Exposition of Romans 1:7-12, Imparting spiritual gifts describes our role

The elders at Ephesus could look back in later years to their last meeting with the Apostle Paul at the port of Miletus. His parting words were full of emotional memories: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” (Acts 20:35).

(ESV) Romans 1:7-12

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you — 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

Romans 1:7 is the concluding verse of a single Greek sentence that includes the first seven verses of Romans chapter 1. Sometimes modern people think the ancients to be less intelligent than we are because they lived so long ago. Hopefully, the profundity of Romans will help put that idea into well-deserved oblivion.

Another tendency we may have is to toss off anything said in the salutation of a NT epistle [letter] and get on to the main event. That is a mistake. In wishing the Roman Christians grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:7), Paul is telling important things about his presentation of the gospel. “Grace” is used twenty-four times in Romans, and half of those instances occur in chapters 1-5; the next occurrence will be in Romans 3:24 — “they are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (HCSB) — where Paul presents God’s solution to humankind’s problem.

“Peace” is used ten times in Romans, most notably in Romans 5:1 — “therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” — where Paul presents the outcome of being justified by faith. As we will see, peace is not the absence of war but rather the wholeness and solidarity we enjoy through faith in Jesus Christ.

So, when Paul opens by wishing the Roman Christians “grace and peace,” he is telling them how they become justified before God (grace) and the result of that justification (peace). See also Romans 16:20 where these two giant concepts are combined.

In 1:8 we see that we are reading a letter and not a book on systematic theology, because Paul takes time to let the Roman Christians know that knowledge of their Christian faith has spread far and wide. Osborne says, “This refers not so much to the quality of their faith as to the fact of it.”[1] In terms of the spread of information, NT scholar Craig Keener informs us, “Couriers in the first century could get from Rome to London in one week.”[2] Word got around!

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407 AD), patriarch of Constantinople until his preaching against corruption landed him in Antioch, made fascinating remarks on the origin of the Roman church:

Having recently acquired a worldwide empire, the Romans were elated, and they lived in riches and luxury, and then fishermen brought the preaching there, Jewish fishermen moreover, who belonged to a nation which was hated and despised by everyone. And these Romans were asked to worship the crucified one who was brought up in Judea. Moreover, along with this doctrine, the teachers proclaimed an ascetic life to men who were used to luxury and concerned with material comforts.[3]

In a sense, Paul is letting them know that he realizes his visit to Rome will not establish a church but will nurture one that is already thriving. Even though Paul is an apostle, he is taking pains not to talk down to the recipients since that would impede acceptance of his message.

By essentially taking an oath before God (1:9), Paul wants the Romans to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he continually holds them up in prayer.[4] Paul states that he is always asking God to allow him to visit the churches in Rome (1:10), but he is plainly uncertain of the answer. He was right to doubt, because his eventual arrival in Rome occurred under the custody of a Roman guard during a legal appeal to Caesar (Acts 28:11-31).

Paul’s tone is warm in 1:11-12. Osborne says, “This is a wonderful way for all of us to think of our ministries as sharing our spiritual gifts with others.”[5] Paul again takes up spiritual gifts in Romans 12:6-8, where he names prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation. giving, leadership, and mercy. Each of us has a spiritual gift to use: And we have different gifts according to the grace given to us (Rom. 12:6, NET). What are we to do with them?

How to frame your ministry

What frame of reference should we use in thinking about our personal ministries within the church? Osborne captures Paul’s answer by having us think of our ministries as sharing our spiritual gifts with others.

1. How has your spiritual gift been used to bless other believers? How did it affect you to see that others benefited from your gift?

2. When did you receive a spiritual gift from others and how did it move you closer to Christ? Did you let that person know how Jesus used them to strengthen you? If not, how could you do so now?

John Chrysostom said of Paul’s intended spiritual gift to the Roman Christians: “It was not his own things which he was giving them but what he had himself received.”[6] May we too give to one another from what we have received from the Lord!

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 35.

[2] Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John, vol. 1 (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003) 185.

[3] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 19.

[4] Osborne, Romans, 36.

[5] Osborne, Romans, 37.

[6] Bray, ed., Romans, 23.