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Bible Commentaries

Dunagan's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 1

Verse 1



Rom_1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

'Paul' -meaning 'little'. It was a favorite name among the Cilicians ( Act_22:3 ). According to some both 'Saul' and 'Paul' were names borne by this man since childhood. 'Saul' being his Hebrew name and 'Paul' being his Roman/Greek name.

'Servant' -a bondservant. He wasn't a servant of sin, Jesus Christ was his Master. He is completely at the disposal of Jesus.

'Called to be an apostle' -an apostle by vocation, he was not a self-appointed apostle. ( Gal_1:15 ; 1Co_9:16-17 )

'Separated' -set apart. But Paul was set apart for something, i.e. the Gospel of God.

'Someone has said: "Don't simply be good. Be good for something."'

'Gospel of God' -it is the good news from God, not man. Man didn't invent this message. ( 1Co_2:9 ff)

Verse 2

Rom_1:2 which he promised afore through his prophets in the holy scriptures,

'Which' -i.e. which gospel. The O.T. had looked forward to this message. (1:17; 3:21; 4:3,6; 1Pe_1:10-12 )

'God's good news was not unknown in the O.T. This is why we read of the apostles (in the book of Acts and elsewhere) making a constant appeal to the O.T. scriptures ( Act_17:1-3 ). Those who see the Church Age as a great parenthesis or gap between the cross of Christ and a coming kingdom have seriously misunderstood God's mind in this matter.'

Verse 3

Rom_1:3 concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,

'Concerning' -the good news is all about one person, the Son of God. Which reference to His humanity, He was a descendant of David, the line which had the Divine right to rule over the people of God. ( Psa_89:34-36 ; 2Sa_7:12 )

Verse 4

Rom_1:4 who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord,

'Declared..with power' -( Act_2:36 ). The Resurrection was the final miracle that confirmed the obvious in a very striking and triumphant manner, this is the Son of God

'spirit of holiness' -many feel this expression refers to the divine side of Christ. Compare with verse 1:3 'according to the flesh'.

Verse 5

Rom_1:5 through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake;

'Unto obedience of faith' -Paul's purpose as an apostle involving bringing those from all nations to a obedient faith. Therefore the 'faith' that justifies in this book, is an obedient faith. Of course, we already knew that.

Verse 8

Rom_1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world.

'I thank my God' -a sound, active Church in a metropolitan area such as Rome was something to be greatly thankful for. ( 1Th_1:7-8 )

Verse 9

Rom_1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers

Verse 10

Rom_1:10 making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you.

'God is my witness' -he is not making a light statement, he is dead serious. Another indication that the Church in Rome had existed for some time and that Paul had been aware of their activity.

'Whom I serve in my spirit' -'to whom I offer the humble service of my spirit' (NEB) Paul's heart was in the work that God had given him to do.

Some in Rome may have been trying to discredit Paul by telling the brethren that Paul's oft-repeated promises to come were never intended to be fulfilled. He reminds them that his travel plans were subject to the will of God. The prayers of Paul went beyond his immediate circle of close friends.

Verses 11-12

Rom_1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

Rom_1:12 that is, that I with you may be comforted in you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine.

'Some spiritual gift' -some miraculous ability? The Church here did have some already ( Rom_12:6 )

'Established' -to confirm, fix, strengthen.

'That is' -an explanatory correction. Instead of saying that he had a spiritual gift for them, he wishes to add that they also have one for him.

'Paul is always careful not to leave the impression that he is some spiritual he assures the Romans that he would gain from the visit also. They'd help him as surely as he would help them. This is not just good psychology, it is gentlemanly and Christlike.'

Verse 13

Rom_1:13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you (and was hindered hitherto), that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles.

At times God had changed Paul's plans ( Act_16:6-7 ). At others times unruly people forced a turn of events (17:10,14). In addition, Paul had spent his time preaching in regions where no preacher had gone before ( Rom_15:18-23 ). Other, very important work had kept him from Rome.

Verse 14

Rom_1:14 I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.

'I am' -three great 'I am's' follow: I am a debtor, I am ready and I am not ashamed.

'Debtor' -'under obligation' (NASV). Being a Christian didn't make Paul any 'better' than others, but it made him a debtor of all. 'A practical question arises here: Was Paul under any obligation that the rest of us are not under?'

Paul HAD TO PREACH. 'We owe Christ to the Christless'

'Barbarians' -to the Greeks all non-Greeks were barbarians. The whole human race from the Greek point of view.

'Foolish' -in preaching, Paul saw no racial, culture or social barriers. It is hard to preach the gospel to someone that is behaving foolishly.

Verse 15

Rom_1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome.

'As much as in me is' -he was eager to the limits of his capacity. One writer said, 'I fear we dabble a lot; I fear we play at being Christ's'

Paul simply required of others, what he himself practiced (12:18)

'I am ready' -how long have we been studying and are we ready yet? ( Heb_5:11-12 ; 1Pe_3:15 )


Verse 16

Rom_1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

'I am not ashamed' -even in the capital city of the Empire, Paul would not back down.

'Many a youth who couldn't be made afraid was silenced in life by a sneer or a look of disdain.'

'Even at Rome; where riches, pomp, and glory are held in admiration, where the heights of genius and learning..the humbling doctrines of a religion that demands severe self-denial would be likely to attract derision..'

In other places, such as Corinth and Athens this message had been ridiculed. ( Act_17:32 ; 1Co_1:18-31 )

'For' -the reason for his boldness and pride in the gospel.

'the power of God unto salvation' -this much Paul knew by experience. ( Act_18:8 ) He had seen the dynamite of God at work. 'God's effective means for saving man'.

In the whole Roman capital, yea, in the whole empire, no power existed that could save even one lone beggar.

Let the world bring forth it's religions and philosophies, which cannot save even one soul. The Gospel, is God's ONE message that can bring about salvation. This infers that all other messages/religions are powerless to save, in fact, they actually condemn!

'To everyone that believeth' -just listening to the gospel doesn't save anyone.

'Jew first' -first in point of time. ( Act_1:8 )

Various truths are to be found in the above verse: (1) Salvation contains conditions 'believeth'. (2) The faith under consideration is an active faith, that includes repentance-baptism ( Mar_16:16 ; Rom_10:9-10 ). (3) Man needs to be saved. (4) Man needs to be saved from something-i.e. eternal destruction. (5) The gospel MESSAGE IS ADAPTED TO MAN IS HIS PRESENT LOST CONDITION. That is, sinners can understand it, man is not so depraved that he cannot understand what God requires of him or what to do to be saved. In the great commission ( Mar_16:15-16 ), Jesus gave not one hint that sinners could not obey the gospel. Sinful men can be CONVICTED by this message ( Act_2:37 ). This verse contradict the 'direct operation of the Spirit' theory, i.e. that God must operate miraculously on men prior to them even hearing the gospel, to make them receptive to it.

Verse 17

Rom_1:17 For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith.

'Therein' -i.e. in the Gospel message.

'A righteousness of God' -not that God is righteous (the O.T. revealed that), but HOW GOD MAKES MAN RIGHTEOUS.

'From faith unto faith' -some say, from 'the faith-gospel' unto (the hoped for direction) my own personal faith. Others, from the faith demonstrated by Christ to bring about this salvation, to our own faith in Him.

'As it is written '-quote from Hab_2:4 . The purpose of this quote seems to be to establish the fact that this had been in God's plan all among, even the O.T. taught the fact that God's true people were the one's who lived by faith in Him. The New Testament reveals the fact that this faith must be exercised towards Christ and His sacrifice.

Verse 18


Rom_1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness;

'For' -introducing the great need for a way of making people right with God. All unrighteousness faces the wrath of God!

'Revealed from heaven' -there is another revelation of God in the world besides the Gospel. It is a revelation of God's wrath. The wrath under consideration may refer to the final judgement ( 1Th_1:10 ; Rom_5:9 ). And yet, the wrath of God lingers over the sinner at this very moment ( Joh_3:36 ). This wrath may also refer to the physical consequences that come upon sin. ( Gal_6:7-8 ; Rom_1:27 )

'Who hinder' -'Suppress' (NASV)

Far from being ignorant about God, the Gentiles had sought to stifle the true knowledge of God and His will with ungodly living, 'who keep down the truth (which they know) by the wickedness whereby they live.' (Con)

Plenty of people today seek to hinder the 'truth' through unrighteousness, i.e. those that deny that the unborn are human, people that claim that homosexuality is normal or inborn, those who argue against the need to be baptized, or the reality of hell, or the inspiration of the Bible, or the miracles in the Bible, etc..

'It isn't knowledge he is in need of. It's integrity he needs.'

Verse 19

Rom_1:19 because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them.

'because' -the reason that God's wrath is revealed against such. They are not IGNORANT!

'is manifest' -'lies plain before their eyes' (NEB); 'is EVIDENT' (NASV); 'is plain to them' (TCNT)

'in them' -in their conscience and in their hearts. 'Is clear to their minds' (Knox)

'Man cannot charge God with hiding himself from them and thus excuse their ir-religion and their immorality.'

Verse 20

Rom_1:20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse:

'Invisible things of him' -'invisible attributes' (TCNT).

Two are mentioned, 'everlasting power and divine nature'.

'Since the creation' -mankind, all of them from the beginning have all had access to this same knowledge, yes even the native in darkest Africa, the South-Sea Islander and the American Indian.

'through the things that are made...that they may be without excuse' -this is a telling commentary about the person that can study the physical creation and yet still believe in evolution and or remain a atheist or agnostic. ( Psa_19:1-4 ; Act_14:17 )

'Without excuse' -the unbeliever doesn't have a leg to stand on. ( Psa_14:1 )

Verse 21

Rom_1:21 because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened.

'Because that' -'For even though' (NASV)

'Knowing God' -a point that Paul doesn't let us forget (1:25,28).

'Glorified him not as God' -They knew more than they did. They didn't hold God in the high esteem that He deserves. Demonstrated in lowering the concept of God (1:23) 'They did not honor him as God' (RSV).

'I think it may be proved from facts that any given people, down to the lowest savages, has at any period of its life KNOWN FAR MORE THAN IT HAS DONE.'

'neither gave thanks' -ingratitude and human pride the root of false religion-just take a good look at the Humanist Manifesto.

'Vain in their reasonings' -'all their thinking has ended in futility' (NEB); 'their thoughts turned to worthless things' (Beck); 'they busied themselves with silly speculations' (Nor). Reasonings that fail to arrive at any purposeful goal.

'Senseless ' -'foolish'. This is the result of abandoning God's truth and engaging in human speculation, you end up with a head full of silly theories, comprehension and understanding are darkened. The "ignorance" that one needs to worry about, is ignorance of the will of God. When Paul was sent to the Gentiles, they were in self-caused ignorance ( Act_26:18 ).

Verse 22

Rom_1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

'They boast of their wisdom, but they have made fools of themselves' (NEB) ( 1Co_1:21 )

"Haven't you heard some people talk the greatest load of drivel and act like they've just delivered themselves of some profound discovery?"

Verse 23

Rom_1:23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.

The end result of 'human wisdom' was bowing down and worshipping one piece of wood, stone or metal carved or shaped to reveal something upon this earth. Boy, that really looks wise! But is this any more ridiculous that worshipping a car, house, or material possessions? Or the theory of reincarnation? What are our "idols"?


Verse 24

Rom_1:24 Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves:

'God gave them up' - 'gave them over' (NASV); 'letting them follow' (Beck); 'let them go ahead into' (Tay)

'These people had already wilfully deserted God who merely left them to their own self-determination and self-destruction, part of the price of man's moral freedom..the words sound to us like clods on the coffin as God leaves men to work their own wicked will.'

'The lost, enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.'

'in the lusts of their hearts' -sin is a heart problem. These people turned from God because they 'wanted to do what they wanted to do.'

'Uncleanness' -'impurity, immorality'. The sensual sins that were often included in idolatrous practices. Doctrinal compromise leads to moral compromise.

'Dishonored' -'so they degrade their own bodies with one another' (Wms). Christianity gives one a new sense of dignity and self-respect. ( 1Co_6:13 ; 1Co_6:19-20 ; 1Th_4:4-5 ) Sin is it's own punishment. Instead of being ashamed of the Gospel, the World needs to be ashamed of its own conduct. Trying living apart from God and you will end up embarrassing yourself. 'Heathenism left its stamp on the bodies of men and women'.

Verse 25

Rom_1:25 for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

They deliberately swapped the truth of God (which they had) for lies. When you reject the truth, the only thing left to believe are lies. ( 2Ti_4:3-4 ; Pro_23:23 ; 2Th_2:10-12 )

Verse 26

Rom_1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature:

'Vile passions' -passions that proceed out of a diseased condition.

'Against nature' -'I heard a psychologist on a television saying that homosexuality was "natural". I could tell right away he was no anatomist. Whatever else homosexuality isn't, it isn't natural.'

Verse 27

Rom_1:27 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.

'Burned in their lust one toward another, men with men' -God condemns "mutually loving" homosexual relations.

Homosexuality and lesbianism are traits of a society that is being given up. They are not signs of 'improvement and enlightenment', they are manifestations of ignorance and spiritual darkness. They are not found at the 'high point' of a society, but the 'low point'.

'Unseemliness' -'shameless acts' (Mon). Old word from a Greek word that means "deformed". (Robertson p. 331) It isn't 'just another kind of love' either.

-Primarily want of form, disfigurement. (Vincent p. 20)

'Receiving in themselves' -'in their own persons' (RSV)

'that recompense of their error which was due' -'the due penalty of their error' (NASV) There was always an due penalty, a proper reward, a just paying back for such sinfulness. 'The fitting wage of such perversion' (NEB)

Verse 28

Rom_1:28 And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

'Reprobate' -'their own depraved reason' (NEB). Lit., not standing the test. They did not 'approve' of the truth (God in their knowledge), and God called such an attitude, 'disapproved'. They rejected God, and God rejected their attitude. Being a skeptic doesn't impress God!

'Refused' -'did not see fit' (RSV)

Verses 29-31

Rom_1:29-31 : Remember, these are sins just as bad as homosexuality!

'Unloving' (1:31) -'without natural affection'; which means

lovelessness where healthy people should have it; love of family and friends. The love of family and kindred. Abortion, child abuse, spouse abuse are all classic examples of this sin.

Verse 32

Rom_1:32 who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.

'Who' -these very people, the Gentiles.

'Knowing the ordinance of God' -'Here is another intimation that Paul is dealing with people WHO HAD HEARD MORE THAN THEY WOULD HAVE CARED TO CONFESS THEY HEARD'. These people were well aware that God have given 'ordinances/regulations/laws' against such things, and they also knew the EXACT PENALTY-I.E. DEATH.

'But also consent' -'encouraged others to do them, too' (Tay)

-'but they even applaud those who do them' (TCNT)

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Bibliographical Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Romans 1". "Dunagan's Commentaries on the Bible". 1999-2014.