Over the next few years, my church will be focusing on the Epistle to the Romans. I will be posting my notes from my pastor's exposition in my blog... I am complimenting his sermons with my personal study of Thomas Schreiner's Commentary (along with many other commentaries throughout the course of the exposition).
Before beginning his exposition, my pastor preached several sermons painting the redemptive picture of the Gospel through the whole counsel of Scripture. Since Romans is such a theologically dense book and considered by many to be the most important piece of literature ever written, he wanted to ground us in an understanding of the Christ-centered nature of the Bible in order that we may develop an appetite for Romans; that it may be palatable.
Thomas R. Schreiner's Commentary on Romans
Augustine's theology... "which has probably exerted more influence on the church worldwide than any theologian in the history of the church—was significantly indebted to Romans." (p.1)
"This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul." (Martin Luther)
"Man's only righteousness is the mercy of God in Christ, when it is offered by the Gospel and received by faith." (John Calvin)
"Exegesis begins with a patient and humble listening to the text, with the willingness to hear an alien word." (p. 2)
Tertius: Paul's amanuensis [employed writer of dictation] (see Romans 16:22)
How much freedom was given in composition?
1. Paul provided general themes
2. Tertius took down Paul's dictation in shorthand and wrote it later
3. Paul dictated the letter word for word
"It is intrinsically unlikely that Paul would surrender the specific contents of Romans to Tertius. The letter was of great import to Paul, and its careful structure suggests that he fussed over the details." (p. 2)
"The style of Romans fits with Paul's other letters that are accepted as authentic, and there is no evidence that Tertius composed those... Romans should be accepted as the product of Paul's dictation to Tertius..." (p. 3)
"in the case of Romans we can safely locate the letter between A.D. 55 and 58." (p. 3)
Paul is done with missionary endeavors... [click here for more information]
"...from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum [roughly Albania] I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation..." (Romans 15:19b-20, ESV)
Paul plans to visit Rome after Jerusalem...
"I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while. At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints... When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you." (Romans 15:24-25, 28, ESV)
Acts 19 and 20...
"Paul's intention to go to Rome crystallized after his two plus years in Ephesus [Turkey]... He was intent upon going to Jerusalem... He planned to visit Macedonia [northern Greece] and Achaia [southern Greece]..." (p. 4)
"This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks... Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while." (Acts 19:10, 21-22, ESV)
"Paul reached both Macedonia and Achaia... He spent three months in Achaia... He likely wrote Romans during his three months in Greece... He probably wrote the letter from Corinth." (p. 4)
"After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia." (Acts 20:1-3, ESV)
Commendation of Phoebe of Cenchreae, Corinth (vv. 1-2)
Gaius was Paul's host (v. 23)
"...I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius" (1 Corinthians 1:14b, ESV)
Erastus (v. 23)
"Erastus remained at Corinth..." (2 Timothy 4:20a, ESV)
Destination; foundation of the church at Rome
"Paul did not establish it (the Roman church), for the letter makes abundantly clear that Paul had never been to Rome and yet churches existed in the city (cf. Romans 16)." (p. 10)
"Perhaps the visitors from Rome returned to the city and founded a church." (p. 11)
"And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (Acts 2:8-11, ESV)
"Christianity was brought to Rome by Jewish Christians from Palestine." (p. 11)
Brown and Meier...
"Christians who kept up some Jewish observances and remained faithful to part of the heritage of the Jewish Law and cult, without insisting on circumcision." (p. 11)
Destination; issues concerning the church at Rome
Suetonius (Roman historian; A.D. 120)...
"Claudius deported from Rome Jews who were involved in local disruptions at the behest of 'Chresto'. Most scholars agree that Suetonius confused the name 'Christo' (i.e. 'Christ') with the name 'Chresto' because the latter was a common Greek name." (p. 12)
"The most likely date for this eviction is A.D. 49, for this matches the testimony of Acts 18:2 (where Prisca's and Aquila's expulsion from Rome is attributed to an order from Claudius that all Jews should leave Rome) and of the Christian historian Orosius (History Against Pagans 7.6)." (p. 12)
"The dismissal of the Jews from Rome in A.D. 49 had a significant effect on Roman churches, With the ejection of the Jews the churches in Rome became mainly Gentile. These Gentile house churches developed for a number of years apart from Jewish influence... It is not hard to imagine that tensions would arise between Jews and Gentiles since the latter would not be as devoted to the law and had evolved in new directions with the eviction of the Jews." (p. 13)
Destination; the Christians in Rome
Gentiles... [Romans 9-11, 14-15]
"They are to desist from pride, even though they have been joined to the olive tree of God's people and the Jews have largely been cast aside." (p. 13)
"They are to accept Jewish believers who have scruples in regard to food and drink and the observance of various days." (p. 13)
"In Romans 1:5-6 Paul addresses the readers, identifying his commission as the apostle to the Gentiles, and he specifically includes the Roman readers within the orbit of this Gentile commission. The language should not be pressed to exclude the Jews, but it implies that the majority of the readers were Gentiles." (p. 14)
[Romans 1:13, 11:13, 15:15-16]
"chapters 1-11 can be conceived of as a dialogue with the Jews, who are specifically addressed in 2:17. The constant appeal to the OT and the discussion of the Mosaic law are also set forth as evidence of a Jewish readership." (p. 14)
"His gospel was probably under suspicion in Rome precisely because both the Jews and Jewish Christians hotly disputed his interpretation of the Mosaic law the OT Scriptures. Paul's teaching on the law had already precipitated disputes in Galatia and Corinth. These debates were not confined to these localities, and before Paul could use Rome as a bridgehead for bringing the gospel to Spain, he needed to show them why the objections to his gospel, which had certainly reached Rome also, were unfounded." (p. 15)
Resolving conflict between Jews and Gentiles in Rome...
"in Rome the weak adhere to Jewish food laws and the Sabbath because of their devotion to the Mosaic law. In Corinth, by contrast, the weak hail from pagan backgrounds and fear eating food offered to idols because it will defile them." (p. 20)
[Romans 14:1-15:13; 1 Corinthians 8-10]
"He needed to summarize the basic content of the gospel he preached, especially as it pertained to issues relating to Jews and Gentiles... Paul needed to explicate his gospel thoroughly because he was the object of constant attacks, especially by other Jewish Christians... He must satisfy both Jewish and Gentile Christians that his stance on the Mosaic law, circumcision, and the place of Israel accords with the OT Scriptures... Paul's intention is to show them that his gospel constitutes the true fulfillment of what the OT Scriptures teach about the Mosaic law, circumcision, and the role of Israel (and Gentiles) in salvation history... one of Paul's primary aims was to unify the church in Rome, so that Jews and Gentiles together would worship God in harmony, understanding that their unified worship fulfilled what the OT Scriptures taught (cf. Romans 15:7-13)... He hoped that the unified congregations would rally together to support his mission to Spain (cf. Romans 15:22-24)... just as Paul had set forth his teaching to resolve the disputes between Jews and Gentiles, so too his teaching had to be embraced for them to support his mission... Full discussions of Christology [theology pertaining to Christ], ecclesiology [theology pertaining to the church], eschatology [theology pertaining to the 'end times'], and the Lord's Supper were not needed, for no one disputed Paul's teaching in these areas... Paul ultimately wrote Romans as a servant of God to honor his Lord." (pp. 21-23)
Here are my notes (with added Scripture references and commentary) from my pastor's first sermon on the book of Romans. You may listen to it HERE. If you would like more information, visit NorthPointe Baptist.
Paul: A Witness to the Radical Power of the Gospel of God (09/20/09)
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1, ESV)
I. Paul's Disposition (v. 1a)
Paul considered himself a slave or servant of Jesus... he was owned by Christ.
"whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:26-28, ESV)
"Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification." (Romans 6:16-19, ESV)
"Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin." (Romans 7:25, ESV)
PAUL MENTIONS HIS DISPOSITION BEFORE HE MENTIONS HIS OFFICE
...may we imitate Paul (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1) by focusing on humble service.
The Roman church (A.D. 55-58) was quite familiar with the language Paul was using... slavery was a major part of ancient Roman society.
A Pauline Biography
"I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia [Turkey], but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus [Syria] to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished." (vv.3-5, ESV)
"he was born in a creditable reputable place, in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, and was by his birth a freeman of that city." (Matthew Henry)
His teacher was Gamaliel, who was a Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin... considered to be one of the premier teachers of Jewish law in the first century.
He was peerless and his mental acuity matched his zealousness for the law
He had misconceptions of honoring God
"He was not only a Jew, and a gentleman, but a scholar. He was brought up in Jerusalem, the principal seat of the Jewish learning, and at the feet of Gamaliel, whom they all knew to be an eminent doctor of the Jewish law, of which Paul was designed to be himself a teacher; and therefore he could not be ignorant of their law, nor be thought to slight it because he did not know it. His parents had brought him very young to this city, designing him for a Pharisee; and some think his being brought up at the feet of Gamaliel intimates, not only that he was one of his pupils, but that he was, above any other, diligent and constant in attending his lectures, observant of him, and obsequious to him, in all he said... He was an intelligent professor of their religion, and had a clear head. He minded his business at Gamaliel's feet, and was there taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers. What departures he had made from the law were not owing to any confused or mistaken notions of it, for he understood it to a nicety, kata akribeian—according to the most accurate and exact method... He was an active professor of their religion, and had a warm heart: I was zealous towards God, as you all are this day. Many that are very well skilled in the theory of religion are willing to leave the practice of it to others, but Paul was as much a zealot as a rabbi. He was zealous against every thing that the law prohibited, and for every thing that the law enjoined; and this was zeal towards God, because he thought it was for the honour of God and the service of his interests" (Matthew Henry)
"As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?' And I answered, 'Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, 'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.' Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me. And I said, 'What shall I do, Lord?' And the Lord said to me, 'Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.' And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. "And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, 'Brother Saul, receive your sight.' And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name." (vv. 6-16, ESV)
A light brighter than the noonday sun in Syria blinded him and thrust him down.
"In the night-season there appear oftentimes lightnings, which come of the hot exhalations of the earth; but this was more strange, that about noon a sudden light did not only appear, but did also compass him about like a lightning, so that through fear thereof he fell from his horse, and lay prostrate upon the ground." (John Calvin)
"It was a light from heaven that first startled him, a great light, which shone suddenly round about him, and the Jews knew that God is light, and his angels angels of light, and that such a light as this shining at noon, and therefore exceeding that of the sun, must be from God... it shone upon him in the open road, at high noon, and so strongly that it struck him to the ground, and all that were with him (Acts 26:14)" (Matthew Henry)
Note that Jesus tells Saul (Paul) that He is the one being persecuted. Christ does not say, "why are you persecuting the church?" or "why are you persecuting my disciples?" There is a connection/union between Jesus Christ ("the head") and the church ("the body").
Ananias (Acts 9)
"If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 4b-11, ESV)
"I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." (1 Timothy 1:12-14, ESV)
I would also like to add Galatians 1:12-17 for the sake of solidarity and the purpose of synthesis:
"I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus."
II. Paul's Office (v. 1b)
"To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints..." (Romans 1:7, ESV)
This "calling" is considered an "effectual calling"
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27, ESV)
Paul's dramatic conversion was the product of the irresistable grace of God
Paul's authority comes directly from Christ Himself
"Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1, ESV)
"He had not taken this honour to himself, but had a divine commission for it." (Matthew Henry)
"in order that he may not be reckoned inferior in any respect, to the other Apostles, for this one thing the malevolent and envious bawled out on all occasions—that he had received from the hands of men whatever he had of the gospel, inasmuch as he had never seen Christ. And, certainly, he had not had converse with Christ while he was in the world, but Christ had appeared to him after his resurrection. It was not a smaller privilege, however, to have seen Christ in his immortal glory, than to have seen him in the abasement of mortal flesh." (John Calvin)
This next passage is absolutely beautiful...
"Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." (1 Corinthians 15:8-10, ESV)
"Paul does not refuse to be the most worthless of all, and next to nothing, provided this contempt does not impede him in any degree in his ministry, and does not at all detract from his doctrine. He is contented that, as to himself, he shall be reckoned unworthy of any honor, provided only he commends his apostleship in respect of the grace conferred upon him. And assuredly God had not adorned him with such distinguished endowments in order that his grace might lie buried or neglected, but he had designed thereby to render his apostleship illustrious and distinguished." (John Calvin)
"What kept Paul low in an especial manner was the remembrance of his former wickedness, his raging and destructive zeal against Christ and him members... When sinners are by divine grace turned into saints, he makes the remembrance of their former sins very serviceable, to make them humble, and diligent, and faithful." (Matthew Henry)
Remember what Paul wrote to the church at Galatia in order to solidify his Apostolic authority...
"For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ." (Galatians 1:12, ESV)
"It was necessary that Paul should state his doctrine... and rest it on this ground, that he had acquired it not in the school of any man, but by revelation from God." (John Calvin)
III. Paul's Purpose (v. 1c)
separated to the gospel of God...
What does "of God" mean? Is the gospel about God? Is it sent by Him? Is it from Him?
Answer: ALL OF THE ABOVE
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,and before you were born I consecrated you..." (Jeremiah 1:5a, ESV)
Again, recall Paul's letter to the Galatians...
"when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles..." (Galatians 1:15-16b, ESV)
Like Paul, we (believers) are"set apart" by the grace of God... saved through faith. We are his slaves because He predestined and created us for the production of fruit and good works.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)
May we be set apart, a people for his own possession. Let us proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into light; die to ourselves and live as slaves of righteousness to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preface to Romans (Martin Luther)
The Greatest Letter Ever Written (John Piper's exposition of Romans)
Romans Revolution (an article by Michael Horton)
The Theme of Romans (an essay by Douglas Moo)