WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:1-6
1Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, 6among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
1:1 "Paul" Most Jews of Paul's day had two first names, one Jewish, one Roman (cf. Acts 13:9). Paul's Jewish name was Saul. He, like the ancient King of Israel, was of the tribe of Benjamin (cf. Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5). His Roman name in Greek form, Paul (Paulos), meant "little." This referred to
▣ "a bond-servant" NKJV, NRSV, TEV and JB translations read "servant." This concept was either
NJB, REB "Christ Jesus"
NKJV, NRSV "Jesus Christ"
"Christ Jesus" is more unusual and, therefore, probably original (cf. MSS P10, B). The UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain).
However, the other form has really good attestation (cf. MSS P26, א, A, D, G, and most early church Fathers).
See Appendix Two on the assumptions of Textual Criticism. Most of the textual variants are like this one in the sense that they do not affect the basic meaning of the Greek text.
▣ "called as an apostle" This was God's choice, not his (cf. Acts 9:15; Gal. 1:15; Eph. 3:7). With this phrase Paul is asserting his spiritual qualifications and authority, as he does in I Cor. 1:1; II Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; I Tim. 1:1; Titus 1:1) to this church he had never met. See SPECIAL TOPIC: CALLED at 1:6.
The Koine term "apostle" in Palestinian Jewish circles of the first century meant "one sent as an official representative" (cf. II Chr. 17:7-9). In the NT this term was used in two senses: (1) of the Twelve special disciples and Paul and (2) of a spiritual gift that continues in the church (cf. I Cor. 12:28-29; Eph. 4:11).
SPECIAL TOPIC: SEND (APOSTELLŌ)
This is a common Greek word for "send" (i.e., apostellō) This term has several theological usages:
▣ "set apart" This is a perfect passive participle ,which implied that he was set apart by God in the past (cf. Jer. 1:5 and Gal. 1:15) and this continued as a state of being. This was a possible play on the Aramaic word for "Pharisee." They were separated to Jewish legalism (and Paul also [Phil. 3:5] before his Damascus Road encounter with Jesus), but now he was separated to the gospel.
It is related to the Hebrew word for "holy" (BDB 872), which meant "set apart for God's use" (cf. Exod. 19:6; I Pet. 2:5). The terms "saint," "sanctify," and "set apart" all had the same Greek root, "holy" (hagios).
▣ "for the gospel of God" The preposition eis in this context (and v. 5) shows the purpose of Paul's "call" (v. 1b) and being "set apart" (v. 1c).
Gospel is a compound word from "good" (eu) and "message" (angellos). It became the term that described the doctrines revealed in the New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-32) related to God's promised Messiah (cf. vv. 3-4). It is the "gospel of His Son" (v. 2).
This is God's gospel, not Paul's (cf. 15:16; Mark 1:14; II Cor. 11:7; I Thess. 2:2,8,9; I Pet. 4:17). Paul was not an innovator or cultural adapter, but a proclaimer of the truth he received (cf. Acts 9; I Cor. 1:18-25).
1:2 "He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures" This verb is an aorist middle (deponent) indicative. It is used only in Paul's writings (here and II Cor. 9:5). The gospel was no afterthought with God, but His eternal, purposeful plan (cf. Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5; Isa. 53; Ps. 118; Mark 10:45; Luke. 2:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; Titus 1:2). The early sermons in Acts (the kerygma) present Jesus as the fulfillment of OT promises and prophecies.
The OT is referred to in the NT in two common ways.
It is also referred to in connection with the prophets. In the Jewish mind prophets wrote Scripture.
There are two instances of the adjective "holy" attached.
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KERYGMA OF THE EARLY CHURCH
1:3 "concerning His Son" The central message of the Good News is a person, Jesus of Nazareth, virgin-born son of Mary. In the OT the nation, the king, and the Messiah were called "son" (cf. II Sam. 7:14; Hos. 11:1; Ps. 2:7; Matt. 2:15).
In the OT God spoke through servants and prophets. Jesus was not a servant of God. He was a family member (cf. Heb.1:1-2; 3:6; 5:8; 7:28). Surprisingly this is the only place in the book where Paul focuses on Christology. Romans is not a complete systematic theology.
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD
▣ "who was born a descendant of David" This relates to the prophecy of II Samuel 7. The Messiah was of the royal line of David (cf. Isa. 9:7; 11:1,10; Jer. 23:5; 30:9; 33:15) from the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:4-12; Isa. 65:9). In Matthew's Gospel Jesus is acknowledged as David's descendant several times (cf. 1:6; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30,31; 21:9,15; 22:42), which reflected the Jewish hope of a coming Davidic savior.
It is surprising that Paul did not emphasize this aspect of Jesus. He mentioned it only here and in II Tim. 2:8; both passages may have been quotes from an early church's creedal formula. The NIDNTT, vol. 3, p. 61, lists several NT Scripture texts which may reflect early Christological creeds/hymns/liturgy (i.e., Rom. 1:3-4; 8:34; I Cor. 15:3-4; Phil. 2:6-11; I Tim. 3:16; II Tim. 2:8; I Pet. 3:18-20).
NRSV "according to the flesh"
TEV "as to his humanity"
NJB "according to human nature"
This was fulfillment of prophecy and an affirmation of Jesus' humanity, which was often denied in the eclectic religious world of the first century (cf. I John 1:1-4; 4:1-3). This verse clearly shows that Paul did not always use the term "flesh" (sarx) in a negative sense (cf. 2:28; 9:3). However, usually Paul used "flesh" to contrast "spirit" (cf. 6:19; 7:5,18,25; 8:3-9,12,13; I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 1:17; 11:18; Gal. 3:3; 5:13,16,17-19,24; 6:8; Eph. 2:3; Col. 2:11,13,18,23).
This grammatical construction kata (according to) plus an accusative is paralleled in v. 4. Jesus is both human (according to the flesh, v. 3) and divine (according to the Spirit, v. 4). This doctrine of incarnation is crucial (cf. I John 4:1-3). It may also be the implication of Jesus' self-chosen designation, "Son of Man" (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1 [human] and Dan. 7:13 [divine]).
SPECIAL TOPIC: FLESH (SARX)
NRSV, NIV "declared"
NJB, RSV "designated"
This is an aorist passive participle. God definitively appointed Jesus "the Son of God." This does not imply that Bethlehem was the beginning of Jesus or that He is inferior to the Father. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at 8:11. See third paragraph below.
▣ "to be the Son of God with power" The NT authors did not often refer to Jesus by the title "Son of God" (cf. Matt. 4:3) because of the false implications from Greek mythology (the same is true of the virgin birth). The concept is usually qualified by "unique, one of a kind" (monogenes, cf. John 1:18; 3:16,18; I John 4:9). Thus the meaning is "Jesus, the only true Son of God." See Special Topic at 1:3.
The NT has two theological poles related to God the Father and Jesus the Son.
1. they are equal (cf. John1:1; 5:18; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28; II Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3)
but 2. they are separate personalities (cf. Mark 10:18; 14:36; 15:34)
It is possible that Paul was quoting an early Christological creed or alluding to YHWH's Messianic King in Ps. 2:6,7 or 110:1 (cf. Acts 2:34-36). In so doing he was emphasizing the whole phrase "the Son of God with power" (NIDNTT, vol. 2, p. 79) which focused, not on His birth or baptism, but His ascension. However, Adoptionist Christologies (see Glossary) took the verse and quoted it for their own reasons. With this proof-texting method of Bible interpretation, one can make the Bible say anything (see my seminar on Biblical Interpretation free online at www.freebiblecommentary.mobi).
▣ "by the resurrection" God the Father affirmed Jesus' life and message by raising Him from the dead (cf. 4:24; 6:4,9; 8:11; Acts 2:31-33). The deity (cf. John 1:1-14; Col. 1:15-19; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:2-3) and resurrection of Jesus (cf. 4:25; 10:9-13; I Corinthians 15) are twin pillars of Christianity.
▣ This verse was often used to advocate the heresy of "adoptionism" which asserted that Jesus was rewarded and elevated by God for His exemplary life of obedience. The heretics asserted that He was not always (ontologically) deity, but became deity when God raised Him from the dead. Although this is clearly untrue, which is obvious from many texts such as John 1 and 17, something wonderful was conferred on Jesus at His resurrection. It is difficult to express how deity can be rewarded, yet that is what happened. Even though Jesus shared eternal glory with the Father, His status was somehow enriched by the perfect fulfillment of His assigned redemptive task. The resurrection was the Father's affirmation of the life, example, teachings, and sacrificial death of Jesus of Nazareth; eternally divine, fully human, perfect savior, restored and rewarded, unique Son! See Appendix three - Adoptionism.
NASB, NKJV "according to the Spirit of holiness"
NKJV "according to the spirit of holiness"
TEV "as to his divine holiness"
NJB "in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness"
Some translations capitalize the "S" in Spirit, implying the Holy Spirit, while the lowercase "s" would refer to the human spirit of Jesus. As God the Father is Spirit, so too, is Jesus. The ancient Hebrew and Greek texts had no capitalizations, no punctuation, and no chapter or verse divisions, so these are all points of tradition or the interpretation by translators.
There are three ways to view verses 3 and 4.
▣ "Jesus" The Aramaic name Jesus is the same as the Hebrew name Joshua. It was a compound of two Hebrew words "YHWH" and "salvation." It can mean "YHWH saves," "YHWH delivers" or "YHWH is salvation." The thrust of the meaning can be seen in Matt. 1:21,25.
▣ "Christ" This was the Greek translation of the Hebrew term messiah (BDB 603), which meant "an anointed one." In the OT several groups of leaders (prophets, priests, and kings) were anointed as a sign of God's choice and equipping. Jesus fulfilled all three of these anointed offices (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).
The OT predicted that God would send a special "anointed one" to usher in the New Age of Righteousness. Jesus was His special "servant," "son," and "Messiah."
SPECIAL TOPIC: MESSIAH
▣ "Lord" In Judaism the Covenant name for God, YHWH, became so holy that the rabbis substituted the title "Lord," (Adon) when reading the Scriptures because they were afraid they might take God's name in vain (cf. Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11) and thereby break one of the Ten Commandments. When NT authors called Jesus "Lord" ("Kurios") in theological contexts, they were affirming His deity (cf. Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9-13; Phil. 2:6-11).
SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY
1:5 "we" Paul mentions no other person in his introduction, as he often does in his other letters. This first phrase refers to Paul's Damascus Road conversion and appointment (cf. Acts 9), which strongly implies the editorial use of "we."
▣ "we have received grace and apostleship" Paul is affirming not only the gift of salvation through Christ, but also and connected to it, the call to be the apostle to the Gentiles. All of this occurred instantaneously on the road to Damascus (aorist active indicative, cf. Acts 9:1-22; 22:3-16; 26:9-18). It was not from merit, but purposeful grace!
It is possible that "grace" and "apostleship" are to be taken as one unit, "the gift of apostleship" (NET note #13). All of the various translations listed in The New Testament in 26 Translations (p. 646) see it as a hendiadys also.
▣ "to bring about" This is a second use of eis in a purpose context (cf. v. 1). The gospel restores the image of God in mankind through faith in Jesus. This allows the original purpose of God to be manifested, which is a people in intimate fellowship with Him who reflect His character (cf. v. 7).
NASB, NJB "the obedience of faith"
NKJV "for obedience to the faith"
NRSV "to bring about the obedience of faith"
TEV "to believe and obey"
This is the first usage of the pivotal term, "faith," in Romans (see Special Topic at 4:5). It was used in three distinct ways in this chapter and book.
These are the conditions of the New Covenant. We must receive/believe and continue to receive/believe God's offer in Christ (cf. v. 16; John 1:12).
SPECIAL TOPIC: BELIEVE, TRUST, FAITH, AND FAITHFULNESS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT (ןמא)
NASB "for His name's sake"
NKJV "for His name"
NRSV "for the sake of his name"
TEV "for the sake of Christ"
NJB "for the honor of his name"
See Special Topic at 10:9.
▣ "the obedience of faith" The literal Greek phrase is "for (eis) obedience." The gospel has an
1. immediate obedience of repentance and faith
2. lifestyle obedience of Christlikeness and perseverance
The gospel is a grace gift but with expected results! The NT is a covenant like the OT. Both demand a faith/obedience response. They both have benefits, responsibilities, and expectations (i.e., E ph. 1:4; 2:10). This is not a works righteousness but a works confirmation (cf. James, I John)! Eternal life has observable characteristics!
NASB, NRSV "among all the Gentiles"
NKJV "among all nations"
TEV "people of all nations"
NJB "to all pagan nations"
This is the universal gospel. God's promise of redemption in Gen. 3:15 included all mankind. Jesus' substitutionary death included all of the fallen children of Adam (cf. 5:18; John 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 6:33,51; I Cor. 15:22; II Cor. 5:19; Eph. 2:11-3:13; I Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; Heb. 2:9; II Pet. 3:9; I John 2:2; 4:14). Paul sees his special call as preaching God's gospel to Gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:17; Rom. 11:13; 15:16; Gal. 1:16; 2:29; Eph. 3:2,8; I Tim. 2:7; II Tim. 4:17).
SPECIAL TOPIC: BOB'S EVANGELICAL BIASES
1:6 "you also" Paul was an extreme example (i.e., persecutor of the church) of the grace of God, but his readers were also examples of the undeserved, unmerited grace of God.
NASB, NKJV "the called of Jesus Christ"
NRSV "who are called to belong to Jesus Christ"
TEV "whom God has called to belong to Jesus Christ"
NJB "by his call belong to Jesus Christ"
This may be
This also reflects the understanding of this phrase as translated in the NRSV, TEV, and JB. See Special Topic below.
SPECIAL TOPIC: CALLED
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:7
7to 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.
1:7 "beloved of God" This phrase was often used of Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). Now it was used of the church in Rome! This shows the depth of God's love for those who trust in His Son. This kind of transfer can also be seen in Eph. 1:20 (God's actions on behalf of Jesus) and Eph. 2:5-6 (Jesus' actions on behalf of believers).
▣ "in Rome" Paul did not start this church. No one knows who did (see Intro.). Romans was a letter introducing himself to a church already established. The book of Romans is Paul's most developed presentation of the gospel he preached. It is least affected by a local situation although there existed tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers to whom he comments throughout the letter (esp. chaps. 9-11).
NASB "called as saints"
NJB "called to be saints"
TEV "called to be his own people"
The term "saints" referred to the believers' position in Christ (see Special Topic at 6:4), not their sinlessness. It should also describe their progressive Christlikeness. The term was always plural except in Phil. 4:21. However, even in this context it is corporate. To be a Christian is to be part of a community, a family, a body.
Verse 1 indicates that Paul was called to be an apostle. Believers are "the called of Jesus Christ" in verse 6. Believers are also called "saints" in verse 7. This "calling" was a NT way of asserting the truth of the initiating priority of God (see Special Topic at 1:6). No fallen human ever called himself (cf. 3:9-13; Isa. 53:6; I Pet. 2:25). God always takes the initiative (cf. John 6:44,65; 15:16). He always brings the covenant (see Special Topic at 9:4) to us. This is true of our salvation (our imputed righteousness or legal standing), but also our giftedness for effective service (cf. I Cor. 12:7,11), and our Christian lives. See Special Topic following.
SPECIAL TOPIC: SAINTS
▣ "Grace to you and peace from God" This is Paul's characteristic opening blessing. It is a word play on the traditional Greek term "greetings" (charein) and the uniquely Christian term "grace" (charis). Paul may have been combining this Greek opening with the traditional Hebrew greeting shalom or "peace." However, this is only speculation. Notice that theologically grace always precedes peace.
▣ "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" Paul regularly uses only one preposition for both names (cf. I Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; II Thess. 1:2; I Tim. 1:2; II Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4). This was his way of grammatically linking these two Persons of the Trinity. This would emphasize Jesus' deity and equality with the Father.
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FATHERHOOD OF GOD
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:8-15
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. 9For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
1:8 "First" In this context "first" means "from the beginning" or "I must begin" (J. B. Phillips).
▣ "I thank my God through Jesus Christ" Paul normally addresses his prayers to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our only way to approach God! See Special Topic: Paul's Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving at 7:25.
▣ "for you all" This use of "all," like v. 7, may reflect the jealousy and conflict between the believing Jewish leaders who fled Rome under Nero's edict and the resultant believing Gentile leaders who had replaced them for a few years. Romans 9-11 addresses this same issue.
It is also possible that the inclusion is addressed to "the weak" and "the strong" of Rom. 14:1-15:13. God loves all of the church at Rome and He loves them equally!
▣ "because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world" Romans 16:19 made allusion to the same truth. This was obviously an Oriental overstatement (hyperbole) referring to the Roman world (cf. I Thess. 1:8).
1:9 "God. . .is my witness" Paul was taking an oath in God's name (cf. 9:1; II Cor. 1:23; 11:10-11,31; 12:19; Gal. 1:20; I Thess. 2:5). This was his Jewish way of asserting his truthfulness.
NASB "how unceasingly"
NKJV, NRSV "without ceasing"
NJB "continually mention"
NIV "how constantly"
This theme of Paul's constant and urgent prayers (cf. I Thess. 1:2; 2:13; II Tim. 1:3) should be an example church leaders diligently follow (cf. I Thess. 5:17). Prayer opens a powerful spiritual door. We have not because we ask not (James 4:2).
▣ "in my spirit" This is a good example of the use of pneuma for the human spirit (cf. 8:5,10,16; 12:11) used in the sense of human life (i.e., breath, Hebrew ruach, BDB 924, cf. Gen. 6:17; 7:15,22).
SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT (PNEUMA) IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1:10 "always in my prayers making request" Paul did not start this church and yet he consistently prayed for them (cf. II Cor. 11:28), as he did for all his churches! See SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER at 9:3. However, Paul had many friends and co-workers in the Roman church as chapter 16 clearly shows.
▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Paul planned to visit Rome on his way to Spain (cf. 15:22-24). He probably did not plan to stay a long time. Paul always wanted to minister in a new field where no other person had worked (cf. 15:20; II Cor. 10:15,16). It is possible that one of the purposes of the Roman letter was to solicit funds for his missionary journey to Spain (cf. 15:24).
▣ "by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you" This is paralleled in v. 13 and 15:32. Paul did not feel that his life and travel plans belonged to himself, but to God (cf. Acts 18:21; I Cor. 4:19; 16:7). See Special Topic at 12:2.
Also notice that God's will can be affected by believers' prayers!
1:11 "'For I long to see you'" This parallels 15:23. For a long time Paul wanted to meet the believers in Rome (cf. Acts 19:21).
▣ "that I may impart some spiritual gift to you" The phrase "spiritual gift" was used in the sense of spiritual insight or blessing (cf. 11:29; 15:27). Paul saw himself as uniquely called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles (cf. v. 15).
▣ "that you may be established" This is an aorist passive infinitive of histēmi. The word has three meanings.
See Special Topic at 5:2.
1:12 This is the purpose of Christian fellowship. The gifts are meant to unite believers into a ministering community. Believers are gifted for the common good (cf. I Cor. 12:7). All gifts are relevant. All the gifts are given by the Spirit at salvation (cf. I Cor. 12:11). All believers are called, gifted, full-time ministers (cf. Eph. 4:11-12). Paul clearly states his sense of Apostolic authority, but also a community-wide mutuality. Believers need one another! Believers are the Body of Christ.
1:13 "I do not want you to be unaware, brethren" This is an idiom which Paul uses often to introduce important statements (cf. 11:25; I Cor. 10:1; 12:1; II Cor. 1:8; I Thess. 4:13). It is similar in literary purpose to Jesus' "Amen, amen."
▣ "and have been prevented thus far" This is a passive verb. This same phrase occurs in I Thess. 2:18 where Satan is the agent. Paul believed his life was guided by God but disrupted by Satan. Somehow both are true (cf. Job 1-2; Dan. 10). The use of this term in 15:22 implies the hindrance was Paul's missionary work in the eastern Mediterranean area, which is not yet complete (but close).
▣ "that I might obtain some fruit among you" In this context "fruit" may refer to converts, but in John 15:1-8 and Gal. 5:22 it referred to Christian maturity. Matthew 7 says "by your fruit you shall be known," but it does not define the term fruit. The best parallel is probably Phil. 1:22, where Paul uses this same agricultural metaphor.
1:14 "I am under obligation" Paul uses this term several times in Romans.
▣ "to Greeks" This referred to the civilized, cultured people around the Mediterranean Sea. Alexander the Great and his followers had Hellenized the known world. The Romans had taken over and assimilated the Greek culture.
▣ "to Barbarians" This (onomatopoeia) term meant the uneducated or uncultured people groups, usually to the north. It was used of people who did not speak Greek. Their speech sounded like "bar bar bar" to the Greeks and Romans.
▣ "to the wise and to the foolish" It is possible that this is parallel in the Greek text to "barbarians," but not necessarily so. This may be another way of referring to all people groups and individuals.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:16-17
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."
1:16-17 Verses 16-17 are the theme of the entire book. This theme is amplified and summarized in 3:21-31.
NASB, NRSV "I am not ashamed of the gospel"
NKJV "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ"
TEV "I have complete confidence in the gospel"
NJB "I am not ashamed of the Good News:"
Paul may be alluding to Jesus' words in Mark 8:38 and Luke 9:26. He is not ashamed of the content of the gospel or its resulting persecution (cf. II Tim. 1:12,16,18).
In I Cor. 1:23 the Jews were ashamed of the gospel because it affirmed a suffering Messiah and the Greeks because it affirmed the resurrection of the body.
▣ "salvation" In the OT, the Hebrew term (yasho) primarily referred to physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15), but in the NT the Greek term (sōzō) refers primarily to spiritual deliverance (cf. I Cor. 1:18, 21). See Robert B. Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 124-126.
SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM)
NASB "to every one who believes"
NKJV "for everyone who believes"
NRSV "to everyone who has faith"
TEV "all who believe"
NJB "all who have faith"
The gospel is for all humans (oh, how I love the words "everyone," "whosoever," "all," see note at 1:5, 6th item), but believing is one of the conditions for acceptance (cf. Acts 16:30-31). The other is repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16 and 19; 20:21). God deals with mankind by means of covenant (see Special Topic at 9:4). He always takes the initiative and sets the agenda (cf. John 6:44,65). But there are several reciprocal conditions (see note at 1:5, 4th item).
The Greek term, here translated "believe," can also be translated in English by the terms "faith" or "trust." The Greek word has a wider connotation than any one English word. Notice it is a present participle. Saving faith is continuing faith (cf. I Cor. 1:18; 15:2; II Cor. 2:15; I Thess. 4:14)! See special Topic at 10:4.
Originally the related Hebrew terms behind this Greek term for "faith" meant a stable stance, a man with his feet apart so that he could not be easily moved. The opposite OT metaphor would be "my feet were in the miry clay" (Ps. 40:2), "my feet almost slipped" (Ps. 73:2). The Hebrew related roots, emun, emunah, aman, came to be used metaphorically of someone who was trustworthy, loyal, or dependable. Saving faith does not reflect fallen mankind's ability to be faithful, but God's! Believers' hopes do not reside in their abilities but in God's character and promises. It is His trustworthiness, His faithfulness, His promises! See Special Topic at 1:5.
▣ "to the Jew first" The reason for this is discussed briefly in 2:9-10 and 3:1-20 and fully developed in chapters 9-11. It follows Jesus' statements in Matt. 10:6; 15:24; Mark 7:27; John 4:22.
This may relate to the jealousy between believing Jew and Gentile leadership in the Roman church.
1:17 "the righteousness of God" This phrase in context referred to (1) God's character, and (2) how He gives that character to sinful mankind. The Jerusalem Bible (JB) translation has "this is what reveals the justice of God." While this does refer to the believer's moral lifestyle, it primarily concerns his legal standing before the Righteous Judge. This imputation of the righteousness of God to fallen, sinful mankind, since the Reformation, has been characterized as "justification by grace through faith" (cf. II Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). This is the very verse that changed Martin Luther's life and theology!
However, the goal of justification is sanctification, Christlikeness, or the righteous character of God (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4; 2:10; 4:13; I Thess. 3:13; 4:3; I Pet. 1:15). Righteousness is not only a legal pronouncement, it is a call to a holy life; the image of God in mankind is to be functionally restored (cf. II Cor. 5:21).
SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS
NASB, NKJV "from faith to faith"
NRSV "through faith for faith"
TEV "it is through faith, from beginning to end"
NJB "it shows how faith leads to faith"
This phrase has two prepositions, ek and eis, which denote a transition or development. He uses this same structure in II Cor. 2:16 and apo and eis in II Cor. 3:18. Christianity is a gift which is expected to become a characteristic and a lifestyle.
There are several possibilities in translating this phrase. The Williams NT translates it as "the Way of faith that leads to greater faith." The main theological points are
One thing is certain, "faith" in Christ is crucial (cf. 5:1; Phil. 3:9). God's offer of salvation is conditioned on a faith response (cf. Mark 1:15; John 1:12; 3:16; Acts 3:16 and 19; 20:21). See Special Topics at 1:5; 4:5; and 10:4.
NASB "But the righteous man shall live by faith"
NKJV "The just shall live by faith"
NRSV "The one who is righteous will live by faith"
TEV "He who is put right with God through faith shall live"
NJB "The upright man finds life through faith"
This was a quote from Hab. 2:4, but not from the Masoretic Text (MT) or the Septuagint (LXX). In the OT "faith" had the expanded metaphorical meaning of "trustworthiness," "faithfulness," or "loyalty to" (see Special Topic at 1:5). Saving faith is based on God's faithfulness (cf. 3:5,21,22,25,26). However, human faithfulness is evidence that one has trusted in God's provision. This same OT text is quoted in Gal. 3:11 and Heb. 10:38. The next literary unit, Romans 1:18-3:20, reveals the opposite of faithfulness to God.
It may be helpful to list how several modern commentators understand the last part of the phrase.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:18-23
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
1:18 "for" Notice the number of times gar is used in the theme statement of verses 16-17-three times, and now it introduces Paul's first point of the gospel (1:18-3:31), which is contrasted with the power of God unto salvation (1:16-17).
▣ "the wrath of God" Verses 18-23 depict the pagan world of Paul's day. Paul's characterization of the pagan world is also found in Jewish literature (cf. Wisdom of Solomon 13:1ff. and Letter of Aristeas, 134-38) and even in Greek and Roman ethical writings. The same Bible that tells us of God's love also reveals His wrath (cf. vv. 23-32; 2:5,8; 3:5; 4:15; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4-5).
Both wrath and love are human terms which are applied to God. They express the truth that God has a way He wants believers to respond to and live. One's willful rejection of God's will (the gospel of Christ) results in consequences both temporal, as in this verse, and eschatological (cf. 2:5). However, God must not be viewed as vindictive. Judgment is His "strange work" (cf. Isa. 28:21ff). Love is His character, compare Deut. 5:9 to 5:10; 7:9. In Him justice and mercy predominate. Yet all will give an account to God (cf. Eccl. 12:13-14; Gal. 6:7), even Christians (cf. 14:10-12; II Cor. 5:10).
SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM)
▣ "is revealed" As the gospel is a revealed truth (v. 17), so too, the wrath of God! Neither is an act of human discovery or logic.
▣ "who suppress the truth" This referred to human willful rejection, not ignorance (cf. vv. 21,32; John 3:17-21). This phrase can mean
SPECIAL TOPIC: "TRUTH" IN PAUL'S WRITINGS
1:19 "that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them" All humans know something of God from creation (cf. v. 20; Job 12:7-10 and Ps. 19:1-6 through nature). In theology this is called "natural revelation." It is not complete, but it is the basis of God's holding responsible those who have never been exposed to God's "special revelation" in Scripture (cf. Ps. 19:7-14) or, ultimately, in Jesus (cf. Col. 1:15; 2:9).
The term "know" was used in two senses in the NT: (1) its OT sense of intimate personal relationship (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5) and (2) its Greek sense of facts about a subject (cf. v. 21). The gospel is both a Person to be welcomed and a message about that Person to be received and believed! In this verse it was used only in the sense of #2.
SPECIAL TOPIC: KNOW (USING MOSTLY DEUTERONOMY AS A PARADIGM)
1:20 This verse mentions three aspects of God.
▣ "for since the creation of the world" The preposition apo is used in a temporal sense. A similar phrase is found in Mark 10:6; 13:19; II Pet. 3:4. The invisible God is now seen in
▣ "divine nature" From Greek literature theiotēs could be translated "divine majesty." This is seen supremely in Jesus. He uniquely bears the divine image (cf. II Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). He is God's full revelation in human form (Col. 1:19; 2:9). The wonderful truth of the gospel is that fallen mankind, through faith in Christ, will share Christlikeness (cf. Heb. 12:10; I John 3:2). The image of God in humanity (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) has been restored (theios, cf. II Pet. 1:3-4)!
NASB "have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made"
NKJV "are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made"
NRSV "have been understood and seen through the things he has made"
TEV "have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made"
NJB "have been clearly seen by the mind's understanding of created things"
The combination of noeō (cf. Matt. 15:17) and kathoraō (both present passive) implies a true perception. God has written two books: (1) nature (cf. Ps. 19:1-6) and (2) Scripture (cf. Ps. 19:7-14). They are both capable of human understanding and demand a response (cf. Wisdom 13:1-9).
▣ "so that they are without excuse" This is literally "no legal defense." This Greek term (a plus apologeomai) is used only here and in 2:1 in the NT. Remember the theological purpose of 1:18-3:20 is to show the spiritual lostness of all mankind. Humans are responsible for the knowledge they do have. God holds humans responsible only for that which they know or could know (cf. 4:15; 5:13).
1:21 "for even though they knew God" Humans are not progressing religiously-they are progressively evil. Since Genesis 3 humanity has been going downhill. The darkness is increasing!
▣ "they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks" This is the tragedy of pagan idolatry in vv. 23, 24 (cf. Jer. 2:9-13). Believers "glorify" God by Christlike living (cf. Matt. 5:16; Rom. 12:1-2; I Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Phil. 1:20; I Pet. 4:11). YHWH wants a people who reflect/reveal His character to a fallen, blind world!
▣ "but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." The New Testament: A New Translation by Olaf M. Morlie has "rather they busied themselves with silly speculations about Him, and their stupid minds groped about in the dark." Human religious systems are monuments to spiritual rebellion and pride (cf. v. 22; Col. 2:16-23).
The word translated "futile" was used in the LXX to refer to the "vain," "non-existent" idols of Israel's neighbors. Paul was a Hebrew thinker who knew the Septuagint. The use of Greek words in the LXX is a better guide to the NT authors' thoughts than Greek lexicons.
The two verbs are aorist passive indicatives. Does the passive voice imply that their lack of understanding and proper response was because God veiled their hearts or that their rejection of the light had hardened their hearts (cf. 10:12-16; II Kgs. 17:15; Jer. 2:5; Eph. 4:17-19)? This is the same theological question related to Pharaoh in the exodus.
|God hardened his heart||Pharaoh hardened his own heart|
|Exod. 4:21||Exod. 8:15|
In 9:35 the hardening could refer to God or Pharaoh. This is the mystery of divine sovereignty and human free will!
▣ "heart" This was used in the OT sense of the entire person. However, it was often a way of referring to the thinking and feeling process. See Special Topic at 1:24.
NASB, NKJV "Professing to be wise, they became fools"
NRSV "Claiming to be wise, they became fools"
TEV "They say they are wise, but they are fools"
NJB "The more they called themselves philosophers, the more stupid they grew"
From the Greek word "fool" we get the English "moron." The problem is in mankind's pride and confidence in their own knowledge (cf. I Cor. 1:18-31; Col. 2:8-23). This goes back to Genesis 3. Knowledge brought separation and judgment. It is not that human knowledge is always wrong, it is just not ultimate!
1:23 Willfully ignorant humans who were made in God's image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1,3; 9:6) turned God into earthly images such as
Some new forms of this old sin are
▣ "glory" See Special Topic at 3:23
▣ "corruptible man" See Special Topic following.
SPECIAL TOPIC: DESTROY, RUIN, CORRUPT (PHTHEIRŌ)
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:24-25
24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
1:24, 26, 28 "God gave them over" This is the worst possible judgment. It is God saying "let fallen humanity have their own way" (cf. Ps. 81:12; Hosea 4:17; Acts 7:42 quotes several OT texts on this theological issue). Verses 23-32 describe God's rejection (temporal wrath) of the pagan world and its religiosity (and ours)! Paganism was and is characterized by sexual perversion and exploitation!
1:24 "hearts" See Special Topic following.
SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART
1:25 "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" This can be understood in several ways.
In context #2 fits best.
▣ "worshiped and served" Mankind will always have gods. All humans sense there is someone, some truth, or something beyond themselves.
▣ "who is blessed forever. Amen" Paul burst into a Jewish blessing, which is so characteristic of him (cf. Rom. 9:5; II Cor. 11:31). Paul's prays often as he writes (cf. 9:5; 11:36; 15:33; 16:27).
▣ "forever" See Special Topic below.
SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER (GREEK IDIOM)
▣ "Amen" See Special Topic below.
SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:26-27
26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
1:26,27 Homosexuality is one example of life apart from God's obvious will in creation (be fruitful). It was a sin and a major cultural problem
Homosexuality is probably listed as one example of the fallen life because of the entire context's orientation to Genesis 1-3. Mankind was made in God's image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1,3; 9:6). Mankind was made male and female (cf. Gen. 1:27). God's command was to be fruitful and multiply (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7). Mankind's fall (cf. Genesis 3) disrupted God's plan and will. Homosexuality is an obvious violation! However it must be stated that this is not the only sin mentioned in the context (cf. vv. 29-31). All sins show mankind's separation from God and their deserved punishment. All sin, especially lifestyle sin, is abhorrent to God.
SPECIAL TOPIC: HOMOSEXUALITY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 1:28-32
28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
1:28-31 This is one sentence in Greek. It characterized rebellious, fallen, independent mankind (cf. Rom. 13:13; I Cor. 5:11; 6:9; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:5; I Tim. 1:10; Rev. 21:8).
Humanity's sin was that they chose existence apart from God. Hell is that existence made permanent. Independence is a tragedy! Mankind needs God; he is lost, inadequate, and unfulfilled apart from Him. The worst part of an eternal hell is God's relational absence!
1:29 "a depraved mind" What fallen mankind sees as freedom is self-worship: "Anything and everything for me!" The agent of the passive voice is stated as God in 1:24,26,28, but in this context's relationship to Genesis 1-3 it is mankind's choice of knowledge and self which caused the problem. God allowed His creation to suffer the consequences of their own choices, their own independence.
▣ "being filled with" This is a perfect passive participle. Humans are filled and characterized by what they dwell upon. The rabbis would say that in every human heart is a black (evil yetzer) dog and a white (good yetzer) dog. The one who is fed the most becomes the largest.
1:29-31 These are the results and symptoms of life without God. They characterize individuals and societies who choose to reject the God of the Bible. This was one of several lists of sins that Paul gave (cf. I Cor. 5:11; 6:9; II Cor. 12:20; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 4:31; 5:3-4; Col. 3:5-9).
SPECIAL TOPIC: VICES AND VIRTUES
1:30 "arrogant" This is huperēphanous (see C., 3 below).
SPECIAL TOPIC: PAUL'S USE OF HUPER COMPOUNDS
1:32 "those who practice such things are worthy of death" This statement reflects the Law of Moses. It is summarized in Rom. 6:16,21,23; 8:6,13. Death is the opposite of God's will and God's life (cf. Ezek. 18:32; I Tim. 2:4; II Pet. 3:9).
▣ "but also give hearty approval to those who practice them" Misery loves company. Fallen mankind uses the sins of others as an excuse, "everyone is doing it." Cultures are characterized by their particular sins!
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