Paul’s letter to the *Romans
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on the Book of Romans
Hilda Bright and Keith Simons
This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
Rome was the most important city in the world at the time of Paul. It had a vast army. That army controlled all the countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea. So the rulers of Rome were extremely powerful and wealthy. They employed many people. Many slaves had to work in Rome. And Rome was also an important city for trade.
Paul had not visited Rome at the time when he wrote this letter. Paul wrote most of his letters to churches that he himself had established. But the church at Rome was different. There were already many Christians in Rome long before Paul arrived there.
The Bible and other ancient records help us to understand the history of this important church:
1. About 30 *A.D.. The first Christian church began in Jerusalem, on the day called *Pentecost. On that day, Peter *preached to many visitors to Jerusalem. Among them were ‘visitors from Rome, both *Jews and *Gentiles who believed the *Jewish religion’. Some of these were probably among the 3000 that became Christians (Acts 2:9-11; 2:41). They carried the *gospel to Rome.
2. 49 *A.D.. The *Emperor Claudius ordered *Jews to leave Rome. There had been some trouble among the *Jews. A *Roman called Suetonius wrote that someone called ‘Chrestus’ had caused the trouble. Chrestus may have been a *Jew who caused the trouble. But ‘Chrestus’ may be the same as ‘Christus’ (that is, *Christ). *Jews opposed those who *preached the message about *Christ. So the trouble might have begun at that time.
3. Aquila and Priscilla from Rome were probably Christians before they met Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). Later they probably returned to Rome, after they worked in Corinth and Ephesus. Christians used to gather in their home (Romans 16:3-5).
4. 57 *A.D.. Paul probably wrote this letter about 57 *A.D.. He had not yet visited Rome. But he knew many people in the church at Rome. Many *Gentile as well as *Jewish Christians were already members of the church there. In his letter, Paul says that *Gentile Christians must not consider themselves more important than the *Jewish Christian *brothers (Romans 11:18-20).
5. 60 *A.D.. Paul reached Rome as a prisoner. Christians from Rome met him on the Appian road to go with him to Rome (Acts 28:14-16). Paul spent two years in Rome. Although he was a prisoner, he was able to *preach and to teach (Acts 28:30-31). His plan was to visit Spain (Romans 15:24). But we do not know whether he was able to do this.
6. 64 *A.D.. Christians received the blame for the great fire that the *Emperor Nero himself may have started. The writer Tacitus spoke about great numbers of Christians. He called them ‘enemies of the human family of people’.
7. There is evidence of Christian graves in the catacombs (underground graves in Rome) before 100 *A.D..
1. Paul dictated his letter to Tertius (Romans 16:22). Paul wrote it during his stay in Corinth, probably about 57 *A.D..
2. Paul established churches in many cities. But he was careful not to upset anyone else’s work (Romans 15:20). However, the church in Rome was not the result of the work of any one particular person. So Paul would not be upsetting anyone’s work if he visited Rome. And for many years, Paul had wanted to visit the Christians in Rome. He had completed his work in the east. There were elders (leaders in the church) to take care of the new churches. Paul wanted to visit Rome on his way to Spain (Romans 15:23-24).
3. There were several reasons for the letter:
a) to prepare the church in Rome for his visit.
b) to give a clear explanation of the *gospel.
c) to give the truth about the Christian *faith to any Christians in Rome who had false ideas about it.
d) to give practical advice about how Christians should behave towards each other (chapters 14-15).
e) to give practical advice about how Christians should behave towards their rulers (Romans 13:1-7).
f) to unite *Jewish and *Gentile Christians. In many churches, there had been serious arguments between *Jewish Christians and *Gentile Christians. The *Jewish Christians said that God had given his law in the Bible. So they told the *Gentile Christians to obey it. But the *Gentile Christians said that God had given them freedom. So, they did not want to obey any *Jewish rules or traditions.
g) to urge the Christians in Rome to help Paul in his work. He might need their help in order to continue his journey to Spain (Romans 15:24). And he needed the Christians in Rome to support and to encourage him by their prayers (Romans 15:30-32).
Verse 1 Paul began his letter in the usual way at that time. The writer’s name came first. Paul then described himself as:
1. a ‘slave’. In the *Old Testament, ‘slave’ described a loyal servant of God. (For example, Abraham and Moses in Psalm 105:6; 105:26.) Paul was a loyal servant of Jesus *Christ. He wanted to obey Jesus. In fact, he wanted to obey God as completely as a slave must obey his master.
2. an ‘*apostle’. This showed that Paul had authority to *preach the *gospel. At first, the word ‘*apostle’ described the 12 *disciples whom Jesus had ‘sent out’ (Luke 6:13). Paul said that he too had received a special command from ‘Jesus *Christ and God the Father’ (Galatians 1:1). All Christians should declare God’s good news. But Paul knew that God had given him a special task. *Old Testament *prophets like Jeremiah had previously carried out such a task on behalf of God. God had chosen Jeremiah from before his birth (Jeremiah 1:5). God chose Paul from before his birth to take the good news to the *Gentiles (Galatians 1:15).
Verse 2 The *prophets in the *Old Testament explained that *Christ would free people from *sin. There are many true promises in the *Old Testament about the birth, life, death and *resurrection of Jesus.
Verses 3-4 These two verses show what the good news is. Probably, the Christians in Rome would already know these facts. The words in these verses may come from an early statement about Christian belief.
1. ‘Jesus belonged to the family of King David’ (verse 3). As a man, Jesus came from the family of King David. ‘Son of David’ was a name of the *Messiah. But Jesus taught that the *Messiah was more important than a *descendant of David (Luke 20:41-44; Psalm 110:1).
2. ‘Son of God’ (verse 4). The *resurrection was the evidence that Jesus was God’s son. In his speech at *Pentecost, Peter reminded his listeners about Psalm 16:9-10. God promised not to leave his ‘*Holy One’ in the grave. The *apostles were witnesses of the *resurrection. This is the evidence for who Jesus is (Acts 2:24-33).
The name ‘*Christ’ had a special meaning for *Jews. Jesus was the king that God had promised to them. The word ‘*Lord’ would mean more to *Gentile Christians. They had to obey human masters. But the word ‘*Lord’ was also the usual translation of God’s special name in the *Old Testament. So it reminded people that Jesus is God.
Verse 5 ‘*Grace’ is a gift that nobody deserves. Paul used to think that he could please God by his (Paul’s) own efforts. He tried to obey all the details of the law. Now he knew that he could not ‘earn’ *eternal life by his deeds. It was God’s kind gift. Paul had received it by means of the death and *resurrection of Jesus. Paul did not deserve to be an *apostle. It was God’s *grace that had chosen him. Paul did not want other people to praise Paul himself. Paul wanted to give honour to Jesus *Christ. God sent Paul to the *Gentiles to teach them. The *Gentiles must obey Jesus if their *faith is sincere.
Verse 6 Most Christians in Rome were probably *Gentiles.
Verse 7 The words ‘in Rome’ are not in some *manuscripts. So perhaps churches other than the one at Rome received copies of Paul’s letter. Paul calls the Christians in Rome: God’s ‘*holy people’. In the *Old Testament, we can read how God loved the *Israelites. He chose them to be his *holy nation. Now *Gentiles in Rome were also God’s ‘*holy people’. God loved them and he chose them to be his *holy people.
In the desert, Aaron blessed the *Israelites. He prayed that God would show love to them. And he prayed that God would give them ‘*peace’ (Numbers 6:24-26). Paul used the same prayer on behalf of the Christians in Rome.
He also used the prayer at the beginning of all his other letters. He wanted everyone to know the inner *peace of God’s love. He also wanted *Jewish and *Gentile Christians to love each other.
The *blessing of love and *peace is the gift of God the Father and the *Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 8 Paul thanks God for the Christians in Rome. The news of their *faith has reached people everywhere.
Verses 9-10 Paul prays for the Christians in Rome, although he had not been responsible for their *faith. Paul also prays that he may be able to visit them. But he leaves the decision to God. Paul always wanted to obey God’s plan for his (Paul’s) life.
Verses 11-12 Paul wanted to make their *faith strong. ‘Some *spiritual gift’ may not mean the gifts of the *Holy Spirit as in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. Perhaps Paul himself did not yet know what *spiritual gift the Christians in Rome needed. But God would show Paul what to teach them when he met them. Paul was careful not to emphasise himself as the giver. So he corrected what he had said, by the words ‘that is’. He wanted to receive help from them as well. Paul was humble. He knew that it encouraged Christians to meet together.
Verses 13-14 Many times Paul had tried to visit them. We do not know what had prevented him. Perhaps he thought that his work in Greece needed more time.
‘*Greeks’ did not merely mean ‘people who came from Greece’. It meant those people who spoke the *Greek language. It also meant those who followed the *Greek culture. ‘*Non-Greeks’ translates the word ‘barbarians’. It describes people whose language sounded like ‘bar-bar’. Many *Greeks thought that this was an ugly and strange way to speak. Paul intended the *gospel to be for people who had received education. Also, he intended it for people who had received no education. ‘Wise and foolish’ also means that Paul felt a duty to everyone. He felt that duty because the *gospel is for everyone.
Verse 16 Paul’s words about the *gospel were bold and clear. Whatever other people said, Paul would declare the *gospel. The *gospel is essential because it is God’s message. It is a message for everyone, from every nation. And the *gospel is essential because it is powerful. It changes people’s lives. It causes people who were God’s enemies to become God’s friends.
There are other important messages that Christians teach. But the *gospel is the most important message. It is the message about how people can become real Christians. It is the message about what Jesus achieved by his death and *resurrection.
This is the *gospel message:
· Everyone has done wrong things (called *sin) against God (Romans 3:23). We all deserve God’s punishment (Romans 6:23). And we cannot save ourselves from that punishment by our own efforts. We cannot even save ourselves by good works or by religion (Romans 3:20). So our situation is hopeless. But God did not leave us in our hopeless state.
· God sent his son, Jesus, to this world (John 3:16). Jesus lived a perfect life, without any *sin (Hebrews 4:15). He deserved no punishment. But when Jesus died on the *cross, he suffered the punishment for our *sins (Galatians 3:13; Romans 5:8; Romans 5:18). But we cannot benefit from his death if we do nothing.
· We must be humble. God will forgive us if we confess our evil deeds (*sin) to him (Acts 3:19). We must invite him into our lives. And we must simply trust him. Then God will change our lives (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This *gospel message does not impress everyone. People may say that it is too simple. Or they may say that it is foolish. But Paul realised that many people would be ashamed to follow Jesus. In fact, Jesus himself realised that, too. Jesus knew the difficulty for his *disciples to remain loyal to him. Jesus said that people would laugh at them. People would tell lies about them, and people would even attack them (Matthew 5:11). So Jesus warned them not to be ‘ashamed’ of him (Mark 8:38).
Later, Paul warned Timothy not to be ashamed about the *gospel (2 Timothy 1:8). Paul himself suffered much because he was not ashamed about Jesus. Many *Jews could not believe the message about Jesus. They were unable to believe that God’s *Messiah would die on a *cross. *Gentiles thought that the message about the *cross was ‘foolish’ (1 Corinthians 1:23). But the message was not wrong or stupid. It was a message to be proud of. It was an honour for Paul to declare it.
God rescues a person from the wrong way of life (Matthew 1:21). God gives him the strength to live in the right way. The person who believes God’s work by means of Jesus has a new life. This new life begins on earth. And it continues into the life in heaven. This good news is for everyone. It came ‘first’ to the *Jews because God had prepared them during their history. Their *Old Testament spoke about a *Messiah whom God would send. *Jewish *synagogues provided a suitable place for Christians to give their message. Paul usually began to *preach among the *Jews. When the *Jews refused to listen, he turned to the *Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6).
Verse 17 Paul uses words from the *prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:4). Paul would later use the same words in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 3:11). The writer of Hebrews emphasises this verse too (Hebrews 10:38). These few words show what Paul will explain in the rest of his letter. Only by means of trust in God’s son will God declare a person to be *righteous. ‘From first to last’ is one translation of the *Greek words ‘from *faith to *faith’. They emphasise how necessary *faith is. They mean that *faith is necessary through the whole of life, ‘from beginning to end’. By *faith, a person accepts God’s promise to forgive his *sins and to make him free from them. Then that person continues to trust God’s promises for the rest of his life.
Verse 18 God is angry. But his anger is not like human anger, which is often selfish. He is angry because of *sin. Especially, he is angry because some people have chosen to be very wicked. So God’s anger is like a judge’s anger when the judge issues a judgement (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).
Verses 19-25 People can learn about God’s character from the nature of the world round them. The writer of Psalm 19:1 said, ‘The heavens (sun, moon and stars) tell about the *glory of God. The skies show the work of his hands.’ Paul explained this to the *pagans at Lystra (Acts 14:15-17). He also explained it to the philosophers (people who study the nature of knowledge) in Athens (Acts 17:24-29).
Paul was thinking about the account of how God created the world, in Genesis 1:24-27. People chose not to *worship the real God. Instead, they made *idols of what God had created. In the desert, the *Israelites had *worshipped a gold calf (a young cow or *bull). ‘They exchanged the *glory of God for the image of an ox (an animal that eats grass)’ (Exodus 32:1-4; Psalm 106:20). So the people refused to respect God in their *worship. And then they refused to respect his law in their behaviour. *Israelite men began to *worship the false gods of the country called Moab. And then they began to have sex with women from Moab (Numbers 25:1-2).
Verses 26-27 God intended the *sexual act to be an expression of the love between a husband and his wife. God unites them so that they become as ‘one person’ (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). But both men and women chose to use their bodies in bad ways. Women had *sexual *relationships with other women. Men wanted sexual relationships with other men. *Pagan writers at the time of Paul recorded that human sexual behaviour was sometimes even worse than this. What Paul said about human bad behaviour was true. People were doing whatever they wanted to do. They did not care about God’s law.
Paul does not say what was the result of this bad behaviour. He said that they ‘received it in themselves’. Perhaps he meant physical disease, social troubles or God’s final judgement.
Verse 28 God ‘allowed’ them to do these *sinful deeds. This does not mean that such behaviour is acceptable. It means that God gave to people the opportunity to make decisions. So people should realise that they will suffer the results of their actions.
Verses 29-32 There were lists of wrong social behaviour in other *Jewish and Christian books. Paul himself has lists in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21. Verse 29 speaks about wrong actions in a general way. Then Paul gives several examples of how people destroy relations with each other. This happens:
· when people are jealous;
· when people murder other people;
· when people fight;
· when people cheat other people;
· when people hate other people.
Verses 29-30 It is wrong to gossip or to lie. People use these methods to attack the character of other people. To hate God or to *boast shows that a person is very proud. And anyone who does not respect other people is also very proud. Some people try to get excitement by new ways to *sin. In both *Jewish and *Roman society, it was important to obey parents. The 5th *commandment said that children should give honour to their father and mother. When people do not obey their parents, all kinds of problems develop in society.
Verse 31 ‘Foolish’ means that people do not learn from experience. They do not remain loyal to any agreement. They do not show any natural love, even for their own children. ‘Without pity’ is an accurate description of the way in which many masters dealt with their slaves. Masters thought that slaves were mere possessions rather than people. *Roman law allowed masters to punish and even to kill slaves because of a very small mistake or accident. This was a very wicked law.
Verse 32 People had *sinned themselves. And they encouraged other people to *sin too. They knew that this behaviour was wrong. But *sin was controlling their lives.
Our societies today may be as wicked as society was in Paul’s time. Or, they may be less wicked. Or, they may even be more wicked. But Paul’s words are still true. People still refuse to obey God. They prefer to follow their own desires. And then their own evil thoughts begin to control their behaviour. And that is the reason why people behave in such a wicked manner.
Verse 1 Paul begins to argue in the same way as the writers did at that time. He imagines someone who does not agree with his opinion. Then he answers that person in various ways. In the *Greek of verse 1 and verse 3, Paul speaks as if he is writing to a particular ‘man’. But Paul does not say who that man is. It might be someone who is proud. He is proud that he is not wicked. He is not like the evil *pagans that Paul described before. He might be a *Gentile. He would say that not all *pagans behaved in such wicked ways. But in verses 9-11 Paul shows that he is speaking especially to *Jews. Many *Jews wanted to teach in the first Christian churches. Unlike the *Gentiles, these *Jews knew God’s law. So they were happy to accuse other people. But Paul said that they should be accusing themselves too.
Verses 2-3 God’s judgement is true. He knows all the facts. But a man is very quick to accuse other people. He does not want to think about his own *sin, which may be worse. Jesus spoke about this attitude. He spoke about a man who had a great piece of wood in his eye. This man wanted to remove a tiny bit of dust from another person’s eye (Matthew 7:1-5). A person who quickly blames other people cannot avoid God’s judgement.
Verse 4 The proud person chooses to forget about God’s judgement. He thinks that God’s kindness and patience have no value. But God waits patiently. He wants people to *repent. His time is not the same as human time. But suddenly the time will come when God will *judge everyone (2 Peter 3:8-9).
Verse 5 The *Greek word for ‘store up’ usually means to store something precious. But those who will not change their ways are storing up something terrible. They will suffer because of God’s great anger. They will discover that God’s judgement is fair.
Verse 6 Both parts of the Bible record the fact that God *judges human actions. For example, in the *Old Testament, see Psalm 62:12 and Jeremiah 17:10. In the *New Testament there are examples in Matthew 16:27 and Revelation 20:12.
Paul is not saying that a person can earn *eternal life by his good deeds. Only *faith in Jesus will *save that person. But after a person has trusted Jesus, that person will want to please him. So that person will do the right things, because of the *faith that God has given to him. See James 2:17.
Verses 7-11 Paul speaks about people who continue to practise their *faith. He contrasts them with selfish people. Selfish people care only about themselves. He also contrasts what will happen to them. The good people will enjoy *eternal life. They will have close relations with Jesus and the Father (John 17:3). People who continue to do wicked things will suffer God’s judgement. Jesus told a story about this. First, he spoke about a wise person. Such a person practices what Jesus taught. That person is like a man who built his house upon a rock. Even a terrible storm could not damage that house. But a foolish person does not practice what Jesus taught. That person is like a man who built on sand. And the storm destroyed that house (Matthew 7:24-27). A building without a proper base is weak. And a person’s life is weak, if that person does not trust Jesus. That person cannot avoid God’s judgement.
‘First for the *Jews and then for the *Gentiles’ shows that God makes no difference between them. Both *Jews and *Gentiles can know God’s *salvation or God’s judgement. Peter’s *vision and his visit to Cornelius taught Peter this truth. God accepts anyone ‘who respects him’. God accepts anyone ‘who does the right things’ (Acts 10:34-35).
Verses 12-13 The *Jews had the *written law. So they knew about God’s standards. The *Jews had the opportunity to listen to the law every *Sabbath in the *synagogue. But to hear the law was not enough. They must obey the law. ‘Obey my orders and laws. The man who obeys them will live by them’ (Leviticus 18:5). The *Gentiles did not have the *written law. But God is still their judge. Nobody can avoid God’s judgement.
Verses 14-15 Verse 16 follows verse 13 naturally. But Paul interrupts the thoughts. He explains more about the knowledge that *Gentiles do have. He says twice that the *Gentiles do not have the law. But, they do know something about God’s standards. They have a conscience. This conscience is not as good as the *written law. Sometimes the conscience shows a person about that person’s *sin. But sometimes the conscience does not accuse that person, and the person does not feel guilty. However, the simple fact that the conscience exists shows the truth of God’s law. Because of conscience, people are aware that there is a difference between right and wrong behaviour.
Verse 16 God’s judgement will be fair because he knows every secret in a person’s life. He has a true knowledge about the facts. He also knows the reasons for an action. The writer of Psalm 139 wrote, ‘*Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You see my thoughts . . . you are familiar with all my ways’ (Psalm 139:1-3).
God will *judge by Jesus. Jesus himself said that the Father had given him authority to *judge (John 5:27). In the story about the sheep and the goats, Jesus is the judge (Matthew 25:31-33). In Athens, Paul said that the *resurrection proved this. Jesus is the judge whom God has appointed (Acts 17:30-31).
It is good news that Jesus is the judge. He knows what it is like to be a man. He will not punish those people who trust him. He has rescued them from *sin by means of his death on the *cross.
Verses 17-20 When *Gentiles became Christians, often they hardly knew anything about God. So they wanted people to teach them about the Bible. And there were many *Jewish Christians who were pleased to teach them. Because these teachers were *Jewish, they knew much about God’s law. For centuries, their families had followed the law. So these teachers felt well able to teach the *Gentile Christians.
Verses 21-23 However, there was a problem with many of these *Jewish teachers in the churches. Paul often had to warn the churches about teachers who were not sincere (1 Timothy 1:3-7; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Acts 20:29-31). Some people were only teaching because they wanted to earn money. They seemed to have great knowledge of the Bible. But they themselves did not know God properly. They thought that they could teach the *Gentile Christians about God. But in fact, the *Gentile Christians already knew God better than these teachers did!
Perhaps these teachers were not actually guilty of the wrong deeds that Paul mentions. Paul is emphasising their wrong attitudes, not their outer physical acts (verse 28). For example, they were teaching that it is wrong to steal. But they themselves only cared about money. And they did not even care whether they obtained that money in an honest way (Titus 1:11).
Paul writes here about people who ‘rob *temples’. People used to give expensive gifts to the *temples of false gods. And these gifts included images of the *temple’s own god. Sometimes a person might steal an image for himself or herself. They wanted to keep that image, so they could *worship that god at home. This was a well-known crime (Genesis 31:19; Acts 19:37). These *Jewish teachers said that they hated *idols. But they had the same attitudes as people who robbed *temples. In public, these teachers were telling people how to serve God. But in private, these same teachers did not even care about God. See Titus 1:16.
Verse 24 In Isaiah (52:5) and Ezekiel (36:22), God says that the nations insulted him. Enemies had defeated the *Jews. So the nations wondered whether God had any power to protect his people. But these terrible things had happened because God’s people were not obeying God. Paul could see that the same things were happening again in the churches. Christians were appointing leaders and teachers who were not sincere. The results would be terrible. And people everywhere would insult God when they saw the behaviour of those Christians.
Verse 25 *Circumcision was the sign that God gave to Abraham. It showed the *covenant between God and his nation (Genesis 17:9-10). Because of the *covenant *relationship, the *Jews needed to obey God’s law. Paul reminded the church in Galatia about this. ‘Everyone who receives *circumcision must obey the whole law’ (Galatians 5:3).
The *Jewish teachers said that *Gentile Christians needed to receive *circumcision. The teachers said that this was God’s law. But really, they were not sincere. Their real aim was to control people by means of the laws and traditions of religion (Galatians 4:17; Galatians 5:1-2). But this is the opposite of the real Christian message. The Bible says that we must trust Christ alone. Our own efforts cannot save us from the punishment for our *sins.
Verses 26-27 Nobody ever had a good *relationship with God because of *circumcision. The act of *circumcision does not free a person from *sin. People who are not *circumcised can serve God loyally. And many people who are *circumcised refuse to obey God. The important question is whether a person obeys God.
Verses 28-29 The *prophets taught that real *circumcision was not something physical. It meant a pure (sincere) heart. Moses told the *Israelites to ‘*circumcise their hearts’ (Deuteronomy 10:16). Jeremiah used the same words (Jeremiah 4:4). The *Holy Spirit changes people’s lives. He gives them power to live in the right manner. The law cannot do this.
A ‘real *Jew’ is anyone who obeys God. That person does not need to belong to the natural families of the *Jewish people. And that person’s body does not need to be *circumcised. But that person’s heart must be *circumcised (see above). And so that person receives the benefit of the promises that God gave to Abraham (Galatians 3:29).
Verse 1 Paul imagines that a *Jew is protesting about Paul’s thoughts. If Paul’s thoughts were correct, then *circumcision seemed unnecessary.
Verse 2 Paul was proud that he was a *Jew. So he answered that there were many advantages. He spoke first about the honour that God had given to the *Jews. He had trusted the *Jews with all his messages (Deuteronomy 4:8). God wanted to use the *Jews in order to benefit the whole world (Genesis 12:2-3). God wanted the *Jews to show the rest of the world what God is like. Paul mentioned some other advantages later in his letter (Romans 9:4-5).
Verse 3 Some *Jews did not obey the *covenant. They did not remain loyal to God. But God always does everything that he promises to do.
Verse 4 Paul emphasised that God’s promises are certain. God’s words are always true, even if every person tells lies. Paul refers to two passages from the Book of Psalms in this verse. Psalm 116:11 says, ‘All men tell lies.’ And in Psalm 51:4, David became aware of his *sin. So he prayed to God, ‘You are right when you speak. You are right when you *judge.’
Verses 5-6 If people did not *sin, they might not appreciate God’s goodness. So people might argue that even their evil deeds give honour to God. And they might argue that God is not fair to punish people for such deeds. This idea may seem clever, but it is wrong. People who say such things are foolish. They are speaking as if God is a mere man. But God is perfect. He is never unfair. Paul was sorry even to mention such an idea. If God is true to his nature, he must *judge human *sin. ‘The judge of the entire world shall do what is right’ (Genesis 18:25).
Verses 7-8 Someone might argue like this. God ought to be grateful when people tell lies. Such lies show how truthful God is. The result is that his *glory becomes even greater. So it would not be fair for God to describe these people as guilty. In fact, Paul’s enemies pretended that Paul taught such ideas. So Paul explained to the Christians in Rome that this report was untrue. Paul had many such enemies. But Paul did not need to prove what he was teaching. God knew the truth about Paul’s work. And that fact was enough to satisfy Paul (2 Corinthians 11:30-31).
Verse 9 Paul said in verse 1 that *Jews had advantages. Now he said that they were not better than *Gentiles. They were better if they thought about their honour and responsibility. But they had no real advantage. They did not realise that God’s judgement was on them too. God would not show his kindness to one group of people more than to another. ‘Under the power of *sin’ means this. *Sin was like a master who had complete control over his slave. Everybody – both *Jews and *Gentiles – is like a slave because of the power of *sin.
Verses 10-18 Paul used verses from the *Old Testament. These verses show how wicked people can be. He put the verses together in a way that *Jewish teachers called ‘a string of precious stones’. Paul wanted to emphasise that *sin controls everybody. So he repeated the word ‘all’. He also said ‘nobody’ and ‘not even one person’ more than once.
Verses 10-12 are from Ecclesiastes 7:20 and Psalm 14:1-3. These verses explain the nature of *sin. *Sin is the result of actions against God. Nobody tries to discover what God is like. Nobody cares about what God wants. Everyone has turned away from the right way to live. And that is why people *sin.
Verses 13-14 These verses describe the *sins of speech. In other words, these verses show how people *sin by their words. Such *sins are the result when people use the *throat, mouth, tongue and lips in the wrong way. Paul uses Psalms 5:9; 10:7 and 140:3. People tell lies. Their words are like poison that can destroy other people’s happiness and character. In his letter, James also compared the tongue with something poisonous (James 3:8).
Verses 15-17 Evil actions are often the result of evil words (James 3:5-6). Isaiah 59:7-8 emphasises how people are quick to attack and to hurt other people. They are even ready to kill them. They do not try to live at *peace. They cause trouble and pain wherever they go. Injury may hurt one person first. But such behaviour soon damages the rest of society too.
Verse 18 Paul repeats his thought from verse 11. All *sin is against God. Psalm 36:1 speaks about a man who has no fear of God. All *sin comes from people’s lack of honour for God who created them.
Verses 19-20 Some *Jews would think that these verses were only about wicked *Gentiles. *Gentiles did not have the law. But Paul explains that the law cannot make people *righteous. That was not its purpose. The purpose of the law was to show the meaning of *sin to people. The law proves that everyone is guilty. So the *Jews could not become *righteous by means of their *Jewish ceremonies. And they had many such ceremonies, for example *circumcision, the *Sabbath, and the food laws. And nobody can become *righteous by means of their own good works. Everybody has *sinned. And *sin controls everybody’s life.
Verses 21-22 ‘Now’ can mean: 1) the next part of Paul’s discussion, 2) the time at which Paul was writing, 3) the new age that had come with Jesus. The law and the *prophets are the two main parts of the *Jewish *Old Testament. People wrote down the *Old Testament centuries before Jesus was born. But they did not merely write their own ideas. The *Holy Spirit guided them (1 Peter 1:10-11). The Holy Spirit showed them what Jesus would do (for example, Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53). And Jesus’ death is the only way for people to become *righteous. This was God’s plan. And everyone who receives Jesus into their lives receives God’s gift of *righteousness.
People need God’s *righteousness. And everybody needs it, because everybody has *sinned. This is a more important matter than anything else in a person’s life. Jesus taught that *righteousness is even more important than food and drink (Matthew 6:31-33). Moreover, it is impossible for anyone to earn *righteousness. But God offers it as a free gift to everyone who trusts him.
Verses 23-24 *Sin is the greatest problem that people have. It is a problem that affects everyone, from every nation. It is a terrible problem, because *sin ruins the *relationship between people and God. Because of *sin, people have lost their right to enter heaven. *Sin is the reason why people suffer in this world. *Sin controls the lives of everyone. It even controls the lives of the best people.
People have tried to free themselves from the power of *sin. They have tried to do this in many different ways. But all their efforts have failed. Good works cannot free anyone from the power of *sin. Moral behaviour cannot free anyone from *sin’s power. Even religion cannot succeed. People may be very sincere when they do such things. And it is better to be a good person than a bad person. But these methods still cannot make a person *righteous. They cannot make a person perfect. And God’s standards are perfect. So even the best person’s efforts are hopeless.
But the wonderful news is that God himself is willing to free us from the power of *sin. People have worked so hard to become *righteous, and they have all failed. But God offers *righteousness as a free gift.
Nobody deserves this *righteousness. But Jesus died in order to suffer the punishment for *sin. People simply need to trust him. They should confess their *sins to God. And they should invite him into their lives. Then God will forgive them. In other words, he will make them *righteous. Nobody could earn *righteousness. But it is God’s free and generous gift. And he offers it to everyone, from every nation.
Verses 25-26 Paul uses three descriptions to explain what God has done by means of Jesus.
1. In a law court, a judge will free a person if he is not guilty. God is the judge of the whole world. All people are guilty in front of him. But Jesus showed how much God loves us. God forgives those people who trust in Jesus. They have become *righteous because of *faith in Christ. *Faith is not a kind of work. It is to trust God because of what he has done by Jesus.
2. Someone could pay to free a slave. People are in the power of *sin, as slaves were in the power of their masters. Jesus paid the price to set us free. He frees us from *sin. So we can live as God wants. Jesus did this at the cost of his life. In other words, he died so that we can be free from *sin (Mark 10:45).
3. People used to offer animals as *sacrifices when they asked God to forgive their *sins. The law told them to do this. But even at that time, people knew that the death of an animal was not sufficient to pay for their *sin. (See Psalm 51:17; Micah 6:6-8.) So sincere people realised that they needed to have a humble attitude. And they knew that they needed to trust God. They knew that God would provide the perfect *sacrifice. And this happened when Jesus died (Hebrews 10:11-12).
God is *holy but he also loves us. So he gave himself by means of Jesus to make people *righteous. Our translation says, ‘the gift of his life’. In the original language, these words are: ‘the gift of his blood’. A person cannot live without blood. And one of the purposes of blood in the body is to remove anything impure (not pure). So Jesus gave his life and he makes us free from our *sins. God shows by means of Jesus that he is a perfect judge. He punishes *sin. But he himself suffered that punishment. So he is a perfect *Saviour (Isaiah 45:21). Paul said that by means of *Christ, God was ‘making the world at *peace with himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:18).
Verses 27-28 Nobody can *boast. Nobody deserves to be *righteous. Nobody earns *peace with God by means of that person’s own good actions. A person becomes *righteous only when he accepts God’s gift by means of Jesus. Paul said that he would be proud of only one thing. Jesus had died on the *cross for him (Galatians 6:14).
Verses 29-30 *Faith is the same for everyone. There is only one God. *Jews said this every day in the words in Deuteronomy 6:4. ‘Listen, *Israel, the *Lord our God, the *Lord is one.’ *Gentiles do not have a separate God. So *Jews and *Gentiles all have the same way of *faith. ‘Without *faith, it is impossible to please God’ (Hebrews 11:6).
Verse 31 The law still has value. Paul imagines someone who would oppose him about *faith. That person would say that Paul was telling people not to obey the law. But Paul was not saying that. Actually, Paul was teaching people that the law was very important. In fact, the law teaches us that we need *faith. And we can only obey the law by means of *faith.
‘The law’ can mean:
a) the law of Moses, which is in the first five books of the *Old Testament. The purpose of the law was to show what *sin is. So people will know that they need God. They must confess their *sin to God, and they must trust him. Then God by means of *Christ will forgive their *sin. When a person knows this, he will want to obey the law. He will no longer obey because he is afraid of God’s punishment. Instead, that person will gladly obey because he loves God. So he is making the law stronger.
b) all the *Old Testament. *Jews sometimes meant this when they spoke about ‘the law’. It is *faith that makes a person at *peace with God. In chapter 4, Paul will talk about the *faith of Abraham and David. So the law itself encourages *faith.
But the real meaning of the law is how God wants people to live. He wants people to show love and kindness. He wants people to be fair. He wants people to have a humble attitude and to respect him. The rules in the *Old Testament exist in order to teach people about this. But these rules are less important than the law itself (Micah 6:8; Psalm 51:16-17). And *faith does not make the law weaker. *Faith makes it possible for people to love God with their whole heart. *Faith teaches people to live as God wants them to live. So *faith makes the law stronger.
Verses 1-3 Paul wanted to teach about *faith. And he wanted to prove that his message about *faith was not a new message. So he explained how the *Old Testament taught the same message about *faith. Paul chose Abraham and David in order to show *faith in the *Old Testament. Abraham began the *Jewish nation. David was the most famous king of the *Jews. Paul wanted to show that they received *righteousness because of *faith, and not because of their good deeds.
Abraham was called the ‘friend of God’ (Isaiah 41:8). He was a *righteous man (Isaiah 51:1-2). He might have been able to *boast to other people. But he could not *boast to God his *Creator. God did not accept Abraham because of his (Abraham’s) good works. God accepted Abraham because he (Abraham) believed God. In other words, Abraham had *faith. Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have a son. He would have more *descendants than there are stars in the sky. Abraham had *faith that God would make this happen. He had *faith although he was an old man. His wife Sarah was old too. She was far beyond the age when women have children. God accepted Abraham’s *faith and God considered him *righteous (Genesis 15:6).
Verses 4-5 A person who works receives wages. That person has earned those wages. But a person cannot earn a right *relationship with God. *Righteousness is a free gift from God. A person receives it because of *faith. That person used to be a *sinner. But, because of God’s great love, God has changed that person’s life.
Verses 6-8 In Psalm 32, David describes the person who has real joy. This person knows that God has forgiven him. He has not obeyed God’s laws. He has failed to reach God’s standards. But then God made that person *righteous.
Jesus told a story about a tax-collector (a man whose job was to collect taxes for the government) in Luke chapter 18. That tax-collector asked God for *mercy (Luke 18:13-14). The tax-collector was humble and he was sincere. He put his trust in God. God does not accuse such a person because of his *sins. Instead, God considers him *righteous.
Verses 9-11 *Jews believed that a man needed *circumcision. They did not consider anyone a real *Jew without *circumcision. A *Gentile might believe the *Jewish religion. But he could not be a proper member of the *Jewish *faith without *circumcision. This matter caused a very serious argument in the first churches. Many *Jewish Christians insisted that *Gentiles had to be *circumcised in order to become real Christians. Paul dealt with this problem in his letter to the Galatians. God considered Abraham *righteous before he received *circumcision. His genuine *faith in God began 14 years before the sign of *circumcision. *Circumcision was the proof of the *covenant that Abraham had already made with God (Genesis 15:6-21; 17:10).
Verses 11-12 True *descendants of Abraham are those who trust God in the same way as Abraham. Whether they are *circumcised or not makes no difference. ‘In *Christ, neither *circumcision nor *uncircumcision matters’ (Galatians 5:6). Abraham is the *father of *Gentiles who believe. He is also the *father of *Jews who believe. *Circumcision separated *Jews from other people. *Faith unites *Jews and *Gentiles who trust in *Christ.
Verse 13 The *Greek word for ‘promise’ means a promise that someone makes because of love. So there must be no demand to give a promise back. God promised to Abraham that by him (Abraham) all the people on earth would receive *blessing (Genesis 12:3). God also promised that Abraham would have more *descendants than stars in the sky. But God’s promises did not depend on law. God did not give the law until 430 years later (Galatians 3:17). Abraham accepted God’s promises by *faith. That is, Abraham trusted God (Hebrews 11:8-12).
Verse 14 One must not add to God’s promise what the law orders. This would cancel the promise. Nobody can obey the law perfectly. So if the promise depended on the law, God could not carry out his promises. *Faith would no longer have any value.
Verse 15 The result of law is punishment, because people do not obey the law. So people could not receive the benefit of God’s promise by means of the law. People must receive this benefit by *faith. And they can only receive it because of God’s kindness (his *grace).
Verse 16 The promise comes from God’s *grace. Abraham and his *descendants can be sure about God’s gift. This is because they can accept it by *faith. The promise is for anyone who has the same *faith as Abraham. It is for *Jews and for those who never had the law. So Abraham became the *father of those with *faith. Paul showed that the promise came true by means of Jesus *Christ. By *faith, people all over the world receive God’s love. He cares about them. The law would say that they are guilty. But people can become *righteous by *faith in God. God forgives them because of his great love.
Verse 17 The change of Abram’s name was a sign that God had made a *covenant with him. ‘Abraham’ means ‘*father of many nations’ (Genesis 17:5). Abraham’s God can bring life to dead people. Here Paul is thinking especially about the promise of a son to Abraham. Abraham was so old that his body seemed ‘almost dead’ (Romans 4:19; Hebrews 11:11-12). But God is the powerful God who created the world from nothing. So it would be no problem for God to create many *descendants for Abraham.
Verses 18-21 From a human point of view, it was impossible for Abraham to have children. Both he and his wife Sarah were much too old. But Abraham believed in God’s power. He did not lose hope that God would carry out his promise. Instead, Abraham’s *faith increased. He trusted God’s promise. He was sure that God would carry it out.
Verses 22-24 It was not only Abraham whom God would consider *righteous. We believe that God raised Jesus from death. So God considers us *righteous too. Jesus becomes our *Lord.
Verse 25 The priests and Judas handed over Jesus to Pilate. The *Romans then killed Jesus on a *cross. These men thought that they had control over these events. But in fact, these events were part of God’s plan to ‘hand over’ Jesus. God ‘did not keep back (rescue) his own son, but he gave him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). Jesus’ death was a *sacrifice to cancel the effect of human *sin. God accepted his *sacrifice and raised him from death. So if we believe in the death and *resurrection of Jesus, God considers us at *peace with himself. He considers us as *righteous.
Paul shows the *blessings that come to people. These *blessings come to people after they have invited God into their lives. So they have trusted God. And God has made them *righteous because of their *faith. Paul says ‘we’. So he includes in these *blessings himself and everyone who has *faith.
1. Friendship with God. We used to be God’s enemies (James 4:4). But he has made us into his friends (Ephesians 2:13-19).
2. We receive God’s *grace. For the word ‘receive’, Paul uses the word ‘prosagoge’, which means ‘introduction’. People use this word to introduce someone to a king. Jesus prepares the way for us to approach God the King. Then we can receive God’s *grace. Paul uses the same idea in his letter to the Ephesians (2:18; 3:20).
‘We remain in this *grace.’ This means that nothing can separate us from God’s love. (See Romans 8:38-39.) Human kings may sometimes be kind. But then they may stop their kindness to anyone who no longer pleases them. God’s love never changes.
3. A part in God’s *glory. This promise gives great hope to Christians. People usually use the word ‘hope’ when they merely want something to happen. For example, people say, ‘I hope that it will rain.’ They want it to rain. But they are not sure that it will rain. Christian hope is different. God will do everything that he has promised to do. We can be sure about this. God created people to have a part in his *glory (Isaiah 43:7). *Sin has spoiled our *glory. But we are sure that one day we shall see God in all his *glory. Then God will change us, so that we can have a part in his *glory (1 John 3:2).
4. Joy when we suffer. Paul does not mean the ordinary pains and troubles in life. He means when people suffer as Christians. This happens because other people oppose their *faith. People may insult Christians and attack them. But we should be joyful even when we suffer. Of course, this does not mean that we want to suffer. But we are joyful for a different reason. This is the reason. We are sharing what *Christ suffered. When we suffer it will help to prove our sincere *faith. When *Christ suffered, the result was *glory. And when we suffer, the result will be *glory too (Romans 8:17).
When a person suffers it can produce good qualities in his character. We know this from human experience. A person who is suffering may learn courage to continue his life as a Christian. The *Greek word for ‘character’ (dokime) means that his troubles are like fire. Fire removes anything dirty from metal. Troubles test a person. It makes him a stronger and better Christian. Then his hope for the future will be stronger too.
Verses 5-8 We know that God will never disappoint us. One writer says that God’s love is ‘like rain that pours onto dry ground’. We know God’s love in two ways:
a) He has given us the *Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us to know that God loves us. His love will never give us up. It is like Paul’s words, ‘The Spirit joins with our spirit to declare that we are God’s children’ (Romans 8:16).
b) God has proved his love by *Christ’s death on the *cross. When God gave his son, God was giving himself. He was giving his love to those who do not deserve it. ‘We had no power of our own.’ So we cannot rescue ourselves from *sin. But God chose the right time to rescue us. God is very different from men. On a rare occasion, a person might be willing to die on behalf of a good person. But *Christ died for bad people. We were *sinners who could not earn our own *salvation. So our *salvation was entirely the result of God’s love.
Verses 9-10 God considers us *righteous because of Jesus’ death. So God has forgiven our *sin. This means that we will not suffer punishment from God for our *sin. Our *salvation is complete. We have become God’s friends, although we used to be his enemies. This happened because of Jesus’ death. But God raised Jesus to live. And the result is that we too have a new life (Romans 6:4).
Verse 11 In chapter 2:17, Paul spoke about some *Jews who were *boasting about their *relationship to God. They were wrong to think only about themselves. Paul uses the same phrase here when he writes about our *relationship with God. But here, he means that we can be joyful. Our joy is because of everything that God has done for us. He has made us his friends.
Verses 12-14 Adam *sinned because he did not obey God’s command. There was one special tree in the garden. God told Adam that he must not eat from that one. If he did not obey this command, he would die (Genesis 2:17). So death was the result of his *sin (Genesis 3:19). All people *sin. So death, both physical and *spiritual, came to everyone. There are different ideas on how this happened:
1. Everyone *sins because they behave like Adam. And he did not obey God.
2. Everyone has the same nature as Adam. So everyone has a tendency to *sin.
3. The *Hebrew name ‘Adam’ means ‘man’. Adam is more than just a person from the past. All people belong together. So everyone *sins in Adam’s *sin.
In chapter 3:9-23, Paul emphasised that everyone has *sinned. So the result of Adam’s *sin is that everyone is guilty. In 5:17, Paul explains that Adam was just one man. And in 5:16, Paul showed that Adam’s *sin was the first of many *sins. Adam *sinned the first time, and since then, everyone has continued to *sin. So everyone is guilty.
There was *sin in the world even before God gave the law to Moses. The law made people recognise the nature of *sin more clearly.
Verse 15 Adam chose to do what he wanted to do. *Christ’s gift came because he loves us. He did what God wanted. Many people died because of Adam’s *sin. Many people received the gift of life because of Jesus.
Verse 16 Adam’s one *sin brought God’s judgement. Adam was guilty. Afterwards, people *sinned very many times. But the death of Jesus was sufficient to make people *righteous. He did not need to die many times (Hebrews 9:28). His death was the perfect *sacrifice for *sin.
Verse 17 People suffer death because of the *sin of one man, Adam. God’s huge supply of *grace and his gift of *righteousness come by means of one man, Jesus *Christ. Those who accept God’s gift will rule with Jesus in his *kingdom. In the end, God will defeat death (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Verse 18 The result of Adam’s *sin makes everyone guilty. The result of *Christ’s *righteous act is that everyone can become *righteous. God offers *righteousness to everyone who will invite him into their lives.
Verse 19 Many people became *sinners because Adam did not obey God. Many people became friends with God because *Christ obeyed him.
Verse 20 When the people received God’s law, they knew about God’s standards. But few people even tried to live their lives by God’s standards. People knew what God wanted them to do. But most people preferred to continue their *sinful lives.
So people’s *sin increased. But God’s *grace is greater than people’s *sin. God had a wonderful plan to rescue people from the power of *sin.
Verse 21 God sent Jesus to die on the *cross (John 3:16). God did this because of his great *grace, in other words, his kindness. And that act was sufficient to make people *righteous. It was more than enough to bring *salvation to everyone who trusts him.
Verses 1-2 Paul has emphasised God’s *grace. So some people were suggesting that they were giving God honour by continuous *sin. They were providing God with the opportunity to show more of his *grace. Paul opposed this idea very strongly. It was a terrible idea. It was a strange way to think.
We know that *sin used to control our lives. But our *sinful lives ended when we became Christians. God rescued us from the power of *sin. Of course, Christians still do wrong things. But they should certainly not allow *sin to control their lives again.
Verses 3-5 Paul reminded them about the meaning of their *baptism. People decided to turn away from their *sins. *Baptism followed (Acts 2:38). So by *faith they began a new *relationship with *Christ. Because of this experience, we take part in his death and *resurrection. Our old, *sinful lives have ended. And we rise again to a new life where we live in order to serve *Christ.
Verses 6-7 Our ‘*sinful bodies’ does not mean that the physical body itself is wicked. People called Gnostics thought this. But it is not true. ‘*Sinful bodies’ means that *sin controls our natural desires. Then our natural desires become *sin. For example, it is natural for the body to need food. *Sin can change our desire for food. We can want more food than we need. Perhaps we steal because we are greedy. And then other people suffer because we have taken their food away.
But now we are united to *Christ by *faith. So our old nature has ended. It is as if our old nature died on the *cross with *Christ (Galatians 2:20). Therefore *sin has no power over us. *Sin was like a master and we were his slaves. *Christ has freed us to obey him.
Verses 8-10 We believe that we shall have a part in *Christ’s new life. We have a new kind of life in the present. We also have a part in his *resurrection. *Christ was not like Lazarus, whom *Christ brought back to life (John 11:1-44). Lazarus would die again in the end. *Christ’s new life was a completely new kind of life. He died once only. He would never die again. He lives always in order to praise God the Father. Our *resurrection will be like *Christ’s *resurrection. We too shall not die again. We shall live with *Christ always in order to give honour to God.
Verse 11 So a Christian should remember the meaning of his *baptism. He died with *Christ and rose again with *Christ. So that Christian will have a new attitude to the way that he lives. ‘If anyone is in *Christ, he is a completely new person’ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Verses 12-14 These verses show how Christians must behave in their new *resurrection life. Their whole attitude to *sin must change. Every part of the body can *sin. With our eyes, we can look at wrong things. With our ears, we can listen to bad talk. Our mouth can say things that can hurt other people’s minds. Our hands can work in bad ways. Our feet can take us to places that we should avoid. We should not use our bodies as tools to serve *sin. Instead, Christians should use their bodies to serve God. They should do what God wants. They should go where God wants them to go. Therefore *sin should not be a Christian’s master. The law orders us to obey God. But God’s *grace gives us the desire and power to obey him.
Verse 15 Paul repeats his thoughts from verse 1. Law no longer rules them. But to continue in *sin is a terrible and stupid idea. If they have accepted God’s *grace, they will try to obey him.
Verse 16 People who choose to obey someone become that person’s slave. A slave must do everything that his master orders. A person who *sins becomes *sin’s slave (John 8:34). The result of *sin will be *spiritual death. Those who obey God will live in the right way. God has forgiven them. He has considered them to be *righteous. Nobody can serve *sin and serve God at the same time. ‘Nobody can serve two masters’ (Matthew 6:24).
Verse 17 Paul praises God because of the Christians in Rome. They have accepted God’s promises and they have obeyed him. And, like other new Christians, they learnt how to please God. Since the beginning of the first church, the *apostles taught that (Acts 2:42). And Paul too could write to the Christians in Thessalonica, ‘We taught you how to live in order to please God’ (1 Thessalonians 4:1). So Christians knew that they should not *sin.
Verses 18-19 God has freed them from *sin. So they can become as slaves to a right manner of life. Paul is sorry to compare the life of a Christian to that of a slave. But he uses this language to help them. They are slow to understand. They need someone to remind them about the results of *sin. It is like the effect when someone becomes a slave. That person has to learn how to obey his master. In the end, the master controls the slave completely. And if Christians begin to *sin, they will soon become more and more wicked. It is easy to *sin at first in small ways. But one *sin follows another sin. And worse *sins follow. However, if Christians obey God they will begin to live a *holy life. And their lives will please God.
Verses 20-22 *Sin does not really benefit anyone. It controls people. It ruins people’s lives. And it causes death. ‘Death’ is what Revelation (20:14; 21:8) calls the ‘second death’. This is the terrible punishment that is the result of *sin. And it is permanent. But people do not have to suffer that punishment. *Christ died so that we can be free from the power of *sin. And we are free as soon as we invite him into our lives. Then, because *Christ has freed us from *sin, we can be God’s slaves. We can live a *holy life on earth. And afterwards, we will live with God in heaven.
Verse 23 A soldier received his pay because he had earned it. His wages were what he deserved. A slave also had to work hard. But he did not receive any wages. He worked because his master forced him to work. So a slave’s efforts achieved nothing good for the slave
Paul has explained that Christians used to be slaves to *sin. In other words, *sin was like a master. *Sin controlled their lives. But they received no wages and no benefits for their efforts. Death was the only result of their efforts.
God’s *grace is wonderful. He gives a free gift that nobody deserves. People receive this gift of *eternal life by *faith in what Jesus did. People receive this free gift when they invite Jesus into their lives. Nobody could earn their own *salvation. Only Jesus could pay the price to free people from *sin. And he did that when he died on the *cross.
And so Christians are glad that Jesus is their *Lord (in other words, their master).
Verses 1-3 Paul wanted to emphasise a Christian’s freedom from law. So he used an example from a law that the Christians in Rome knew well. A woman belongs to her husband while he is alive. If she marries another man during her husband’s life, she is guilty of the crime called *adultery. But after her husband dies, she can marry another husband. The first husband’s death ends the control that the law had over that woman.
Verse 4 Before we became real Christians, *sin controlled our lives completely. A cruel husband acts as if his wife is a mere slave. And *sin had a similar effect on us. We wanted the law to free us from *sin. But the law was unable to achieve this. In other words, our best efforts to obey the law could not free us from *sin. Instead, the law declared that we were guilty. And it declared that the punishment for our *sin was death.
But, because of God’s *grace, *Christ died for us. By *baptism we take part in the death of *Christ. So, like a woman whose husband has died, we are free from the law. *Sin used to control us like a cruel husband. But death has ended that situation. And we have chosen to love *Christ. Our *relationship with him is also like *marriage. But it is a good *relationship. We want to belong to him. We want to serve him. And we shall live with him always.
Verses 5-6 Because of our human nature, our desires were *sinful. We wanted to do what the law forbids. So we did not obey the law. The result of this is death. But because we are now free from the law, we can serve God in a new way. The law told us that we must be loyal to God. So we obeyed the law because we were afraid of punishment. But now we belong to *Christ. So we obey him because we want to. We obey *Christ because we love him.
Verses 7-8 Verses 1-6 do not mean that the law is *sinful. Paul says that such an idea is certainly not correct. The law showed us what *sin is. Paul chose the last of the 10 *commandments as an example. It is easy to think that an action may be wrong. It is more difficult to realise that our thoughts can be *sinful. To want other people’s possessions is a *sin. Paul would not know this until the law told him (Exodus 20:17). So the law is good. It shows what *sin is. But our human nature seems to want things just because God forbids them. St. Augustine said that he and some of his friends stole some fruit. He did not even want to eat them. He knew that it was wrong. And that was the only reason why he stole them.
Verses 9-11 Paul discovered that *sin cheats us. This is what we think: ‘I shall be happy when I have more things. I want things that I cannot have.’ But these things cannot satisfy us. We think that we can avoid the punishment for our *sin. But such things do not make our lives better. Instead, they bring death. Paul uses a military description. The word for ‘opportunity’ also means the place where soldiers begin an attack. *Sin used the *commandment as a place from which to attack people.
Verses 12-13 The law is *holy because God gave it. And God is holy and perfect. So the law is *righteous. God intended the law to help people. Paul says that the law is good. It is not responsible for death. It is *sin that causes death. The law was good for people. But *sin used it to cause death. That is what *sin does. It turns something good into something wicked. For example, it can turn love into a wrong sex desire. *Sin uses the law wrongly. This shows how terrible *sin is.
Paul had used ‘I’ and ‘me’ in verses 7-13. He spoke there about the past. In verses 14-25, he speaks in the present tense. It is clear that he is describing his own struggles with *sin. Most people have had such an experience. So Paul speaks for everyone, not just for himself.
There are two opinions about when this struggle took place:
1. Maybe Paul was writing about his experiences before he became a Christian. At that time, Paul wanted to please God. So Paul tried to obey God’s law. Paul was very sincere. But he discovered that he was unable to obey God’s law completely. Paul did not want to *sin. But *sin controlled his human nature. So Paul was even doing things that he knew to be wrong (verses 18-20).
This was a terrible struggle for Paul. Paul loved God’s law (verse 22). But Paul could not obey it. So he made himself rules in his mind (verse 23). But he could not even obey those rules because the control (law) of *sin was too powerful for him.
So Paul felt miserable and desperate. He needed someone to rescue him from *sin (verse 24). At last, he realised that he could not save himself by his own efforts. And that is when *Christ changed his life (verse 25; Acts 9:1-22; Galatians 1:11-17).
2. Or maybe Paul was writing as a Christian. He said that he loved the law (verse 22). Someone who does not believe probably would not say this. But a Christian is not ‘a slave to *sin’ (verse 25; Romans 6:17-18). And a Christian should not say, ‘nothing good lives in me’ (verse 18). In fact, God’s *Holy Spirit lives in a Christian (1 Corinthians 6:19). However, many people still believe that Paul was writing here about his struggles as a Christian. Paul wondered how he could show his love for God in actions. The Christian life is not easy. There is a struggle against *sin. Paul says in Philippians (3:12-14) that he is not perfect. He is like someone who is running a race. He has to try very hard to reach the goal. Paul urges Timothy to ‘fight’ for his *faith. If this opinion is correct, Paul’s cry in verse 24 was not a cry of despair. His cry expresses his great desire to be free from his weak human nature. He wants to become more *holy.
So perhaps Paul was writing about the time when he was a Pharisee. (The Pharisees were a group of *Jews who tried to obey all of God’s laws. Paul belonged to this group before he became a Christian.) Or perhaps he was writing as a Christian who was struggling to live a *holy life. But he shows clearly that human knowledge is not enough. We can know what is wrong. We may decide to do what is right. But our power to carry out our decision is weak. Peter said that he would never deny *Christ. But he failed soon afterwards.
We cannot live in a manner that pleases God by our own efforts. Paul emphasised this in Galatians 3:3. We can only become Christians by the power of God’s *Holy Spirit. And after we have become Christians, we can only please God by the power of his *Holy Spirit.
Verse 23 Paul uses another military description. A law was fighting a war against his mind. The law of his human nature was making him a prisoner of the law of *sin. He struggled to obey his conscience. He knew what was right. But he could not do right things. His cry in verse 24 is a cry of despair.
Verse 24 Paul is grateful that he can win the *victory over his *sinful human nature because of Jesus *Christ. Paul will explain in chapter 8 how the *Holy Spirit can give to Christians the power to live a *holy life.
Verse 25 Some people who have translated the Bible want to change the order of the verses. They think that the second part of verse 25 should be before the cry of verse 24. They say that it is in the wrong place after Paul’s words in verse 24. But there is no *manuscript evidence for this. In verse 25 Paul emphasises again his moral struggle, which he described in verses 14-24. And the words lead naturally to Romans 8:1, which begins with the word ‘Therefore’.
Verse 1 Paul has explained how powerful *sin is. People might want to please God. And they might try to obey his law. But human nature is too weak to oppose the power of *sin.
God’s law explains how he wants people to live. But *sin seems like another law, which opposes God’s law. So people feel as if they are struggling against *sin. And their efforts to do the right thing seem hopeless.
But the wonderful news is that God frees people from the power of *sin. And he frees them completely. He forgives their *sin. He makes them *righteous. He does these things because of his *grace. And he does these things for everyone who belongs to *Christ Jesus. They are not guilty now. They have become God’s special, *holy people (Ephesians 2:1-9).
Verse 2 *Sin is like a law that controls people. Nobody could avoid its power. And *sin caused the most terrible troubles. People have to obey *sin, but the only result of these efforts is death (Romans 6:23).
But God made another law that would free people from the law of *sin. Paul does not mean the *written law, which told people the nature of *sin. He is writing about a new law, which tells people how to live in order to please God.
Jeremiah wrote about such a law (Jeremiah 31:33-34). It would not be like the *written law. It would be in people’s hearts and minds. It would show them how to know God and to love God. It would give them a right *relationship with God. And God would forgive their *sins.
This new *relationship with God was possible because of the death of Jesus. After Jesus’ death, God sent the *Holy Spirit. And the Spirit lives in us, if we are real Christians (John 14:16-17).
It is the *Holy Spirit that gives life. It is the *Holy Spirit who makes people able to breathe and so to live (Genesis 2:7). It is the *Holy Spirit who gives *spiritual life to Christians (Galatians 5:16). And it is the *Holy Spirit who raises dead bodies to life (verse 11).
Verse 3 The *written law showed people the nature of *sin. But it could not free people from *sin, because nobody can become *righteous by their own efforts. But God’s *grace was more powerful than *sin was. And God had a plan to rescue people from the power of *sin.
God sent his son to live in a human body. Jesus had a real human nature that could be tired, hungry and thirsty. (‘Thirsty’ means that he was sometimes desperate to drink.) Paul says, ‘like’ *sinful human nature. Paul knew that *Christ never *sinned. *Christ obeyed his Father completely. Then, on the *cross, *Christ offered himself for human *sin. So, as a perfect *sacrifice, he removed the punishment for human *sin. We can receive the benefit of his death. God will forgive us and he will make us *righteous. But first, we need to accept what God did by Jesus. God did this because of his great love for people (John 3:16).
Verse 4 We could not become *righteous by our own efforts. And we could not obey God’s *written law by our own efforts. But God has changed our situation. Now we can be free from guilty feelings and from the fear of punishment. The *Holy Spirit will guide a Christian. He will give to Christians the power to live a *holy life. ‘Live by the Spirit. Then you will not do the *sinful things that you want to do because of your human nature’ (Galatians 5:16).
Paul contrasts two kinds of life in these verses.
· a normal life without the power of the *Holy Spirit. Someone who lives such a life cannot please God. Instead, that person lives by their own thoughts and desires. And such a life will be *sinful, because *sin controls that person’s mind. Death is the result of such a life.
· a life that the *Holy Spirit controls. This is the kind of life that a real Christian should have. God’s Spirit guides that person’s thoughts and desires. So that person pleases God. And the results of that person’s life are good.
In verses 5-8, Paul speaks in a general manner. In verses 9-11, he speaks directly to the Christians in Rome when he says ‘you’. But these words are also true for every Christian.
Paul uses three different names for the *Holy Spirit. These are: the *Holy Spirit, the Spirit of *Christ and the Spirit of God. But Paul is not describing three different Spirits. The *Holy Spirit comes from God the Father and God the Son. So the *Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of *Christ and the Spirit of God. And the *Holy Spirit works in the life of the real Christian.
Verse 5 Paul contrasts two opposite situations. Human nature causes *sinful behaviour. But life in the *Holy Spirit pleases God.
Paul shows this difference very clearly in Galatians 5:19-21. He sets out many kinds of behaviour that people follow because of human nature. But everything in that list is *sinful. And such things cause pain or trouble. Because of human nature, people may desire power, entertainment or possessions. And they do evil acts in order to gain these things. But then, in Galatians 5:22-23, Paul sets out a very different list. This is the list of the results of the *Holy Spirit’s work in a believer’s life. Everything in this second list is good. And everything there helps other people. This is because the *Holy Spirit works to achieve good things for other people by the believer’s life.
Verses 6-8 The results are different. Death is the result of *sin. Life and *peace come from the *Holy Spirit. A person will have the gift of *eternal life. He will be at *peace with God. He will be at *peace with other people. He will be at *peace in himself, because he is not still afraid of death. He can now obey God. So he is no longer God’s enemy. These good things happen because that person is not still trying to please himself. Instead, the *Holy Spirit guides that person’s mind. So that person’s natural thoughts and desires seem unimportant.
A person can live in such a manner as soon as that person invites God into his life. The *Holy Spirit is God’s gift to every believer. And the *Holy Spirit gives to the believer the power to live in a manner that pleases God.
Of course, this does not mean that Christians have perfect lives. They do not. The devil continues to use their natural thoughts and desires in order to test them. Such thoughts and desires cause *sinful acts. So these thoughts and desires cannot please God. But Christians learn to depend on the *Holy Spirit. This can be a slow process. They may make many mistakes. But Christians learn that God is now controlling their lives. God will provide the things that they need.
People begin the Christian life by trust in God. Then they should continue their Christian life in the same manner.
Verses 9-10 Real Christians do not need to worry about their human nature. God has sent the *Holy Spirit to live in their lives. It is as if their human nature is not still alive. Instead, their spirits are now alive. And God’s *Holy Spirit guides and directs their lives.
Verse 11 In the end, the human body will die. But the death of the body will not be important, because the spirit will remain alive. God raised Jesus from death. Those who share *Christ’s life by the *Holy Spirit will rise again too. They will have a new body that will never die again. Paul explains this in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.
Verses 12-13 Christians must end all the wrong behaviour that belonged to their past life. In Galatians 5:24, Paul wrote about this matter again. People who belong to *Christ should end all *sinful behaviour. They should act as if their human nature died on the *cross. And all the desires and emotions of the human nature have ended too. When people do this, the Spirit of God gives new life to them. They will know the real freedom that God gives. And so they will really know what it means to be alive.
Verses 14-17 Paul speaks about the difference between a slave and a son. He describes someone who adopts a child. At the time when Paul wrote, a person might choose to adopt a child. That child would continue that person’s name. And that child would receive that person’s property. There was a serious ceremony in *Roman law that handed over the child to his new father. The ceremony had to happen in front of witnesses. The former life of the child did not still exist. He began a completely new life. He had the same rights as children by birth. He would receive his new father’s property.
Our old life, which the *sinful nature controlled, has gone. We have begun a new life. We are the sons and daughters whom God has adopted. The *Holy Spirit is the witness in us that we have become God’s children. We can call God ‘Abba’. ‘Abba’ is the word for ‘father’ in the language called Aramaic. This word shows the family love between father and child. Children in *Jewish families still use it today. Jesus used the word himself (Mark 14:36). It showed the close *relationship between Jesus and his Father, God. Jesus taught his *disciples to think about God as Father when they prayed. (Luke 11:2). Paul added the *Greek word for ‘father’ for *Romans who did not know the word in the Aramaic language.
Christians receive similar benefits to children whom someone has adopted. Christians have the promise of God’s property, because he is their new Father. They will share the *glory of God’s own son, Jesus *Christ. *Christ suffered before he received his *glory. So Christians must expect to suffer too. But they have the promise of future *glory. And that is a wonderful promise.
Verse 18 Paul could speak about troubles and pain from his own experience. People had opposed him and punished him. Those people hated Paul because he spoke God’s message. Paul had suffered physical difficulties like cold and hunger as he travelled on land and sea. He also seems to speak about a physical problem that was a painful nuisance to him. But he was sure that he would suffer for only a short time. *Glory would last always. Present pain is very slight when we compare it with the splendid life of heaven.
Verses 19-22 When people *sinned, the world itself suffered. The world lost its original purpose. And everything in the world suffered because of human *sin. People had *sinned. But often they knew that they were doing wrong deeds. Nature had no choice. Plants and animals also suffer illness and death. We know how human *sin spoils God’s earth. For example, when people cut down trees for selfish reasons, they make the land bare. Then animals that live in forests cannot continue to live there. And the crops that grow there are often weaker than the old trees. So that place becomes poorer because people were selfish. However, God promised that he would free his world. Then the world could share the freedom of God’s children (that is, the real Christians).
The *Jews were expecting a new age when the *Messiah would rule. The *prophets spoke about this time. Nations would be at peace with each other. People would make tools for war into tools for farmers (Micah 4:3-4). The land would produce plentiful fruit (Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13). Even among animals, natural enemies would not attack each other (Isaiah 11:6-9). Until God changes his world, the world will cry in pain. It is like a woman who gives birth to a child in pain. Or, it is like someone who waits (verse 19). It is waiting for the new age to begin. That age will begin when Jesus returns as king. When he returns, everybody will see his *glory. And real Christians will share his *glory. They are the children whom God adopted. And the world will have peace at last.
Verse 23 Paul has described how the world seems to cry in pain. It is waiting for the new age when God’s children will have complete freedom. And God’s children (the real Christians) also cry inside, because they also desire that time.
Now our bodies suffer pain. But then pain and death will end (Revelation 21:4). Now our *relationship with God seems distant. But then we shall see his face (1 Corinthians 13:12). Now our lives are not perfect. But then everything will be perfect.
The word ‘promise’ means that the *Holy Spirit is like the ‘first fruit’ of the harvest. The first fruit is the beginning of the harvest. It is like a promise that the full (complete) harvest will follow. So Christians have received the *Holy Spirit. He brings joy in the present and a promise of *blessing in the future. But we share the pain of the world that God made. We want to be free from the weakness of our physical bodies. We desire to be free from our human nature, which still *sins. God has adopted us as his children already (Romans 8:16). But we are eager for the time when God will change our human bodies. He will change them to be like *Christ’s *glorious body (Philippians 3:21).
Verses 24-25 We can be confident about God’s plans for the future. We live in the time between pain and *glory. God will do what he has promised to do. We know this. So we wait eagerly and patiently at the same time.
Verses 26-27 We do not know how to pray in our present situation. We do not know what is best for other people or for ourselves. But we have the *Holy Spirit to help us. Jesus promised that the *Holy Spirit would be our advocate (someone who speaks to support another person). The *Greek word is ‘paracletos’ (John 14:16). That is, the *Holy Spirit will speak on our behalf. The Spirit knows about our pain and he knows about the pain in the world. He knows what God wants. So the Spirit prays on behalf of us. God knows our thoughts and the mind of the Spirit. So God will answer the prayer of the Spirit on behalf of us.
Verse 28 ‘We know’ means that Christians already have had this experience. God is already working in our lives. We have suffered pain and disappointment. People have opposed us. Our troubles have been great. But even at the worst times, God was working for our benefit. He was helping us. He looked after us when nobody else cared. He is our Father, who loves us.
And God promises to continue to look after the people who love him. So we should not be afraid of future problems. And we should not be angry when unpleasant things happen. Instead, we should trust him. He has a plan. He chose to adopt us as his sons and daughters. He is looking after us during our present troubles. And so he will bring us into his new age, when we shall be free from all these troubles.
Verse 29 Paul speaks about the people whom God already knew. They are God’s special people. God loves them. He has a plan for their lives.
In the *Old Testament, God chose the people from *Israel to be his special people (Amos 3:2). God looked after them in the desert (Hosea 13:5). He gave them many benefits (Romans 9:4-5). And he still cares about them today (Romans 11:1).
But God also has a plan to benefit people from every nation. Because of his love, God made this plan before the world began. He decided to *save people. He would help them to be *holy. He would do this by means of *Christ his son (2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20). *Christ shows us the *glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). *Christ was the beginning of *creation (Colossians 1:15). By his *resurrection, *Christ is the beginning of a new *creation. God made a plan for people who trust in *Christ. God would adopt them as his children. They would become *Christ’s *brothers and *sisters. He would make them *righteous. And they would share his *glory. That is how they would become like *Christ (1 John 3:2).
Verse 30 It was God’s purpose since the beginning of the world to call people to himself. He has made them *righteous. The *glory for Christians is in the future. But Paul speaks as if they have already received that *glory from God. God decided this before the world began. So Paul is certain. God will do everything that he has promised to do. ‘When *Christ appears, you will appear with him in *glory’ (Colossians 3:4).
Verses 31-32 God did not save (rescue) his son, Jesus. God’s love is so great. He gave his only son to die on the *cross. This was the greatest gift that people could ever receive. So God will certainly give us everything else that we need.
Verses 33-34 Paul thinks about a court of law. The Christian has to appear there in front of a judge. God is the judge. He has said already that the Christian is not guilty. So nobody can accuse Christians when God is on their side.
Christians also have someone to speak on their behalf, like a lawyer in court. It is *Christ. Paul uses an early form of *creed. He says that *Christ died. *Christ rose again to life. *Christ is now by God’s ‘right hand’. God’s ‘right hand’ means the place of greatest honour and authority. There *Christ is speaking on behalf of his people. So Christians have the *Holy Spirit to speak for them on earth (Romans 8:26). They also have *Christ to speak for them in heaven. He speaks to God the Father. ‘If anybody *sins, we have someone who speaks for us to the Father. Jesus *Christ, who is *righteous, speaks for us’ (1 John 2:1).
Verse 35 Paul says, ‘Nothing can separate us from *Christ’s love.’ He gives a list of 7 possible troubles. People might think that such troubles could end our *relationship with *Christ. But Paul is sure that they cannot do so. In fact, Paul had known many of these troubles himself (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). The word ‘war’ is a translation of the word ‘sword’. Paul may mean something else. People may kill Christians because of their *faith. But even this will not separate them from God’s love.
Verse 36 Paul reminds his readers that God’s people suffered in the past. He uses words from Psalm 44:22. These words describe how the people in *Israel were suffering. They were suffering because they were loyal to God. They appealed to God to help them. Like them, we may suffer terrible troubles in this world. But like them, we shall overcome because God loves us. Nothing can separate us from *Christ’s love.
Verse 37 Even while we are suffering, we shall not be without hope. And that hope will not disappoint us. God is on our side. Nobody can successfully oppose us (verse 31). And so we shall overcome. We shall win a great *victory. We shall win by the power of God who loved us.
Verses 38-39 Paul thinks about everything that might try to separate us from God’s love. But nothing will be able to do that. While we are alive, *Christ is with us. If we die, we will be nearer to *Christ in heaven. So neither death nor life can separate us from God’s love.
Then Paul thinks about spirits. And he thinks about powerful rulers. Their power and authority is immense. But even they are unable to separate us from God’s love.
Then Paul tries to describe things that we can hardly imagine. He refers to the entire period of history. He refers to the future age and the new world that God will create. Then Paul thinks about vast measurements of height and depth that seem to have no end. Perhaps he is thinking about the distance between heaven and hell. Perhaps he is thinking about the battle between the *spiritual forces that rule heaven and hell.
It is difficult for us even to think about such things. But Paul is confident that God’s love is more powerful than anything else. There is nothing anywhere in time or space that can separate God’s children from their Father. God loves us and he has shown us that love by means of Jesus *Christ. When Jesus died for us, God showed us his love (John 3:16). He did this because he wanted to adopt us as his sons and daughters. He did not want *sin to control us. He wanted to forgive us. He wanted to make us *righteous. He is our Father God, who really loves his children.
And Jesus *Christ is our *Lord because we want to obey him. Jesus is God. So Jesus loves us as much as God the Father does.
In these chapters, Paul explains God’s future plans for the *Jews (in other words, the *Israelites). God had prepared the *Jews during their history, but most *Jews had refused to accept their *Messiah. Because Paul was a *Jew too, he felt great pain in his spirit. His own people had not accepted their *Saviour. Paul was an *apostle to the *Gentiles. So he explains how God’s plan for the *Jews agreed with his plan for the *Gentiles too.
Chapter 12 can follow chapters 1-8 easily. So chapters 9-11 may seem like an interruption. But they should not interrupt Paul’s thought. Paul had explained the *gospel in chapters 1-8. Now he discusses why his own people, the *Jews, did not accept the *salvation of the *gospel. Also, Paul may have wanted to explain the situation in Rome. There were now many *Gentile Christians in Rome. *Jewish and *Gentile Christians may have had wrong ideas about each other’s importance to God. Paul needed to write about this.
Verse 1 Paul wants his readers to understand that he is sincere. So he makes three statements that will persuade them. He is speaking the truth because *Christ is with him. He is not lying. We cannot always trust the human conscience. But Paul has the *Holy Spirit as a witness. The *Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.
Verses 2-3 Paul is so sad when he thinks about his relatives, the *Jews. They have not accepted their *Messiah. He may remember what Moses prayed. In Moses’ time, the *Israelites *sinned when they *worshipped a gold calf (a model of a young cow or *bull). Moses thought that God might not forgive the *Israelites. Moses asked God to punish him instead. He asked God to ‘remove his name from the book of life’ (Exodus 32:32).
Paul, like Moses, would ‘suffer God’s punishment’. This is a translation from the *Greek word ‘anathema’. It means something that a person would destroy completely in order to hand it over to God. If possible, Paul would be willing to suffer this punishment so that the *Jews could receive God’s *salvation.
This statement shows how deeply Paul wanted the *Jews to trust *Christ. It shows how eagerly Paul was praying for them. Paul loved them so much that he did not even care about himself. Instead, he appealed to God on their behalf.
But Paul realised that nothing could separate him from God’s love (Romans 8:38). And Paul knew that the *Jews had to trust *Christ in order to receive God’s *salvation. This is the answer that God gave to Moses: ‘I will remove from my book the name of the person who has *sinned against me’ (Exodus 32:33). Our prayers are powerful. But they do not change the principles of how God acts. His *mercy is great. But he will only *save people when they put their trust in him.
Verses 4-5 Paul makes a list of the special ways that God has shown his kindness to the *Jews.
1. God had adopted them as his sons. ‘*Israel is my first born son’ (Exodus 4:22). ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son’ (Hosea 11:1).
2. The *glory was the evidence that God was present with his people. The name for it is the ‘Shekinah’. It descended on the tent that the *Israelites used for *worship in the desert (Exodus 40:34). Also it descended on the *temple that Solomon built (1 Kings 8:10-11). In the most *holy place in the *temple, God’s *glory was over the ark. That was the special box that contained the *commandments.
3. The main *covenant that Paul refers to is the *covenant with Abraham. God made a *covenant with Abraham that Abraham would have a son and many *descendants (Genesis 17:4-19). God would give them the country called *Israel. And God would show his kindness to all nations by means of Abraham and his *descendant.
However, Paul does not just mention one *covenant. So perhaps he also means the other agreements that God gave to the *Jews. When God gave the Law (at the mountain called Sinai), he made an agreement with Moses and the *Israelites (Exodus 24:8). God promised to King David that God would establish his royal family (Psalm 89:34-37).
4. The Law. God had told his people how to obey him.
5. The *worship in the *temple. The book of Leviticus gives all the rules for the priests and for the ceremonies. When Paul wrote to the *Romans, the *Jews were still using the *temple to offer *sacrifices to God.
6. The promises. God promised to Abraham that by one of his *descendants, God would show kindness to all the families on earth (Genesis 12:3). God promised a king who would belong to the family of David. An example is in Isaiah 9:6-7.
7. In the original language, Paul simply writes ‘the *fathers’. He means Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jacob’s 12 sons were the *ancestors of the 12 tribes. (That is, the 12 large families which became the *Israelites.)
8. *Christ was born as a *Jew (Matthew 1:1).
The last words of verse 5 are words to praise God. But there is no mark to separate words in the *Greek *manuscript. So it is not clear whether ‘God over all things’ refers to God the Father or to *Christ. In the *New Testament, people usually praise God rather than praise Jesus. Usually Paul calls Jesus ‘God’s son’ and not ‘God’. But Paul thinks about Jesus as God. Paul calls Jesus ‘*Lord’ and he speaks about Jesus’ part in *creation (Colossians 1:16-17). Jesus is ‘our *Lord in life and in death’ (Romans 14:9). So Jesus *Christ is ‘God over all things’. Honour is due to him.
Verses 6-9 Although they had all these special *blessings, many *Jews did not accept God’s son. But Paul knows that God’s plan for his people could not fail. Paul uses two examples from the *Old Testament to explain this.
The *Jews (or *Israelites) were the *descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God made a *covenant with Abraham. But not all of Abraham’s *descendants are *Jews. That is because the *covenant has a relationship with God’s promise. Abraham had several sons. But Isaac was the only son that God promised to Abraham.
God’s promise has a relationship with the work of God’s Spirit. Isaac was not born in a natural way. Sarah (Isaac’s mother) was too old to have children. So the real *descendants of Abraham are people who receive God’s promise by means of his Spirit. And a person only becomes a child of God when that person receives God’s promise by means of his Spirit (verse 8).
So, not everyone who has Jacob (*Israel) as his *ancestor is a true *Israelite. A physical *descendant of Abraham might not be a real *Jew in the *spiritual sense. Those who believe God’s promises are Abraham’s real *descendants. Paul had explained this in chapter 4:13-16. God promised to give to Abraham a son, Isaac. Abraham had a son already, Ishmael, who was born to a slave called Hagar. But it was by means of Isaac that God would give Abraham *descendants. Paul mentions the promise that Abraham’s wife Sarah would have a son. This promise is in Genesis 18:10.
Paul gives a second example of God’s choice. Isaac’s wife Rebecca gave birth to two babies at the same time, Jacob and Esau. Before they were born, God said that the older son would serve the younger son. Esau was born first, but God chose Jacob. His choice made no reference to their character. God made his choice before their birth. He chose before they could act in good or bad ways. Esau’s *descendants were called the Edomites (or Edom). Jacob’s *descendants were called *Israel. The Edomites did serve *Israel at times in their history (for example, 2 Samuel 8:13-14). However, the words from Malachi 1:1-3 which refer to *Israel and Esau emphasise God’s choice. The original words ‘I hated Esau’ mean ‘I did not choose Esau’.
These events show that Jacob did not earn the benefit of the *covenant. Jacob received the benefit because of God’s *grace (kindness). Paul often emphasises that nobody can earn *salvation by their own efforts. And he repeats this principle in verse 12. Our *salvation depends completely on God’s kindness. It is a free gift. We can only accept or refuse that gift.
Verses 14-16 God does not choose a person merely because of that person’s *ancestors. And God does not choose someone because of that person’s deeds. But Paul emphasises that God is not unfair. He is *righteous and he is perfect. Paul uses words from *scripture to show that God cannot be unfair. God told Moses that he is kind to people. He acts with *mercy and love when he deals with people (Exodus 33:19). He does not deal with them as they deserve. He shows his love to them as he chooses.
Verses 17-18 The *Israelites used to be slaves in Egypt. The Pharaoh (ruler of Egypt) refused continuously to let the *Israelites go. God sent Moses as a *prophet to Pharaoh, to tell Pharaoh to free the *Israelites. But still Pharaoh refused. He was unwilling to change his decision. We often say that such a person has a hard heart. So Pharaoh made his heart hard against Moses and the *Israelites. So in the end, God let his heart stay hard. In verse 17, Paul refers to Exodus 9:16. God used the situation with Pharaoh for his (God’s) own purposes. God himself overcame Pharaoh’s strong army. And so God freed his people. And people across the entire region heard what God had done.
The Bible contains many passages that warn people not to have the same attitudes as that Pharaoh. Isaiah knew that the hearts of unbelievers would become hard (Isaiah 6:9-10). And Jesus used Isaiah’s words when the *Jews refused to believe in him (John 12:39-40). But God is not unfair if he makes a person’s heart hard. The result of *sin is God’s judgement.
Verse 19 Paul imagines a person who is complaining about God. That person argues that God should not blame people. Paul will now show that such an opinion is seriously wrong.
Verse 20 Paul reminds people that God is the *Creator. People exist because God created them. It would be very wrong for a person to accuse his *Creator. Paul is not talking about people who are sincere. They ask questions because they want to know the truth. Paul is talking about people who do not want to obey God. They try to find an excuse to oppose God’s authority.
Verse 21 Paul uses an example from the work of a *potter. Isaiah had used the idea of *clay and a *potter. A *clay pot cannot pretend that the *potter has no skill. In fact, the pot is evidence of the *potter’s skill (Isaiah 29:16; 45:9). Paul uses a similar idea. He says that the *potter has the right to make different kinds of pot. Some pots may be beautiful. Other pots may be ordinary. Still other pots are for unclean use. So God has the right to deal with people as he chooses. God does not have to explain to people what he does. People should respect God. His decisions are always right. His judgements are perfect.
Verses 22-23 God has the right to show his anger and his power. But he has been very patient with the people who oppose him. He has delayed the time for judgement. He has given them more opportunity to *repent. Because they do wicked things, they are preparing themselves for punishment.
But God is preparing for *glory the people who have received his *mercy. These people will see God’s *glory. And they will share it themselves (Romans 8:17-18).
Verses 24-26 Paul includes himself with the *Jews to whom God has shown *mercy. But Paul then says that *Gentiles have become God’s children too.
Paul uses words from the *prophet Hosea. These words show that God intended this to happen. Hosea had a wife who was not loyal to him. Hosea thought that he was not the father of his wife’s second and third children. So he named the second child Lo-ruhamah. This name means that Hosea felt unable to show love to this child. Hosea named the third child Lo-ammi, which means ‘not my people’. These children were signs that *Israel had not been loyal to God. But in the future, God would be able to call *Israel ‘my people’. And at that time, God would show real love to them (Hosea 1:6, 8-9; 2:23).
Hosea was speaking about *Israel in his time. Paul saw Hosea’s words as a *prophecy. The *Gentiles would also be people whom God loved. And Paul could see that this was starting to happen by means of his own work among the *Gentiles.
Verses 27-29 God has promised many wonderful things to the *Jews. And he will do the things that he has promised to do. His *salvation is for all the *Jews who remain (Isaiah 10:20; Zechariah 13:1). But that will only happen after terrible troubles, which will affect the whole earth. Few people will remain then to receive the benefit of God’s promise (Zechariah 13:8-9).
Verses 27-28 Isaiah wrote at the time when an army from Assyria was attacking Judah, the southern *kingdom of *Israel. God had promised to Abraham that his *descendants would be very many. Nobody would be able to count them, like the sand by the sea (Genesis 22:17). But because of their *sin, God was using Assyria to punish the people in *Israel. So only a few of them would remain (Isaiah 10:22-23).
Verse 29 When God destroyed the wicked cities called Sodom and Gomorrah, their punishment was total. Nothing remained in those places. Everybody from those cities died (except for Lot and his two daughters). So the people from Sodom and Gomorrah had no *descendants. Their punishment was sudden and final.
But God did not deal with the *Israelites in the same manner. Their evil deeds had become very severe at the time of Isaiah. And Isaiah warned them that they would suffer a terrible punishment. But God still had a plan for the *Israelites. So the punishment would not be total or final. He would allow them to have *descendants (Isaiah 1:9). Isaiah gave his son the name, Shear-jashub (Isaiah 7:3). This name means ‘those who remain will return.’ The name was a sign to the king and to the people. If they trusted God, some *Jews would remain free to return to their country. For Paul, Isaiah’s words were a *prophecy that many *Jews would not trust God. Only a few would accept his son and avoid judgement. These few would ‘return’ to God to obey him. And by them, God would carry out his promise to *save the *Jews.
Verses 30-31 Paul contrasts *Jews and *Gentiles. *Gentiles were not looking for a way to have a right *relationship with God. But when they discovered the *gospel, they accepted it by *faith. But most *Jews thought that they could earn their way to heaven. So they tried to obey the law. They thought that God would accept them because of their good deeds. But because they could never be perfect, they could never receive a right *relationship with God. They ought to have accepted the *gospel by *faith, as the *Gentiles were doing. The *gospel is for everyone, both *Jews and *Gentiles. Nobody can earn *salvation by means of their own efforts.
Verses 32-33 Most *Jews did not accept God’s offer to forgive them, although *Christ died for them. Paul says that the message about the *cross was like a stone (1 Corinthians 1:23). A large stone can be useful. It can become a strong base for a building. But that stone is not useful to a person who does not recognise its value. That stone may cause trouble. Someone may trip over it. And so the person who believes the message about the *cross benefits from that message. But the same message causes trouble for the person who refuses to believe it.
Paul combines two *prophecies in Isaiah. Isaiah 8:14 describes God as a rock that could provide *Israel with a place of safety. But if they refuse his offer of security, they will suffer. They will be like someone who falls over a rock. Isaiah 28:16 speaks about a stone that is the most important stone in the building. It is the corner stone that joins two walls together. Or it is the stone that completed a curve. Psalm 118:22 speaks about a stone. The builders thought that it had no value. But it became the most important stone in the building. Jesus used these words about himself (Matthew 21:42). Peter combined the words from Isaiah with Psalm 118:22 when he wrote about *Christ and his church (1 Peter 2:4-8).
*Christ will never disappoint those who trust in him. Another translation of Isaiah 28:16 is: ‘Those who trust in God will not be in a hurry.’ They will not rush about in fear when other people are afraid. Instead, they will trust that God will carry out his plans.
Verses 1-2 Paul repeats his great desire. He wants very much his own people to accept their *Messiah. He knows from his own experience how much the *Jews wanted to serve God. Paul had been a Pharisee (a strict *Jew). At that time, Paul thought that the Christians were wrong about God. And Paul was so eager to please God. So Paul arrested many Christians (Philippians 3:6). But Paul had to learn an important lesson. It is not good to be eager, if one does not have knowledge (Proverbs 19:2).
Verses 3-4 The *Jews were trying to please God. But they did not know how to please God. The *Jews thought that they must obey all their laws. Then they would be in a right *relationship with God. But this is not correct. Nobody can earn a right *relationship with God by means of that person’s own efforts. A person has a right *relationship with God if he or she believes in *Christ. The purpose of God’s law is to show people that they need *faith in *Christ. *Christ showed more completely what the law meant (Matthew 5:17). His death was the perfect *sacrifice for *sin. And he gives the *Holy Spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, people can live in a manner that pleases God.
Verse 5 Moses had said, ‘Someone who obeys the law will live by means of the law’ (Leviticus 18:5). He was explaining that people had to obey God’s law completely. If they did so, they would have a right *relationship with God. But Paul is emphasising that people did not obey the law. Apart from *Christ himself, nobody had ever obeyed the law perfectly. But Moses explained that a proper *relationship with God is not difficult to achieve. We do not achieve this by our own efforts. Instead, we need to believe his message in our hearts. And we declare the message that God has given to us. We do this by *faith, in other words, because we trust him. (See Romans 10:6-10.)
Verses 6-7 People receive a right *relationship with God by *faith in *Christ. It is not difficult to find God. Paul thinks about Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 30:12-14. What God teaches is not difficult to find. People do not have to search for it in heaven or in the depths of the sea. Paul says the same thing about the *gospel as Moses said about God’s law. There is no need to search for *Christ. He had already come down from heaven as a man. And he had risen from death, so there was no need to look for him in the grave.
Verses 8-11 The message that the *apostles *preached was about trust in *Christ and his *resurrection. In other words, it was about *faith. And God would *save people who have *faith in *Christ. They would have a right *relationship with God. God would make them *righteous. He would give them the *Holy Spirit. And God’s Spirit would teach them how to live in a manner that pleases God.
Their *relationship with God would not depend on the law. It would depend on *Christ, who made the law complete. By his death, *Christ did everything that the law orders to make people *righteous. And by his *resurrection, we too receive a new life. (See Romans 6:1-8.) That is why Paul emphasises *Christ’s death and *resurrection here.
Paul tells the people to declare, ‘Jesus is *Lord.’ The word ‘*Lord’ has two meanings. Slaves would call their master, ‘*Lord’. The word shows that the slave intends to obey his master. In the same manner, Christians should obey Jesus completely (John 13:13-16).
But the word ‘*Lord’ is also a translation of God’s most *sacred name. So Paul was emphasising that Jesus is God. And Paul said that this belief was essential for Christians to declare.
In verse 9, Paul is describing the moment when a person becomes a real Christian. For the first time, that person has real *faith in God. That person believes in his or her heart. It is not sufficient simply to say the words without *faith. But if that person is sincere, God will give *faith to that person (Matthew 7:7-8). And the actual words that a person speaks at that moment do not always need to be these words. But these are good words to say.
In fact, ‘Jesus is *Lord’ was the earliest form of *creed. People would declare in public, ‘Jesus is *Lord’ at their *baptism. Afterwards, they would continue to tell other people about their *faith (1 Peter 3:15). *Christ will never disappoint anyone (Isaiah 28:16). He will *save everyone who trusts him.
Verses 12-13 *Christ is *Lord of both *Jews and *Gentiles. *Christ offers *salvation to everyone. He will *save everyone who asks him. Paul uses words from Joel 2:32 to emphasise this. Peter used the same words at the end of his speech on the day called *Pentecost (Acts 2:21).
Verses 14-15 These words are still true today. Nobody can believe in *Christ unless that person has heard about him. People cannot hear about *Christ unless someone tells them. God must send someone to tell them the good news.
A person must have *faith in order to please God. The opposite of *faith is unbelief. But when many people hear the *gospel, their reaction is unbelief. In this passage, Paul is thinking about the reasons for this reaction. Especially, he is thinking about the *Jews. Paul was himself a *Jew. God had given many benefits to the *Jews. But still most *Jews had refused to accept *Christ. Paul shows that there is no proper excuse for unbelief.
1. Verse 15 Someone might try to explain this unbelief. Perhaps the people would believe if they heard God’s message. But that explanation cannot be correct. Someone can only show unbelief after they have heard a message. Paul refers to Isaiah 52:7 to show how the people had heard God’s message. In that verse, the person was bringing the good news about freedom to the *Jews. They could return from Babylon where they were prisoners. Paul knows that the *Jews have heard the good news of freedom from *sin. Because of *Christ’s death, God will free everyone who accepts him, both *Jews and *Gentiles.
2. Verse 16 Not everyone believed the good news, even if they had heard it. Paul showed that this was true in Isaiah’s time. Nobody would believe God’s message about his suffering servant (Isaiah 53:1). That message about the suffering servant was a *prophecy about Jesus’ death. Jesus died on the *cross so that God would forgive people’s *sin. But not everyone obeys God’s message. The reaction of many people is unbelief.
3. Verses 17-18 *Faith comes when people hear the message. That is, the message about *Christ. But the *Jews could not say that they had no opportunity to hear this message. Paul replies with words from Psalm 19:4. The words describe how the sun, moon and stars are like witnesses to God, their *Creator. Paul uses the words to mean that the *Jews have heard. It is true that the *gospel message has still not gone out through the whole world. But many *Jews lived in the countries round the Mediterranean Sea. Paul knew that they had been able to hear the *gospel. Paul himself had *preached it in many cities.
4. Verses 19-20 Someone might say, ‘Even if people had heard the message, they might not understand it.’ Paul answers with words from the two main parts of the *Hebrew Bible. These parts are the law and the *prophets.
God spoke by means of Moses. God said that he would make the *Jews jealous of the *Gentiles (Deuteronomy 32:21). Already Paul has used Hosea’s message (Hosea 2:23) about people who were not God’s people (Romans 9:25). Nobody had taught the *Gentiles about God. So they were people who ‘did not understand’. Paul adds a *prophecy from Isaiah (65:1). Isaiah’s message to the *Israelites was very bold. God would show himself to people who were not looking for him. In other words, God would *save people who were *Gentiles. Paul has already explained how God *saved *Gentiles because of their *faith. But many *Jews did not have *faith. Instead, they showed unbelief. God offers *righteousness as a free gift. But they wanted to become *righteous by means of their own efforts. And that is impossible (Romans 9:30-32).
5. Verse 21 The answer to all these excuses was in Isaiah (65:2). Most *Jews did not hear or understand the *gospel because of their *sinful attitudes. Because of their unbelief, they would not obey the *gospel. All during their history, God had appealed to the *Jews. Like a father, God held out his hands, ready to receive them like a child. But they did not want to obey him. They wanted to achieve *salvation by their own efforts. But that is simply not possible. God offers *salvation as a free gift to everyone who trusts him. That is the only way to receive *salvation. And it is available to both *Jews and *Gentiles.
Verse 1 God had wonderful plans for the *Jews. He sent their *messiah, who is Jesus. He offers them *grace, *salvation and *righteousness. But the reaction of most *Jews was unbelief. They refused to accept God’s generous gifts. It might seem that God’s plans for the *Jews had failed. But Paul shows in this chapter that God’s plans had not failed. In fact, God has an even more wonderful plan for the future of the *Jews.
Paul has already spoken about the effects of unbelief. In Romans 9:17, he spoke about Pharaoh (the ruler of Egypt). Pharaoh tried to stop God’s plans. Pharaoh’s efforts could not succeed. Pharaoh and his army suffered a terrible punishment. But of course, God’s plan was successful. He even used Pharaoh’s unbelief to win a great *victory.
The situation at the time of Paul was similar. People had shown great unbelief. But they could not stop God’s plan. And this is still true today. God still has a plan for the *Jews. Those people who show unbelief will not benefit. Unless they *repent, they will suffer the punishment for their *sins. But God’s plan will succeed. He will win a great *victory.
Paul shows in two ways that God has not ended his *relationship with the *Jews.
1. Paul is a *Jew himself. He is a *descendant of Abraham. He is from the family called Benjamin. This was a small family, but the first king of *Israel came from it. Paul had acted against God in the past before he became a Christian. God had forgiven him. So God could forgive other *Jews as well.
2. Paul reminds the *Jews about the answer that God gave to the *prophet Elijah. The queen made plans to kill Elijah. He knew that the people no longer *worshipped God. They had destroyed God’s *altars. *Prophets had died because of their *faith. Elijah thought that he was the only person in *Israel who was still loyal to God. God told him that this was not true. There were still 7000 people who were loyal to God. They had not *worshipped the false god, Baal (1 Kings 19:14-18).
Verses 5-6 Even as in the time of Elijah, there were still *Jews who were loyal to God. God had chosen them because he loved them. They did not deserve his love. They could not receive *salvation because of their own deeds. God showed his kindness when he *saved them. But if they deserved *salvation, God would not be showing any kindness. So God gives gifts to people that they do not deserve.
Verses 7-8 In Paul’s time, there were two groups of *Jews. This is still true in many nations today. One group showed *faith. They were the people whom God chose. He *saved them because of his kindness. But the second group showed unbelief. They were unwilling to obey God.
Paul combines two passages of *scripture. He shows what happens to people in that second group. They do not believe the *gospel. And they even become unable to hear or to understand it. First Paul uses Isaiah 29:10: ‘The *Lord has made you sleep. He has closed your eyes.’ Then Paul uses Deuteronomy 29:4: ‘Even today the *Lord has still not given you a mind that understands. It is as if your eyes cannot see. It is as if your ears cannot hear.’
Verses 9-10 Paul also uses words from Psalm 69:22-23. The writer of that Psalm asks God to act against his enemies. His enemies are like people who sit at a *feast. They feel happy and safe. But enemies could attack them before they realise it. Paul associates that passage with the *Jews who refused to believe God’s good news. Paul suggests that they feel happy and safe. But their selfish satisfaction is like a trap that will cause terrible pain. The day will come when they cannot see (know) the truth at all. Then, they will suffer. They will be like blind people. Or, they will be like a person who bends over with a great load on his back. Their wrong attitudes will cause them great trouble.
Verses 11-12 Many *Jews refused to believe the *gospel. Paul has explained about the terrible punishments that those people will suffer because of their unbelief. But that is not the end of God’s *relationship with the *Jews. God still has a plan for their families. Paul emphasises that the *Jewish people will recover from their troubles. They will again be the people whom God has chosen. But in the meantime, God offers *salvation to everyone who will accept it. Because *Israel has *sinned, *salvation has come to the *Gentiles. In the Book of Acts, Luke records 4 occasions when Paul began to *preach to *Gentiles. But those *Jews refused his message of *salvation. So Paul offered it to the *Gentiles (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 19:8-9; 28:28). The *Jews would see how God had brought *blessings to the *Gentiles. So the *Jews would be jealous and they would turn to God themselves. Their *sin had brought *blessings. So there will be an even greater *blessing for everyone in the end. The *Jews will return to God. The number of *Jewish believers will be complete. And *Jews and *Gentiles will be glad together because of what God has done.
Verses 13-15 Paul was an *apostle to the *Gentiles. So he speaks to them about his work. Paul was teaching the *Gentiles to become *righteous by means of *faith. He knew that the *Jews were also eager to become *righteous. But they were trying to do this by their own efforts. And such a method could not succeed. But the *Jews would see that God accepted the *Gentiles. And the *Jews would be jealous. Then they too would want to have *faith in *Christ.
Paul was sad that so many *Jews had refused God’s way of *salvation. But now the rest of the world had the opportunity to have a *relationship with God. In the end, when the *Jews believe the *gospel, the result will be as wonderful as life from death. Perhaps Paul was thinking about Ezekiel’s *vision of the dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14). The bones came alive as a sign that God would cause *Israel to live again.
Verse 16 Paul uses two word pictures. He shows that God would not turn away from the *Jews permanently.
1. The first piece of *dough was a gift to God (Numbers 15:17-21). The rest of the *dough became *holy too. ‘The first piece’ means the first people who believed the *gospel. They are the *Jewish Christians. When they believed, the rest of the *Jews could become believers.
2. The root of a tree affects the whole tree. ‘The root’ probably meant Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who were the *ancestors of the *Jewish nation. Their *descendants were the branches in Paul’s time. God had made a *covenant with Abraham which would last always. He would be the God of Abraham’s *descendants (Genesis 17:7). As Abraham’s *descendants, the *Jews would benefit from the promises of God’s *covenant.
Verses 17-24 Paul continues to think about a tree. There were very many *olive trees in the country. So an *olive tree became a description of the *Jewish nation. ‘The *Lord called you a healthy *olive tree’ (Jeremiah 11:16).
Paul describes a technique called grafting. Farmers and gardeners world-wide still use grafting today. The problem is that a strong tree does not always yield good quality fruit. A weaker tree might yield better quality fruit. But because that tree is weak, it cannot yield much fruit. If both trees are of the same kind, the gardener can try grafting. He removes the branches from the strong tree. Then he binds a small branch of the weaker tree to the stem of the strong tree. This is a difficult task. Only a skilled gardener has a good possibility of success. But if the gardener succeeds, he will have a much better tree. It will be a strong tree that yields good fruit. And the fruit will be plentiful.
Many *Jews refused to believe God. Those people lost their opportunity to have a right *relationship with God. They were like the branches that the gardener removes from the tree.
But many *Gentiles believed God. And they were able to have a real *relationship with God. They would be like the new branches, which would receive strength from the root. Jesus used a similar description in John chapter 15.
God had joined the *Gentiles to his people, the *Jews. Paul warns the *Gentiles. They must not be too proud that they are now part of God’s people. Paul may have worried about the way that many *Gentiles thought about the *Jews. These *Gentiles did not understand the *Jews and they laughed at the *Jews. Paul did not want the *Gentiles in Rome to have the wrong attitude towards the *Jews. The Christian *faith came from the root of the *Jewish *faith. Paul imagines that a *Gentile speaks proudly. He says, ‘The *Jews are like the branches that the gardener removed. And I have now taken their place.’ Paul warned that *Gentile. If God had removed some branches, he could remove another branch. He could remove the branch that he had joined to the tree. *Gentiles can stay in God’s *kingdom only if they remain firm in their *faith (see also Hebrews 3:14). But this is not a reason for *Gentile Christians to worry that they will lose their *salvation. God is able to protect them (Jude verse 24). They now belong to God’s people. God has chosen them to be his special people. They are his royal priests. They belong to his *kingdom (1 Peter 2:9). God has changed their lives completely (1 Peter 2:10).
God had been firm with the *Jews who refused to obey him. He had been kind to the *Gentiles. So the *Gentiles must remain loyal to God. They did not deserve *salvation. They only received *salvation because of God’s kindness. But long ago, God chose the *Jews to be his own special people. He made his *covenant with them. And his promises still stand today. Paul eagerly expected a time when his own people, the *Jews, would believe the *gospel. God can make this happen.
Verses 25-27 Paul tells his *Gentile *brothers and *sisters about God’s future plan for the *Jews. Many *prophets wrote about that plan, for example Isaiah 60:1-14; Daniel 12:1; Micah 7:11-12; Zechariah 8:1-23. So Paul was sure that God has a plan to *save the *Jews.
Paul refers to Proverbs 3:7 as he warns the *Gentiles not to ‘become proud’. In the original language, those words are, ‘Do not become wise in yourselves.’ So Paul urges the *Gentile Christians to trust God’s wisdom and to believe God’s plan. Many *Jews who do not believe might behave like enemies. But Christians must love the *Jews as friends, because God loves them (verse 28). And God wants Christians to impress the *Jews by means of their (the Christians’) love for God. Then the *Jews too will want to receive God’s kindness (verse 31). And that is God’s plan to *save the *Jews (verse 26). Paul says that the *Jews will not always oppose God. When the full number of *Gentiles has come into the *kingdom, God will *save all *Israel. In other words, he will *save all the *Jews that remain (Zechariah 13:8-9). Paul uses words from Isaiah to support this idea. He uses the *Greek translation (called the Septuagint). Isaiah 59:20 says, ‘The *Saviour will come from *Zion (Jerusalem).’ This may refer to the time when Jesus came. *Zion was the place from which the *gospel came. But God only *saved the first of the *Jews at that time (Romans 11:16). His future plan is for those *Jews that remain. And he will bring about his plan when *Christ returns.
So Paul was thinking also about the second time that *Christ will come. God will take away the *sin of *Israel then (Isaiah 27:9). The *prophet Jeremiah said that God had promised a new *covenant (31:33-34). People will want to obey God, because he has taken away their *sins. At the last supper, Jesus spoke about this new *covenant. His death would be the beginning of the new *covenant. God’s promise would become true (Matthew 26:28). People start to receive the benefit of this *covenant when they invite *Christ into their lives. So the *Jews will also receive the benefit of this same *covenant. They will know God’s kindness because of *Christ.
Verses 28-29 Because of unbelief, many *Jews opposed the first Christians. Those *Jews acted as if they were enemies. But God loved the *Jews. God had chosen them to be his people. He would never forget the promise of *blessing that he had made to their *ancestors. God is not like people. He brings about the things that he promised (Numbers 23:19).
Verses 30-31 In the past, the *Gentiles did not obey God. Now, because the *Jews had not obeyed him, the *Gentiles receive God’s *mercy. As the result of God’s *mercy to the *Gentiles, the *Jews themselves will receive God’s *mercy.
Verse 32 Paul has shown that there is no difference between *Jews and *Gentiles. They all have *sinned (Romans 3:9). They all can receive God’s *salvation (Romans 10:12-13). Now Paul adds that all people are like prisoners. They are like prisoners because they are unable to obey God. Until they receive God’s *salvation, *sin controls their lives. The *scripture says that the whole world is like a prisoner. This is because *sin controls everybody in the world (Galatians 3:22). There is only one way out of this prison. God’s *mercy can make free everyone who trusts him.
Paul has explained the *gospel in the first 11 chapters of his letter. He has written about God’s great plan for both *Jews and *Gentiles. He has written about God’s great love, which people can never deserve. So he ends this part of his letter with a song to praise God.
Verse 33 Paul’s praises two things: God’s wisdom and his decisions. It is impossible for a person to understand God’s ways. The word ‘wonderful’ shows that God’s wisdom is far greater than the wisest thoughts of any wise person. His judgements are better than the judgements of the wisest human judge. A human judge might know about a person’s actions. But only God understands that person perfectly. God knows the real reasons for an action. God can *judge thoughts as well as actions.
Verse 34 Paul uses Isaiah 40:13. The two statements remind us that ‘God’s ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts’ (Isaiah 55:8).
Verses 35-36 In verse 35, Paul refers to God’s words in Job 41:11. God cannot owe us anything. Whatever we might give to him has come from him. David realised this: ‘Everything comes from you. We have given to you only what comes from you’ (1 Chronicles 29:14). God created everything. God spoke, and the world and everything in it started to exist. Everything was for God. So he was the beginning, and he will be the end. *Glory belongs to God alone. People should not be proud. They should not behave as if they do not need God. So Paul prays that people will always praise God. They should praise him because of who he is. And they should praise him because of what he has done.
Paul has explained the *gospel. Now he gives practical advice. He describes how a Christian should live in the world. He gives advice about attitudes. A Christian should behave well towards other Christians and towards his enemies. Paul deals with the relationship of the Christian to the state and its laws. He writes about responsibilities. A Christian has a responsibility to people whose *faith is weak. Finally, he writes about himself. He writes about his work as an *apostle and his plans. And he requests prayer (15:14-33).
Verse 1 Paul appeals to all the Christians in Rome. God has shown his great love to them all. So they should be grateful. If they have the right attitude to God, then they will think rightly about themselves. This will make a difference to their *relationships with other people. Paul uses the idea of a priest who offers a *sacrifice. The *sacrifice had to be a perfect animal. Then it would please God (Leviticus 1:3, 9).
Christians must offer their bodies as a *sacrifice to God. Paul is not writing about death here. He is explaining how Christians should live their lives in this world. They should try to use every part of their bodies in a manner that pleases God. They will use their feet. They will go where God wants them to go. They will use their hands to give practical help to other people. With their ears, they will listen to other people’s problems. With their mouths, they will speak to encourage other people and to tell them the good news about *Christ. The right use of the body will be like the perfect *sacrifice that pleased God. Their *worship would not just be a ceremony. This is the right kind of *worship. It is *spiritual. It is the *worship that God asks for.
Verse 2 Christians must also change the way that they think. The word ‘change’ is the same word that describes the change in Jesus’ body. Jesus changed when he showed his *glory to the three *apostles (Mark 9:2). It is easy for people to copy what other people do. But Christians should not copy everything that people in the world do. Christians belong to God’s world. So they should behave in a different way from people who are not Christians.
What Christians think will affect what they do. Christians will think differently about the use of money. Christians will remember that money belongs to God. So they will try not to waste it or to use it selfishly. They will have a different opinion about sex. They will make careful choices about what they read. They will select carefully what they watch on television. The *Holy Spirit will guide Christians as they try to please God. They will want to obey God, so that they can ‘reflect the *Lord’s *glory. Then they will continue to change and to be like him’ (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Verse 3 Paul uses the words, ‘I say to you.’ Often Jesus began an important statement with similar words (for example, John 3:3). God had shown his *grace to Paul, so that he had become an *apostle. So he speaks with authority. He tells Christians to think properly about their skills. They must not be proud. They must not think that they are better than other people. The standard by which they must *judge themselves is the standard of the *faith. That *faith means to trust in *Christ. He lived and died for them. When they think about *Christ’s action they will be humble.
Verses 4-5 Paul talks about the human body. All the different parts of a body are necessary. In the same way, all members of a Christian church should work together. Then the church can work properly. The people may have a variety of skills. But each skill is necessary for the purpose of God’s work in that church.
Verses 6-8 Christians should be humble because their skills come from God. Then Paul gives 7 examples of special skills that Christians should use. He mentions other special skills in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and in Ephesians chapter 4.
1. *Prophecy. A Christian might receive a message from God. That Christian would give this message to the local church. But he must only give such a message if he has *faith. In other words, he must trust God that the message comes from God. Christians must not give *prophecies that do not come from God. So any *prophecy must agree with the Bible’s message.
2. To serve. The *Greek word is ‘diakonia’. It can mean various activities. The *apostles were ‘serving’ when they *preached (Acts 6:4). And the same word describes the work of the 7 *disciples who gave food to poor widows (see Acts 6:2-3). So a person should use whatever skills he has in order to serve other people.
3. To teach. After people become Christians, they need to learn about the meaning of their *faith in their daily life. Someone must teach them.
4. To encourage. This has two meanings: a) to persuade with strong words. A *preacher can do this. b) to comfort and give courage. Barnabas is an example of this meaning. He was well-known among the first Christians because of the way that he encouraged people (Acts 4:36-37; Acts 9:27).
5. To give. If we share our possessions, money or time with other people, we should do so in a generous way. We should enjoy ourselves as we give to other people.
6. To lead other people. Church leaders should carry out their responsibilities eagerly.
7. To show kindness. This can mean a) to forgive people who have offended us or b) to give help wherever anyone needs help. The good Samaritan was a man from Samaria whom Jesus spoke about. We can read this story in Luke chapter 10. This Samaritan had *mercy on a traveller who was hurting. The Samaritan delayed his own journey in order to help the man. And the Samaritan even paid so that the man could stay at a house (Luke 10:30-37).
Christians are like a family. So we should love each other. The *Greek word for this kind of love is ‘agape’. This is the love that God has for us. So this love benefits everyone. Paul gives a list of brief rules. Christians should do these things. Their actions will show that their love is real. There are 12 different rules.
1. Love must be sincere. The word ‘sincere’ is a translation of the *Greek word. It means that a person is not pretending. People used that *Greek word to describe an actor in a play. The actor hid his real character behind a mask (cover) on his face. Christians must not be like actors. They must not merely pretend to love each other.
2. Hate everything that is evil. Love everything that is good. *Sin should disgust us.
Sometimes people do not hate their *sin. They only hate the thought that someone will discover their *sin. They are afraid. Someone may find out what they have done. Such an attitude is not right. A Christian should confess his *sin to God. And that Christian should pray for God’s help, so that he does not *sin in the same manner again. Instead, that Christian should try to do the things that please God. Christians must desire greatly to love all good things.
3. Love other Christians, like *brothers and *sisters. Paul uses words that describe the good feelings between relatives in a human family. Christians form a *spiritual family. So Christians should show the same kind of love to other Christians. They should look after each other like sisters and brothers.
4. Christians must give honour to other people. Christians should not insist on their rights. In other words, they should not always argue for their own benefit. They should not want thanks and honour for themselves. They should be humble and they should give honour to other people.
5. Christians must work hard in their service for the *Lord. With the *Lord’s help, Christians are opposing *sin and the devil, so they must not be lazy. They must use all their energy in the battle on God’s side.
6. Hope, patience and prayer. A Christian can eagerly expect his future *glory with the *Lord. But he needs to be patient when he suffers in the present. He must continue to pray on behalf of himself and other people as they all wait for the *Lord’s return.
7. Share with people who are poor. In the first church in Jerusalem, the Christians gave to anyone who needed help (Acts 2:44-45). The Christians in Antioch sent gifts to Jerusalem when there was not enough food for the Christians there (Acts 11:29-30). We often read in the *New Testament about such gifts. And Christians should continue to act in the same manner today.
8. Invite other people to stay in your home. In Paul’s time, there were not many places where travellers could stay. Travellers often had to sleep in unsafe places. So Christians should invite travellers into their homes. The writer to the Hebrews said, ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers. Some people did this. And they did not even know that *angels were their guests’ (Hebrews 13:2).
9. Bless those who insult you. Pray for those who attack you. Be kind to them. Do not speak bad things to them. Paul was saying the same words as Jesus (Luke 6:27-28). To bless and to pray for enemies is the evidence of Christian love.
10. Sympathise with other people. Christians should share other people’s joys and pains. Christians should care about other people. And Christians should look after other people.
11. Christians should live in agreement with each other. This does not mean that they must always have the same opinions. But they should work together with the same purpose. They all should serve *Christ. Paul told the Christians at Philippi to have ‘the same love and to be united in spirit and purpose’ (Philippians 2:2). If they do this, their work is more likely to be successful.
12. Christians must not *judge other people by their wealth or by their important position in society. They must not be too proud to be friendly with poor people. Christians should be friendly with people whom the world considers unimportant. Jesus was not afraid to be in the company of those whom other people did not approve of. James said that a poor person might not receive the same welcome at a meeting as a wealthy person. This was wrong because they were Christian *brothers and *sisters (James 2:1-4).
Paul had been a witness of Stephen’s death. At that time, Paul was among Stephen’s enemies. But Stephen prayed for the people who were killing him (Acts 7:60). Stephen asked God to forgive them. Paul also knew Jesus’ words from the *cross (Luke 23:34). He knew what Jesus taught about enemies (Matthew 5:38-48). So Paul urges Christians not to behave wrongly. Even when someone hurts a Christian, the Christian must not hurt that person.
Verses 17-18 Christians must refuse to do what is wrong. But they must also show that their actions are good. They must do everything possible to encourage *peace. It may not be possible always to live in a quiet manner. Enemies may oppose Christians, even when the Christians are behaving well. And sometimes it is right for Christians to protest against wicked acts. Especially, a Christian should protest if other people are suffering rather than himself. But the Christian must do everything possible to avoid quarrels.
Verses 19-21 A Christian must not attack back when someone has hurt him. Paul gives three reasons why.
1. Only God has the right to punish actions. Paul uses words from Deuteronomy 32:35. In the present, human law courts have the responsibility to show God’s *wrath (Romans 13:4). In the end, God himself will show his fair judgement (Romans 2:5).
2. If an enemy receives kindness, he may be sorry for his actions. He may change his ways. Paul uses words from Proverbs 25:21-22. ‘Hot coals’ means that the enemy will be very ashamed.
3. A Christian must not hate someone who hates him. Such behaviour only makes the situation worse. And a Christian who hates is not behaving in the proper manner. A Christian should show love, not hate. The enemy will have succeeded if the Christian starts to behave in a wicked manner. Evil deeds cannot defeat someone who is evil. Instead, Christians overcome evil powers when they do the right things. They do the things that God wants them to do. And that is the only way to defeat *sin.
Paul may have had several reasons to write about Christians’ duty to the state.
1. The *Jews hated to pay taxes to the *Romans who had occupied their country. Some *Jews felt very angry that the *Romans were in their country. Those *Jews would attack the *Romans wherever they could. Possibly some *Jewish Christians also had the same thoughts about the *Romans. The *Romans had considered that Christians belonged to the *Jewish religion. But Paul was teaching the Christians not to oppose the government.
2. Paul believed that the state existed to protect its citizens against attack and crime. The state punished people who did wrong acts. And it rewarded people who did right acts. Paul himself had received protection from angry *Jews (Acts 18:12-16).
3. The state gives benefits, which its citizens enjoy. Paul was able to travel on good *Roman roads on his journeys to *preach the *gospel.
4. Those who govern are God’s servants (Daniel 4:17).
A few years after Paul wrote this letter, the *Roman government began to fight against the Christians. The *Romans were very cruel and the Christians suffered greatly. Many Christians died during those troubles. The Christians who lived in Rome suffered especially.
But although the *Romans attacked the Christians, the Christians did not fight back. Jesus had explained how they should behave in such situations (Luke 21:12-19). Paul does not mention such troubles here. But in fact, he was teaching them about the same subjects.
Paul told the Christians to respect and to obey the rulers. Christians should try to be ideal citizens. They should pay the taxes and they should obey the law. They should even consider their rulers to be God’s agents on earth.
The Christians in Rome followed this advice. And they continued to do so even when the *Romans attacked them. Of course, the Christians could not obey the *Roman laws that ordered them to serve false gods. And the Christians did not obey laws that ordered them to insult *Christ. And they did not obey when rulers ordered them not to tell people about Christ. But the Christians obeyed all the other laws. They obeyed all the laws that did not oppose the Christian *faith.
The result was that their confidence in God impressed everyone. It is true that those Christians suffered in the most awful manner. But God helped them to be noble and brave. Even while they were dying, they continued to speak about God’s goodness. They were not afraid to die because they were glad to go to a better home, in heaven.
Many people who saw their attitudes wanted to become Christians too. The *Romans thought they could destroy the Christian *faith. But in fact, the numbers of Christians in Rome actually increased. Three centuries afterwards, the *Roman government decided that the Christian religion would become their official religion.
Verses 1-2 Christians should obey the rulers to whom God has given power. To oppose people who have authority is to oppose God. But, if a powerful ruler or state does something wicked, Christians do not have to agree with it. Paul does not mean that. Jesus said that we must pay taxes to our rulers. But we must also give to God everything that belongs to him (Mark 12:17). When Christians have to choose between these two duties, they must ‘obey God rather than men’. Peter said this when the *Jewish authorities told the *apostles not to speak about Jesus (Acts 4:18-20). Daniel was also unable to obey a law. He risked his life. He continued to pray to God when the king told him not to (Daniel 6:10).
Verses 3-4 Rulers have a duty to punish people who are wicked. Good citizens have no reason to be afraid of them. People who do wrong acts must expect the rulers to punish them. So they have reason to be afraid. A sword was the sign of a judge’s power over life and death. He carried it himself or someone carried the sword in front of him. It showed that he had real power to punish people.
Verse 5 Christians must obey the rulers for a better reason than the fear of punishment. Their conscience should tell them that it is the right thing to do.
Verses 6-7 Because the *Romans were the rulers, the *Jews had to pay taxes to them. They had to pay a tax on their grain, wine and fruit. Each person between the ages of 14 and 65 had to pay a personal tax. There was also a tax on income. In addition to these, people had to pay local taxes. There were customs taxes on the import and export of goods. There were taxes to use roads, markets and harbours. Paul believed that Christians must pay all these taxes to the state and to the local government. In this verse, he uses a word for ‘servants’ that can also mean a priest. Officials are doing a public service and Christians should respect them.
Verse 8 Paul has spoken about a Christian’s debt to the state. Now he says that Christians should be careful to pay their personal debts. The duty to love other people is like a debt. But Christians always have that duty. It is not like a debt that someone can pay off. Christians should always love other people.
Verses 9-10 Paul mentions the 5 *commandments that deal with *relationships in human society. He does not mention them in the same order as in Exodus 20:13-17. Some *manuscripts include (in verse 9), ‘You must not tell lies about other people.’ The *sin of *adultery ruins families. But a person who loves does not want to spoil anyone’s life. People may steal, or they may be jealous. But the person who loves does not rob anyone. And the person who loves is not jealous. In fact, the person who loves wants to give to other people. Jesus said about the law, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ It was one of only two laws that were necessary (Matthew 22:37-39). Paul repeated those words in his letter to the Galatians (Galatians 5:14). He urged the Christians to ‘serve each other in love’. If Christians show real love for other people, they are obeying the law completely.
Verses 11-12 Paul describes someone who is asleep. This person needs to wake up in order to dress for a very important occasion. Christians should realise that *Christ will return soon. They must eagerly expect that time because then they will receive their new *resurrection bodies. Their *salvation will be complete. Nobody knows when *Christ will return (Matthew 24:36). So everyone must be like servants whose master has gone on a journey. Until the master returns, the servants must carry out their duties *faithfully (Matthew 24:45-50).
Paul tells the Christians to think about how people should behave during the day. When the night has ended, people should wake up in order to work. In the same manner, Christians should not be lazy as they wait for *Christ to return. God has given them important duties to carry out.
Paul compares the work of Christians to the work of soldiers. A soldier cannot behave in the manner that he himself would choose. He must be loyal and he must obey his captain. Christians too cannot behave in any manner that they themselves might prefer. Instead, they must behave in the manner that pleases God. Soldiers need to put on special clothes for a battle. Those clothes will protect them as they fight. And Christians too need to prepare in a special way to do God’s work (verse 14; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Ephesians 6:11-18).
When Paul writes about the ‘dark night’, he is thinking about the power of the devil and the power of *sin. John used a similar description in John 1:5. (Job 24:13-17 explains this idea. Many evil people would wait until nightfall before they carried out their wicked schemes. For example, most thieves prefer to steal by night. They are afraid of daylight, because people may recognise them.) But Paul writes that the dark night is nearly over. So the opportunity for people to do evil things is nearly over. *Christ defeated the power of *sin and the devil when he died for us. And our *salvation will be complete when he returns.
Verses 13-14 When St. Augustine read these verses, they changed him. He became a Christian and he began a new life. Paul writes a list in verse 13 to show how people should not behave. He mentions some evil activities that often happen by night. People have parties where they are greedy. They drink so much alcohol that they cannot even control their own behaviour. They have sex with the wrong people and in the wrong manner (Romans 1:26-27). They argue. They are jealous.
People do such things by night. Then they feel sorry when the next day begins. They feel ill because they ate too much. They are ashamed because the alcohol caused them to do stupid things. They have upset their husbands or wives. They have made their friends angry.
But Christians should not do such things. It is as if those activities belong to the night. But Christians do not belong to the night, if ‘the night’ means *sin and the devil. Christians belong to *Christ. ‘The day when *Christ will return is almost here’ (verse 12).
So Christians must always choose right behaviour. They must live in the manner that pleases God. They must live as *Christ wants them to live. They must not even think about things that would satisfy their *sinful human desires.
There were many disagreements between the Christians in Rome. The Christians could not agree whether they should be obeying the *Jewish laws.
Paul has already discussed this subject in this letter. He explains that God gave the law. But the law could not make people *righteous (Romans 3:20). The purpose of the law was to show people that everyone has *sinned (Romans 7:7). Nobody can become *righteous by means of their own efforts (Romans 10:3). Only *Christ, by his death, makes people *righteous (Romans 5:8-9).
Christians should allow God’s *Holy Spirit to rule their lives (Romans 8:4). Then they will be living in a manner that pleases God. So the *Jewish law does not control their lives. Instead, the *Holy Spirit controls their lives. But this is not the opposite of the law (Romans 3:31; Romans 13:10). In fact, such people are living in the manner that God always wanted people to live.
God did not give the law so that people could obey lots of rules! Rather, he wanted people to realise that they need to trust him completely. In other words, without *faith in God, it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6).
Paul wanted the Christians in Rome to love each other. He did not want them to argue about rules and customs. He knew that some Christians only had a little *faith. He asked the Christians whose *faith was stronger to encourage those people.
For example, some Christians thought that it was still necessary to obey certain food laws. They thought that they must be careful to keep special *holy days. Those Christians were ‘weak in the *faith’. They had not discovered the real meaning of Christian freedom. They were worried that certain practices were still necessary.
Paul considered that he and other Christians were ‘strong’ (Romans 15:1). Paul did not believe that the *Jewish law ruled him. He had the freedom that God’s *Holy Spirit gives. So Paul was free to decide what he should eat. And he did not make any distinction between days. But Paul was very careful about how he used this freedom. He chose to obey the *Jewish law so that he did not offend *Jewish people (1 Corinthians 9:20; Acts 16:3). And Paul would not use his freedom in a manner that might cause another Christian to *sin (verse 21).
Paul did not hesitate to accuse people who denied the essential beliefs of the Christian *faith. But when people have different opinions about certain actions, the ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ Christians should respect each other. In things that are not essential to the *faith, a Christian must be free to obey his own conscience. Martin Luther said, ‘A Christian is a most free *lord of all (in other words, a free citizen), under no other person.’
Verses 1-4 ‘Accept’ means ‘give a welcome’. So people in the church should be kind to a Christian whose *faith is weak. Nobody should *judge him just because he has a different opinion. A Christian might decide to eat only vegetables. Many people did not prepare meat in the proper *Jewish way. So a Christian might not eat any meat. But that person should not argue with someone who eats meat. The first man should not think that the second man is not true to the *faith. Some people feel free to eat whatever they choose. But they must not think that the ‘weak’ Christian is stupid. Paul gives two reasons in these verses why they must accept the weak Christian:
1. God has accepted him (verse 3).
2. That Christian is *Christ’s servant. Only *Christ, his master, can decide whether he is a loyal Christian.
Verses 5-6 The ‘weak’ Christians wanted to have some special holy days in the calendar. For example, the new moon or the *Sabbath (Colossians 2:16). It is not wrong to have special days for rest, prayer and *worship. But Paul believed that every day is special. It is a gift of time from God and it is an opportunity to serve him.
Some people eat whatever they like. Then they thank God. Other people eat only what their conscience allows them. But they also thank God for their food. So all these people are giving honour to God. Everyone must be sure that he does right things. ‘Whatever you choose to eat or to drink, do it all for the *glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Verses 7-8 Each Christian’s life affects other Christians. He should feel responsible towards them. He should not only think about himself.
Verses 9-12 *Christ died and came back to life. So he is *Lord of people who are dead. And he is *Lord of people who are alive. He is the *Lord of everyone. So the ‘weak’ Christian is also a servant of *Christ (verse 4). So the ‘strong’ Christian should not accuse the ‘weak’ Christian. Everyone will have to appear in front of God for judgement. Paul uses words from Isaiah 45:23. In Philippians (2:10-11) Paul shows that everyone will have to respect Jesus as *Lord. Here the words remind Christians that we are all responsible to God. We must be careful to help those Christians whose *faith is weak. We should not hurt them by our unkind words. Instead, we should love each other.
Verses 13-15 Paul urges the ‘strong’ Christians to think about their actions. These actions will affect their Christian *brothers and *sisters. Some Christians thought that to eat meat is wrong. Some Christians thought that they ought to obey the *Jewish food laws. They thought that some food was unclean (not acceptable for Christians to eat). Jesus had shown that all food was clean (acceptable) – Mark 7:19. Paul himself, as a Christian, felt free to eat any kind of food. But one Christian’s freedom to act might hurt another Christian’s conscience. To respect another Christian’s conscience in situations like this would be to show him love. A good reason to show him love is that *Christ died on his behalf. Every person is valuable to *Christ.
However, if someone forced that ‘weak’ Christian not to obey his conscience, that Christian’s *faith would become even weaker. His *faith was already weak (verse 1). So other Christians ought to encourage that person. They ought to care about him, because God loves him.
Verses 16-18 Christians must not cause trouble for someone else because of their own personal opinion. They must not think that food and drink are more important than God’s *kingdom. To be a member of God’s *kingdom is not about food and drink. It is to be in a right *relationship with God. Then the *Holy Spirit will give a person *peace in himself. He will give a Christian the power to have a calm and content *relationship with other people. A Christian will show sympathy for another person’s opinion. A Christian will have joy when he makes other people glad.
Verses 19-23 Paul includes himself by the word ‘us’. Christians must do everything possible to make the Christian *faith strong. A Christian must not do anything that will cause another Christian to *sin. Paul mentions ‘wine’ as well as meat. Many Christians feel free to drink a little wine on social occasions. But some believe that they should not drink wine.
Christians do not have to tell everyone their opinions about such matters. But they should always obey their own conscience. To act against one’s conscience is a *sin. That is because a Christian must always act in *faith. In other words, a Christian must trust God completely. Without *faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Verses 1-3 People with a strong *faith should support those whose *faith is weak. Paul includes himself with the ‘strong’ when he says ‘we’. We should encourage other people. Paul did not mean that we should praise a person in an untrue way. And we should not encourage that person to continue his wrong acts. Instead, we should always act to help him and to encourage his *faith to grow. *Christ did not please himself. Paul uses words from Psalm 69:9. *Christ suffered because he was serving God. The insults that people gave to God came to *Christ.
Verses 4-6 Because he has used words from the *Old Testament, Paul speaks about the purpose of the *scriptures. The study of the *scriptures will show how God has acted in the past to rescue his people. So the *scriptures will encourage Christians. The *Old Testament speaks about God’s *faithful love. And it promises to Christians ‘a future and a hope’ (Jeremiah 29:11). The hope that God gives will never disappoint us. Paul prays that, with the help of God, Christians may live in agreement with each other. If the Christians do not argue, their church will be strong. Together, they will be able to declare the *gospel in a powerful manner. And they will bring *glory to God.
Verse 7 Paul repeats his command to give a welcome to other Christians (14:1). *Christ has given a welcome to them. So Christians should give a welcome to other Christians. When Christians show their love for each other, God will receive honour.
Verses 8-9 *Christ became a servant for two reasons:
1. His life showed that we can trust God. God had do the things that he promised to *Christ’s *Jewish *ancestors. Zechariah, in his song of praise, remembered God’s promises. God told Abraham that he (God) would show his kindness to his (Abraham’s) *descendants (Luke 1:73-75).
2. The *Gentiles would receive God’s *mercy.
Paul then uses a series of verses from all three parts of the *Jewish *Old Testament: the Law, the *Prophets and the other books. Paul is showing how the *Old Testament teaches about God’s plan for the *Gentiles. The *Gentiles would praise God because God has been kind to them. (Paul was using the *Greek translation of the *Old Testament, called the ‘Septuagint’. Paul himself would also be familiar with the original *Hebrew passages. Perhaps he used the Septuagint so that the *Gentiles would understand the words.) In Psalm 18:49, David, the king of *Israel, says that he will praise God among the *Gentiles.
Verse 10 This comes from the Song of Moses in the book of the law. It is Deuteronomy 32:43.
Verse 11 The writer of Psalm 117 declares that people from all nations should praise God because of his love and *faithfulness.
Verse 12 Jesse was the father of David. The *Messiah came from the family of David. The *Messiah would rule the nations, who would learn to trust him (Isaiah 11:10).
Verse 13 Paul has spoken about the hope of the *Gentiles in verse 12. So he speaks about the God who brings hope. *Faith brings joy and *peace. Paul had already spoken about joy and *peace as evidence of those who belong to God’s *kingdom (14:17). He prays that Christians will know that joy and *peace completely. The *Holy Spirit will give hope to them. And that hope will encourage their Christian life.
The hope that God gives will not disappoint. Christians eagerly expect the time when *Christ will return. He will then complete their *salvation when he will give to them a *resurrection body and a new life in heaven. ‘We wait for the wonderful things that we hope for. We wait for our great God and *Saviour, Jesus *Christ’ to appear in his *glory (Titus 2:13).
Verses 14-16 Paul calls the Christians in Rome his *brothers. He then shows that he appreciates their good qualities. He praises them in a fond manner. He feels confident that they will understand his letter. They seem well able to teach the *gospel. And they will warn those people who are doing wrong things.
In fact, Paul’s words may seem to praise the Christians in Rome a little too much. But Paul did not want to offend them. Paul had not even visited their church yet, but he had written to them in a bold way. He wondered whether he had upset them. He explained that he wrote this letter to remind them about important matters in the Christian *faith. People are quick to forget. So there are many references in the *New Testament about the need to remember. For example, 1 Corinthians 15:1; 2 Peter 1:12.
Paul describes how God had made him a servant to the *Gentiles. Paul uses words which describe the *worship in the *temple. There a priest would offer a *sacrifice that pleased God. Paul considered himself as a priest who was offering a gift. The *Gentiles were like the gift that the *Holy Spirit made favourable to God. God’s law did not allow *Gentiles to enter the inner *Temple. But the *gospel changed their situation. Now the *Gentiles would have a real *relationship with God. And God’s *Holy Spirit would make them *holy.
Verses 17-19 Paul considers that he has received a great honour. God has used Paul to bring the *Gentiles into God’s *kingdom. This honour comes only because *Christ is working by means of Paul. Paul is speaking on behalf of *Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). By Paul’s words and actions, he has declared the Christian message. The *Holy Spirit gave Paul the power to do ‘signs and *miracles’. These showed that he was a genuine *apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12). For example, Paul ordered a man in Lystra to stand up. This man had a problem with his feet. He had never been able to walk. But when Paul ordered the man to stand, God cured the man. The man stood on his feet, and he walked (Acts 14:8-10). And God did many other *miracles when Paul prayed. For example, by Paul, God had cured many people in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-12).
Paul had finished his work in the east Mediterranean area. He had declared the Christian message across the whole region. From Jerusalem to Illyricum, he had established Christian churches in all the important towns and cities. Illyricum includes parts of Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and Croatia, today.
Verses 20-22 Paul did not want to continue the work that other people had started. This was because Paul did not want to interrupt anyone else’s work. So Paul was like a farmer who plants seed. Or, he was like a builder who lays a good foundation (base for a building) – 1 Corinthians 3:6-10. He wanted to *preach the *gospel to people who had not heard it before. Paul uses words from Isaiah 52:15 that describe the work of God’s servant. *Christ was making these words true by means of Paul.
At the beginning of his letter, Paul said that he had decided to visit Rome on many occasions. But he had not been able to do so (Romans 1:13). He did not explain what had prevented him. But now he explains the reason. It was important for him to finish his work in the east part of the *Roman world (that is, in the regions that the *Romans ruled in the east).
Verses 23-24 Paul wanted to go to Spain. He hoped to *preach the *gospel ‘in the regions beyond’ Corinth (2 Corinthians 10:16). Spain, at the western end of Europe, was part of the *Roman *kingdom. It was an important place for trade. There were famous writers whom Paul perhaps could persuade to believe the *gospel message. Seneca, who became the *Emperor Nero’s chief minister, was from Spain.
We do not know whether Paul actually reached Spain. However, we know that Paul reached Rome as a prisoner (Acts 28:14-16). He may have gained his freedom after two years of house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:30). (‘House arrest’ means that he lived as a prisoner in his own home.) Afterwards, Paul may have gone to Spain and worked there. However, we know that the *Romans killed Paul at some time during the rule of the *Emperor Nero.
In the immediate future, Paul made plans to go to Jerusalem. He had urged the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (north and south Greece) to give some money to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Paul spoke about this Christian aid in 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:1-14. The Christians in Jerusalem may have been poor because of a lack of food in the region. Agabus gave a *prophecy about such an event (Acts 11:28). Or perhaps the poor Christians had no work. Perhaps they had lost their jobs when they became Christians.
There were several reasons why Paul wanted the *Gentile churches to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem:
1. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem had agreed that Paul would work among the *Gentiles. But they asked that he and Barnabas should continue to help poor people (Galatians 2:9-10).
2. Paul thought that the *Gentiles had a debt to the *Jews. *Jews had *preached the *gospel to them. The *Gentiles had received *spiritual *blessings when they heard it. Now the *Jews were poor and they needed help. So it was right that the *Gentiles should help to provide for the *Jews.
3. The gift would help to unite *Jewish and *Gentile Christians. It would remind them both that they were part of a world-wide church.
4. It would show that Christians had a practical *faith. Christians were aware of other people’s problems and they acted to help them.
Paul wanted to go with the Christians from the different churches (Acts 20:4). They would hand over the gift in Jerusalem. When Paul had done this, he intended to travel to Rome on his way to Spain. Probably he thought that Rome would be a useful place for his work. There were good roads from Rome to many other important cities. And there was already a large church in Rome. Paul hoped that the Christians in Rome would help him on his journey. He did not intend to stay in Rome for a long time.
Verses 30-31 Paul knew that there was danger for him in Jerusalem. The Christians in Caesarea had tried to stop him so that he would not go. But he refused to change his plans (Acts 21:10-14). He needed prayer for two reasons:
1. He knew that the *Jews in Jerusalem would oppose him. Years before, he himself opposed the Christian *faith strongly. Then, after Paul became a Christian, he had spoken in Jerusalem about his new *faith. People had plotted to kill him. So Paul had left Jerusalem and he had returned to Tarsus (Acts 9:28-30).
2. He was not sure how the *Jews would accept the gift from the *Gentile churches. Some *Jewish Christians may have been unhappy about this gift. Paul had taught the *Gentile Christians that they did not have to obey the *Jewish laws. And those *Jewish Christians considered their law to be very important. So they might refuse the gift because Paul was bringing it.
Paul asked for prayer because they all belonged to the same *Lord Jesus *Christ. They had the *Holy Spirit, who gave them love for each other.
Verse 32 Paul prayed that he would reach Rome. But he said, ‘if God wants’. He had said this at the beginning of his letter (1:10). Prayer helps us to agree with God’s purposes. If he did reach Rome, Paul and the Christians in Rome would be a help to each other.
We think that the *Jewish Christians accepted the gift. Luke does not mention it when he describes Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem. But Luke records what Paul told the ruler called Felix. Paul said that he had returned to Jerusalem to bring gifts to help poor people (Acts 24:17).
Paul’s prayer for safety had a different answer. The *Jews in Jerusalem caused trouble for him. The *Romans had to rescue him. But the *Romans did not free him. Instead, they kept him in prison. They later sent him to Caesarea because of a plot to kill him. After a series of court meetings, and more than two years in prison, he appealed to the *Emperor. So Paul went to Rome as a prisoner. Instead of a brief stay, he spent two years there. He was under house arrest. In other words, he lived in his own home, but a *Roman soldier did not allow him to leave. But he was able to receive visitors. Also he *preached to his *Roman guards (Acts 28:16-31).
Verse 33 Paul blesses the Christians in Rome. He prays that God will cause them to be calm and content.
Sometimes a church leader may seem very strict when he *preaches. There are some very serious matters in the *scriptures. And Paul’s letters might also seem very severe if we did not know about his character.
Paul really cared about people. Especially, he cared about the Christians whom he worked with (2 Corinthians 11:28-29). He genuinely loved them (2 Corinthians 11:11). We can see this at the end of his letters. He asks the person who receives each letter to greet certain people on his behalf. He remembers people who have been kind to him in the past. He recommends church leaders whom he approves of. He gives advice to some people. He asks the Christians to encourage some other people. Occasionally he has to warn the church about someone.
Many of these greetings are very personal. They show us much about Paul’s attitudes. They refer to events that we would otherwise know nothing about. They inform us about the problems in the first Christian churches.
These greetings are still valuable for us to read. They remind us today about the love that Christians should have for each other. And the words of advice that they contain are still helpful today.
Verses 1-2 Letters of introduction were common in *Roman society. Paul introduces Phoebe to the Christians in Rome. Probably she was going to Rome on business for herself. It is very likely that she was delivering Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome. Cenchreae was the east port of Corinth. The *Greek word for ‘servant’ is ‘diakonos’. This word may mean that Phoebe had official responsibility as a leader in the church. This woman had used her wealth to support the work of the Christian church. She also encouraged Paul. So Paul asked the Christians in Rome to give her a warm welcome. They should assist her in any way that she needed.
Some people say that this list of 26 names is too long. Paul could not have known all these Christians in a city that he had never visited. He even calls some of them his ‘dear friend’. But Paul had worked in Ephesus for more than two years. It is possible that Paul sent a copy of this letter to Ephesus. If so, he may have attached chapter 16 with its greetings. Aquila and Priscilla (verses 3-5) were in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. Christians met in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19). Paul also sent them his greetings when they were still in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19). Epenetus (verse 5) probably became a Christian in Ephesus, which was the capital of the region called Asia. Perhaps it was by the work of Aquila and Priscilla. He is next to them on Paul’s list of greetings.
Other people disagree. They are confident that all these Christians were living in Rome. They mention these facts and possibilities:
1. Paul did not send many personal greetings to churches that he knew well. If he was greeting Christians in Ephesus, he would have known more than 26 people. He would not want to upset anyone whom he forgot to name.
2. Aquila and Priscilla had lived in Rome until Claudius ordered the *Jews to leave in 49 *A.D.. They had moved to Corinth, where Paul had worked with them. Then they went on to Ephesus. They may have risked their lives to protect Paul there. Claudius died in 54 *A.D.. So it is likely that Aquila and Priscilla were then able to return to Rome. Other *Jews may have gone back to Rome from the cities where they had met Paul. Christians would also travel to Rome on business.
3. Rufus (verse 13) may have been the son of Simon from Cyrene. Mark mentions him as a well-known person (Mark 15:21). And many people think that Mark wrote his *gospel for the church in Rome.
4. The words on graves in Rome show that there were other Christian *households in Rome.
5. Rome was not an ordinary city. We know that many people, including *Jews and Christians, travelled to Rome. And they lived and worked there. So Paul might have known all these people before they lived in Rome.
6. Parchment (the type of paper that people used for letters) was expensive. Paul would not want to waste it. He had completed his explanation of the subjects that were the main reasons for his letter. But perhaps some parchment still remained. And Paul really cared about his Christian *brothers and sisters. So he wanted to greet each of them by name.
Paul mentions a woman called Mary. We know nothing about this particular woman except her hard work.
Verse 7 Junias is probably a female name, Junia. So Andronicus and Junia may have been a married couple. They were Christians before Paul, so they are probably before the time of Stephen. They were members of the first church in Jerusalem. They are ‘among the *apostles’. So, like other people, they may have seen *Christ when he came back to life (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Verse 8 ‘Ampliatus’ was a common name for a slave. But there is a splendid grave in the Christian catacombs (ancient underground graves) in Rome. It has the name Ampliatus on it. So he was probably a Christian whom people thought well of in the church.
Verse 9 ‘Urbanus’ means someone who belongs to the city. It was a common name for someone who lived in Rome.
Verse 10 Aristobulus was a grandson of Herod the Great. He lived privately in Rome and he was a friend of the *Emperor Claudius. When Aristobulus died, his servants and slaves became the property of the *Emperor. People would know them as the ‘*household of Aristobulus’.
Verse 11 Herodion may have had some *relationship with the Herod family. ‘Relative’ probably means a *Jew, like Paul, rather than a relative by birth.
Narcissus was a secretary to the *Emperor Claudius. Narcissus had made a large sum of money from people who wanted him to give their letters to the *Emperor. When Nero became *Emperor, Narcissus had to die. When he died, his slaves became Nero’s property. They would be called the ‘*household of Narcissus’. So there were Christian slaves in the *Emperor’s *household (Philippians 4:22).
Verse 12 Tryphena and Tryphosa were sisters, and may have been born at the same time. Their names meant that they were attractive and delicate. But they worked hard for the *Lord.
Persis may have come from Persia. She too worked hard for the Christian *faith.
Verse 13 Rufus meant ‘red’, so he probably had red hair. Simon from Cyrene (in Africa) had to carry Jesus’ *cross. He may have become a Christian because of this experience. His sons, Alexander and Rufus, seem to be well-known as Christians, because Mark mentions them by name (Mark 15:21). Simon from Cyrene may be the same as Simeon Niger (which means Simon who was black). Simeon Niger was an important Christian in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1). And that was the same church where Paul first worked as a leader. So, it may have been in Antioch that the mother of Rufus acted like a mother to Paul. (See Acts 13:1.)
Verse 15 Tradition associates Nereus with Domitilla, a Christian lady from a royal family. Nereus may have been an important official for Domitilla and her husband Flavius Clemens.
Verse 16 In 1 Corinthians 16:20 there is another reference to the ‘*holy kiss’ of Christian greeting. Peter calls it the ‘kiss of love’ (1 Peter 5:14). Tertullian called it the ‘kiss of *peace’.
A list of greetings like this is valuable. It shows how much Paul appreciated his friends. He encouraged them as he praised them. He mentions a variety of Christians. He mentions *Jews and *Gentiles. He mentions both women and men. And he mentions slaves in addition to some important people. This list shows clearly that there is ‘neither *Jew nor *Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female’. All are united in *Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Verses 17-18 Paul wanted to warn the Christians in Rome about some particular dangers. In chapter 2, Paul has written about some proud teachers who were working in the churches. These men had already caused serious problems in some churches. They were trying to separate *Jewish Christians from *Gentile Christians. They said that they were teaching God’s law. But they were not sincere. They were using the Christian *gospel as a means to make a profit (1 Timothy 6:5; Titus 1:11). And they were not really teaching the *gospel. The *gospel message is that people become *righteous by *faith in *Christ. But these men said that people had to obey the law in order to become *righteous.
Paul writes elsewhere about the arguments that these men caused (1 Timothy 6:3-5). And it seems that these men intended to cause quarrels (1 Timothy 1:3-4). Some men were believing them. So Paul would tell Titus to choose church leaders who knew the *gospel well (Titus 1:9-10). Those leaders could oppose the false teachers firmly (Titus 2:13-14).
Verse 19 Paul was pleased to hear that the Christians in Rome were obeying God. But he wanted them to recognise good things, and to do those things. He wanted them to avoid evil things. Jesus had told his *disciples to be ‘as wise as snakes and as *innocent as doves (a kind of bird)’ (Matthew 10:16).
Verse 20 Paul writes about the God who brings *peace. It is *Satan who causes disagreements and wars. ‘Soon’ does not mean immediately. It means that at some time in the future, God will act to end the power of *Satan permanently. In the original language, Paul did not actually mention a ‘snake’ here. But we have included this word in our translation because Paul seems to be referring to Genesis 3:15 here. Paul’s words are like God’s promise that a woman’s *descendant would ‘destroy the snake’s head’ (Genesis 3:15). That verse is a *prophecy (description of future events). It means that the *Messiah will overcome *Satan.
Paul’s words also refer to an ancient custom after a battle. The captains of the army that won would place their feet on the necks of their chief enemies (Joshua 10:24). This action showed that they had completely overcome their enemies. Psalm 110:1 speaks about the *Messiah who puts his feet on his enemies. *Christ won *victory over *Satan at the *cross. But *Satan continues to oppose God. And *Satan continues to cause trouble for God’s people. But Paul was confident that *Satan’s final defeat is certain. *Christ’s death was sufficient to end *Satan’s power completely.
At the present time, we are still waiting for *Satan’s final defeat. God has allowed this delay to give people the opportunity to trust him (2 Peter 3:9). People who refuse will suffer the same punishment as all God’s enemies (Revelation 20:13-15). But God does not want people to suffer that punishment. That is why he sent *Christ into the world. *Christ died on the *cross to suffer the punishment for *sin. People who trust him are not still God’s enemies. They have become God’s friends, and they will overcome together with *Christ.
Verse 21 Timothy came from Lystra. There, Paul decided to make Timothy a companion for his journeys (Acts 16:1-3). He served Paul for many years. Paul wrote that their work together was ‘like a son with his father’ (Philippians 2:19-22). Timothy was with Paul when he was ready to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4). (See Romans 15:25.)
Lucius, Jason and Sosipater were *Jews, like Paul. We cannot be sure who they were. Lucius might be Lucius from Cyrene (Acts 13:1) or even Luke. Jason invited Paul to stay at his home in Thessalonica. The result was that the *Jews attacked Jason’s house. They dragged him in front of the city rulers (Acts 17:5-9). His name is not among the people who took the gift to Jerusalem. But Sopater (the shorter form of Sosipater’s name) took the gift from Berea to Jerusalem (Acts 20:4).
Verse 22 Tertius is the only secretary of Paul whose name we know. He sends his own greetings here.
Verse 23 Gaius was one of the only two people whom Paul *baptised in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:14). If his full name was Gaius Titius Justus, he lived next to the *synagogue in Corinth. When Paul left the *synagogue, he moved into Gaius’s home to continue his work. ‘The whole church’ (in other words, all the church members) met in Gaius’s house (Acts 18:7-8). Clearly, Gaius had a very large house.
Erastus was the Director of Public Works in Corinth. So he was a very important man in that city. His name is on a pavement (stones which cover a street or path) that people discovered in 1929. The *Latin words say that he paid for the pavement himself. He appreciated the honour that the city had given to him.
Our ‘*brother’ Quartus probably means that he was a Christian. The word ‘brother’ may of course mean a family relationship. Quartus means ‘4th’. One writer suggests that he was the brother of Tertius, whose name means ‘3rd’. Another writer thinks that this is rather unlikely!
Verse 24 Many *manuscripts do not include this verse. But other *manuscripts have these words here: ‘I pray that the *grace of the *Lord Jesus *Christ will be with you all. *Amen.’ These *manuscripts have these words here, instead of the end of verse 20.
In this song to praise God, Paul repeats the main ideas in his letter:
1. God has the power to make a Christian’s *faith firm. God protects a Christian’s *faith from wrong beliefs. He gives Christians the power to win against tendencies to *sin. He gives them courage when people oppose them.
2. The good news about Jesus *Christ comes to everyone by means of the people who declare it. Paul speaks about the *gospel that ‘I *preach’. God had given to him the task to *preach, especially to the *Gentiles.
3. For many centuries, people did not know God’s plan. It was like a secret that God has now made public. God had decided to rescue people, both *Jews and *Gentiles, by means of Jesus *Christ, his son.
4. The *Old Testament *prophets said that *Christ was coming. God made people understand that the *scriptures were a witness to *Christ.
5. God’s purpose was that the good news should be available to everyone in all the world. Jesus himself had given the command to his *disciples to tell the good news to everyone everywhere (Matthew 28:19-20).
6. Christians must show that their *faith is real. They do this as they obey God. He has shown his love for them by means of *Christ. So they should obey him as they show love to everyone.
Verse 27 Paul wants God to receive the honour that he deserves. And Paul himself praises God. God showed his wisdom when he sent his son, Jesus *Christ. And God’s wisdom is so much greater than any person’s wisdom (Romans 11:33-36). So Paul ends his letter with thanks and he praises God. ‘*Amen’ shows that he wants everyone to join with him and to give *glory to God.
A.D. ~ years after the birth of Christ.
adultery ~ when someone has sex with another person’s wife or husband.
altar ~ a table where people offered *sacrifices.
amen ~ a word at the end of a prayer. It shows agreement.
ancestors ~ people or members of the family or nation in the past.
angel ~ a servant from God who brings his messages.
apostle ~ someone who goes out to *preach about Jesus; one of the 12 men whom Jesus sent out.
baptise, baptism ~ use water as a sign that *Christ has freed a person from *sin.
baptise ~ to put a person in to water, or to put water on a person; the way that we show to everyone that a person belongs to Christ and to his *church.
baptism ~ when they put a person into water, or put water on a person; the way that we show to everyone that we belong to Christ and his *church.
blessing(s) ~ the good things that God does for us.
boast ~ to praise oneself.
brother(s) and sister(s) ~ a friend and helper; a member of the church.
bull ~ the male animal which mates with a cow.
Christ ~ the *Greek word for *Messiah, that is, Jesus.
church ~ (1) all Christians; (2) members of a local group of Christians.
circumcise ~ cut off the loose skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or man. But the word ‘circumcise’ also has another meaning. By *circumcision, the *Jews showed that they wanted to obey God. But some people circumcised their boys merely because of tradition. Such people did not really want to obey God. So, the Bible says that these people should ‘circumcise their hearts’. In other words, they should learn how to obey God.
circumcised ~ a description of a boy or man who has received *circumcision; a *Jew.
circumcision ~ a sign of the *covenant between God and the *Jews. When a baby boy is 8 days old, the *Jews *circumcise that boy. They do this in order to obey the *covenant between God and the *Jews.
clay ~ earth that people bake to make pots.
commandment(s) ~ God’s rule(s). God gave these 10 special rules. They are called the 10 commandments. See Deuteronomy 5:6-21.
covenant ~ agreement between God and a person or people.
creation ~ the world that God made; or, God’s work when he made everything.
Creator ~ God, who created everything.
creed ~ a statement of belief.
cross ~ two pieces of wood that people have fixed together in the shape of a cross. Soldiers would attach a criminal to a cross in order to kill that person.
deceive ~ to make people believe things that are false.
descendants ~ future members of a family or nation.
disciples ~ students; people who follow another person to learn from him.
dough ~ flour and water that a person has mixed in order to make bread.
Emperor ~ ruler over many countries.
eternal ~ without end. When we use the word ‘eternal’ to describe God’s qualities, we mean ‘without beginning or end’.
faith ~ trust in someone or something; the things that Christians believe about Jesus.
faithful; faithfulness ~ loyal; someone or something that deserves trust.
father ~ Abraham is called ‘father’ because all God’s people came from him. Abraham was the *ancestor of the *Israelites. But he is also called the ‘father’ of the Christians, because all real Christians share his *faith in God.
feast ~ splendid meal.
Gentile ~ someone hwo is not a *Jew, or, a description of anything that has a relationship to people who are not *Jews.
glorious ~ a description of something that has great *glory.
glory ~ great beauty and honour. Only God (or *Christ) has perfect glory.
gospel ~ good news.
grace ~ God’s love that people do not deserve.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament; or a word that describes anything that came from the country called Greece; or the people who came from Greece; or anyone who followed the same culture as people from Greece.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke.
holy ~ something or someone that is special for God.
Holy Spirit ~ The Holy Spirit does God’s work among people in the world. The Holy Spirit is God, even as Jesus and the Father are God. But there are not three Gods. The Bible teaches that there is only one God.
household ~ the people who live together in a house, including servants, maids and slaves. A household might be very large. For example, the *Emperor’s household meant everyone who lived in the *Emperor’s palace.
idol(s) ~ image(s) of false gods which people *worship.
innocent ~ free from *sin.
Israel ~ another name for Jacob, who was an *ancestor of the *Israelites. Israel became a name for the country where the *Israelites lived. And Israel is also a name for all the *Israelites.
Israelite ~ the people that are *Jews.
Jew, Jewish ~ a person whose *ancestors were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
judge ~ to act as a judge; to accuse other people; to pretend to be a judge.
kingdom ~ people or area which a king rules.
Latin ~ the language that people from Rome spoke.
Lord ~ God; the word that we may use for Jesus when we obey him; someone who rules or who is a master.
manuscript ~ a book that someone has written by hand.
marriage ~ the *relationship between a husband and wife.
mercy ~ kindness, the love that God shows when he forgives.
Messiah ~ the *Jews’ word for the king who would come to rescue them; the *Christ (that is, Jesus).
miracle ~ a wonderful event that could only happen by God’s power.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, about Jesus and the early church.
non-Greek ~ someone who did not follow the same culture as people from Greece did.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible. The authors of the books in the Old Testament wrote their books centuries before *Christ’s birth.
olive ~ a small fruit. People used this fruit for food and to produce oil for their lamps. ‘Olive trees’ are the trees that yield this fruit.
pagans ~ people who believe in many gods.
peace ~ a calm and content attitude.
Pentecost ~ the time when God gave his law to the *Jews; the time when God gave the *Holy Spirit to the church.
potter ~ someone who makes pots.
preach ~ to tell and to explain the good news about Jesus.
prophecy ~ words that God gave someone to speak or to write down; especially, a message from God about the future.
prophet ~ a person who told the people what God wanted.
relationship ~ a friendship; or way in which people know each other.
repent ~ to change one’s mind totally; when someone who was doing wrong things begins to obey God.
resurrection ~ when a dead person becomes alive again.
righteous ~ good, *holy.
righteousness ~ goodness; a right *relationship with God.
Roman ~ a person from the city called Rome, or a description of anything that has a relationship with Rome. Rome was the most important city in the world at the time when Paul wrote this letter. It was the capital city where the *Emperor lived.
Sabbath ~ seventh (7th) day of the week (that is, Saturday); the *Jewish day for rest.
sacred ~ special for God.
sacrifice ~ something which people offer to God, especially an animal that they killed as a gift to God. Jesus’ death was the perfect sacrifice because, by his death, he freed people from *sin.
salvation ~ rescue from evil things; when God forgives us our evil deeds.
Satan ~ the chief evil spirit, the devil.
save ~ to rescue from the power of *sin.
Saviour ~ Jesus, who rescues people from *sin.
scripture(s) ~ books of the Bible.
sexual ~ of sex.
sin ~ evil deeds against God’s law; or to do such deeds.
sinful ~ sinful people do things against God or other people; they do not obey God's commands; they do not do what God wants them to do; sinful actions are actions that are against God’s commands.
sinners ~ people who *sin. God has not forgiven these people because they have not *repented.
sister(s) and brother(s) ~ a friend and helper; a member of the church.
spiritual ~ a description of something that belongs to the spirit.
synagogue ~ a local *Jewish meeting place for *worship.
temples ~ places for *worship.
Temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where *Jews *worshipped God.
throat ~ the passage from the mouth which makes people able to speak.
uncircumcised ~ a description of someone who has not received *circumcision; a *Gentile.
uncircumcision ~ the state of someone who has not received *circumcision.
unholy ~ not *holy.
victory ~ success against an enemy.
vision ~ picture in the mind; a wonderful sight that God has given.
worship ~ to show honour to God (or to a false god), alone or with other people.
wrath ~ great anger; God’s anger against *sin.
written law ~ God’s law, which Moses wrote down for the *Israelites.
Zion ~ Jerusalem.
Barclay, William ~ The Letter to the *Romans. Daily Study Bible ~ St Andrew’s Press 2001 (revised edition 1975)
Bruce, F.F. ~ The Letter of Paul to the *Romans. Tyndale *New Testament commentaries ~ Inter-Varsity Press 2002 (2nd edition 1985)
Dodd, C.H. ~ The Epistle of Paul to the *Romans. Moffatt *New Testament commentary ~ Hodder & Stoughton (First published 1912)
Stott, John ~ The Message of *Romans. The Bible speaks today ~ Inter-Varsity Press 2002 (first published 1994)
Concise Oxford Dictionary ~ 1976
Chambers 21st Century Dictionary ~ 1996
English Thesaurus, Geddes & Geddes ~ 1999
Bibles: NIV, New Light Bible: Readers NIV, Jerusalem Bible, J B Phillips, NEB, TEV
© 2007, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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