top of page
  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Kelly

23 - Romans 1

Romans – Why this book?

Outside of the Gospels, Perhaps no other book has had more impact on Christendom than Romans Paul’s lengthy presentation is more a treatise than a letter but falls far short of a complete survey of his theology; there is no discussion, for example, of the Eucharist, the Resurrection, or eschatology (the doctrine of the end times). 1. In the summer of 386, a young man wept in the backyard of a friend. He knew that his life of sin and rebellion against God was killing him, leaving him empty; but he just couldn’t find the strength to make a final, real decision for Jesus Christ. As he sat, he heard some children playing a game and they called out to each other these words:

“Take up and read! Take up and read!” Thinking God had a message to him through the words of the children, he picked up a scroll laying nearby opened it and began to read: not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:13b-14). He didn’t read any further; he didn’t have to. Through the power of God’s word, Augustine had the faith to entrust his whole life to Jesus Christ at that moment.

2. In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the book of Psalms in a seminary, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil. In his studies, he came across Psalm 31:1: In Thy righteousness deliver me. The passage confused him; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to Hell as a righteous punishment for his sins? Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says that in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4). The monk went on to say: “Night and day I pondered until . . . I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise . . . This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.” Martin Luther was born again, and the reformation began in his heart. 3. In May of 1738, a failed minister and missionary went unwillingly to small Bible study where someone read aloud from Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans. As the failed missionary said later: “while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken my sins away, even mine.” John Wesley was saved that night in London. 4. Consider the testimony of these men regarding Romans: a. Martin Luther praised the Book of Romans: “It is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel . . . the absolute epitome of the gospel.” b. Philip Melancthon called Romans, “The compendium of Christian doctrine.” c. John Calvin said of Romans, “When any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.” d. Samuel Coleridge, English poet and literary critic said Paul’s letter to the Romans is “The most profound work in existence.” e. Frederick Godet, 19th Century Swiss theologian called the Book of Romans “The cathedral of the Christian faith.” f. G. Campbell Morgan said Romans was “The most pessimistic page of literature upon which your eyes ever rested” and at the same time, “the most optimistic poem to which your ears ever listened.” g. Richard Lenski wrote Romans is “Beyond question the most dynamic of all New Testament letters even as it was written at the climax of Paul’s apostolic career.”

It is almost universally agreed that Paul wrote Romans from the city of Corinth as he wintered there on his third missionary journey as described in Acts 20:2-3. This is based on Romans 16:1 and 16:23 along with 1 Corinthians 1:14. A variety of commentators pick the date of writing anywhere from 53 to 58 a.d.

ii. When Paul wrote the Book of Romans, he had been a Christian preacher for some 20 years. On his way to Jerusalem, he had three months in Corinth without any pressing duties. He perhaps thought this was a good time to write ahead to the Christians in Rome, a church he planned to visit after the trip to Jerusalem.

iii. As Paul endeavored to go to Rome, the Holy Spirit warned him about the peril awaiting him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14). What if he were unable to make it to Rome? Then he must write them a letter so comprehensive that the Christians in Rome had the gospel Paul preached, even if Paul himself were not able to visit them.

iv. Because of all this, Romans is different than many of the other letters Paul wrote churches. Other New Testament letters focus more on the church and its challenges and problems. The Letter to the Romans focuses more on God and His great plan of redemption.

v. We know the Letter to the Romans was prized by the Christians in Rome; Clement of Rome’s letter in 96 a.d. shows great familiarity with Paul’s letter. It may be that he memorized it and that the reading of it became a part of virtually every meeting of the Roman church. As well, many scholars (Bruce and Barclay among them) believe that an edited version of Romans – without the personal references in Romans 16 – was distributed widely among early churches as a summary of apostolic doctrine.

The word “God” occurs 153 times in Romans; an average of once every 46 words – this is more frequently than any other New Testament book. In comparison, note the frequency of other words used in Romans: law (72), Christ (65), sin (48), Lord (43), and faith (40). Romans deals with many different themes but as much as a book can be, it is a book about God.

1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God

Paul introduces himself so that they will know he is writing

Explain the concept of a “bondservant”

What is an apostle?

First a servant, then an apostle

2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,

The gospel is not some new radical idea.

3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Jesus Christ “our Lord” – What does this mean?

This declares Jesus’ two natures.

5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;

Grace – What is it?

How do we receive it? 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Paul was a Roman citizen. He had never been to Rome at this point. He is writing to a church he did not know or establish like the others. There is no historical evidence that the church there was established by Peter.

Called to be saints – Called? By who? For what? Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

Paul’s first expression is gratitude.

Then he pays them this huge compliment.

9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, 10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.

God is my witness

Serve with my spirit

Without ceasing. Prayer is a habit.

11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

Established? What does it mean?

He also wants to receive encouragement with them.

13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

I am ready….Seems to be Paul’s Motto.

What is a paradigm shift?


16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,[a] for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith

Not Ashamed For it is the power of God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

What is Natural Law? Fair play, honesty, protection of the innocent.

Does it exist?

Is it Instinct?

A Man in danger – 2 Instincts (Help/Flee) 3rd thing that is neither.

Is it a learned social code?

Just because we learn something from others (parents, etc) doesn’t mean that the people who teach invented it or that man invented it at all.

Is it just a different kind of morality? Nazis/Islam

Is it the same for all? Moral Relativists vs absolute right/wrong. Is good or evil just a matter of personal or cultural preference.

This is why “they are without excuse”. It is sin that condemns, not God or religion or church. Christianity is the only solution to the sin problem.

Where does it come from?

Everything we can evaluate we evaluate from outside except ourselves. In determining whether or not the universe is more than we observe, we suspect that it is. In fact man has always come to this conclusion. Some of these ideas are better than others. We don’t need to believe that all other religions are completely wrong. Some are more nearly right than others.

Major divisions of mankind

Atheists or Naturalists/Theists

Pantheism – God is beyond Good or Evil, God is expressed in all. The universe is God. Your goal is to be in harmony with this “force”.

God is good – Jews, Christians, Muslims. God takes sides, expresses a preference.

Atheists - If God is good, why is the world so unjust? (notice how we are back where we began?) If justice is just a personal preference (my own idea) then the argument collapses because there is no such thing as justice. If the whole universe is without meaning, we wouldn’t even know it. It is the very search for meaning that verifies there is some. If you were blind and no one told you about light, you wouldn’t even know that you were missing anything.

Dualism – Two equal forces Yin/Yang – Good Evil. Fine until we observe (and we do observe) that one of these forces is better than the other. Then we understand that we have a superior to inferior set-up. Even “bad” people are bad for their own “good” reasons.

21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

We are corruptible because of free will. Cow, Dog, My fish, Man – Satan and his main lie.

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Animal Rights



Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

Some say this is AIDS or now MonkeyPox. I wouldn’t say that.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[c] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[d] unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

debased mind

filled with all unrighteousness sexual immorality wickedness covetousness maliciousness envy murder strife deceit evil-mindedness whisperers backbiters haters of God violent proud boasters inventors of evil things disobedient to parents undiscerning untrustworthy unloving unforgiving unmerciful deserving of death approve of those who practice them.


bottom of page