Vs. 4, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” The book of Romans is incredibly rich in theology, and over the next chapters (6-8 ) Paul is going to dive deeper into sanctification. Question: What is sanctification? Holman’s Bible Dictionary defines it: Process of being made holy resulting in a changed lifestyle for the believer. As we soberly are in the midst of the Easter weekend, we certainly remember the death of Christ. When we celebrate Easter Sunday, this is a wonderful passage to remember the power of the resurrection! Not only are we reminded from yesterday’s chapter about the certainty hope, we also are taught that sanctification is absolutely possible. Our old sinful ways were crucified (vs. 6 ). Question: Does this mean that we can no longer sin? We are new creations in Christ, but there are times when we are going to revert back to our old ways. But that doesn’t negate the fact that we now possess a new nature, a new creation. Paul goes on to give us the perspective that we are to slaves to something. We can either be slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness (vs. 15-23).
Regarding application…Free at Last! Vs. 23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It’s difficult for us to conceive the idea of freedom vs. slavery, since most of us have not been a slave. But I also think of this idea of prison. When Paul & Silas were in prison (Acts 16), it was God who freed them. And the same God who freed them is the same God who freed us from the bondage of sin. It’s as if we have been in prison all of our life and someone comes to break us out and we don’t want to leave. This life of prison is all that we have known and there is comfort in the familiar. But God has opened up a whole new world for us! A world where there is no more condemnation (Romans 8) in Christ. A place where we can finally be free at last! The cross freed us, now let us rejoice each day that God has given us this incredible privilege to be free and free others!
Vs. 8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What a powerful and sobering reminder on Good Friday. Jesus died for us: the ungodly and sinner. This death on the cross certainly holds a purpose; to bring salvation. Paul mentions words like peace, joy, and hope in our chapter today (vs. 1-11). This first half of our chapter today begins something very important that Paul would later expound on in the end of chapter 8, which is the understanding of assurance of our salvation. I’ll develop upon this later and in chapter 8 when we get there. It was the blood that justified us to now be in a right relationship with our Father in heaven (vs. 9). In the second half of our chapter (vs. 12-21), Paul takes some time to explain some deeper theology to understanding sin (vs. 12). The sin of Adam is compared to the life in Christ in this section. It took one man’s trespass to bring death and another man’s death to bring life (vs. 18).
Regarding application…What is Hope? Vs. 2, “through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” The worldly dictionaries have it all wrong. Merriam-Webster defines hope: to cherish a desire with anticipation. As Christians, hoping is not just cherishing a desire. Hope is far more than that. The Greek word for hope: ἐλπίς which gives us the true definition: joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). In other words: Hope for Christians is assurance! When Paul talks about hope, it is not something that he is really wishing for to transpire. When my wife and I got married in June in Oregon, she was really hoping (wishing) that it wouldn’t rain on our wedding day. But when we use hope in the context of our Christian faith, it is not something that we wish would happen. Hope is certain! This Good Friday, gives us a hope of arriving to our eternal destination! Now, let’s take this real definition of Christian hope and share it to the world this Easter weekend!
Vs. 3, “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” In our chapter today, Paul uses Abraham as an example to help us understand more about Christian terms like justification, righteousness, grace, and salvation. Speaking of salvation, this chapter continues Paul’s presentation of what exactly salvation is. The Jews had claimed Abraham as their founding example of being justified and boasted that they were children of Abraham. But they had misunderstood one important ingredient: faith (vs. 14-22). Question: What is faith? To put it simply, faith is trusting in God and believing what we don’t see (Heb. 11:1). Paul reminds us that Abraham believed in faith and it was credited to him (vs. 1). Being righteous before God hasn’t changed since Abraham’s time, we must believe in faith. There was still a belief that salvation came from doing works (vs. 4). Paul also tackles the continuing misunderstanding about circumcision (vs. 9-12).
Regarding application…What does Faith do? Vs. 16, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.” Faith is the next step we take after hearing and knowing the Gospel. But it doesn’t stop there. In one of my Seminary classes at Talbot, I’m taking a series of classes called Spiritual Formation. In this, we are continuing to be reminded that faith is not a one time action. Faith is something we act upon daily in our lives. Faith helps to sanctify (make holy) our lives through the testing of our faith (James 1:2-8). Question: Any of you experiencing trials? Most of you would answer yet. It is faith that helps us through these trials. As we get closer to Good Friday and Easter, Jesus had faith in the Father to get him through that fateful Friday of suffering. You don’t have to be some “super” Christian to do great things for God. Remember, Jesus told us faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains (Matthew 13:31). Exercise your faith each day as you turn to the Lord and trust in Him!
Vs. 21, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” Before we address this righteousness, let us look back at the first section of our passage. Paul continues to address the Jewish audience as he expounds on some of the advantages of being a Jew. Paul knew some of the questions and remarks that people made regarding this, so he asks and answers his own questions (vs. 1-20). Despite their lack of faithfulness in the past, this does not nullify God’s faithfulness (vs. 3-4). If God’s faithfulness and righteousness is good despite their unfaithfulness, then why try to stop sinning (vs. 5-8). In the end, Paul shares a collection of OT Scripture to point out that both Jew and Gentile are under the umbrella of sin. No one is righteous (vs. 10). The law had its purpose and it was to help us be aware of sin (vs. 20). Thankfully the story doesn’t end there! Jesus would come and help us to become righteous, something the law could not do (vs. 21-26). Here we are given an amazing picture of the Gospel and God’s grace upon us. Even though we have all sinned (vs. 23), Jesus’ blood was the final sacrifice made to wash away our sins (vs. 25). It’s what Jesus does for us, not what good things we have done (vs. 27-31).
Regarding application…What is Justification? Vs. 28, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” According to Holman’s Bible Dictionary: Divine, forensic act of God, based on the work of Christ upon the cross, whereby a sinner is pronounced righteous by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. In other words, we now have the opportunity to be saved because of Jesus! There is nothing you can do to earn God’s grace. Consequently, when we believe in Jesus and put our faith in Him, there is also nothing that can separate you from Jesus (Romans 8:39). There should be a huge collective sigh of relief! It’s like getting an A+ without having done the studying! It’s like getting a job promotion without working hard to prove yourself. This realization of being justified by the Lord is something I have taken for granted over the years. The older I get, the more confusing it seems to be. Question: How can we respond to this? Put your faith daily in the Lord! Be a part of what God is doing in His church and share Christ just as Paul did to the Romans!
Vs. 6, “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.” It’s important to see how Paul shifts the personal pronouns “they” in chapter one to “you” in today’s chapter. Question: What does this mean? In chapter one, Paul began the process of addressing sin in our lives. It would have been easy for those who were Christian and the Jews to begin thinking they were okay. They were not like the “they” referred to in chapter one. However, Paul ensures that everyone realizes that no one is without excuse. God has revealed himself to both Jew & Gentile (vs. 9). The Jews could not rely on their past views, history and especially law (vs. 12-16). The Jews had much to be thankful for (vs. 17-29), but they were not living up to the standard that God had called them. They were prideful (vs. 23) and their hypocrisy was bringing shame before God (vs. 24). And lastly, we see Paul address circumcision (vs. 25-29). Question: Why was this important. The Law and circumcision were two distinguishing aspects that set apart Israel (Jews) from the rest of the Gentile world. But, even from the origins, circumcision was more about a heart matter (Deut 10:16). The Jews were proud about this, but Paul reminded them that salvation came from the heart through the Spirit (vs. 29).
Regarding application…God shows no Favoritism. Vs. 11, “For God does not show favoritism.” The incident in Acts 6 concerning how the early church were treating the Hebraic widows from the Greek influenced widows is an example of how we tend to show favoritism. Allow me to put it more bluntly; the Jews were displaying signs of prejudice and racism. Not much has changed, huh? The country is still dealing with racism with the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. God created us in His image. As we are remembering the last week of Christ, Jesus came to give life to all who would believe in Him. We would do God’s word a disservice by not considering soberly our own issues with favoritism. Let us be people who do not look at the color, reputation or talents of another.
Vs. 16, “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.” The first half of our chapter, we see Paul warmly greet the fellow Christians in Rome (vs. 1-17). It is noteworthy to mention how Paul viewed himself (vs. 1)…a servant. Having taken Greek last semester, servant is δοῦλος which also has this understanding of a slave. Much like Paul, our lives do not belong to us and we were bought at a price (I Cor. 6:20, 7:23). As the original audience received this letter, remember, there was a mixture of both Jew and Gentile. Paul means to make it crystal clear that the Gospel is meant for all (vs. 16). The warm fuzzy feelings of the first half of the letter change to Paul having to share a reality none of us like to think about: Sin. Phrases like wrath of God, godlessness, wickedness are not nice things to think about (vs. 18). But in order to talk about the salvation message of the Gospel, Paul needed to ensure we understand the thing that can separate us from God. The second half of this chapter through first half of chapter 3, Paul presents to us this matter of sin and how it can affect our lives.
Regarding application…Live By Faith. Vs. 17, “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.” Question: What is the opposite of righteousness? Wickedness. If we take an honest look into our own hearts, what will we see (vs. 28-32)? Paul comes to us needing to share the “Good News – Gospel” and the “Bad News – Sin”. In the midst of seeing sin for what it is, it is important to remember that God is just in all He does. This righteousness from God reveals His goodness and grace. There is a theological term called “Natural Revelation”, which means that God reveals himself in nature. Basically, even though we may not have the Bible in front of us all of our lives, He has planted the knowledge of Him in all of His creation. It is important to note that Paul is zeroing in on the Gentile audience here in this second half or our chapter. Though all of us knew God (vs. 21), we chose in the wickedness of our own hearts to turn away from Him (before we put our faith in Jesus). The challenge for us today is are we living by faith? As a Christian, we are new creation (II Cor. 5:17)…so it is very important to remember not to revert back to our old sinful ways. Question: How are you living today? By faith or by sight? (II Cor. 5:7)
Vs. 19, “Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.” The apostle Paul first takes the time to thank many people (26 people) for their contribution in the ministry of the Gospel! What a wonderful example of being thankful for others and it shows us Paul’s deep relationship with so many. Paul goes on to exhort us to be careful with how we approach our lives and discerning what is good and what is evil. As the early church was growing, leaders naturally began to rise up…but some of them were leading people astray.
Regarding application…Know What is Right.. Vs. 18, “For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” Always weigh what someone teaches from the Bible with Scripture. Always. Don’t be naive with preachers just because they proclaim the name of Jesus. Like vs. 19, be wise but also innocent. Jesus would remind us how during the end times, many would come preaching in His name. As you desire to grow, the enemy will surely try to bring distractions and false teachings our way. The more you know His word, the more you will be able to know what is right!
Vs. 4, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Paul is addressing both the Jews & Gentiles of the Roman Church…for both found a history in God’s ultimate plan. Jews were chosen to be a light in the world, but many rejected that light…but that light was for the Gentile too! Paul also wanted to remind the Gentile Christians in Rome to remember to tithe and share offerings to the Jews in Jerusalem. Giving promotes our obligation, our love and the unity that comes forth with seeing other’s encouraged by our sacrifices.
Regarding application…Accepting Each Other. Vs. 7, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” What an appropriate reminder as we have our CTC Youth “Reality” Series on Racism. The Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians were still learning what it meant to accept one another. It’s like when an older brother and a younger brother get in a fight. The older one has had all the responsibility and pressure to live up to being a first child. The younger one simply had to look up to the older brother. Simple analogy, but one that should help give a little bit more insight with how God looks at us and how we should love and accept our fellow brothers and sisters.
Vs. 19, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” This is a very important passage that applies to relevantly to the church today. Some Christians will drink in a public setting, others will observe Halloween, other’s will participate in secular activities…is one right and one wrong to do? Basically those Christians who are not hindered by such should not look down on those who are and those who do not participate in such things should not judge those who do. How do we as Christians respond to other Christians when it comes to how we live our lives? The bottom line is that we must do all that we can to allow love to cover our lives.
Regarding application…Stumbling Blocks. Vs. 13, “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.” As Christians, we must choose not to be stumbling blocks to others in the life we live. Question: How does this look? Let’s say I enjoy drinking some wine for a dinner once or twice a week. We invite some youth and their families over. Hyojin and I serve wine for dinner to the adults and we drink a bit too. Now, as the Youth Pastor…I could have some students and their parents both be stumbled by my actions. Even though it is perfectly fine to drink wine for a dinner (Not get drunk on it…Ephesians 5)…this doesn’t mean that I should do it if other’s are stumbled. And that goes with all other areas in our lives too. Be wise and unselfish on how you choose to live your lives so that other’s are encouraged by you.
Vs. 1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” This is a very important reminder to us all that ultimately God is in control. Even though the evil Roman leader was Nero, Paul would still exhort the Roman Christians to submit. We may not always agree with our leaders, but that does not give us the right to rebel from them…unless of course the human leaders are outright against the Word of the Lord. We are also reminded commandment of love fulfills the law (vs. 10).
Regarding application…Wake Up! Vs. 11, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Are you spiritually alert? The Word of God each day is our wake up call to the reality of this world. So many people including myself need a bit of caffeine to wake us up to get through the rigors of the day. But God is trying to wake us up to something much more important than a school test or a deadline from work. Paul is reminding us that salvation is here! Let is live in you each day so that world will see the love we have in Christ Jesus!