Romans 1:1-17 “Greetings & the Gospel”

The book of Romans was probably written while Paul was staying in Corinth around 56AD. He would be arrested in Jerusalem in 57AD and held captive at Caesarea until 59AD. He arrived in Rome in 60AD and spent 2 years in house arrest. He was then released. He may have travelled to Spain and Gaul, perhaps Britain according to tradition, then re-arrested and imprisoned in Rome, finally being beheaded by order of Emperor Nero somewhere between 64 and 68AD. Nero committed suicide in June 68AD so Paul was executed before that, some saying only a short time before Nero died.


Romans 1:1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called {to be} an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,


servant = ‘doulos’ – servant, bondservant, slave. δοῦλος can mean slave, one who is permanently in servitude, in subjection to a master, but can also mean servant, according to the context.

Macarthur makes a lot of this word meaning ‘slave’ and has written a book about this, aptly named Slave. He says that there has been a “cover-up of biblical proportions” by translating it as ‘servant’ instead. English translators have “perpetrated a fraud”. (Quotes from the book’s back cover.) He even says this mistake is unintentional, but can an unintentional mistake be a cover-up? Note that Jesus said we were no longer ‘doulos’ but ‘philos’ (friend).

John 15:15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.


Certainly as ‘doulos’ we are meant to be in total subjection to God, but we are also called children of God and friends, among other terms. Why is it so important for MacArthur to push this issue so intensely? If you remember that his view of God’s sovereignty is such that no decision can be made in the universe unless God makes it first, then we are merely puppets or slaves that God controls by pulling strings. And if we are elect, then our perseverance is essential to enter heaven. Such calvinist perseverance is also only possible if we are literally slaves without a will of our own.


apostleEnvoy, ambassador, or messenger commissioned to carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent (Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary).

An apostle originally referred to the 12 disciples, with Judas replaced by Matthias after the resurrection.

Acts 1:26And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

But Matthias was never mentioned again and so many believe that Paul was God’s replacement for Judas. But the requirements for the replacement was that he had to be present with Jesus from His baptism by John the Baptist until after the resurrection (Acts 1) so we still have to accept that Matthias was Judas’ replacement.

The word ‘apostle’ (apostolos) means ‘one sent forth with orders’.

Acts 14:4 calls both Paul and Barnabas apostles, sent forth with orders (Acts 13:2).


separatedaphorizo (set apart [from that which is disreputable] for a purpose). So what does it mean here to be separated? In the context of Romans 1 it appears to relate to making a choice between the world and the gospel! Remember that those who didn’t take up their crosses were not worthy of Jesus and couldn’t be His disciples. Scripture appears to say that in order for Christians to be genuine Christians, they had to deny themselves, forsake all, take up their crosses and follow Jesus. And taking up your cross daily also involves suffering:

1 Peter 2:21For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:


Romans 1:2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)


Either the gospel was promised, or more likely, Jesus Christ came as promised (see Vs 3) in order to present His gospel. Many prophecies deal with both the coming of Jesus and the salvation that He would declare to them (His gospel).


Romans 1:3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;


We know from the Old Testament that Jesus was indeed born of the royal line of King David, and, through Mary, a direct blood (flesh) descendant.

Jeremiah 23:5-65 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this {is} his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

was madeginomai (come to pass, be made, to come into existence) This doesn’t mean that Jesus’ sonship only began at His conception, but instead means that His human nature (His incarnation) began. He became a Man of the seed of David according to the flesh. This assumes His pre-existence before His birth, but not according to the flesh (that is, incarnate).


Romans 1:4And declared {to be} the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:


This resurrection from the dead proved the Godhood of Jesus. (The Scriptural context – being made incarnate, or of the flesh –  must assume fleshly or physical resurrection) proved the Godhood of Jesus.

1 John 4:1-3a1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God:


The Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus only rose in spirit, that His body was dead but He didn’t die! But their Bible does say that Jesus tells the disciples that He has flesh and bones. (Luke 24:39 – See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones just as you see that I have. New World Translation 2013 Edition)


1 Corinthians 15:12-1812 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then {is} our preaching vain, and your faith {is} also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith {is} vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.


Romans 1:5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:


The word ‘we’ probably indicates Paul and not Christians in general. Either grace (God’s favour to Paul) and apostleship (as an office of service) are two separate gifts, or what is known as an hendiadys (one idea expressed by a pair of words; a figure of speech used for emphasis) which would then name or style his apostleship as one of ‘grace’. The purpose of Paul’s apostleship was to take the gospel to people of all nations. This was not just a simple belief but in that obedience which results from such faith in His name. Note that Jesus said that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments.

John 14:15If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Note also that our priesthood (as believers) is to the nations was originally Israel’s priesthood.

Exodus 19:6And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These {are} the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.


Romans 1:6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:


The people of Rome include the people among all those nations as stated in Vs 5. Rome was a cosmopolitan city with more nationalities than any other city of that time. It was the then known centre of the earth politically speaking. In among all those nations gathered at Rome were many Christians, a lot of whom one day would be persecuted for that faith that is mentioned in Vs 5.


calledklētos (called or invited (to a banquet or some office); invited to obtain salvation through Christ)

Calvinists would have that this proves unconditional election, yet this is the same word kletos that is used in Matthew 22:14For many are called, but few {are} chosen. So, if the “called of Jesus Christ” (Romans1:6) are of the election, then clearly not all thus called may actually be chosen! (Noting that those who are chosen in Matthew 22:14 are a smaller group than those who are called – kletos. If these are indeed the elect, then some of the elect are going to miss out on heaven!)

Also, it can be demonstrated that the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God is used to determine the election of believers – 1 Peter 2aElect according to the foreknowledge (prognosis) of God the Father)


 (Which makes a mockery of MacArthur’s church doctrinal statement which says that All whom the Father calls to Himself will come in faith and all who come in faith the Father will receive, if not all who are ‘called’ end up being ‘chosen’!)

We as Christians are the called of Jesus Christ, but not in the sense of unconditional election. We are called because God has chosen us in Him (according to His foreknowledge) in response to our acceptance by faith of His promises in Jesus Christ.


Romans 1:7To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called {to be} saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Note that all God’s children are called to be saints, the beloved of God. Also, Paul here gives his standard greeting, also found in 1 & 2 Corinthians Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians and Philemon, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. with only slight variations in places. (This is one reason why many scholars believe Hebrews wasn’t written by Paul, because it completely omits any such greeting. We’ll cover this aspect more thoroughly when we study Hebrews.)


Romans 1:8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.


First, (to start with) – this is not a word of order – there is no ‘second’ in the book of Romans – but is now the start of the teaching of this epistle. And he begins by praising them for their faith that is noted throughout the known world at that time. It is the testimony of the Christians of Rome, that their faith was worth noting. We may assume that this is a positive note. It is worth mentioning that during the persecution of the Russian church (most notable for much of the second half of the 20th century) that a saying circulated concerning the testimony of Christians. Many of these people had lost jobs, families (including their children), freedom and even their lives for their testimony because they had been found guilty of one of the greatest crimes against the state at that time – to be a Christian. They used to say that this was the true test of being a Christian. “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

In Paul’s day, and especially following, Rome was a major centre for persecution. Many martyrs were sacrificed for their faith. Today Rome is a centre of apostasy but it wasn’t always so. The early Christians were so committed to serving God that they would rather die than back down and deny Jesus Christ.


Romans 1:9For 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;


Note that God is witness to everything we do, say and think! Be very careful before using this as proof of innocence, as so many attempt today! I all too often hear someone say in their defence, that “I am innocent as God is my witness!” However, more often than not, it seems that such are more guilty than innocent!

But God is truly Paul’s witness; Paul serves the One who is his witness. And Paul’s service is for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the foundational truth that underlies every other service we do for God. Remove the gospel and you remove all effective service for God. This is the main area of attack from cults – take the power of the gospel away and you destroy the rest of the truth. (See Vs 16 further on).


For this reason and others Paul prayed for them. Does God answer our prayer for others? Why does it seem that we find so many prayers not answered over time? Are they not according to God’s will, or perhaps we are missing something, like suffering, perhaps?

1 Corinthians 9:12bNevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

And we know that Paul’s service included much suffering. Clearly there’s a connection between suffering for Christ and having authority in His name.


Romans 1:10Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.


Paul is genuinely concerned for their well-being and establishment in the faith. How does this compare with modern-day high-profile evangelists with their almost constant demands for “support”, especially financial? Paul wants to come and see them, not just to be satisfied with hearing that they are Christians, but to counsel them personally. It is one thing to pray and ask God to bless the lost with salvation. But how many actually will be saved by such “armchair missionaries”? He doesn’t ask for money, either (note how this would go down with the likes of “dollar-sign” Brian – “you need more money” – Housten). Instead, Paul worked as a tent-maker (Acts 18:3) in order to not be a burden on the finances of his listeners. Paul went the extra mile, as the saying goes, and didn’t request their life-savings for his service (which was still his right).

1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 1811 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, {is it} a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? 12 If others be partakers of {this} power over you, {are} not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. …… 18 What is my reward then? {Verily} that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.


Romans 1:11For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;


What spiritual gift is Paul talking about? Not the charisma of 1 Corinthians 12, as these are given by the Holy Spirit when we are baptised by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ as new Christians. However, the word used for ‘spiritual gift’ here is the same word – charisma but is more likely to be encouragement, or the ministering of some spiritual gift of Paul, for the Christians at Rome. Note the following:

1 Peter 4:10-1110 As every man hath received the gift, {even so} minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 If any man speak, {let him speak} as the oracles of God; if any man minister, {let him do it} as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever.

The purpose isn’t necessarily to make Paul feel good, but to see them established. This is an act of unselfishness. Paul’s purpose for ministry is, apart from service for God, to serve others. This flies in the face of today’s high-profile ‘teachers’ and ‘preachers’ who appear to be doing their service for their own benefit.


Romans 1:12That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.


However, even though Paul desires to encourage them, he acknowledges that their encouragement would in return encourage him. Note the word ‘mutual’.

Hebrews 3:13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Our treatments of others also rebounds back toward us.

Matthew 7:12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

We will also reap what we sow. If we sow greed, then we will produce a crop of greed. If we sow faithful service, then we will reap likewise.

Galatians 6:7-107 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all {men}, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.


Romans 1:13Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.


Paul had desired to come to them before now but had been hindered. There is no suggestion that this hindering might have been bad. However, Paul would have accepted this as God’s working and perfect timing in his ministry to those at Rome.

Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to {his} purpose.

He also says that he desires some fruit among them – this means not just for the benefit of those already Christian at Rome but to convert more ‘fruit’. Paul sees the harvest is ripe. And when the harvest is ripe, it should not be wasted.

John 4:35Say not ye, There are yet four months, and {then} cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.


Romans 1:14I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.


Paul doesn’t desire this for his own benefit, either; he owes a debt to the Greeks and barbarians (that is, the Gentiles in general). He is not looking to get rich, but to repay a debt, something today’s Christian leaders might have some big difficulty with! Paul is a rare Christian who sees his ministry as insufficient to pay back what God has done for him. In Australia today we see so much of the opposite – that people seem to be expecting God to be grateful for their service to Him! They seem to want more, rather than give more.

The gospel is not just to those with learning, or just to the foolish, but to all classes of understanding; the gospel is for all people, both wise and unwise. And Paul’s debt is ultimately to the gospel that saved him.


Romans 1:15So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.


So Paul is ready to give his all to repay that debt, by preaching the gospel to those in Rome, so many of whom haven’t yet heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. “So much as in me is …..” Paul is willing to give his all, and eventually does give his all for the service of Christ in Rome. His desire to preach the gospel in Rome will cost him his life around ten years after this epistle was written.


Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.


How many Christians are ashamed of being Christians? But Paul notes that the real power of God for salvation is through the gospel of Jesus Christ.


This is the gospel -

Romans 10:8-178 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, {even} in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? 17 So then faith {cometh} by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.


It’s for all who believe, and that doesn’t mean the unconditional election as calvinists such as MacArthur teach. Calvinism teaches that we must be saved first (regenerated) before we can believe, but the real power of the gospel is for those who believe in order to be saved. Believing comes before salvation (see Romans 10:9 above). It’s also for the Jew and the Gentile (Greek). Not one person is excluded! This is why ‘christian’-cults remove the gospel of Jesus Christ from their belief system. In doing so they remove the power of the gospel which is the truth upon which every other Christian doctrine rests. Every belief system that changes the gospel from that taught in the Bible to one of their own making can be defined as a cult.


Some general indicators for the identification of cults include:

-       the gospel is changed to suit their teachings; thus another gospel.

-       the role of Jesus Christ is minimised or removed altogether.

-       you have to belong to their group to be ‘saved’ (exclusivism).

It’s interesting to note that calvinism has (a) another gospel (you are saved before you can believe in Christ), (b) the cross of Jesus Christ has been replaced by the “Mother church” of Calvin’s institutes, and (c) you have to belong to their “elect” in order to be saved.


Romans 1:17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.


The quote is from Habakkuk 2:4 (the proud without faith vs the just who live by faith)

from faith to faith – a response of man to God’s promises. Righteousness revealed by faith to bring more faith? The word ‘from’ can be translated as ‘by’.

“The just shall live by faith” is hard to explain if faith is merely a gift, because our just and righteous living would be by God’s ordination, by God’s decree, and thus couldn’t be pleasing to God as per Hebrews 11:6But without faith {it is} impossible to please {him}: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and {that} he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

How could we please God if He were required by His sovereignty to firstly give us that faith by which we might please Him? As the saying goes: It’s the thought that counts. However, if we can only act according to the ordination of God, then the thought here cannot exist unless God has decreed it for us!


The first half of Romans 1 deals with the gospel and how it is an absolute, essential to service for God. For some time after seeing how hyper-calvinism was aggressively trying to take over fundamentalist churches, I wondered what the benefit to satan could be. I had seen a pattern in that the gospel was effectively being replaced with “the election”. For the calvinist, the gospel is irrelevant for the ‘elect’ (they have to be ‘regenerated’ before they can ‘hear’ the gospel) and the gospel doesn’t even exist for the ‘non-elect’ (according to the calvinist, Jesus only died to pay for the sins of the ‘elect’; even if the ‘non-elect’ wished to be saved, they can’t be, because God allegedly hasn’t made any provision for their sins to be paid!


It is apparent why some calvinists openly state that it is foolishness to evangelise the lost. Many Presbyterian churches – a calvinist (they prefer the term ‘reformed’) denomination – teach that street preaching, or handing out tracts, or evangelising outside the church building, or outside the authority of the mother church, is not permitted by God. Yet the Bible says that he who wins souls is wise – Proverbs 11:30.


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