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ROMANS 1:1-1:17
Last updated 11/3/04

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
 

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.

1:1-1:7

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:

"Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the Gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all the nations for His name, among whom you also are called of Jesus Christ."

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).

"Paul, slave of Christ Jesus, apostle by God’s calling, set apart for the work of proclaiming God’s message of good news, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of David’s seed according to the flesh, who was appointed Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness from the resurrection of the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship in order to bring about, for his name’s sake, obedience of faith among all the gentiles, among whom you also are, you who are called of Jesus Christ, …"

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.

Paul’s 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 Paul’s mission:

"Paul, slave of Christ Jesus, apostle by God’s calling, set apart for the work of proclaiming God’s message of good news ... in order to bring about, for his name’s 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:

Zechariah 14:9 - And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name 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:

Talmud, Berachoth 34b - All the prophets prophesied only for the days of the Messiah, but as for the world to come, ‘Eye hath not seen, oh God, beside Thee’.

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 flesh

Gentile 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:

Acts 15:13-18  - And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

The "Name" of God plays an important role in these events:

Isaiah 43:1, 6-7 - But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine ... I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

Rabbinic literature declares that the name of Messiah has existed since before the creation of the world:

Talmud - Mas. Pesachim 54a - Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord made me [the Torah] as the beginning of his way. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, and it is written, Thou turnest man to contrition, and sayest, Repent, ye children of men. The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. The Gehenna, for it is written, For Tophet [Gehenna] is ordered of old. The Throne of Glory and the Temple, for it is written, Thou throne of glory, on high from the beginning, Thou place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His [the Messiah's] name shall endure for ever, and has exited before the sun!

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 of

The 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:

Romans 2:13 - For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

James 1:22 - But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.

Faith, in the Judaism of Paul and James, is proven by obedience.

James 2:17-26 - Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

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):

Acts 15:20-21 - But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.

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:

Acts 15:41 - And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

Acts 16: 4-5 - And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

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:

Talmud, Avot 4:1 - Who is wise? He who learns from every man.

As Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan states:

It is on the level of Wisdom that all men are one. Hence, if one is on this level, he must learn from every human being, and indeed from all creation. 1

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:

Romans 15:29 - And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

One of the deeper mysteries of Scripture is that Yeshua is Himself the "gospel" incarnate:

1 Corinthians 1:18,24- For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. ... But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

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. Individually -- Although those who "believe" in Yeshua are said to be "saved," in that nothing can take this away from them (Romans 8:38-39), it is possible for any individual to fall away beyond the point of repentance (Matthew 12:32, Hebrews 6:4). Paul did not take salvation for granted (Philippians 2:12, 3:11-14), nor did James (James 5:19-20).
  2. Corporately -- Although Yeshua came to die for our sins, salvation for all whose trust is in Him, comes at the time of His return, i.e.:

    Hebrews 9:28 - For Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation

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:

Ephesians 2:11-13 - Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

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:

Psalm 90:1-2 - Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

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.):

Talmud, Makkoth 23b - Six hundred and thirteen precepts were communicated to Moses ... David came and reduced them to eleven ... Isaiah came and reduced them to six ... Micah came and reduced them to three ... Again came Isaiah and reduced them to two ... Amos came and reduced them to one ... But it is Habakuk who came and based them all on one [principle], as it is said, But the righteous shall live by his faith. (Click here to read the entire Makkoth section.)

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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