Comment on Romans 1:1-17
The first part of chapter 1 of Romans introduces; a) Paul's Hebrew background and perspective on faith issues, b) some of his reasons for writing the letter and, c) that his primary audience is the gentiles within the congregation. As with any document written to serve a purpose, Paul will reveal more of his intent as we go further into the letter.
The Greek text has little punctuation between these verses, therefore the choice of where to "put the commas," is up to the translator. This choice however, can make a big difference in how the text reads. The King James, for instance, treats this section as one long sentence, placing a total of 10 commas, 2 colons, 1 semicolon and a set of parentheses within these seven verses. This is not reflective of the punctuation in the actual Greek.
By comparison, the New King James divides the section into two sentences, with an alternate placing of commas:
Critical is the punctuation around verse 5, where Paul speaks of "obedience to the faith" (which is also translated "obedience of faith.") In both cases above, the essence of what Paul is saying is clouded by where the translators have placed their periods, commas and colons.
An alternative translation of Romans 1:1-7 (from the Nestle-Aland Greek Testament), as provided by Christian author C.E.B. Cranfield, is as follows (italics are added).
Note that the italicized portion above, is a continuous clause. This lengthy clause describes the background and details of the message of good news that Paul mentions at the end of verse 1.
Pauls description of his mission, which begins in verse 1b with, "set apart ..." concludes in verse 5b, with ... in order to."
When we pull out this purely descriptive clause (2-5a) we have the essentials of Pauls mission:
"Paul, slave of Christ Jesus, apostle by Gods calling, set apart for the work of proclaiming Gods message of good news ... in order to bring about, for his names sake, obedience of faith among all the gentiles, among whom you also are, you who are called of Jesus Christ"
This translation of the Greek text (without the superfluous punctuation) shows that Paul has the gentiles in the congregation in mind as an intended audience for what this letter will have to say. (He reaffirms this in verse 13 as well as in chapter 11). Furthermore, Paul describes his assignment in terms of teaching the gentile believers in Yeshua (particularly in Rome) that obedience is integral to their faith. As we will see, this obedience of their faith is directly tied to the Torah.
1:1 called to be an apostle
One of the key misunderstandings regarding Paul, is the idea that as "apostle to the gentiles," he was bringing the non-Jewish world some alternative to the existing faith of Israel. Paul's mission to the gentile world was on behalf of Israel, as will be shown throughout this study (i.e., 9:1-5; 10:1, 11:11-14, 11:25-32).
1:1 separated unto the gospel of God
As discussed in both our Matthew and Revelation studies, the "gospel" message is not the "death, burial and resurrection" of the Messiah. Those events are God's confirmation that Yeshua was/is indeed His Messiah. Rather, the "gospel" (besorah - good news) is directly tied to the final 1000-year Shabbat (the Millennium) when God's process of tikkun (repair) comes to its fulfillment. At this time God's name is made One:
With the arrival of the "Supernal Sabbath," God and creation are brought back together, the lost tribes (Ephraim) are reunited to Judah, and the Messiah (bridegroom) and the Shekinah (bride) are joined together. (Our Revelation study will discuss the subject of the Millennial Sabbath in greater detail.)
This gospel was preached by Yeshua's disciples before His death, by Yeshua Himself, and to Moses and the children of Israel in the desert. (And to Abraham as well - a topic discussed in our Revelation study.)
1:2 Which he had promised
From this verse through verse 14, Paul establishes a pattern of historical continuity. God did not change or start over. He did not do away with the faith of Israel in favor of a new gentile "Church." Bringing gentiles into the faith of Israel was foretold by the prophets, as was the general rejection of Messiah by His brethren. This rejection does not make God a liar concerning what He promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The prophets of old all looked toward Messiah:
The subject of salvation history is found throughout the Romans letter (i.e., 3:21-31; 4:12; 9:1-29; 10:5-21; 11:20-32; 15:4:12)
1:3 the seed of David according to the fleshGentile believers are now related to Yeshua who is the first born of many brethren. Paul continues to view Jews that do not (yet) believe in Yeshua, as his "brethren and kinsmen according to the flesh." Luke refers to non-believing Jews in the same way.
1:5 for his name
Verses 1-4 show a historical continuity from the prophets of the Tenakh ("Old Testament"), to the time of Yeshua, where gentiles begin coming to faith in great numbers. Paul's message of the "good news" for the gentiles (into the "obedience of faith") is not only for Yeshua's name sake -- it is also in the context of fulfillment of God's promises to Israel.
This is similar to what Luke writes in Acts. The "Name" of God is key here as well:
The "Name" of God plays an important role in these events:
Rabbinic literature declares that the name of Messiah has existed since before the creation of the world:
1:5-6 among all nations ... Among whom are ye also the called
Here Paul first establishes the gentile audience for the message of this letter.
1:6 obedience to the faith
Paul's teaching of "obedience to the faith" is addressed to gentiles only (As Jewish believers were already practicing Torah.) Paul is speaking of the obedience that characterizes the lifestyle of gentiles professing faith in the God of Israel. Such obedience on their part will bring honor to the name of Yeshua, especially among the non-believing Jews.
As mentioned in the background to this study, the gentiles in the Roman congregation continue to remain in contact with non-believing Jews (through the synagogue system). Paul has great concern for his brethren who have not yet accepted Yeshua as Messiah (Romans 9:1-5). Proper gentile behavior (as they "come to God" - Acts 15:21) will be a sign that he hopes will sway his brethren to reconsider.The Greek word for "obedience" is hupakoe, which is derived from hupakouo, meaning to "listen attentively and harken." This is very similar in meaning to the Hebrew word shema. The Septuagint (Greek version of the Tenakh) translates shema with the same Greek word.
The concept of faith-based obedience occurs throughout the letter of Romans, including verses: 5:19; 6:16; 10:16-18; 15:18; 16:19 and 16:26. (See notes to 1:8b below, for more on obedience as part of faith.)
1:8a First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all
In true rabbinic style, Paul begins by praising those he needs to correct. He goes as far as to tell them that they are in his prayers constantly (verse 9). He will also close the letter on a "high note." Paul thanks God "through" Messiah, who is mediator between man and God.
1:8b your faith is spoken ofThe Greek word for "faith" is based on the Hebrew word emuna having to do with trust, commitment and obedience in a relationship with God. To Paul, to speak of "faith" is to speak of obedience, as they are inseparably linked.
Paul and James are in agreement on this issue:
Faith, in the Judaism of Paul and James, is proven by obedience.
1:11 impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established
This "spiritual gift" is directly tied to "establishing" or "strengthening" them in their faith. This verse, along with verse 15 (where he says he is bringing them the gospel) indicate that their faith is deficient in some way. This is a key to understanding much of this letter. They have a great enough faith in Yeshua for him to boast about them (verse 8), yet something isn't right.
Paul had received his "marching orders" a number of years earlier, following the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, held in 48CE (48 A.D.) This council determined the halakha (guidelines) for gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua (directly from the pagan world). Acts 15 begins with a discussion of whether gentiles had to essentially "become Jews" before being accepted in the faith of Israel and its Messiah. The decision was made to only give the gentiles, who were in the process of coming to faith, certain critical commands from Torah, mostly to enable fellowship together.
It is important to note that the minimal criteria this council set in place for new gentile believers was given in the context that they would continue to learn more of the Torah when attending the synagogues where they would learn what "Moses taught" (the Torah):
Note that following the decision of this council, the disciples were sent back out to existing Messianic communities with the function of "establishing" (confirming) them in their faith, by launching them on the path of Torah-based obedience:
1:13 that I might have some fruit among you also
As discussed in our Matthew study, all spiritual "fruit" is to be gauged not solely by results (as Satan can produce results), and not because they were achieved "in Yeshua's name" (as He warned about in Mathew 7). Spiritual "fruit" is judged by whether or not it is in alignment with God's Torah. That is the true test.
1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise
One can argue that if there was/is redeeming spiritual value to anything within the pagan world, it originally came from God's Torah. If this is the case, then what Paul is saying here is that he has been given a duty by God to preach the truth to the gentiles.
On the other hand, it is a principle in Judaim to learn from every human being:
As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan states:
1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready
Having established that God has given him this role (in verse 14) Paul states how anxious he is to embark on this divinely ordained task.1:15 to preach the gospel Although they (the gentiles at Rome) legitimately know about God and that Yeshua is Messiah, they do not have the "full" message of the gospel. This is directly a result of the lack of a proper "apostolic foundation," which, as we will see, has resulted in a "theology" void of its correct Torah-based context within the faith of Israel.
Paul reiterates that he is bringing the "full" gospel to them, at the end of this letter:
One of the deeper mysteries of Scripture is that Yeshua is Himself the "gospel" incarnate:
1:16 power of God unto Salvation
The Biblical concept of salvation is "futuristic" and associated with the Kingdom of God, which is the center of the gospel (Jubilee release) message that Paul is preaching. (Our Revelation study has more information on the Jubilee release. Click here then use the BACK button to return.)
There are two separate reasons for this futuristic view:
1:16 to every one that believeth
As discussed in the background material for this study, Paul's Hebrew concept of belief/faith is one based in a trusting relationship with God, based on the criteria God has given for this relationship, which has the Torah as its foundation.
1:16 to the Jew first, and also to the Greek
The Nestle Greek has the word "both" interjected in this phrase, which adds to the meaning of the text. As mentioned in the Introduction to this study, at the heart of Paul's "theology" is the Shema, with its theme of harmony and unification. God is not only the God of the Jews, He is the God of the Jews and the gentiles, both of whom are to be included in "Jacob's tents," in His glorious Kingdom. God did not establish a new or separate "faith system" for gentiles - they are to be one with Israel within the faith of Israel.
This is also made clear by Paul in one of his other letters, where he tells gentile believes, that they are now no longer of the world, but instead part of the faith of Israel, with its Torah covenant:
There is also an order indicated by the use of the phrase, "to the Jew first." The concepts of sin, salvation, Messiah, Kingdom, etc., are all part of the faith of Israel. This was all given to them by God, to share with the rest of the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Even if Israel fails Him, He is faithful to the promises He made them (Romans 3:4, chapters 9-11). God does not change.
Yeshua's original instructions to his disciples were to go to the lost sheep of Israel and not to the gentiles. After His death, the gospel went to the gentiles, but in each city, the apostles would first preach to the Jews in the synagogue. Some would accept the message of Yeshua, some would reject it. Only after the Jews in each city had fully received the gospel and made their decision, would this message then go to the gentiles.The pattern of "to the Jew first," continued to the very end of Paul's life. When he does make it to Rome (Acts 28:15-31) Paul goes to the synagogue leaders first.
1:17 revealed from faith to faith
This could represent God's continued righteousness from one generation to the next, i.e:
Alternately, "from faith to faith" could also indicate a type of continuation and growth process. (i.e., "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."- Mark 9:24) This could then be compared to the end of this chapter, where Paul shows the opposite to be true as well. (Sin breeds continual and worse sin which leads to God's wrath.)
1:17 The just shall live by faith
Paul is quoting Habukkuk 2:4. Salvation has always been by faith/trust in God. To "live by faith" is essentially the "one commandment" that all else boils down to. (This does not dismiss all the "details" of what makes up true faith - the entire Torah.):
Comment on verses 16&17
Verses 16 and 17 of this chapter are transitional verses that lead into the next major section of the letter (from 1:18 to 4:25) where Paul will next show why both Jews and gentiles will be judged equally by God, and that the fact that God's word was true in the past gives everyone assurance that is it true for the future.
1. Sefer Yetzirah - The Book of Creation, Aryeh Kaplan, Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1990, p. 12.
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