St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans Cahpter 1


Beloved God and Father,

Send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of St. Paul’s
letter to the Church in Rome.  This is a letter full of instruction in the
doctrine of Your Holy Church, which is at times difficult to understand, but
Lord, guided by the trinitarian guardian of the revelation of Jesus Christ:
sacred Scripture, our sacred Tradition, and the teaching of the universal
Magisterium, we are confident that the Holy Spirit will reveal to us the truth
of Your Word.  We pray in the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  St.
Paul, pray for us! Amen.

+ + +

From the 2nd letter of St. Peter, first Vicar of
Christ’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth, to the Universal Church of Jesus Christ:

“So then, my dear
friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live blameless and unsullied
lives so that he will find you at peace.  Think of our Lord’s patience as your
opportunity to be saved; our brother Paul, who is so dear to us, told you this
when he wrote to you with the wisdom that he was given.  He makes this point too
in his letters as a whole wherever he touches on these things.  In all his
letters there are of course some passages which are hard to understand and these
are the ones that uneducated and unbalanced people distort, in the same way as
they distort the rest of scripture’to their own destruction.  Since you have
been forewarned about this, my dear friends, be careful that you do not come to
the point of losing the firm ground that you are standing on, carried away by
the errors of unprincipled people.  Instead, continue to grow in the grace and
in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be glory, in time
and eternity.  Amen.” 
2 Peter 3:14-18

Beloved in Christ, the Church celebrates the feast day of
Saints Peter and Paul on June the 29th, and the conversion of St.
Paul on January the 25th.  Beginning in the 4th century on
June the 29th   , Christians of the Church in Rome followed the
Bishop of Rome in procession from the church of St. Peter, built over the Saint
Peter’s grave, to the church of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the site of St.
Paul’s tomb.  Today, these feast days are kept in celebration all over the
world.  So solemn do our Eastern rite brothers consider these feats days that
they have a period of fasting and prayer to prepare for the Feast of Saints
Peter and Paul.  Although both men came from different backgrounds and had
different temperaments, personalities, and gifts, they had one great and
unbreakable bond: both were called by Jesus to love and serve His Bride the
Church and to bring forth the blessing made to Abraham 2,000 years earlier’to
carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the world’a blessing for all of



Biblical period

The Messianic Age:
The Last Age of Man


The New Covenant in
Jesus Christ




The Application

of the

righteousness of

The Application of
God’s righteousness in Old Covenant

The Application of
God’s righteousness in the


Scripture 1:1—–1:16————2:1———4:1————–5:11——–6:1————9:1——–12:1—-16:37




the church

All humanity needs




of the

O. C.


Of God

The fulfillment

of the Abrahamic


Jesus Christ the new

in Christ & Life in the

The destiny of Israel

The life of Christian
disciple-ship &








Faith, sin and justification


Deliverance and sanctification



Doctrine of


Spiritual life of




Winter of

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions
All Rights Reserved.




36                                42                                57/58

-Resurrection                Peter founds
Peter founds                 Paul writes

-2nd Great                     the Church at
the Church in                to the Church

Pentecost                     Antioch
Rome                           in Rome

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, St. Paul is reaching
out to a faith community located across the Mediterranean Sea half a world
away’at lease half a world away according to the Roman understanding of the
extent of the world.  Paul is facing a problem in attempting through the written
word to favorably present himself to a community of believers he did not found
and in fact to whom he has never been introduced. The problem is that his
reputation may have preceded him and this could be both a positive and a
negative for Paul in his attempts to create a relationship with this faith
community composed of both Jews and Gentiles.  The sea Paul is reaching across
may be more than a physical barrier’there may also be other troubled waters that
he will have to overcome’a sea of misunderstanding and false impressions.

Question: What is it about Paul’s reputation that may
not create a positive impression?  Hint: read Acts 9:21; and 21:18-21.

Answer: Some New Covenant believers remembered Paul as
a persecutor of Christians before his conversion and still didn’t trust his
motives, other Jewish Christians, however, were still ardently attached to the
traditions of the Old Covenant and these Jews accused Paul of being in essence a
traitor to the faith of his own people.


As the Church took in more and more Gentile converts some
members of the Jewish nucleus of the New Covenant Church began to grow
uncomfortable.  They must have realized that soon the Gentile believers would
outnumber them and the control of the hierarchy of the Church would pass into
Gentile hands.  Another aspect of the problem may have been that some of the old
distain toward the formerly pagan Gentile “dogs” may have remained with the
Jewish Christians.  There were Jewish Christians who wanted to see the Gentiles
convert to Judaism first, then submit to baptism as New Covenant believers, but
continue as Christians to observe the Law of Moses.  The restrictions that some
Jewish Christians who held positions of authority within the Church were placing
upon the Gentile converts had already stirred up considerable disharmony in the
Church’disharmony to such an extend that the First Council of Jerusalem had been
called in c. 49AD to deal with the issues raised by New Covenant Jews who wanted
to hang on to the old traditions and rituals to which men like Paul were
opposed.  Just prior to the calling of the Great Council some Jewish Christians
from the Mother Church in Judea had come to preach at Paul’s home church in
Antioch, Syria.


Question: See Acts 15:1-4.  What
disturbing teaching did the Jewish Christians from Judea give to the Gentile
converts of the Church at Antioch and how did Paul respond to this teaching?

Answer: They told the Gentiles, “Unless you have
yourselves circumcised in the tradition of Moses you cannot be saved”
[Acts 15:1].  You can
imagine the uproar this teaching cause in the mostly Gentile church at Antioch!
Immediately both Paul and Joseph Barnabas challenged the teaching of the
visiting delegation, many of whom were probably former Pharisees [see Acts 15:5]. Barnabas was
himself a member of the Levitical ministerial priesthood of the Old Covenant
[see Acts 4:36-37],
but both Joseph Barnabas and Paul vigorously disputed the teaching of the
delegation from Jerusalem.


Question: What did the congregation decide to do about
this dispute?  Did they decide on their own to reject the teaching of the
delegation from Judea who represented themselves as teaching with the approval
and authority of the Bishop of Jerusalem?  Did they decide to separate from the
Church established by the Apostles to form their own authority?

Answer: Absolutely not.  The Church at Antioch
responded with the obedience of faith, and in the desire to resolve the issue,
the congregation at Antioch made the decision to send Paul and Barnabas to
Jerusalem to confer with the Apostles and the Elders circa 49AD and to abide by
their decision.


Please read Acts 15:5-35

Question: What group was causing the controversy
within the Church?  See Acts 15:5

Answer: Certain members of the converted Pharisees
were still insisting on circumcision as the initial means of entrance into the
New Covenant and adherence to the Law of Moses.  You may remember that the
Pharisees who opposed Jesus insisted on strict adherence to the Law of Moses.
Even as converts to Christianity some of these men had not given up their old
practices of rigid adherence to the Law of Moses.

Question: What was the decision of the Council?  See
Acts 15:22-29

Answer: At the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles
decided that Gentiles were not required to submit to circumcision and sent out a
letter to all the churches in Asia Minor to that effect along with a delegation
headed by Judas Barsabbas and Silas.  Silas, who is also known as Silvanus, will
become a missionary companion of Paul [see Acts 15:40-18:5]. Silas
is mentioned by Paul in letters to the church in Corinth [1 Corinthians 1:19]; to
the church in Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1] and
is mentioned by St. Peter in 1 Peter 5:12 where Silas
is serving as Peter’s scribal secretary.  These two men were sent to Antioch to
represent the authority of the universal Magisterium of the Apostles in accord
with Peter their Vicar, to proclaim the decision of the Council of Jerusalem
[see Acts 15: 5-35].
The letter declared that those who taught falsely were acting without any
authority from the Apostles.  Gentile candidates for baptism were only required
to abstain from eating food offered in sacrifice to false gods, to abstain from
consuming blood or bloody flesh [from animals who were strangled and not
ethically bleed], and from entering into illicit marriages’probably marriages
that were considered incestuous.  These restrictions had been placed on all
Gentiles from the time of God’s Covenant with the Gentile Noah [see Genesis 9:1-17] and along
with the restriction against taking a human life, these restrictions are know as
the Noachide Law [see the Salvation
History study Lesson #3


However, we can see that 9-10 years after this controversy
should have been settled there were still Jewish Christians as well as Jews of
the Old Covenant who viewed Paul as a traitor to his people.  In Paul’s visit to
Jerusalem in the coming spring of 58AD, he would discover that his reputation
had been tainted by accusations of abandoning the customs of his people the
Jews.  In his meeting with James, Bishop of Jerusalem and the Elders Paul gave a
detailed account of all that God had one among the Gentiles through his
ministry.  James and the others, “… gave glory to God when they heard
this.  Then they said, ‘You see, brother, how thousands of Jews have now become
believers, all of them staunch upholders of the Law; and what they have heard
about you is that you instruct all Jews living among the Gentiles to break
away from Moses, authorizing them not to circumcise their children or to follow
the customary practices.”Acts


Paul was probably already aware that Jewish Christians were
speaking ill of him before he left Corinth and in writing his letter to the
Jewish Christians of Rome in the winter of 57/58AD he would have realized that
if his good name had been slandered in Rome by Jewish Christians who were
opposed to his teaching, Paul must be careful to present himself as a true
Apostle of Jesus Christ and to support his teaching as legitimate New Covenant
doctrine if he wants to win the church in Rome as allies in his missionary
efforts. Therefore, in sending this letter Paul must employ the customary
literary conventions in such a way as to present a favorable impression to both
the Jewish and Gentile Christians of Rome of Paul the man as well as Paul the
Apostle of Jesus Christ who has received from the Savior a true knowledge of the
faith that will be beneficial to the growth of their community.  Notice as the
letter unfolds how Paul reaches out to the Jewish members of the community in
traditional Jewish teaching and with reminders of the continuation of their
covenant with Yahweh through the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31.


In the Introduction Part I we observed that St. Paul’s letter
to the Church is Rome is unique on several different levels:

  1. It is the only letter written to a community which he did
    not found
  2. It is written to a community which he had never previously
  3. It is the longest of Paul’s letters
  4. It is St Paul’s most deeply theological letter, touching on
    almost every different aspect of Christianity’s major theological themes making
    his message as powerful and relevant to Christians today as it was to the men
    and woman of the universal Church in Roman in the first century AD


In addition to being Paul’s longest letter it contains the
longest introduction of any of his other 13 letters.  Our modern Bible
translations may divide these verses into several sentences; however, in the
Greek translation verses 1-7 form one long sentence.  Even Paul’s secretary, who
is probably schooled in the Greek literary conventions, evidently cannot curb
Paul’s enthusiasm as he pours out the whole theme of his letter in the first 7


Please read Romans 1:1-7, Address and

1.“From Paul, a
servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle,
2.set apart for the service of the gospel that God
promised long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.
3. This is the gospel concerning his Son who, in
terms of human nature
4. was born a
descendant of David and who, in terms of the Spirit and of holiness was
designated Son of God in power by resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ, our
Lord through whom we have received grace and our apostolic mission of winning
the obedience of faith among all the nations for the honor of his name.
6. You are among these, and by his
call you belong to Jesus Christ. 
To you all, God’s beloved in Rome, called to be his holy people. Grace
and peace from God our Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ.”


Question: Who is serving as St. Paul’s amanuensis or
scribal secretary as Paul dictates this letter?  See Romans 16:21-23.

Answer: Tertius [ter’-she-us].  Tertius is a Latin
name which may mean “third son.”


Question: In his introduction in what 3 ways does Paul
identify himself and present his credentials? See verse 1

Answer: He identifies himself as (1) “a
servant/slave”, as (2) “one called to be an apostle”, and as one (3) “set apart
for God’s gospel”.

  1. The Greek word doulos [doo’-los] can be translated as
    “servant” or as “slave”].  In the Roman world in which Paul lived a doulos
    certainly meant one who was bonded to a master.  Slavery was an accepted
    institution in the ancient world.  In the use of this word Paul is expressing
    his complete dependence on his master, Jesus the Messiah and to express his
    undivided allegiance and his commitment of lifelong service. It is also
    important to note that to identify himself as a “servant” or “slave”, of God
    also links Paul to the prophets of the Old Testament who yielded their lives to
    Yahweh as His obedient “servants/slaves.” Jeremiah 7:25: “From
    the day your ancestors left Egypt until today, I have sent you all my servants
    the prophets, persistently sending them day after day.”
    His Jewish audience
    would not have missed the Old Testament scriptural implications of the use of
    this word.


Some of the Old
Testament servants / slaves of Yahweh:

Abraham “Faithful to his sacred promise, given to his servant
Abraham, he led out his people with rejoicing, his chosen one with shouts of
Moses “…the people revered Yahweh and put their faith in
Yahweh and in Moses, his servant.”
Joshua “Joshua fell on his face to the ground, worshipping him,
and said, ‘What has my Lord to say to his servant?'”
Samuel “Yahweh then came and stood by, calling as he had done
before, ‘Samuel! Samuel! Samuel!’  Samuel answered, ‘Speak, Yahweh; for your
servant is listening.'”
1 Samuel
David “What is more, you have deigned to bless your servant’s
dynasty, so that it may remain for ever before you; for you. Lord Yahweh, have
spoken; and may your servant’s dynasty be blessed with your blessing for ever.”
2 Samuel 7:29
[David is called God’s servant 10 times in 7:5-29]
Isaiah “Yahweh then said, my servant Isaiah…”  Isaiah


The title “servant” or “slave” is also used by other Jewish
New Covenant leaders: Sts Peter [2 Peter 1:1]; James [James1:1], and Jude [Jude 1:1], in the
introduction to their letters to the Catholic [universal] Church and also by St.
John in Revelation 1:1
and 15:3.


But this designation also links Paul and the other “servants/
slaves” of Jesus Christ to the sacramental nature of the ecclesial ministry and
its character of service which is entirely dependent on the Son of God who gives
His servants their mission and authority.  These “servants” of the Christ serve
in the image of Him who “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,
becoming as human beings are; and being in every way like a human being, he was
humbler yet. Even to accepting death, death on a cross”
Philippians 2:7-8.  Also
see CCC# 876-7


  1. Paul presents his credentials as one who is “called to be an

Question: By whom was Paul called?  Hint: see 1 Corinthians 1:1

Answer: He was “called by the will of God to be an
apostle of Christ Jesus..”

Question: What does the word “apostle” mean?

Answer: The Greek word “apostolos” literally means
“one who is sent”.  An apostle is an emissary or envoy sent with his master’s
authority to deliver a message.  In the New Testament this word designates:

  • the small group of men personally selected by Jesus during His
    ministry to be His chief ministers of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth; this is
    Apostle with a capital “A”.
  • in the early years of the growth of the Church the title “apostle”
    will also be extended to designate the men who hold the highest positions in the
    Church and are charged with its most responsible functions [in Acts 14:14 Joseph
    Barnabas is also called an apostle].


Paul considers himself to be an
apostle because he was personally chosen by Jesus and was appointed missionary
to the Gentiles [Romans
; Acts
; 1 Corinthians
; Galatians
; 2:8; 1 Timothy 2:7].  This
divine appointment, Paul believed, elevated him as a true apostle of Christ [Romans 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1, etc]
and made him equal to the other apostles who had also seen and talked with Jesus
after His Resurrection [Acts 10:41].  He
vigorously defends his title of apostle in all his letters [see Romans 1:1; 11:13; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9-10; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:6-7; 2 Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:1].  In 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 Paul
defends his title of apostle to the church in Corinth: “Am I not free” Am I
not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?  Are you not my work in the
Lord?  Even if to others I am not an apostle, to you at any rate I am, for you
are the seal of my apostolate in the Lord.”
858-60; 875


  1. Lastly, he identifies himself as having been “set apart
    for the service of the gospel..”


Question:  When Paul says he is “set apart for the
service of the gospel..”
what does he mean?  How is he “set apart”?
Hint: see Acts
; Galatians

Answer: Paul was “set apart” by Christ Himself when he
yielded his life by accepting Jesus as the Messiah and his Savior.  His old life
was over and his new life in Christ began.  He is also “set apart” in his
mission to the Gentiles, the mission to which he was called to fulfill by Jesus
[see Acts 9:15-16; 22:21].  But he may also
be referring to a statement he made in Galatians 1:15 when he
wrote that God had set him apart to serve Him “from his mother’s womb”, just as
the Old Testament servants of God Isaiah and Jeremiah were called [see Isaiah 49:1 and Jeremiah 1:5].


Question: How does Paul define the term “gospel in
this verse?  Hint: see Romans 1: 16; the Greek
word  euaggelion [yoo-ang-ghel’-ee-on] means “to announce good news;
declare glad tidings” [Strong’s #2098].

Answer: When Paul refers to the “gospel” in this verse
he is not speaking of the 4 Gospels written by the Apostles Matthew and John, or
the Gospels written by Peter’s disciple John Mark or Paul’s disciple Luke.  In
Romans 1:16 Paul
tells us that the gospel is “God’s power for the salvation of everyone who
has faith.” 
It is the good news of the gift of salvation that Jesus has
given through His precious blood and in His sacrificial death and resurrection.
It is the message of salvation Jesus instructed His Apostles to preach to the
entire world, the “good news” of the Kingdom of Heaven and the gift of man’s
salvation through God the Son [see Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:6-8].


Question: What promise does Paul refer to that God
made long ago through his prophets in verse 2?

Answer: He is referring to the promise of man’s
salvation as foreshadowed in the covenantal promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3, and
repeated in Genesis 15, 17, and 22; the covenant promise of an everlasting
Kingdom made to David; the vision of the everlasting kingdom of the holy ones of
God made to Daniel; and promises of a future Messiah and Redeemer revealed
through the prophets.  In 1 Peter 1:10-12 St Peter
writes about the promise of our salvation revealed to the Old Testament
prophets: “This salvation was the subject of the search and investigation of
the prophets who spoke of the grace you were to receive, searching out the time
and circumstances for which the Spirit of Christ, bearing witness in them, was
revealing the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow them.  It was
revealed to them that it was for your sake and not their own that they were
acting as servants delivering the message which has now been announced to
you by those who preached to you the gospel through the Holy Spirit sent from


In Luke 24:25-27 and 44-47 Jesus revealed to
the disciples on the road to Emmaus and later to the Apostles in the Upper Room
that “everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in
the Psalms, was destined to be fulfilled.” 
In Isaiah 61:1 the prophet
Isaiah prophetically proclaims: “The spirit of Lord Yahweh is on me for
Yahweh has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the news [gospel/glad tidings]
to the afflicted, to soothe the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to captives,
release to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favor from Yahweh and a day of
vengeance for our God, to comfort all who mourn…”
  Jesus will quote this
passage as fulfilled in Himself in Luke 4:18-19 and will
tell the Apostles and disciples in Matthew 28:19-20 and in
Acts 1:8 that their
mission is to proclaim the gospel message of salvation to all nations and all
peoples.  In addition to this understanding of the “gospel” message of
salvation, the Vatican II document, Dei Verbum, 7 defines the gospel of Jesus
Christ to be “the source of all saving truth and moral discipline.”  The
gospel of Jesus Christ is His work of salvation’a gift freely offered to all men
and women of all the ages of mankind [for more information on fulfillment of
prophecy see The
Study of Romans: Introduction 2
; and CCC# 64 & 702].


Romans 1: 3-7 express
the focus of Paul’s theology and some scholars believe these verses may be a
very early profession of faith. In any event these verses highlight the theology
of Paul in all his letters which is centered on the redemptive work of Jesus
Christ’the promised son of David, the crucified and resurrected Savior of the


In verse 5 Paul testifies
that the grace given to him to preach God’s gospel of salvation has come from
Jesus Christ Himself in order to win the “obedience of faith” from among the
nations of the world.

Question: What does Paul mean by the words
“obedience of faith”?  Is “obedience of faith” passive belief or
simple intellectual assent?

Answer: St. Paul identifies “obedience of faith” as
our first moral obligation.  The root word for “obedience” is the word “obey”.
To obey, from the Latin ob-audire, means “to hear” or “to listen” and “to
comply or submit”.

Faith is defined as:

  • Hebrews 11:1 defines
    faith as “..the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not
  • St.
    James writes
    in his letter to the universal Church, “See how a person is
    justified by works and not by faith alone.* […].  For just as a body without a
    spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
    James 2:24*, 26 [*this verse is
    the only verse in the New Testament where the words “faith alone” are found].
  • The Catechism defines faith as “…a gift of God, a
    supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before this faith can be exercised
    man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior
    helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens
    the eyes of the mind and makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth'”


In the Old Covenant it was
Israel’s covenantal duty to submit in obedience to God’s covenant grace through
faithfully hearing, and observing the Law of the Covenant God gave to Israel
through His servant Moses.  This faith through obedience was central to
Israel’s elevated status as God’s holy people.  In the New Covenant our
“obedience of faith” is exercised by submitting our intellect and will to God
and with the help of the Holy Spirit by embracing and living everything that God
has revealed of Himself to us through the ministry, self-sacrifice and
resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is “obedience” for the sake of the name
of Jesus
‘which means yielding in obedience to everything Jesus taught and
continues to teach through his representatives in the ministerial priesthood and
taking up our obligations to love and serve God in the royal priesthood that is
the inheritance of every Christian disciple [CCC# 1546-47].


For Paul there is a
sacramental unity in obedience and faith.  Paul is teaching that there is
no opposition between faith and obedience but that they are two sides of the
same coin
.  It is the purpose of Paul’s apostolic mission to bring about in
his hearers a message that strengthens an active and living “obedience of
faith”‘a faith expressed in obedience to the teachings of Christ through His
Church’an obedience that is pleasing to God and allows the Christian, with the
help of the Holy Spirit, to lead a holy, saintly life’a holy God and Father
deserves holy and obedient children.  It is the same call to “obedience of
faith” that every homily we hear calls us live and to which every celebration of
the Eucharist empowers and strengthens us through God’s grace.  Paul will
revisit the necessity of “obedience” and “faith” as the letter continues.  In
fact Paul literally opens the letter in 1:5 with the call to
“obedience of faith” and closes the letter in 16:26 with the same
plea: “…as the eternal God commanded, to be made known to all the nations,
so that they obey in faith…”
  See CCC # 143; 153-165; 2087 and Romans 16:26.


Question: Who is our model for faithful obedience in
the Old Testament; in the New Testament?  In each case how is their faith
obedient according to St. James definition of living, active faith?  See Hebrews 11:8 & Luke 1:37-38.

Answer: There are several good examples of obedient
faith in the Old Testament.

  • Moses so completely yielded his life to God’s will that God
    calls Moses “the meekest of men”, not an expression of weakness but of
    Moses’ submission to the will of God.
  • However, Abraham fulfills the definition of faith in Paul’s
    address in Hebrews
    .  In obedient faith he left his homeland for a land God promised him
    which he had never seen.  For this obedience God made him the father of His holy
    Covenant people Israel.
  • The Virgin Mary is the perfect model for obedience of
    faith.  With her fiat ..let it be done to me according to your
    she submitted herself to God’s will and made possible the means for
    our salvation and the salvation of the entire world.  It is because of her
    obedient faith that “all generations call her blessed” [Luke 1:48].  See CCC# 144-149.


Romans 1:7“To you
all, God’s beloved in Rome, called to be his holy people..”

Question: What people in the Old Testament bore the
title “holy people” of God?  What is the connection to the Christians of Rome
for Paul?

Answer: In the Old Testament the nation of Israel,
called by God at Mt. Sinai, enjoyed the title “holy people of God.”  Paul
acknowledges in verse 7 that the faithful Christians of Rome are indeed
called by God through faith and baptism to be God’s holy people’the New
Israel of the New Covenant, just as the Old Israel had the honor of being called
God’s holy people in obedience to Covenant centered in Jerusalem so too now do
the Christians of Rome, in the world center of the New Covenant, deserve this
title.  See CCC# 877; 2013-14.


Paul completes his greeting with his typical formula “grace
and peace.”   It is a greeting common in all his letters with the exception of
the Letter to the Hebrews [I have wondered if it may be that Hebrews is not a
letter at all but is instead a homily Paul delivered while in Jerusalem that was
copied and sent out to the universal Church].


1: 7
“Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus
Corinthians 1:3
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ.”
Corinthians 1:2
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ.”
Galatians 1:2 “Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus
Christ who gave himself for our sins to liberate us from this present wicked
world, in accordance with the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for
ever and ever.”
Ephesians 1:2 “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the
Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 1:2 “Grace and peace to your from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ.”
Colossians1:2b “Grace and peace to you from God our
Thessalonians 1:1b
“Grace to you and peace.”
Thessalonians 1:2
“Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ.”
Timothy 1:2
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from
Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Timothy 1:2
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from
Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“Grace and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus
our Savior.”
Philemon 1:3 “Grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus


The typical Greek greeting was chairein [khah-ee-ren],
meaning simply “greetings”.  Scholars have suggested that Paul substituted
chairein “greetings” with charis [khar’-ece], meaning
“favor” in the Greek but with the distinctive meaning and understanding of the
Hebrew word hen, meaning “grace”, which is a gift of God.  And
then to this greeting Paul added the Greek word for “peace”, eirene
[i-ray’-nay], which reflects the typical Semitic greeting,
shalom, “peace” [see 2 Maccabees 1:1],
yielding a combined Gentile and Jewish greeting.  But Paul’s Jewish audience may
have recognized in his greeting an echo the ancient priestly blessing for God’s
holy people Israel found in Numbers 6:24-26, “May
Yahweh bless you and keep you.  May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be
gracious to you [give you grace].  May Yahweh show you his face and bring you
If Paul does intend to echo the priestly blessing then this is an
ecclesial blessing and “grace” represents God’s covenantal grace revealed in
Jesus Christ and “peace” is the deep and abiding peace that comes from the
indwelling of God the Holy Spirit.


Please read Romans 1:8-15

:   8″First I give thanks to my
God through Jesus Christ for all of you because your faith is talked of all over
the world. 
9 God, whom I
with my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness that
I continually mention you in my prayers,
asking always that by some means I may at long last be enabled to visit
you, if it is God’s will.” 


Question: For what is Paul thankful?

Answer: For the Christian community in Rome.  Paul
begins by complimenting the Christians of Rome for their faith which serves as a
good Christian example as the geographical center of the New Covenant Church.


The literal translation of verse 9 is “God,
whom I offer worship in my spirit, preaching the gospel of his
“In my spirit” may refer to Paul’s transformation through his
baptism to “life in the Holy Spirit”.  It is God the Holy Spirit who indwells
him and directs his preaching.

Question: How is Paul’s apostolic mission an act of
worship?  Hint: In sacred Scripture worship is always identified with offering
and sacrifice; see Romans

Answer: For Paul the apostolic ministry to the
Gentiles to which he has been called is an act of worship offered to God; as he
states in Romans
where he writes, “I was given grace to be a minister of Christ
Jesus to the gentiles, dedicated to offer them the gospel of God, so that
gentiles might become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy
  He offers his own life to God and the lives of the Gentiles he has
brought to Christ.  Again Paul is identifying the sacramental nature of his
apostolic mission.


Romans 1:11-12: 11
“For I am longing to see you so that I can convey to you some spiritual
gift that will be a lasting strength,
or rather that we may be strengthened together through our mutual faith,
yours and mine.”

Paul is writing to a faith community founded by St. Peter
about 16 years earlier and so he assures them he is not coming to impart some
new doctrine but to reaffirm what they have already received so together they
can share their faith and grow stronger in faith together.  Writing in the mid
5th century Gennadius of Constantinople writes: “Paul reassures
them that he has no intention of preaching anything new to them but that he
intends to confirm them in what they have already received from Peter.
[Gennadius of Constantinople, died 471AD, Pauline Commentary from the
Greek Church
]. And Theodoret of Cry [393-466AD], in his Interpretation of
the Letter to the Romans
noted that “Paul only wants to share what he has
himself received.  And because the great Peter was the first to have taught
them, Paul adds that he merely wants to confirm them in the teaching which has
already been given to them and to water the trees which have already been


Romans 13-15: 13 “I want you to be quite certain too,
brothers, that I have often planned to visit you’though up to the present I have
always been prevented’in the hope that I might work as fruitfully among you as I
have among the gentiles elsewhere. 
I have an obligation to Greeks as well as barbarians, to the educated as
well as the ignorant, and hence the eagerness on my part to preach the gospel to
you in Rome too.”

Question: Who are the Greeks and who are the

Answer: When Paul speaks of the “Greeks”, he is
referring to those who embrace Greek culture and learning’this includes the
Romans who greatly admired and adopted Hellenistic culture.  Since the
4th century BC and the world conquest of Alexander the Great, Greek
had become the international language’this is the reason the Church chose to
write the New Testament in Greek.  The “barbarians” are all other Gentiles who
are neither Roman nor Greek and who are considered to be uneducated because they
do not speak Greek and have not been exposed to Greek culture.


Please read Romans 1:16-23

1:16-17:  16 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the
gospel, it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who has faith’Jews
first, but Greeks as well’
17  for in
it is revealed the saving justice of God: a justice based on faith and
addressed to faith.  As it says in Scripture: ‘Anyone who is upright
through faith will live.'”


The words “saving justice” and “upright” can be translated as
“righteousness” or “righteous” or “justice”‘it is the same word in the Greek =
dikaios [dik-ah-yos] / dikaiosune [dik-ah-yos-oo’-nay] but this
word is only used twice in this passage.  This is a word Paul will use
frequently in this letter which means “the character or act of righteousness
or justification”
[Strong’s Concordance #1342]. The New American translation
renders verse 17 as:
“For 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.'”

The Catholic dictionary defines “justice” as a virtue as “..the constant and
permanent determination to give everyone his or her rightful due”
; and
defines “the theology of justification of the believer” as, “The process of a
sinner becoming justified or made right with God.”


This passage is Paul’s announcement of the theme of his
letter: the saving power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He makes 4 affirmations
in his announced theme:

  1. God’s gift of salvation is a universal gift offered for all
    who are willing to accept it.
  2. That all men and women have equality in God’s plan of
    salvation [although the Jews first because of God’s previous covenant
    obligations to them].
  3. This universal gift of salvation is powered by the
    gospel’revealed in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ’a power unleashed by God
    through His righteousness and promised by Him throughout human history
  4. Mankind shares in this gift of salvation empowered by the
    gospel through righteous faith.


Paul’s declaration that he is not “ashamed of the gospel” can
be understood in light of what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:18, 20b-21: “The message
of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us
who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God. […] Do you not see
how God has shown up human wisdom as folly:  Since in the wisdom of God the
world was unable to recognize God through wisdom, it was God’s own pleasure to
save believers through the folly of the gospel.” 
The gospel is a paradox
and a contradiction to the society of the pagan and modern world’that God would
use an instrument of torture and execution to bring about the salvation of the


“it is God’s power for the salvation of everyone who has
The gospel isn’t just a message from God it is a supernatural
power that has been unleashed to bring mankind, through faith, to salvation
We have already defined “faith” as a supernatural virtue empowered by the Holy
Spirit that is man’s response to God as all truth and goodness [CCC # 153] and, as
Paul adds here, the first step on the path of salvation.  In all Paul’s
letters he uses the word faith, in Greek pistis [pis’-tis], as a
synecdoche [si-nek’-do-ki], a single word that sums up a process.
Faith is not only intellectual ascent’it is also trust and obedience to the
life-giving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is faith that unites a
person to Christ through the work of God the Holy Spirit.  Salvation is in fact
the reliance on the truth of God’s promises and on God’s faithfulness to keep
those promises and to put them into effect through the gospel of Jesus Christ,
“Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the
promise is trustworthy
Hebrews 10:23.


Question: What does Paul mean when he writes that
salvation was for the Jews first?

Hint: see Matthew 10:5; 15:24; Mark 7:27; and John 4:22.

Answer: In God’s comprehensive plan of Salvation
History, redemption and salvation was first promised to the children of Israel
who are the descendants of Abraham.  Even though they failed to keep their
faithful obedience to the Covenant, God faithfully kept His covenantal promises
in that Jesus Christ came first to them:

  • “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel”
  • “You worship what you do not know; for salvation comes from the

But is it also the promise God made to Abraham that makes
salvation accessible to gentiles’the promise of the world-wide blessing.  It was
only after the New Covenant was established with the faithful remnant of Jews
that the gift of salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ was carried by
that faithful remnant of New Covenant Jews, like Paul, to the Gentile world.
Note: when Paul writes “for Greeks as well” he means all Gentile peoples.


“for in it [the gospel] is revealed the saving
[righteousness/ justification] of God: a justice based on faith
and addressed to faith.

Question: What does Paul mean
when he writes that the gospel is revealed in the saving justice or
righteousness of God?  Hint: see Isaiah 51:4-8, what is the subject of this

Answer: Isaiah 51 seems to be a
poem on the restoration of Israel but in light of the Resurrection of Jesus
Christ we can see these passages and chapters 52-55:13 as a promise of
the restoration through God’s saving justice or righteousness to all nations on
earth through the Passion, death and Resurrection of God the Son.  This “saving
justice of God” or “righteousness of God” refers to a state of righteousness or
justness in which a person is placed when God imparts, through no merit of our
own, the gift of grace.  It is called the “saving justice” or “righteousness” of
God because we cannot attain it through our own efforts’grace is a free gift of
a loving and merciful God.  The “righteousness” or “saving justice” which God
gives us through His grace is not an external transformation’like new paint on a
dirty fence’but is instead the transformation of our souls’being truly made
righteous through our rebirth in baptism through water and the spirit.  The
Magisterium of the Catholic Church has taught us through the documents of the
Council of Trent that when we are justified through the sacrifice of Christ
there is a change from the condition in which a person was born as a child of
the first Adam into a state of grace and adoption among the children of God
through the Second Adam, Jesus Christ our Savior [see Council of Trent, De
iustificatione, chapter 6]. 
The Church also declared in the documents of
Trent that ” the only formal cause is ‘justice of God, not the justice by
which he is himself just, but the justice by which he makes us just’ (Augustine,
De Trinitaate, XIV, 12, 15), namely, the justice which we have as a gift from
him and by which we are renewed in the spirit of our mind.  And not only are
we considered just, but we are truly said to be just, and we are just”
[Council of Trent, De iustificatione, chapter 7].
Justification is both
a true removal of sin through the Sacraments of Baptism and
Reconciliation/Confession [not merely having one’s sins ignored or no longer
held against the sinner] and is at the same time the supernatural sanctification
and renewal of the believer who becomes holy and pleasing to God and by His
grace an heir of eternal salvation in His Kingdom.


The Catholic theology of justification is directly opposed to
Martin Luther’s “doctrine of total depravity” which teaches that we are all
bound by an unavoidable law of sin that has completely corrupted the soul and
that although our sins cannot separate us from the love of Christ, His sacrifice
on the cross only covers our sins as “snow covers an dunghill”‘man can never
truly be declared “just” it is Christ who is “just” and His righteousness that
is imputed to us.  This doctrine is not the Catholic understanding of
forgiveness in which Jesus Christ’s perfect sacrifice wipes the sin away utterly
and completely through the Sacrament of Confession.  See CCC# 411; 1266; 1446; ; 2018-20


Romans 1:17
continued: “based on faith and addressed to faith” The Greek translation
is “through faith (and) for faith”.  Bible scholars tell us that this
kind of phrase in sacred Scripture seems to indicate an on-going condition or
growth in something that is living and active.  Paul is writing about the
growing progression of the perfection of the gospel of salvation in the life of
the believer.  This “saving justice” or “righteousness/ justification” which is
revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ and which as a gift of grace is made
manifest, is nourished and continues to grow through the faith of the believer
until at the end of the journey of faith when the believer who has persevered in
faith and is victorious attains the ultimate goal’the gift of eternal salvation
[see Revelation 2:7;
11; 17; 26; 3:5; 12; 21].  Paul’s point in
this passage is that the entire process of salvation is founded on and
maintained in faith. Faith is the first step on the journey to eternal life.


“As it says in Scripture: Anyone who is upright through
faith will live.”
Paul is quoting the Prophet Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:4, “You
see, anyone whose heart is not upright will succumb, but the upright will live
through faithfulness.”
  This is a key passage in the book of the Prophet
Habakkuk that sums up the importance of the faith of God’s Covenant people
Israel in observing the Law of Moses.  The prophet is making the point that it
isn’t just the observance of the Law that promises salvation but their faith and
trust in God expressed in their obedience.  Paul wrote in Galatians 3:8 that
“Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith,
preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations
be blessed.'”
In quoting the passage from Habakkuk Paul is making the link
to what he wrote in 1:1-2 that God promised
the gospel long ago through his prophets and it is the same message of salvation
through faith in God’s righteous promises.  The Jewish Christians would have
appreciated and understood this connection to the teaching in Habakkuk’Gentile
converts may not have been as educated in the Old Covenant Scriptures to make
the connection.


Romans 1:18-23: 18 The retribution of God from heaven is being
revealed against the ungodliness and injustice of human beings who in their
injustice hold back the truth.

19 For what can be
known about God is perfectly plain to them, since God has made it plain to them:
20 ever since the creation of the
world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting power have been
clearly seen by the mind’s understanding of created things.  And so these people
have no excuse:
21 they knew God and
yet they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but their arguments
became futile and their uncomprehending minds were darkened.
22 While they claimed to be wise, in fact they
were growing so stupid
they exchanged the glory
of the immortal God for an imitation, for the image of a mortal human being, or
of birds, or animals, or crawling things.


For St. Paul the reverse of the positive revelation of God’s
love is the righteous wrath or judgment of God visited on those who persist in
rebellious unbelief.  To us it seem a bit shocking that Paul should move so
quickly from a discussion of God’s righteousness to God’s wrath, but this
perspective is perfectly in keeping with the Jewish sense of the whole world in
the Last Age of man moving toward a final and imminent judgment where God’s
wrath will pour forth in all its divine retribution against all human
wickedness.  His Jewish audience would have been nodding their heads in
agreement.  The books of the Old Testament Prophets reveal the cycle of failed
fellowship with God resulting in judgment and retribution followed by the
promise of restoration [see “How to Study the Books of the Old Testament
Prophets” in the Bible Study section or the Chart section see “The Symbolic
Images of the Old Testament Prophets” ].  The two revelations of righteousness
and retribution are related in that it is precisely God’s righteousness and
justice that does not excuse sin.  God has promised us eternal blessings and
eternal punishment in the New Covenant’the righteous will find everlasting life
while the wicked go to everlasting destruction.


Question: How is God’s “wrath” or “retribution”
defined by Paul?

Answer: Retribution is defined by Paul as divine
judgment and separation from God.

Question: How has God made “perfectly plain” (verse 19) to mankind His

Answer: Through the miracle of creation and the
wonders of the natural world.

Question: How did man abuse and reject the truth of
this revelation?  Give examples?

Answer: Man preferred to worship the creation instead
of the Creator by setting up as gods animals [Egyptian gods], or human beings
[Greeks, i.e. deifying humans like Hercules], or natural wonders [worship of the
sun or moon, meteorites, etc.].


Please read Romans 1:24-32

24 That is why God
abandoned them in their inmost cravings to filthy practices of dishonoring their
own bodies’
25 because they exchanged
God’s truth for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature instead of the
Creator, who is blessed for ever.  Amen. 
That is why God abandoned them to degrading passions:
27 why their women have exchanged natural
intercourse for unnatural practices; and the men, in a similar fashion, too
giving up normal relations with women, are consumed with passion for each other,
men doing shameful things with men and receiving in themselves due reward for
their perversion. 
28 In other words,
since they would not consent to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to their
unacceptable thoughts and indecent behavior. 
29 And so now they are steeped in all sorts of
injustice, rottenness, greed and malice; full of envy, murder, wrangling,
treachery and spite, libelers, slanderers, enemies of God, rude, arrogant and
boastful, enterprising in evil, rebellious to parents, without brains, honor,
love or pity.  They are well aware of God’s ordinance: that those who behave
like this deserve to die’yet they not only do it, but even applaud others who do
the same.”


Has it every occurred to you that the more the times and
people change the more they remain the same?  The 1st century
Christians of Rome were living in a city that had perfected every debauchery. It
was a city, which in the time of the Emperor Nero, had a population of
approximately one million people.  The Roman senator Seneca wrote of Rome at
this time that “…every sort of person flocks to the city which offers, at a
high price, virtues and vices.”
[Consolatio ad Helviam, 6, 2-4].  The
Christians of the Empire’s capital had to be vigilant against the corroding
effect of being exposed to such sins as those listed by Paul.

Question: In this litany of human rebellion against
God in favor of sin in the first century AD that Paul listed do you recognize
any signs of the same sin and degradation in 21st century society
today?   Give some examples.  When do we contribute to the growth and influence
of sin by “applauding the sins of others”?


Question: Why does God abandon those who persist in
sin and refuse all calls to repentance?  What should your reaction be the next
time you see someone who prospers in sin?

Answer: Pity.  Their prosperity in sin is a sign that
God has given then over to their own desires in His desire that their sinful
life finally brings them so low that they will turn back to him.


Repetition in sacred Scripture is an important “sign” that
must not be overlooked.  Repetition provides a link to a deeper understanding of
the text.

Question: There is a triple repetition of a certain
phrase between verses
and 28.  What
is that repetition?  The New Jerusalem translation accurately reflects this
repetition but other translations may not.

Answer: In verses 24, 26, and 28 the phrase “God
abandoned them”
[also may be translated “God gave them up”] is
repeated 3 times.  According to the significance of numbers in Scripture, 3 is one of the four
“perfect” numbers, signifying “importance, fullness, and completion” for Old
Covenant believers and in addition the sign of “the Trinitarian unity of the One
True God’Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” for New Covenant believers [see “The
Significance of Numbers in Scripture” in the Documents and Resources section].
In his commentary on the Book of Romans Father Brendan Byrne notes in this
passage from Romans
, that St Paul has followed his main statement in “three great
waves flowing across the text (vv 21-31) each hinging around the striking
statement, “God gave them up” 9v 24; v 26; v 28). The waves do not
refer to three separate, sequential instances of rupture in divine- human
relations.  Each points to the same ‘original’
lapse on the human side
and the same corresponding reaction of God.”

[Romans, page 64].  The repetition of the phrase
“God abandoned them”[New Jerusalem translation] establishes the link
between the terrible consequence of human failure to acknowledge the sovereignty
of God over mankind’s behavior and humanity’s fall into all the various
expression of sin and the separation from God and the corrosion of the human
soul that is the result.


Father Byrne also points out that there may be a link to the
Old Testament Book of Wisdom, particularly Wisdom 13:1-27 linked to
Romans 1:20-31.  This
is a conncetion his Jewish audience would have made but probably not the Gentile
converts.  Both passages in Wisdom and Romans refer to God’s revelation of
Himself to man:

  • through man’s ability to contemplate the wonders of the created
  • man’s failure to respond in truth to God’s revelation; and
  • the consequence of man’s rebellion in rejecting the truth of God.

There are at least 8 points of
comparison between Romans
and Wisdom
chapters 11-14


Comparison between
Romans chapter 1 and the Book of Wisdom concerning the rejection of God’s truth
which results in sin and judgment

11:15 – 14:30
: Knowledge of God revealed to man through the wonders of
: Knowledge of God revealed to man through wonders of
: Man obstinately refuses to recognize the truth of God
: Man obstinately refuses to recognize the truth of God
: Man’s refusal to recognize the truth of God leads to idolatry and
immoral behavior
: Man’s refusal to recognize the truth of God leads to idolatry and
immoral behavior
: Unnatural sexual prevision is a result of immorality
: Unnatural sexual prevision is a result of immorality
Rebellion leads to a whole list of vices
: Rebellion leads to a whole list of vices
; 32: The
result is sinners deserve judgment and the wrath of God
: The result is sinners deserve judgment and the wrath of
: Condemnation of complacency toward sin
: Condemnation of complacency toward sin
: Sin results in the “darkening” of the human mind
: Sin results in the “darkening” of the human

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2006 Agape Bible Study. Permissions
All Rights Reserved.


In his argument Paul is certainly presenting a traditional
Jewish teaching that the Jewish members of the community would have recognized
and appreciated and a teaching from which the Gentile Christians would have


Question: What is Paul’s argument concerning man’s
attempts to come to salvation apart from God?

Answer: He argues that all efforts to come to
salvation apart from God’and he means God’s plan to liberate us from sin and
death through the blood of Jesus Christ’have failed.  St. Peter boldly declared
to the Jewish council in his examination before the Sanhedrin [Jewish Law Court
that condemned Jesus] “Only in him is there salvation; for of all the names
in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”
Acts 4:12

Question: Why is it that Paul says man cannot attain
salvation apart from Christ?

Answer: Because all human beings are enslaved to sin.
Only the blood of Christ can free us from slavery to sin and the consequence of
sin which is death [see Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:7 & 22].

Question: What is the purpose of God’s wrath and
judgment?  When we fall away from God because of sin what should we remember
when we suffer from our sins?  What is the remedy for forgiveness of sin and
restoration to God?

Answer: The remedy is the Sacrament of Reconciliation
[also called the Sacrament of Confession or Penance] in which we can be forgiven
and restored to fellowship with God the Father.  When we suffer from the effects
of sin we must remember that divine judgment is always meant to bring about
repentance and restoration’it is redemptive judgment God seeks while there is
still time’when the Final Judgment comes with the return of Jesus Christ it will
be too late those who in willful disobedience reject God. In 2 Peter 3:9 St. Peter
assures all of us that “The Lord is not being slow in carrying out his
promises, as some people think he is; rather is he being patient with you,
wanting nobody to be lost and everybody to be brought to repentance.”
  See CCC# 1037; 1040-1.  God the
Father, in His love, calls all of us to repentance and forgiveness in the
spiritually healing Sacrament of Confession.

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