Introduction and Romans 1:1-17


It is not an over-statement to say that the book of Romans may well be the most important letter ever written.  It has certainly impacted the direction of Christian history more than any other book in the Bible.  Church historians point to five great movements of God’s Spirit in the history of the church. 

·         The first came only a few years after Christ walked on the earth.  It was sparked by the burning zeal and the brilliant preaching of the Apostle Paul.  Romans contains a detailed depiction of the message Paul preached. 

·         The second came about 400 years later led by the intellect of Augustine, the famous scholar/theologian.  Augustine was converted to Christianity while reading the book of Romans.

·         The third came about 1100 years after Augustine’s conversion.  Martin Luther’s life was profoundly shaken by the phrase in Romans 1:17 that says, “…the righteous man shall live by faith.”  And Luther’s understanding of that simple, but profound, statement in Romans led to the Protestant Reformation. 

·         The fourth came 300 years later when John Wesley happened to enter a church on Aldersgate Street in London.  He was converted on hearing the preface to Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans being read.  Wesley’s conversion led to a great revival that swept across England and spread to the new world.  This movement of God’s Spirit became known as the Great Awakening. 

·         The fifth occurred about 100 years ago.  A young Swiss pastor named Karl Barth wrote a commentary on Romans.  God used his work to bring any people who had strayed away back to orthodox Christianity.

I share all that just to emphasize the impact the book of Romans has had on Christian history. 


When we study any biblical book, there are some preliminary items with which to deal before diving into the text.  These items include identifying the writer, the recipients, the theme, and the purpose of the book.

·         Writer – Romans 1:1 identifies the author as Paul, the Apostle.  Romans 15:25-26 indicates that Paul wrote Romans just before embarking on a journey to Jerusalem to take to the believers there the offering collected for them from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia.  He probably wrote the letter during the three months he was in Corinth on his third missionary journey (see Acts 20:2-3a) sometime in AD 55-56. 

·         Recipients – Romans 1:7 says the letter is written “…to all those who are beloved of God in Rome…” Acts 2:10 says there were visitors from Rome present in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  It is not improbable that some of them were converted under the preaching of Peter and took their newfound faith back to Rome.  F.F. Bruce, the respected Bible scholar, thinks the church at Rome may have been the first church established outside of Palestine.

·         Theme – Romans 1:16 states the theme.  The English word “gospel” is from the Greek word “euangelion” best translated “good tidings” or “good news.”  That was Paul’s favorite way of referring to the Christ event.  Paul uses that word four times more than all the other New Testament writers combined.  In Paul’s writings, the word “gospel” appears 60 times.  It is found only 10 times in the four Gospels, 2 times in Acts, once in the writings of Peter, and once in Revelation.  Romans is a well- planned, carefully thought-out statement of the good news preached by the Apostle Paul. 












  • Purpose – Throughout the letter several purposes are mentioned: 

·         Romans 1:11-13 – To pave the way for Paul’s long-planned trip to Rome.

·         Romans 15:14-15 – To provide the Romans further instruction in the gospel.

·         Romans 15:22-24 – To pave the way for the church at Rome to provide Paul support for his planned missionary journey to Spain.


Introduction (1:1-17)

Salutation (1:1-7)

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Request (1:8-15) 

Theme (1:16-17)


Salutation (1:1-7)

A description of the writer (v.1)

“a bond-servant of Jesus Christ” – Paul does not begin by speaking of his credentials as a theologian or missionary.  He begins by saying the he is a servant.  The word is “dolous” and it was used to refer to the lowest of slaves.  In loving devotion Paul and enslaved himself to Jesus Christ.  He did this because of the great redemptive work Christ had done in his life, converting him from a persecutor of Christians to a leader of Christians.

“called as an apostle” – The word “called” is a strong word carrying the idea of being compelled to do something.  No doubt Paul was thinking of his Damascus road experience when God radically intervened and changed the direction of his life.  “Apostle” indicates that to which Paul was called.  The word means to be an authorized representative or official delegate or commissioned messenger.

“set apart for the gospel” – At one time Paul was a Pharisee.  The word “Pharisee” carries the idea of being separated or set apart.  Paul is saying, “At one time I was a Pharisee, set apart for the law.  However, God intervened in my life, and now I have been set apart for the gospel.”


A description of the gospel (vv.1b-6) – At the mention of the word “gospel” Paul breaks into beautiful description of the gospel.  Some scholars believe that at least a portion of this description may reflect an early Christian creed that was either spoken or sung as part of worship.

“of God” (1b) – Can be interpreted in two ways.  Could mean “about God” meaning the gospel has God as its subject.  Or could mean “from God” meaning the gospel originates with God.  While both of those statements are true, it probably means the latter.  God is the originator of the gospel.  It is not of human origin; it is of divine origin.

“promised beforehand through His prophets” (v.2) – The gospel is not just another religion in  a world of many religions.  It is the heart of God’s plan for humanity from the very beginning.  If viewed through eyes of faith, the Christ event can be seen in the teachings of the prophets of old. (see Isaiah 53:3-11)  The gospel did not begin in the first century.  It begin when humanity first sinned and God chose to act redemptively toward us.

“concerning His Son” (vv.3-4) – At the very heart of the gospel you find a person—the person of Jesus Christ.  What makes Christianity unique among world religions is not a belief in God (other religions believe in a god) nor is it a sacred book (other religions have their sacred books).  What sets Christianity apart is two things about Jesus:

1.      The incarnation (“born of a descendant of David according to the flesh”) – This statement stresses the humanity of Jesus.  God became a person and walked among us (see John 1:14)

2.      The resurrection (“who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead”) – That does not mean that at the resurrection Jesus became the Son of God.  It means the resurrection demonstrated that He was the Son of God.

It is no accident that the Christian calendar is dominated by these two events.  Christmas focuses on the incarnation and Easter on the resurrection.

“to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (v.5) – The gospel calls all people to a faith relationship with Jesus.


A description of the recipients (v.7) – This verse is actually a description of all those who are in Christ.  Christians are:

·         “beloved by God” – This  phrase literally means “loved by God” or  “very dear to God.”  The Christians in Rome were not loved by many people in their city.  They were considered as a subversive sect.  However, Paul reminds them (and us!) that though often hated by the world, Christians are loved by God.

·         “called as saints” – Notice the wording of that phrase.  We are not called to be saints; we are saints!  The word “saints” means to be separated or set apart.  It is used more than 60 times in the New Testament to refer to Christians.  Those who come to faith in  Christ are set apart by Him and for Him.

·         Recipients of “grace” – The Greek word “charis” means unmerited favor.  God accepts us not because we have earned His acceptance but because He earned it for us in the Christ event.

·         Recipients of “peace” – The word does not mean the absence of conflict; it means a sense of serenity or inward peace in the midst of conflict.  Grace and peace are often linked together in Scripture.  That’s because peace is the natural  result of grace.  Martin Luther wrote:  “Grace releaseth sin, and peace maketh the conscience quiet.”


Prayer of Thanksgiving and Request (1:8-15)

In many of his letters Paul offers a prayer for his readers immediately following the salutation.  In these verses Paul revealed that when he prayed for the Christians in Rome he included both a thanksgiving and a request.

·         He expressed gratitude that their “faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole  world” (v.8).  Rome was the crossroads of the ancient world.  It was said that all roads led to Rome.  So, the Christians in Rome were uniquely positioned to impact the entire ancient world.

·         He requested that God would grant his long held desire to visit the Christians in Rome.  Verses 11-15 explains why he wanted to go to Rome:

§  “that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established” (v.11)

§  “that I may be encouraged together with you…” (v.12)

§  “that I may obtain some fruit among you…” (v.13)


Theme (1:16-17)

Having mentioned his desire to preach the gospel in Rome, Paul returns to the theme of Romans and launches into a concise, yet comprehensive, description of the gospel.

·         He describes the power of the gospel (“…it is the  power of  God…”).  The Romans knew something about power.  After all, they saw everyday the trappings of the imperial power of Rome.  While Rome had political and military power, the gospel possesses the power to transform a person’s life.  Paul was a living demonstration of the power  of the gospel to transform.

·         He described the purpose of the gospel (“…for salvation…”) – In the Roman world the word “salvation” carried the idea of deliverance.  A Roman general who delivered a city from an adversary was looked upon as a savior.  A physician who delivered a patient from an illness was viewed as a savior.  The word was used in a broad sense in the Roman world.  However, in relation to the gospel, salvation means a very specific thing.  It is not just deliverance from anything; it is deliverance from the power and guilt and penalty of our sin.  The purpose of the gospel is to provide for our spiritual salvation.

·         He described the scope of the gospel (“…to everyone who believes…”) – No one is excluded or left out.  The gospel is available all who believe.  This is one  of the major themes of Romans.  In the book of Romans Paul uses the word “all” more than 60 times indicating that the salvation made possible by Jesus Christ is not an exclusive salvation.  It is available to all people.


In the next section of Romans, Paul begins laying the groundwork of explaining why we all stand in need of salvation.  From 1:18 through 3:20 Paul thoroughly explores our sin problem.