Romans 1:8-17

Romans 1:8-17

Romans 1:8 – Paul continues his salutation to the church at Rome by giving thanks to God for them. He understands the miracle of God in bringing Gentiles in Rome to faith in the God of Israel.  Rome was the capitol of the most powerful empire that the world had known. It’s army and road system brought peace and prosperity to all the nations that it touched.  It did so with its economic enterprise and bureaucratic system of government.  Paul is thanking God that a beach head for the Kingdom of God has been established in this strategic city.

From Rome the world could be reached with the Gospel through the discipleship of the Believers at Rome.  It is interesting to see the church’s humble and godly beginning in contrast with the church at Rome now. The Roman Catholic church which is seated at the Vatican in the heart of Rome is as far removed from its foundation as Israel is from its foundation and calling.  I should say that this is not only true for the Roman Catholic Church but also for most of the Church. Paul writes that The faith of the Church at Rome was being talked about throughout the world, probably by people who were antagonistic to the faith.

Romans 1:9-13 – One of the reasons that the Gospel was being proclaimed throughout the world was the influence of prayer.  Paul speaks of always being in prayer for the Saints at Rome.  How does one pray without ceasing?  It comes from being aware of the constant presence of the Lord. He is always near us and we are never out of His presence.

Constant prayer keeps us in a state of dependence on God to go through our days.  Paul practiced this and in the times when he was not occupied with the necessities of life he would pray for the brethren and any other needs that came up.  In coming to Rome, Paul wanted to impart some spiritual gift to them.  We’re not told what that gift is but whatever the gift was it was so that the church at Rome could be established (build up, or edify) and encouraged in their faith.  When we minister to one another the Spirit of God blesses the person who is ministering and the one who is being ministered to.  This is probably the fruit that  Paul is referring to in Romans 1:13.

Romans 1:14-15 – Paul sees himself with an obligation to both Greeks and barbarians. The Greeks were not only those who spoke Greek but also to those who had adopted Hellenistic culture, in contrast to barbarians who had not.  Paul knew that God had raised him up as a minister to the Gentiles to share with them the news of their election with Israel as the Chosen People.  Paul was called to be to the Gentiles what Israel failed to be namely ministers and servants of God’s truth found in His Word the Scriptures.

Just as Jesus was the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:21-22) because of Adam’s failure, so too Jesus was the second Israel (Hosea 11:1).  Likewise Paul taught that the Gentiles were indebted to Israel (Romans 15:27).  In Romans 1:15 Paul says that he longs to proclaim the Gospel to the believers that were there.  This suggests that there is more to the Gospel than just salvation. In the rest of the letter Paul will explain this.

Romans 1:16-17 – In these two verses we have the essence of the Gospel.  The word “gospel” is a translation of  a Greek word from the New Testament, the concept of good news itself finds its roots in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament. Christians use the word to designate the message and story of God’s saving activity through Jesus. The concept of “good news” finds its roots in the Old Testament.

Bisar is the Hebrew verb which means “to proclaim good news.” Originally, the word was used to describe the report of victory in battle (2 Samuel 4:10). Jewish theology taught that, like us, God was actively involved in their lives (including battles and wars) and so bisar came to have a religious connotation. To proclaim the good news of Israel’s success in battle was to proclaim God’s triumph over God’s enemies.

Believing credit for the victory belonged to God, the Israelites’ proclamation of the good news of victory was, in fact, a proclamation about God.  As Israel proclaimed good news when God delivered the nation from its enemies, it was a natural progression to proclaim good news when God delivered them from personal distress this is a theme found throughout the Psalms. Isaiah’s writings prepared the way for it’s use in the New Testament when he described the anticipated deliverance and salvation which would come from the hand of God when the Messiah appeared to deliver Israel (Isaiah 52:7).

The military, political and personal understandings of the word became united in the hope of a Deliverer who would bring victory over Israel’s earthly enemies and bring in a new age of salvation. The arrival of this Messiah would be good news.

The word Gospel comes from the English translations which used the Anglo‑Saxon word “godspell” to translate the noun euaggelion, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bisar. Godspell meant “the story about a god” and was used because the story about Jesus was good news. As English developed, the word was shortened to “gospel,” and the Anglo‑Saxon meaning was lost.  Ultimately the Gospel means to proclaim the Good News to all of the complete and full salvation that comes from and through Jesus the promised Messiah.

The Gospel, Paul tells us, is not only Good News but the power of God. The word “power” comes from the Greek word dunamis, which is the same root for the word dynamite.  As dynamite has the ability to level mountains transforming them into roads, so too the Gospel has the power to transform men into the image of God. The Gospel has all of God’s omnipotence behind it. The Greek word places the stress more on the source than on the process.

The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.

One other insight into the use of the word “power” comes from its understanding by the Pharisaic mind set.  It was the procedure of the Pharisees to avoid using the God’s name lest it ever be used in vain.  So epithets were used as alternatives to avoid comprising His dignity such as  HaShem, Adonoi (master), (lit. The Name),   or ha-Gevurah (the Power).

We see this in Isaiah 9:6  For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  In this way Paul was personifying Jesus as “the Power” a further reference to His deity.  Paul goes on to say that the power is only available to the believer.  A believer is one who has put his complete confidence in the Lord and not in himself.

To the Jew First – This is an overriding theme through this letter as well as Ephesians, that this Power has been given in the Wisdom of God (another epithet for the Name of God).  The wisdom is also described as one of the “mysteries” by Paul in Romans 11:25; Ephesians 1:9; Ephesians 2:11-3:11.  God’s purposes was to redeem the whole world through His first born, Israel, (Romans 9:4-5)  who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, {5} whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever.

The remnant of Israel were the initial evangelists but because Israel failed in her initial call God made the Gentiles to be partakers and has placed the nations in Christ as leaders of the Church to provoke Israel to jealousy.  In the last days God will once again restore Israel to Himself and redeem them that they might be what God intended them to be in the millennial Kingdom. (Zechariah 8:23; 14:16ff; Romans 11:26).  Paul understood that their was a priority in presenting the Gospel to Israel, that they were pivotal in reaching the Gentiles Acts 13-14.

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