Romans 1:16-17 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The book of Romans is a fantastic book and has transformed many lives.
Calvin has credited the book of Romans as instrumental of his conversion, saying, “The book of Romans was my entrance to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture. The subject then of these chapters may be stated thus – man’s only righteousness is through the mercy of God in Christ, which being offered by the gospel, is apprehended by faith.”
Martin Luther (1483–1546), the father of the Protestant Reformation, was studying Romans when he concluded that faith alone justifies a person before God. He later began the preface to his commentary on Romans this way, “This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, the purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with, the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.”
As you read the book of Romans, you find that two specific groups of people stand out. The Apostle Paul addresses these two groups to show them that both groups cannot attain salvation by what they do. Instead, you need to be a third kind of person to overcome the hopelessness of the first two groups describe in Romans 1 and 2.
The Apostle Paul begins the book in Romans 1:1, saying, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”. The gospel means “good news”. The book of Romans is about the good news of Jesus Christ and the righteousness of God. But before Paul gets to the good news, he lays out the bad news. And by doing so, we will understand the greatness of God’s love for us and, in turn, love God beyond anything else in our lives. Amen!
The book of Romans is about understanding the good news of Jesus Christ. By the time you finish this book, it ought to take you to a place of salvation in Christ and understand the righteousness of God through faith.
Sin – the problem
What is sin? Sin is anything contrary to the law or will of God. Do we truly understand the seriousness of sin? Sometimes we do not know how terrible sin is. We talk about sin, we understand what sin is, but sometimes we are so used to it that we fail to understand its seriousness against God. Our entire society is in sin, we see it in movies, in advertisements, in the news, all around us, and even to the stage it is being normalized and brought out to be something good rather than evil.
When we truly understand the glory, holiness, kingship, might, and splendour of the creator, we can understand sin’s seriousness. Paul washer says, “The God who commanded all things into being from nothing. The one who ordered the stars to be in their place. The one who commands the seas, and the winds, and the weather, and they are all obedient to His voice. But man, on the other hand, man responds by saying “NO” when God commands him. “This is sinning, my friends. Disobedience to the Sovereign God.
Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
Paul begins by first speaking about the sin of the Gentiles (the first group of people) in Romans 1. This first group of people represent the godless people or people who worship a God that is not Yahweh, the great I AM. The Gentiles are without excuse for their sin because what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. That is His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, which is clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. Even though they knew God, they did not honour Him as God nor gave thanks to Him; instead, their hearts were darkened. They claimed to be wise, instead becoming fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for making idols resembling created things. Because of this, God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts, dishonouring themselves and their bodies because they exchanged the truth for a lie worshipping the creature rather than the creator.
You see, anything that takes the place of God in your life is an idol. It could be as simple as your work, following sport or a hobby that you do. Whatever takes the place of God is an idol. The Gentiles continuously disobeyed God and failed to acknowledge Him or His ways. Because of this, God gave them up to a debased mind, and they do those things that ought not to be done.
God gave them up to a debased mind, meaning they were filled with all manner of:
- unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless, homosexuality.
These were the sin of the idolatrous Gentiles, and the wrath of God is against such people who do them and those who approve of them. This is bad news! It is a description of the world we live in and the situations that surround us. There is judgment for such people.
Now we come to Romans 2, where the Jewish mindset comes into focus. This is the second group of people. A people who know the true God of this world (Yahweh), yet they are merely religious on the outside, but on the inside, they are the same as the Gentiles or the people who reject the true God. When we look at the context of these passages from the church’s perspective, are we doing the same? You see, when we read the above, it is pretty easy for us to look at the world and say, “I thank God I am not like the world and being such a sinner like the world.” The Jewish audience would have thought the same. Yet, the Apostle Paul is quick to say, “not so fast, you religious people“. Romans 2 says, do not be so quick to judge.
Romans 2:3 says, “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” Are we guilty of practising the very same thing we accuse the world of doing?
Are we guilty of outward religiosity and acting like we are the keepers of the holy requirements of God, but at the same time, guilty of doing the same thing? Romans 2:21-24 says, “you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
The Apostle Paul says that it is not the one who says he is a Jew outwardly, but the one who is Jew inwardly and the circumcision must be of the heart, by the Spirit and not by the letter. Such a man’s praise is from God and not from man. We seek the recognition of man rather than the acknowledgement and commendation from God. Likewise, a true Christian is not one on the outside who says and preaches the word of God, yet in their actions, it does not represent Jesus Christ at all.
So, by presenting both these sides, the book of Romans shows us that neither the gentiles/worldly people nor the Jews/religious people (including the religious Christians) are free from sin and God’s wrath. In fact, the conclusion is given to us in Romans 3:9-17 saying,
“What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Friends, these passages paint a very bleak picture. In declaring the gospel – the good news, first, the bad news is laid out. The bad news is that there is not a single good person, whether Jew or Gentile. Romans 3:3 says that all have sinned, and all have fallen short of the glory of God. So, this should bring us to a realization that we need help. In need of desperate help, and it should humble us before a holy and mighty God. The penalty of such sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23). This is the bad news because the wrath of God is against sinners.
Salvation – the solution
Now that we understand the problem, what is the solution? Like the disciples asked Jesus in Luke 18:26-27, saying, “Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Praise God for this statement!
After Paul writes about the hopelessness of man, he goes onto writing the word “but”. As soon as we read that, it is a ray of hope of light bursting through. Romans 3:21-25 says, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
This is the answer to the hopelessness. This was the answer to the wrath of God. It was nothing man could do, but the righteousness of God was made manifest, and we are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 5:7-9 says. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
God came to save both the Gentile and the Jew, the worldly and the religious.
The death of Jesus paid the price for our sins, and the resurrection of Jesus proves that God accepted the death of Jesus as a payment for our sins. God displayed His love for us by the sacrifice of Jesus. He did not want us to be lost forever and face the wrath of God. Instead, Jesus took it in our place. This is the grace of God showered upon His creation. Even though we deserved the complete wrath of God, even though our righteousness is as filthy rags before a holy God, even though we cursed God, rejecting Him and walking in the ways of the desire of our hearts and going to a lost eternity. In all His grace and mercy, Jesus poured out His love through Jesus so that we might be saved. Friends, how can you not but love such a wonderful God and King?
Grace is “unmerited favour” or “God’s favour towards those who are unworthy.”
So how can we receive this free gift? It is only possible by faith in Jesus Christ. It is only possible by loving God. It is only possible by coming to Christ in humbleness, declaring that you are in need of a Savior. When you examine yourself, you realize that you fit into one of the two groups mentioned in Romans 1 and 2.Either you are of the world and rejected God and idolized the things of the world. Or you are religious on the outside but dead on the inside – a hypocrite.
It is harder for the religious group of people to receive salvation because they are under the impression that they are already saved. They do not believe they need to change their ways because they declare God by their mouths, but in fact, their hearts are far from Him. They come to Him for selfish reasons; in other words, they believe they deserve the grace of God because they declare God and by their outward works as seen by men. But the truth is God looks at the heart of man, not His selfish religiosity.
That is when you realize that you are a sinner and deserve the wrath of God. “But” because the righteousness of God has been made manifest in Christ Jesus to die on your behalf so that you can be restored to God. You can do so by faith in Him. By loving God and accepting this free gift of salvation. In fact, Romans 10:9-10 says, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” And again, in Romans 10:13, saying, “For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
The one who receives such salvation is the third type of person. They are neither religious nor worldly. Instead, they are a new creation born again in the Spirit. They come before God humbly declaring their sins and cry out to the Savior. They live by faith in God, accepting the free gift of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the propitiation of our sins. They are “lovers of God”, and all they do are an outcome of their love for God. This is “the Christian”, a true lover of God. Amen!
Friends, remember that these are not just some magic words that will get you saved. But it is repentance from your sins. It is declaring that there has been a change in your heart because you realize your lostness and your pitiful condition without Christ. It is a heart change and declaration that Jesus is your Savior. It is committing your life entirely to Him and putting your faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The moment you put your faith in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, right relationship with God has been restored. You are now justified in Christ Jesus, and your sins are forgiven because Jesus paid for them on the cross.
Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus has satisfied the wrath of God in your place so that you can now have peace with God.
Oh, what a glorious God. This is now our position in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are no longer condemned, but we are accepted into the family of God and called His children. Romans 8:1 says that we are no longer condemned – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We can be secure in Christ because there is nothing that can now separate us from Him. Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sanctification – the transformation
What is sanctification? Sanctification means to “make holy” or “set apart”. When God justifies us from sin, this is a one-time event. God also wants to save us from the power of sin, and this is sanctification. It is something that takes place in the life of a Christian during the rest of their life. God wants to save us from the power of sin so that sin no longer has control over us. Sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s process, which gives us the ability to say “yes” to God and “no” to sin.
The third type of person has something else that is different about them, and this is that they are sanctified by the word of God and by the Holy Spirit. They are a new person in Christ. They are born again in the Spirit, and from that moment on, there is a transformation in their life. Sometimes we can tend to think that Salvation is all about receiving forgiveness, and that’s it. There is more to salvation than just receiving forgiveness. That is just the start of your relationship with God. Salvation is also about the righteousness of Christ being our new standing before a holy God. Remember that it is not our righteousness but “the righteousness of God being our new standing.”
Now that we have understood the awfulness of sin and the amazing grace of God through which the wrath of God was poured out on Jesus on behalf of those who are to be saved, Paul goes on to teach the additional effect of God’s salvation. God poured out His Spirit into the core of our being through which a process of transformation begins, leading us to become more like Jesus every single day (Romans 6-8).
Sanctification is a discipleship process of learning from the Holy Spirit to become more like Christ and to imitate Christ in all that we do. The Christian life is a discipleship life. A disciple must sit at the feet of the teacher to learn and emulate the teacher. We can do this through reading the word of God, through prayer, and through fellowship with the Holy Spirit. This is what makes the Christian different from someone in the world?
We have often heard it said amongst non-Christians, if Jesus died for your sins and you live under grace and not works but by faith, then does that mean you can sin all you want because the death and resurrection of Jesus covers all your sins. Paul knew that this would be in the mind of people, and so he addresses it in Romans 6:1, saying, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” He then answers it by saying in verse 2-4, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” “The Christian” walks in the newness of life.
You see, when we receive salvation in Jesus Christ, then something new happens. Our old self was crucified with Christ so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. If we have died with Christ, then it means we have been set free from the clutches of sin. So, we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Amen! (Romans 6:5-11). You see, we are no longer slaves to sin, but the Bible says we have become slaves of God, and what that means is that the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end is eternal life (Romans 6:22-23).
Romans 7 explains it in the setting of marriage and law. For it says that the law binds a married woman to her husband while he lives. But if her husband dies, then she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is still alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress (Romans 7:1-3). Likewise, we have also died so that we belong to another and no longer to the world. We are wedded to Christ so that we may bear fruit for God. But this is not always easy. There is always a struggle between the flesh and the spirit. Even the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:23, “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”
Life in the Spirit (Romans 8)
God knows that we cannot achieve sanctification in our own strength. So He has given us His Spirit, as a guarantee and as a helper, teacher, to guide us, to keep us, to strengthen us, and to enable us to desire God above everything else in our life. And because of that, Paul goes on to declare that now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. You see, those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. We are no longer in the flesh, but the Spirit of God dwells in us. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of God does not belong to Him. So, if you live by the Spirit, then you will put to death the deeds of the body, and you will live. For all who the Spirit of God leads are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of fear to fall back into slavery, but you received the Spirit of adoption as a son through whom we cry “Abba Father!” The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God and heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with Him. Amen! This suffering is nothing in comparison with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
In our time of weakness, the Spirit helps us. We sometimes do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words according to the will of God. Allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify you so that you may glorify God. When you do that and when you allow the Spirit to sanctify you, then the Bible says the result of giving yourself to God is:
- That all things work together for good in your life
- Those whom Christ has predestined, he also called, and those whom he called he justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified
- If God is for you, then who can be against you
- Won’t he give you all the things that you need graciously according to His will if He did not spare His own Son for you,
- Who can bring a charge against you, Christian!
- Who shall separate you from the love of God – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? – absolutely nothing
- In all things, you are more than conquerors
- Nothing can and will separate you from the love of God – For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
Oh, what a blessed God we worship. This is the life of the Christian, who is born again in Jesus Christ. So allow the Holy Spirit to transform you day by day into the image of Christ so that you can bring glory and honour to God. Hallelujah!!
Sanctification is the process by which God makes you more like Christ and builds you up into a child of God. Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Allow God to transform you, regardless of what situation you go through. God uses it to build you up and to turn all things for good for those who love God and those who are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)
Service – the outworking
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Finally, we come to look beyond ourselves as a child of God. Through Romans, we have been taught about our hopeless situation, the solution for such hopelessness, and the power of God’s work in our lives to be more like Him. In closing, Paul finishes with exhortation we are now to look beyond ourselves and just as we have graciously received, we need to give to one another graciously.
Now that we are no longer our old selves, and we are new in Christ, it means that our thinking must also change in like manner. Like it says in Romans 12:1-2, we are to be transformed in the renewal of our mind. That means our whole thinking process needs to be changed. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to but do so in sober judgment according to the faith assigned to you. Like it says in 1 Corinthians 12, gifts of grace has been assigned to each one in the body of Christ. Although we are many in the church of God, we are one body in Jesus Christ and individually members of one another. God has given us various gifts according to the grace given to us. So let us use it in proportion to the grace given to us (Romans 12:3-8):
- If prophecy, in proportion to our faith
- If service in our service
- The one who teaches, in his teaching
- The one who exhorts, in his exhortation
- The one who contributes, in generosity
- The one who leads, with zeal
- The one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
When we do all of these from a heart of love for God and love for others, then they are the marks of true Christians. Amen! If any of these are done outside of love, it is not true. It is called “religion” rather than “relationship”. First, it must be because of a deep love for God. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” In other words, if your love for God is genuine, then you will hate the things that are evil and not pleasing to God. Your heart’s desire would be to honour Him and to do the things that bring glory to God. From your love for God flows out love for one another. Paul goes on to says in Romas 12:9-20 that the following traits are those of a true lover of God:
- Love one another with brotherly affection
- Outdo one another in showing honour
- Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord
- Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer
- Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality
- Bless those who persecute you
- Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep
- Live in harmony with one another
- Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly
- Do not be wise in your own eyes
- Repay no one for evil
- Do what is honourable in the sight of all
- Live peaceably with all
- Never avenge anyone for yourselves but leave it to the wrath of God
- If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if thirsty, give him water
- Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
In conclusion, the book of Romans has shown us that God is righteous and His wrath is against sin. There is a problem, a dilemma. The problem is that there are two groups of people in this world, and both are fallen and deserve the full wrath of God due to their sin. These two groups of people make the entire world which means all have fallen, and all have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The one either outrightly reject God by suppressing the truth that is made plain to them or by creating idols in the place of the true God, Jehovah. The second group claims to know the true living God who has revealed His perfect law to them. They preach this law and claim to keep it, whilst inwardly they are just as bad as everyone else and entirely in their sin. These are the religious people, the hypocrites who look holy but just as dead on the inside because of their deeds. They are both fallen and deserve God’s wrath.
The third person is the person who lives by faith in Jesus. Who cries out to God in humbleness declaring that he or she is a sinner and in need of a Savior by the Holy Spirit work in their life. God’s righteousness was made manifest through Christ, and He paid the price for sin through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. This person is sanctified and transformed by the Spirit, living in a manner pleasing to God. The Christian is a true lover of God. No longer the old self, but a new creation in Christ. He does all things to please God and not man. All his outworking is due to a love for God, and in all humbleness, seek to please God and glorify God in every way. Jesus Christ becomes the treasure of their life. This is the one to whom belongs eternal life is a gift from God. Amen!
Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”