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Bible Commentaries

Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Romans 1

 

 

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Verses 1-6

The gospel concerning his son

Roman 1:1-6

The epistle to the Romans was not Paul's first epistle. Several were written before it. It may be placed first because of the excellency of it or perhaps because of the subject of it! The chief design of this epistle is to set in a clear light the doctrine of justification–which is not by nature, law, or ceremony but by the righteousness of Christ imputed through the grace of God and received by faith.

Calvin said, ‘When anyone gains a knowledge of this epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of scripture.’

John 21:1. ‘Paul.’ Most agree that the apostle was called Saul among the Jews and Paul, by the Gentiles (Acts 13:9). One thing is certain–the true servants of Christ are not fond of fancy titles. Paul Identifies himself in a three-fold way:

1. ‘A servant of Jesus Christ,’ This was not only an expression of humility, but one which denotes a true minister of Christ and his church; for he does consider himself indeed a willing, loving, obedient bondslave of Jesus Christ. (Exodus 21:1-6).

2. ‘Called to be an apostle.’ An apostle was one who was sent by Christ, had his authority and doctrine directly from Christ, and had special power to work miracles in confirmation of his mission and authority (Hebrews 2:3-4). Several questioned his apostleship because he was called after Christ ascended.

3. ‘Separated unto the gospel.’ We know that he was separated from his mother's womb (Galatians 1:15), he was separated to bear the gospel to Gentiles (Acts 9:15), and he was separated by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:2); but this reference is to his determination to preach the gospel of God! He was fully dedicated to preaching the gospel. (1 Corinthians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:2). It is the gospel of God in that he is the author of it, the executor of it, the subject of it, and the revealer of it.

John 21:3. These words are to be read with verse one, ‘The gospel of God concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord,’ and express the subject matter of the gospel. Christ is the gospel! The gospel concerns his person and his work. The whole gospel is included in Christ; and as a man removes one step from Christ, he departs from the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 John 5:11-13; 1 John 5:20).

Two things must be found in Christ in order that we may obtain salvation in him: deity and humanity (Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23; John 1:14). He is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ; and according to the flesh he is the seed of David (Psalms 132:11; Luke 1:32). It appears to have been a common thing for the Jews to refer to their Messiah as the Son of David (Mark 10:47; Matthew 22:42).

John 21:4. Our Lord Jesus was made or became the seed of David (Galatians 4:4), but he was declared to be the Son of God (John 10:30). He is the Son of God with power (Hebrews 1:2-3; Matthew 28:18; John 17:2; John 5:36). ‘According to the spirit of holiness’ can be understood either of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16) or the divine nature of Christ, which was without sin.

He was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. On this great fact of his resurrection from the dead, Paul rests the truth of his gospel (1 Corinthians 15:12-19). His resurrection declares him to be all that he claimed.

John 21:5. Having completed his definition of the gospel, Paul speaks of his call to the apostleship and the end of his ministry. By the mercy of Christ he received grace in conversion and the office of an apostle. It was through divine favor, not his own worthiness, that he was chosen for such a high office (1 Corinthians 15:10).

We have received a command to preach the gospel among all nations, and this gospel is received or obeyed by faith (Mark 16:15-16). It is our duty to preach the word, and it is the duty of all men to hear and believe (John 6:28-29). By special appointment Paul was a minister to the Gentiles for the honor and glory of the name of Christ, in whose name Paul went and in whose name he preached (Romans 10:13-15).

John 21:6. The calling here is not to an office; but it is that internal, effectual, and personal call of the Spirit of God to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:26-30).


Verses 7-15

Ready to preach the gospel

Romans 1:7-15

Romans 1:7. The apostle addresses all the believers in Rome without any distinction except to say that they are ‘beloved of God’ and ‘called to be saints.’ The Lord, through his own kindness, made us objects of his love (1 John 4:10) and by his Spirit called us by the gospel to the obedience of faith (1 Thessalonians 4:10).

Then comes the apostle's usual salutation, ‘Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He prays for an increase of grace, for every grace is imperfect; and those who have the most stand in need of more (2 Peter 3:18). By peace is meant peace with God through Christ, peace in our own hearts, and peace among believers and with all men. The Father is the Giver, and Christ is the Fountain of all blessings in this life and throughout eternity!

Romans 1:8. After the inscription and salutation follows a thanksgiving.

1. The object of thanksgiving is God. Since all that we are, have, and know comes from him, it is reasonable that we should praise and thank God (1 Thessalonians 5:18; James 1:17).

2. The person through whom thanks are given is Christ. There is no coming to God except through Christ, nor is any sacrifice of prayer or praise acceptable except through him (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5).

3. The persons for whom this thanksgiving was made were all the believers in Rome, and the thing for which the apostle was most thankful was the fact that these people believed the gospel so strongly and so openly that their faith in Christ was known throughout the world. Men and women of true faith are not ashamed to declare it (Romans 1:16; Luke 9:26).

Romans 1:9. ‘God is my witness.’ These words are an appeal to God and carry in them the form of an oath, for Paul was personally unknown to the saints at Rome; so in assuring them of his affection, interest, and continual prayers for them, he says, ‘The Lord God, whom I serve in my innermost being, in heart, mind, and spirit in the glorious gospel of his dear Son, is my witness that I continually mention you in my prayers.’

Romans 1:10. One of the things Paul requested at the throne of grace was that he might have the opportunity to visit the church at Rome. He prayed that it might be the will of God for him to have a prosperous or profitable visit among them.

Romans 1:11. It was not Paul's desire just to travel, or to see the great city of Rome, or to behold the riches, grandeur, and historical sights; but he desired to minister to the church spiritual light, knowledge, peace, and comfort through the word. God has given Paul the ability to preach the gospel, teach the word, and establish churches in the truth (Ephesians 4:11-14; Hebrews 3:13). He wanted to lend his aid to the saints at Rome to help confirm and establish them in the faith.

Romans 1:12. When the word of God is faithfully preached and believers are established firmly in faith, then comfort and assurance follow! When believers are established, both they and the minister are comforted together. The grace of faith is the same in all, called common faith (Titus 1:4).

Romans 1:13. This desire to visit them was not a sudden impulse but a desire he had entertained for a long time. He was hindered either by God, who had work for him in other places (Acts 16:6-9), or by Satan, who sometimes by divine permission has such power (1 Thessalonians 2:18), or by his duties in other places. Paul desired to have some fruit among them. We understand ‘fruit’ to be the conversion of sinners, the edification of believers, and the fruitfulness of believers in grace and works (Matthew 7:15-16; John 5:16).

Romans 1:14. Because of the mercy of God to me and by his divine call to the ministry of the word, I have an obligation to fulfill, a duty to perform, and a debt to pay to all men, cultured and uncultured, wise and unwise. The gospel is the same for all men and is to be preached to the civilized, cultured nations as well as to the pagan, uncivilized barbarians. It is the same gospel to those who are learned and wise, with respect to human wisdom and knowledge, and to those who are unlearned and untaught in natural things (1 Corinthians 1:26-30; Matthew 11:25).

Romans 1:15. Paul was willing and ready to preach the gospel to the headquarters of the Roman Empire, the seat of Satan, and where the heat of persecution was. He was anxious to fulfill God's calling, as far as he was allowed to do so by the Lord.


Verses 16-20

I am not ashamed of the gospel

Romans 1:16-20

Romans 1:16. The apostle declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel of God's grace, of mercy to the guilty through Christ, of salvation by substitution. Though it seemed nonsense to some and a stumbling block to others, Paul was not ashamed to believe it and to preach it (1 Corinthians 1:18-24). Some in religion reveal that they cannot bear the reproach of his gospel. They own it in private, but they will not preach it in public. Some cover the offense of the cross with words of wisdom and human philosophy, seeking to please men. Some add their works to his grace.

The gospel of Christ and the preaching of that gospel are the means God uses to:

1. Quicken dead sinners (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23; Mark 16:15-16),

2. Open blind eyes (2 Corinthians 4:3-6),

3. Reveal Christ (Romans 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and

4. Declare salvation through Christ (Romans 3:24-26).

‘To the Jew first and also to the Greek.’ The word ‘Greek’ includes all the Gentles. These two classes comprehend all mankind. The Jews were chosen to receive the law, the prophets, the types, and the tabernacle; thus, we can say the gospel in type and promise was first preached to them (John 1:11-13; Romans 3:1-2).

Romans 1:17. The gospel of Christ reveals the righteousness of God (Romans 3:25-26). If we would seek salvation or life with God, his righteousness must first be found; for God is holy, just, and righteous; and in order to be loved by God, accepted by God, and justified before God, WE must become righteous--not by our righteousness, which is filthy rags, but by his righteousness (Matthew 5:20; Romans 10:1-4). We cannot obtain salvation anywhere but through the gospel of Christ, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21). This righteousness is not known nor understood by the light of nature but must be revealed (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

‘Revealed from faith to faith.’ Righteousness is secured by Christ and received by faith. ‘From faith to faith’ means from one degree of faith to another; for faith, like any other grace, grows. As we grow in faith, we have a clearer view of God's righteousness in Christ and a clearer view of our sin and unworthiness.

‘The just shall live by faith.’ Four times this appears in scripture (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38). We begin by faith (Romans 3:22), we continue in faith (Colossians 1:23), and we die in faith (Hebrews 11:13). We live not upon faith, but by it upon Christ!

Romans 1:18. There are two revelations given from heaven: one is the grace of God in Christ (the righteousness of God upon all who believe) and the other is the wrath and judgment of God upon unbelievers.

This wrath is revealed in the law, in the judgment of God upon Adam, Sodom, Noah's world, and countless other examples, and in the cross of Christ on which God spared not his own Son who bore the sin of his sheep (Psalms 5:5; Psalms 7:11; John 3:36).

The apostle begins in this verse to describe the awful ungodliness and unrighteousness of men living under the revelation of nature but destitute of the true knowledge of God. They have some knowledge of the divine being through creation and conscience but repress it and give way to evil only.

Romans 1:19-20. There are some things that cannot be known of God except through gospel revelation, but there are some things that may be known of God by nature. God himself is invisible; but his power, majesty, and glory shine forth in the things he has made (Psalms 19:1).

‘Clearly seen’ is the word used here. God gave men eyes to look about them, above them, and around them to behold his glory.

‘Being understood’ refers to the mind and heart of man, which should in an intelligent and thoughtful way recognize God and love God. Because they walk not in the light which they have, they are without excuse. They have no excuse for their idolatry and vicious lives. When sons of Adam have nothing more than the manifestation of the living God in the works of creation, providence, the law, and conscience, they have enough to render them inexcusable before God; for it is their duty to make good use of these things; and the cause of their not doing so is their evil hearts (Romans 2:14-15).

Wherefore God gave them up

Romans 1:21-32

Romans 1:21. Paul testifies here that God has given to men the means of knowing there is a God; for the world does not exist by chance, nor could it sustain itself. His eternity is evident, for he is the maker of all things. His power upholds all things and continues their existence. His wisdom arranged things in their proper order. His goodness is evident, for there is no other cause but himself for the creation and preservation of the earth. His justice punishes the guilty.

Though men had such a knowledge of God, they neither thought nor spoke honorably of him. They did not glorify him as God, nor honor him as the Creator, nor worship him as the Lord and governor of the universe.

They were not thankful for the knowledge they had nor for their mercies. They forsook the truth of God and turned to the vanity of their own reason and foolish imaginations. Their foolish minds and hearts, when turned away from God, could only plunge headlong into the darkness of error, delusions, and unrighteousness (Isaiah 55:8-9; Proverbs 14:12; Romans 8:7). Men who will not have God to reign over them will have darkness and death to reign in them.

Romans 1:22. The so-called learned men among the Gentiles first called themselves wise men; then, to cover their vanity and pride, they called themselves philosophers. But, notwithstanding all their arrogance and claims to be lovers of wisdom, they became fools; for there is no true wisdom, knowledge, nor understanding apart from our Lord (1 Corinthians 3:18-20; Proverbs 2:6; 1 Corinthians 1:19-20). A man's greatest mistake is to seek wisdom in his own thoughts and understanding and to try to draw God down to the level of his own low condition, rather than to humbly look to God for a revelation of himself (Matthew 11:25-27; Matthew 13:10-13; Matthew 13:16).

Romans 1:23. Having imagined such a god as they could comprehend according to their carnal reasoning and natural understanding, they were very far from any knowledge of the true and living God (John 17:3; 1 John 5:20). God is incorruptible, immortal, and invisible, and thus is opposed to all corruptible creatures and things (1 Timothy 1:17; Colossians 1:14-15). He has a glory essential to him which cannot be changed or represented by a person, picture, or image called by his name. The heathen say, ‘We know God is in the heavens; and this picture, statue, or person is not God but his image.’ This is still idolatry, for it is a high indignity to God to form so gross an idea of his majesty as to dare to represent him by any image of him (John 4:24; Hebrews 1:1-3; Exodus 20:4-5). Let us do away with all religious relics, images, pictures, crosses, and representations of the living God–which is idolatry. Man's degeneration led him down from images of men and birds (to represent God) to beasts and even snakes!

Romans 1:24. We see in the rest of this chapter where idolatry leads. When men refuse the true knowledge of God and follow their imaginations and the pollution of their minds and hearts, they sink lower and lower into the darkest and vilest sorts of evil.

‘God gave them up’ is a phrase that appears three times in the next few verses. That is, God withdrew his providential restraints and left them to the pollution of their nature. The heart of man is the source of all wickedness! The lusts that dwell there are many and tend to uncleanness of one sort or another (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19-20). When God leaves a man alone, there is no level too low for him.

Romans 1:25. They were given over to idolatry. Religious honor and worship cannot be given to an idol or a creature without taking it away from the living God.

Romans 1:26-27. Because of their idolatrous practices, God left them to dishonor their own bodies and natures through homosexuality and perversion, both among men and women.

Romans 1:28. God gave them over to minds so void of judgment that they justify and approve of their evil. Their understanding is so reprobate that they call evil good and good evil (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

Romans 1:29-31. So far were these people from having a righteousness to justify them before God that they were filled with all unrighteousness. A large list is given of the vilest sins being committed by them.

Romans 1:32. All of this evil is aggravated by their knowledge of the will of God (through the light of nature), that these things are contrary to it, and that they are deserving of death–yet they did them and took pleasure in those who committed them.

 


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Bibliography Information
Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Romans 1:4". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hms/romans-1.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, September 23rd, 2019
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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