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  • Writer's pictureRob

The Hundred-Seventy-Second (Romans Part 1)

When you look back at all the different kingdoms throughout history, one of the most American-like empires was the Roman Empire.  Over the course of its rise and fall, it was home to many different types of people; a "melting pot," if you will, much like how the United States of America is characterized today.  While we do not have a group of Roman citizens as overlords, we do have a group of select individuals setting forth the laws we live by.    

Given the composition of the Roman empire, and as a subset the city of Rome, was so similar to our country today, what Paul wrote to the Romans is one of the writings that is most applicable to our lives today.  He was writing to a group composed of people with all different types of backgrounds, from Jewish to Greek and other former Gentiles (more on that later).  We're going to go through Paul's letter to the Romans over the course of the next few weeks, taking a look at different parts of what he wrote, what they mean, and how they apply to us today.  

As with all letters, Paul starts with a greeting to those he was writing to in Rome (v.1-7).  In this greeting, he reminds the believers in Rome of the gospel of Yeshua and the fact that not only was He prophesied in the Old Testament (which he called the Holy Scriptures because that was the only scriptures they had then), He fulfilled those prophecies and the proof of Him being the Son of God was His resurrection.  Paul then goes on to state that those believers, and himself, received grace through Yeshua and are called to bring others to Him.

This is the first place in the letter where Paul uses the term "Gentiles."  Later on, he will reference Gentiles, Jews, and even Greeks, so it's important to understand what he means by each of these terms.  In the Old Testament, you find the term Gentiles refers to all those who were not Israelites.  However, this is more specific than what this word really means.  Really, the word Gentiles is meant to include all those who are not chosen people of YHWH.  In the Old Testament, this was isolated to the people of Israel.  Now, all believers in Yeshua, those who follow His teachings, are His chosen people.  So, when Paul uses the term Gentiles, he is referring to those of the world, those that are not believers in Yeshua.

The other important aspect of this part of the greeting is what Paul says the believers of Rome are called to do.  Namely, they are to call people "to the obedience that comes from faith."  What does that even mean?  Paul will tell us later on in the book.  He finishes the greeting by telling them they are called to be saints, which is just a word that means "set apart people," and he gives them grace and peace from YHWH and Yeshua.

The next part of this letter is Paul's statement of being unashamed of the gospel of Yeshua (v. 8-17).  He takes a moment to encourage the believers by letting them know they are talked about all over.  Specifically, they are talked about because of their faith.  One thing to note here is that he uses the word "world" when talking about where the Romans' faith is being talked about.  The Greek word here is "kosmos," which is where we get our word "cosmos" from, meaning the universe.  Now, while it may be possible that Paul received word from all kingdoms of the earth, including those in North America, Asia, Africa, etc., it is more likely that he meant all over the Roman empire.  It is also possible he included the heavenly hosts when he wrote this.  We have a reference to a "cloud of witnesses" in another part of scripture (Hebrews 12:1), which is referring to those in heaven who are watching us, and Paul may have been saying the Romans' faith were talked about by those in Heaven as well as believers on earth.

This part of the letter hits on something Paul wrote about a few times in his letters: believers need to encourage each other by their faith.  Sometimes this means sharing things we find in scripture that were revealed to us.  Sometimes this means sharing things that happened in our lives that we attribute to YHWH's influence.  Other times it's talking about how we trust in Him to take care of us despite the adversity and challenges we face.  The believers in Rome were in the heart of the Roman empire, an empire dominated by pagan beliefs.  Paul wanted to get to them  in order to hear all these things and be encouraged by their belief in YHWH taking care of them despite being surrounded by worldly and satanic things..

He emphasizes his desire to visit them, stating that he has been prevented by various things as of the time of his letter.  He also wanted to be there to aid in the "harvest" of the Gentiles.  Again, he is referring to non-believers here, those who are not part of YHWH's chosen people.  But he now also references "Greeks and non-Greeks," which is an new term in this writing.  The word he uses here is "hellen" which refers to people of Greece, but also was a term used in reference to a Gentile person.  Additionally, the word for non-Greeks here is barbaros, which is the origin of our word barbarians.  However, a sentence later, we see that Paul is actually referring to the believers that used to be Gentiles, because he states that he is eager to preach to them in Rome.  

Paul rounds this section out with his emphasis on the gospel and his lack of shame for it, and that this gospel is what reveals YHWH's righteous.  He connects it all the way to the faith in this gospel producing righteousness through their belief in the truth of that gospel and what it actually means.  He finishes with a reference to Habakkuk 2:4, which says, "the righteous will live by faith," and in context was written as a counter to those that are prideful.

He also includes an interesting statement in this part of a letter, which is actually a reference to Yeshua's words that He was there for the Jews (Matthew 10:5).  Once the Jews as a whole rejected Him, the gospel and salvation was provided to the Gentiles as a whole.  He was not saying Jews have to be saved before non-Jews, he was simply saying Jews were offered the gospel first, and now also the Gentiles are offered it.

In summary, this first section of Romans has Paul greeting the believers in Rome and providing some encouragement and some reminding of important aspects of the gospel.  We, too, should encourage each other with things we see/hear/experience in our faith.  We should also remember to keep the gospel first, just like Paul did.  It's not just an afterthought, it's the thought, and we need to keep that in mind not just when witnessing to Gentiles, but also when talking to each other.  

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you! 

-Rob and Sara Gene

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