The Theme of Romans
It is almost universally accepted that the theme of Romans is the Gospel of Righteousness. Romans 1:16 notes a shift of focus. The word “for” is a conjunction of reason and is found 3 times in these verses (1:16-17). Moo points that the theme is present in four subordinate clauses, each building on the other. The theme is directly connected to “the gospel”, thus not altogether separate from Paul’s longing to preach the gospel at Rome. Paul now explains about the gospel, which is the theme of Romans. Newell says in these verses “we have the text of the whole Epistle of Romans.”
It seems to me that Paul in stating the theme of this epistle does so in one major truth (The Gospel) describe in three key elements (Power, Faith, and Righteousness).
The word gospel is found 12 times in Romans. Paul opens the epistle declaring that he was set apart unto the gospel. Now he declares “I am not ashamed of the gospel” (1:16). The word “for” at the beginning of the phrase is understood by most as a causal or explanatory of what precedes. However, Longenecker suggests it is a “transitional conjunction to indicate the continuation of Paul’s writing.” While there is a logical connection to what went before, it is also transitional in nature to what follows.
The first item that Paul declares the gospel is that he is not “ashamed” of it. This is a negative aspect of his positive view of the gospel. He was not ashamed of the gospel. Paul is using a figure of speech known as litotes, which is a negative of a contrary condition or assertation. It is an understatement. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, he is saying rather was proud of it and gloried in it (Rom. 5:2, 11; cf. 2 Cor. 10:17; Gal. 6:14). The gospel was dear to the heart of Paul It should be ours as well. We are not to be ashamed of it, rather gloried in it. It should be our motive in all that we do. We should not under to downgrade the value of the gospel.
Standing behind this declaration is the worldly environment. Cranfield observes:
Paul knows full well the inevitability of the temptation to be ashamed of the gospel in view of the continuing hostility of the world to God, on the one hand, and, on the other, the nature of the gospel itself, its unimpressiveness over against the impressiveness of the world, the fact that God…has intervened in history for the salvation of men not in obvious might and majesty but in a veiled way which was bound to look to the world like abject weakness and foolishness.
The Gospel has three vital elements:
· “For it is the power of God for salvation” (1:16 cf. 1 Cor. 1:18). The word “for” denotes why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel. Elsewhere he equates the gospel of God with the “word of the cross” that is “the power of God to us being saved” (1 Cor. 1:18). Romans 1:16 and 1Cor. 1:18) bringing out the same three points: gospel, power, and salvation.
It is the gospel that is the power of God. It speaks of the divine saving power of God. Power is the inherent capability to effect transformation. The gospel is clearly defined in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 as (1) Christ died for our sins, (2) He was buried, (3) He was raised the third day—all according to the Scriptures. Newell says the gospel “is the great wire along which runs God’s mighty current of saving power.” The second word “for” is not the same as the first English word “for” (gar), but is the word eis, meaning unto, with a view to. Thus, the power of God is directed toward salvation and makes it effectual. It is God’s power that saves everyone who believes. Salvation is the greet need and hope of man. Lloyd-Jones declares “Salvation is the deliverance of man from the consequences of the Fall and of sin, and our definition of salvation must never be less than that. It must include all that, in all its fulness” Salvation effects the past in the forgiveness of sin; present in that it brings us into a new spiritual condition before God; future in that it delivers us from end time judgment. Salvation equals restoration of the sinner to share in God’s glory. Constable observes:
"Salvation" restores people to what they cannot experience because of sin. Salvation is an umbrella term; it covers all aspects of deliverance. The terms justification, redemption, reconciliation, sanctification, and glorification describe different aspects of salvation.
· Paul indicates the means of this salvation as being one of faith (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). Faith is described as “to everyone who believes: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. This phrase of faith is used four other times in Romans (3:22; 4:11; 10:4, 11). This clearly indicates the universality of the gospel and effective only by faith. Paul has already declared that his purpose and commission to bring faith to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5). It speaks of the scope of the gospel. The only limitation is faith (or believing one). The gospel is accepted though faith by Jew and Gentile alike. There is now no difference between Israel and the Gentiles (Rom. 12-13 cf. Rom. 11:30-32). Salvation is available to all by faith in Christ. Salvation is available regardless of nationality.
· The third element of the gospel is righteousness. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall liveby faith” (Rom. 1:17). Stam points out that righteousness is the basic theme in which all else revolves around Romans. The gospel is revealing the righteousness of God. The postpositive (gar, for) functions as an eplanatory conjunction. The antecedent is clearly the gospel. From in the gospel, righteousness is revealed. Righteousness is most prominent in this epistle and Paul. The word or a form of it is used at lease 42 times in this epistles. It is clearly a major motif in Romans.
The phrase modifies the righteousness: “from faith to faith.” This, phrase is somewhat an engigma. It is a difficult statement. A number of interpretations are given to this phrase. Most views are unsatisfactory. One of the oldest is that it speaks of faith of the law to the faith of grace or OT faith to NT faith. However, it cannot be so, since the gentiles were never under the law or part of the Old Testament. Their faith could not progress from faith in the law. Many scholars today hold to Calvin’s daily progress view. Interpretation is dificult. A satisfactory view must involve: (1) a faith connected to righteousness. The context demands such a connection. Paul associates the righteousness of God with the response of faith (1:16; 3:21-22; 10:3). (2) A faith that is effectural. (3) A faith that is progressive.
It seems to me that the Greek text reads: from faith to faith. The word ek is a subjective genitive function as the subject of the verbal idea and denotes the basis or source of faith. Eis is a preposition with the accusative, meaning to, as far as, or to the extent of. To me, the NIV translation, “by faith from first to last” is a distortion of the text. The first reference to the first word faith speaks of the source, which is the faith of Christ or divine faithfulness. It leads to human faith. This is a common ideal in Paul (cf. Romans 3:22; Gal. 2:16; 3:22; Phil. 3:9). Both the faith of Christ and the believer’s faith is found together. Stam notes the gospel by Paul declares “His faith (subjective) to our faith (objective).” Thus, the statement in Romans 1:17 is consistent with Paul’s message. The idea of human faith is involved and supported by the Old Testament quote: “The righteous man shall live by faith” (1:17).
The theme of Romans is clearly the gospel, which is the power of God for the salvation of all people, by the means of faith. It involves the righteousness of God which the gospel reveals and is accepted by faith. The book reveals how righteousness works in salvation and the life of the believer, from our need to our acceptance to the practical outcome in our lives. This theme is continually repeated in Romans.
 Douglas J. Moo, NICNT: THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 1996], 63.
 William R. Newell, ROMANS: VERSE BY VERSE, [Chicago, Moody Press, 1938], 18.
 For example, see Moo, ROMANS,64.
 Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, [Grand Rapids MI, Eerdmans, 2016] 158. He says the usage is found 60 times by Paul.
 MERRIAM-WEBSTER DICTIONARY, says it is an “understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of the contrary (as in "not a bad singer" or "not unhappy") https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.
 C.E.B. Cranfield, ICC: THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, [Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1975], 1:86-87.
 Newell, ROMANS, 21.
 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, ROMANS: THE GOSPEL OF GOD, [Grand Rapids MI, Zondervan, 1985], 273.
 Thomas Constable, NOTES ON ROMANS, [Soniclight.org], 21.
 C.R. Stam, COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, (Chicago IL, Berean Bible Society, 1981), 36.
 Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 167,
 See Leon Morris, PNTC: THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS, [Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1988], 70-72. Richard Longenecker, ROMANS, 177-180.
 Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 5:13 / Origen, col. 861.
 Douglas J. Moo, NICNT: ROMANS, 73.
 Richard N. Longenecker, NIGTC: ROMANS, 178.
 C.R. Stam, ROMANS, 40-41.