“1) Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2) which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3) concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4) and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5) through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6) including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So here we go with the first verses of the letter of Romans.
The beginning of the letter (verses 1-7), as with most of Paul’s letters, is the greeting; this one in particular is sent to the church in Rome. However, this introduction is longer than most of Paul’s greetings. Even through Paul’s greeting we can glean important characteristics of God. Here’s a list of five attributes that verses 1-7 show us about God:
1. God is Authority. (Romans 1:1)
It’s interesting. Paul never set foot in Rome before this letter was written. The Christians there had heard of Paul, but probably hadn’t heard him speak live. So what would compel them to heed this letter? Why would they even care to listen to a man who didn’t know their situation? What gave Paul authority over the church at Rome? Paul doesn’t say, “I’m Paul, one of the single-greatest followers of Jesus Christ, so you better listen to me!” Quite the opposite! He calls himself a “servant of Christ Jesus,” a bond-servant who was bought and owned and continues to be ruled by Christ. He reduced himself to property, a possession of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). You see, Paul’s authority comes from serving God who is the ultimate authority; Paul serves Christ through the power that Christ supplies to him.
2. God keeps his Promises. (Romans 1:2-3)
Ancient prophets were the mouthpieces of God. God would use them in order to speak encouragements or warnings to his own people. More prevalent during the Old Testament times, prophets played a big role in discerning the will and plan of God throughout biblical history. Paul is explicitly using the prophets, and even the legend of King David for that matter, to show that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the old Jewish tradition.
Now, I know that this information might not be as relevant, but from this, we can see that God keeps his promises. Hundreds of years before Jesus dawned the form of man, he was mentioned in prophecy as the coming Savior—all these prophecies came from God. Jews were wondering if the Messiah would ever come and doubt ran rampant in many minds. But God does not forget, he fulfills his promises and is true to his word. Just like he fulfilled his word with the deliverance of Jesus Christ, we can trust that God will be faithful to the rest of his promises that we find in the Bible.
3. Jesus is the Son of God. (Romans 1:4)
Here is the gospel of Jesus Christ presented in a raw form. We see that Jesus Christ is declared Lord within the greeting or the first remarks of Paul to the Roman church. This is something that Paul continually does (reinforce the gospel in his letters of exhortation to churches), much like how a coach would remind his players to ‘hustle’ and ‘play hard’ at every practice—it is something essential to their own well-being and success.
Paul acknowledges important doctrines in this verse. Most importantly, Paul writes that Jesus Christ is Lord and was resurrected after his crucifixion. Paul says that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God…by his resurrection from the dead.” You see, Jesus Christ is and was fully human and fully God. It’s what is referred to as the incarnation as described in Hebrews 2:9-10 where Jesus is mentioned as bearing the sins of everyone after forfeiting his divine powers for the sake of becoming human. Jesus clearly existed as man, but was divine in nature as well. He is both God and Man.
Briefly, Paul acknowledges the triune nature of God: that he is three persons in one. We will go more in depth about this later on, but I just want you to notice that Paul mentions the “Son of God” (inherently recognizing both a Son and a Father) and the Spirit (“according to the Spirit”). Here we see the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit—the Trinity.
4. God has Given us Grace. (Romans 1:5)
On the heels of verse 4, Paul recognizes that Jesus’ death and resurrection (the most climactic moment of human history that removed the sins of man) was presented to us through grace. Grace is a term used to describe an undeserved result purely for the good pleasure of the giver. When a boy who steals candy from a store is caught, but then let off without punishment, that’s what we call grace; the store owner, you, are the giver of grace. Yet God’s grace is a little different: he doesn’t only let us walk free, he credits our account with an infinite amount of grace. It’s like giving a child a lifetime supply of candy for stealing from your store.
God’s grace is incredibly counterintuitive. Not only is salvation (the forgiveness of our sins and eternal citizenship in heaven) beyond what we deserve, but his blessings are beyond what we can imagine. Thus, our only response to the grace of God is obedience. Because of his immense grace, through which we are forgiven of our sins, we are to respond faithfully and with worship through obedience. God saved us from our sin for free, we owe our lives to him and are forever indebted to him. What can we do but be obedient to a gracious and loving God who has saved us from imminent death?
5. God has Called and Loved you. (Romans 1:6-7)
Now, there are two words I want you to pay attention to in these verses. The words are “called” and “loved.”
As a Christian, I believe that God called me to be a believer and that he loves me. Now, don’t get me wrong, God is deeply in love with everyone because he created everyone to be in perfect harmony with him. Still, there are those who deny God and his Son and are in a constant rebellion against God (sin), which he hates with a passion. Those who he has called to believe in Christ understand the eternal significance of such: that the almighty God, the creator of the world, by nature cannot stand sin because he is holy. With this in mind, the fact that God would take the time to call and love us to himself seems farfetched and untrue. But he did. He is calling you.
If you believe in Christ, you are among the number the has called and loved. In other words, God is dealing with his beloved in a special way because they have chosen to follow hard after him.
Frank, I know that was a lot but I hope it was helpful. It’s amazing how much we can learn about God from a simple greeting. I by no means covered everything that there is in these first seven verses. I pray that you can see how unpacking the word of God is fun and exciting; there’s so much to see and investigate and know about God! I will be praying for you as always, old friend. May thoughts of Christ and his gift to us continually be on your mind this next week.
Responding to the Grace of God,