Romans 1: 1-7. Salutation.
It was the custom in the days of the Romans to begin a letter with a brief indication from whom it came and to whom it was addressed, in the form of a complimentary salutation, thus — to take an example from the New Testament — 'Claudius Lysias to the most excellent governor Felix, greeting.' We are familiar in our day with the like forms for beginning and ending letters, serving the same purpose and generally no other. St. Paul then accepts the epistolary form of his day, but pours into it an increasing wealth of personal meaning. Thus in this place the necessary address — 'Paul the apostle to the believers in Jesus Christ which are in Rome, greeting' — is expanded into a salutation extraordinarily full of meaning, explaining (1) who it is who writes the letter; (2) with what justification; (3) to whom; and (4) with what greeting.
(1) It is Paul who is writing, and he describes himself both personally and officially. Personally, since the day when he surrendered himself on the road to Damascus, he has been 'the slave of Jesus Christ,' bound in all things to do His will, and exulting all the time in the moral liberty which that bondage gave him. Officially, he has received a commission and an office equal to that of the older apostles in the kingdom of Christ: he has been 'called to be an apostle, separated to proclaim the good tidings of God.'
(2) It is then this glorious commission that justifies his writing. These good tidings of God are the fulfilment of an age-long promise for which the world had been waiting. Of ancient days there were 'prophets,' men commissioned to speak for God, whose writings remained after them and are held in highest reverence as 'holy scriptures.' These men foretold good days from God that were to come to His people in the coming of the divinely anointed king, the Christ. And now they are come. God has sent to redeem men not a servant, but His own Son. True, He came as man among men: as one of the royal house of David, the house from which the Christ was promised; yet simply man in outward nature and appearance, or 'according to the flesh.' But besides that ordinary seeming humanity, there was in Him something higher — a sacred spiritual nature. And this higher nature it was that finally determined the estimate in which He was to be held. If 'according to the flesh' He was a man of David's house, according to this 'spirit of holiness' He was decisively designated by God's own act as Son of God in miraculous power, and that especially when He was made the example of a resurrection from the dead. Thenceforth 'Jesus' of Nazareth is 'Christ' and 'the Lord' of Christians. It is He through whom St. Paul and his fellows received the outpouring of the divine bounty for their own lives, and their apostolic commission on behalf of the name of Christ to bring all the nations of the earth to the obedience of faith. And this commission extends as far as the Roman Christians and justifies St. Paul in writing to them.
(3) To all the Christians at Rome, then, 'called to be saints,' i.e. called into the consecrated body and to the consecrated life, St. Paul is writing. He does not say 'to the church which is at Rome,' as in the other epistles of this date he writes 'to the church at Corinth' and to 'the churches of Galatia.' And though this might be accidental, yet probably it is due to the fact that St. Paul thought of the Roman Christians as individuals who, many of them, had been converted elsewhere and for various reasons had come to be living at Rome; so that in fact they had hardly yet attained the consistency of a single ordered church.
(4) And to these Christians he gives his greeting by wishing for them those gifts which may be taken as summing up the blessings of Christ about which this epistle is to say so much — 'grace,' which is God's love to us in actual operation, and 'peace,' which is the state of mind of one who realizes God's love — from the Father and the Son. This benediction is, however, but a Christian form of that of Aaron, 'The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.'
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God, which he promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we received grace and apostleship, to obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake: among whom are you also, called to be Jesus Christ's: to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is, I believe, nothing in the above analysis which is not implied at least in the original language of this salutation. And it is a remarkable summary of the grounds of St. Paul's Christian belief, more exact and explicit than the 'Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel.' There are some points in it which require further notice: —
1. The use of 'spirit of holiness' in connection with Christ (in ver. 4). Here it is put in antithesis to 'the flesh,' i.e. Christ as He appeared to the outward eye in His natural humanity; and describes, vaguely and without further definition, the higher nature of which, behind His visible humanity, men became conscious. Elsewhere 'spirit' is more exactly used to describe (1) the human spirit in us or in Christ; (2) disembodied persons or angels or devils; (3) the Holy Ghost; (4) the being of God; (5) generally what has will and consciousness, as opposed to the merely external, the 'flesh' or the 'letter.' Sometimes, as in 2 Cor. iii. 17, it is hard to feel sure about the exact shade of meaning.
2. We have here, in a very brief compass, St. Paul's conception of 'Christian evidences.' He begins from Christ, 'according to the flesh.' 'And why,' asks Chrysostom, 'did he not begin from the higher side? Because Matthew also, Luke and Mark, begin from the lower. One who would lead others upwards must begin from below. And this was in fact the divine method. First they saw Him (Christ) as man on the earth, and then perceived Him to be God.' It was, in other words, through the experience of His humanity that they arrived at His Godhead. And the evidence of His divine sonship was in part miraculous; but it was not mere miracle. It was miracle 'according to a spirit of holiness.' It was miracle filled with spiritual and moral meaning. It was a resurrection vindicating perfect righteousness.
3. The phrase 'the resurrection of the dead' is translated more exactly by Wiclif 'agenrisynge of dead men! Christ's resurrection is the great example of what is to be general.
4. The obedience of faith exactly describes the human faculty as it showed itself in St. Paul himself at his conversion. With him to believe was, without any possibility of question, to obey Him whom he believed, and St. Paul knows no faith which does not involve a like obedience; cf. xv. 18; xvi. 26; 1 Pet. i. 2.
 Acts xxiii. 26.
 The salutation of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, the earliest epistle, is the most nearly formal. Those to the Romans and to Titus are the fullest and richest.
 Num. vi. 25, 26; see Hort, First Ep. of Peter, p. 25.
 2 Tim. ii. 8.
 Cf. 1 Tim. iii. 16, 'justified in the spirit,' where the use is approximately the same.
 See 1 Thess. v. 23; 1 Cor. v. 5; James ii. 26; Matt. v. 3; xxvi. 41; 1 Pet. iii. 18; Mark viii. 12.
 Luke xxiv. 39; Heb. xii. 23; i. 14; Matt. viii. 16, &c.
 Matt. iii. 16; Luke x. 21, R.V. &c.
 John iv. 24.
 John vi. 63; Rom. ii. 29; 2 Cor. iii. 6.
From St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, Vol. I A Practical Exposition by Charles Gore D.D. Reprinted in 1900. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
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To the Romans, vol I - C. Gore
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