Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Romans 1:1-7 - The Beginning of Paul's Letter to Rome - Pete's Bible Commentary


Romans 1:1-7 (NRSV) - "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures: the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."


Brief Exegetical Summary of Romans 1:1-7


Paul writes the letter to the Romans from Corinth around the time of late 55AD/early 56AD. In contrast to other Pauline literature, Paul knew very little Christians in Rome, and did not play a vital part in the evangelism and growth of the church. Conversely, he knew extensively about the political and religious movements in Rome.

Romans 1:1-7 is the beginning of a cohesive letter to the Romans, although some have argued against the coherency of ‘one’ letter. This letter begins with the self-identification of who Paul is, ‘a slave of Christ Jesus’, ‘called to be an apostle’ and ‘set apart’; almost an intentional self-promotion to the church at Rome, so as to build credibility for the rest of the letter. After then outlining what he is called to (the gospel), he gives a description of who he is addressing, ‘to all those in Rome’ and then a familiar Christianized greeting, ‘grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Dunn, 1988: 5).


Why does Paul not start off his letter with the name, “Saul”?


Interestingly Paul does not begin any of his writings with the name ‘Saul’. The name Saul, most likely, represents his former days as a zealous Pharisee (Phil 3:5-6), who persecuted the new followers of Jesus, and was indebted to fulfil every iota of the law of the Old Testament. Paul’s theophany of Jesus on the road to Damascus, came with a name change, and one that Paul embraced and used from that day forward.


Verse one begins with, ‘Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus...’ What is Paul highlighting to his readers?

The life of Paul is consumed by the Christ who transformed his life. Some translate ‘servant’ (δουλος - doulos) to be ‘slave’ which expresses with greater clarity the reality of Paul’s calling in life. No other calling, religion, philosophical idea or cultural idol could distract him from being a servant of this Messiah. The challenge is outlined, right from the start, to the Roman readership, that no less than full commitment to Christ is what Paul stands for, and they should consider the same.


Paul says that the gospel was promised beforehand through the prophets (v. 2). Can you recall prophecies from the Old Testament that Paul may be referring to?


Micah 5:2 says, ‘But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.’ This is but one example of a prophet who declares something of the nature of the coming Christ (see also: Prov 30:4, Is 9:5-7, Ps 2:6, 110:4, Deut 18:15, Dan 9:24-26). Paul was well versed in the Old Testament Scriptures, and was able to understand and teach that particular OT references can be now be revealed with the light of Christ shining upon them.


Why does Paul mention that Jesus is a descendent of David (v. 3)?


Paul is not the only NT writer who makes reference to Jesus as a descendent of David (see Mt. 1, Lk. 3). There are Old Testament references that explicitly outline that from David will come someone who will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. The most popular of these, no doubt, is Isaiah 9:1-7, ‘to us a child is born...’ ‘Prince of Peace’, ‘He will reign on David’s throne’, etc. Paul is declaring to his readers, that those many verses that allude strongly to the idea that from David’s line YHWH will establish his throne, has occurred in Jesus Christ.
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Romans 1:1-7 is part of Pete's Bible Commentary, written by PeteBrookshaw.

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