A sample Bible study on Romans 1:1                                                               By Jack Kettler

Exegeting a text using the Grammatico-Historical-Hermeneutical Method:

What is the Grammatico-Historical-Hermeneutical Method?

This method of interpretation focuses attention not only on literary forms but also on grammatical constructions and historical contexts, out of which the Scriptures were written. It is solidly in the ‘literal schools’ of interpretation and is the hermeneutical methodology embraced by virtually all conservative evangelical Protestant exegetes and scholars.

Exegesis, the interpretive Norm:

Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξήγησις from ἐξηγεῖσθαι' to lead out') is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term is used principally for an exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage, it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term “Biblical exegesis” is used for greater specificity. The goal of Biblical exegesis is to explore the meaning of the text, which then leads to discovering its significance or relevance.

Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may involve the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience. Other analysis includes classification of the type of literary genres present in the text and an analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself.

Approaching the text with hermeneutic concerns:

Greek hermeneuo, “to explain, interpret,” the science of Bible interpretation. Paul stated the aim of all true hermeneutics in 2Timothy 2:15 as “rightly dividing the word of truth.” That means correctly or accurately teaching the Word of truth. This is the goal of this study.

The passage to study:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1 ESV)

What is the genre of the passage?

The Pauline letters or epistles like Romans, Ephesians, and James and are Didactic.

Biblical didacticism is a type of literature that educates the reader in soteriology, ethics, ecclesiology, and eschatology teachings. The letter was originally written in Koine Greek.

What are the time and place references in the passage?

From the book of Acts and the Corinthian letters by Paul provides evidence that the book Romans was written in Corinth on Paul’s third missionary journey. The most common date of the book is 60 A.D. At this time in history, Israel was under the political domination of Rome.

Translating the entire passage from the Greek and analyzing keywords is optional and depends on questions the Christian disciple has about the text. In this study, the whole verse will be examined in its interlinear form, and then each word and phrase will be examined in more detail using the Strong’s Concordance.

Using the Nestle Greek New Testament 1904 with “Strong's numbers” included in yellow:

Paul     A servant   of Christ   Jesus     a called     apostle     having been set apart   for   [the] gospel   of God

Παῦλος  δοῦλος    Χριστοῦ    Ἰησοῦ,     κλητὸς     ἀπόστολος    ἀφωρισμένος            εἰς     εὐαγγέλιον    Θεοῦ,

3972      1401        5547         2424        2822          652                873                      1519      2098          2316

Paulos   doulos   Christou     Iēsou        klētos       apostolos    aphōrismenos          eis      euangelion   Theou

From the Strong’s concordance on Paul

Paulos: (Sergius) Paulus (a Roman proconsul), also Paul (an apostle)

Original Word: Παῦλος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: Paulos

Phonetic Spelling: (pow'-los)

Definition: (Sergius) Paulus (a Roman proconsul), also Paul (an apostle)

Usage: Paul, Paulus.


Strong's Concordance on servant

doulos: a slave

Original Word: δοῦλος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Adjective; Noun, Feminine; Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: doulos

Phonetic Spelling: (doo'-los)

Definition: a slave

Usage: (a) (as adj.) enslaved, (b) (as noun) a (male) slave.


Strong's Concordance on Christ

Christos: the Anointed One, Messiah, Christ

Original Word: Χριστός, οῦ, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: Christos

Phonetic Spelling: (khris-tos')

Definition: the Anointed One, Messiah, Christ

Usage: Anointed One; the Messiah, the Christ.


Strong's Concordance on Jesus

Iésous: Jesus or Joshua, the name of the Messiah, also three other Isr.

Original Word: Ἰησοῦς, οῦ, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: Iésous

Phonetic Spelling: (ee-ay-sooce')

Definition: Jesus or Joshua, the name of the Messiah, also three other Isr

Usage: Jesus; the Greek form of Joshua; Jesus, son of Eliezer; Jesus, surnamed Justus.


Strong's Concordance on called

klétos: called

Original Word: κλητός, ή, όν

Part of Speech: Adjective

Transliteration: klétos

Phonetic Spelling: (klay-tos')

Definition: called

Usage: called, invited, summoned by God to an office or to salvation.


Strong's Concordance on apostle

apostolos: a messenger, one sent on a mission, an apostle

Original Word: ἀπόστολος, ου, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: apostolos

Phonetic Spelling: (ap-os'-tol-os)

Definition: a messenger, one sent on a mission, an apostle


Strong's Concordance on set apart

aphorizó: to mark off by boundaries from, i.e. set apart

Original Word: ἀφορίζω

Part of Speech: Verb

Transliteration: aphorizó

Phonetic Spelling: (af-or-id'-zo)

Definition: to mark off by boundaries from, set apart

Usage: I rail off, separate, and place apart.

Usage: a messenger, envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; an apostle.


Strong's Concordance on for

eis: to or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, fig. purpose, result)

Original Word: εἰς

Part of Speech: Preposition

Transliteration: eis

Phonetic Spelling: (ice)

Definition: to or into (indicating the point reached or entered, of place, time, purpose, result)

Usage: into, in, unto, to, upon, towards, for, among.


Strong's Concordance on gospel

euaggelion: good news

Original Word: εὐαγγέλιον, ου, τό

Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter

Transliteration: euaggelion

Phonetic Spelling: (yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on)

Definition: good news

Usage: the good news of the coming of the Messiah, the gospel; the gen. after it expresses sometimes the giver (God), sometimes the subject (the Messiah, etc.), sometimes the human transmitter (an apostle).


Strong's Concordance on God

theos: God, a god

Original Word: θεός, οῦ, ὁ

Part of Speech: Noun, Feminine; Noun, Masculine

Transliteration: theos

Phonetic Spelling: (theh'-os)

Definition: God, a god

Usage: (a) God, (b) a god, generally.


Commentary Evidence:


Is there a keyword in the text that needs a better explanation? If so, this is where commentary help can be valuable. In this passage from Paul, two items were of interest. These two issues were (1.) Paul was calling himself a bondservant (δοῦλος). What does this mean? In addition, (2.) What does set apart mean?


From Barnes' Notes on the Bible on Romans 1:1:

“Paul - The original name of the author of this Epistle was “Saul.” Acts 7:58; Acts 7:1; Acts 8:1, etc. This was changed to Paul (see the note at Acts 13:9), and by this name he is generally known in the New Testament. The reason why he assumed this name is not certainly known. It was, however, in accordance with the custom of the times; see the note at Acts 13:9. The name Saul was Hebrew; the name Paul was Roman. In addressing a letter to the Romans, he would naturally make use of the name to which they were accustomed, and which would excite no prejudice among them. The ancient custom was to begin an epistle with the name of the writer, as Cicero to Varro, etc. We record the name at the end. It may be remarked, however, that the placing the name of the writer at the beginning of an epistle was always done, and is still, when the letter was one of authority, or when it conferred any special privileges. Thus, in the proclamation of Cyrus Ezra 1:2, “Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia,” etc.; see also Ezra 4:11; Ezra 7:12. “Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest,” etc. Daniel 4:1. The commencement of a letter by an apostle to a Christian church in this manner was especially proper as indicating authority.

A servant - This name was what the Lord Jesus himself directed His disciples to use, as their general appellation; Matthew 10:25; Matthew 20:27; Mark 10:44. And it was the customary name which they assumed; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 4:12; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Acts 4:29; Titus 1:1; James 1:1. The proper meaning of this word servant, δοῦλος doulos, is slave, one who is not free. It expresses the condition of one who has a master, or who is at the control of another. It is often, however, applied to courtiers, or the officers that serve under a king: because in an eastern monarchy the relation of an absolute king to his courtiers corresponded nearly to that of a master and a slave. Thus, the word is expressive of dignity and honor; and the servants of a king denote officers of a high rank and station. It is applied to the prophets as those who were honored by God, or especially entrusted by him with office; Deuteronomy 34:5; Joshua 1:2; Jeremiah 25:4. The name is also given to the Messiah, Isaiah 42:1, “Behold my servant in whom my soul delighteth,” etc., Isaiah 53:11, “shall my righteous servant justify many.” The apostle uses it here evidently to denote his acknowledging Jesus Christ as his master; as indicating his dignity, as especially appointed by him to his great work; and as showing that in this Epistle he intended to assume no authority of his own, but simply to declare the will of his master, and theirs.


Called to be an apostle - This word called means here not merely to be invited, but has the sense of appointed. It indicates that he had not assumed the office himself, but that he was set apart to it by the authority of Christ himself. It was important for Paul to state this,

(1) Because the other apostles had been called or chosen to this work John 15:16, John 15:19; Matthew 10:1; Luke 6:13; and,

(2) Because Paul was not one of those originally appointed.

It was of consequence for him therefore, to affirm that he had not taken this high office to himself, but that he had been called to it by the authority of Jesus Christ. His appointment to this office he not infrequently takes occasion to vindicate; 1Corinthians 9:1, etc.: Galatians 1:12-24; 2Corinthians 12:12; 1Timothy 2:7; 2Timothy 1:11; Romans 11:13.

An apostle - One sent to execute a commission. It is applied because the apostles were sent out by Jesus Christ to preach his gospel, and to establish his church; Matthew 10:2 note; Luke 6:13 note.

Separated - The word translated “separated unto,” ἀφορίζω aphorizō, means to designate, to mark out by fixed limits, to bound as a field, etc. It denotes those who are "separated," or called out from the common mass; Acts 19:9; 2Corinthians 6:17. The meaning here does not materially differ from the expression, “called to be an apostle,” except that perhaps this includes the notion of the purpose or designation of God to this work. Thus, Paul uses the same word respecting himself; Galatians 1:15, “God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,” that is, God designated me; marked me out; or designed that I should be an apostle from my infancy. In the same way, Jeremiah was designated to be a prophet, Jeremiah 1:5.

Unto the gospel of God - Designated or designed by God that I should make it “my business” to preach the gospel. Set apart to this, as the special, great work of my life, as having no other object for which I should live. For the meaning of the word “gospel,” see the note at Matthew 1:1. It is called the gospel of God because it is his appointment; it has been originated by him, and has his authority. The function of an apostle was to preach the gospel Paul regarded himself as separated to this work. It was not to live in splendor, wealth, and ease, but to devote himself to this great business of proclaiming good news, that God was reconciled to people in his Son. This is the sole business of all ministers of “religion.” (1)

Barn’s Commentary explains adequately about Paul calling himself a bondservant. Likewise, Vincent’s Word Studies thoroughly explains the meaning of being set apart.

From Vincent's Word Studies on Romans 1:1:

“Superscription (Romans 1:1, Romans 1:2)

Dr. Morison observes that the superscription is peerless for its wealth of theological idea.

Paul (Παῦλος)

A transcript for the Latin paulus or paullus, meaning little. It was a favorite name among the Cilicians, and the nearest approach in sound to the Hebrew Saul. According to some, both names were borne by him in his childhood, Paulus being the one by which he was known among the Gentiles, and which was subsequently assumed by him to the exclusion of the other, in order to indicate his position as the friend and teacher of the Gentiles. The practice of adopting Gentile names may be traced through all the periods of Hebrew history. Double names also, national and foreign, often occur in combination, as Belteshazzar-Daniel; Esther-Hadasa; thus Saul-Paulus.

Others find in the name an expression of humility, according to Paul's declaration that he was “the least of the apostles” (1Corinthians 15:9). Others, an allusion to his diminutive stature, and others again think that he assumed the name out of compliment to Sergius Paulus, the deputy of Cyprus. Dean Howson, while rejecting this explanation, remarks: “We cannot believe it accidental that the words 'who is also called Paul,' occur at this particular point of the inspired narrative. The heathen name rises to the surface at the moment when St. Paul visibly enters on his office as the apostle of the heathen. The Roman name is stereotyped at the moment when he converts the Roman governor.”

A servant (δοῦλος)

Lit., bondservant or slave. Paul applies the term to himself, Galatians 1:10; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1, and frequently to express the relation of believers to Christ. The word involves the ideas of belonging to a master, and of service as a slave. The former is emphasized in Paul's use of the term, since Christian service, in his view, has no element of servility, but is the expression of love and of free choice. From this standpoint, the idea of service coheres with those of freedom and of sonship. Compare 1Corinthians 7:22; Galatians 4:7; Ephesians 6:6; Philemon 1:16.

On the other hand, believers belong to Christ by purchase (1Corinthians 6:20; 1Peter 1:18; Ephesians 1:7), and own Him as absolute Master. It is a question whether the word contains any reference to official position. In favor of this, it may be said that when employed in connection with the names of individuals, it is always applied to those who have some special work as teachers or ministers, and that most of such instances occur in the opening salutations of the apostolic letters. The meaning, in any case, must not be limited to the official sense.

Called to be an apostle (κλητὸς ἀπόστολος)

As the previous phrase describes generally Paul's relation to Christ, this expression indicates it specifically. “Called to be an apostle” (A.V. and Rev.), signifies called to the office of an apostle. Yet, as Dr. Morison observes, there is an ambiguity in the rendering, since he who is simply called to be an apostle may have his apostleship as yet only in the future. The Greek indicates that the writer was actually in the apostolate - a called apostle. Godet, “an apostle by way of call.”

Separated unto the gospel of God (ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον Θεοῦ)

Characterizing the preceding phrase more precisely: definitely separated from the rest of mankind. Compare Galatians 1:15, and “chosen vessel,” Acts 9:15. The verb means “to mark off (ἀπό) from others by a boundary (ὅρος).” It is used of the final separation of the righteous from the wicked (Matthew 13:49; Matthew 25:32); of the separation of the disciples from the world (Luke 6:22), and of the setting apart of apostles to special functions (Acts 13:2). Gospel is an exception to the almost invariable usage, in being without the article (compare Revelation 14:6); since Paul considers the Gospel rather as to its quality - good news from God - than as the definite proclamation of Jesus Christ as a Savior. The defining elements are added subsequently in Romans 1:3, Romans 1:4. Not the preaching of the Gospel, but the message itself is meant. For Gospel, see on superscription of Matthew.” (2)

In conclusion:

The notes from the Geneva Study Bible provides an excellent summary review of Romans 1:1:

“Paul, {1} a {2} {a} servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an {b} apostle, {c} separated unto the gospel of God,

(1) The first part of the epistle contains a most profitable preface down to verse six.

(2) Paul, exhorting the Romans to give diligent heed to him, in that he shows that he comes not in his own name, but as God's messenger to the Gentiles, entreats them with the weightiest matter that exists, promised long ago by God, by many good witnesses, and now at length indeed performed.

(a) Minister, for this word servant is not taken in this place as set against the word freeman, but rather refers to and declares his ministry and office.

(b) Whereas he said before in a general term that he was a minister, now he comes to a more special name, and says that he is an apostle, and that he did not take this office upon himself by his own doing, but that he was called by God, and therefore in this letter of his to the Romans he is doing nothing but his duty.

(c) Appointed by God to preach the gospel.”

A final step in researching a passage is to find a sermon on the verse.

For example:

Greetings from an Apostle Romans Sermon Romans 1:1-7 by J. Ligon Duncan

Romans: The Man and the Message Sermons Romans 1:1 by John MacArthur

Introduction Sermon Text: Romans 1:1-7 by R.C. Sproul

Dr. Sproul discusses the use of “bondservant” by Paul and the meaning of the phrase “gospel of God” and its relationship to the scriptures. Dr. Sproul discusses Paul’s use of the trinity. The introduction starts the discussion of being called and what that calling is. See link below for this free sermon series.*

A notable quote:

John Calvin said of Romans, “When any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”

“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)


1.      Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Romans, Vol. 2 p. 1982-1984.

2.      Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 1-3.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.thereligionthatstartedinahat.com/

For more study:

*Link to R.C. Sproul’s introductory study on Romans 1:1-7: https://www.ligonier.org/learn/sermons/introduction/