Introduction to the Epistle (Romans 1:1-17)

Lesson ▪ 2002-03
Tags: Romans 1:1-17
Excerpted from God’s Righteousness Revealed: An Exposition of Romans


Address (vv. 1-7)

According to the Life Application Bible Commentary, “the first six verses in this letter are one long sentence. Knowing Paul’s style helps us follow some difficult sentences that were more easily grasped by Greek audiences. Here [v. 2] Paul abruptly changes the focus from himself to the gospel, then to the person it presents, then to the audience for whom the gospel is intended” (Barton, Veerman, and Wilson 5).

The Minister: Paul


a servant of Jesus Christ
called to be an apostle
separated unto the gospel of God

The Message: The Gospel

Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures
Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord

The Mediator: Jesus Christ

which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh
declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead
By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name

The Mission: All Nations

Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints

The second half of verse 7 is Paul’s standard form of greeting, found in most of his letters to churches (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3).

Paul and Rome (vv. 8-15)

This segment of Paul’s introduction is composed of two parts: his thanksgiving and prayer for the church(es) in Rome (vv. 9-12), and an expression of his desire to visit Rome (vv. 13-15). The thanksgiving/prayer section foreshadows the theme of the entire epistle—the Roman believers’ role in the worldwide proclamation of the gospel. Verses 13-15 are more of a personal note; there Paul explains that his failure to visit Rome has been due to providential hindrance rather than any form of personal reluctance. As a consequence, he affirms his eagerness to share the gospel in the capital of the Empire.

Theme Statement (vv. 16-17)

Verses 16-17 form a theme statement that much of the letter explains in greater detail. The theme statement follows quite logically from the preceding discussion. In verse 17 Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4. According to Moo, the righteousness of God which the gospel reveals may conceivably be any of three things (or any combination thereof):

  • an attribute of God—His justice or faithfulness
  • a status given by God—a judicial righteousness that He confers on those who believe
  • an activity of God—His saving work among His people (70-72)


We can draw numerous useful applications from the introduction to the Roman epistle. Following are some that are highly related to the theme of the passage:

  • We need a clear sense of our calling. One of the secrets of Paul’s spiritual success was his awareness of his identity as a servant, an apostle, and one separated to the gospel (v. 1).
  • We need to understand our privilege as God’s children: We are the objects of God’s love, and He refers to us as saints (v. 7).
  • We should seek to maintain a positive, visible witness to the world around us, as did the Roman Christians (v. 8).
  • We should pursue personal aspirations in the context of submission to God’s will (vv. 9-11).
  • We should recognize our debt to share the gospel without partiality (v. 14).
  • We should demonstrate, as Paul did, a readiness to share the gospel (v. 15).
  • We should recognize that the power to save sinners resides in nothing more or less than the gospel (v. 16).