CHAPTER 1: THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD

 

Beloved God and Father,

Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Paul's letter to the Church in Rome.  This is a letter full of instruction in the doctrine of Your Holy Church, which is at times difficult to understand, but Lord, guided by the trinitarian guardian of the revelation of Jesus Christ: sacred Scripture, our sacred Tradition, and the teaching of the universal Magisterium, we are confident that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the truth of Your Word.  We pray in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  St. Paul, pray for us! Amen.

+ + +

 

From the 2nd letter of St. Peter, first Vicar of Christ's Kingdom of Heaven on earth, to the Universal Church of Jesus Christ:

"So then, my dear friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live blameless and unsullied lives so that he will find you at peace.  Think of our Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved; our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this when he wrote to you with the wisdom that he was given.  He makes this point too in his letters as a whole wherever he touches on these things.  In all his letters there are of course some passages which are hard to understand and these are the ones that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as they distort the rest of scripture'to their own destruction.  Since you have been forewarned about this, my dear friends, be careful that you do not come to the point of losing the firm ground that you are standing on, carried away by the errors of unprincipled people.  Instead, continue to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory, in time and eternity.  Amen."  2 Peter 3:14-18

 

 

Beloved in Christ, the Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul on June the 29th, and the conversion of St. Paul on January the 25th.  Beginning in the 4th century on June the 29th   , Christians of the Church in Rome followed the Bishop of Rome in procession from the church of St. Peter, built over the Saint Peter's grave, to the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the site of St. Paul's tomb.  Today, these feast days are kept in celebration all over the world.  So solemn do our Eastern rite brothers consider these feats days that they have a period of fasting and prayer to prepare for the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul.  Although both men came from different backgrounds and had different temperaments, personalities, and gifts, they had one great and unbreakable bond: both were called by Jesus to love and serve His Bride the Church and to bring forth the blessing made to Abraham 2,000 years earlier'to carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world'a blessing for all of mankind.

 

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS

Biblical period

The Messianic Age: The Last Age of Man 

Covenant

The New Covenant in Jesus Christ

 

 

Focus

The Application

of the

righteousness of God

The Application of God's righteousness in Old Covenant

The Application of God's righteousness in the

New Covenant

Scripture

1:1-----1:16------------2:1---------4:1--------------5:11--------6:1------------9:1--------12:1----16:37

 

 

Division

Greets

the church

All humanity needs

salvation

 

Election

of the

O. C.

People

Of God

The fulfillment

of the Abrahamic

Covenant

Jesus Christ the new Adam

Freedom

in Christ & Life in the Spirit

The destiny of Israel

The life of Christian disciple-ship &

Epilogue

 

 

 

 

Topic

 

Faith, sin and justification

 

 

 Deliverance and sanctification

 

 

 

Doctrine of Salvation

 

 

Spiritual life of Christians

Location

Corinth, Greece

Time

Winter of 57/58AD

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

TIME LINE AD

 

30                                36                                42                                57/58 (winter)                            

-Resurrection                Peter founds                 Peter founds                 Paul writes       

-2nd Great                     the Church at                the Church in                to the Church              

Pentecost                     Antioch                        Rome                           in Rome           

                                                                                                                                               

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul is reaching out to a faith community located across the Mediterranean Sea half a world away'at lease half a world away according to the Roman understanding of the extent of the world.  Paul is facing a problem in attempting through the written word to favorably present himself to a community of believers he did not found and in fact to whom he has never been introduced. The problem is that his reputation may have preceded him and this could be both a positive and a negative for Paul in his attempts to create a relationship with this faith community composed of both Jews and Gentiles.  The sea Paul is reaching across may be more than a physical barrier'there may also be other troubled waters that he will have to overcome'a sea of misunderstanding and false impressions.

Question: What is it about Paul's reputation that may not create a positive impression?  Hint: read Acts 9:21; and 21:18-21. 

Answer: Some New Covenant believers remembered Paul as a persecutor of Christians before his conversion and still didn't trust his motives, other Jewish Christians, however, were still ardently attached to the traditions of the Old Covenant and these Jews accused Paul of being in essence a traitor to the faith of his own people. 

 

As the Church took in more and more Gentile converts some members of the Jewish nucleus of the New Covenant Church began to grow uncomfortable.  They must have realized that soon the Gentile believers would outnumber them and the control of the hierarchy of the Church would pass into Gentile hands.  Another aspect of the problem may have been that some of the old distain toward the formerly pagan Gentile "dogs" may have remained with the Jewish Christians.  There were Jewish Christians who wanted to see the Gentiles convert to Judaism first, then submit to baptism as New Covenant believers, but continue as Christians to observe the Law of Moses.  The restrictions that some Jewish Christians who held positions of authority within the Church were placing upon the Gentile converts had already stirred up considerable disharmony in the Church'disharmony to such an extend that the First Council of Jerusalem had been called in c. 49AD to deal with the issues raised by New Covenant Jews who wanted to hang on to the old traditions and rituals to which men like Paul were opposed.  Just prior to the calling of the Great Council some Jewish Christians from the Mother Church in Judea had come to preach at Paul's home church in Antioch, Syria.

 

Question: See Acts 15:1-4.  What disturbing teaching did the Jewish Christians from Judea give to the Gentile converts of the Church at Antioch and how did Paul respond to this teaching?

Answer: They told the Gentiles, "Unless you have yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved" [Acts 15:1].  You can imagine the uproar this teaching cause in the mostly Gentile church at Antioch!  Immediately both Paul and Joseph Barnabas challenged the teaching of the visiting delegation, many of whom were probably former Pharisees [see Acts 15:5]. Barnabas was himself a member of the Levitical ministerial priesthood of the Old Covenant [see Acts 4:36-37], but both Joseph Barnabas and Paul vigorously disputed the teaching of the delegation from Jerusalem.

 

Question: What did the congregation decide to do about this dispute?  Did they decide on their own to reject the teaching of the delegation from Judea who represented themselves as teaching with the approval and authority of the Bishop of Jerusalem?  Did they decide to separate from the Church established by the Apostles to form their own authority?

Answer:  Absolutely not.  The Church at Antioch responded with the obedience of faith, and in the desire to resolve the issue, the congregation at Antioch made the decision to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to confer with the Apostles and the Elders circa 49AD and to abide by their decision. 

 

Please read Acts 15:5-35

Question: What group was causing the controversy within the Church?  See Acts 15:5

Answer: Certain members of the converted Pharisees were still insisting on circumcision as the initial means of entrance into the New Covenant and adherence to the Law of Moses.  You may remember that the Pharisees who opposed Jesus insisted on strict adherence to the Law of Moses. Even as converts to Christianity some of these men had not given up their old practices of rigid adherence to the Law of Moses.

Question: What was the decision of the Council?  See Acts 15:22-29

Answer: At the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles decided that Gentiles were not required to submit to circumcision and sent out a letter to all the churches in Asia Minor to that effect along with a delegation headed by Judas Barsabbas and Silas.  Silas, who is also known as Silvanus, will become a missionary companion of Paul [see Acts 15:40-18:5]. Silas is mentioned by Paul in letters to the church in Corinth [1 Corinthians 1:19]; to the church in Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1] and is mentioned by St. Peter in 1 Peter 5:12 where Silas is serving as Peter's scribal secretary.  These two men were sent to Antioch to represent the authority of the universal Magisterium of the Apostles in accord with Peter their Vicar, to proclaim the decision of the Council of Jerusalem [see Acts 15: 5-35].  The letter declared that those who taught falsely were acting without any authority from the Apostles.  Gentile candidates for baptism were only required to abstain from eating food offered in sacrifice to false gods, to abstain from consuming blood or bloody flesh [from animals who were strangled and not ethically bleed], and from entering into illicit marriages'probably marriages that were considered incestuous.  These restrictions had been placed on all Gentiles from the time of God's Covenant with the Gentile Noah [see Genesis 9:1-17] and along with the restriction against taking a human life, these restrictions are know as the Noachide Law [see the Salvation History study Lesson #3].

 

However, we can see that 9-10 years after this controversy should have been settled there were still Jewish Christians as well as Jews of the Old Covenant who viewed Paul as a traitor to his people.  In Paul's visit to Jerusalem in the coming spring of 58AD, he would discover that his reputation had been tainted by accusations of abandoning the customs of his people the Jews.  In his meeting with James, Bishop of Jerusalem and the Elders Paul gave a detailed account of all that God had one among the Gentiles through his ministry.  James and the others, "... gave glory to God when they heard this.  Then they said, 'You see, brother, how thousands of Jews have now become believers, all of them staunch upholders of the Law; and what they have heard about you is that you instruct all Jews living among the Gentiles to break away from Moses, authorizing them not to circumcise their children or to follow the customary practices."Acts 21:20-21

 

Paul was probably already aware that Jewish Christians were speaking ill of him before he left Corinth and in writing his letter to the Jewish Christians of Rome in the winter of 57/58AD he would have realized that if his good name had been slandered in Rome by Jewish Christians who were opposed to his teaching, Paul must be careful to present himself as a true Apostle of Jesus Christ and to support his teaching as legitimate New Covenant doctrine if he wants to win the church in Rome as allies in his missionary efforts. Therefore, in sending this letter Paul must employ the customary literary conventions in such a way as to present a favorable impression to both the Jewish and Gentile Christians of Rome of Paul the man as well as Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ who has received from the Savior a true knowledge of the faith that will be beneficial to the growth of their community.  Notice as the letter unfolds how Paul reaches out to the Jewish members of the community in traditional Jewish teaching and with reminders of the continuation of their covenant with Yahweh through the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31.

 

In the Introduction Part I we observed that St. Paul's letter to the Church is Rome is unique on several different levels:

  1. It is the only letter written to a community which he did not found
  2. It is written to a community which he had never previously visited
  3. It is the longest of Paul's letters
  4. It is St Paul's most deeply theological letter, touching on almost every different aspect of Christianity's major theological themes making his message as powerful and relevant to Christians today as it was to the men and woman of the universal Church in Roman in the first century AD

 

In addition to being Paul's longest letter it contains the longest introduction of any of his other 13 letters.  Our modern Bible translations may divide these verses into several sentences; however, in the Greek translation verses 1-7 form one long sentence.  Even Paul's secretary, who is probably schooled in the Greek literary conventions, evidently cannot curb Paul's enthusiasm as he pours out the whole theme of his letter in the first 7 lines.

 

Please read Romans 1:1-7, Address and greeting: 

1."From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, 2.set apart for the service of the gospel that God promised long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3. This is the gospel concerning his Son who, in terms of human nature 4. was born a descendant of David and who, in terms of the Spirit and of holiness was designated Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ, our Lord through whom we have received grace and our apostolic mission of winning the obedience of faith among all the nations for the honor of his name.  6. You are among these, and by his call you belong to Jesus Christ.  7. To you all, God's beloved in Rome, called to be his holy people. Grace and peace from God our Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ."

 

Question: Who is serving as St. Paul's amanuensis or scribal secretary as Paul dictates this letter?  See Romans 16:21-23. 

Answer: Tertius [ter'-she-us].  Tertius is a Latin name which may mean "third son." 

 

Question: In his introduction in what 3 ways does Paul identify himself and present his credentials? See verse 1

Answer: He identifies himself as (1) "a servant/slave", as (2) "one called to be an apostle", and as one (3) "set apart for God's gospel".

  1. The Greek word doulos [doo'-los] can be translated as "servant" or as "slave"].  In the Roman world in which Paul lived a doulos certainly meant one who was bonded to a master.  Slavery was an accepted institution in the ancient world.  In the use of this word Paul is expressing his complete dependence on his master, Jesus the Messiah and to express his undivided allegiance and his commitment of lifelong service. It is also important to note that to identify himself as a "servant" or "slave", of God also links Paul to the prophets of the Old Testament who yielded their lives to Yahweh as His obedient "servants/slaves." Jeremiah 7:25: "From the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants the prophets, persistently sending them day after day." His Jewish audience would not have missed the Old Testament scriptural implications of the use of this word.

 

Some of the Old Testament servants / slaves of Yahweh:

Abraham

"Faithful to his sacred promise, given to his servant Abraham, he led out his people with rejoicing, his chosen one with shouts of joy." Psalm 105:42-43

Moses

            

"...the people revered Yahweh and put their faith in Yahweh and in Moses, his servant." Exodus 14:31

Joshua

"Joshua fell on his face to the ground, worshipping him, and said, 'What has my Lord to say to his servant?'" Joshua 5:14

Samuel

"Yahweh then came and stood by, calling as he had done before, 'Samuel! Samuel! Samuel!'  Samuel answered, 'Speak, Yahweh; for your servant is listening.'"1 Samuel 3:10

David

"What is more, you have deigned to bless your servant's dynasty, so that it may remain for ever before you; for you. Lord Yahweh, have spoken; and may your servant's dynasty be blessed with your blessing for ever." 2 Samuel 7:29 [David is called God's servant 10 times in 7:5-29]

Isaiah

"Yahweh then said, my servant Isaiah..."  Isaiah 20:3

 

The title "servant" or "slave" is also used by other Jewish New Covenant leaders: Sts Peter [2 Peter 1:1]; James [James1:1], and Jude [Jude 1:1], in the introduction to their letters to the Catholic [universal] Church and also by St. John in Revelation 1:1 and 15:3.

 

But this designation also links Paul and the other "servants/ slaves" of Jesus Christ to the sacramental nature of the ecclesial ministry and its character of service which is entirely dependent on the Son of God who gives His servants their mission and authority.  These "servants" of the Christ serve in the image of Him who "emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was humbler yet. Even to accepting death, death on a cross" Philippians 2:7-8.  Also see CCC# 876-7

 

  1. Paul presents his credentials as one who is "called to be an apostle.

Question: By whom was Paul called?  Hint: see 1 Corinthians 1:1

Answer: He was "called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus..".

Question: What does the word "apostle" mean?

Answer: The Greek word "apostolos" literally means "one who is sent".  An apostle is an emissary or envoy sent with his master's authority to deliver a message.  In the New Testament this word designates:

·        the small group of men personally selected by Jesus during His ministry to be His chief ministers of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; this is Apostle with a capital "A".

·        in the early years of the growth of the Church the title "apostle" will also be extended to designate the men who hold the highest positions in the Church and are charged with its most responsible functions [in Acts 14:14 Joseph Barnabas is also called an apostle]. 

 

Paul considers himself to be an apostle because he was personally chosen by Jesus and was appointed missionary to the Gentiles [Romans 11:13; Acts 26:27; 1 Corinthians 9:2; Galatians 1:16; 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:7].  This divine appointment, Paul believed, elevated him as a true apostle of Christ [Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1, etc] and made him equal to the other apostles who had also seen and talked with Jesus after His Resurrection [Acts 10:41].  He vigorously defends his title of apostle in all his letters [see Romans 1:1; 11:13; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9-10; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1].  In 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 Paul defends his title of apostle to the church in Corinth: "Am I not free" Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not my work in the Lord?  Even if to others I am not an apostle, to you at any rate I am, for you are the seal of my apostolate in the Lord." CCC# 858-60; 875

 

  1. Lastly, he identifies himself as having been "set apart for the service of the gospel.."

 

Question:  When Paul says he is "set apart for the service of the gospel.." what does he mean?  How is he "set apart"?  Hint: see Acts 9:15-16; Galatians 1:15.

Answer: Paul was "set apart" by Christ Himself when he yielded his life by accepting Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior.  His old life was over and his new life in Christ began.  He is also "set apart" in his mission to the Gentiles, the mission to which he was called to fulfill by Jesus [see Acts 9:15-16; 22:21].  But he may also be referring to a statement he made in Galatians 1:15 when he wrote that God had set him apart to serve Him "from his mother's womb", just as the Old Testament servants of God Isaiah and Jeremiah were called [see Isaiah 49:1 and Jeremiah 1:5]. 

 

Question: How does Paul define the term "gospel in this verse?  Hint: see Romans 1: 16; the Greek word  euaggelion [yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on] means "to announce good news; declare glad tidings" [Strong's #2098].

Answer: When Paul refers to the "gospel" in this verse he is not speaking of the 4 Gospels written by the Apostles Matthew and John, or the Gospels written by Peter's disciple John Mark or Paul's disciple Luke.  In Romans 1:16 Paul tells us that the gospel is "God's power for the salvation of everyone who has faith."  It is the good news of the gift of salvation that Jesus has given through His precious blood and in His sacrificial death and resurrection.  It is the message of salvation Jesus instructed His Apostles to preach to the entire world, the "good news" of the Kingdom of Heaven and the gift of man's salvation through God the Son [see Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8].

 

Question: What promise does Paul refer to that God made long ago through his prophets in verse 2

Answer: He is referring to the promise of man's salvation as foreshadowed in the covenantal promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and repeated in Genesis 15, 17, and 22; the covenant promise of an everlasting Kingdom made to David; the vision of the everlasting kingdom of the holy ones of God made to Daniel; and promises of a future Messiah and Redeemer revealed through the prophets.  In 1 Peter 1:10-12 St Peter writes about the promise of our salvation revealed to the Old Testament prophets: "This salvation was the subject of the search and investigation of the prophets who spoke of the grace you were to receive, searching out the time and circumstances for which the Spirit of Christ, bearing witness in them, was revealing the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow them.  It was revealed to them that it was for your sake and not their own that they were acting as servants delivering the message which has now been announced to you by those who preached to you the gospel through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven." 

 

In Luke 24:25-27 and 44-47 Jesus revealed to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and later to the Apostles in the Upper Room that "everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled."  In Isaiah 61:1 the prophet Isaiah prophetically proclaims: "The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for Yahweh has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news [gospel/glad tidings] to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to captives, release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favor from Yahweh and a day of vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn..."  Jesus will quote this passage as fulfilled in Himself in Luke 4:18-19 and will tell the Apostles and disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 and in Acts 1:8 that their mission is to proclaim the gospel message of salvation to all nations and all peoples.  In addition to this understanding of the "gospel" message of salvation, the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum, 7 defines the gospel of Jesus Christ to be "the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."  The gospel of Jesus Christ is His work of salvation'a gift freely offered to all men and women of all the ages of mankind [for more information on fulfillment of prophecy see The Study of Romans: Introduction 2; and CCC# 64 & 702].

 

Romans 1: 3-7 express the focus of Paul's theology and some scholars believe these verses may be a very early profession of faith. In any event these verses highlight the theology of Paul in all his letters which is centered on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ'the promised son of David, the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world. 

 

In verse 5 Paul testifies that the grace given to him to preach God's gospel of salvation has come from Jesus Christ Himself in order to win the "obedience of faith" from among the nations of the world. 

Question: What does Paul mean by the words "obedience of faith"?  Is "obedience of faith" passive belief or simple intellectual assent?

Answer: St. Paul identifies "obedience of faith" as our first moral obligation.  The root word for "obedience" is the word "obey". To obey, from the Latin ob-audire, means "to hear" or "to listen" and "to comply or submit". 

Faith is defined as:

 

In the Old Covenant it was Israel's covenantal duty to submit in obedience to God's covenant grace through faithfully hearing, and observing the Law of the Covenant God gave to Israel through His servant Moses.  This faith through obedience was central to Israel's elevated status as God's holy people.  In the New Covenant our "obedience of faith" is exercised by submitting our intellect and will to God and with the help of the Holy Spirit by embracing and living everything that God has revealed of Himself to us through the ministry, self-sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is "obedience" for the sake of the name of Jesus'which means yielding in obedience to everything Jesus taught and continues to teach through his representatives in the ministerial priesthood and taking up our obligations to love and serve God in the royal priesthood that is the inheritance of every Christian disciple [CCC# 1546-47]. 

 

For Paul there is a sacramental unity in obedience and faith.  Paul is teaching that there is no opposition between faith and obedience but that they are two sides of the same coin.  It is the purpose of Paul's apostolic mission to bring about in his hearers a message that strengthens an active and living "obedience of faith"'a faith expressed in obedience to the teachings of Christ through His Church'an obedience that is pleasing to God and allows the Christian, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to lead a holy, saintly life'a holy God and Father deserves holy and obedient children.  It is the same call to "obedience of faith" that every homily we hear calls us live and to which every celebration of the Eucharist empowers and strengthens us through God's grace.  Paul will revisit the necessity of "obedience" and "faith" as the letter continues.  In fact Paul literally opens the letter in 1:5 with the call to "obedience of faith" and closes the letter in 16:26 with the same plea: "...as the eternal God commanded, to be made known to all the nations, so that they obey in faith..."  See CCC # 143; 153-165; 2087 and Romans 16:26

 

Question: Who is our model for faithful obedience in the Old Testament; in the New Testament?  In each case how is their faith obedient according to St. James definition of living, active faith?  See Hebrews 11:8 & Luke 1:37-38.

Answer: There are several good examples of obedient faith in the Old Testament. 

 

Romans 1:7"To you all, God's beloved in Rome, called to be his holy people.."

Question: What people in the Old Testament bore the title "holy people" of God?  What is the connection to the Christians of Rome for Paul?

Answer: In the Old Testament the nation of Israel, called by God at Mt. Sinai, enjoyed the title "holy people of God."  Paul acknowledges in verse 7 that the faithful Christians of Rome are indeed called by God through faith and baptism to be God's holy people'the New Israel of the New Covenant, just as the Old Israel had the honor of being called God's holy people in obedience to Covenant centered in Jerusalem so too now do the Christians of Rome, in the world center of the New Covenant, deserve this title.  See CCC# 877; 2013-14.

 

Paul completes his greeting with his typical formula "grace and peace."   It is a greeting common in all his letters with the exception of the Letter to the Hebrews [I have wondered if it may be that Hebrews is not a letter at all but is instead a homily Paul delivered while in Jerusalem that was copied and sent out to the universal Church].

 

Romans 1: 7

"Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Corinthians 1:3

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

2 Corinthians 1:2

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Galatians 1:2

"Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to liberate us from this present wicked world, in accordance with the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever."

Ephesians 1:2

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ."

Philippians 1:2

"Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Colossians1:2b

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father."

1 Thessalonians 1:1b

"Grace to you and peace."

2 Thessalonians 1:2

"Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

1 Timothy 1:2

"Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord."

2 Timothy 1:2

"Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord."

Titus 1:4

"Grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Savior."

Philemon 1:3

"Grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

Hebrews

 

 

The typical Greek greeting was chairein [khah-ee-ren], meaning simply "greetings".  Scholars have suggested that Paul substituted chairein "greetings" with charis [khar'-ece], meaning "favor" in the Greek but with the distinctive meaning and understanding of the Hebrew word hen, meaning "grace", which is a gift of God.  And then to this greeting Paul added the Greek word for "peace", eirene [i-ray'-nay], which reflects the typical Semitic greeting, shalom, "peace" [see 2 Maccabees 1:1], yielding a combined Gentile and Jewish greeting.  But Paul's Jewish audience may have recognized in his greeting an echo the ancient priestly blessing for God's holy people Israel found in Numbers 6:24-26, "May Yahweh bless you and keep you.  May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you [give you grace].  May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace." If Paul does intend to echo the priestly blessing then this is an ecclesial blessing and "grace" represents God's covenantal grace revealed in Jesus Christ and "peace" is the deep and abiding peace that comes from the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.

 

Please read Romans 1:8-15

Romans 1:8-10:   8"First I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is talked of all over the world.  9 God, whom I serve with my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that I continually mention you in my prayers, 10 asking always that by some means I may at long last be enabled to visit you, if it is God's will." 

 

Question: For what is Paul thankful?

Answer: For the Christian community in Rome.  Paul begins by complimenting the Christians of Rome for their faith which serves as a good Christian example as the geographical center of the New Covenant Church. 

 

The literal translation of verse 9 is "God, whom I offer worship in my spirit, preaching the gospel of his Son..." "In my spirit" may refer to Paul's transformation through his baptism to "life in the Holy Spirit".  It is God the Holy Spirit who indwells him and directs his preaching.

Question: How is Paul's apostolic mission an act of worship?  Hint: In sacred Scripture worship is always identified with offering and sacrifice; see Romans 15:16

Answer: For Paul the apostolic ministry to the Gentiles to which he has been called is an act of worship offered to God; as he states in Romans 15:16 where he writes, "I was given grace to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the gentiles, dedicated to offer them the gospel of God, so that gentiles might become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit."  He offers his own life to God and the lives of the Gentiles he has brought to Christ.  Again Paul is identifying the sacramental nature of his apostolic mission.

 

Romans 1:11-12: 11  "For I am longing to see you so that I can convey to you some spiritual gift that will be a lasting strength, 12  or rather that we may be strengthened together through our mutual faith, yours and mine."

Paul is writing to a faith community founded by St. Peter about 16 years earlier and so he assures them he is not coming to impart some new doctrine but to reaffirm what they have already received so together they can share their faith and grow stronger in faith together.  Writing in the mid 5th century Gennadius of Constantinople writes: "Paul reassures them that he has no intention of preaching anything new to them but that he intends to confirm them in what they have already received from Peter.  [Gennadius of Constantinople, died 471AD, Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church]. And Theodoret of Cry [393-466AD], in his Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans noted that "Paul only wants to share what he has himself received.  And because the great Peter was the first to have taught them, Paul adds that he merely wants to confirm them in the teaching which has already been given to them and to water the trees which have already been planted."  

 

Romans 13-15: 13 "I want you to be quite certain too, brothers, that I have often planned to visit you'though up to the present I have always been prevented'in the hope that I might work as fruitfully among you as I have among the gentiles elsewhere.  14 I have an obligation to Greeks as well as barbarians, to the educated as well as the ignorant, and hence the eagerness on my part to preach the gospel to you in Rome too."
 

Question: Who are the Greeks and who are the barbarians?

Answer: When Paul speaks of the "Greeks", he is referring to those who embrace Greek culture and learning'this includes the Romans who greatly admired and adopted Hellenistic culture.  Since the 4th century BC and the world conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek had become the international language'this is the reason the Church chose to write the New Testament in Greek.  The "barbarians" are all other Gentiles who are neither Roman nor Greek and who are considered to be uneducated because they do not speak Greek and have not been exposed to Greek culture.

 

Please read Romans 1:16-23

1:16-1716 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel, it is God's power for the salvation of everyone who has faith'Jews first, but Greeks as well' 17  for in it is revealed the saving justice of God: a justice based on faith and addressed to faith.  As it says in Scripture: 'Anyone who is upright through faith will live.'"

 

The words "saving justice" and "upright" can be translated as "righteousness" or "righteous" or "justice"'it is the same word in the Greek = dikaios [dik-ah-yos] / dikaiosune [dik-ah-yos-oo'-nay] but this word is only used twice in this passage.  This is a word Paul will use frequently in this letter which means "the character or act of righteousness or justification" [Strong's Concordance #1342]. The New American translation renders verse 17 as: "For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The one who is righteous by faith will live.'"  The Catholic dictionary defines "justice" as a virtue as "..the constant and permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due" ; and defines "the theology of justification of the believer" as, "The process of a sinner becoming justified or made right with God."

 

This passage is Paul's announcement of the theme of his letter: the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He makes 4 affirmations in his announced theme:

  1. God's gift of salvation is a universal gift offered for all who are willing to accept it.
  2. That all men and women have equality in God's plan of salvation [although the Jews first because of God's previous covenant obligations to them].
  3. This universal gift of salvation is powered by the gospel'revealed in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ'a power unleashed by God through His righteousness and promised by Him throughout human history
  4. Mankind shares in this gift of salvation empowered by the gospel through righteous faith.

 

Paul's declaration that he is not "ashamed of the gospel" can be understood in light of what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 20b-21: "The message of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God. [...] Do you not see how God has shown up human wisdom as folly:  Since in the wisdom of God the world was unable to recognize God through wisdom, it was God's own pleasure to save believers through the folly of the gospel."  The gospel is a paradox and a contradiction to the society of the pagan and modern world'that God would use an instrument of torture and execution to bring about the salvation of the world. 

 

"it is God's power for the salvation of everyone who has faith.."  The gospel isn't just a message from God it is a supernatural power that has been unleashed to bring mankind, through faith, to salvation. We have already defined "faith" as a supernatural virtue empowered by the Holy Spirit that is man's response to God as all truth and goodness [CCC # 153] and, as Paul adds here, the first step on the path of salvation.  In all Paul's letters he uses the word faith, in Greek pistis [pis'-tis], as a synecdoche [si-nek'-do-ki], a single word that sums up a process.  Faith is not only intellectual ascent'it is also trust and obedience to the life-giving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is faith that unites a person to Christ through the work of God the Holy Spirit.  Salvation is in fact the reliance on the truth of God's promises and on God's faithfulness to keep those promises and to put them into effect through the gospel of Jesus Christ, "Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is trustworthy Hebrews 10:23.

 

Question: What does Paul mean when he writes that salvation was for the Jews first?

Hint: see Matthew 10:5; 15:24; Mark 7:27; and John 4:22.

Answer: In God's comprehensive plan of Salvation History, redemption and salvation was first promised to the children of Israel who are the descendants of Abraham.  Even though they failed to keep their faithful obedience to the Covenant, God faithfully kept His covenantal promises in that Jesus Christ came first to them:

·        "I was only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" Matthew 10:24.

·        "You worship what you do not know; for salvation comes from the Jews" John 4:22

But is it also the promise God made to Abraham that makes salvation accessible to gentiles'the promise of the world-wide blessing.  It was only after the New Covenant was established with the faithful remnant of Jews that the gift of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ was carried by that faithful remnant of New Covenant Jews, like Paul, to the Gentile world. Note: when Paul writes "for Greeks as well" he means all Gentile peoples.

 

"for in it [the gospel] is revealed the saving justice [righteousness/ justification] of God: a justice based on faith and addressed to faith.  
Question: What does Paul mean when he writes that the gospel is revealed in the saving justice or righteousness of God?  Hint: see Isaiah 51:4-8, what is the subject of this poem?

Answer:  Isaiah 51 seems to be a poem on the restoration of Israel but in light of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ we can see these passages and chapters 52-55:13 as a promise of the restoration through God's saving justice or righteousness to all nations on earth through the Passion, death and Resurrection of God the Son.  This "saving justice of God" or "righteousness of God" refers to a state of righteousness or justness in which a person is placed when God imparts, through no merit of our own, the gift of grace.  It is called the "saving justice" or "righteousness" of God because we cannot attain it through our own efforts'grace is a free gift of a loving and merciful God.  The "righteousness" or "saving justice" which God gives us through His grace is not an external transformation'like new paint on a dirty fence'but is instead the transformation of our souls'being truly made righteous through our rebirth in baptism through water and the spirit.  The Magisterium of the Catholic Church has taught us through the documents of the Council of Trent that when we are justified through the sacrifice of Christ there is a change from the condition in which a person was born as a child of the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior [see Council of Trent, De iustificatione, chapter 6].  The Church also declared in the documents of Trent that " the only formal cause is 'justice of God, not the justice by which he is himself just, but the justice by which he makes us just' (Augustine, De Trinitaate, XIV, 12, 15), namely, the justice which we have as a gift from him and by which we are renewed in the spirit of our mind.  And not only are we considered just, but we are truly said to be just, and we are just" [Council of Trent, De iustificatione, chapter 7]. Justification is both a true removal of sin through the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation/Confession [not merely having one's sins ignored or no longer held against the sinner] and is at the same time the supernatural sanctification and renewal of the believer who becomes holy and pleasing to God and by His grace an heir of eternal salvation in His Kingdom.

 

The Catholic theology of justification is directly opposed to Martin Luther's "doctrine of total depravity" which teaches that we are all bound by an unavoidable law of sin that has completely corrupted the soul and that although our sins cannot separate us from the love of Christ, His sacrifice on the cross only covers our sins as "snow covers an dunghill"'man can never truly be declared "just" it is Christ who is "just" and His righteousness that is imputed to us.  This doctrine is not the Catholic understanding of forgiveness in which Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice wipes the sin away utterly and completely through the Sacrament of Confession.  See CCC# 411; 1266; 1446; ; 2018-20

 

Romans 1:17 continued: "based on faith and addressed to faith" The Greek translation is "through faith (and) for faith".  Bible scholars tell us that this kind of phrase in sacred Scripture seems to indicate an on-going condition or growth in something that is living and active.  Paul is writing about the growing progression of the perfection of the gospel of salvation in the life of the believer.  This "saving justice" or "righteousness/ justification" which is revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ and which as a gift of grace is made manifest, is nourished and continues to grow through the faith of the believer until at the end of the journey of faith when the believer who has persevered in faith and is victorious attains the ultimate goal'the gift of eternal salvation [see Revelation 2:7; 11; 17; 26; 3:5; 12; 21].  Paul's point in this passage is that the entire process of salvation is founded on and maintained in faith. Faith is the first step on the journey to eternal life. 

 

"As it says in Scripture: Anyone who is upright through faith will live." Paul is quoting the Prophet Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:4, "You see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the upright will live through faithfulness."  This is a key passage in the book of the Prophet Habakkuk that sums up the importance of the faith of God's Covenant people Israel in observing the Law of Moses.  The prophet is making the point that it isn't just the observance of the Law that promises salvation but their faith and trust in God expressed in their obedience.  Paul wrote in Galatians 3:8 that "Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.'" In quoting the passage from Habakkuk Paul is making the link to what he wrote in 1:1-2 that God promised the gospel long ago through his prophets and it is the same message of salvation through faith in God's righteous promises.  The Jewish Christians would have appreciated and understood this connection to the teaching in Habakkuk'Gentile converts may not have been as educated in the Old Covenant Scriptures to make the connection.

 

 Romans 1:18-23: 18 The retribution of God from heaven is being revealed against the ungodliness and injustice of human beings who in their injustice hold back the truth.

19 For what can be known about God is perfectly plain to them, since God has made it plain to them: 20 ever since the creation of the world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind's understanding of created things.  And so these people have no excuse: 21 they knew God and yet they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but their arguments became futile and their uncomprehending minds were darkened. 22 While they claimed to be wise, in fact they were growing so stupid 23 that they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an imitation, for the image of a mortal human being, or of birds, or animals, or crawling things.

 

For St. Paul the reverse of the positive revelation of God's love is the righteous wrath or judgment of God visited on those who persist in rebellious unbelief.  To us it seem a bit shocking that Paul should move so quickly from a discussion of God's righteousness to God's wrath, but this perspective is perfectly in keeping with the Jewish sense of the whole world in the Last Age of man moving toward a final and imminent judgment where God's wrath will pour forth in all its divine retribution against all human wickedness.  His Jewish audience would have been nodding their heads in agreement.  The books of the Old Testament Prophets reveal the cycle of failed fellowship with God resulting in judgment and retribution followed by the promise of restoration [see "How to Study the Books of the Old Testament Prophets" in the Bible Study section or the Chart section see "The Symbolic Images of the Old Testament Prophets" ].  The two revelations of righteousness and retribution are related in that it is precisely God's righteousness and justice that does not excuse sin.  God has promised us eternal blessings and eternal punishment in the New Covenant'the righteous will find everlasting life while the wicked go to everlasting destruction.

 

Question: How is God's "wrath" or "retribution" defined by Paul?

Answer: Retribution is defined by Paul as divine judgment and separation from God. 

Question: How has God made "perfectly plain" (verse 19) to mankind His existence?

Answer: Through the miracle of creation and the wonders of the natural world.

Question: How did man abuse and reject the truth of this revelation?  Give examples?

Answer: Man preferred to worship the creation instead of the Creator by setting up as gods animals [Egyptian gods], or human beings [Greeks, i.e. deifying humans like Hercules], or natural wonders [worship of the sun or moon, meteorites, etc.].

 

Please read Romans 1:24-32

24 That is why God abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices of dishonoring their own bodies'25 because they exchanged God's truth for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature instead of the Creator, who is blessed for ever.  Amen.  26 That is why God abandoned them to degrading passions: 27 why their women have exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural practices; and the men, in a similar fashion, too giving up normal relations with women, are consumed with passion for each other, men doing shameful things with men and receiving in themselves due reward for their perversion.  28 In other words, since they would not consent to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to their unacceptable thoughts and indecent behavior.  29 And so now they are steeped in all sorts of injustice, rottenness, greed and malice; full of envy, murder, wrangling, treachery and spite, libelers, slanderers, enemies of God, rude, arrogant and boastful, enterprising in evil, rebellious to parents, without brains, honor, love or pity.  They are well aware of God's ordinance: that those who behave like this deserve to die'yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do the same."

 

Has it every occurred to you that the more the times and people change the more they remain the same?  The 1st century Christians of Rome were living in a city that had perfected every debauchery. It was a city, which in the time of the Emperor Nero, had a population of approximately one million people.  The Roman senator Seneca wrote of Rome at this time that "...every sort of person flocks to the city which offers, at a high price, virtues and vices."[Consolatio ad Helviam, 6, 2-4].  The Christians of the Empire's capital had to be vigilant against the corroding effect of being exposed to such sins as those listed by Paul.

Question: In this litany of human rebellion against God in favor of sin in the first century AD that Paul listed do you recognize any signs of the same sin and degradation in 21st century society today?   Give some examples.  When do we contribute to the growth and influence of sin by "applauding the sins of others"?

 

Question: Why does God abandon those who persist in sin and refuse all calls to repentance?  What should your reaction be the next time you see someone who prospers in sin?

Answer: Pity.  Their prosperity in sin is a sign that God has given then over to their own desires in His desire that their sinful life finally brings them so low that they will turn back to him.

 

Repetition in sacred Scripture is an important "sign" that must not be overlooked.  Repetition provides a link to a deeper understanding of the text. 

Question: There is a triple repetition of a certain phrase between verses 24 and 28.  What is that repetition?  The New Jerusalem translation accurately reflects this repetition but other translations may not.

Answer: In verses 24, 26, and 28 the phrase "God abandoned them" [also may be translated "God gave them up"] is repeated 3 times.  According to the significance of numbers in Scripture, 3 is one of the four "perfect" numbers, signifying "importance, fullness, and completion" for Old Covenant believers and in addition the sign of "the Trinitarian unity of the One True God'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" for New Covenant believers [see "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Documents and Resources section].  In his commentary on the Book of Romans Father Brendan Byrne notes in this passage from Romans 1:21-31, that St Paul has followed his main statement in "three great waves flowing across the text (vv 21-31) each hinging around the striking statement, "God gave them up" 9v 24; v 26; v 28). The waves do not refer to three separate, sequential instances of rupture in divine- human relations.  Each points to the same 'original' lapse on the human side and the same corresponding reaction of God."

[Romans, page 64].  The repetition of the phrase "God abandoned them"[New Jerusalem translation] establishes the link between the terrible consequence of human failure to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over mankind's behavior and humanity's fall into all the various expression of sin and the separation from God and the corrosion of the human soul that is the result.

 

Father Byrne also points out that there may be a link to the Old Testament Book of Wisdom, particularly Wisdom 13:1-27 linked to Romans 1:20-31.  This is a conncetion his Jewish audience would have made but probably not the Gentile converts.  Both passages in Wisdom and Romans refer to God's revelation of Himself to man:

·        through man's ability to contemplate the wonders of the created world;

·        man's failure to respond in truth to God's revelation; and

·        the consequence of man's rebellion in rejecting the truth of God. 

There are at least 8 points of comparison between Romans 1:18-31 and Wisdom chapters 11-14.

 

Comparison between Romans chapter 1 and the Book of Wisdom concerning the rejection of God's truth which results in sin and judgment

Romans 1:18-31

Wisdom 11:15 – 14:30

Romans 1:20-21: Knowledge of God revealed to man through the wonders of creation.

Wisdom 13:1-5: Knowledge of God revealed to man through wonders of creation.

Romans 1:21d: Man obstinately refuses to recognize the truth of God

Wisdom 13:6-9: Man obstinately refuses to recognize the truth of God

Romans 1:24-31: Man's refusal to recognize the truth of God leads to idolatry and immoral behavior

Wisdom 14:12-14: Man's refusal to recognize the truth of God leads to idolatry and immoral behavior

Romans 1:26-27: Unnatural sexual prevision is a result of immorality

Wisdom 14:26: Unnatural sexual prevision is a result of immorality

Romans 1:29-30 Rebellion leads to a whole list of vices

Wisdom 14:23-27: Rebellion leads to a whole list of vices

Romans 1:18; 32: The result is sinners deserve judgment and the wrath of God

Wisdom 14:30: The result is sinners deserve judgment and the wrath of God

Romans 1:32: Condemnation of complacency toward sin

Wisdom 14:22: Condemnation of complacency toward sin

Romans 1:21: Sin results in the "darkening" of the human mind

Wisdom 11:15: Sin results in the "darkening" of the human mind

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

In his argument Paul is certainly presenting a traditional Jewish teaching that the Jewish members of the community would have recognized and appreciated and a teaching from which the Gentile Christians would have benefited.

 

Question: What is Paul's argument concerning man's attempts to come to salvation apart from God?

Answer: He argues that all efforts to come to salvation apart from God'and he means God's plan to liberate us from sin and death through the blood of Jesus Christ'have failed.  St. Peter boldly declared to the Jewish council in his examination before the Sanhedrin [Jewish Law Court that condemned Jesus] "Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved." Acts 4:12

Question: Why is it that Paul says man cannot attain salvation apart from Christ?

Answer: Because all human beings are enslaved to sin.  Only the blood of Christ can free us from slavery to sin and the consequence of sin which is death [see Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:7 & 22].

Question: What is the purpose of God's wrath and judgment?  When we fall away from God because of sin what should we remember when we suffer from our sins?  What is the remedy for forgiveness of sin and restoration to God?

Answer: The remedy is the Sacrament of Reconciliation [also called the Sacrament of Confession or Penance] in which we can be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God the Father.  When we suffer from the effects of sin we must remember that divine judgment is always meant to bring about repentance and restoration'it is redemptive judgment God seeks while there is still time'when the Final Judgment comes with the return of Jesus Christ it will be too late those who in willful disobedience reject God. In 2 Peter 3:9 St. Peter assures all of us that "The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you, wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance."  See CCC# 1037; 1040-1.  God the Father, in His love, calls all of us to repentance and forgiveness in the spiritually healing Sacrament of Confession.

 

Questions for discussion:

Question: Reading in Acts 15:1-2 and 5-7 that certain men within the New Covenant Church had their own agenda which was in opposition to the teaching of the Apostles.  Does this kind of disruption still occur in the Church today?  What should a Catholic Christian do when confronted with false teaching within the Church?  See Matthew 18:15-18.

Question: For what does Paul give thanks in 1:8? What does this tell us about the Christian community in Rome.

Question: Paul is hoping to continue his missionary efforts in the West and may be hoping that the Church in Rome will support those efforts [see 15:26].  Pope Paul VI said that "the Church exists to evangelize." How does this statement affect you and your faith community?

Question: Review Paul's litany of sins in 1:26-31. Do any of these same sins affect your community and your children?  What can we do as parents and as Christians to avoid sin and to take a stand against sin? What, if any, is our obligation to the sinner in our community?

 

Catechism References in Romans chapter 1[*indicates passage quoted in CCC reference]

Verses in Romans

Catechism reference

Verses in Romans

Catechism reference

1:1

876

1:18-25

57*

1:3-4

648

1:18

2125*

1:3

437*, 496*

1:19-20

32*; 287*; 1147*

1:4

445*, 695*

1:24-27

2357*

1:5

143*; 494; 2087

1:28-32

1852*

1:17

1814

1:32

1777*

1:18-32

401*; 2087*

 

 

 

Resources used in this lesson:

Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Navarre Bible: Romans and Galatians

The Anchor Bible Commentary'Romans

Sacra Pagina Commentary'Romans

Dictionary of the Bible

Christianity and the Roman Empire

The First Christian Centuries

Dogmatic Canons and Decrees: On the Council of Trent

Catholic Dictionary

Strong's Concordance

The Documents of Vatican II

The Salvation Controversy

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.