To the Romans 1:1-32

1  Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus and called to be an apostle, set apart for God’s good news,+  which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,+  concerning his Son, who came to be from the offspring of David+ according to the flesh,+  but who with power was declared God’s Son+ according to the spirit of holiness by means of resurrection from the dead+—yes, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Through him we received undeserved kindness and an apostleship+ with a view to obedience by faith among all the nations+ respecting his name,  among which nations you also have been called to belong to Jesus Christ—  to all those who are in Rome as God’s beloved ones, called to be holy ones:+ May you have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  First of all, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of you, because your faith is talked about throughout the whole world.  For God, to whom I render sacred service with my spirit in connection with the good news about his Son, is my witness of how without ceasing I always mention you in my prayers,+ 10  begging that if at all possible I may now at last succeed in coming to you by God’s will. 11  For I am longing to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to you for you to be made firm; 12  or, rather, that we may have an interchange of encouragement+ by one another’s faith, both yours and mine. 13  But I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that many times I have intended to come to you—but I have been prevented until now—in order that I might acquire some fruitage also among you just as among the rest of the nations. 14  Both to Greeks and to foreigners, both to wise and to senseless ones, I am a debtor;+ 15  so I am eager to declare the good news also to you there in Rome.+ 16  For I am not ashamed of the good news;+ it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith,+ to the Jew first+ and also to the Greek.+ 17  For in it God’s righteousness is being revealed by faith and for faith,+ just as it is written: “But the righteous one will live by reason of faith.”+ 18  For God’s wrath+ is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who are suppressing the truth+ in an unrighteous way, 19  because what may be known about God is clearly evident among them, for God made it clear to them.+ 20  For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made,+ even his eternal power+ and Godship,+ so that they are inexcusable.+ 21  For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor did they thank him, but they became empty-headed in their reasonings and their senseless hearts became darkened.+ 22  Although claiming they were wise, they became foolish 23  and turned the glory of the incorruptible God into something like the image of corruptible man and birds and four-footed creatures and reptiles.*+ 24  Therefore, God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, so that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25  They exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated* and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen. 26  That is why God gave them over to disgraceful sexual passion,+ for their females changed the natural use of themselves into one contrary to nature;+ 27  likewise also the males left the natural use of the female and became violently inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males,+ working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full penalty, which was due for their error.+ 28  Just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God,* God gave them over to a disapproved mental state, to do the things not fitting.+ 29  And they were filled with all unrighteousness,+ wickedness, greed,+ and badness, being full of envy,+ murder,+ strife, deceit,+ and malice,+ being whisperers, 30  backbiters,+ haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, schemers of what is harmful,* disobedient to parents,+ 31  without understanding,+ false to agreements, having no natural affection, and merciless. 32  Although these know full well the righteous decree of God—that those practicing such things are deserving of death+—they not only keep on doing them but also approve of those practicing them.

Footnotes

Or “creeping things.”
Or “worshipped.”
Or “they did not consider it worthwhile to have accurate knowledge of God.” Lit., “they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge.”
Or “inventors of injurious things.”

Study Notes

To the Romans: Titles like this one were apparently not part of the original text. The titles were added later, doubtless to provide a clear means of identification of the books. Some existing manuscripts in which this title appears are: Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus of the fourth century C.E. and Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Ephraemi Syri rescriptus of the fifth century C.E. The earliest known collection of nine of Paul’s letters, the papyrus codex known as P46, does not contain the beginning of the letter to the Romans. However, the other eight letters in that collection have titles, indicating that the book of Romans likely had a title. This papyrus collection, often dated to about 200 C.E., provides evidence that from an early date, scribes identified Bible books by titles.​—See Media Gallery, “Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.”

Greetings!: The Greek word khaiʹro, which literally means “to rejoice,” is here used as a salutation and conveys the thought “may things be well with you.” The introduction to this letter concerning circumcision, which was sent to the congregations, follows the common ancient form of letter writing. First the writer was mentioned, then a person was addressed, and third the common greeting was given. (See study note on Ac 23:26.) Of all the letters included in the Christian Greek Scriptures, only the letter of James uses the Greek term khaiʹro as a salutation in the same way as this letter from the first-century governing body. (Jas 1:1) The disciple James was involved in formulating this letter, which supports the conclusion that the James who wrote the letter bearing his name is the same as the one who had a prominent part in the meeting recounted in Acts chapter 15.

Claudius Lysias to His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings!: This was a common introduction used in ancient letters. First the writer was mentioned, then the person was addressed, and third the common greeting was given using the Greek word khaiʹro, which literally means “to rejoice.” It expressed the thought: “May things be well with you.” It commonly appears in non-Biblical papyrus letters. In this context, the Greek word can appropriately be rendered “Greetings!” A similar introduction to a letter can be found at Ac 15:23 and Jas 1:1.​—See study note on Ac 15:23.

Saul: Meaning “Asked [of God]; Inquired [of God].” Saul, also known by his Roman name Paul, was “of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born from Hebrews.” (Php 3:5) Since Saul was born a Roman citizen (Ac 22:28), it is logical that his Jewish parents may have given him the Roman name Paulus, or Paul, meaning “Little; Small.” From childhood, he likely had both names. His parents may have named him Saul for a number of reasons. Saul was a traditional name of importance among Benjaminites because the first king over all Israel, a Benjaminite, was named Saul. (1Sa 9:2; 10:1; Ac 13:21) Or his parents might have given him the name because of its meaning. Another possibility is that his father’s name was Saul, and according to custom, the son was named after the father. (Compare Lu 1:59.) Whatever the reason, when among fellow Jews​—and especially when studying to be a Pharisee and living as one​—he would have used his Hebrew name, Saul. (Ac 22:3) And for over a decade after becoming a Christian, he seemed to have been known mostly by his Hebrew name.​—Ac 11:25, 30; 12:25; 13:1, 2, 9.

Saul, also called Paul: From this point on, Saul is referred to as Paul. The apostle was born a Hebrew with Roman citizenship. (Ac 22:27, 28; Php 3:5) It is therefore likely that from childhood, he had both the Hebrew name Saul and the Roman name Paul. It was not unusual for Jews of that time, particularly among those living outside Israel, to have two names. (Ac 12:12; 13:1) Some of Paul’s relatives likewise had Roman and Greek names. (Ro 16:7, 21) As “an apostle to the nations,” Paul was commissioned to declare the good news to non-Jews. (Ro 11:13) He apparently decided to use his Roman name; he might have felt that it would be more acceptable. (Ac 9:15; Ga 2:7, 8) Some have suggested that he adopted the Roman name in honor of Sergius Paulus, which seems unlikely, since Paul retained the name even after leaving Cyprus. Others have suggested that Paul avoided using his Hebrew name because its Greek pronunciation sounded similar to a Greek word that referred to a person (or an animal) who swaggered when walking.​—See study note on Ac 7:58.

Paul: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the name Pauʹlos, from Latin Paulus, meaning “Little; Small,” is used 157 times when referring to the apostle Paul and once when referring to the proconsul of Cyprus named Sergius Paulus.​—Ac 13:7.

Paul: Or “From Paul.” Paul’s opening, which continues to verse 7, follows a style common in ancient letters. Typically, such letters would name the sender and the intended recipient(s) and then include a greeting. (Ro 1:7) Paul’s introduction, in which he describes his calling and his message, is unusually long (in Greek, one long sentence forms verses 1 to 7). Some suggest that this is because Paul had not yet visited the Rome congregation, although many Christians there knew him. (Compare study notes on Ac 15:23; 23:26.) Although introduced into the Scriptures by the Hebrew name Saul, from Ac 13:9 onward Paul is referred to by his Roman name (Pauʹlos, the Greek form of the common Latin name Paulus). He refers to himself as Paul in all his letters except in the letter to the Hebrews, where his name is not mentioned. Perhaps he felt that it would be more acceptable to non-Jews, to whom he was commissioned to declare the good news as “an apostle to the nations.”​—Ro 11:13; Ac 9:15; Ga 2:7, 8; see study notes on Ac 7:58; 13:9.

a slave of Christ Jesus: Generally, the Greek term douʹlos, rendered “a slave,” refers to a person owned by another; often, he is a purchased slave. (Mt 8:9; 10:24, 25; 13:27) This term is also used figuratively, referring to devoted servants of God and of Jesus Christ. (Ac 2:18; 4:29; Ga 1:10; Re 19:10) Jesus bought the lives of all Christians when he gave his life as a ransom sacrifice. As a result, Christians do not belong to themselves but consider themselves to be “Christ’s slaves.” (Eph 6:6; 1Co 6:19, 20; 7:23; Ga 3:13) As an indication of their submission to Christ, their Lord and Master, writers of the inspired letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures who gave counsel to the congregations all referred to themselves as ‘slaves of Christ’ at least once in their writings.​—Ro 1:1; Ga 1:10; Jas 1:1; 2Pe 1:1; Jude 4; Re 1:1.

an apostle: The Greek noun a·poʹsto·los is derived from the verb a·po·stelʹlo, meaning “to send away (out).” (Mt 10:5; Lu 11:49; 14:32) Its basic meaning is clearly illustrated in Jesus’ statement at Joh 13:16, where it is rendered “one who is sent.” Paul was called to be an apostle to the nations, or non-Jews, by the direct choice of the resurrected Jesus Christ. (Ac 9:1-22; 22:6-21; 26:12-23) Paul affirmed his apostleship by pointing out that he had seen the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (1Co 9:1, 2) and had performed miracles (2Co 12:12). Paul also served as a channel for imparting the holy spirit to baptized believers, providing further evidence that he was a true apostle. (Ac 19:5, 6) Though he frequently refers to his apostleship, nowhere does he include himself among “the Twelve.”​—1Co 15:5, 8-10; Ro 11:13; Ga 2:6-9; 2Ti 1:1, 11.

set apart: The Greek word a·pho·riʹzo, “to separate,” is here used in the sense of selecting or appointing a person for a specific purpose. In this case, Paul refers to his assignment to declare God’s good news, the message about God’s Kingdom and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. (Lu 4:18, 43; Ac 5:42; Re 14:6) In the book of Romans, Paul also uses the expressions “the good news about his [God’s] Son” (Ro 1:9), “the good news of God” (Ro 15:16), and “the good news about the Christ” (Ro 15:19).

the Law . . . the Prophets: “The Law” refers to the Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy. “The Prophets” refers to the prophetic books of the Hebrew Scriptures. However, when these terms are mentioned together, the expression could be understood to include the entire Hebrew Scriptures.​—Mt 7:12; 22:40; Lu 16:16.

in your Law: Here referring to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, not just to the Law of Moses. The quote that follows is taken from Ps 82:6. “Law” is used in the same sense at Joh 12:34; 15:25.

the holy Scriptures: Here referring to the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. In harmony with this verse, the New World Translation contains in its title the expression “the Holy Scriptures.” Other terms used in the Christian Greek Scriptures for this collection of inspired writings are “the Scriptures” and “the holy writings.” (Mt 21:42; Mr 14:49; Lu 24:32; Joh 5:39; Ac 18:24; Ro 15:4; 2Ti 3:15, 16) At times, the terms “Law” (Joh 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; 1Co 14:21) and “the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 7:12; Lu 16:16) are also used in a general sense to refer to the entire Hebrew Scriptures.​—Mt 22:40; see study notes on Mt 5:17; Joh 10:34.

offspring: Or “descendants.” Lit., “seed.”​—See App. A2.

according to the flesh: The Greek word for “flesh” (sarx) here refers to human kinship, physical (earthly) descent, that is, Jesus’ descent as a human. Mary was of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of David, so it could be said of her son Jesus that he came to be from the offspring of David according to the flesh. As “the root and the offspring of David” through his mother, he held the natural hereditary right to “the throne of David his father.” (Re 22:16; Lu 1:32) Through his adoptive father, Joseph, also a descendant of David, Jesus had a legal right to David’s throne.​—Mt 1:1-16; Ac 13:22, 23; 2Ti 2:8; Re 5:5.

This is my Son: As a spirit creature, Jesus was God’s Son. (Joh 3:16) From the time of his birth as a human, Jesus was a “son of God,” just as perfect Adam had been. (Lu 1:35; 3:38) However, it seems reasonable that God’s words here go beyond a mere statement of Jesus’ identity. By this declaration accompanied by the outpouring of holy spirit, God evidently indicated that the man Jesus was His spirit-begotten Son, “born again” with the hope of returning to life in heaven and anointed by spirit to be God’s appointed King and High Priest.​—Joh 3:3-6; 6:51; compare Lu 1:31-33; Heb 2:17; 5:1, 4-10; 7:1-3.

declared: Or “demonstrated to be; established as.” Here Paul says that Jesus was declared God’s Son by means of resurrection from the dead. At Ac 13:33, Paul explained that Jesus’ resurrection fulfilled what is written at Ps 2:7. That verse was also fulfilled at Jesus’ baptism when his Father declared: “This is my Son.”​—See study note on Mt 3:17.

the spirit of holiness: That is, God’s holy spirit. The Greek expression rendered “spirit of holiness” is similar in form to the Hebrew expression rendered “holy spirit” at Ps 51:11 and Isa 63:10, 11 (lit., “spirit of [your or his] holiness”). Jehovah’s spirit, or active force, is subject to his control and always accomplishes his purpose. It is clean, pure, sacred, and set apart for God’s good use.

we: Or “I.” Here Paul apparently uses “we” in the editorial sense as applying simply to himself. When mentioning his apostleship, Paul discusses his unique assignment as an apostle to the nations. In addition, he mentions only himself as the sender of this letter (Ro 1:1), and he uses the first person singular at Ro 1:8-16. So while grammatically “we” could include others, it seems reasonable to conclude that he is talking about himself, not the other apostles.

Greetings!: The Greek word khaiʹro, which literally means “to rejoice,” is here used as a salutation and conveys the thought “may things be well with you.” The introduction to this letter concerning circumcision, which was sent to the congregations, follows the common ancient form of letter writing. First the writer was mentioned, then a person was addressed, and third the common greeting was given. (See study note on Ac 23:26.) Of all the letters included in the Christian Greek Scriptures, only the letter of James uses the Greek term khaiʹro as a salutation in the same way as this letter from the first-century governing body. (Jas 1:1) The disciple James was involved in formulating this letter, which supports the conclusion that the James who wrote the letter bearing his name is the same as the one who had a prominent part in the meeting recounted in Acts chapter 15.

Go in peace: This idiomatic expression is often used in both the Greek and the Hebrew Scriptures with the meaning “May it go well with you.” (Lu 7:50; 8:48; Jas 2:16; compare 1Sa 1:17; 20:42; 25:35; 29:7; 2Sa 15:9; 2Ki 5:19.) The Hebrew word often rendered “peace” (sha·lohmʹ) has a broad meaning. It refers to the state of being free from war or disturbance (Jg 4:17; 1Sa 7:14; Ec 3:8) and can also convey the idea of health, safety, soundness (1Sa 25:6, ftn.; 2Ch 15:5, ftn.; Job 5:24, ftn.), welfare (Es 10:3, ftn.), as well as friendship (Ps 41:9). In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek word for “peace” (ei·reʹne) was used with the same broad connotations as the Hebrew word to express the ideas of well-being, salvation, and harmony, in addition to the absence of conflict.

the undeserved kindness of God: In view of Paul’s background as a resister of Jesus and his followers (Ac 9:3-5), Paul had every reason to emphasize Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. (See Glossary, “Undeserved kindness.”) Paul realized that it was only by God’s undeserved kindness that he was able to carry out his ministry. (1Co 15:10; 1Ti 1:13, 14) When meeting with the elders from Ephesus, he speaks of this quality twice. (Ac 20:24, 32) In his 14 letters, Paul mentions “undeserved kindness” some 90 times, far more than any other Bible writer. For example, he refers to the undeserved kindness of God or of Jesus in the opening salutations of all his letters except his letter to the Hebrews, and he uses the expression in the closing remarks of every letter.

all those who are in Rome: That is, Christians in the city of Rome. On the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., “sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,” were present and witnessed the results of the outpouring of the holy spirit. Some of them were no doubt among the 3,000 baptized on that occasion. (Ac 2:1, 10, 41) Likely, on returning to Rome, they formed a zealous Christian congregation of people whose faith the apostle Paul mentioned as being “talked about throughout the whole world.” (Ro 1:8) Even Roman historians Tacitus (The Annals, XV, XLIV) and Suetonius (The Lives of the Caesars, Nero, XVI, 2), both born in the first century C.E., referred to the Christians in Rome.

holy ones: The Christian Greek Scriptures frequently refer to spiritual brothers of Christ in the congregations as “holy ones.” (Ac 9:13; 26:10; Ro 12:13; 2Co 1:1; 13:13) This term applies to those who are brought into a relationship with God through the new covenant by “the blood of an everlasting covenant,” the shed blood of Jesus. (Heb 10:29; 13:20) They are thereby sanctified, cleansed, and constituted “holy ones” by God. He ascribes this condition of holiness to them right from the start of their sanctified course on earth rather than after their death. Therefore, the Bible provides no basis for an individual or an organization to declare people to be “holy ones”​—or “saints,” as some Bible translations render this expression. Peter says that they “must be holy” because God is holy. (1Pe 1:15, 16; Le 20:7, 26) The term “holy ones” applies to all those who are brought into union and joint heirship with Christ. More than five centuries before Christ’s followers were given this designation, God revealed that people called “the holy ones of the Supreme One” would share in Christ’s Kingdom rulership.​—Da 7:13, 14, 18, 27.

May you have undeserved kindness and peace: Paul uses this greeting in 11 of his letters. (1Co 1:3; 2Co 1:2; Ga 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2; 1Th 1:1; 2Th 1:2; Tit 1:4; Phm 3) He uses a very similar greeting in his letters to Timothy but adds the quality “mercy.” (1Ti 1:2; 2Ti 1:2) Scholars have noted that instead of using the common word for “Greetings!” (khaiʹrein), Paul often uses the similar sounding Greek term (khaʹris), expressing his desire for the congregations to enjoy a full measure of “undeserved kindness.” (See study note on Ac 15:23.) The mention of “peace” reflects the common Hebrew greeting, sha·lohmʹ. (See study note on Mr 5:34.) By using the terms “undeserved kindness and peace,” Paul is apparently highlighting the restored relationship that Christians enjoy with Jehovah God by means of the ransom. When Paul describes where the generous kindness and peace come from, he mentions God our Father separately from the Lord Jesus Christ.

undeserved kindness: Or “generous kindness.” (See Glossary.) In his 14 letters, Paul mentions “undeserved kindness” (Greek, khaʹris) some 90 times, far more often than any other Bible writer. For example, he refers to the undeserved kindness of God or of Jesus in the opening salutation of all his letters except in his letter to the Hebrews, and he uses the expression in the closing remarks of every letter. Other Bible writers make a similar reference to “undeserved kindness” in the opening and closing of their writings.​—1Pe 1:2; 2Pe 1:2; 3:18; 2Jo 3; Re 1:4; 22:21; see study note on Ac 13:43.

to whom I render sacred service: Or “whom I serve (worship).” The Greek verb la·treuʹo basically describes the act of serving. As used in the Scriptures, it refers to serving God or performing an action in connection with the worship of God. (Mt 4:10; Lu 2:37; 4:8; Ac 7:7; Php 3:3; 2Ti 1:3; Heb 9:14; 12:28; Re 7:15; 22:3) Paul here connects his sacred service with the good news about [God’s] Son. So when disciples of Jesus preach this good news, it constitutes sacred service, that is, an act of worship to Jehovah God.

with my spirit: In this context, the Greek word for “spirit” (pneuʹma) apparently refers to the impelling force that issues from a person’s figurative heart and causes him to say and do things in a certain way. (See Glossary, “Spirit.”) Here Paul uses the expression to convey the idea of serving with his whole being; it could also be rendered “wholeheartedly.”

spiritual gift: The Greek word for “gift” here is khaʹri·sma, related to khaʹris, often rendered “undeserved kindness.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, khaʹri·sma appears 17 times and implies a gift, favor or blessing, which without being earned or merited is received, thanks to God’s generous, or undeserved, kindness. Although khaʹri·sma can be used about the supernatural gifts of the spirit (1Co 12:4, 9, 28-31), the context and Paul’s use of the adjective “spiritual” (Greek, pneu·ma·ti·kosʹ) indicate that he was talking about helping his brothers and sisters spiritually. Paul wanted to help them to be made firm by fortifying their faith and strengthening their relationship with God. The ability of Christians to fortify one another’s faith through mutual encouragement can thus be viewed as a spiritual gift from God.​—Compare 1Pe 4:10, 11.

an interchange of encouragement: Lit., “to be encouraged (comforted) together (mutually).” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek verb syn·pa·ra·ka·leʹo·mai occurs only here. But Paul often used the related verb pa·ra·ka·leʹo, which literally means “to call to one’s side,” with the meaning “to encourage; to comfort.” (Ro 12:8; 2Co 1:4; 2:7; 7:6; 1Th 3:2, 7; 4:18; 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:25) Paul here highlights that not only would the Roman Christians benefit from his planned visit but he and the congregation would be mutually encouraged by expressions of one another’s faith.

brothers: In some contexts, a male Christian believer is called “a brother” and a female, “a sister.” (1Co 7:14, 15) In this and other contexts, however, the Bible uses the term “brothers” to refer to both males and females. The term “brothers” was an accepted way of greeting groups that included both genders. (Ac 1:15; 1Th 1:4) The term “brothers” is used in this sense in most of the inspired Christian letters. In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the term “brothers” several times when addressing fellow Christians in general.​—Ro 7:1, 4; 8:12; 10:1; 11:25; 12:1; 15:14, 30; 16:17.

that I might acquire some fruitage also among you: That is, “that my work (my preaching) may have good results also among you.” Paul uses the Greek agricultural term kar·posʹ, “fruit; fruitage,” which appears frequently in the Scriptures. When used figuratively, it refers to spiritual growth and prosperity. (Mt 3:8; 13:8; Joh 15:8, 16; Php 1:11, 22) Paul may have hoped to see his fellow believers develop more fully “the fruitage of the spirit,” but he apparently had more in mind. (Ga 5:22, 23; Ro 1:11, 12) The statement just as among the rest of the nations indicates that Paul hoped to gain more followers of Jesus Christ in Rome and perhaps from places beyond Rome.​—Ro 15:23, 24.

should: Or “are under obligation to.” The Greek verb used here is often used in a financial sense, basically meaning “to be indebted to someone; to owe something to someone.” (Mt 18:28, 30, 34; Lu 16:5, 7) Here and in other contexts, it is used in the broader sense of being obligated to or under obligation to do something.​—1Jo 3:16; 4:11; 3Jo 8.

Greeks: In this context, the term “Greeks,” used in contrast with “foreigners,” does not necessarily refer to a native of Greece or one of Greek origin but to someone speaking the Greek language and being influenced by Greek culture, even though possibly being of another nationality. Paul is apparently using the phrase “both to Greeks and to foreigners” as an all-inclusive expression.​—See study note on foreigners in this verse.

foreigners: Or “non-Greeks.” Some older Bible translations render the Greek word barʹba·ros used here “Barbarians.” The repetition of “bar bar” in this Greek word conveyed the idea of stammering, babble, or unintelligible speech, so the Greeks originally used the term to refer to a foreigner who spoke a different language. At that time, the term did not denote lack of civilization, refinement, or good manners; nor did it convey contempt. The word barʹba·ros simply distinguished non-Greeks from Greeks. Some Jewish writers, including Josephus, recognized themselves as being designated by the term. In fact, Romans called themselves barbarians until they adopted Greek culture. It is in this neutral sense, then, that Paul used the Greek term barʹba·ros in an expression including all people: “Both to Greeks and to foreigners.”

I am a debtor: Or “I owe a debt; I am under obligation.” In the Scriptures, the Greek word for “debtor” and other terms related to being in debt refer not only to financial debts but also to obligations or duties in general. At Joh 13:14 (see study note), “should” is rendered from a Greek verb that means “to be in debt; to be under obligation.” Paul here indicates that he owed a debt to each person he met, a debt that he could repay only by sharing the good news with that person. (Ro 1:15) Paul was so deeply grateful for the mercy he had been shown that he felt compelled to help others benefit from the undeserved kindness of God. (1Ti 1:12-16) In effect, he was saying: ‘What God has done for mankind and for me personally obligates me to preach the good news eagerly to everyone.’

the Greek: In the first century C.E., the Greek word Helʹlen (meaning “Greek”) did not necessarily refer only to natives of Greece or people of Greek origin. When Paul here talks about everyone having faith and mentions “the Greek” together with “the Jew,” he is apparently using the term “Greek” in a broader sense to represent all non-Jewish peoples. (Ro 2:9, 10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Co 10:32; 12:13) This was doubtless due to the prominence and preeminence of the Greek language and culture throughout the Roman Empire.

just as it is written: Paul often used this phrase (Greek, ka·thosʹ geʹgra·ptai, form of graʹpho, “to write”) to introduce quotes from the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. (Ro 2:24; 3:10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:26; 15:3, 9, 21; 1Co 1:31; 2:9; 2Co 8:15) In his letter to the Romans, Paul quoted more than 50 passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and made numerous other references or allusions to them.

But the righteous one will live by reason of faith: Some have called Ro 1:16, 17 the theme text of the book of Romans, since it expresses the book’s central thought: God is impartial and holds out the possibility of salvation to “everyone having faith.” (Ro 1:16) Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul emphasizes the importance of faith, using Greek terms related to “faith” some 60 times. (Some examples are: Ro 3:30; 4:5, 11, 16; 5:1; 9:30; 10:17; 11:20; 12:3; 16:26.) Here at Ro 1:17, Paul quotes from Hab 2:4. Also, in two of his other letters, Paul quotes from Hab 2:4 in the context of encouraging Christians to show faith.​—Ga 3:11; Heb 10:38; see study note on by reason of faith in this verse.

by reason of faith: Here Paul quotes from Hab 2:4, which says “will live by his faithfulness.” In many languages, the ideas of being faithful and having faith are closely related. The Hebrew word rendered “faithfulness” (ʼemu·nahʹ) is related to the Hebrew term ʼa·manʹ (to be faithful; to be trustworthy), which can also convey the idea of having faith. (Ge 15:6; Ex 14:31; Isa 28:16) Therefore, Hab 2:4 (see ftn.) could also be rendered “will live by his faith.” Paul may have quoted the Septuagint rendering of Hab 2:4, which uses the Greek word piʹstis. This Greek word primarily conveys the thought of confidence, trust, firm persuasion. It is most often rendered “faith” (Mt 8:10; 17:20; Ro 1:8; 4:5), but depending on the context, it may also be understood to mean “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” (Mt 23:23, ftn.; Ro 3:3). At Heb 11:1, Paul gives a divinely inspired definition of the term “faith” (Greek, piʹstis).​—See study note on But the righteous one will live by reason of faith in this verse.

ungodliness: Or “irreverence.” The Scriptures use the Greek word a·seʹbei·a and related terms to refer to a lack of reverence for God and even a defiance of him. (Jude 14, 15) It is an antonym of the term eu·seʹbei·a, rendered “godly devotion; godliness.” This reverence is manifest in a person’s service and devotion to God and His worship.​—Ac 3:12; 1Ti 2:2; 4:7, 8; 2Ti 3:5, 12.

the world: The Greek word koʹsmos is closely linked with mankind in secular Greek literature and particularly in the Bible. (See study note on Joh 1:10.) In secular Greek writings, however, the term was also used to refer to the universe and to creation in general. It is possible that Paul, who was trying to establish common ground with his Greek audience, here used the term in that sense.

world’s creation: In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Greek term koʹsmos (“world”) generally refers to the world of mankind or a part of it. In this context, Paul apparently refers to the creation of mankind, since it was only when mankind appeared that there were minds on earth that perceived such invisible qualities by observing the visible creation. The Greek term was also used in secular writings to refer to the universe and creation in general, and Paul may have used it in that sense at Ac 17:24 when he was addressing a Greek audience.​—See study note on Ac 17:24.

Godship: Or “divine nature.” The Greek word thei·oʹtes is related to the Greek term The·osʹ (God). As shown by the context, Paul is discussing discernible things in the physical creation that prove God’s existence. The Scriptures are needed to understand God’s purpose, his name, and many aspects of his personality; however, creation gives evidence of his invisible qualities (lit., “unseen things of him”), including his eternal power, which he has used to create and sustain the universe. The physical creation gives evidence of his “Godship,” the fact that the Creator truly is God and is worthy of our worship.​—Re 4:11.

inexcusable: Or “without excuse.” Lit., “defenseless.” The Greek word a·na·po·loʹge·tos was a legal term used when a person was unable to present any convincing evidence in his defense. Here the word is used to describe people who do not acknowledge God. The continual testimony “from the world’s creation onward” proves that God exists. Because his qualities are clearly seen, those who deny the truth about God cannot defend or make a valid case for their position. Paul goes on to say that God’s qualities are perceived by the things made. The Greek term rendered “perceived” is related to the term for “mind” (Greek, nous), which implies grasping with one’s mind. As one translation says, God’s qualities are “visible . . . to the eye of reason.” By viewing God’s creative works and meditating on them, humans can deduce many of the Creator’s qualities. That understanding, coupled with a detailed knowledge of the Creator’s thinking and purpose gained through a study of the Scriptures, can help a person to build strong faith.

God . . . gave them up to uncleanness: Paul may have been alluding to apostate Israelites, who for centuries failed to follow the truth that they knew about God and his righteous decrees. They had “exchanged the truth of God for the lie.” (Ro 1:16, 21, 25, 28, 32) God had specifically warned the Israelites against idolatry and sexual immorality (Le 18:5-23; 19:29; De 4:15-19; 5:8, 9; 31:16-18), but they repeatedly turned to pagan gods and goddesses that were made in the image of animals or humans (Nu 25:1-3; 1Ki 11:5, 33; 12:26-28; 2Ki 10:28, 29; compare Re 2:14). As a result, God “gave them up to uncleanness,” or abandoned them to let them pursue their unclean practices. Paul’s wording also indicates that even people of the nations should have understood that the worship of animals and even of humans was completely unreasonable and would incur God’s wrath.​—Ro 1:22.

the lie: Referring to the falsehood of idolatry. Idols are a lie, or a falsehood. (Jer 10:14) God’s creative works testify that he exists, but some who “knew God” suppressed the truth about him. (Ro 1:18, 21, 25) They did not serve God in harmony with the truth concerning his eternal power and Godship; instead, they made idols and worshipped these. Their turning to the falsehood of idolatry led to all kinds of degraded practices.​—Ro 1:18-31.

Amen: Or “So be it.” The Greek word a·menʹ is a transliteration of a Hebrew term derived from the root word ’a·manʹ, meaning “to be faithful, to be trustworthy.” (See Glossary.) “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. Writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures often used it to express agreement with some form of praise to God, as Paul does here. (Ro 16:27; Eph 3:21; 1Pe 4:11) In other cases, it is used to emphasize the writer’s wish that God extend favor toward the recipients of the letter. (Ro 15:33; Heb 13:20, 21) It is also used to indicate that the writer earnestly agrees with what is expressed.​—Re 1:7; 22:20.

the natural use of: Or “natural sexual relations with.” The Greek word rendered “natural” (phy·si·kosʹ) refers to what is in accordance with the basic and established order or function of things in nature. This and the preceding verse show that homosexual and lesbian acts are out of harmony with God’s purpose for humans. (Ge 1:27; see study note on Ro 1:26.) God’s view of homosexual acts is made clear in the Hebrew Scriptures at Le 18:22. This prohibition was one of the many moral laws given to the nation of Israel. In contrast, the nations around Israel freely practiced homosexuality, incest, bestiality, and other acts prohibited by the Mosaic Law. (Le 18:23-25) The fact that God in the Christian Greek Scriptures repeats his condemnation of homosexual practices shows that these commandments express his view of such conduct, whether practiced by Jews or non-Jews.​—1Co 6:9, 10.

disgraceful sexual passion: The Greek word paʹthos refers to strong desire, or uncontrolled passion. The context makes it clear that it refers to desires of a sexual nature. Here these desires are described as being “disgraceful” (Greek, a·ti·miʹa, “dishonor; shame”), since they disgrace, or dishonor, a person.

the natural use of themselves: That is, natural sexual intercourse. The Greek word rendered “natural” (phy·si·kosʹ) refers to what is in harmony with the basic and established order or function of things in nature. In support of his reasoning here at Ro 1:26, 27, Paul may have alluded to the words of the creation account at Ge 1:27. Instead of using the usual Greek terms for “man” and “woman,” he uses the more specific words rendered “male” and “female.” These words are also used in the Septuagint wording of Ge 1:27 and in quotations from that verse at Mt 19:4 and Mr 10:6. The Genesis account says that God blessed the first human couple and told them to multiply and “fill the earth.” (Ge 1:28) Homosexual acts are contrary to nature, since such sexual activity was not part of the Creator’s original arrangement for humans and could not produce offspring. The Bible compares homosexual activity to the sexual relations that rebellious angels, who came to be known as demons, had with women before the Deluge of Noah’s day. (Ge 6:4; 19:4, 5; Jude 6, 7) God views such acts as unnatural.​—See study note on Ro 1:27.

the natural use of themselves: That is, natural sexual intercourse. The Greek word rendered “natural” (phy·si·kosʹ) refers to what is in harmony with the basic and established order or function of things in nature. In support of his reasoning here at Ro 1:26, 27, Paul may have alluded to the words of the creation account at Ge 1:27. Instead of using the usual Greek terms for “man” and “woman,” he uses the more specific words rendered “male” and “female.” These words are also used in the Septuagint wording of Ge 1:27 and in quotations from that verse at Mt 19:4 and Mr 10:6. The Genesis account says that God blessed the first human couple and told them to multiply and “fill the earth.” (Ge 1:28) Homosexual acts are contrary to nature, since such sexual activity was not part of the Creator’s original arrangement for humans and could not produce offspring. The Bible compares homosexual activity to the sexual relations that rebellious angels, who came to be known as demons, had with women before the Deluge of Noah’s day. (Ge 6:4; 19:4, 5; Jude 6, 7) God views such acts as unnatural.​—See study note on Ro 1:27.

the natural use of: Or “natural sexual relations with.” The Greek word rendered “natural” (phy·si·kosʹ) refers to what is in accordance with the basic and established order or function of things in nature. This and the preceding verse show that homosexual and lesbian acts are out of harmony with God’s purpose for humans. (Ge 1:27; see study note on Ro 1:26.) God’s view of homosexual acts is made clear in the Hebrew Scriptures at Le 18:22. This prohibition was one of the many moral laws given to the nation of Israel. In contrast, the nations around Israel freely practiced homosexuality, incest, bestiality, and other acts prohibited by the Mosaic Law. (Le 18:23-25) The fact that God in the Christian Greek Scriptures repeats his condemnation of homosexual practices shows that these commandments express his view of such conduct, whether practiced by Jews or non-Jews.​—1Co 6:9, 10.

working what is obscene: Or “committing indecent (shameless) acts.” The Greek word denotes disgraceful behavior.

the full penalty: Or “the full recompense.” The Greek word means a reward given according to what is deserved. Here it is used in a negative sense of an appropriate penalty, a punishment, or an undesirable consequence. At 2Co 6:13, it denotes an appropriate response.

whispering: Or “gossip.” The Greek word conveys the idea of secret gossip, spreading negative information or rumors in a confidential or secretive manner. This is the only occurrence of the Greek word in the Christian Greek Scriptures, but a related word, rendered “whisperers,” occurs in a list of bad practices found at Ro 1:29 (see study note). Also, the corresponding Greek verb for “to whisper” is used negatively in the Septuagint at 2Sa 12:19 and Ps 41:7 (40:8, LXX).

greed: Or “covetousness.” The Greek word ple·o·ne·xiʹa literally means “having more” and denotes an insatiable desire to have more. This Greek term is also used at Eph 4:19; 5:3. At Col 3:5, after mentioning “greediness,” Paul adds, “which is idolatry.”

whisperers: Or “gossipers.” The Greek word apparently denotes one who habitually engages in harmful gossip, perhaps spreading malicious rumors.​—See study note on 2Co 12:20.

false to agreements: Or “opposed to any agreement.” Besides the idea of not abiding by an agreement, the Greek term used here may include the idea of one who is not reliable or who does not keep a promise. According to one reference work, it may also refer to “one who is unwilling to negotiate a solution to a problem involving a second party.”

having no natural affection: This phrase, rendered “heartless” in some Bibles, translates the Greek word aʹstor·gos, which consists of the prefix a, meaning “without,” and stor·geʹ, meaning “natural affection.” This term is used to refer to the lack of natural affection between members of the same family, especially that of parents toward children and children toward parents. Those who lack natural affection toward family members could hardly be expected to maintain good relations with others. In harmony with Paul’s statement, ancient historians in the Greco-Roman world documented cases where fathers abandoned families; children neglected aged parents; and unwanted children, including the weak or deformed, were put to death by parents. Paul used this term here at Ro 1:31 to describe how far humans have fallen from their original perfection. At 2Ti 3:3, he used it to indicate how people would act in these critical last days.

Media

Video Introduction to the Book of Romans
Video Introduction to the Book of Romans
The City of Rome
The City of Rome

Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire, was located on the Tiber River and was built on an area that has seven hills. As the empire flourished, the city expanded. By the middle of the first century C.E., Rome may have had a population of one million people, including a sizable Jewish community. The first Christians in Rome were likely Jews and proselytes who had been in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E. and had heard the apostle Peter and the other disciples preach. These new disciples would have brought the good news with them when they returned to Rome. (Ac 2:10) In his letter to the Romans, which was written about 56 C.E., the apostle Paul said that the faith of those disciples in Rome was “talked about throughout the whole world.” (Ro 1:7, 8) This video shows an artist’s rendering of some key features of Rome as they may have looked in Paul’s day.

1. Via Appia

2. Circus Maximus

3. Palatine Hill and Caesar’s Palace

4. Temple of Caesar

5. Theaters

6. Pantheon

7. Tiber River

Synagogue in the City of Ostia
Synagogue in the City of Ostia

Shown here is a photograph of the remains of a synagogue in Ostia, the port city of Rome. Though the building underwent renovation and alteration, the original structure is thought to have been built as a synagogue in the latter half of the first century C.E. The presence of the synagogue indicates that Jews lived in the vicinity of Rome for a long time. Although the Jews were expelled from the city of Rome by Emperor Claudius about the year 49 or 50 C.E., it is possible that Jewish communities remained in the area. (Ac 18:1, 2) After the death of Claudius in 54 C.E., many Jews returned to the city of Rome. When Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Rome, about the year 56 C.E., the congregation was composed of Jews as well as Gentiles. This explains why Paul addressed matters related to both groups, helping them to see how they could live together in unity.—Ro 1:15, 16.

1. Rome

2. Ostia