Session 1 | Romans 1:1-7
A Brief Introduction
Supplemental: Romans Graphically Presented, pg 2
Faithful interpretation of any book of the Bible requires a statement of premises and assumptions, since everything rises and falls on the assumptions. I bring four assumptions into the book of Romans, and each of these will affect how I interpret the book.
First, I am assuming that the epistle is written to Jews living in Rome, to explain what God is doing in the world today, in the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:1). This is not the standard assumption of most Christian writers, who teach that Romans is written to Gentiles. As we progress, I will seek to defend my assumption. However, the student should recognize that both assumptions affect interpretation.
“God's position paper on Israel." This fabulous book tells the reader what God has done, is doing, and will do in, with, and through His Chosen People, Israel. This being the case, I do not find a great deal of doctrine related to the Body of Christ, save that which is universal and thus includes the Body.
Third, these assumptions lead me to believe that when Christians “gospel" (it is anything but good news) is built largely upon passages from Romans 3, 6, and 9. But if these passages concern Israel, then they should not be forced upon the Body of Christ and doing so will cause conflict with passages that do belong to the Body.
Finally, I do believe that we see the Pauline mystery in the book of Romans. However, I do not believe that the book of Romans is primarily concerned with this mystery. Rather, the book of Romans is primarily concerned with Israel, and what is happening and will happen to Israel now that the mystery has been revealed.
With that bit of introduction, let's begin interpreting Romans, rightly divided and verse-by-verse.
Section 1 | Romans 1:1-5:17 | A Gospel For All**
Romans 1:1-17 | The Case Stated
Supplemental: Romans Graphically Presented, pgs. 3, 4
Romans 1:1-7 | Jesus Christ, The Seed And the Son
Supplemental: Romans Graphically Presented, pg. 5
Romans 1:1-2 | Who
Verse 1 — Black
As typical in Pauline literature, Paul introduces himself briefly, often giving revealing theological information that should not be passed haphazardly.
Paul introduces himself both as servant and apostle. He stands then as one of 14 apostles. Of the original 12, Judas had died and was replaced by Matthias, and later Paul was appointed as an apostle out of due time (1 Cor 15:8).
The first 13 were directly appointed by Jesus or by the casting of lots (done according to the Law) under the will of God. In the selection of Matthias, there were only two candidates for apostleship. How then could Paul, who was unqualified to take the place of Judas. It is essential to recognize that Paul's apostleship was wholly different from that of the others. The book of Acts explains the turn of events that brought about this new dispensation under Paul.
What is most interesting for our account is that Paul was separated unto the gospel of God. This seems to be of measurable importance for the interpretation of the epistle, since it is included so early on. But what is this“my Gospel," and so forth. Are these all the same Gospel under a different name?
To answer that question, we must allow Scripture to speak to itself, defining itself. The phrase gospel of God is used seven times in Scripture, six of them being Pauline. But perhaps the clearest use is by Peter in 1 Peter 4:17, in which Peter speaks of the day of Judgment (something that relates to Israel and not the Body of Christ) and speaks of the gospel of God as something which should be obeyed. Clearly our Gospel is not one of obedience, but rather is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8).
Verse 2 elaborates on this Gospel, supporting the idea that the gospel of God is the apostolic, Kingdom Gospel.
Verse 2 — Black
If the gospel of God (v. 1) is Paul's gospel (under which we live), then how does that reconcile with Ephesians 3:2-5? Either the gospel was in other ages not made known unto the sons of men (Eph 3:5) or it was promised afore by his prophets (Rom. 1:2). These two passages require that the gospel of verse 1 is not the gospel of the Body of Christ shared today.
To remedy the problem, we must understand that gospel of God (v. 1) was spoken from Genesis 3:15 onward. But "Paul's gospel," the gospel of Grace, was in other ages not made known (Eph. 3:5) but was kept a mystery until revealed to Paul.
Separating these gospels is part of rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and is also of tremendous importance to interpreting the epistle to the Romans. Paul is introducing himself as one connected with the apostolic / Jewish / Kingdom gospel. This must be considered in order to avoid a misreading of his words.
Romans 1:3-5 | What
Verse 3 — Black
The gospel of God (v. 1) was concerning his Son. Christ was both the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15), the seed of David according to the flesh and the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). As the seed of the woman, He fulfilled the promise of a Redeemer. As the seed of David, He fulfilled the promise of an earthly King (yet future). As the seed of Abraham, he fulfills the promise of blessing all the nations of the earth (present and future).
But here Paul focuses on Jesus as the seed of David according to the flesh, not mentioning the woman nor Abraham. This should be an announcement by the author that the focus of his epistle will be Jesus as Messiah the coming King.
Verse 4 — Black
The resurrection from the dead was the ultimate declaration that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter used this argument on the Day of Pentecost - Acts 2:24-32.
There is an alternative futurist reading of verse 4. This is to say that the the resurrection from the dead is a reference to the resurrection of the dead at the Second Coming. This would take the “declared the Son of God powerfully in a spirit of holiness coming out of the resurrection of the dead." While this alternate reading is not the “plain sense" (and thus should be seriously scrutinized), it does complete the thought begun in verse 3, going from the birth of Jesus to His reign.
Verse 5 — Black
This sounds perfectly aligned with the so-called Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, but not aligned with the age of grace. The age of grace has one apostle, and yet this verse speaks of a group of people (we) who have apostleship. The age of grace is not of works, yet this speaks of an obedience to the faith, which certainly calls for works.
The interpreter must deal with the identity of the pronoun we. It is plain logic that the we of verse 5 cannot be the ye of verse 6. From the plain sense of verse 5, I am going to interpret the first person plural pronouns of Romans as a reference to those of the Apostolic order. Paul's apostleship is different from and separate from that of the twelve, yet when used in Romans it is coming from Israel to Israel and thus will be Jewish in nature.
Romans 1:6-7 | Whom
Verse 6 — Black
The recipients of the letter are from the nations (v. 5) and are also among...the called of Jesus Christ. The adjective called“mundane" manner, simply stating that the recipients of the letter are associated with Jesus Christ.
Verse 7 — Black
Clearly all that be in Rome are not saints, thus Paul is not writing to all Romans.
The verb insertion, *to be, *can be removed and the words simply read as called saints. Paul is writing to the beloved of God, called**...saints who happen to *be in Rome*.
I am convinced that the standard evangelical interpretation of saints“all believers “ simply doesn't have enough evidence to support. Rather, the saints of the New Testament are believers under the Kingdom mandate (i.e.: under Peter's apostleship), as it is used in Acts 9:32, 26:10, etc.
Paul closes his introduction with a customary gracious blessing.