Read Romans 1:1-10
1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
7To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God's will the way may be opened for me to come to you. (NIV)
We will be looking at Paul’s letter to the Romans.
This is a letter written late in Paul’s life. He has finished most of his ministry in areas around Greek and Asia Minor and now has his eyes set westward toward Spain. One of the interesting points we see in this letter is the change in how Paul describes himself. In his early letters, would write, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ,” as his title. But in his later years of writing, he switched this to “Paul, a slave of Christ.” Many translations translate the Greek word, “doúlos” as servant, but the more correct translation is “slave.” The Greeks had other words to denote servant. During the Roman times, around 20% of the people were slaves. This does not mean they were treated cruelly, but that they were owned by someone who had complete control over them and they could only be released from their bondage by paying a price for their freedom. This was almost impossible as the owners would never give their slaves an opportunity to make money to do this. But the word “doúlos” appears 135 times in the New Testament to describe our relationship with Christ when we say yes. It was an image the people understood of being totally obedient to one person.
Romans is different than Paul’s other letters in several aspects that can help us study it. The first, this is a letter written to a church that Paul did not start. Paul was an evangelist at heart. He was not a pastor to stay at a church and attend its pastoral needs. This is important because when we study Paul’s others letters, he is always responding to a particular issue – one that has been raised or one that is sensed. This is helpful, but gives us a fragmented theology in that we don’t get the full picture of why sometimes.
Romans is not written to address any particular problem and so we see the broader points of our faith being shared. It is Paul’s longest letter and many believe that it is because Paul had time to compile his thoughts as he is no longer concerned with the dealings of the other churches. He is in a transition phase of leaving on area for another. Paul is looking for support in two endeavors. First, he plans to return to Jerusalem to deliver the offering he has been collecting for the poor among the Jerusalem church. Paul sees this act as a bridge to bring the Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians into a accepting group of each other. This is dangerous for Paul as many seek to do him harm. And second, he is looking to go to Spain and seeks to garner what support he can for this endeavor.
When studying the letters in the Bible, we know that they follow a standard format that was seen in most letters of that time. There was a greeting (who is writing and to whom it is written to), a prayer, a thanksgiving, then the purpose of the letter and closed with special salutations.
In the letters of the New Testament, often times, the greeting, the prayer and/or the thanksgiving will give a hint as to the purpose/contents of the letter. We see that in Paul’s greeting. He is going to expand on these ideas.
Romans is Paul’s most complete theological thought. It is has shaped western Christianity and it is good to struggle with the things Paull writes about.
I hope you will continue on with me in this study.
Blessings and Peace