Romans 1:1-16

Paul was called to be an apostle. The promised gospel. The obedience of faith. Paul’s debt. Not ashamed of the gospel.

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"1From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God." (Romans 1:1—NET)
Despite the fact that Paul wasn't one of the original twelve apostles, God himself did call him to be one when he was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Not only did God call him to be an apostle, he gave Paul a special voice in proclaiming the gospel of God.

The fact that Paul addressed himself as a “slave” of the Lord Jesus Christ reflects the magnitude of the revelation he received on the Damascus road. He willingly submits himself to be his slave after being the leader of Christ’s persecution.

It must have been a revelation of such magnitude as what Isaiah witnessed in the temple that moved him to say: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts (Isaiah 6:5—KJV).”

Or he must have felt the same way Job did when God opened his eyes to see himself and the Lord for what they were: 5I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye has seen you. 6Therefore I despise myself, and I repent in dust and ashes! (Job 42:5-6).”

Paul must have seen his wretchedness for the first time against God’s glory on the Damascus road, which led him to the path of faith in Christ rather than faith in himself. But Paul’s experience is not unique; many people have shed tears of repentance after having their eyes opened to Christ for the first time.


2This gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh, 4who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:2-4—NET)

The gospel that Paul was called to preach was all about Jesus Christ. Yet, if you look back through the ages, what percentage of the books written and sermons preached were about Christ and him crucified, that by believing in him you’re saved by grace and through faith in him, that he replaced an entire system of man offering sacrifices to redeem their fallenness, that the law and its commandments, even as grand as the Ten Commandments, were useless in giving them the righteousness that only Jesus could give them?

Yes, the gospel is about Christ and him crucified, not about any of the things written in countless books and sermons (1 Cor 2:2).


5Through him we have received grace and our apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles on behalf of his name. 6You also are among them, called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:5-6—NET)

The obedience of faith that Paul is tasked with bringing about in Gentiles and Jews alike contrasts with the old obedience to the law, the purpose of which is frequently misunderstood. God gave the law to Israel specifically to point them to Jesus as their promised Messiah. The rest of the world should keep an eye on their progress and learn from it: “You are also among them”. So, after spending some time, for thousands of years, attempting to obey the law, they should recognize their hopelessness and place their faith in Christ. As a result, it is faith-based obedience. You obey God by placing your faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. This is how we should interpret the hymn “Trust and Obey.” It is faith’s obedience, not the law’s. If you think that obeying God means following every “shalt” and “shalt not,” you’re mistaken.


14I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15Thus I am eager also to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome. (Romans 1:14-15—NET)

Paul’s sense of debt to all men must be an outpouring of his gratitude to the Lord for being so gracious as to save an evil person like him. His eagerness to preach the gospel must have reflected how valuable it was to him. To fulfill the great commission, pew-sitters are frequently exhorted to go out and preach the gospel. However, Paul’s eagerness stemmed from his own personal encounter with the treasure of the gospel, which he couldn’t keep inside. Instead of telling their flock to pour out of their emptiness, I would advise pastors to help them truly understand the gospel and the treasure that is theirs in Christ. As a result, they will be compelled to respond in the manner of Paul.


16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16—NET)

Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for the same reason he feels obligated to preach it to unbelievers. Nobody should be ashamed of the gospel unless they are unaware of its true worth and wisdom.

Nghi Nguyen

- Scripture quoted by permission. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: This is my own opinion on the topic, which does not necessarily reflect the church's theology, or beliefs of the individuals in it — Nghi Nguyen

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