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Third Millennium Study Bible
Notes on Romans 1:12-16
Mutually encouraged - Romans 1:12
The result of spiritual gifts rightly expressed within the covenant body of Christ brings mutual benefit to all. Christian life, ministry, and ones' gifts are for the mutual strengthening of the whole body of Christ (Eph 4:15-16). Hughes expands upon this and sums it up nicely, saying:
The apostle claims that the faith of these beginners will encourage him! The Apostle John experienced the same thing:
We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:3-4)
Had someone other than a humble and experienced John or Paul written this, they would have said, "And these things we write, so that your joy may be made complete." But John and Paul knew that very few things will strengthen an older believer's faith more than the vibrant faith of a new believer. On the flipside, there is little that will benefit a new believer more than exposure to the mature faith of a more experienced brother or sister in Christ.
Planned many times - Romans 1:13
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Eph. 3:1, 8). The Church at Rome was primarily Gentile. Paul had intended to visit Rome on numerous occasions. Though, no record of these plans exists, see Acts 19:21 and Acts 23:11 for Paul's sense of divine compulsion toward Rome. Paul had been prevented from visiting Rome (either by the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 16:6-7) or by prophetic utterance, etc.). Morris states, "He does not say what had prevented him; his emphatic term, however, implies that he had tried hard to make the trip but that circumstances beyond his control had prevented it." God is sovereign. See "Timeline of Paul's Life - Acts 9:1-19" below.
Paul's Divine Obligation - Romans 1:14 -15
Paul had a obligation. His ministry was (Rom. 1:13) was rooted in a sense of obligation (literally "I am a debtor" - Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A.). He had been given the Gospel (see below) for the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13-14; cf. Eph 3:1-8). Haldane explains:
Paul was their debtor, not by any right that either Greeks or Barbarians had acquired over him, but by the destination which God had given to his ministry towards them. He does not, however, hesitate to recognize the debt or obligation, because, when God called him to their service, he was in effect their servant, as he says in another place, "Ourselves your servants for Jesus sake." The foundation of this duty was not in those whom he desired to serve, but in God, and the force of this obligation was so much the stronger as it was Divine; it was a law imposed by sovereign authority, and consequently an inviolable law. With regard to Paul, it included, on the one hand, all the duties of the apostolic office, and, on the other, the dangers and persecutions to which that office exposed him, without even excepting martyrdom, when he should be called to that last trial. All this is similar to what every Christian owes in the service of God, as far as his abilities, of whatever kind they are, and his opportunities, extend.
Note, Paul uses the phrase, 'Greeks . . . non-Greeks . . . wise . . . foolish.' Here the term "Greeks" referred to cultured Hellenists (the "wise"), and "non-Greeks" to "barbarians" or the uncultured ("foolish"). Paul was eager to bring the Gospel to all types of Gentiles. See WCF 26.1.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel - Romans 1:16
Paul was saved by the Gospel (see below). He lived by the Gospel. He would be brought to maturity through the Gospel. It is the Gospel he preached, as it brought life as applied by the Spirit. And here he proclaims that he is not ashamed of the Gospel; rather he gloried in it (Rom. 5:2, 11; 2 Cor. 10:17; Gal. 6:14; Phil. 3:7). Why is he not ashamed? Because he knew the Gospel - the one living Gospel - he preached was (and still is) the divinely appointed means to bring salvation to God's elect!
Though many at Rome may have looked down their noses at the Gospel, (others certainly did; Acts 17:32; 1 Cor. 1:18, 23), Paul stood by the message. "Paul had been imprisoned in Philippi, chased out of Thessalonica, smuggled out of Beroea, laughed at in Athens. He had preached in Corinth where his message was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling-block to the Jews, and out of that background Paul declared that he was proud of the gospel" (William Barclay: The Letter to the Romans (Edinburgh, 1957).
See WLC 155; WSC 89.
Hendriksen is helpful saying:
Paul says, "first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." See "To The Jew First: A Reformed Perspective" below.
Are the Romans always boasting about their power, the force by which they have conquered the world? "The gospel I proclaim," says Paul, as it were, "is superior by far. It has achieved and offers something far better, namely, (everlasting) salvation, and this not for the people of one particular nation - for example Rome but for everyone who exercises faith". The most urgent and imperative need of the soul is not earthly renown, but peace, joy, glory for today, tomorrow, and the never - ending future. Compared with "the power of"God how feeble the power of Rome or of any earthly host. Earthly armies destroy. The gospel saves. It is the power of God "for salvation." And what is salvation? What does to save mean? In Paul's writings it means:
|a. guilt (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14||a. righteousness (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:1|
|b. pollution (Rom. 6:6, 17; 7:21-25a)||b. holiness (Rom. 6:1-4; 12:1, 2)|
|c. slavery (Rom. 7:24, 25; Gal. 5:1)||c. freedom (Gal. 5:1; 2 Cor. 3:17).|
|d. punishment:||d. blessedness:|
|(1) alienation from God (Eph. 2:12)||(1) fellowship with God (Eph. 2:13)|
|(2) the wrath of God (Eph. 2:3)||(2) the love of God "shed abroad" in the heart (Rom. 5:5)|
|(3) everlasting death (Eph. 2:5, 6)||(3) everlasting life (Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 3:1-4)|
Note that over against each evil stands a corresponding blessing. To be saved, then, means to be emancipated from the greatest evil, and to be placed in possession of the greatest good. The promised blessings pertain to the past, present, and never-ending future. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are all included. The state of salvation is opposed to the state of perishing or being lost. Cf. Luke 19:10; John 3:16.
- Timeline of Paul's Life - Acts 9:1-19
- The Gospel: What Is Salvation and How Do I Get It?
- To The Jew First: A Reformed Perspective
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