January 16, 2011

Romans 1:8-15

We started looking at the book of Romans last week. The first chapter is divided something like this:

Ro 1:1-7 Paul, commending to the Romans his calling, greets them,
Ro 1:8-15 and professes his concern for, and desire of coming to see them.
Ro 1:16,17 He shows that the gospel is for the justification of all mankind through faith.
Ro 1:18-32 And having premised that sinners in general are obnoxious to God's wrath, he describes at large the corruption of the Gentile world.

Though the Epistle to the Romans is not the first letter Paul wrote, it is the most important in presenting Christian Doctrine, which is probably why it was placed as the first Epistle.

Last time, we looked at the first section of this chapter, vv. 1-7.

He starts that chapter and the letter by introducing himself to the believers at Rome. Whereas Paul's other letters are addressed to specific churches, the church at Corinth, this letter is addressed to the believers at Rome. They were meeting in individual homes, and not as a group as elsewhere.

Second, he establishes his authority to write the difficult things he is about to give them.

Third, he makes sure they understand that he will present nothing new. Every area he will touch is according to the prophets in the holy scripture, v. 2.

The purpose of the letter is to counter the false teachers from Jerusalem who have already crept in with their undermining influence.

Vv. 8-15 continues his introduction to the his letter. He expresses his concern for then, and his desire to come to Rome in order to strengthen them in the faith.

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

Paul will cover many things in this letter, but he says, "Before I start, let me say this..." He does the same thing in almost all of his letters.

This letter to the Romans was probably written around AD 57. Nero was Emperor of Rome, 54-68, so this letter was probably written during Nero's reign of terrible persecution against the Christians in Rome, which is why these believers were scattered in small groups throughout the city.

Rome was the center of the known world. The Empire had built paved roads to every point in Europe, even in the British Iles. They were military roads used to quickly move the army from one part to another. Many of those roads are still in use today.

It is interesting that our railroads and cars today are built to Roman chariot specifications.

Though the roads were built for military purposes, the roads made it possible for the quick spread of the Gospel of Christ. The roads also meant that whatever happened in Rome quickly made its way to the rest of the world.

Thanks... We live in a world full of unthankful people. We even allow ourselves to become influenced by this thankless attitude and forget that God knows of our unthankfulness. We will cover more of this in v. 21.

Scripture reminds us often to give thanks. We are to give thanks to God for his unspeakable gift in Christ, as well as his daily grace for living. We are to give thinks to others at every opportunity. We must work to avoid a spirit of expectation, that leads to ungratefulness.

I read of a man who fractured his spine during a fall and ended up in a wheelchair. At first he cursed God for it, but after he was saved he said, "When I stand before God's throne, I will thank Him for breaking my back. If God would have let me live the way I was living, I would have gone to hell." Though we might not in this life feel thankful for our difficulties, but in that day we will see why.

Paul was going to say some difficult things to this church, so he starts on a positive note: I thank God... We should be able to always find something in others for which to be thankful.

For you all... Sin had been kept out of this church, quite unlike most of the other churches Paul wrote to. Evidently, this was a strong church, for he certainly does not give them milk in this letter, but strong meat. Quite unlike the church at Corinth.

His desire was that they would understand more of the faith they were already acting on.

Faith spoken of...

Rome was the capital of the Empire that controlled the world of its day. It was a city known world-over for its unbridled wickedness. Yet these Christians were known in the Christian Churches world-wide for their faithfulness to the total Gospel of Christ, as they knew it at the time. Probably in the face of Nero's persecution.

V. 9, Paul had never met these Christians. Yet he refers to God as his witness to show these Christians his love, his interest in, and his commitment to their well-being in the faith.

Notice he prays not only for family and friends, but for those he had never met.

V. 10. He had heard of their faith; that is, he had heard of their obedience to their understanding of the gospel, even in the midst of the persecution. That obedience was not simply saying that they believed something, but they acted out their faith. Faith without works is dead, and he had heard of their works.

He had been praying that he would have a pleasant and successful journy to go see them.

He said, if by any means... He did get to go see them, but it was as a prisoner. The Jews were intent on killing him in Jerusalem, and he appealed to Caesar. He went to Rome as a prisoner.

By the will of God. He prayed as we all should pray. His request was conditioned on the will of God. He went, but not in the manner he expected to go.

God's answers come in his manner and in his time.

V. 11, he greatly desired to see them.

The desire was not a desire for a personal fulfillment, as are many of our prayers. Rather, his desire was based in what would benefit these people in the faith. His desire was to further establish and strengthen them in the faith. He wanted to establish them in the meatier things of the faith, not just the basic belief in Christ.

V. 12. That I may be comforted...

Notice his humility. Though an Apostle, his desire was not based in what he could do for them. Rather, it included what they could do for him.

He expected to be strengthened in his faith as he was with them and would see first hand the faith that was spoken of throughout the world.

Note:

1. As we see in Paul, a Christian will desire to be around other Christians of like faith, especially those of good reputation:

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Even Paul was looking forward to being with a group of people who were known for their godliness.

2.The best thing to produce growth in grace and knowledge is to have one or more good Christian friends. I cannot remember all the Christians who abandoned their Christianity by hanging around non-Christians or with those who were Christians in name only.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

1 Corinthians 15:33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.

3. We also see here that Paul expected to learn from these Christians. He expected to be strengthened in the faith by this group of people whom he had never met, and were new in the faith.

Calvin said, "There is none so poor in the church of Christ, that he cannot make some addition of importance to our stores." That is, even the least Christian can add to our Christianity if we have a willing heart.

V. 13.

Paul wanted them to understand that he had many times tired to go to them. He wanted to see the
Grace of God at work in Rome, the capital of the pagan world of its day. But he had been hindered. How? We do not know. We only know that it was not in God's timing yet.

We can speculate that by going to Rome as a prisoner, his testimony to this church and world wide would have been greatly strengthened. Nero was known for imprisoning about anyone he could, particularly Christians. When Paul went as a prisoner, it would have opened many doors for him that otherwise might not have been opened.

Have some fruit...

He did not want to go to see the country, nor to see the capital of Rome, nor because he liked to travel. His desire was to have some fruit among them.

Fruit... His desire was to fulfill our Lord's words:

John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

Not only was his desire for the salvation of souls, but fruit can include instructing and strengthening believers, which he will do in this letter.

V. 14, I am a debtor...

Paul preaches against debt, except in this one case found in Romans 13:

V. 8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

What was his debt?

1 Corinthians 9:16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

He had been set aside by God to reach both the Greeks and the Barbarians with the gospel of Christ. He considered himself in dept in getting the gospel to them.

Greeks – those who prided themselves in knowledge. The Greeks are exalted even today for their humanistic knowledge. Plato and Aristotle are the best known Greeks of the past.

Barbarians – those who were not Greeks were considered Barbarians. Barbarians probably meant all those who did not speak Greek. The world even today considers all who do not hold to ancient Greek thought Barbarians.

Wise – This class of people would be included in the Greeks, who prided themselves in their worldly wisdom.

1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

Unwise – This would be those whom the world regards as ignorant and unpolished. The learned and unlearned. Today, those who have finished school and gone to college, or have not advanced in the education held so important by the pagan world.

There is an interesting passage in Isaiah 29:9-16:

9 ¶ Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. 10 For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. 11 And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: 12 And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. 13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: 14 Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. 15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? 16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Note here that being wise or unwise–that is, learned or unlearned–is not what determines understanding the Word of God.

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

At every opportunity and according to his ability, he is ready to preach the gospel.

He is ready to show the power of the gospel even in the wicked capital of the world, Rome. He is looking forward to every opportunity that the Lord might offer to make known the gospel, which includes the serious and hard to understand doctrines that he will offer in this book.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

V. 15 closes the introduction or preface to the epistle. He has shown his deep interest in their welfare. Now he proceeds to lay out the great doctrines that he wants them to understand.

The next section is Romans 1:16,-18, where he shows that the gospel is for the justification of all mankind through faith.

V. 16, I am not ashamed of the gospel...

It is very easy to be intimidated by the paganism around us. We are made to feel ashamed of the Gospel.

We place too much attention on what people think, rather than placing our attention on the power of God in the Gospel.

Paul, as well as the rest of the Apostles, had been persecuted by the Greeks, the Barbarians, the wise, particularly those Jews who considered themselves the only men of Scriptural knowledge of the time, and also by the unwise–those considered beneath the wise.

Of Christ. The problem was over the claim that Christ was the long expected Messiah. Though rejected by many, particularly the Jews, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel which stirred up such turmoil everywhere it was preached.

Power... He was bold in his presentation of the gospel, for he knew it alone had the power of God to change men, and thus change the world.

1. It is God's power not men's.
2. It is designed to overcome all obstacles.

3. It is mighty. It is power, the power of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Unto salvation...

The word salvation (soteria) means deliverance, preservation, victory, and health, and it refers to material and temporal deliverance, as well as personal, national, temporal and material triumph. The biblical doctrine of salvation is so clearly one of victory, that it must be emphatically stated that salvation is not escape. Many pagan concepts of deliverance are really doctrines of escape. (R.J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule, p. 1. Ross House Books.)

With the above definition of salvation, we must say that a great amount of "salvation" preaching even in professed bible believing churches is but a pagan version of escapism.

To everyone that believeth... God's power unto life is not revealed to everyone, but only to those whom he chooses, as Paul will make clear. God's power is revealed in nature, in earthquakes, volcanoes, and weather of all kinds. But none of those displayes of power lead to life everlasting as well as victory over sin and the allures of this world.

Jew first... In the order of the presentation, the Jews were first offered salvation. The Apostles normally followed this order, and then when the Jews rejected the offer, they would go to the Greeks—that is, those outside of the Jewish race.

The gospel was the same for both the Jews and the Gentiles. The gospel message was always the same.

V 17. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is {w} written, The just shall live by faith.

This verse is a difficult verse to say the least. There are many opinions on it. I will only point out:

First, the gospel of Christ reveals the righteousness of God. It is the righteous deeds of Christ that saves us, not any righteous deeds we might do.

Salvation is not dependant on how we might feel, but on what we did with Christ.

Second, faith. Faith is a firm confidence in God and a steadfast trust in Him who has done all that is needed to save us.

Third, that faith translates into a faithful Christian life, as we live according to that faith. Paul then quotes an Old Testament Prophet, as he mentioned in v. 2:

Habakkuk 2:1 I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved. 2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. 3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

V. 18, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

This is a very harsh verse, and rejected by the natural man, who wants us to believe that God is a God of love. He would not judge anyone as harshly as is mentioned in Scripture.

All ungodliness...

V. 19 starts God's list of unrighteous human actions that bring down God's wrath from heaven. But notice in v. 18: First on his list are those who hold the truth in unrighteousness.

That is, they claim to know the truth, yet they manipulate if for their own purpose. God's wrath from heaven first of all is against them.

Paul writes to instruct these people at Rome who are being influenced by the teachers from Jerusalem who were corrupting the gospel.

In this section:

First, Paul was under a debt load to preach the gospel, and his desire was to go to Rome to discharge that debt. However, it was good for us that he was unable to go.

Second, are we thankful?

Third, do our prayers include believers everywhere?

Fourth, are we ashamed of the gospel, which is the power of God?

 

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