Over the next series of blog posts, I will share personal insights and observations of mine on the book of Romans. I pray that Holy Spirit uses them to illuminate this precious letter even more, and empowers you to apply the principles and doctrines contained therein in a fresh way.
According to John MacArthur, “the overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone.” 
With this in mind, Paul begins his letter to the Roman church with a foundation on the good news of the Gospel, which then becomes the model for every sermon that should be preached.
“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God…through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name…(Romans 1:1,5 NKJV)
Paul considered himself “called to be an apostle”, indicating that his authority was equal to that of the 12 apostles and his commission was directly from Christ. Today, even though this title is grossly misused for personal gain and position, each one of us could be considered an apostle given the characteristics provided by Paul. Paul does not elevate this term to the position that some have today, but rather uses it in a practical way…as that of a soldier or laborer.
We also see from verse 5 that faith and obedience are intrinsically linked…we cannot have one without the other. If we have faith in the authority and lordship of Christ, we will surely obey His commands. On the other hand, if we do not obey, we demonstrate a total lack of faith.
“To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7 NKJV)
If you are a joint heir with Christ, you are called to be a saint. These titles go hand-in-hand and are inseparable.
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established… (Romans 1:11 NKJV)
Paul had the fullness of the Spirit (Romans 15:29) and could impart spiritual gifts by laying hands on other believers (1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6, Hebrews 6:2). In this particular verse, it seems the purpose of imparting this spiritual gift is for them to be established and that they be in no shortage of any gift (1 Corinthians 1:7). Maybe this is, in part, a reason why certain spiritual gifts have been neglected or forsaken in the church today. As such, it is more difficult to find fellow believers that are full of the Spirit, and hardly any elders today that lay hands on other believers for the purpose of impartation.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.'” (Romans 1:16-17 NKJV)
This passage declares the power of the Gospel. The Gospel of Christ holds “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” This power of God reveals the “righteousness of God” to all peoples, both from an initial faith in God for salvation to an active and vibrant faith to live in God’s righteousness on a daily basis as one who is fully justified in the eyes of God.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:18-21 NKJV)
Looking at this passage as a whole, it tells us that “what may be known of God is manifest” (v.19a) in all men, “for God has shown it to them” (v19b). As Christian witnesses, we simply reinforce and build upon what God has already shown them, but they have suppressed it through their unrighteous self-will. In addition, all human beings understand the attributes of God, but those unrighteous ones willfully choose not to glorify or thank Him, thus allowing their hearts to be darkened in their futile self-focused thoughts based on human wisdom.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…” (Romans 1:18 NKJV)
This verse brings to mind the question: What exactly does God’s wrath look like? Do natural disasters and calamities involving nature reveal a part of it?
“…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:19 NKJV)
As stated above, all human beings possess a knowledge of God that is imparted by God Himself. Apologetics is simply a re-iteration of this knowledge that people already know, but have suppressed it through unrighteousness (v.18). When viewed through this lens, the burden of apologetics is then placed on God and His truth revealed rather than our own efforts…this is a much better position to work from and produces the best results!
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse…” (Romans 1:20 NKJV)
To extend this truth even further, all of creation is aware of the “invisible attributes” of God; they are “clearly seen” and “understood by the things that are made”. Not only has God revealed “His invisible attributes” to the world, He gave those who live in the world the capacity to understand them, “even His eternal power and Godhead”, thus eliminating any excuse they may have for unbelief. Therefore, we should not waste our time debating the existence of God, but rather share the Gospel of Christ, which they do not know. God never commands us to convince the world of His existence, but to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19).
“…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21 NKJV)
To further apply this at the personal level, the knowledge given by God about Himself through general revelation is willfully suppressed by sin in a person’s life. This suppression of knowledge gives way to unthankfulness and “futile” thoughts, producing a dark, foolish heart.
“Professing to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:22 NKJV)
Any wisdom that is not rooted in the knowledge of God is foolishness.
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” (Romans 1:24 NKJV)
“Judgement involves the removal of divine restraints, both on sinful actions and on their consequences.”
“Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (Romans 1:27 NKJV)
Regardless of your views and theology regarding homosexuality, one question springs forth from this verse that requires further personal investigation: what is the “penalty of their error which was due” that is received in themselves?
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32 NKJV)
Paul seems to include these people who “approve of those who practice” the things that are “not fitting” (v.28) in with those having a debased mind. When one approves of such unrighteousness, the judgement of God no longer restrains that person.
1. John MacArthur, Romans: Grace, Truth, and Redemption (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2007), 3.
2. Quote is from R.C. Sproul.