Good News to Tell
Lesson Passage: Romans 1:1-17
September 4, 2011
1. Why We Tell
2. Whom We Tell
3. What We Tell
To help adults tell others about the gospel
Why We Tell | Romans 1:1-7
1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news—2 which He promised long ago through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures—3 concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh 4 and who has been declared to be the powerful Son of God by the resurrection from the dead according to the Spirit of holiness. 5 We have received grace and apostleship through Him to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations, on behalf of His name, 6 including yourselves who also belong to Jesus Christ by calling: 7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 1- Paul introduced himself as a slave of Christ Jesus. Slavery was common in the first-century world, as it had been during the Old Testament time. Hebrew law called for fair and kind treatment of Israelite slaves and for their future release. The law also allowed for Israelite slaves who wanted to do so to remain with their masters for life. If any slave made such a free-will choice, the master was then to pierce the slave’s ear as a sign of lifelong service. It was this lifelong freely accepted slavery that best describes Paul’s use of the word slave. The Greek word, slave, points to a bond-servant; someone owned by another, and to whom the slave owed total loyalty.
Paul also was called as an apostle (one who saw and served Christ; and was called by Him). He did not become an apostle by earning the position or by declaring it for himself. His service for God came by Christ’s call on the road to Damascus. God selected him to deliver the gospel to the nations. The message Paul was given to proclaim was God’s good news. At this early point in his letter, Paul simply was pointing out that the message he preached came directly from God. He explained this truth also in his Letter to the Galatians.
Verse 2- Paul continued by explaining the main focus of the gospel he preached. It wasn’t about some new mystery religion like the many ungodly false teachings across the Roman Empire. The gospel had been promised through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Here Paul was making a claim about the entire Old Testament. All the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures, selected by God, stood together as a group in pointing forward to the coming wonderful work of God.
Verses 3-4- Paul was explaining that the gospel wasn’t just one more new secret religion in an already crowded religious field. Neither was it just a program for self-improvement. As Paul pointed out, the gospel from start to finish concerns “Jesus Christ our Lord.” He brought together in these verses a clear description of the facts that proved Jesus was sent by God. He alone could carry out God’s plan of salvation.
First, Paul proved that Jesus was God’s Son. This description shows Jesus is fully God. Next, Paul pointed out that Jesus was a descendant of David as far as His being fully human. Jesus’ carrying out the promises made by God to King David, prove He is the Promised Messiah (God’s sent one).
Finally, Paul declared that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves that this one of a kind Person, the God-Man, the Messiah is indeed the powerful Son of God. Jesus’ resurrection was according to the Spirit of holiness, while His birth in the family of King David had been “according to the flesh.” Paul was comparing the fleshly nature of Christ’s humanity (its physical nature, not sinfulness) with His gloriously resurrected body. He is also the central focus of the gospel. Interestingly, Paul also showed in these verses that the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) worked in perfect unity and purpose in bringing the gospel to completion.
Verses 5-6- In these verses, Paul explained further the nature of his mission as an apostle. He had been selected by God to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations. Of course, the work of salvation would be of God, but Paul would be the God-appointed messenger. Nevertheless, we’re reminded that God calls His people to participate in His saving work, a difficult task when we think about it. God’s purposes are always grand and majestic, not small. Jesus commanded His followers to “make disciples of all nations”, and Paul took the Lord’s commission seriously.
Paul had received grace, the undeserved favor of God, which would make possible the seemingly impossible. No doubt Paul also thought of the manner in which he received his calling from the Lord. Paul the apostle viewed his calling as a gracious act of God to a vile sinner (Paul) who formerly had persecuted Christ’s followers.
Paul’s mission was to bring about the obedience of faith. We shouldn’t read into this phrase any intention to force people into becoming Christians. On the other hand, Paul was determined to use all the persuasive powers God had given him to lead Jews and Gentiles to a knowledge of the Savior. He included the Christians of Rome in his circle of care.
Verse 7- Paul then described the people receiving his letter as loved by God. Old Testament prophets had declared God’s love for Israel. In the gospel, God’s saving love was offered to all people—Jew or Gentile—who were called as saints. The root meaning of the word saints is holiness, the idea of being set apart. While holy living is an ongoing growth process for all believers; Paul was reminding his readers that holiness also was something God gave them when they were saved. When they believed in Jesus, God set them apart as holy ones at that moment. God also set them apart for service to Him. Their calling had in effect separated them from the world, and set them on a course to live according to God’s ways.
Whom We Tell | Romans 1:8-15
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about His Son, is my witness that I constantly mention you, 10 always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.
Verse 8- Although Paul had long desired to visit the Christians in Rome, up to this point he hadn’t been able to do so. Nevertheless, he had heard news about their faith. For example, in Corinth, Paul became friends with and worked alongside Aquila and Priscilla. They were a Christian couple who had left Rome. Likely through such friendships, Paul heard numerous stories of how the believers in Rome were doing and what hardships they faced. Paul had determined that the Roman believers were being effective in serving God.
Verses 9-10- Paul told his readers (Romans) that he not only had heard about them but also prayed regularly for them. In doing so he appealed to God as his witness, who could make real the apostle’s deep concern for the church. One of Paul’s ongoing prayer requests was that God would soon grant his desire to travel to Rome and visit with the Christians there.
We can be taught by Paul’s practices in prayer. How regularly do we pray for God to grant us opportunities to tell others about the gospel? What persons or groups are constantly in our thoughts and prayers concerning their faith and struggles? May we be motivated by Paul’s powerful example of prayer!
Verses 11-12- Paul hoped to share some spiritual gift to strengthen the church. We must be careful not to misunderstand what Paul meant by the phrase, give some spiritual gift. In his communication with the Corinthian Christians, he went to great lengths to explain the nature and purpose of spiritual gifts such as wisdom, prophecy, different kinds of languages, and interpretation of those languages. One truth Paul proclaimed boldly in his explanation was that God is the Source of all spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts as He desires. Thus Paul did not mean that he wanted to come to Rome and distribute spiritual gifts in the manner only the Spirit can do. Rather, he wanted to share the spiritual ministry God had placed in him, and strengthen the Roman Christians all the more.
Verse 13- Paul had spoken of his desire to visit Rome and now explained the delay concerning his coming in more detail. He didn’t consider the delay in this instance to be the work of Satan slowing his efforts. Rather, he accepted the delay as God’s guidance. God had led him to put considerable time and effort in the regions surrounding the Aegean Sea. He had done this so he could have a positive ministry. Now, however, Paul felt sure that his work in those regions was coming to a close. Thus he now looked forward to pushing farther west in his missionary work, taking the gospel to Rome and beyond.
Verses 14-15- Paul was interested not only in visiting the Christians in Rome to encourage them. He also wanted to preach the good news to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish. He was talking about Gentiles and at this point he did not include the Jews. Later Paul expressed a deep yearning to see Jews also come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Alexander the Great unknowingly spread the Greek language and way of life in Paul’s area of ministry. Then the Roman Empire came to dominate the world, and brought in their way of life. People responded to the Roman government in different ways.
What We Tell | Romans 1:16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. 17 For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.
Verse 16- Many people in Paul’s day came up with various ideas to capture people’s interest. Some of these ideas or belief systems took seriously the matter of trying to live a so-called pure life. However, the gospel message that Paul preached did not deal with self-improvement through strict self-discipline. Rather, the good news was about putting one’s faith in the God man—Jesus Christ.
Paul was not ashamed to deliver the message of the crucified and resurrected Savior. He preached the gospel to kings and philosophers and beggars and slaves. Some hearers might take a step back to begin with at the scandal of the cross. Others might try to laugh off the message as ridiculous, but Paul knew by experience that the gospel was God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes.
Verse 17- Paul stated that God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith. What does this mean? First, it means the gospel reveals not only God’s own righteousness; but also the righteousness He makes available to those who believe in Jesus. God did not and could not simply ignore the reality of human sin. Through Jesus, God took the power and penalty of sin on Himself in our place. Jesus’ death on the cross made forgiveness possible; His resurrection made new life a reality. God thus maintained His righteousness while offering a new righteousness to sinners through faith in Jesus Christ.
Second, the phrase from faith to faith has been understood variously: (1) faith given by God to believers; (2) faith that begins and then grows to maturity; or (3) a figure of speech that means by faith from start to finish.
[We as believers today are most blessed because we have completely accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives. Think for a moment about living in today’s world without Christ. It makes me shudder to consider such a life.]
Wayne Clemons, Teacher
Duplicated and used by permission