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Romans 1, Part 4

Oct 08, 2010

In Romans 1:10, 11 the apostle expresses his desire to go to Rome to meet the British royal family in person and to sow some "seed" in that field....

(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.

Paul recognized their faith by the things that had been reported around the Roman world. Because everyone knew they were Christians, it seems likely that their witness before the Emperor Claudius had included their testimony of Jesus Christ, rather than just political and military matters. Furthermore, Paul tells us in Romans 16:7 that they "were in Christ before me." In other words, they had become believers in Christ even before Paul's conversion.

We know that Paul was converted within a few months of Christ's ascension, because 14 years later he was commissioned with Barnabas and sent on his first missionary journey. His commission came immediately after they had gone to Jerusalem with money to help in the time of famine (48 A.D.). Compare Acts 11:27-30 with Gal. 2:1.

In Romans 16:7 Paul says that Andronicus and Junia "were in Christ before me." Who were they? Andronicus means "man of victory." Junia means "youthful." I believe that these were simply other names for Caractacus and his wife. Paul calls them "fellow-prisoners," or literally, "war captives."

They had been converted to Christ through the ministry of Joseph of Arimathea, probably even before the crucifixion of Christ. After all, Joseph was Rome's Minister of Mining, and he owned tin mines in Britain. It is likely that Jesus accompanied his great-uncle on many of his trading ships from Britain to India. There are many artifacts, monuments, and so-called "legends" in Britain which testify of Jesus' presence.

Also, Paul says that Andronicus and Junia were "outstanding among the apostles." In those days it was important that an apostle should be one who had seen Jesus or had been directly commissioned by Him in some way (Gal. 1:15, 16). The first-century idea of an apostle could well indicate that Andronicus and Junia had seen Jesus before His ministry had even begun, and that they had been converted very early, even before the start of Jesus' formal ministry.

Hence, Paul treated them as equals in the faith and desired to increase his own faith by fellowshipping with them.

(14) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. (15) Thus, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. (16) 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.

Even as Caractacus and his family had not been ashamed to bear witness of the gospel in the presence of Claudius, the emperor of Rome, so also was Paul not ashamed to do the same.

Of course, Claudius was already dead by the time Paul wrote his epistle. Having come to the throne in 41 A.D., he was poisoned and died October 13, 54 A.D., shortly after Paul had begun his third missionary journey. The Roman historian, Suetonius says in his Lives of the Caesars, "That Claudius was poisoned is the general belief, but when it was done and by whom is disputed" (Claudius, XLIV).

(17) 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."

This quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 expresses the theme of Paul's epistle. The phrase, "from faith to faith," shows that there are various levels of faith. Since faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17), and hearing is certainly not a one-time event, it is evident that our faith is increased by our ability to hear and by our obedient response to what we have heard.

So even Jesus' disciples said to Him, "Increase our faith" (Luke 17:5), and Jesus told the Canaanite woman, "your faith is great" (Matt. 15:28).

God Revealed to All Men

In Romans 1:18, Paul starts his dissertation by going back to the revelation of God at the beginning of creation.

(18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness [injustice] of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (19) because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

The truth of God is actually in all men, and it is known by instinct. The original revelation of God given to Adam has a residual effect upon all, though time and idolatry has encrusted it, making it often difficult to re-discover. Yet anyone who truly seeks the Creator must contemplate the idea of good and what is equitable justice for all. Man is a reasonable creature, and when his reasoning faculty is functioning properly, he is able to look at creation and see a Creator. He sees beauty and knows that God is both wise and good. He sees human relationships, happiness and oppression, and is then able to understand the meaning of treating people equitably and justly.

In other words, the laws of God are self-evident, even to those who are "without law," that is, without having direct knowledge of the divine law as revealed to Moses. Paul makes it clear that God has revealed Himself to all men on some level, and God thus holds all men accountable according to their level of revelation.

(20) For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal [aidios, "perpetual"] power and divine nature [theiotes, "Deity"], have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Creation is God's way of making His presence and power known to all men in a self-evident way, so that even illiterate people can understand Him on some level. He is "understood through what has been made." Unfortunately, because men reject Him, they tend to outsmart themselves by the idea that they will only believe what they can analyze and understand. Such "scientific" thinking presumes that the mind of man is equal to or greater than the mind of God, and it presumes ahead of time that man is, in fact, a god in himself.

Thus, when people do not believe in God, they make gods out of men, created in their own image, and Paul says, "they are without excuse."

The Greek term, theiotes, used in verse 20 above, has a numeric value of 592. When one adds to this the numeric value of Iesous (Jesus), which is 888, one comes to 1480, the numeric value of "Christ." In other words, when one links Jesus to Deity, we see that He is the Christ, who is the earthly expression of God Himself.

Take note also that the divine power is said to be aidios, rather than aionian. Paul says that His power is Perpetual, as Young's Concordance defines the term. This is one of the closest words to the idea of infinite time that the Greeks had at their disposal. Paul avoided the term aionian in this case, because it usually (if not always) has to do with a specific age. Young consistently renders the term "age-lasting" in his translation. But in Romans 1:20, he renders aidios "eternal."

Paul thus makes it clear that God's power is aidios, "perpetual," or unending. The root of the word isaei, which means "without fail." Hence, Stephen said in Acts 7:51, you are "always resisting the Holy Spirit." Always (aei) is not infinite time but "without fail."

This is the fourth part of a series titled "Romans 1." To view all parts, click the link below.

Romans 1

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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones

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