Romans 1:1-7 – Author, Purpose, Recipients

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The views expressed in this article are mine. Not everyone will agree with its content and I am alright with that. 

Romans 1:1-7

1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Author

It is denied by almost no one that Paul the apostle is the author of the letter to the Romans in the New Testament. From the onset, Paul identifies himself in three ways. First, Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus. This view of himself comes from an Old Testament motif of a slave who in love binds himself to his master for life. It comes from Exodus 21:2-6 which says, 2 “If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. 3 If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. 5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.” Paul, therefore, has indicated in this very first description of himself that he has sold himself out completely for his Master, Christ Jesus. He is bound to Him and desires to be with Him permanently.

In modern day, we really do not understand this motif as well as people would in Paul’s day. The word used in the Greek language is doulos which means slave or servant. But this word is translated by the New Testament writers (such as Paul) to mean bond-servant. Few today truly understand the force of this Biblical idea of selling oneself to serve another permanently for life. Moreover, this does not connote a sense of drudgery but rather honor and privilege. In Paul’s estimation, it is an honor and privilege to serve Christ Jesus in the way that he is.

Various verses in the Old Testament reflect this idea of being a bond-servant:

  • Israel is called a bond-servant in Isaiah 43:10 – “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.”
  • Moses is called a bond-servant in Joshua 14:7 – “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart.”
  • David is called a bond-servant in Psalm 89:3, 4 – 3 “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant, 4 I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.” Selah.
  • Elijah is called a bond-servant in 2 Kings 10:10 – “Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the LORD, which the LORD spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the LORD has done what He spoke through His servant Elijah.”

Paul identifies himself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.

Second, Paul identifies himself as one called as an apostle. To be called denotes someone whose participation or presence has been officially requested by one who has the authority to summons; especially a request to which refusal is not an option. In other word, when the Lord Jesus Christ stopped Saul on the road to Damascus (cf. Acts 9) and summoned Paul to do the work of His ministry, there was not an option for refusal to this call. Rather, Paul is called as an apostle, that is, as an envoy of Jesus Christ who commissioned him directly to serve Him. Paul is therefore a spokesman for Jesus Christ and has been invested with the authority to speak on His behalf. He is Christ Jesus’ ambassador (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10-21).

Paul identifies himself as one called as an apostle.

Third, Paul identifies himself as being set apart for the gospel of God. When Paul was first set apart for the gospel of God, Ananias is told by Jesus Christ in Acts 9:15, 16: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Other apostles and ministers of the gospel of God also recognized Paul as being set apart for the gospel of God in Acts 13:2: “While ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Paul himself understands that he has been set apart for the gospel of God in Galatians 1:15-17: 15 ” But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” Notice how Paul sees himself as being set apart even from my mother’s womb. In other words, he knows that God had chosen him to be his instrument…to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.

Paul identifies himself as being set apart for the gospel of God.

Purpose of the Writing

Simply put, the purpose of the writing of Romans is to reveal the promised gospel of God. God promised this good news through the prophets of old. We read just in Isaiah the following: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (7:14). “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious but e way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them” (9:1, 2). “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard int he street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law” (42:1-4). “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted…Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because he poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors” (53:4, 12). “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (61:1-3). These are just a few of the verses in the prophet Isaiah’s writings telling of the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The gospel of God is the good news of Jesus Christ! Paul continues his writing by declaring three things about Jesus Christ of whom he is speaking. First, Jesus Christ is born a descendant of David. This means that He comes from a kingly estate which makes David’s throne lasting from generation to generation. Second, Jesus Christ came according to the flesh indicating His earthly life, a reference to its weakness. However, this phrase still implies that He was more than mere human; He is still God but One who came in human flesh. It would have been sufficient to say that He was a descendant of David, but the implication is what is key. Third, Paul says He was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from he dead. Jesus Christ is the appointed Son-of-God-in-power. He was designated as the One who would be resurrected from the dead never to die no more. Although He came in the weakness of human flesh, He was raised from the dead with power. It is the same power when Jesus Christ says in Matthew 28:18, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The authority is the power that has been given to Jesus Christ. Because of His resurrection from the dead, He is Lord! He conquered death, the grave, and hell. He is the first to be resurrected from the dead never to die again. This is the good news of Jesus Christ! He lived, He lives, and He shall forever live because He was resurrected from the dead. He is the One who gives us life now because He was raised from the dead. He has conquered death once and for all.

Paul then quickly moves to his own credibility. He received the grace of the gospel of God. His apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake can mean one of these four things: 1) bringing people to obedient to the faith; 2) the obedience faith produces or requires; 3) believing obedience; or, 4) obedience, namely faith, in which faith further defines obedience. I believe that all the options are viable options. When we preach the gospel of God which is Jesus Christ Himself we are bringing people to obedience to the faith. Moreover, we are seeing how obedient faith produces fruit in the lives of those to whom we preach. This faith is something that brings about obedience in the lives of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. And, finally, the faith that we have received by grace further defines what it means for us to be obedient to the One who has saved those of us who have believed Him unto salvation. Paul’s mission, then, is to bring as many Gentiles (he being a Jew) to obedience to faith for the sake of Jesus Christ’s name. In other words, as a Jew, Paul the apostle believed that he had found the Messiah of which the prophets of old spoke.

This is the gospel of God and this is Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to the Roman believers.

Recipients of the Letter

This letter is to those who are the called of Jesus Christ. The called of Jesus Christ are denotes someone whose participation or presence has been officially requested for something; especially a request to which refusal is not an option. So many people today disagree with this notion of not being able to refuse this call. However, in Paul’s mind, this is not an option when God calls a person to salvation. Man is not autonomous from a Sovereign God who calls, who summons, someone to Himself. His will cannot be thwarted by man even in the most minute circumstance. These who are called to salvation are both the Jews and Gentiles and Paul believes that those who have believed in the gospel of God are those to whom he is writing. These called of Jesus Christ have confessed with the mouth Jesus as Lord, and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). And those who have believed are those who are beloved of God in Rome. The beloved are those who are dearly cherished and loved by God. This word beloved may also mean that these are preferred above all others and treated with partiality. God loves those who believe. God is with those who have trusted Jesus Christ. God calls these saints as well, a person who has been set apart to be holy and blameless in Jesus Christ. Paul is writing to the called who are saints in Rome and offers a benediction toward them: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He prays that God’s grace and peace will be upon them as this letter is sent to these believers.

The recipients of this letter are to both Jews and Gentiles alike who have trusted Jesus Christ unto salvation.

Time Goes On…Fast!

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My last post was in March 2019. It has been a long time since I have written anything. I will be back soon. Just have been so busy with life.

Today I Am Thankful…

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I have been listening to various podcasts and today a podcast popped up on my phone that deals with suffering. All of us suffer with one thing or another. There are thorns in our flesh of one kind or another, or sometimes, it may be someone who is in our life. We may suffer with illnesses that are seen are unseen that cause our attitudes to be that of a pagan: ungrateful for the blessings that God has shown us. What do I mean by this statement? I mean that God is the One who is Sovereign not only over the good but also over the bad. What we as Christ-followers many times fail to understand is just that. If God is truly Sovereign, then it would mean that He is sovereign over our suffering.

However, we as believers in Jesus Christ do not want to think of God in this way. After all, if God is a good God, then why would He allow suffering? “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). The Bible is clear that God is a good God and that He intends to bring “all things to work together for good to those who love” Him. It stands to reason, then, that whether things are good or bad He will bring “all things to work together for good to those who love” Him. This means that whether we are experiencing good happenings in our lives or we are experiencing bad/hard/difficult/catastrophic/destructive things in our lives God will make “all things to work together for good to those who love” Him. This verse does not tell us that He is going to keep us from suffering. After all, His very own Son, Jesus Christ, suffered for us. How then could we as Christ-followers–those who claim to love God–believe that we should not or would not or could not suffer? Nowhere in the Scriptures are we taught that Christ-followers never will suffer after we have come to salvation in Jesus Christ. Rather, it teaches us that we will suffer and that it is through suffering that we are delivered as the psalmist says in Psalm 34:4, 19: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears…Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Conversely, the pagan will say that his suffering is evil and that there is nothing good that can come from it. proverbs 12:13 says, “An evil man is ensnared but he transgression of his lips, but the righteous will escape from trouble.” This means that we should be proclaiming that “ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD TO THOSE WHO LOVE” Him if we claim to be Christ-followers!

God is Sovereign over suffering. He uses suffering in such a way to help us to know that He is with us. Psalm 46:5-7 says, “God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.” Those who suffer as Christians need to know that God is with us when suffering occurs–whether it is physical, emotional, or even spiritual suffering. God is our strength according to Nahum 1:7 which says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.” See that His goodness is only seen in suffering, “in the day of trouble”, when you “take refuge in Him.” It takes us looking to Him to realize that He will bring “all things to work together for good to those who love” Him. In the midst of suffering, God delivers His people as Jeremiah 39:17, 18 says, “‘But I will deliver you on that day,” declares the Lord, ‘and you will not be given into the hand of the men whom you dread. For I will certainly rescue you, and you will not fall by the sword; but you will have your own life as booty, because you have trusted in Me,’ declares the Lord.” However, this does not mean that the deliverance is just in this life. It may mean that He delivers you to be with Him for eternity. John 14:1-3 says, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

God does not stop there; He is not only our refuge and strength. He also comforts us in our suffering as Isaiah 49:13 says, “Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth! Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on His afflicted.” Jesus Christ Himself says in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Paul the apostle even says in 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with he comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” What a joy, then, is the knowledge that we are comforted by God Himself even in the midst of our suffering. And part of this comfort is knowing that He is with us as John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Jesus will come to us!

So what shall we do with suffering? There are so many verses and passages in the Scriptures that teach us what we ought to do with suffering. Here are a few for your consideration:

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13:5, 6)

You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back int he day when I call; this I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:8-11)

They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down; they dug a pit before me; they themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises! (Psalm 57:6, 7)

You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. May You increase my greatness and turn to comfort me. I will praise You with a harp, even Your truth, O my God; to You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy one of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed. (Psalm 71:20-23)

Today I am thankful…for the good, the bad, and the ugly…

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