Romans 1:8-17


I received a very official-looking letter a while back which was very obviously a form letter, printed out and reproduced in mass to a large audience.  But in the side margin there was written a personal note.


You see, the author of the letter was a friend of mine.  And so, he affixed to the form letter a short note of greeting.  That is what Paul does here at the beginning of the book of Romans.  Before Paul launches into the central theme of his epistle, he pauses to give a few personal notes.


Verses 1-7

Salutation and official introduction.

Verses 8-17

Personal introduction.


In this personal introduction, Paul will praise the Roman believers for their faith and he will relate his continuing prayers on their behalf.  Then he will tell them of his plans and desires to eventually come to Rome and to preach the gospel in their midst.  This will bring him to the opening theme of his epistle - the GOSPEL.


Paul was a preacher - a proclaimer of a message.  He will define that message in verse 16 as the Gospel.  And in this personal introduction of Paul’s, we will see five defining characteristics of a proclaimer of the Gospel.





            First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. (Romans 1:8).


A remarkable thing was happening in the ancient world.  The news of this remarkable thing was everywhere.  It was the topic of conversation in every city and in every country.  Something special was happening in Rome, the capital city of the Empire.  There was a body of people there who were exhibiting a tremendous faith.


Paul’s praise to the Lord is on account of the faith of the church at Rome.  It was a faith in God and a faith that owed its existence to God.  None of the apostles had as of yet visited Rome.  But the gospel had come here.  And the faith of the believers of Rome has now being proclaimed throughout the whole world.


This was a fulfillment of the Great Commission as given in Acts 1:8.  The promise had been that the witness of the apostles would go forth.


In Jerusalem.

And Judea.

And Samaria.

And to the whole world.


There was a saying in that day that “all roads lead to Rome.”  There was some literal truth to this statement.  There were a series of roads that had been built throughout the entire empire.  These roads were a means of communication.  They linked Rome to the world.  And when something happened in Rome, the news would travel throughout the entire known world.


There is something special about Paul’s praise.  It is not self-centered.  He is not praising God because HE has such a great and awesome ministry.  He is not praising the Lord because of the greatness of HIS faith.  He is praising because of the work of God in a church with whom he has had no personal contact.


Have you learned to do that?  To praise the Lord when someone else gets the credit?  To praise the Lord for the spiritual gifts of another believer, even when they might threaten to outshine your own?  Have you learned to praise Him when some other Christian denomination that also proclaims the gospel is more successful at church planting and proclaiming the faith?  Have you developed a kingdom mindset that has Christ’s kingdom in view and not your own?  Do you find yourself delighting in the successes of other and do you find yourself praying for them?





            For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10  always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. (Romans 1:9-10).


Prayer was a way of life for Paul.  He who had called the church to “pray without ceasing” reflected a life of prayer.  Notice the adjectives used to describe his prayer life.





Do you ever find yourself too busy to pray?  If we really understood the power of prayer, we would realize that we are too busy NOT to pray.  If we really understood prayer, then we would pray a lot more.

Do you remember the ministry of Jesus?  In those times when His ministry was at its busiest, it was those times that Jesus would seek to be alone with His Heavenly Father.  Jesus never gave His disciples tips on preaching; He never gave them an outline on how to give the gospel or strategies for church planting, but He did teach them how to pray.


Paul’s prayer was directed toward the Roman believers and specifically that he might be permitted to come and visit them and minister among them.  And yet, this prayer was in submission to “the will of God.”


The story is told of a little boy who was standing up on a chair.  His mother found him standing there and said, “Sit down, son, you might fall down.”  He refused.  She told him again. Again in defiance, he said that he would not.  After several repeated attempts to get him to sit down, she was at the end of her rope. She told him that if he did not sit down in that highchair at once she would give him a spanking, and she meant it.  As he sat down he said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”  He may have obeyed, but he did so without a submissive spirit.


Paul had such a submissive spirit to the will of God.  How about you?  Are you “standing up on the inside”?  Do your prayers reflect a submission to the Lord’s kingdom and His will, no matter what it does to your own status?


Paul’s prayer was that he might come to Rome.  The prayer will ultimately be answered.  But perhaps not in the way in which Paul anticipates.  He will come to Rome, but it will be as a prisoner.


There is a lesson here.  It is that God will answer your prayers, but He will not always answer them in the way you planned for them to be answered.  So often, He delights in bringing the answer in a completely unexpected way.


There was an old woman who used to go out onto her back porch every morning and look out and pray.  At the close of her prayer, she would call out in a loud voice, “Praise the Lord!”  A grumpy old atheist lived next door and each morning he would berate her and say, “Don’t be silly; there is no Lord.”


One morning, the women went out onto her back porch and prayed, “Lord, there is no food in the house and I don’t know what I am going to do, but I’m going to praise you anyway.”


The next morning, there were three bags of groceries sitting on her back porch.  She saw that and she said, “Thank you Lord for providing these groceries.  Praise the Lord!”


The old atheist leaned out and said, “Ah ha!  I fooled you.  I was the one who put those groceries there.  There is no Lord!”


The woman prayed, “Praise the Lord!  You brought me three bags of groceries and you made the Devil pay for them!”


That is what is going to happen in the life of Paul.  He wants to come to Rome but the possibility has not yet surfaced.  He is praying to come to Rome and his prayer is going to be answered.  He is going to be sent to Rome at the expense of the Roman government.





            For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; 12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine. (Romans 1:11-12).


The word “established” is sterichthenai.
It is the aorist passive infinitive of
sterizo (from which we get our word “stasis”).   It means, “to set fast, to secure as immovable.”  It describes that which has been anchored and set so as to be secure.

Paul’s purpose in desiring to come to Rome is that he might “impart some spiritual gift” to the believers there.  I understand this, not as some specific charismatic gift, put a general spiritual strengthening.  The result of this spiritual gift will be that these believers will be ESTABLISHED.


Paul was never content with merely preaching the gospel.  Though he was a master evangelist, he did not merely rack up decisions.  His goal in ministry was to establish the people of God in their faith.


What is it that establishes a Christian?  What is it that Paul is going to do in Rome that will establish the believers there and anchor them and secure them in their faith?  I believe it to be the teachings presented within this epistle.  It is the doctrines of salvation.


Notice what Paul says will be the result of their establishment in these teachings.  He says that he will be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other's faith, both yours and mine (Romans 1:12).


Paul is being honest here.  And I will be equally honest.  There are times when I am discouraged.  There are times when I feel as though I am sapped of all spiritual energy, even though I am looked upon as the preacher and the Bible class leader.  Times when I just want to toss in the towel.  It is at times like this that I need encouragement.  And the place that I go to find such encouragement is with other believers.


You might say, “John, you ought to be finding your encouragement with the Lord Himself.”  It is like the little girl who was sent to bed and who cried out from her bedroom, “Mommy, I want someone to come in here and to be with me.”  Her mother replied, “It’s okay honey, Jesus is with you.”  The little girl called back, “But I want someone with skin on.”


So it is with us.  There are times when we need someone “with skin on.”  And that is why the Lord gave us His body.  You and me.  Paul is no different.  He goes through his own periods of discouragement.  And he is also going to be encouraged when he comes to Rome and meets the Christians there.





            I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.

            I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (Romans 1:13-14).


In the late 1970's, Paula and I made plans to work with a church in Miami.  We had been serving as youth directors for a number of years and we had been asked to come to another church and to assist in the establishing of a Christian Coffeehouse and to teach in their Bible Institute.  Accordingly, we began to make plans.  But there was a delay.  We spent some time in obtaining a replacement and in making certain that there was an orderly transition of responsibilities in the ministry.  When we finally showed up at the Miami church, one member quipped, “I had been hearing for such a long time that John and Paula Stevenson were coming that I began to wonder if there really was a John and a Paula Stevenson.”


Paul is in a similar situation.  He has made plans to come to Rome.  And those plans have been delayed.  He wants the believers at Rome to know that he is planning to eventually come to Rome.  He wants them to know this because they will soon hear that he is going in the other direction.  He is in Corinth.  And he will shortly be leaving Corinth.  But instead of going westward to Rome, he will be going east.  He will go to Jerusalem.  There he will be arrested.  He will be placed into prison at the port city of Caesarea and await trial.  There he will wait.  For two years.  Then he will have a pre-trial hearing.  And then he will wait some more.  Ultimately, he will be placed upon a prison ship bound for Rome.  It will be a long voyage and the ship will not make it.  After many adventures on the sea, he will come to Rome.


But up to this point he has been prevented.  He has been prevented by the Lord.  In Romans 15:22 he will repeat the fact that he has been hindered and, in that context, will show how that it has been the Lord’s program for him that he should preach the gospel in places that have not heard the gospel. (15:20).


The gospel has already been preached in Rome.  Indeed, the faith of the believers in Rome is rapidly becoming a byword throughout the Empire.  And so, Paul has been prevented from coming there by his responsibilities elsewhere.


Can I tell you the end of the story?  It is found in the closing verses of the book of Acts.  Paul comes to Rome, albeit a prisoner.  As the book of Acts closes, he is still under house arrest.  He is still a political prisoner awaiting trial.  And again, the years are beginning to pass by.  But this time there is a difference.


            And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, 31 preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, UNHINDERED. (Acts 28:30-31).


Do you see it?  When Paul was free, he had been hindered from coming to Rome.  But once he becomes a prisoner, then he is going to be unhindered in his ability to preach the gospel to those at Rome.


The result of this unhindering will be that Paul will have opportunity to “obtain some fruit” among the Romans.  There is a principle here.  Although it is God who brings about the fruit, we are required to do our part in the preparing of the ground, in the sowing and the watering and in the reaping.


William Carey was the great missionary to India.  When he first went to the elders of his church with his plans to travel to India, the chairman of the board of elders said, “Sit down, young man.  When God is pleased to save the heathen, he will do it without your aid or mine.”


That sounds holy.  But it is a lie.  It is true that only God can bring about the fruit.  But we are permitted to enter into the fruit-bearing process.  And it is both good and appropriate that we plan for that process.


What plans have you made to obtain fruit for the kingdom?  If you do not plan to obtain such fruit, then you will probably not follow through.  Let me urge you to plan to bear fruit for the kingdom in order that you might reap in due season.


That is one of the things which I like about an evangelistic program.  It pushes me to evangelize.  And there are times when I need to be pushed.





            So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

            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. (Romans 1:15-16).


Paul was a passionate man.  His passion was for the gospel.  He was filled with a passion for preaching the gospel.  That passion is directing his desire to come to Rome.


Rome - the queen of the Empire.  The city of pagans.  The seat of the sophisticated.  Home of the all-powerful emperor.  A place where a fiery preacher can be burned at the stake.


And the message which Paul is so eager to preach?  A message of a backwoods Messiah - a Savior who was arrested by a Roman governor, beaten by Roman soldiers and crucified on a Roman cross.  Yet this is no cause for shame on Paul’s part.  He is not ashamed of the gospel.  To the contrary.  He takes great pride in the gospel.  He takes pride in the fact that the One who was crucified, dead and buried did not stay in the ground, but arose from the dead.



We are called to be people of passion.  We are to be passionate about Jesus and about the gospel and about its proclamation.  What is it that excites you the most?  If it is not the Lord and His gospel, then you have an idol in your life that needs to be torn down.





            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.

            For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17).


Verses 16 and 17 could be called the thesis statement for the entire book of Romans.  They will set for the message that is to take us through the rest of the book.


Paul begins by saying that he is not ashamed.  This is a figure of speech called “understatement.”   Paul is understating what he really means.  He is not merely unashamed of the Gospel.  He is eminently proud of the Gospel.


Verses 16-17 form a transition between Paul’s introduction and the main theme of his epistle.  This transition is marked by four causative prepositions (“for”).

The word “gospel” is translated from a compound word, made from the joining of two Greek words.


(1)        Eu is the Greek word for “good.”

(2)        An aggelos is a “message” (from which we get our word, “angel” to describe a heavenly “messenger”).


Thus, Paul is speaking of a message.  It is a good message - good news.  What is the Gospel?  It is made up of three major points.


a.         Man is condemned in his sins.

The first three chapters will focus upon this fact.


b.         God has provided a way of salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ who died and was buried and who rose again from the dead.


c.         This salvation is available to all who believe.

If you will trust in Jesus as your Lord and your Savior, repenting of your sins and turning to Him for your life, you will be saved.


This is the gospel — a good message.  But this is no ordinary message.  Paul describes this message as the “power of God.”


God’s power has been manifested in a variety of ways.  In verse 20 we shall read of God’s power being manifested in all of creation.  Scientists today postulate a “big bang” — an immense explosion of power which brought about our universe. Creation is a revelation of God’s awesome power.  But another revelation of God’s power is seen in the salvation of all who believe.  The gospel reveals, not only the strength of God’s power, but also the glory and the righteousness and the holiness of God’s power.


Do you remember the story of Moses and the glory of God?  Moses came to God with a request.  And it was no small request.  “Show me Thy glory.”


“God, I want to see Your power.”


God replies, “Sorry, Moses.  It isn’t possible.  If you were to see the fully exposed power of My majestic glory, it would fry your eyes out and burn your brain (that’s the Hebrew translation)”


But God doesn’t leave it at that.  He has an alternative solution.  Moses can enter a cleft in the rock - a cave.  And God will place his hand over Moses and the rock.  And the glory and the power and the goodness of God will go by.  And then the Lord will take away His hand.  And Moses will witness the “after-glow” of the presence of the Lord.


The most that Moses ever saw was the “back side” of God.  But you have an opportunity to see the unabashed power of God—the revealing of His righteousness and His holiness.  It is seen in the Gospel.  It is seen in the cross.


My prayer of late has been that of Moses.  I have been praying to see the glory and the power and the goodness of God.  And to receive an answer to that prayer, I need to focus upon the gospel.


Paul says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who BELIEVES.  Notice the reference back to verse 15.  Paul wanted to preach the Gospel to the BELIEVERS in Rome.


Don't miss this!  The gospel is important to the believer.  To HIM it is the power of God for salvation.


All too often, people think that the gospel is only for the unbeliever.  This is not true.  The gospel is for US.  Its power is manifested in salvation.  But that is not all.  Verse 17 says that in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”


Why is the Gospel the power of God?  It is the power of God because it is in the Gospel that the righteousness of God is being revealed (Greek present passive).


“Is revealed” is a present passive indicative.  We could translate it by saying “the righteousness of God IS BEING revealed...”


What righteousness is being revealed?  It is the righteousness of God.  It is a righteousness which is consistent with God's commands.


How does the Gospel do this?  It is by demonstrating the way in which the justice of God must be met.   We do not meet the justice of God on the basis of our own merits.  We meet that justice “from faith to faith.”


(1)        “From Faith” looks to the point of salvation.


(2)        “To Faith” might be a reference to the life of faith.


Faith is the beginning of our relationship with Christ.  But it does not stop there.  It goes from faith to faith.  And throughout this whole realm of faith, the righteousness of God is continually revealed.


This is not a new concept.  It is found in the Old Testament book of Habakkuk (2:4).  Paul quotes this passage to tie the two separate threads of righteousness and faith together.  The righteous one here looks to the man who has been declared by God to be righteous as a result of the imputation of Christ.


This man is saved by faith.  But that is not all.  He shall also LIVE by faith.  You see, salvation is more than just a ticket to heaven.  The believer is also one who LIVES by faith.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18 tells us that the Gospel and its power is viewed by the world as being FOOLISH.  This is why there is a temptation to be ashamed of the Gospel.


This is important.  We do not preach the gospel because it sounds so impressive to the unsaved.  We preach it because it is the power of God.


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