Romans 1:1-17

Today’s Passage: Romans 1:1-17

Before we get started watch this video introduction to Romans.
As the video explains, the Jews in Rome were expelled by Claudius around AD 49. The book of Romans was written sometime around the mid-to-late 50’s AD as the Jewish population had returned. Conflict arose as the returning Jews discovered that the church in Rome wasn’t very “Jewish” anymore.

Imagine a conservative traditional church where all the senior saints went away for a long weekend only to return and the teenagers are doing contemporary music with, dare I say, drums—you get the picture. It is into this conflict that we discover one of the primary purposes of the book of Romans; that is, how the gospel unifies all people under God’s redemptive plan.  

In his apostolic introduction, Paul sets up the book of Romans. He delivered several points that he will be defending over the course of the letter—(1) the gospel was promised in the prophetic writings (2), Jesus is David’s descendant fulfilling the covenant and identifying his Jewishness (3), Jesus’ resurrection validates his claims as the Son of God (4), and the forgiveness of the gospel applies to all the Gentile nations, as well as Jews who are called to belong to Christ (5–6).
Most importantly in this section are the two facts Paul states about the gospel in 16 & 17. That it is, first, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (both Jews and Gentiles),” and second, “the revelation of God’s righteousness.”

Although the gospel applies to all people equally, that statement regarding “the Jew first,” didn’t make sense to me for a long time. On the idea of Jewish priority, one commentator writes,

“Because the Jews were God’s Chosen People (11:1), the custodians of God’s revelation (3:2), and the people through whom Christ came (9:5), they have a preference of privilege expressed historically in a chronological priority.”

Verse 17 also puts forward two key terms for the book of Romans—“righteousness” and “faith.” These two terms are crucially important for understanding the gospel. Righteousness is a legal term metaphorically referring to God’s holy standard as both King and Judge. Unrighteousness, then, means we’re guilty according to God’s Law, and deserving of punishment. As we’ll see in chapter 3, God justly punishes sin through Jesus so that we can receive His righteousness and achieve God’s standard. Sin isn’t just about what we do, it’s who we are, it’s our standing before Him. But through Christ, we are offered innocence which we could never achieve on our own. Any act of righteousness we pursue would always be tainted by sin, thus we needed a new nature through Christ (2 Cor 5:17)

Faith, on the other hand, is the means by which we receive salvation (and our new nature). That phrase in 17 that the NASB translates “from faith to faith,” is probably best understood according to the NIV “by faith from first to last,” meaning in every way, faith in Jesus (Ro 10:9–10) is how we receive and experience God’s righteousness.

How does the Gospel impact any conflict or unforgiveness in my life?

How does understanding our hopelessness apart from Christ motivate you to live for him?

Written By: Tyler Short

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