Romans 1 Commentary


In keeping with the practice of the time, Paul introduces himself at the beginning of his letter. He is a servant and apostle of God, called to preach the gospel. This gospel, or good news, was promised in the Old Testament writings and became a reality through Jesus Christ. As to his humanity, Jesus was a descendant of David, but as to his deity, he is the Son of God, a fact shown clearly and powerfully by his


resurrection (1:1-4). This Jesus is the one who gave to Paul the task of taking the gospel to people of all nations, which is one reason why he now writes to the people in Rome (5-7).

Churches everywhere know about the faith of the Roman Christians (8). Not only does Paul pray for them but he wants to visit them, so that both he and they might be strengthened as they profit from each other’s spiritual gifts (9-12). Until now he has not been able to visit them, even though he has often wanted to. His duty is to preach the gospel to people of all nations and cultures, and that makes him all the more eager to visit Rome (13-15).

Paul then gives a summary of the subject that he will expound in the following chapters. He wants his readers to have the same confidence in the gospel as he has, for the gospel is humankind’s only hope.

People, because of their sin, are weak and unable to save themselves, but God in his power can save them from sin and accept them as righteous in his sight. Through the gospel God can put people right with himself and still be righteous in doing so. But though this salvation is available to all, it is effective only in the lives of those who believe. Only by faith, and never by works, can sinners receive the status of righteousness that God in his grace gives (16-17).


The Gentile world (1:18-32)

Because God is holy, just and true, he has an attitude of wrath, or righteous anger, against all that is wrong. He is opposed to sin in all its forms, and therefore guilty sinners are under his judgment. The Gentiles may not have received the teaching about God that the Jews have received, but they cannot excuse themselves by saying they know nothing about God. The created universe should tell them that there is a supreme being, a powerful Creator, whom they should worship (18-20).

Instead of giving glory to God, however, people have insulted him. Instead of worshipping him as the Creator, they have made created things their idols. They claim to be wise, but actually are fools (21-23).

Idols have no life, and as a result those who worship them feel free to practise all kinds of sin, without fear of punishment. But God does not ignore their sin, and one way he punishes them is to leave them to follow their own sinful desires. As a result they go deeper and deeper into sin, both men and women, and in due course they reap the fruit of their sinful behaviour (24-27).

Sin is not limited to degrading sexual behaviour. Its effects are seen in every part of the human character, as it corrupts people’s inner feelings and spoils their personal relationships (28-31). Even when people know their behaviour is wrong, they persist in it, and reassure themselves by approving of the wrongdoing of others (32).

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