Welcome to the first chapter of Romans. If you have been reading along with us the Psalms, you already know how to fill out your own notebooking page for our chapter study. All you need is to put the headings into your notebook, and then follow them. Read through the chapter 3 times before you write down any answers.
Let me give you some of the basic introductory information in my Bible, and if there is anything that you find interesting in your Bible’s Introduction to Romans, please leave a note in the comments section.*
Written by Paul to the Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. This is the first epistle you would come to reading straight through the New Testament. It contains many teachings that were foundational to the church that rises in the previous book of Acts. “[Romans] played a direct role in the conversions of many such as Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. John Calvin wrote that Romans is the doorway to the treasure of all Scripture.”* Louis says that reading chapter 1 in college is what sent him into missions.
Romans’ main message is the gospel, and this book “is certainly Paul’s most extended and concentrated presentation of God’s saving work in Christ.”*
The nouns Paul used most often in Romans provides its own sort of summary of the book.
1. God is used 153 times. He is the subject of this epistle.
2. Law is used 74 times. “Cultures may be diverse, but Scripture views humans of all cultures as having one thing profoundly in common: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). We have all broken God’s “holy and righteous and good” commandment (7:12). Yet Romans trumpets that in sending “his own Son”, God fulfilled what the law demanded but we humans could not furnish (8:3-4). Believers are liberated “in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (8:2).”*
3. Christ is used 65 times, Lord is used 43 times, and Jesus is used 36 times. From the first verse, Paul labels himself a slave or servant of Christ. We, the readers, are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
While this book does contain “weighty words piling up into lofty teachings. It is also about ethics—how to live. No chapter is without gospel-informed implications for daily living”.*
Paul is writing to the church in Rome about his constant prayers for them who live in Rome among unrighteousness. He expresses that there is no excuse: that God has made himself known and still they refuse to acknowledge him. He talks about the sins of dishonorable passions, leaving natural relations behind for unnatural, and that condoning such sins is also wrong.
Paul, Christ Jesus, God, prophets, David, Spirit, “those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints”, Gentiles, Greeks, barbarians, wise, foolish, Jews, righteous, those God has given up to their own passions and depraved minds who did not acknowledge God.
Verse 20 “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Psalm 19:1-6 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
Jeremiah 5:21, 22 “”Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not. Do you not fear me? declares the Lord. Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it.”
There is no excuse for God to not be acknowledged among men. He doesn’t need our help, and it furthers our stance to not be ashamed of the gospel. We need to preach to help those who are perishing, and we have nothing to be ashamed of because God loves us and we are his saints.
This chapter tells us that there are things revealed about God that no one has an excuse to not know. We know that God exists and that He is Creator. This is called General Revelation in theological terms.
Jesus in Romans:
“The gospel gains urgency in the light of God’s verdict on humanity.”* In Bible Study with Louis on this chapter we looked at verses 18-32 and the downward spiral that is talked about. The beginning of that spiral is people who know God, but do not acknowledge him or give him his due thanks. If someone told you that they hadn’t thanked God enough that day, you most likely would not be too concerned, but as you travel the verses in this spiral into darkness, you would become concerned. But the root seems to be denying God’s nature that was so obviously revealed in the previous verses.
Perhaps you read this list of sins and detach, even though you read it through 3 times you might not feel that any of it is for you. There are two parts to apply to ourselves. First, as sinners. Yesterday we talked about our need for salvation from all sorts of bondage in our lives. This section is pretty much a pile of chains that bind humanity. Looking at that massive list (Paul likes lists and run on sentences) makes me feel like I have no sin compared to all that sin. However, it is not that you must accomplish every sin to be damned. All sin, any sin, one sin is enough to separate us from God. Let’s see if we take them out one by one if any strike you. Using the standard that Christ sets forth, can you say you do none of these? We all have sinned. Pray through each of these and ask God to reveal any unrepentant sins in your own life and heart.
- Did not honor him as God
- Did not give thanks to God
- Their foolish hearts were darkened
- Claimed to be wise
- Exchanged the glory of immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things
- Given up to the lusts of their hearts
- Given up to impurity
- Given up to the dishonoringof their bodies among themselves
- Exchanged the truth about God for a lie
- Worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator
- Given up to dishonorable passions
- Exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature
- Consumed with passion for one another
- Did not see fit to acknowledge God
- Given up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done
Filled with all manner of
- Haters of God
- Inventors of evil
- Disobedient to parents
- Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
The second application is as one who sees others sinning in these ways. Romans talks about our responsibility as followers of Jesus throughout its chapters. The last verse in this chapter brings up yet another way that we are called to be responsible to each other. If we give approval to those who practice these debased and immoral acts, that is a sin. We do not want others to die, and we know that “those who practice such things deserve to die” (verse 32b). If my friend is struggling with any unrighteousness, I want to encourage her back to God, and his redeeming presence. I want her to be blessed, as we have been reading about in Psalms.
*Note: I am using the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible for the Jesus in the Psalm section, so these are paraphrases of the commentary with my own ideas sprinkled in.
I am excited to hear your key verses, observations, and thoughts! Please leave a comment to share them with us.
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Tomorrow: Psalm 4