Gospel Power, Romans 1:16-17

Over lattes, a friend and I found ourselves chatting about our beliefs. Her jaw dropped when I told her I believe the Bible is God’s authoritative truth and revelation to us. She could hardly believe I didn’t rely on any other religious writings/teachings. But at the time, I struggled to give her a reasonable explanation why I thought this. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve since found the following verses in Romans helpful. These two verses clearly state why the gospel is so important while stating a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” – Vs. 16-17

What is the Gospel Power?

God’s effective power, through His Holy Spirit, initiates and leads one to salvation. His inspired words contained in the Bible give us enough information to know Him—His character, purposes, love, and expectations—and also teach us how to have a personal relationship with Him. When we read and heed God’s words, God grows our faith, which is a gift from Him. He also transforms us into His likeness.

Shepherd’s Notes suggest that the salvation Paul describes is more than forgiveness of sins. It includes the big picture of being delivered from the results of our sin:

  1. Justification – Being set right with God; deliverance from the penalty of sin
  2. Sanctification – Growth in holiness; deliverance from the power of sin
  3. Glorification – Ultimate transformation into the likeness of Christ; deliverance from the presence of sin
Three Power Points of the Gospel

Paul wasn’t ashamed of the gospel’s Good News because he experienced God’s saving grace and life changing power in a BIG way. He also knew God’s salvation was available to everyone.

Shepherd’s Notes also observes the following gospel points in Romans 1:

  1. It’s the fulfillment of God’s promises (v. 2)
  2. It centers in the person of Jesus Christ (v. 3-4)
  3. It is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v. 16)
So What?

When we discipline ourselves to study the Bible and pray, God will lovingly meet us right where we are. God will help us through trials and grow us in Him. He longs to bless us with life both now and forever.

How is your Bible reading going?

Related Posts: The B-I-B-L-E, Why Study the Bible?, Bible Study-The Holy Spirit’s Role

God’s Revelation, Romans 1:18-32

“Guilty as charged!” The judge’s gavel slams down with thundering finality.

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Like a seasoned attorney in a court room, Paul threads God’s general revelation through nature as a convincing argument for the revelation of God’s wrath in His judgment on the Gentiles who rebel against Him. In the following verses, Paul tackles a common objection: How could a loving God send anyone to hell?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – vs. 18-20(NIV)

God’s revelation of Himself through nature gives the simplest grounds of our responsibility toward Him. Through His creation, (although marred by sins’ effects, Gen. 3:17-19), we know God is powerful, intelligent, creative, and a God of order and beauty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADoes anyone have an excuse for not acknowledging God?

Although no one will be excused for not believing in God, some will choose not to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks.

Sins’ Downward Cycle

Paul comments about God’s wrath in verse 18 from Romans 1:19-3:20. The downward cycle of sin can be summarized as the following:

  • Rejection of God—arrogance and rebellion; self is placed on the throne
  • Idolatry—One makes up ideas of what a god should be and do; exchanging the truth for a lie to fit one’s lifestyle
  • Fall into sin—sexual sin, greed, hatred, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip are a few mentioned here
  • Hatred toward God—encouraging others to join them
God’s Nature

Although God is patient and long-suffering—desiring to restore the sinner— He will not put up with sin forever. His very nature is holiness.

The Verdict?

God’s judgment of sin and impurity begins by allowing the consequences of people’s sinful choices. Verse 21 speaks of those who refuse to glorify and thank God: “their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts darkened”. Verse 24 speaks of God giving them over to their sinful desires, indicating sexual impurity. Finally, Paul lists 21 indictments (negative qualities) against those who abandon themselves to their sinful natures (vs. 29-32).

Following God and choosing faith in Him may be hard, but is choosing not to follow Him easier?

Resisting God may seem easy at first, but this path eventually leads to the worst kind of slavery: slavery to sin.

God’s Righteous Judgment, Romans 2:1-16

High-fives echo in response to the judge’s verdict on the Gentiles: “Guilty as charged.”

166163e41e3c9ac70768869d063e6d8bLike the last passage, I feel like I’m in a courtroom, but this time slinking down in my seat to avoid apostle-attorney Paul’s piercing gaze as his focus shifts from the Gentiles toward the Jews. No, I’m not Jewish, but Paul didn’t let anyone slide. Probably some Jewish heads nodded their approval when Paul pronounced God’s judgment on the pagan Gentiles. Paul lights into their condemning attitude like a firecracker (verses 1-10).

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” –vs. 1

Despite knowing God’s laws, the Jews failed to live up to it. Their sin may have been hidden in more socially acceptable forms. But Paul faults them for having a stubborn and unrepentant heart, treating God’s great kindness, tolerance, and patience with contempt.

Those who patiently and persistently do God’s will, however, will find eternal life (vs. 7). This may sound like a contradiction to his statement that salvation comes by faith alone (1:16-17), but he is stressing that our deeds follow in grateful response for what God has done.

Again, Paul warns of God’s wrath toward: self-seekers, those who reject the truth, and those who follow evil.

Judgment With or Without the Law

All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” – vs. 12

Paul weaves his case: Can the religiously privileged Jews expect special treatment because they’ve been given the Mosaic Law? This gave the Jews greater responsibility for following it.

Or could the Gentiles receive an easier verdict for not having God’s Law? Certainly God’s revelation through the Law made His will more fully known. But God made Himself known to the Gentiles through nature and the inner law of conscience.

Conclusion

Paul concludes that all—Jew and Gentile—are guilty of violating God’s Laws. People are condemned for what they do with what they know, not for what they don’t know. God doesn’t play favorites. God patiently waits for our repentance. But a time is appointed when He will judge everyone’s secrets when we stand before His throne. No one will stand apart from the saving grace found in His son, Jesus Christ. (For more on God’s judgment, see John 12:48 and Revelation 20:11-15.)

So what?

The sins we’re tempted to point out in others are often the sins we struggle with the most. Like King David, we need to consistently ask God to search our hearts and show us our sin so we can seek His forgiveness.

Ps. 51Those of us who have grown up in Christian families could be considered today’s religiously privileged. Are we focused on living according to what we know? Or are we passing judgment on those around us?

Authentic Jewishness is Inward, Romans 2:17-29

I hope you’re enjoying summer. Mine has been a flurry of baseball games, swim lessons, kid chauffeuring/refereeing, and gardening. Although my weeds are persistent, they don’t argue. 🙂

Speaking of arguments, Paul continues his to the Jews in this passage: Everyone, including Jews, stands guilty before God.

Jewish Advantages and Pride

In verses 17-20 Paul parallels the Jews’ pride with their advantages:

  • You call yourself a Jew (vs. 17). The Jews were proud of their heritage. 2 Kings 16:6 records the first mention of the term Jew.
  • You rely on the Law (vs. 17).
  • You glory in (brag about) your relationship to God (vs. 17).
  • You know His will (vs. 18). The full revelation of God’s will was given to the Jews through the Law before Jesus entered earth’s scene.
  • You approve what is superior (vs. 18). Because of the Law they knew right and wrong.
  • You are convinced you are a guide for the blind, a light for those in darkness (vs. 19-20). This reveals the Jews’ high esteem for themselves and low regard for the Gentiles.
The Jews’ Inconsistencies

In verses 21-24, Paul strikes out the Jews’ hypocrisy when he expands on his previous charge in Rom. 2:3:

"So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

“So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them [Gentiles] and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” –Rom. 2:3

Paul’s curve ball comes in the form of five high-thrown questions, dropping over home plate with a pronouncement to each.

  1. You who teach others, do you not teach yourself (vs 21)?
  2. You preach against stealing, do you steal (vs. 21)? This refers to the eighth commandment.
  3. You say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery (vs.22)? This refers to the seventh commandment
  4. You who abhor idols, do you rob temples (vs. 22)? This also refers to those who act irreverently in or against a holy place.
  5. You who brag about the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law (vs. 23)? Hollow praise—bragging about the Law without obeying it—insults God.
Obedience to the Requirement of Circumcision (vs. 25-29)

As a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, God commanded Abraham to circumcise every male. Although this was practiced by other males in ancient times, it held special meaning for the Jews. However, Paul countered that a real Jew was one inwardly, not by the external tradition. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. Instead of mechanically observing the written code, it involves cutting away the old sinful nature.

Questions to Chew On
  • Why does Paul show the Jews’ inconsistencies?
  • What do God’s judgments tell us about Him?
  • What does circumcision of the heart accomplish that observing the Law cannot?
  • How does any of this relate to us today, especially if we are not Jewish?

God’s Faithfulness, Romans 3:1-8

There’s no camouflage here. The apostle Paul paints a bleak portrait of our sin against the canvas of God’s brilliant holiness. In the previous two chapters, Paul chisels away at the common excuses people use to justify they’re not sinners: 1) “There is no God” (1:18-32), 2) “I’m better than others” (2:1-16), 3) “I’m religious, or a church member” (2:17-29).

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this "Deadly Sins" t-shirt.  Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Okay, there is some camouflaging in this “Deadly Sins” t-shirt. Can you find seven sins hidden in the skull? (supermarkethq.com)

Paul Defends With Four Questions

This chapter begins with Paul strengthening his defensive stance: All stand guilty before God.

It’s as though he’s tackling an imaginary opponent who is blitzing him with objections on his previous points of Jewish “lostness”. In classic Paul style, he fires back with four questions:

  1. What advantage has the Jew? (vs. 1-12) Paul’s statement about real circumcision and true Jewish identity undoubtedly sent shock waves throughout the congregation (2:25-29). They would naturally have questions. Paul answers this question: “Much in every way!” The Jews were chosen first to model and share God’s words in the Old Testament. (Paul later lists other advantages in Rom. 9:1-5.)
  2. Does Jewish unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? (vs. 3-4) Paul answers: “Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (“Not at all!” has been translated as “Far from it!”) In chapter 2, Paul described the hardened Jews who talked the Law talk, but failed to walk the Law walk (2:21-24). They were faithless to the covenant God made with them. Paul cites part of Psalm 51:4 to prove God’s vindication in judgment.
  3. Is not God unjust to impose His wrath upon us? The imaginary objector proposed that his sin provided a contrast to God’s righteousness, thus highlighting God’s holiness. Paul answers: “Certainly not!” Shepherd’s Notes says it well: “If that were so, how could God judge the world? The moral governorship of the universe was at stake with such an absurd charge.”
  4. Does not my falsehood cause God’s truth to abound? This question is similar to #3. This reasoning feeds the lie: “Let us do evil so good may shine forth.” (vs. 8) What is Paul’s response to this twisted concept? “Their condemnation is deserved.”
So What?

God doesn’t need our sin to highlight His holiness. Instead, He wants us to reflect His love and goodness.

The Mosaic Law, which God gave to show us how to live, convicts us of our sin. The Law, however, is not our source of hope—God is.

We can’t earn God’s love; He freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His son, Jesus Christ—not through observance of the Law.