Paul’s Salutation, Romans 1:1-7

While our “Dear John” letters usually include minimal details about ourselves, the ancient letter writers wrote differently. The writer placed his name first, the identity of the reader next, then a greeting.

Romans begins with the author, Paul, following this format. He identifies himself in three ways:

1) A “servant of Jesus Christ”

  • Although Paul was a Roman citizen, he no longer embraced the average Roman’s attitude that being a servant was uncool. Instead, Paul threw his energy into dependence and obedience to his new found Master. Paul’s former zeal for his ancestral tradition had garnered him honor and high ranking in Judaism. As a religious Pharisee, Paul’s fierce intensity targeted killing Christians because he thought they endangered Judaism (Acts 9:1-25). But after his conversion from Jesus’ confrontation, Paul declared himself Christ’s bondslave (Gal. 1:1-14).

2) “Called to be an apostle”

  • God chose Paul’s role. Paul responded by preaching Christ throughout the Roman Empire on three missionary journeys.

3) “Set apart”

  • God set Paul (formerly Saul) apart to serve Him by sharing and spreading the gospel.
Paul’s Purpose for Writing (vv. 2-6)

Paul declares his purpose for writing to verify his apostolic message. God had promised His gospel earlier “through the prophets in the holy Scriptures.” Some of these prophecies about Jesus Christ and the Good News are Genesis 12:3; Psalm 16:10; 40:6-10; 118:22; Isaiah 11:1; Zechariah 9:9-11; 12:10; Malachi 4:1-6.

In verses 3-4, Paul presents Jesus Christ as the center of the gospel. Jesus, descendant of King David, fulfilled Old Testament Scriptures predicting the Messiah coming from David’s line. Several New Testament passages also verify the Davidic descent of Jesus: Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-30; Revelation 5:5.

In relation to Jesus’ present exaltation, Paul cites “Jesus Christ our Lord” as “the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead”.

Grace & Peace

“Grace and Peace” combined a Christianized form of the Greek and Hebrew greetings (Shepherd’s Notes).

After receiving unlimited, undeserved forgiveness (grace) when meeting Christ on the Damascus road, Paul’s heart received a transformation. Upon following a new leader, Paul strove to fulfill his calling of sharing the Good News of Christ by aligning himself with God’s directives.

So What?

The same Jesus Christ who “set Paul apart” also invites us to be “saints”—set apart, holy, dedicated for His service; whether through formal or informal ministry. It is a great privilege and responsibility to share our Father’s Good News: Forgiveness and eternal life are a gift of God’s grace—received through faith in Christ—available to all.

I like the following excerpt from my NIV Study Bible: “God did not waste any part of Paul—his background, his training, his citizenship, his mind, or even his weaknesses. Are you willing to let God do the same for you? You will never know all He can do with you until you allow him to have all that you are!”

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.

Abraham Justified by Faith, Romans 4:1-8

This chapter builds on the previous one: “man is justified by faith apart from observing the Law”. Justification is God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins.

In this section, Paul offers proof that faith—not works—was God’s plan in the Old Testament. Abraham, the founder of the Jewish nation, was a prime Old Testament model of justification by faith. When Abraham was 75, God revealed that He would bless and multiply Abraham’s offspring through a son. Even though Abraham was childless and didn’t know how God would bring about His plan, he placed his confidence in God. Paul cites Genesis 15:6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

In verse 4 Paul reasons that if a person could earn right standing with God by being good then the giving of that gift would be an obligation instead of a free act. Paul also reminds us of King David’s joyous discovery of forgiveness of sins in Romans 4:7-8.

www.pinterest.comSo What?

Like Abraham, we can also have a right relationship with God by trusting Him. God desires dependence, faith, and trust—not faith in our ability—to please Him. Jesus Christ is stronger than our feelings and/or actions. He is  able to completely save those who reach out to accept His generous gift of salvation, even when our faith is small. Justification marks the entry point of our relationship with God in salvation when we place our faith/trust in His Son, Jesus Christ.

How do we get rid of guilt from our sin? The NIV Study Bible suggests: 1) quit denying our guilt and recognize our sin, 2) admit our guilt to God and ask for His forgiveness, and 3) let go of our guilt and believe that God has forgiven us.

In view of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, is any sin too big for Him to cover?

The Promise of Many Descendants, Romans 4:13-25

“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” – Genesis 17:4-7

Abraham’s name means “father of a multitude”. Israel, the nation that would come from Abraham, was to follow God and influence others. Jesus Christ—born to save humanity— descended from Abraham’s family line. 6fbc418779f48e2f1433a58ed83d578bThrough Christ, people can have a personal relationship with God and become His children by being grafted into His family.

As the first Hebrew patriarch, Abraham became a role model of faith. God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants are based on grace, not on their ability to keep the Law. Although Abraham made mistakes and sinned, he believed in God’s power and integrity. His goodness and faith became evident in his actions of surrender, obedience, and complete confidence in God to carry out His promises.

Shepherd’s Notes observes: “Putting the relationship between God and humans on a legalistic basis invites the wrath of God. Relationships with a legalistic basis require both parties to carry out perfectly both the spirit and the letter of the Law. Failure to do this results in penalties (wrath) to the offending party. Knowing the weakness of human nature as He does, God knows right relationship must be founded on something other than a legal basis.”

Paul ends this section reminding us that Abraham’s justification by faith has purpose for us too: for “us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (vs. 24) is also reckoned righteousness . . . . Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification (vs. 25).

So What?

God graciously gave His Son, Jesus Christ,8607e1deaa4c56349abdb964bdfba256 to be crucified and raised to life as payment for our sins. All who reach out in faith will receive the power of His forgiveness, eternal life, and abundant blessings.

On what basis did God declare Abraham righteous?

What does it mean to be justified by faith?

Assurance in Judgment, Romans 5:6-11

I received my gold crown today. Yes, really . . . I did! However, I almost bailed halfway through the process.

I nearly jumped out of the chair when my dentist began prepping my exposed tooth. The unnerving sensation—akin to finger nails on a chalkboard—caused me to impulsively grab my dentist’s hand. That’s when he asked, “Shall I numb the area?”

“Yes, please!”

I’ll be okay now, I thought when my tongue felt fat and tingly after the shot. Yea, I won’t feel a thing now! But one poke of his instrument stole my breath with those unnerving shock waves. So I opted for another numbing shot. While waiting for the novocaine to set in, my thoughts shifted like the wind: This shot isn’t going to do the job either! And when it doesn’t, how am I going to hold still? Should I just up and leave? No, I can’t do that! Do they ever strap their patients hands down? Dear Lord, please help me not feel this, or at least distract me from this pain . . . . And so my thoughts flickered.

4b46e1d2a0b5d21411a561214b020414

Uncertainty

Everyone struggles with uncertainty at times: decisions, jobs, relationships, etc.

Do you ever feel uncertain of God’s love for you? If so, spend some time soaking in these amazing words:

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners. Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified [declared not guilty for our sins] by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”  – Romans 5:8-10

At the perfect time, God orchestrated the unthinkable: sending His sinless Son to die for the atonement of our sins. We don’t—and can’t—get our act together before coming to Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Our sin was poured into Christ at His crucifixion. His righteousness is poured into us when we place our trust in Christ at our conversion.

So What?

God’s love is bigger than our doubts and sin. Because His generous act has provided reconciliation, Christians “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs.11). We can rest and have complete confidence, knowing we will be saved from God’s wrath at the final judgment because Jesus paid our sins in full.

The same love that caused Christ to die is also the same love that equips believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide, teach, and comfort (John 14:26).

If you haven’t asked Jesus for forgiveness and placed your trust in Him, there is no time like now. Don’t let anything hold you back from coming to Christ.