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Lesson 1: Paul and Rome *

Introduction: Great news! We begin a new series of lessons on one of the most important books of the Bible - Paul's letter to the church at Rome. Do you recall starting a new job where you wanted to make a good impression? If you were the boss, it was important for you to make the right impression so that the people under you in the company would help you make the business a success. Paul's letter to the Romans is something like that. He has never been to this church. He is coming, and he wants his relationship to begin on the right note. How should he start out? Let's jump into our study and see how Paul does this!

  1. Paul's Introduction

    1. Imagine two situations:

      1. In the first, you own a company which seeks to win a contract from a much larger corporation. You are meeting with the leaders of the corporation in order to convince them to give your company the work.

      2. In the second, you have the opportunity to share the gospel with a very important person whom you have never met.

      3. What do you think you must do in the first situation? What do you need to do in the second situation?

        1. Now, let's turn our attention to Paul's introduction to the Romans.

    2. Read Romans 1:1. How important a city was Rome? (It was the capital of the Roman empire!)

      1. Do you think that was reflected in the attitude of its citizens? (Probably.)

      2. How would you evaluate Paul's introduction to the church in Rome?

        1. What do you think about Paul starting out saying that he is a "servant" of Jesus?

        2. Would you introduce yourself to important people by saying that you are a "servant?"

    3. Read Joshua 1:2, Amos 3:7, and Jeremiah 7:25. Have you changed your mind about the nature of Paul's introduction? (A typical way to describe the great men of God is to say that they are "servants" of God. Paul is thus setting himself up in the succession of the prophets. On the other hand, Paul might have had a broader, less self-important meaning. See 1 Corinthians 7:21-23.)

    4. Let's go back to Romans 1:1 again. Paul says that he was "called to be an apostle." When you think of the apostles, what comes to mind? (The twelve disciples.)

      1. Should we be concerned about Paul exaggerating? He is writing to the residents of the most important city in the world and he tells them he is like Moses and the twelve disciples! Is this true?

      2. Read Galatians 1:1. Paul starts out another letter with this same very great claim. This time he gives a bit of an explanation for his claim. He says he was sent by Jesus. Is his claim true? (Skim Acts chapter 9 and read Acts 9:15. Paul says that what happened on the road to Damascus shows that God called him on a special mission. Paul was God's "chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles." Thus, Paul was chosen by Jesus, just like the twelve disciples, and he is God's special messenger, just like the prophets before him.)

    5. Read Romans 1:2. Paul just told us who he is, now he tells us what he is about. What is his mission? (Set apart for the gospel of God.)

      1. Any idea why Paul refers to the "Holy Scriptures?" (Paul is talking about the Old Testament.)

    6. Assume that Paul had just introduced himself to you in this way. What would you conclude?

      1. What does Paul want you to conclude? (Paul wants you to reach two conclusions: First, that he has been chosen by God to deliver an important message. Second, his message originated with God. His message is solid, historical, and trustworthy. I suspect these are the same kinds of impressions you would want to create in the first two situations I had you imagine.)

  2. The Gospel Message in Brief

    1. Next, Paul lays out his message. Read Romans 1:3. Who is Paul introducing here? (Jesus.)

      1. Notice the interesting way Paul introduces Jesus. What two things does he say? (That Jesus was the Son of God. He was also the son of King David.)

        1. Was Jesus half and half? (No. Paul says that Jesus started out as God, a God who also has a "human nature." Thus, Jesus is fully God and fully man. Jesus was one with those He came to save.)

    2. Read Romans 1:4. What else does Paul have to say about Jesus? (We have two difficult to understand phrases: "the Spirit of Holiness," and "declared with power to be the Son of God.")

      1. How do you understand "the Spirit of Holiness?"(It sounds like the Holy Spirit. God, in some way powered ("declared with power") the proof of Jesus' divinity.)

      2. If Jesus started out as God, why do we have to prove His divinity?

        1. What is the proof that Jesus is God? (His resurrection from the dead.)

        2. Some Christians do not believe that Jesus was fully God and some do not believe He was resurrected from the dead. If you do not get these two concepts right, do you understand the gospel? (No. These beliefs are at the heart of the gospel. They are part of Paul's gospel summary.)

    3. Let's review. How would you state Paul's short version of the gospel? (Jesus was the Son of God from the beginning. Jesus came into a special relationship with humans. He powerfully proved He was God by His resurrection from the dead.)

  3. The Mission

    1. Read Romans 1:5-6. Paul previously wrote that he was set apart for the gospel. What is Paul's specific gospel mission? (To call Gentiles to obey Jesus.)

      1. When we think about Paul and his letter to the Romans we think about righteousness by faith. Why does he state his mission as a call to obedience? (Paul says the obedience comes from faith. One goal of righteousness by faith is to create a people who are obedient to God's will.)

  4. The Greeting

    1. Read Romans 1:7-8. We used to have a member of our church who would regularly insult other members. When I would talk to her about this, she would say, "That's just the way I am. I say things as I see them." Do you think Paul would agree with her? (Paul says several very positive things about the Romans. He tells them they are loved by God, he calls them "saints" and he compliments them for their faith. If you want to persuade people, you do not start by insulting them.)

    2. Read Romans 1:9-12. Why do you think Paul told the Romans that he prayed for them? (This let them know Paul cared for them. Consider how you react to criticism from those who care about you versus those who could care less - except to be critical.)

    3. Read Romans 1:11-13. Paul has traveled all over, but he has not managed to see the Romans. Should they be insulted that he has skipped them? (He explains that he planned to see them, but was "prevented.")

      1. Is this just an excuse? What was holding Paul back? (Read Romans 15:20-22. Paul's job was to spread the gospel where there were no believers. The Romans knew the gospel. Paul is saying "I care," I just had more urgent priorities.)

  5. Righteousness by Faith

    1. Read Romans 1:16. Are you sometimes ashamed to be a Christian?

      1. Why? (No doubt it is because you think someone will look down on you.)

      2. Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? (It is power. People are not normally ashamed of power. They are ashamed if they have no power.)

      3. What kind of power is this? (It is the power to give life eternal. Generally, when humans talk of power, they are talking about power to affect the lives of other humans. Paul says this gospel power can affect lives eternally.)

    2. Read Romans 1:17. What is the goal of the gospel? (To make humans righteous.)

      1. How does that happen? (From beginning to end it comes by faith.)

    3. Friend, Paul speaks to you just as he spoke to the Romans. Will you take him and his message seriously? Will you, by faith, determine to obey Jesus?

  6. Next week: Jew and Gentile.
* Copr. 2010, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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