A Bible Study With Commentary on Romans One

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Here is a Bible study with commentary on the Book of Romans, chapter one.

The Called Apostle

Paul typically gives his credentials at the very beginning of his letters (epistles), and the Book of Romans is no exception (Rom 1:1-2). He was “called to be an apostle,” proving it wasn’t his idea but God’s divine intervention (Acts 9). He was set apart (which is what sanctified means) for holy use; for God’s purpose.

I love how often Paul thanked God for the church and certain members (Rom 1:8). This is something I’ve borrowed from Paul’s custom, frequently thanking God for specific church member’s work, naming them by name. I think it’s clearly biblical to do that. Of course I also thank them to their face. I strive to imitate Paul’s frequent prayers given to God on behalf of the church (Rom 1:10).

Saint Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne (public domain).

Under Obligation

Everyone has obligations in life, but for Paul, it was a much different obligation and one that had great impact. He said, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rom 1:14-15). Here is clear evidence from Paul that He was the Apostle of the Gentiles and that it was not according to his own will but Gods, but now he is gladly “under obligation.” Paul embraced this call and was “eager to preach the gospel” to them. How many of us are eager to do the same thing?

Not Ashamed

One thing I can say about the Apostle Paul is he was never ashamed to mention the Name of Christ. He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). He recognized that he didn’t have the power; the gospel itself had the power to save. Paul understood that “in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17). It is revealed by God not by man as it’s a gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). I have no power but the gospel does; we only have to unleash that power (Isaiah 55:11). May we never be ashamed of the gospel and never fear to share Christ with the lost.

Suppressing the Truth

God’s wrath is revealed by the unrighteous acts of man, but knowing mankind, he will “suppress the truth” anyway, rather than embrace it. This is despite the fact that “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20).

The Greek word Paul uses for “suppress” is “katechō” and this means to physically “hold back, to detain,” or “to push down on or against” something. The Greeks would have used this word if I were pushing down on a coil spring, suppressing it, so they are “without excuse,” doing it intentionally. Everyone really knows in their heart that God exists. Even the creation declares God’s glory (Psalm 19:1-3).

Love the Darkness

The light that shines from God overcomes the darkness, but when living in darkness is a choice, God gives them up to their own darkness. By choosing to live in darkness rather than light, God withdraws what light there is. He gives them over to their own depravity, which is why “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Rom 1:22-23). They will worship anything but the true Creator. They will worship nature, the stars, the sun, the moon, themselves, and even the brahma bull, but they have exchanged what is not a god for the One, True God.

Sexual Depravity

Since men love the darkness, and they choose the darkness of God, God gives them up to their own lusts of impurity. They rejected God for a god of their own imagination. They exchange this lie for the truth, the life and the way (John 14:6). It’s so easy to see the results of rejecting God in our culture today, especially in how they dishonor their bodies by their sexually immoral behavior (Rom 1:24-26). Even though they were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27), they exchanged the self-evident truth that there is a God and a higher, moral standard for a lie and now they worship or serve the creature or creation (themselves and their own lusts). In fact, they become an idol unto themselves, worshiping themselves and seeing themselves as the center of the universe. “If it feels good, it must be good” is their philosophy.

God gives “them up to [their own] dishonorable passions” (Rom 1:26).

Unnatural Union

When we try to run from God, we run to our own destruction, but is there a “point of no return” when we fail to hear the Holy Spirit or God’s calling? At what point do men and women finally become reprobate and unwilling to repent again like Satan and the fallen demons? Paul believes that God gives “them up to [their own] dishonorable passions” (Rom 1:26). In part, this means sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, AIDS, or whatever else their partners have brought with them from their previous partners. The depravity reaches such a low point that men have sex with men and women have sex with women. Everything’s exactly the opposite of the way God has designed us.

Evil for Good

So true were the words of the Prophet that what is good is now evil and what is evil is now good (Isaiah 5:20-21), therefore they “gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another” and began immoral sexual relations with “men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Rom 1:27). This penalty is going to be incurred at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:12-15) because all who live in sexual immorality will have their part in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8), but another penalty must be paid too and that often results in shortened lifespans and/or suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. This is something that faithful, monogamous married couples do not have to worry about.

Fruits of the Flesh

You can find the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5, but you can also find the fruits of the flesh in Romans Chapter one. For example, for those who reject God, they become “filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (Rom 1:28-31). Jesus warned us that we will know them by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20).

Hearty Approval

People love to drag others down with them it seems. If they’re in trouble, they want others to join them in their troubles. Many years ago…decades ago, I quit drinking. Some of the people I ran with who still drank didn’t understand why I stopped drinking and running with them. It’s almost as if they wanted me to get back to drinking and have some alcohol issues again. It was as if when others got drunk, they “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom 1:32b). I guess misery does love company but I was no longer practicing those things. I was a changed man (2 Cor 5:21; Eph 2:1-5). In their hearts, these men know about “God’s righteous decrees” (Rom 1:32a), yet they, like the other lost people, do the things that deserve death (for some a premature death). God’s Word be true; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20)!


Practice sharing the gospel with others or someone. Have one person be the hard-nosed atheist, the other someone trying to share Christ. Think about what you might say to someone you want to open up a spiritual conversation with. Pray before and during your encounter; trust the Holy Spirit to give you the right words, know the gospel well enough that you can quote it in a few memorized Bible verses. Examples are 2 Cor 5:21, John 3:16, Acts 4:12, etc.

Romans chapter one has caused a lot of controversy behind the pulpits today, but I’m not afraid to speak (or write) about these things. Are you? Many are afraid to “cry aloud and spare not” because they don’t want to offend, but the Word of God is supposed to cut in order to heal. God’s Word comforts the afflicted but afflicts the comfortable. The truth will set you free or it will make you really mad. I can live with both.

Here is some related reading for you: Bible Verses From Romans: 25 Scripture Quotes

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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