Paul starts off the letter like he does all of his letters, with a little hello.
Hi. His name is Paul. He's a servant of Jesus. And he's an apostle. He's hinting pretty hard at the fact that he's kind of a big deal.
Paul goes on to offer some short little reflections on who Jesus is. He throws in a bit of Jewish imagery—Jesus is descended from King David—and Christian language, too—Jesus is the Son of God. Oh, foreshadowing important themes…
Finally, Paul tells us that this letter is dedicated to a very special little church in Rome. Let's put this record on.
Paul tells the folks in the Roman church that he says a little prayer for them every day and that he really, really wants to visit them.
He's actually hoping he and the church will really hit it off if he visits.
And he's got loads of things to tell them. Rich and poor, smart and stupid, Gentile and Jew—doesn't matter. This letter is for everyone. And Paul's gonna lay out all kinds of kickbutt theology.
Paul is pretty confident that the Gospel is going do its good work. God is going to save everyone.
It doesn't matter if they were Gentile or Jewish before they became Christian—everyone will be saved. This is all because God is so righteous. And gnarly. And totally tubular.
Quick theological footnote: When he says God is "righteous," Paul just means that God is always looking to do the right thing. Yeah, God is cool like that.
Paul tells us that there's one thing God doesn't like (one group of people he's not going save): non-Christians.These folks know the truth about God, but they've turned their back on him. How rude.Everything God has ever done all the way back to creating the world has been like a big huge neon sign flashing "Follow God" over and over again. But do these guys listen? Nope.
Instead, they worship idols and other humans. They do all kinds of immoral things. We're talking lying, murdering, gossiping, boasting, and disobeying, just to name a few. Even people who engage in sexual rituals with members of the same sex are suspect. (More on that later…)
And God has pretty much just shrugged his huge, holy shoulders and let them go on with their evil business.
What's a deity to do?
Because of all this, Paul says they deserve to die.