Romans 1, vs. 1-5

May this little analysis be for your joy and benefit in worship.  Constructive discussion welcome.  Apologies for the inconsistency in literary voice.  It was not the focus.  To understand the train of commentary, seek to read every quoted passage and understand why it was cited.

1:1a “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ…”

O, to be a slave in the House of the Royal King spoken of aforetime, to wash the floors in His House and dig the trenches nigh His highways.  Take ye my body, O Christ, take my members, take my Being, and wield All as thou wilt according to thy good pleasure! May kneeling at the feet of this King in worship be all desire, to see the King in His Beauty all pleasure, for in Him all that was comes to fruition, all that is finds Love, and all that shall be finds surety, for this King speaks and then acts according to His Will, a most trusty Master and King there never was on Earth, a most Wise God to fall before and follow there never shall be!  He declareth the end from the beginning and maketh known things that are and shall be before such striketh the eyes or even the very thoughts of men Is. 46:1-13.  See how he sets at naught all counsel in the Person of Jesus Christ.  Such that the Kings and Rulers beg to be counted as naught but bondservants in His Household, but look, for even more than this have we in this Jesus.  He is the King towards whom one rejoices to count themselves as naught but a bondservant, beholding His Beauty ever and always. So proceeds all of our labor, from this place of blood-bought love and worship, where we rejoice to be slaves purchased for His service. Is. 33:17-22 Yet, at the end of all things the yoke of this King remains light, and He, even He, carries us from birth to death unto the very gates of Heaven.  None of His household shall be lost, and none shall be cast off who truly draw near in full assurance of faith! When such a King is ours, we might truly rejoice to leave fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, yea, even our very lives, to be bondservants with the blessed saints and Apostles of aforetime (Matthew 11:28-30; Phil 1:6; Jn 17:11-12).

1:1b“Called to be an apostle…”

Any thing you call us to do, help us do, O God, and please never let us desire those things which you have not called or decreed that we do. But rather may we run mightily in the paths called forth for us, in Your holy zeal and strength, doing good works in praise of Your Glorious Grace, revealed in this Messiah Jesus, before whom a washed Church shall be brought to the obedience of faith.

1:1c“Seperated to the Gospel of God…”

How might we all separate ourselves to the Gospel of God, and shouldn’t we do so?  May we ever be so separated unto the Love of God in His Gospel that we always say, “Arise!” Unto our very souls, “get ye up from this place of sin and waste to sit at the feet of the King in His Beauty!”  For what else is there to do when once having seen the Grandeur of the Mountains of Grace? What else is there to do when once having seen the Might of the Galaxies of Love, a love which verily burneth over us in fire so Terrible it might be likened unto the very coals of Hell? This is the Jesus which hath loved us, loved the elect, loved the New Israel which he hath called unto Himself from every tribe, tongue, and nation of this globe, as he promised aforetime, “All Flesh shall come and Worship before Me.” Is. 66:23  What great bulwark to any fainting faith such a Word is!  For what place did the little people of Israel have to believe such a word from the lips of God, but now, verily, it hath come to pass, In this Christ.  Truly, in sight of such faithfulness, we can only say, “It is He, the Lamb, He with the Sweetest Name Given by whom only we might be saved!” He laid bare His Holy Arm in the sight of All the peoples of the Earth in this Christ, and now we have our Yeshua, Salvation from the Lord. Is. 52:10  In Him, the winepress of Wrath was trodden alone, and no one was there to help or assist Is. 63:3, for it was His Work that He might get Himself Fame among the peoples of the Earth Is. 66:19.  What a Great gospel and woe to us to not deem it a grand thing indeed to be separated unto it!

1:2 “Which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures…”

One can scarcely understand the Prophets without seeing in them the brightness of the Glory of the Risen and Conquering Christ. Yet, not also the risen Christ, but the suffering servant; not only the conqueror and sufferer, but also the propitiating Lamb, who setteth at right all things in Himself, chiefly His Bride, won to His loving side by the shedding of His precious blood, redeeming from all guilt according to the Grace of the Father...  See from the Words of that Sweet Psalmist of Israel, He who saw the King afar off like the dew of the morning after a rain when the sun shines from the canopy of the East: “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry!” Ps. 2:12, In this we see Him first, for there it was He was shown as one in whom folk might be “blessed” to put their trust.   If this be so, he cannot be any mere man, for verily, David the prophet also saith, “put not your trust in a son of man in whom there is no saving.” Ps. 146:5  Thus this is our first sight of that Blessed Son in Whom we see the Father also.

Yet not only do we see the Person of Christ by the Prophet’s testimony, but also the manner in which saving always has and always will arise: God gets Himself glory by doing the work, and yearns jealously over His people for such.  There is no saving of sinners halfway, but rather a mighty parting of the Red Sea.  No healing by science or other artifice of intellectual skill, but a command to simply look at the Serpent lifted up in this wilderness and live Jn 3:14-16; Num 21:6-9. Not only a battle against a giant, but a battle against a giant from the weakest, most unforeseen of persons, a young man and carpenter. So smote He the giant of Death, Hell, and Sin, that unholy trinity.  So also came this Christ as a tiny baby in humility; so also got He glory by “whistling to the nations” from afar and bringing all into union in Christ. Is. 5:26 So also got He the glory by not a redemption in part, but a full and sure redemption in the blood of Jesus that speaks a more perfect word than the blood of Abel.  Heb 12:22-24

Though Kingly beyond comprehension and most mighty, such is our Christ, a Salvation from the Lord where His Holy Arm manifests His Strength Alone. Ps. 3:8 Ps. 4:8, Is. 2:11.  Again we see, that the “lofty looks of men” are humbled in the latter days when “all nations shall stream to the mountain of the Lord.” The salvation comes in a manner to humble all pride, and results in all peoples coming to the mountain of the Lord.  How else hath this come to pass but in the Mighty Messiah Jesus, the Alpha and Omega?

Again we receive a reminder to not trust in a man with breath in his nostrils. Is. 2:22.  Yet we know to look for One who we might trust, of whom David spake, for such came forth in Psalm 2, and countless other places of note for which this space may yield only a few.  Isaiah also speaks of the One who shall dash the peoples in pieces with Iron.  Again he says “The Branch of the Lord” shall be beautiful and glorious, and in another place he speaks of Him branching out and filling the whole Earth with Fruit.  Such fruit are the Gentiles who now come to God’s Mount on Account of this Glorious Christ. Truly, Israel has branched out and filled the face of the world with fruit.  All of this from a little people who should be destroyed with Moab, Edom, and Philistia.

Instead of destruction, so speak the Seraphim, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of Hosts, the Whole Earth is full of His Glory!”  In what sense might the mighty seraphim mean this declamation?  For if it be said within Time, the things that were then Seen showed quite the opposite, for truly Israel received destruction on every side, and also Judah.  So then, this declamation is either entirely absurd, or more true than we dare to dream from outside of time in Eternity nigh the Throne of God.  From that vantage, one thinks of the angels seeing foretastes of the plan of God soon to be revealed and also crying out in wonder and awe and fear as they hid their very faces from the glory of it.  This too hath begun in the Person of Our Mighty Christ, in whom is plenteous redemption.  Not only do the Angels hide their faces, but Isaiah cries out in woe, undone by the glory of what he beheld, now realizing just how sinful he is in light of such Perfection, Goodness, and Holiness. We also do well to fall down and cry such things out, but our sight of this Glorious Christ, Sovereign Father, and Blessed Spirit remains all too dim.  Yet even there, before the Throne of God we have a foretaste of how the Earth would come to be filled with the Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord as the “waters cover the sea.”  Hab 2:14

Isaiah’s “iniquity is purged” entirely away.  What glory! This, too, becomes ours in the Person of Christ.  Again, we see how understandable it is for one to call themselves a “bondservant” of this Christ, for He is the King, the Lamb, the Son in Whose Face we See the Father, and His Knowledge conquered, is conquering, and will utterly conquer every corner of the Globe.

We see Him again in Is. 7:14, revealed to us as Immanuel, God With Us.  This cannot be merely seen as a metaphorical Withness, due to what we see elsewhere of the Prophets declaring in voices almost catatonically amazed, saying, “The Lord! The Lord is in your midst!” Zph 3:15-17  No, this “God with Us” is so near, so very “with,” that our hearts can barely conceive it.  This God With Us is truly with us, such that our very eyes shall see our Teacher, and a Voice speaks behind us saying “This is the Way! Walk in it!” Is. 30:19-21  Not only can we say this but moreover this Child shall know how to refuse the evil and choose the good. Is.7:15  What mere son of man does good and does not sin?  What son of man chooses the good over the evil? None, for they go astray in their hearts all the time from the womb, and their hearts are uncircumcised Ps. 14:2-3. All flesh might justly receive the judgement of the Father, for none living is righteous in His Sight.  But here we see Immanuel who shall know to choose between the two, to choose between good and evil.  This is no mere man.  This speaks of none but the Son of Man, Son of God, In Whose Face We See the Father.

The culmination of what might be called the first part of Isaiah occurs in vs. 6-7 of chapter 9, where we hear of the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, whose government and peace shall never end.  These and more make abundantly clear the manner of God’s Righteous Saving, the Means through Which It Transpired, and In Whom all things in Heaven and Earth come into One through the Person of Christ, such that “All Flesh shall come and worship” before the Throne of Jehovah.  This is but a little exposition of the multitude of what the Prophets spoke of Jesus, but space and time demand I move on.

1:3 “concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the Seed of David according to the flesh…”

What means it that the Messiah, Christ Jesus, be the Son of God and the Son of David? What might the prophets have revealed towards this end?  One sees it in Psalm 2, but also sees it in the promise of a new covenant in the manner of God’s sure and tender mercies on David Is. 55.  This sight induces a cry in our hearts in much the same manner as the blind man: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy!” For the Covenant to be Everlasting as the Prophet saith, it truly must be all of One Perfect, for if it were of men it could in no wise be called Everlasting.  Is. 55:3: “I will make an Everlasting Covenant with you -- the sure mercies of David.”  What sweetness there is in that term, “sure mercies.”  This Son and Heir of David must be a Mediator of a new covenant so certain that he could verily be none but the Son of God. For the mercies to be sure, they truly must be bought at a price so dear and so deep, that only by the blood of the Son of the Father might such a sure mercy come to us; only by the blood of the Word Made Flesh can it be called “Everlasting!”  Every time a covenant was made, death and blood came along with it. In the Adamic, all died by his one sin.  In the Noahic, the whole world perished, but Noah was saved. In the Abrahamic, circumcision sealed his faith in blood.  In the Davidic, the blood of David was spared, for how could he, a mere man, seal such an Everlasting covenant with his earthly blood, the blood of a sinner like any natural man? Rather, David looked unto one after him, of his line and house, who would one day rule the Nations.  In this we see a number of things: 1) We know God shareth no glory with another, as seen in Is. 42:8, so this Holy Kingship must be His in some sense; see Judges 8:23, where Gideon spoke most righly, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; The Lord shall rule over you”; The Kingship surely must belong to the Lord for glory is all His,  2) for the mercies to be sure in the covenantal sense, they must be sealed fully of Him, for men always go astray, as we see immediately in the kings after David died and even in David’s very life, even in light of a promise given more grand than any before. Nevertheless, the mercies given to David and promised to all by Isaiah can be called “sure” because they find founding in none other but He In Whose Face We See the Father, see Psalm 72, Therefore 3) Jesus Christ is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  We too can say with David on receiving the Promise, “Is this the manner of man, O Lord God?” 2 Sam 7:19  In this David thinks these very thoughts, and senses that the Lord God of Israel plans somewhat more, and says on his deathbed: “and like the light of the morning the sun rises, a morning without clouds; the tender grass out of the earth. By clear shining after rain.”  These words seem difficult to translate, but in the context of all heretofore analyzed, it makes great sense that David saw and spoke with what little knowledge even he had of what he saw, “The Sun Rising in Righteousness, with healing in His Wings.”  The translation of the pronouns here, notoriously different between KJV/NKJV and ESV, need not obfuscate the meaning, for what sun of righteousness could there be besides The Lord God, Ancient of Days?  The Sun did Rise, and such a rising began and ended in the might of the One who Was, Is, and Is to Come.  Ps. 98:1-3.  The imagery of the Sun possesses deep meaning, for truly, He Has Arisen upon All Flesh from ends to uttermost ends of the Earth. As the sun's rays touch all flesh, so shall the Light of the World touch all flesh.  He rose and conquered, and there it was declared what He was in Truth: Ps. 18:46-50.

More might be said but again space permits little.  Let this suffice for what it means in Paul's mind when he speaks of the Son of God, Son of David, Jesus.  Look around you, peoples, do you see?  God has preserved Israel and loved His people and brought we, the Gentiles, to them in tribute.  For here we sit studying a religious text of a people who should be destroyed, according to the manner of the kingdoms in earthly histories.  Yet, God hath not turned away His care for the House of David, and rightly do all call this Jesus, the Son of David, the Son of God, their King and fall before His Throne!

1:4 “...and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”

Here we ask, in what sense does Paul mean Jesus was “declared” to be the Son of God?  Is this in any sense a state which only passed onto Him at resurrection from the dead?  And what does he refer to when he speaks of the Spirit of Holiness.  Beginning with the latter, it seems right to say that Jesus was called the “Beloved Son, in Whom the Father is well-pleased” in the sight of many witnesses. In this moment alone, we see a vindication in keeping with Psalm 2, and we also see the word agapetos, Beloved, referred to Jesus.  One calls to mind the same manner of speech used to refer to David, a man after God’s Own Heart, but such words as “Beloved” were never used for David.  Here, The Father speaks of Him, His Son, as agapetos, dearly loved, and the Spirit descends upon Him.  This Baptism presents a picture of what vindicating word Christ would receive when standing in victory, arisen from the bonds of Death.  One remembers the words of Isaiah in chapter 53, “He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied.” specifically vs. 11-12.  Having made His soul an offering for guilt, an offering for the transgressors, the Father prolongs His days and gives His pleasure into His hand to prosper, How clearly this phrasing speaks of the Resurrection, for how can one’s days be prolonged after pouring out one’s soul to death unless the full might of Godhead acts in and because of One Perfect? Yet such clearly transpired in the life, death, burial, and rising of Jesus Messiah, Is. 53:10 and 12.  The Work finished, he sits down at the right hand of the throne of God and makes intercession for transgressors.  Is. 53:12.  Who else can make all things new but God; who else might pour out their very Soul to death and still receive prolonged days but the Son of God? In this quote from the Gospels and in the words of the prophets we gain a clearer picture of how Jesus was declared to be the Son of God, not in the sense of becoming, but being revealed like the Light of Dawn as truly shining forth the might of the Father, testified by the Spirit.  In shining forth the Father in the defeat of Death, the atonement of sin, and the present intercession, Yeshua of God truly shows that he possesses immense power, the power and might of God. Jn 14:9.

1:5a “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship…”

The first mention of that blessed word “grace.”   One wonders what is meant by such a word, and if one had only read these five verses, one would scarcely know what it means.  Yet, it can be assumed that, if the first Pauline readers possessed some knowledge of Roman law or some knowledge of the Hebrew prophecies, they might have known what it meant. Nevertheless, to look unto the folk who only first received the light of the Apostles ministry, and grant them the basis of one’s definition of words, seems to break a rule of some kind, for the Apostles must be allowed to define their teaching among themselves, as they were the eyewitnesses of the very Majesty.  This at least seems signatory of their holy office. Therefore, looking at other manners in which the word “charis” or grace is used by these Apostles in their accounts and epistles affords us the most help in the process of understanding.  This will do for our first introduction of the word, lacking any given context for its understanding in the epistle heretofore.

One of the most notable instances of “charis” is when that mighty Angelic Being did appear to Mary and declare before her, “Mary, thou hast found favor (charis) with God!”  Let us consider the quality of the favor given to Mary.  She, through no seeking of her own, did find that she, according to the thunderous declamation of the prophet Isaiah, would bear the very Divine Child in her womb, the Son of David, the Son of God, which would appear in the Throne Room of Heaven before the Ancient of Days, making peace by the blood of the new covenant, sealing the sure mercies of David.  Before she was born or had done either good or evil, God declared it would be so.  He declared that there would be a time where men might declare in utter sincerity, “Immanuel!” Though Mary was young, of no account, possessing no nobility or high status befitting her finding of favour, she would hold the Son of God in her bosom.  Moreover, though she hailed from a little town of no account, God chose her.  Though she had not yet known a man, and might get scandal to the Fame of God thereby, God chose her, scorning the petty outward concerns of men in their quickly shifting cultural customs and mores.  This gives us one picture of that beautiful word Grace, a word which I hope we will all come to love and delight in before the end, that we also might be to the praise of the glory of God’s Grace.  And so it has ever been: God chose Gideon, a man who doubted,  won a victory through him with 300 instead of 23,000, even those whose lack of soldiering led them to quit themselves in the most unsoldierly manner, falling down and lapping the water like dogs.  He even chose Moses, who doubted and protested, claiming no skill in speech.  In the same way He chose Jacob, a liar and cheat, granting the blessing the pursuit of God’s love in spite of His sin. God’s vessels for His workmanship ever fit into this mold, humble, lowly, and ready to be filled with His power that God might receive Glory.  This at least gives us knowledge of the manner of acquisition of this Grace: It comes from God, and no merit induces the Almighty to bestow it. Later, we shall consider the efficacy of this Grace.

In reference to Apostleship, we know that what made an Apostle was also God, which is why the text says “through Him.”  From what we see of Apostleship in the epistles, Acts, and Gospels, it appears that Apostleship functioned as an office, whereby the teaching of Christ received application and interpretation to various cultural contexts: Gentile and Hebrew.  Thankfully, the Apostles applied and interpreted the words of Christ, for truly, the words of the Son of God are often too wonderful, cryptic, and dark to understand.  Yet, the Apostles deliver the Gospel in the languages of the people to whom they speak and apply it to their context with skill. Yet, it is important to realize that the essential simplicity of the Gospel never changes: Christ Crucified in the Place of Sinners, making the only Way open to God, that the called may escape the Wrath to Come.  In the historical context, one considers the diversity predominant in the Roman empire at this time and quickly realizes that only a miracle could have brought the Words of Christ to so many varied people so quickly and efficiently, resulting in the spread of it across every corner of the Empire.  Truly, the Word had to have been preached with authority and power.  The Apostles ministry reverberates to us even today.

1:5b “...for obedience to the faith among all Nations for His Name,”

First: …’for obedience to the faith’

It is strange to consider how so many have approached this little phrase “the obedience of faith/obedience to the faith/obedience for the faith” and developed entire systems of “faith plus works” doctrine in their soteriology, as if seeing the word “obedience” enlivened every eisegetical instinct all at once.  It seems helpful to consider what Paul does not say here to gain clarity in what he does say: He does not say the “obedience to the Law of Moses'' which might have made more sense if obedience was meant in the manner so many eisegetes loudly proclaim it to function: the keeping of laws in a covenant of works to gain favour with God in the old-covenantal sense, with reliance on imperfect sacrifice for the cleansing of sin.  This is not to say that there is no longer any covenant of works.  However, upon the grounds of Hebrews alone, it cannot function in the same manner, for the Sacrifice, the Paschal Lamb of God, purely sanctifies those who draw near, in every way more perfectly than the blood of bulls and goats which never could suffice for taking away sins.  Though the covenants are one and the same in mechanics, many aspects of the old cannot be deemed functional in efficacy, for what is New utterly transcends the old, which was only proclaimed in shadows and signs. (Heb 10:1-4)

Furthermore, it seems correct to allow the good Apostle Paul a breath of a chance of explaining what he means by “obedience to the faith” before we jump to a new perspective.  This he in fact does most clearly in ch. 2-5, clarifies in ch. 6-7, waxes eloquent on it through ch. 8, deepens our understanding of it in ch. 9, and gives application of it to the end of the book.  Without seeming to paint with too broad of a brush, (although some of my opponents on this point do it far more brutally than I) it seems allowable to admit that no definition has been given by St. Paul, therefore no one gets to declare a definition at this stage.  So, we wait on baited breath for the apostolic teaching, especially in defining that little but ever-important word “obedience.”

Second:...”Among all Nations…”

Again we hear the echoes of Isaiah, Malachi, and many other prophets who spoke of the day to come when the Mountain of the Lord would be lifted high above all other mountains. Is. 2:2-3  This point never loses its excitement, especially when it is one of the deepest evidentiary statements in support of the Lord of Hosts actively building His Kingdom, bringing all things together in Christ.

To correct those who think that the prophecy need be entirely literal at this stage, we need only look to Heb. 12:22-24.  The Mountain All Nations come to at this moment seems to be “Heavenly”, although the physical world has quickly followed suit over the past two millenia and will only continue, though darkness roars and rages against our Gates.  

Third:...”For His Name.”

One might tremble somewhat at speaking these three words, and O may we learn to tremble at them more with godly fear and holy love.  For how great is the Salvation afforded us!  God will protect His fame and see to it that He gets great renown, as He did when He parted the Red Sea, that all might walk over on dry ground.  Let us wait on the Apostle Paul's teaching, and we also will see the Red Seas of Wrath, Sin, and Death parted, with mighty hands holding them back on either side, that the Church Triumphant may march home, victory won by the mighty arm of the Lord.  

We need only Be Still – and know. (Exodus 14; Is. 66:5-24; Ps. 46:10)