Greeting.* 1Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,* called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,a 2which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures,b 3* the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh,c 4but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.d 5* Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,e 6among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;f 7to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.* Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.g
Thanksgiving. 8First, I give thanks* to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world.h 9God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in proclaiming the gospel of his Son, that I remember you constantly,i 10* always asking in my prayers that somehow by God’s will I may at last find my way clear to come to you.j 11For I long to see you, that I may share with you some spiritual gift so that you may be strengthened,k 12that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by one another’s faith, yours and mine. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brothers,* that I often planned to come to you, though I was prevented until now, that I might harvest some fruit among you, too, as among the rest of the Gentiles.l 14To Greeks* and non-Greeks alike, to the wise and the ignorant, I am under obligation; 15that is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Rome.m
II. Humanity Lost without the Gospel
God’s Power for Salvation.* 16For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek.n 17For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith;* as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”o
Punishment of Idolaters. 18* The wrath* of God* is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickednessp of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.q 20Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.r As a result, they have no excuse; 21for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.s 22While claiming to be wise,t they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.u
24Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts* for the mutual degradation of their bodies.v 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.w 26Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, 27and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.x 28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning mind to do what is improper. 29y They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips 30and scandalmongers and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. 31They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.z
* [1:1–7] In Paul’s letters the greeting or praescriptio follows a standard form, though with variations. It is based upon the common Greco-Roman epistolary practice, but with the addition of Semitic and specifically Christian elements. The three basic components are: name of sender; name of addressee; greeting. In identifying himself, Paul often adds phrases to describe his apostolic mission; this element is more developed in Romans than in any other letter. Elsewhere he associates co-workers with himself in the greeting: Sosthenes (1 Corinthians), Timothy (2 Corinthians; Philippians; Philemon) Silvanus (1 Thessalonians—2 Thessalonians). The standard secular greeting was the infinitive chairein, “greetings.” Paul uses instead the similar-sounding charis, “grace,” together with the Semitic greeting šālôm (Greek eirēnē), “peace.” These gifts, foreshadowed in God’s dealings with Israel (see Nm 6:24–26), have been poured out abundantly in Christ, and Paul wishes them to his readers. In Romans the Pauline praescriptio is expanded and expressed in a formal tone; it emphasizes Paul’s office as apostle to the Gentiles. Rom 1:3–4 stress the gospel or kerygma, Rom 1:2 the fulfillment of God’s promise, and Rom 1:1, 5 Paul’s office. On his call, see Gal 1:15–16; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8–10; Acts 9:1–22; 22:3–16; 26:4–18.
* [1:1] Slave of Christ Jesus: Paul applies the term slave to himself in order to express his undivided allegiance to the Lord of the church, the Master of all, including slaves and masters. “No one can serve (i.e., be a slave to) two masters,” said Jesus (Mt 6:24). It is this aspect of the slave-master relationship rather than its degrading implications that Paul emphasizes when he discusses Christian commitment.
* [1:3–4] Paul here cites an early confession that proclaims Jesus’ sonship as messianic descendant of David (cf. Mt 22:42; 2 Tm 2:8; Rev 22:16) and as Son of God by the resurrection. As “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45), Jesus Christ is able to communicate the Spirit to those who believe in him.
* [1:5] Paul recalls his apostolic office, implying that the Romans know something of his history. The obedience of faith: as Paul will show at length in chaps. 6–8 and 12–15, faith in God’s justifying action in Jesus Christ relates one to God’s gift of the new life that is made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the activity of the holy Spirit (see especially Rom 8:1–11).
* [1:7] Called to be holy: Paul often refers to Christians as “the holy ones” or “the saints.” The Israelite community was called a “holy assembly” because they had been separated for the worship and service of the Lord (see Lv 11:44; 23:1–44). The Christian community regarded its members as sanctified by baptism (Rom 6:22; 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11; Eph 5:26–27). Christians are called to holiness (1 Cor 1:2; 1 Thes 4:7), that is, they are called to make their lives conform to the gift they have already received.
* [1:8] In Greco-Roman letters, the greeting was customarily followed by a prayer. The Pauline letters usually include this element (except Galatians and 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy) expressed in Christian thanksgiving formulas and usually stating the principal theme of the letter. In 2 Corinthians the thanksgiving becomes a blessing, and in Ephesians it is preceded by a lengthy blessing. Sometimes the thanksgiving is blended into the body of the letter, especially in 1 Thessalonians. In Romans it is stated briefly.
* [1:14] Greeks and non-Greeks: literally, “Greeks and barbarians.” As a result of Alexander’s conquests, Greek became the standard international language of the Mediterranean world. Greeks in Paul’s statement therefore means people who know Greek or who have been influenced by Greek culture. Non-Greeks were people whose cultures remained substantially unaffected by Greek influences. Greeks called such people “barbarians” (cf. Acts 28:2), meaning people whose speech was foreign. Roman citizens would scarcely classify themselves as such, and Nero, who was reigning when Paul wrote this letter, prided himself on his admiration for Greek culture. Under obligation: Paul will expand on the theme of obligation in Rom 13:8; 15:1, 27.
* [1:16–17] The principal theme of the letter is salvation through faith. I am not ashamed of the gospel: Paul is not ashamed to proclaim the gospel, despite the criticism that Jews and Gentiles leveled against the proclamation of the crucified savior; cf. 1 Cor 1:23–24. Paul affirms, however, that it is precisely through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that God’s saving will and power become manifest. Jew first (cf. Rom 2:9–10) means that Jews especially, in view of the example of Abraham (Rom 4), ought to be the leaders in the response of faith.
* [1:17] In it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith: the gospel centers in Jesus Christ, in whom God’s saving presence and righteousness in history have been made known. Faith is affirmation of the basic purpose and meaning of the Old Testament as proclamation of divine promise (Rom 1:2; 4:13) and exposure of the inability of humanity to effect its salvation even through covenant law. Faith is the gift of the holy Spirit and denotes acceptance of salvation as God’s righteousness, that is, God’s gift of a renewed relationship in forgiveness and power for a new life. Faith is response to God’s total claim on people and their destiny. The one who is righteous by faith will live: see note on Heb 2:4.
* [1:18–32] In this passage Paul uses themes and rhetoric common in Jewish-Hellenistic mission proclamation (cf. Wis 13:1–14:31) to indict especially the non-Jewish world. The close association of idolatry and immorality is basic, but the generalization needs in all fairness to be balanced against the fact that non-Jewish Christian society on many levels displayed moral attitudes and performance whose quality would challenge much of contemporary Christian culture. Romans themselves expressed abhorrence over devotion accorded to animals in Egypt. Paul’s main point is that the wrath of God does not await the end of the world but goes into action at each present moment in humanity’s history when misdirected piety serves as a facade for self-interest.
* [1:18] The wrath of God: God’s reaction to human sinfulness, an Old Testament phrase that expresses the irreconcilable opposition between God and evil (see Is 9:11, 16, 18, 20; 10:4; 30:27). It is not contrary to God’s universal love for his creatures, but condemns Israel’s turning aside from the covenant obligations. Hosea depicts Yahweh as suffering intensely at the thought of having to punish Israel (Hos 11:8–9). God’s wrath was to be poured forth especially on the “Day of Yahweh” and thus took on an eschatological connotation (see Zep 1:15).
* [1:24] In order to expose the depth of humanity’s rebellion against the Creator, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts. Instead of curbing people’s evil interests, God abandoned them to self-indulgence, thereby removing the facade of apparent conformity to the divine will. Subsequently Paul will show that the Mosaic law produces the same effect; cf. Rom 5:20; 7:13–24. The divine judgment expressed here is related to the theme of hardness of heart described in Rom 9:17–18.