Romans 1

This devotional is written by John Peters.

Romans 1

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. 6 And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

7 To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s longing to visit Rome
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10 in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.

11 I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – 12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’

God’s wrath against sinful humanity
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.


Paul introduces himself to his Roman readership (1:1-7). He has yet to visit them but their spiritual reputation proceeds them (1:8). As always, Paul wants to bless what God is doing by coming to minister to them himself (11) – in his usual apostolically super-confident way!

Romans is Paul’s considered exposition of the Gospel and in Chapter 1, he explains why everyone needs the saving work of Jesus (16) in the first place. Given what we are like, receiving the Gospel is the only way by which all people can be “made righteous” – put in a right relationship with God again (17).

He traces a sad progression downwards in our behaviour. We refuse to acknowledge God although his nature has clearly been revealed through the creation (18-20). Ceasing to give thanks to him, we elevate ourselves (21-23). This leads to all manner of “out of control” behaviours. Paul believes that we are to be filled with the Spirit – the Spirit of love, power and self-control. If we refuse to receive the Spirit, we will inevitably be controlled by our own desires.

He lists a wide range of “out of control” behaviours (29-31) but focusses specifically on sexual sin (24-27). I think we have to acknowledge that Paul does believe that homosexual behaviour is an extreme (and to him bizarre) manifestation of immorality. This is because such behaviour was taboo in Israel and he probably has in mind the “out of control” behaviour of a Roman male head of the family – who could, and often did, indulge in sex with his wife, his mistress and his slaves both male and female. Paul characterises this as “out of control.”

I think there is a difference between the revelation God gave Paul concerning Jesus and his personal opinions on subjects where he appears to show the limitations of his time and culture. For instance, no doctor would recommend that Timothy should take a little wine to ease a stomach problem - but Paul does! He also shares widespread assumptions about differences between men and women which very few of us make today. His insistence that women should wear head coverings in public and that they should neither lead nor speak in church comes out of his conviction that a women should by nature be subject to her men.

Paul basically sees homosexual practice as a weird Gentile thing. I find it hard to believe that he thought of some people as being distinctively homosexual though – just that some men abused their position of power to indulge their “out of control” desires. Although we have yet to establish the existence of a “gay gene,” we now widely accept that some people are only same-sex attracted – that this isn’t a choice. So, all people should be encouraged to find a life-long partner with whom to live in love and with whom to enjoy sex – irrespective of gender identity. In the same way, all women should express their particular gifts in society and in the church – not their distinctive gifts as women as opposed to men – simply their distinctive gifts as co-equal people with men.

To be true to the Scripture however, it is important that we do not indulge in “out of control” sexual - or other - behaviours that diminish who we are in Christ. Let’s bring any such behaviour to Jesus now, turn from it, and ask for his forgiveness and healing.

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