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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
Romans 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-17

Analysis and Annotations

I. DOCTRINAL. THE SALVATION OF GOD. Chapter 1-8.

CHAPTER 1

1. The Apostle and the Gospel of God. (Romans 1:1-6.)

2. The Greeting. (Romans 1:7.)

3. The Apostle’s Prayer and Desire. (Romans 1:8-15.)

4. The Great Theme Introduced. (Romans 1:16-17.)

Romans 1:1-6

The introduction to the Epistle is unsurpassed by any other Epistle. Every word should be carefully studied. The writer introduces himself first of all as a servant (literally: slave) of Jesus Christ and called an apostle. Notice that in Romans 1:1-7 two little words are found three times in italics, the words “to be.” They are supplied by the translators and should be omitted. Paul was not called to be an Apostle, but he was called an Apostle. The Lord Jesus Christ was not declared to be Son of God, but He was declared Son of God; believers are not called to be Saints, but they are called Saints. Paul loved to call himself bondman of Jesus Christ. He knew the Lord had redeemed him and now he was no longer his own, but belonged to Him who had purchased him and made him one with Himself. His highest ambition was to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. His Apostleship he puts in the second place. The highest and best is to be in reality a willing, devoted servant of the Lord. How did he become an Apostle? “Not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:1). The exalted Christ in glory had called him and sent him forth. And next we find in the opening verse the specific work unto which the Lord had separated him--”separated unto the Gospel of God.” The Gospel was his great commission and therefore is the great theme of his Epistle. The Holy Spirit who guided his mind, as well as his pen, now unfolds this Gospel. The highest and the best, after all, in God’s whole revelation is the Gospel. And the Gospel is not confined in the Pauline Epistles to Romans. We read Colossians and find there still the Gospel. The highest revelation which ever flowed through this chosen vessel is contained in the Epistle to the Ephesians; it is still the Gospel. Oh! the blessed Gospel! it can never be exhausted; it will be the object of eternal praise. In His presence, conformed into His image we shall know its heights and its depths.

Notice after Paul mentioned the Gospel of God there follows a parenthetical statement about that Gospel. Romans 1:5 is the continuation of what he saith about his Apostleship. The word Gospel means “good news.” It is the good news of God, for it has its source in Himself and in His eternal counsel. The Gospel is also called the Gospel of Christ, because it centers in Him, and is proclaimed through His finished work on the cross. This Gospel was promised by God’s Prophets in the Old Testament Scriptures. In many ways, in types, in the sacrifices, in direct predictions this Gospel has been announced and Jewish believers looked forward to its accomplishment. Throughout the Old Testament from Genesis 3:1-24 to the Prophet Malachi the promises and predictions of the Gospel are found. The Old Testament is the foundation of the Gospel. The rejection of the Old Testament as the inspired Word of God is therefore a very serious matter. And the Gospel of God we learn next is a person. It is “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus is the name of the Son of God in humiliation, living on the earth; Christ is His official name in resurrection and He is the Lord of all. The Lord Jesus Christ is the proper way to address Him. “Made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” This brings before us His incarnation “made of a woman, made under law” (Galatians 4:4). He came of the seed of Abraham and from the house of David, according to divine promise. He was both David’s Son and David’s Lord, the Root and Offspring of David. To Him belongs a throne for He is the King of the Jews. But “He came to His own and His own received Him not.” He came to go to the Cross and finish the mighty work there which enables God to be just and a Justifier, as we shall find later. He will receive the throne when He comes again in great power and glory. And He is declared (marked out) the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead. He lived in Perfect holiness on earth and the Spirit of holiness was upon Him. He raised the dead and thereby demonstrated that He is the Son of God. But it is equally true that His own resurrection must be included in this statement, for His resurrection is the effectual justification of Himself as the Son of God. Trace in these opening verses all the great facts of Christ--Son of God--Son of Man--Incarnation--His Death--His Resurrection--His Lordship.

Romans 1:7

Precious is the word of greeting to all the believers, not only in Rome, but everywhere. “Beloved of God called Saints.” Such are all who have accepted Christ as their Saviour. They are justified, sanctified, and accepted in the Beloved. Blessed truth! in Christ, one with Him, we are the objects of the Love of God. The Love wherewith God loves His Son is the Love with which He loves all who belong to Christ (John 17:23). And then we are Saints, not called to be, or to become Saints, by a separated life; but we are constituted Saints in Christ, sanctified, that is separated unto Himself. God loves us and in Christ has set us apart to Himself. Nothing that we do could ever make us the Beloved of God. No effort of ours to live consistently, apart from evil, could make us Saints of God. God has done it for us in Christ. And because we are Saints we can live saintly lives. The greeting is from the Father and the lord Jesus Christ. The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is not mentioned, for He is in and with the Saints of God, both individually and also collectively forming the body, the church.

Romans 1:8-15

In addressing them the Apostle has no rebuke, no evil to correct, no exhortation. Instead he thanked God that their faith was spoken of throughout the whole world. They let their light shine brightly in the darkness of paganism. And His heart was filled with love for them. He thanked God for them, He prayed for His blessing upon them and that “by the will of God” he might be enabled to be with them. He longed to see them for mutual blessing. Here we have an illustration of Christian fellowship. Oftentimes he had purposed to come unto them, but was hindered. “The thwarted desires of Paul gave occasion to the Spirit of God to indite and publish, by his hand, this invaluable Epistle; to present to the Church a gift, not of present and passing effect, but which should build up and feed, and instruct, the Saints to the end of the time of the church’s patience in the wilderness of this world.” He felt, what every sinner, saved by Grace should feel, that he was a debtor to all. The possession of the Gospel makes us debtors to all. He had constantly discharged his debt by preaching the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles and now he is eager “to preach the Gospel to you that are in Rome also.” And can there be anything more blessed for the Saints than the Gospel? To be reminded of it and to be led deeper into the story of God’s love and redemption is one of the great needs of God’s people. Only as we do this can we be maintained in the reality and freshness of the Gospel. Therefore Paul longed to visit Rome to preach the Gospel to “the Beloved of God called Saints.”

Romans 1:16-17

These two verses are the key verses of the Epistle. The great words of the doctrinal part of the Epistle are found here. Righteousness and Faith are these words; Paul declared that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ. It cannot mean, what it is often said to mean, that Paul was not ashamed to confess Christ. It means that he had the utmost confidence in the Gospel of Christ; he knew it would not make him ashamed; he was not ashamed of it because of its intrinsic character. The world sneered at the Gospel he preached “for the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:18). He knew that in the Gospel was embodied the highest wisdom, that God Himself was its author, that it came from God and leads to God; he knew that through the Gospel the Greek, the Jew, the Barbarian could be saved out of the horrible pit and the miry clay and become a child of God and an heir of God. He was not ashamed of it for “the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation.” What weighty words these are! The power of God is needed to save man. And that power God has, to save the vilest sinner through the Gospel of Christ. God is omnipotent, but in one thing God is powerless, He cannot save sinners apart from the Gospel of Christ, for the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. The spurious Gospel of today, which denies the Cross of Christ and the blood, which substitutes character, good works or something else for faith in the Work of Christ as sin-bearer, has no power to save. God cannot save in any other way than the way made known in the Gospel of Christ, who died for our sins. And what is salvation? It includes the whole of Christ’s redemption work. It includes Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification. Saved from the guilt of sins; saved from the power of sin; saved from the presence of sin. Salvation from wrath and eternal damnation; salvation from the power of darkness and sin’s awful dominion; salvation unto eternal glory. The word includes all the sinner needs. The cross of Christ has supplied every need. If man had to do something with it and could help along in his salvation, it would be an imperfect and insecure salvation. But God being the author, it is His salvation and thus (Acts 28:28) it is a perfect salvation, a salvation which is both deliverance and safety forever. (Philippians 2:12 “Work out your own salvation” is often quoted as meaning that we must work to be saved and to stay saved. It means that we are to work out with results the salvation which is ours by faith in Jesus Christ.) And this salvation is to any one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Faith is the means of obtaining this salvation. Of this we shall hear more in the third and fourth chapters. Furthermore, in the Gospel “the righteousness of God” is revealed. This great word will receive our closest attention in the annotations of the third chapter. Here we briefly state that the Gospel of Christ makes known that the very righteousness of God, which condemns a sinner, is now on the side of the believing sinner. it is revealed from faith to faith, which means that it is not on the principle of works, but on the principle of faith.


Verses 18-32

2. The Need of Salvation Demonstrated.

The Whole World Guilty and Lost.

Chapter 1:18-3:20.

CHAPTER 1:18-32.

1. Wrath Revealed from Heaven. 18.

2. Gentile Knowledge of God. 19-20.

3. Turning from God to Idolatry. 21-23.

4. God Gave Them Up to Corruption. 24-32.

Romans 1:18

God now demonstrates that the whole world is destitute of righteousness and needs salvation. Romans 1:18-32; Romans 2:1-29; Romans 3:1-20 is parenthetical, showing the moral condition of the whole race, away from God and lost and therefore under wrath. In this verse we read that wrath is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. It is a solemn declaration. All who are ungodly and unrighteous, who oppose the truth by living in sin are under wrath. And this is now shown to be the actual condition of the entire race, Gentiles and Jews. All are by nature the children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3). A holy God must forever exclude from His Presence those who are His enemies by wicked works.

Romans 1:19-20

The heathen world in its moral history is first described. The heathen darkness which prevails now in idolatry and its attending degradations was preceded by the knowledge of God and produced by turning from God. Man can know God, in and through creation; His eternal power and Godhead are clearly seen in the things that are made. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” (Psalms 19:1-3). And there was no doubt also a primeval revelation, though unwritten, so that the Gentiles could know God.

Romans 1:21-23

They knew God and glorified Him not. They turned away from the light. Here is the true law of evolution, not an evolution upward as taught so much at the present time, but an evolution downward. The ascent of man is a delusion; the descent of man is the truth. The only possible way of lifting man, who has fallen so low, yea beneath the beast, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “They became vain in their imaginations.” The word imagination means, perverse, self-willed reasonings revealing the evil heart beneath from which they spring. Then their foolish heart was darkened. The next step down is that they professed themselves wise and became fools. Rejecting the light and turning away from God, they became philosophers and thought to find out things by searching. Idolatry was the next step. “A god, in some shape, is a natural necessity of man. His natural desire, in his first apostasy from truth, is a god after his own heart.” A brief history of idolatry is given. First they changed the glory of the incorruptible God into a likeness of an image of corruptible man. But they did not stop with this, but they worshipped birds, four-footed beasts and creeping things. Birds, flying through the air, therefore considered nearer heaven, are put above the quadrupeds, which walk on the earth and the creeping things, which cannot rise out of the dust and mire of the earth are the lowest form. They worshipped the serpent, as it is still done by the Indians in Arizona. And idolatry is not confined to the heathen nations, it is practised in that great apostate system Romanism. A piece of bread, under an elaborate ritual, is lifted up and claimed to be changed by a few words of a sinful man, into the body and soul of the Son of god; then they fall down and worship. The mass is a blasphemous idolatry.

Romans 1:24-32

Then moral corruption of the worst kind follows. They had given Him up and now He gives them up. Three times we read that God gave them up. But why should there be a threefold repetition of the fact that He gave them up? Man is composed- of body, soul and spirit. The first giving up is as to the body; this is found in Romans 1:24-25. Then He gave them up to vile passions; this concerns the soul and the horrible things stated in Romans 1:26-27 are the results. These were practised openly in the Greek and Roman world in the days of the Apostle Paul. Ancient literature bears abundant witness to that effect. These vile things are still going on in heathen India, China, Africa and elsewhere. They are found likewise in the midst of Christendom. Whenever and wherever the Truth of God is abandoned, degradation in every way follows, for the Truth of God alone can restrain evil. The third giving up is found in Romans 1:29. Given up to a reprobate mind, which involves the spirit of man. “All these things spoken of here are clearly regarded as the recompense” even now, of the error of the creature, in departing from the Creator. “The world is thus regarded as under a judicial bondage of sin and dishonor. Men eat the fruit of their own ways, sometimes pleasant to the taste of corrupted nature, but with prospect of Divine and eternal judgment at the end. The very lusts which govern and torment the slaves of sin are, as it were, the earnest and token of that wrath of God, which, now revealed from heaven, will yet deal with ungodliness and unrighteousness of unrepentant sinners after death” (Hebrews 9:27). (Pridham on Romans)

Then follows a description of the sins, the fruits of a corrupt human nature, sins which were the characteristic features of heathendom when this Epistle was written. If we turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we find a similar list, which corresponds in a striking way with the list at the close of the first chapter of Romans. There is, however, an important difference. As already stated Romans 1:29-31 describes the moral condition of the heathen world in Paul’s day, but 2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes the moral condition of the professing Christian masses of the last times, church members who have the form of godliness and who deny the power thereof. They make an empty profession, their hearts are away from God and the last days of this age revert to the moral conditions in which the heathen world was in the days of the Apostle. And these characteristics prevail everywhere in Christendom. The last verse of our chapter tells us, that they know that they are worthy of death, yet they keep on in their evil ways.

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gab/romans-1.html. 1913-1922.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, September 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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