doulos
of the Emperor would have their will and purpose swallowed up in the
will and purpose of the Emperor, and yet, these slaves had great honor
among many men. They were not just any slaves…they were slaves of the
Lord of the Empire, the King of the Known World!
It is an amazing thing that Paul doesn’t leave off the title of his
master. Paul is not just a slave of some man, but he is the slave of
the man Jesus Christ…the Messiah, the Promised One, the Lord of the
Universe, the King of all Kings in the world and all ages, past,
present and future. Let the Caesars and Emperors and Kings and
Presidents have their honor…it is nothing to the honor that belongs to
the Lord of lords, the Ruler who sits enthroned in all glorious
majesty, high above all principalities and powers and mights and
This esteemed slave then goes on to state his purpose, not his
title. The phrase “called to be an apostle” reads as if the word
apostle is the noun-title but in actuality it is closer to the
verb-active endemic in the role in subjection to the previous noun
(Jesus Christ). Paul is called to do the work of establishing for his
master. It is an ambassador’s work in that sense?he is called to
represent his master.
How does he represent? Paul points out that he is “separated unto
the gospel of God” and here the term gospel means the good news of God.
This term “gospel” would be used after battle as the messenger ran back
to the townships and yelled out the good news of victory. This good
news of God is the ambassador’s message which he carries for his
master, Jesus Christ.
Here Paul immediately puts certain arguments aside. Who is this
Jesus? This Jew is offering a new form of Judaism? What “good news”
could possibly be so new as to come out of the dark?
Paul points out that this good news was promised before by the
prophets in the Holy Scriptures (1:2). It has connections with the very
truth established in the then existent scriptures. This automatically
makes its ties back to the roots found in the Jews, for salvation,
indeed came from (or through if you will) the Jews.
This good news didn’t come from just any nation for what kind of
truth would it contain? It springs up out of no-where and proclaims
itself to be “good news” with no previous fanfare or even notion of its
existence? No indeed, this good news came specifically from God Himself
through those ancient writings concerning His very Son Jesus Christ the
Lord, which came not out of any nation, but came (as promised) from the
Jews through the seed of David. According to the flesh He was the very
descendant of the Jewish king, which makes this good news so much
harder to complete if one was a false teacher.
A false teacher could rise from anywhere claiming to be the Messiah
promised by the Jews but he would first have to meet certain
requirements. A panel may stand before a line of self-proclaimed
Messiahs’ and ask:
“Are you a Jew?” Any Gentiles would be struck off the list. “Are you
from the Line of Judah” Any of the other eleven tribes would be told to
leave. “Are you a descendant of David?” And so it would go on. Jesus
the Christ, our Lord, fulfilled many prophecies in the fact of being
born in this precise form in the flesh.
We can see how later on Paul goes onto proclaim that he is not
ashamed of this gospel ( 1:16 ). His message comes from God Himself and
Paul’s slavery is in that person of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Promised
Messiah of whom the Holy Scriptures spoke of.
Yet, this Jesus Christ was not only the Son of David (as promised)
but he was also declared to be the very Son of God! The second person
in the triune God, came down to the Earth in the form of weak flesh,
but was declared to be the Son of God in a key way!
What an amazing message of “good news”! The Living God came down in
the form of flesh, as promised in the scriptures…it is Him that we call
our Lord and master!
Next time we’ll pick up on verse 3.