Romans is the gospel according to Paul. Paul was a highly educated Pharisee. While he was vigorously persecuting Christians, he met the Risen Christ, who forgave him and called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles (Ac 9). God's original purpose in choosing Israel was to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation--God's missionaries to the whole world (Ex 19:5-6; Ge 12:3). But the Jews of Paul's day despised Gentiles; their laws forbade fraternizing with them. It is remarkable that God chose Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews (Php 3:5), as a missionary to the Gentiles.
Rome was the center of the Gentile world. The Christians in Rome were a small minority, mostly immigrants trying to survive there. Paul was eager to visit them to encourage their faith and their missionary vision. He did not know whether or not he would be killed by hostile Jews before he got to Rome, so he wrote them the message on his heart. He wrote about the gospel, God's one universal answer to mankind's universal sin problem. God wants all men everywhere to repent, acknowledge him as Sovereign Lord, and live by faith in Jesus.
Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, toward the end of his third missionary journey. He was on his way to Jerusalem with an offering from the Gentile churches. He wanted Jewish Christians to accept God's mission, and Gentile Christians to have a sense of God's history.
The book of Romans may be divided as follows: (i) Introduction--1:1-17; (ii) Mankind's universal sin problem--1:18-3:20; (iii) God's one solution, the gospel--3:21-4:25; (iv) Real freedom in God's love--5-8; ( v) God's sovereignty in world mission--9-11; (vi) Life together--12-16.
FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE
Key Verse: 1:5
1. The gospel of God (1-4)
Paul was a servant of Jesus Christ. He did not belong to himself; he belonged to Jesus--as do all Christians (7). He was set apart for the gospel of God. The gospel is Jesus. God promised in the Scriptures to send him, and God kept his promise. Jesus was fully human, and he is a king. He is God's son, David's descendant--the Messiah. God raised him from the dead. He alone is able to save us from Satan's grip, from the power of sin and death.
2. Grace and apostleship (5a)
God saves us so that we can do his work. His grace forgives useless sinners, and changes them into useful servants of God. God gives us his mission so that we can live for his glory, for the sake of his name.
3. The obedience that comes from faith (5b)
Paul was a disciple-maker in obedience to Jesus' command (Mt 28:19,20). He called people from the unbelieving world to believe and obey the gospel. If faith is real, obedience comes from it. It is the discipline of obedience that makes a disciple.
Prayer: Lord, help me to learn the obedience that comes from faith, and live for the sake of your name.
One Word: For the sake of his name
I AM OBLIGATED
Key Verse: 1:14
1. I constantly remember you in prayer (8-10)
It is hard to pray faithfully for anyone. Paul had never been to Rome, but God whom Paul served with his whole heart wanted the gospel planted there--for Rome was the hub of the world. So Paul prayed for the Christians in Rome. He thanked God for their lives of faith which challenged the materialism and moral corruption of Rome. He prayed that he might visit them and share with them in the world mission task.
2. Eager to preach the gospel (11-15)
Paul had a burden for all the people of the Gentile world. His prayer for Rome and his desire to preach the gospel there were expressions of that burden and of his commitment to world mission. Jesus, to whom he owed everything, had laid on him an obligation to the Gentile world. His obligation to preach the gospel to people for whom Christ died included good and bad sheep; hopeful and hopeless people. Jesus who died for my sins died for the whole sin-sick world. I too have an obligation.
Prayer: Lord, help me to serve you with my whole heart and do what pleases you.
One Word: A debtor to God's grace
THE RIGHTEOUS WILL LIVE BY FAITH
Key Verse: 1:17
1. I am not ashamed of the gospel (16)
Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and God raised him from the dead to defeat sin and death, and to give us forgiveness of sins, eternal life and the kingdom of heaven. This is the gospel. Crucifixion was a shameful way to die. Jesus bore all our shame on the cross. He cuts through our useless pride and washes away our dirty sins. He makes us right with God. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. No one is worthless to God. No one has special privileges. We must not allow our pride and self-righteousness to keep us from claiming the righteousness and the salvation God has provided.
2. By faith from first to last (17)
Righteousness from God is a gift of his grace. It can be received by faith alone. When we receive God's forgiveness, our relationship with God is made right. Then we cannot live by our feelings or by our reasonable thinking; we must trust God and obey him and walk by faith.
Prayer: Lord, clothe me in the righteousness of Christ; help me to live by faith in him from first to last.
One Word: The righteous will live by faith
GLORIFY GOD AND GIVE HIM THANKS
Key Verse: 1:21
1. God’s wrath revealed (18)
God loves the world. He is angry when he is ignored. God reveals his wrath by removing his hand of care and restraint (24,26,28) for a time, so that mankind might suffer in slavery to sin and repent.
2. Suppression of truth (19-20a)
God is our Creator and Sovereign Ruler. All truth begins here. When men deny God, ignore his laws and live according to their sinful natures, they suppress the truth. When we obey God as our Creator and Lord, we have truth in our hearts.
3. They are without excuse (20b-25)
God revealed himself in the creation. He made a beautiful world and provided everything mankind needed to be happy. Pride and ingratitude are the roots of sin. When we are not thankful, we become critical. When we do not honor God as God, pride becomes our master. When creation order is broken, men make foolish exchanges. (23,25,26) When we exchange truth for a lie, we suffer the consequences of a futile mind, darkened hearts and a defiled body.