Tag Archives: Romans 1

Romans 1:24-32

Here is my mind map of Romans 1:24-32:
Rom 1:24-32 mind map

You can find the scrolls for this next week here.

And here are some more questions to get you thinking:

  • How did God respond to the suppression of his truth?
  • What does the repetition of “God gave them up” three times mean?
  • What is the consequence of sin in this passage?
  • How does Paul describe them in the end?
  • How should these people have responded to God’s judgment?
  • How should you respond to God’s judgment?

Romans 1:18-23 thoughts

As I thought through the structure of this passage (especially in making the mindmap here), I noticed what at first seemed a lopsided structure. That is, it looks like the first half is pointed forward to the end of v20, while the last half is pointed back to it. But then I recalled an old poetry class, where we looked for what we called fulcrums, the point on which a poem turns in mood, emotion, whatever. And I think this happens with prose, too, as the flow of an argument turns on the main point of a section.

That is, as Paul writes “.…So they are without excuse. For.…”, he is building reasons before and after what I now take to be the central thesis of this section, that people are without excuse. There is no way in which people will be able to say to God, “But .…” and avoid his wrath on that account. His wrath is revealed, and there is no excuse.

Another point of detail, that a number of people I talked with this weekend missed, is the object of wrath. Later, in ch 9, Paul seems to talk about people as “objects of wrath”, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. If we look carefully at the opening verse, “the wrath of god is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”, we see that God’s wrath is against our ungodliness and unrighteousness, not against us. This of course immediately begs the question of the difference, but I think it is important. If God’s wrath is against our sin, then we have options. That is, will we keep our sin, and hold it close to ourselves, and get burned up with it? Or will we let it go, and escape that wrath ourselves? As Christians, we understand that the wrath of God against our sin was satisfied in Jesus as he bore our sin on the Cross. Our sin has real consequences, real wrath. And as we trust Jesus, he bears that cost, so we don’t have to, so we can survive the coming day of wrath, and even some of the wrath that is currently visible (IMHO).

So, when we talk to those who don’t honor God or give thanks to him, we can have confidence that this isn’t because they are truly ignorant. There is something in each of us that gives testimony to the presence and character of God. And nature itself screams out his eternal power and divine nature, as we see the beauty and order of what he made, and as we see that what he made was clearly meant to outlast us.

Someone said that we must deny the truth about God, if we are going to allow ourselves to keep sinning. Because if we allowed ourselves to feel the full weight of that truth, we would be forced to change –to get out of the way of that bus coming at us, rather than tell ourselves it isn’t really going to hit us.

One final note, given the presence of idolatry in this passage. We may have a hard time connecting to this charge today, since we don’t think about idolatry much. But if we think about the things that we sacrifice other things for, the things we cut out time and energy for, those are the things that are truly valuable to us.  And personally, I was sickened to watch players kiss the Lomardi trophy last Sunday, as happy as I was with the victory. 😉

Let’s not forget to let the reality of our sin and God’s wrath sink in. As we consider what the power of God for salvation (v17) is saving us from, it is important to understand clearly what the consequences of our sin are, both for today and in eternity.

Romans 1:18-23

Here is my mind map for Rom 1:18-23:

Rom 1:18-23 mind map

The link to the scrolls is here.

Here are some other questions to get you thinking:

1. Does Paul seem to change the subject in this section? How/Why?
2. How does he describe the objects of God’s wrath?
3. What are they suppressing?
4. What did God show them? How?
5. How did they respond?
6. How did God respond to their suppression?
7. How does Paul describe them in the end?
8. How should these people have responded to God’s judgment?
9. How should you respond to God’s judgment?


Romans 1:14-17 thoughts

This passage contains what is almost unanimously agreed to be the thesis of the book of Romans. It has a couple ambiguities, perhaps because multiple readings each contain aspects which will be brought out in more detail later.

First, I’m not sure about the three for‘s in this passage. The first is clear enough, and the second connects the next part to it, but it is unclear if the third for connects the third section back to the first, or to the second. That is, when he says

16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

It is clear that he is not ashamed because the Gospel is God’s power, etc. but does the righteousness of God revealed by faith in it further ground his not being ashamed? This would make sense, as parallel grounds to the one statement, but it would also make sense to see the three for‘s as nested. In the nested reading, the righteousness of God … revealed by faith is the grounds for the gospel providing salvation to everyone who believes. In other words, the gospel is not just for Jews, but for everyone, and for a very specific reason. This has nothing to say against Abraham, but he isn’t the ground for this power of God. This power of God is based on faith, and that is why it is available regardless of ethnic identity.

Both readings make sense, so maybe Paul meant this to be ambiguous, to include them both. But I think the second (nested) interpretation fits better with where he is going with regards to faith and Abraham/Moses, etc. I’ll have to think through this some more.

Second, as I talked through this passage with other teachers, it came out that some differed on the reading of the quote from Habbakuk: “The righteous shall live by faith (or, The one who by faith is righteous shall live)“. This footnote in the ESV (in parentheses) contains a second reading; other translations pick one or the other, e.g., the NIV “The righteous will live by faith” and the NET “The righteous by faith will live”.

The question seems to surround whether Paul is talking about those that are righteous by faith, who live, or whether he is talking about how the righteous live, i.e., by faith. In the first, Paul would be talking about justification (i.e., that people are legally righteous by faith, not some other means), while in the second sanctification would be in view (i.e., that people who are righteous live by faith (not by some other means).

But again, I think this might be an intentional ambiguity. Given where Paul will ultimately go in Rom 8:28-30, I don’t think he has a strong distinction between those who are justified and those who are sanctified. They are one group of people, even if we can talk about two distinct things happening to them. So to say that the righteous live by faith is true, but they are also only by faith that they are righteous at all. On the other hand, it is true that any true righteous is obtained by faith, but the fruit (and expectation, or reward) of that righteous standing is life. Once God has justified you, you get to really live, not afraid of the wrath that would otherwise be due to you. But you are also expected to live, as a natural outpouring of what God has done for you. That is, a holy life is possible on the grounds of the right standing (justification) God has given you in Jesus. But Paul will get there eventually. In any case, I think it likely that when Paul talks about salvation in v16, he has the whole package in mind. This power of God calls people out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of light. It gives people a right standing with God, and it also provides the strength and motivation for right living. And it will ultimately bring us into the eternal presence of God, free from the power and presence of sin, forevermore.

One last point I thought interesting in this passage, is the reference to Barbarians. Typically, Paul talks in terms of Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles), as in v16. But in v14,  he refers to barbarians, those beyond even the ancient boundaries of Alexander the Great’s Empire (which spread the Greek language and culture. So this is not just a Jew/Gentile thing, the fact that faith is the ground of our salvation. It is also a culture/uncultured thing, and a civilized/uncivilized thing. There is no distinction that the ground of faith does not reach across. This is the word of God that is easy, in our mouth. But we’ll get there in Ch 10.

Our church is taking a week off of Romans next week (not sure why), so we’ll pick up on v18 next week.

Romans 1:14-17

Here is my mind map of Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

Here are some questions to get your juices flowing:

1. What are the three causally linked sections of these verses?
2. What is the basis of Paul’s relationship to the Gospel?
3. The power of God in the gospel is for what purpose?
4. The power of God in the gospel is for who?
5. The power of God in the gospel is for which ethnic/social groups?
6. On what basis can it reach each of those groups?
7. What scriptural grounds are there for saying this (c.f., Hab 1-2)?
8. What is the purpose of the power of God in your life?
9. How do you express faith (or not)?

And you can get the scrolls for this section here.

Romans 1:8-15 thoughts

Our local church lead pastor spoke on the Gospel Compulsion this morning, which have otherwise been entitled A Pastor’s Heart. This passage seems to talk mostly about Paul’s desire for them. But while you could take that as a particularly relational message (which I think it is), it also contains a good deal of content. This isn’t just schmoozing, which at the end of the day means nothing more than we like each other (or I want you to think that I like you, anyway).

This pastor (as do most faithful church planters, I think) has specific desires for the church in question. Paul boasted of their faith which was widely known. He also saw the exchange between them as mutually beneficial, as spiritual gifts are used on both sides for the building of the church. But as well, there is the question of harvest: Paul wants fruit among them, as well as from the other gentiles where he has worked.

These last two points I found interesting, in that people presumed a different audience for each. Fruit obviously refers to ministry to non-believers, and spiritual gifts is toward believers (since he isn’t handing out spiritual gifts, so this must refer to his use of his own for the building of the church…). But I don’t see it that way. As I see it, they each can apply to both. The line “impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (v11) Can mean using my gifts for your benefit, but if Paul is evangelizing, then there would be new Christians in the group. As those people come to Christ, they would receive the Holy Spirit (with the gifts of the Holy Spirit) on conversion. In that way, Paul would be a very practical means by which those gifts would come to them, though he is neither their author not direct distributor.

In the same way, we may speak of a “harvest” as new converts, but I hope that we see that there is growth, development, and maturity to be sought after in those who are already Christians –and these can be appropriately viewed as fruit.

So we come back to the pastoral principle that we cannot know the state of another’s heart, so we are bound to treat everyone more or less the same way. We hope for the best, but we pray and preach against the worst. Yes, we must at some point decide who to baptise, let join the church, or receive communion. But we preach the Gospel (to ourselves and others, in season and out) because we all need it, not only for conversion, but also for our daily wellbeing and spiritual health.

6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)



Romans 1:8-15

Here is my mind map of Romans 1:8-15 (ESV):

You can get the scrolls for this lesson here.

And here are some more questions to get you thinking:

1. What does Paul say first? Why?

2. To what does he call on God as witness?

3. What does he pray for?

4. Why does he want to see the Romans? Who would benefit? In what ways?

5. Why hasn’t he seen the Romans yet?

6. What is his ‘debt’? To whom?

7. What is Paul’s desire?

Introduction: Romans 1:1-7 thoughts

Introductions are somewhat like genealogies to many of us; we have a tendency to just blow them off, and skip to “the good stuff”. But this introduction has plenty of Good stuff in it. It introduces Paul, the Gospel, Jesus, and the Christian, all of which are very relevant to us today, and which will be relevant as we go through the rest of this book.

Paul is a servant, yet also an apostle. How is one sent in authority also a servant? Yet this reflects Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10:42-45 (ESV):

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servantd, 44and whoever would be first among you must be slavee of all. 45For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Paul is also set apart for the Gospel, to the end of the “obedience of faith”. Interesting that those who are in Rome (v7) are “called to be saints”; holiness is also essentially being set apart. So the one is set apart to preach the gospel, and the others are set apart to live it.

These verses also pack in a lot about Jesus, the point of the Gospel (and of everything else, truth be told).  Jesus in the gospel fulfills promises made by men who spoke for God, whose words were written down and kept for us to read.

The gospel is about Jesus, the Son of God (putting together vv1-3: the gospel of God, which [God] promised beforehand … concerning his Son), but it is also about Jesus the Son of David (v3). But He is also Jesus, the Son of God in power… by his resurrection (v4), and finally, Jesus is the source of both grace and apostleship (v5).

This last one I find interesting, given the bilateral nature of lordship. That is, a Lord and a subject have a two way relationship, the one providing protection and other resources necessary for life, and the other providing service and fealty. In the same way, Jesus provides us Grace, which we need for (eternal and any other) life, but he also gives us a job, to represent him before a fallen world.

Rephrasing the above, in five short verses we see Jesus as the eternal Son of God, the human Son of Man, the glorified Son of God, and the Son our Lord.

These verses also talk about what it means to be a Christian. That is, the purpose of the Gospel is to bring about the obedience of faith (v5), and that purpose is to be fulfilled in the readers (v6). Some have argued about the meaning of “obedience of faith”, given the linguistic ambiguity of the construction. Does it mean that faith is obedience? or that obedience that comes from faith (e.g., NIV)? Or obedience that is in some other way characterized by faith? My understanding of the construction is that it doesn’t require or exclude any of these, and that we must interpret it from the larger context.

Why is this question important? One conversation I had recently asked whether Paul here is talking about a single act of faith, which produces justification (as will be treated at length later in Romans), which is thus itself obedience, but not intrinsically tied to any other obedience? Or is Paul talking about obedience that flows from faith, i.e., sanctification, the act of Christians being made more holy subsequent to their trusting Jesus. And most critically, is it possible to have the one and not the other? Is it possible to trust Jesus, then never produce any concrete life change?

I have heard this question debated ad nauseum, and I think it is important for scholars to wrestle with it, but I think here it is enough to say that even if it is possible to have faith without obedience, that would in no way be a good thing, and that in no way is the point of the Gospel. That is, for Paul (and I hope for us), we want to see lives changed because people trust Jesus (and thereby have a right relationship with God, and go to heaven, etc), but we also want to see lives changed here and now as people live more rightly (and thereby glorify God more in their bodies, here and now). If you’re promoting either one without the other, you’re cheating people, IMHO. And perhaps this is why Paul used an ambiguous phrase here. Perhaps the Gospel is there to make people obey by placing their faith in Jesus. Perhaps it is also there to make people more like Jesus, once they have placed their faith in him, and tasted and seen how good he is.

And this is affirmed in Paul’s description of hearers in v7: loved by God and called to be saints. We are not just loved, we are called to be holy. And we are not just called to be holy, but we are loved. This is a package deal, and we get it all in Jesus.

I was somewhat surprised to hear called to be saints this morning used in reference to unbelievers. I’m not sure if Paul meant it that way. But it does make sense, given that those whom he predestined he also called (8:30) is a part of the golden chain that predates conversion, and given that this predestination happened before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8 & 17:8). So while we who believe are called to be holy, it stands to reason that there are some who have not yet converted, but who are nonetheless also loved by God and called to be holy. If so, how does God show this love? And how does he call them to be holy? Paul tells us his thoughts on this in ch 10:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

So we share the Gospel, and that calls people out of darkness into the kingdom of Light, and it shows people the love of God, as they hear what meets their greatest need.

And this is why grace and peace (v7) are distinctively Christian greetings. We proclaim grace to one another, because we know that it is by grace that we live and breathe. And we proclaim peace to one another, because this is what God has accomplished for us.  And this is not just the sit-down-and-rest-awhile peace of a half time show; it is the complete fulfillment of all our needs in Jesus. It is peace with ourselves and peace with others because we have peace with the creator and sustainer of the universe –and everything else is secondary.

Introduction: Romans 1:1-7

Here is my mind map of the first seven verses of Romans (ESV):


Despite the fact that this is an introduction to the book, there are lots of cool things in this passage. You can check out some material to help through these verses here.

Here are some questions to help you think through these verses:

  1. Who is the letter from?

  2. How does he describe himself?

  3. What does he say about the gospel?

  4. What does he say about God’s Son? What is He, according to whom?

  5. What does he say about His apostles?

  6. Who is the letter to?

  7. What is the greeting?

  8. What is the overall context for this letter, personally, theologically and historically?

  9. How do you fit into that context?

  10. What is your responsibility in that context?