Romans 1-3 (Series week 1)

The video for week 1 can be watched at the bottom of this page.

We begin our 6 weeks on Romans 1-8.  I hope you find it informative and faith renewing.  Let’s pray.


Most of the letters written by St. Paul were to churches he had founded.  Not so with his letter to the Roman Church.  Whether he knew people who had been involved in starting it, we don’t know, so we must treat it like a letter to strangers.  They have heard of him, because Paul met some of those evicted from Rome by the Emperor Claudius.

His purpose, as many of you will have read by now, is to lay down the essential understanding of salvation in Jesus, but in such a way as to bring the warring factions together.

Today we look at Chapters 1-3, and if you want to make use of a Bible near you to follow, that might help.

I’m going to ignore the first 13 verses of chapter 1 as they are largely introduction that won’t help us too much in our journey.

But I will pause on verses 14-17, because here he introduces his purpose of bringing the Jews and Gentiles (mainly Greeks, meaning Greek speaking) together.  He first acknowledges his debt to the Greeks and non-Greeks, and then acknowledges that salvation comes to both Jews and Gentiles.  Notice first he speaks the language of the Greeks (Greek and non-Greek), then the language of the Jews (Jew/Gentile).  He is making sure he gets the attention of both from the outset.

Then he launches into what many consider a rant against the sinfulness of all humanity.  But it is not a rant, but rather a careful presentation with a single purpose – to show that both Gentile and Jew alike have no excuse – both are equally guilty of rebellion against God.

How does he do this?  Chapter 1:18-23 sets out the general argument to the non-Jewish world – that is, the world outside the law of God handed down through Moses.

Verse 20 – For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

This is essentially the argument, the creation itself gives testimony to the glory of its creator – God – and the people know this, so they have no excuse.  “No excuse” means guilty.  That is, even without the law, they are guilty, because creation pointed to God but they wouldn’t listen (Abraham is the example of one who listened).

Instead, they created and worshipped idols, made in the imagine of the creation.  This is the case against the non-Jewish world.

Chapter 2 begins with a warning against judging others, which is most likely directed at the conflict between factions in the church.  But at verse 12 he gets back to his line of thinking.  Word by word it seems complex, but really it is fairly simple.

“Without the law” means without the Law of Moses. Only the Jews have the Law of Moses, and we’ll deal with them in a moment. So Gentiles (non-Jews) are those “without the Law”.  But if they’re without the law, how can they be guilty?  Surely without the law they can’t know right or wrong.

Firstly, the generalization – those outside the Law will perish outside the Law.  It is by the Law that God drew the Hebrew people close.  They are in trouble through the Law.  But those without the Law haven’t been drawn close, so they will perish apart from God quite naturally.

But then the caveat – if a non-Jew does what is right by God, then it shows that God has worked directly on their heart, so they are drawn close, not by the Law of Moses but by the Law of God written on their heart.  It is a wordy way of saying that the non-Jew needn’t be lost, but by ignoring God they seal their own fate.  But they too can turn to God and God will accept them, even without the law.

Then we get to the part with the Jews, from chapter 2 verse 17.  Again, there are lots of words, but a very simple meaning.  The Jews have the law, but they don’t keep it.  So they are judged by the law.

The net effect of all of this so far is simple.  Both Greek and non-Greek, Jew and non-Jew, is guilty of rebellion against God and are lost in their sins.

Chapter 3 continues this, though via some arguments of his time.  If our sin demonstrates God’s faithfulness, maybe our sin is good.  Paul dismisses such arguments as nonsense, but the real answer to them is coming in the following chapters.

Verses 9-20 essentially wrap up the first movement of his presentation – all have sinned, and no one is righteous.  Especially so that neither Jew nor Greek has any advantage – “For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.”

Verses 21-31 introduce what he will write in the next parts of his letter in detail, and what we will cover in our coming weeks.

23All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

29 Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.

I hope you have no trouble in bringing this into the 21st century.  It is still true that all have sinned (rebelled against God) in many ways.  Yet all are justified freely by God’s grace through Jesus.  This same God is God of the 21st century, and the same God who saves you and I from the spiritual consequences of our sins.

Stay tuned for next week as we take on chapter 4.

Video of week 1 readings and message, runs 25:17.

The Bible Project – Romans 1-4. This provides a good background to our study, and repeats much of the content from this week.

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