Online Bible Commentary
More Than a Man
Romans 1:1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. 5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; 7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul wrote this letter in AD 56-57 from Corinth, Greece. He stayed in Corinth for three months, December, AD 56-February, AD 57, the winter months on the Mediterranean Sea. He was waiting for Spring, when the waterways would be reopened and he could sail back to Jerusalem.
Paul was writing this letter to the Christians in Rome, with the expectation that it would be distributed to all of the first century churches. Rome was the famous capitol of the ancient world.
The census of Rome, taken in AD 48, was about 1.2 million of the 6 million people in Italy. Census numbers consisted only of adult male Roman citizens, so the population was much more than that.
The church in Rome was believed to have been started by Roman Jews who had been present on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem about AD 30. The church consisted of Jews and Gentiles.
In AD 49, Roman Emperor Claudius expelled all Jews from Rome because of the spread of Christianity. Claudius sought to have a state religion based on the secret religious rites of Ancient Greece, definitely not that of Christianity.
Claudius did not tolerate proselytizing in Rome so he expelled the Druids (sorcerers) and all Jews, thinking this would take care of the Christians. That same year the Jerusalem Council met and determined once and for all that Christianity was not just a sect of Judaism, that it was its own religion. Between the years AD 49-57 some Christian Jews ventured back to Rome.
So, in this letter Paul is writing mostly to Gentiles, and some Jews, all of whom had converted to Christianity. The believers were not mature believers, not having the benefit of Paul’s teachings.
The Roman believers were even less mature than the Corinthian believers. So, this letter is very doctrinal in its nature, along the lines of systematic theology.
The context of this letter is that it comes upon the heels of Paul’s issue with the Corinthians as expressed in Second Corinthians. The Corinthians had fallen under the spell of false teachers. Paul did not want this to happen to the less mature believers in Rome.
So, Second Corinthians was written primarily to combat false teaching in the church. A church who is weak in their doctrine can never honor God.
In the final passage of Second Corinthians Paul commands the church in Corinth to be complete. The Greek word he used that was translated complete denotes a picture of mending of fishing nets, so as to be strong and complete.
Paul wants all of the churches to be strong and stand on their own two feet. Churches must be strong in the Gospel. They must reject false teaching.
In this first passage in the letter to the Romans, Paul, in his customary fashion, starts with the salutation. His salutation consists of three introductions.
First, Paul introduces himself in three ways. He is “a bondservant of Jesus Christ”, a slave bought and paid for with the blood of Christ (v.1a). Second, he is an “apostle”, one who is sent by Christ to deliver the Gospel (v. 1b). And Paul is one who is, “separated”, set apart, for the Gospel (v. 1c).
Next, Paul introduces the Gospel. It was that “which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures” (v.2). The Old Testament attested to the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Jewish Messiah written of in the Old Testament.
The third introduction was of Jesus Christ Himself. Paul also introduces Christ in three ways.
First, he states that Christ “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (v. 3). His humanity was from the line of David, which implies he is more than a man.
Second, Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (v. 4). He was declared both by the Holy Spirit at His baptism and by the miracles of those He resurrected to be the Son of God.
Third, “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ” (vv. 5-6). Through Christ, Paul and the other apostles received His grace and apostleship in order to take the Gospel to all nations, including the Roman believers.
Paul ends this salutation with a blessing to all the believers in Rome (v. 7a). He addresses them as “beloved of God, called to be saints” (v. 7b).
His blessing is also his characteristic greeting: “Grace to you and peace”” (v. 7c). His blessing is for grace, that they may be equipped and empowered to do God’s will, and for peace, that they would know God’s peace to help them to do God’s will in a fallen world.
Paul’s blessing is not from himself but, more importantly, is “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7d). This implies the equality of the Son and the Father. This, again, implies that Jesus is more than a man. He is God.