Part 1 of Paul's Letter to the Romans
- source for questions
Romans 1:1 through 7:25
- key verse for memorization
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is generally accepted to provide one of the most concise summaries of the Gospel message in all of Scripture. At the conclusion of his third missionary journey, while wintering in Corinth around A.D. 57, the Apostle began making plans to travel to Rome. In anticipation of that trip, he wrote this epistle with the intent of introducing himself to Gentile and Jewish believers in that city and presenting his core message: that salvation is not obtained through the Law nor by the most zealous of religious practices. Rather, it is a gift of grace, received by faith in God’s promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death on the Cross.
While Paul’s other New Testament letters deal primarily with the Church and the challenges facing early believers, his epistle to the Romans focuses more on God and His great plan of redemption. The word God occurs over 150 times in the book, or an average of once every forty-six words — a more frequent usage than in any other New Testament book. Other words Paul used often in Romans are law, Christ, sin, Lord, and faith; all of these subjects were predominant themes in the epistle.
Paul began by asserting that Christ was the God-ordained fulfillment of the rituals of the Jewish faith and the pronouncements of prophets through the ages. After introducing himself to the saints at Rome, he gave a brief summary of his message in verses 16-17 of the first chapter. In successive chapters, the Apostle went on to point to the unrighteousness and guilt of all mankind, emphasizing that both Jew and Gentile were without excuse for their rejection of God because He has revealed Himself to all. He explained that while the Law brought knowledge and understanding of sin, no one could be justified by works — righteousness comes only through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ. Using a comparison of Adam and Christ, he established that just as sin was imputed to mankind through one man (Adam), justification is offered to mankind through one man (Jesus Christ).
Paul also addressed several other foundational doctrines of the Gospel in this first portion of the epistle, including the nature of sin and its penalty, the fact that all have sinned, the question of whether believers sin, and the necessity of sanctification. In chapter 7, the Apostle described himself when he was a religious sinner, explaining the conflict that raged within while he was in that condition, and the inability of the law to suppress indwelling sin.
When outlining this epistle, many Bible scholars include chapter 8 in this first section. In that chapter the Apostle goes on to describe the victory that is possible for those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).
- The word translated gospel means “good news” or “a good message.” In Romans 1:1-5 and 16-17, Paul spoke of the “gospel” for which he had been set apart. What can we learn about the Gospel from these verses?
- Paul put in place the first foundational element of his message to the Romans by describing God’s wrath toward the ungodly, and asserting that all humanity is unrighteous and thus is condemned before God. Why did the Apostle say that people are without excuse for their ungodliness? (Romans 1:18-22)
- In Romans 2:4, Paul referenced those who despised the riches of God’s goodness and forbearance and longsuffering. That same description could apply in many cultures today. Even in places where godly values and Biblical principles were once respected by most people, that is becoming less and less the case. What are some ways that, like Paul, we can show fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our unashamed commitment to it in an increasingly hostile environment?
- In Romans 2:11, Paul stated, “There is no respect of persons with God.” What did he mean by this statement, and why did the Jewish teachers of the Law assume God would be partial to them?
- Romans 3:23 states that all mankind has sinned. The following two verses contain three words which are key in Paul’s explanation of the provision God has made to remedy this sinful condition: “justified,” “redemption,” and “propitiation.” The word “justified” has the sense of being judicially pardoned. “Redemption” implies liberation from captivity through a ransom price paid. “Propitiation” expresses the concept of appeasement or conciliation. Using these definitions, briefly note how each word figures in God’s plan of redemption.
- Paul knew that adherents to the Law would point to righteous Abraham as a rebuttal of the teaching of justification through faith, so in chapter 4, Paul presented an analysis of how Abraham was made righteous. The Apostle pointed out that it was not by works (verses 1-8), nor by fulfilling the requirements of the Law (verses 9-12). Based on verses 13-16, what was the basis of Abraham’s righteousness? Why is this significant for us?
- First-century Christians lived in an atmosphere where persecution and suffering were prevalent, and in order to endure, they needed to have a deep understanding of the benefits that were theirs through justification. What were some of the effects and blessings of justification by faith that Paul listed in Romans 5:1-11?
- The word commendeth in Romans 5:8 is significant. In this usage it includes the sense of “recommending” or setting forth in such a way as to appeal to the heart. Name several specific ways that God’s love has commended itself to you.
- In Romans 6, Paul addressed several foundational doctrines of the Gospel including the nature of sin and its penalty. Based on verses 1-11, how would you summarize Paul’s description of what it means to be free from sin?
- In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul described himself prior to his Damascus Road experience, and described the conflict that raged within while he was a religious sinner. Though he had genuinely wanted to do right, the power to do so was lacking because it was overcome by a stronger prevailing force: the nature of sin. In verses 14-25, Paul wrote of the awful failure of his former efforts to break free from sin’s dominion. While the Law had stirred up his conscience, it could not empower the obedience which it enjoined. Still, he recognized the value of the Law. What words did he use to describe the Law in verses 12 and 14? In spite of those words, what did the Law fail to do?
In this first section of Paul’s epistle to believers at Rome, the Apostle asserted that all individuals are born in sin, and explained that the Law was not designed to make man righteous but to reveal man’s unrighteousness. He went on to explain that salvation and a righteous standing before God is not obtained through works, but through faith in Jesus Christ.