DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: Luke, Acts, James, Galatians, Romans


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).

Suggested Responses to Questions
  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?

    Class discussion should bring out a number of points, including the following:

    •The source of the Gospel is God.
    •Christ’s coming to earth for the salvation of mankind was foretold by Old Testament prophets.
    •The good news of the Gospel concerns God’s Son Jesus Christ, who was born into this world in the lineage of David.
    •Though the Son of God lived and died on earth as a man, He was resurrected from the dead through the power of God.
    •Through obedience and faith in Jesus Christ, people of all nations can receive justification from sin.

    You may wish to follow up by asking your class what Paul meant when he said in verse 16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” Discussion should bring out that the Apostle was not ashamed of his message because he knew the Gospel was of God’s own Son, and that it offered a life-changing transformation for everyone who would believe. Paul was well aware that the religious traditions of his nation, the philosophies of a powerful and materialistic society, and the bitter hatred of his peers were arrayed against him. Still, he refused to be deferential or apologetic in the face of these opposing forces.

  2. 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)

    Humanity is without excuse because God’s existence is made manifest in creation, and thereby is apparent to all people everywhere. Therefore, every person either accepts or rejects God.

    Amplify this point by asking your group how they would explain what is meant by God’s “wrath” in verse 18. Discussion should bring out that the word describes God’s righteous reaction to evil, His implacable hostility toward it, His refusal to condone it, and His judgment upon it. God does not view sin with tolerance. While people may classify sins as big or little, no “levels” of sin exist in God’s sight. Any sin is the complete antithesis of God’s pure, moral righteousness. If He did not respond to unrighteousness with wrath, His perfect purity would be contaminated by complicity with man’s guilt.

  3. 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?

    Your class may offer a variety of answers to this question. Suggestions might include the following:

    •Being faithful in church attendance
    •Being active in the work of the Lord whenever possible
    •Supporting initiatives and individuals who most closely align with Christian values
    •Unobtrusively removing ourselves from situations where God or the principles of His Word are derided
    •Researching the values of any organizations we support with time or resources (beyond our tithing to our place of worship)
    •Taking care that our posts on social media reflect Christian values
    •Expressing our beliefs in a manner that promotes compassion but does not compromise with sin

    Of course, the value of just living a holy Christian life among our peers can never be overestimated.

  4. 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?

    The statement was an assertion that God condemns all sin; He is without favoritism and does not excuse wrongdoing in any group of people.

    Some Jews assumed that because they had been chosen by God to be the recipients of His Law, they had a special access to God which was not available to the heathen Gentiles. Paul made it clear that the Jews were just as guilty as everyone else, and that God’s law applied equally to all.

    Ask your class to compare individuals of our day who are moral or religious but not righteous, to the legalistic Jewish people of Paul’s day. The point should emerge that both groups cling to an assumption that they have a good standing before God because of external influences or actions. However, a Christian upbringing or the performance of certain commendable activities will never make a person right before God. We can only be justified through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and that was the message Paul was intent upon communicating in his explanation of the Gospel.

  5. 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.

    Your group should conclude that the word “justified” in God’s plan of salvation means to be judicially pardoned by an act of God’s free grace and thus declared righteous and absolved from the penalty of sin. “Redemption” alludes to liberation from the captivity of sin because the ransom price was paid by Christ’s death on Calvary. “Propitiation” points to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, through which the wrath of God against unrighteousness is appeased.

    These are words we hear frequently in Christian circles, but it is valuable to understand their precise meaning in order to fully appreciate the great provision God has made for our eternal salvation.

  6. 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?

    The basis of Abraham’s righteousness was faith. This is significant for us because it assures us that we do not have to attempt to “earn” our salvation by human effort. Faith is not something we do; it is simply trusting in what God has done by His grace. Faith is based upon our relationship with God, not our performance for God.

  7. 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?

    Class discussion likely will include the following benefits mentioned by Paul:

    •Peace with God – verse 1
    •Access by faith into God’s grace – verse 2
    •Ability to see the value of tribulations – verses 3-4
    •Experiencing the love of God – verse 5
    •Escaping the wrath of God – verse 9
    •Joy in God – verse 11

    If time permits, you may wish to ask for personal examples that illustrate some of these effects and blessings in the lives of your group members. For example, perhaps someone could tell of a time of tribulation that taught a valuable spiritual lesson, or an instance when God demonstrated His love by giving hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

  8. 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.

    Be prepared with an example of your own to start the discussion. Your class should see that the ways in which God’s love commends itself to each of us are as unique as we are. Examples could include enlightening one in spiritual darkness, sending conviction on the heart, giving repeated opportunities to one who is resistant, renewing strength in a time of trial, providing for material needs, etc. The reality is, all of the blessings God provides commend His love toward us, and we benefit when we recognize that and thank Him for them.

  9. 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?

    Your students’ summaries will vary, but they should make the point that it is possible to live a victorious life free from all sin (inward and outward) — in fact, that is God’s intention for those who come to Him in faith for salvation. Direct your group’s attention to the rhetorical question posed in verse 1 which asks, in effect, “Since we are justified, should we continue in sin in order to reveal how great grace is?” Paul’s purpose was to reject the false assumption that salvation by grace allows one to continue in sin, so he provided the answer: an emphatic “God forbid.”

    Depending upon the level of doctrinal understanding of your class, this may be a good opportunity to review the nature of sin. The word “sin” indicates both willful, defiant acts that transgress divine law, and the underlying condition of opposition to divine law from which those sinful acts spring. Sin separates man from God, and is the root of all opposition to and conflict with Him.

    While a victorious life without sin is possible, the Bible teaches that the relationship with God can be severed. Individuals who have been born again can choose to go back into sin, just as Adam and Eve, in their righteous state, chose to commit sin. In Romans 6:15, Paul repeated his earlier question with slightly different words, saying, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace?” Again his answer was, “God forbid,” providing clear evidence that it is God’s will for every Christian to live without sin.

    If time allows, you may wish to delve more deeply into the erroneous teaching of “eternal security.” That doctrine is based upon the teachings of John Calvin (1509-1564). In contrast, Arminianism is based upon the original beliefs of the theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), but can also include teachings of John Wesley and others. The Apostolic Faith subscribes most closely to the Wesleyan view of Arminianism.

    A chart that briefly states the five main points of difference between Calvinistic teaching and Arminian teaching is included in the supplementary material at the end of this unit.

  10. 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?

    Paul stated that the Law was “holy,” “just,” “good” (verse 12) and “spiritual” (verse 14) because it was God’s Law. However, the Law could not enable him to overcome the tyranny of his sinful nature.

    Expand this point by reviewing the function of the Law, as outlined by Paul in verses 8-13, which was to reveal sin. In verse 9, Paul appears to be speaking of his own experience as a child prior to having any real understanding of what sin was. However, in time the child who once lived without condemnation was confronted by the Law and became aware of his own sinful behavior and its moral implications; Paul expressed this by saying that he “died” a spiritual death.

    In order to end your class session on a positive note, explain that while the lesson text ends with Paul’s troubled question, “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (verse 24), the Apostle goes on in the next chapter to describe victory that is possible for those “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

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.