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Romans 1:13-16 by Robert Dean
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:59 mins 45 secs

Salvation, Deliverance from Wrath, and the Gospel
Romans 1:13–16
Romans Lesson #008
February 10, 2011
www.deanbibleministries.org

There is no transition here from verse 13—no “and,” no “for,” no “but,” no “now,” etc.—which may indicate, perhaps, Paul’s emotion at this time because he is so caught up in what he is saying. He really does have a desire to go to Rome and to have a ministry to the Roman believers. 

Romans 1:14 NASB “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” He is not under obligation to them because of something that the Greeks and barbarians have done, he is under obligation because of the grace of God in his life and because God saved him and gave him the gift of apostle and the mission to take the gospel to the Gentiles. He was under obligation to fulfill the mission that God gave him in terms of his spiritual gift. In that Paul isn’t any different from anyone in this room. At the instant we were saved God gave us a spiritual gift that we were to use under spiritual maturity to the benefit, edification and encouragement of the body of Christ. And that is part of the mission that God has given each and every believer, so that we are under obligation to God to the same degree the apostle Paul was to grow to maturity and to serve God and to minister in terms of our own spiritual gift which was given for the purpose of using it in relation to the body of Christ. If we look carefully at Ephesians 4:10, 11 which says that God gave gifts to men, and then enumerates those gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors and teachers—and verse 11 states the purpose: for the purpose of equipping the saints to do the work of ministry. That means of somebody has the gift of evangelism his primary mission isn’t evangelism but teaching the rest of us how to witness effectively and to be better at communicating the gospel to people who need to hear the gospel. It is the same with the pastor-teacher. His mission and ministry is to the body of Christ: to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. And we are equipped to do that by learning how to think according to God’s plans and purposes.

Sometimes people get the idea that this being obligated to God to serve Him is legalism. Somehow along the way there is this distortion of legalism, usually by those who are have a trend towards antinomianism and irresponsibility in the Christian life and they don’t understand that grace doesn’t mean that we don’t have mandates, obligations and responsibilities in the Christian life.

Paul’s obligation is pointed in a specific direction because God called him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. It is interesting that there is no definite article there. It is not necessarily definite in the sense that he is the only one—which is usually what is thought: that he was the only one—but others had a ministry to the Gentiles, even though that may not have been their primary objective. We know that other disciples went to the Gentiles, e.g., Thomas went to India. But Paul was the pre-eminent apostle to the Gentiles and so his obligation to God was in that direction. And he categorizes the Gentiles into two groups where he uses opposite terms to describe these groups. The first group are the Greeks and the barbarians, and the second group is “wise and unwise.” “Wise” is parallel to the Greeks because Greeks were the originators of philosophical thinking, and the emphasis was on wisdom. In contrast to the Greeks were the non-Greeks, the barbarians who were parallel to the “unwise.” By categorizing them in this manner it seems like the apostle Paul was using the term “Gentile” here more in the way that we would use “educated” or “cultured,” and then at the other extreme those who were uneducated or uncultured. So by saying he is a debtor or obligated to the Greeks and to the barbarians he is including everything in between. In other words, the entire Gentile world is the target of his ministry. The word that is used here is the Greek word HELLESIN which usually means Greeks but it doesn’t just have to refer to ethnic Greeks. Paul uses it many times as a synonym for Gentile as a contrast to the Jew, and her it is used in contrast to the barbarian. 

Romans 1:15 NASB “So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Those who are in Rome fall somewhere between the wise and the unwise, the Greeks and the barbarians, and he wants to come and preach the gospel. The word there for “preach” isn’t the normal Greek word that is translated “preach,” KERUSSO, which had to do with a herald or someone who would come to proclaim an announcement from the king, but this is just the verb form of EUANGELIZO from which we get our word evangelism. It means to announce good news (EU = good; ANGELIZO = announcement). So Paul is going to proclaim the good news. Then he explains something about the gospel and why it is important for him to do this. 

Romans 1:16 NASB “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” This is an important verse for several reasons. It is a great verse to memorize if we are somewhat nervous or skittish or if we lack confidence in witnessing to people. It reminds us that we are not to be ashamed of the gospel, we are not to be timid about giving the gospel, and by memorizing this it will help to strengthen our own convictions and courage in presenting the gospel. There are some passages in the New Testament that also use this same word translated “ashamed.” In Mark 8:38 Jesus said: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation [of Jews in that generation who rejected Him as Messiah], the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” In that context it indicates lack of salvation. 2 Timothy 1:8 NASB “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with {me} in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” So we are not to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Our mission as believers that we have been given by the Lord Jesus Christ is to communicate the gospel to those who need it.

A couple of things should be made clear here. We ought to have some common sense. There is the right time and the right place to witness to somebody, and sometimes it is more important for us to keep our mouth shut and to establish a relationship with people so that later on we can have a better foundation for giving them the gospel. We have to build relationships with unbelievers, and this doesn’t happen all the time in our lives.

“…it is the power of God for salvation.” This is where this verse gets really interesting. So often we think of “gospel” in a narrow sense: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” in the sense of saved from the penalty of sin. Yet that is a very narrow sense of the gospel and even though Paul uses the word “gospel” in that sense many times, many times he uses the word as he does here to refer to the entire body of Christian doctrine and the Christian message. Salvation here is not just getting saved from the penalty of sin, salvation here has to do with what we often refer to as phase one salvation or justification, in Romans it is never a synonym for justification. And yet where most of us read Romans and see verses like Romans 6:21 we think it is a great salvation verse. It is a great salvation verse but it has nothing to do with justification. That is not the gospel. Paul quit talking about how to get justified at the end of chapter five. Romans chapter six is talking about how a justified believer lives and experiences the fullness of life. So when he is talking about “the wages of sin is death” he is talking about the believer who is living in carnality and operational death (living like an unbeliever) and not experiencing the fullness of their spiritual life; he is talking about divine discipline and carnal death in the life of a believer. But the “free gift of God” he is talking about there is eternal life but meaning the quality of life. That is a hard thing for many evangelicals to understand because we have been taught and have heard so many sermons about eternal life that we think of eternal life as unending life in heaven. But it may surprise us that eternal life doesn’t mean that ever in the first epistle that John wrote.

Paul uses this word “salvation” to describe our deliverance from the power of sin in our spiritual life and ultimately deliverance from the presence of sin in glorification in phase three. The next time we have the word SOZO used is in Romans 5:9 NASB “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood [past tense], we shall be saved [future tense] from the wrath {of God} through Him.” We can be justified by we are not saved. Paul never uses the word SOZO or salvation in Romans to refer to phase one justification. He makes a distinction between the two. Justification was the topic of the last half of chapter three and chapter four. By the time he is getting to the wrap-up in chapter five he has moved beyond the discussion of justification and is transitioning to chapters 6, 7 and 8, which is the spiritual life.  

“The power of God for salvation” should really be understood as deliverance from wrath. Wrath in Romans is rarely, if ever, eternal condemnation. It is the judgment of God on rebellious mankind, whether they are saved or not, during human history. So it should be understood more in the sense of deliverance: “…the power of God for deliverance, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Notice he says, “to everyone who believes.” He doesn’t say anything else, the issue is always faith alone in Christ alone—for justification and, as Paul says in Colossians 2, we are to walk in Him the same way we received the gospel, and that is by faith. That doesn’t mean that we don’t obey Him in multiple areas in the Christian life but ultimately it all rests on trusting in Him. Faith is the foundation for everything in the Christian life, including entry. Then there is the principle “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” That was the pattern.

We are to focus on the gospel because it is the gospel that has power: the power of truth, not some sort of mystical power, because truth is the thinking of God. We are aligned to the thinking and the reality of God when we believe the gospel. It is the same thing Jesus is saying when He prays to the Father and says: “Sanctify them in truth, thy Word is truth.”  

Romans 1:17 NASB “For in it [the gospel] {the} righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘but the righteous {man} SHALL live by faith.’” Here we have the first mention of the righteousness of God, which is the topic of Romans. Romans is the greatest logical explanation of the righteousness of God in history. If we understand Romans we will never have a problem with “Why did God let this horrible thing happen to these so-called innocent people in history.” We can understand everything if we understand the righteousness of God: that God is righteousness, all that He does is just, and that man because of sin is unrighteous. God has revealed His righteousness to man in the way He has judged mankind, the way He has brought His wrath upon mankind in history, and it is through His righteousness that He has provided a free gift of salvation to satisfy His righteousness through propitiation and the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. And it is in the gospel, phases one through three, the entirety of the gospel, which is the full gospel in its true biblical sense. It is the truth and the implications of everything that flows out of the cross.

It is hard to understand what Paul means by these two uses of PISTIS here, which is the Greek word for faith. Is it faith to faith meaning faith at justification, to faith at sanctification (ongoing spiritual growth), or is he simply saying “from faith to faith” as a summary of the entire spiritual life of the believer from regeneration and new birth, which is faith alone in Christ alone, to the fact that every step of the way we are constantly growing in our faith all the way through until we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord? Because his explanation here comes from a quote from Habakkuk 2:4, “The just shall live by faith.” Herein lies a problem. This is an extremely difficult verse to translate and to interpret because of the question: is Paul using this in its original sense? If he is then it is not a gospel justification by faith verse because that wasn’t the issue in Habakkuk 2:4.

Others have said that based on the way that Paul uses these key words—justification, live and faith—in Romans where whenever the word “justification” is modified by the phrase “by faith” that this should be, when understood in terms of its use in Romans, translated “The justified by faith shall live,” which is a way that explains the structure of Romans. In the first four chapters Paul is going to explain what it means to be justified by faith, and then there is a transition chapter in chapter five. Then chapters six through eight talks about how the justified by faith live in terms of sanctification, and also applies it to the Jews in 9-11 and their ultimate deliverance. Then from chapter twelve to the conclusion of the epistle he has practical applications related to life. So there is a good case for translating this “the justified by faith shall live.” But the problem is the wording in the Greek is the exact same wording and word order that is in the Setuagint of Habakkuk 2:4 which follows the word order of the Hebrew in that verse. So what does Paul actually mean here?

That means we have to go back and remind ourselves of the four different ways in which the apostles quote and view Old Testament passages in the New Testament. We have gone through this in our series on Acts. We will have to look at this a little more in Habakkuk because Habakkuk 2:4 isn’t dealing with justification by faith in terms of deliverance from the penalty of sin, it is in the context of the fast approaching invasion of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonian hordes. Habakkuk starts off in chapter one saying, “God, these despicable, obnoxious Jews all around me are violating your law and need to be punished.” God said He was bringing the punisher, the Babylonians. Then Habakkuk was appalled and asked how a righteous God could use these unrighteous, nasty, vile Babylonians to punish a righteous people—who aren’t living righteously, but how could He do that?