1:1-7 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Romans 1:1, Paul refers to himself with one name and three titles. He refers to himself as a “servant,” “an apostle,” and “separated.” All of these maintain different functions and roles, but it is right that “servant” is first.
The Greek for “servant” is doulos and often corresponds with the term “slave.” As a man in servile condition to his Lord, the two following titles express intention.
The Greek for “apostle” is apostolos and represents a messenger. However, this definition should not be abused, as much like the word for “Gospel” (euangelion) was a secular term for “good tidings,” these terms took on very specific connotations with the growth of Christianity. The term apostle furthered “messenger” into more so a “commissioner” of Christ, inaugurated with a literally intimate relationship with Christ in which direct orders were delivered.
Beware of anyone who may come to you and proclaim themselves an apostle. Yielding your ear may not be a fruitful endeavor.
The title of “separated” is also a general Greek term that could have been used for favorable or unfavorable situations. Aphorizo in this context denotes a divinely appointed individual who is separated from any other purpose than the Gospel of God.
Christians are servants of Christ themselves set aside for God’s divine purpose, accessible through His Gospel.
It is exceedingly noteworthy that Jesus came from the line of David in flesh (Or in human nature) by prophecy (2 Samuel 7:15-16). It reaffirms the sovereignty and beauty of God’s plan to conquer death and sin. Moreover, such a detail ensures validation that Christ is who He said He is- God.
For historical relevance, this proclamation would also disprove the early heresy known as Docetism. This heresy was coined with the Greek term, dokesis, which means “to seem.” In this view, only spirit is good and material matter is evil. Therefore, Christ would only have “seemed” to be human but was not truly in mortal flesh. Implications of this heresy state that Jesus did not truly suffer, die, or resurrect. In many portions of Paul’s letter, this form of Gnosticism is vehemently debunked.
Even before God foretold it to the prophets, He had enacted a salvific plan pertaining to the Body of Christ. It was a mystery that unfolded progressively as God allowed it and has led us to the glorious age of grace in which we presently reside by Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection (Ephesians 3).
The “we” brings interesting conversation as to who are apostles. Some suggest that “we” more so means “I.” There are significant examples where in ancient Greek writings, authors would use plural terminology in reference to singularity so that they will not be mistaken with strong egocentrism. Many commentators hold this view, although I would not adopt it readily.
Although, I do not believe that it is referring to the general Christian population, it very well could be denoting a class of Christian apostles during this period. Paul did not start the Roman church and surely would not be the only group of leaders in contact with them.
In fact, Paul refers to New Testament apostolic and prophetic gifts in Ephesians 2:20 and various other Scriptures that help establish the foundation of the church, but later cease (1 Corinthians 13:10). This is who I uphold verse 5 as references. Although it holds similarities to the present church situation, contextually, I do not believe that one should presuppose those capabilities.
In verse 6 Paul bridges the gap between his apostolic position and the Church of Christ by which he serves “in obedience to the faith” (5). In a very logical order, he introduces the Roman church to the reality that they are “called of Christ.” Notice the word “of.” Indeed, we are called by Christ, but we are also called of Christ. The word “of” denotes relationship and possession. Case in point, we are a member of the Body of Christ by the finished work of Christ.
The imagery that describes our calling is rather marvelous. The Greek word, klētos, often portrayed someone called to a grand banquet or divine appointment. In this case, Christians are called to be “saints.” A saint is not merely an older person who has done enough charitable duties within a church to deserve a special title. Sainthood is positional and correlated with placement into the Body of Christ.
A saint is literally rendered from the term, hagios, as “holy one.” We are made holy by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and our sanctification upon salvation (Romans 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Even immature Christians can be known by this wonderful title because being Christian is not what you do, rather who you are called to and set apart for.
In ending his salutation, Paul addresses the Gentile and Jewish audience in which he writes by greeting with grace (Gentile greeting) and peace (Jewish greeting) from God the Father and Jesus Christ. The Spirit may not be expressly stated as the Holy Spirit greets the Christian constantly in fellowship personally and corporately.
1:8-12 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
In a world hostile to their very existence, the Roman church was known and acknowledged throughout the known world because of their faith. This could indeed be hyperbole as well considering that most of the world known at this time was part of the Roman Empire and therefore the Romans would likely acknowledge this comment as such. It is God’s desire that we be thankful in every circumstance and Paul expresses this explicitly for the faith and work of Christians in Rome (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Without much Paul’s prayers are described as “ceaseless,” similar adjectives should be added to prayer’s definition (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Ceaseless prayer seems as a daunting task, in as much as prayer’s connotation is narrowed. Prayer is fellowship with God which we constantly possess now by the Holy Spirit which abides in us. Fellowship with the Spirit should not be an action conducted like the flicking of a light switch, but rather an ever-present reality.
Paul lifts thanks to God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our mediator and by whom we have access to the Father, only by His Gospel by which we ascertained the Holy Spirit provides such a privilege (1 Timothy 2:5).
Godly prosperity in this life is only possible when in the will of God. Note the word, Godly. Paul earnestly wanted to see the Roman church and to have a spiritually prosperous journey, yet only if it was in God’s will and timing. Never settle for separating the two. Godliness and prosperity should be hand in hand, undivided. When divided, we may find that God is not the one issuing your prosperity.
Some have interpreted “some spiritual gift” as the transfer of some miraculous power. Truly I am more inclined to stay within contextual alignment and connect verse 11 with 12 which would imply that the gift pertains to their mutual faith and the establishing factor is their comfort. Mutual faith comforts.
1:13-15 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul intends to inform the Roman church that it had been his intention to come unto them but had been unable to. This is why earlier Paul mentioned his request to have a prosperous journey. The fruit mentioned could be a broad outcome of his visit, whether it be spiritual conversion or simply the edification of the believers who are there. Nonetheless, great things were expected to be the result when in God’s will.
The Greeks were critically acclaimed for their wisdom (By which the Roman population would associate themselves) while Barbarians (Often viewed as enemies of the Romans and ultimately a factor in the empire’s downfall) were inherently deemed ignorant or unwise within Roman culture. This terminology is generally comprehensive of a large majority of people, particularly within Rome.
Therefore, Paul was prepared to preach the Gospel to them, in an environment that was not receptive to a God so vastly different and unique from the pagan religions of the day. This task would be a large and daunting undertaking that Paul was prepared to engage.