Read This Week: Romans 6

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
– Romans 6:8-11, 23 NIV

Stories of rescue and endurance seem to capture our imagination and attention. Because we understand and value our lives more in the shadow of death, we are fascinated by the pursuit to stay alive and by the things that threaten our existence. Our spirits naturally cling to life, and our hearts become moved by narratives that highlight survival, especially when we know from what someone has been saved. The rescue is always enhanced by the peril overcome.

In Romans chapter 6, Paul refers to death in different iterations 16 times and to life in various forms 14 times as he describes our salvation from sin through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Justification by faith in Christ’s finished work is the ultimate rescue story in human history. It is the meta-narrative; the conclusive triumph of life over death.

Without it, we were and are living under the threat and oppression of sin and death. Verse 23 tells us that the result or penalty for sin is death. Our only fate, apart from Jesus, was and is condemnation. But with Christ and faith in Him, a new life of freedom and redemption begins. We experience rescue from judgment. We can be made righteous before God, claim power over sin, and have eternal life. Paul writes in verses 8-11:

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

In this passage, Paul describes how the rescue took place and what life is like on the other side of liberation. He makes it clear that what Jesus did was sufficient, permanent, and effective for a life with God in the present and for an eternal destination in His presence.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the believer’s rescue story. It is the rescue story of all-time. When the Bible says in verses 6-7 that we know our old self was crucified with Christ so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, we see that something has been done for us that we couldn’t possibly do for ourselves.

When we count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ, we recognize that we’ve been rescued from the place of death to the place of life. From the place of sin to the place of grace. From the old self to the new self. From the old habits and patterns to new, healthy ones. From destructive actions to favorable ones that glorify God. We know that we’ve survived an imminent and powerful threat and live to tell about it.

Read This Week: Romans 5

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. – Romans 5:1-2 NIV

If there has ever been a time in our society that we need a large dose of peace and hope, it is now. We find ourselves in a pivotal moment where tension is high, strife is rampant, and fear is palpable.

Restlessness is more prevalent than calm, negativity is more abundant than confidence, and disunity seems to be the order of the day. These are perilous times that require peace and hope from a source far superior to us and far more powerful than anything we can produce on our own.

In the book of Romans, Paul is writing to believers living in a tumultuous culture amid a turbulent time as well. In chapter 5, he reminds them of their new status of peace with God through the justification of Christ. He says that those who claim faith in Jesus are no longer estranged from God and have peace in this new relationship even while uncertainty, confusion, and suffering persist.

This reconciliation with God brings more than an inward feeling of peace of mind. It is more than an emotional response that we try to tap into when we’re fearful or apprehensive. Paul writes in verses 1-2, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” We have constant access to peace through faith in Christ; peace is a reality, not just a feeling. Jesus has enabled us to stand in grace and God’s favor no matter what is going on in our lives or the world.

Paul goes on to point out that hope is a result of the peace we experience with God. Hope is the clearest and grandest benefit of the believer. It is the Christian’s hallmark to have an eternal and hopeful perspective on the future. Paul writes that we boast, or better said, we celebrate “in the hope of the glory of God.” We look forward with expectation to our eternal future, and that allows for hope in the present. Paul writes in verse 5:

Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

We are not ashamed of the hope we feel in Christ when the events and experiences of the world suggest that hope is futile. We are not deceived by hope as if it is a pipe dream, and we are not naive in our hope as if it is just a good idea. We are confident in the hope of Christ that comes from the peace of Christ as a result of our restored relationship with God through salvation. Hope and peace rest firmly in our hearts.

Our peace and hope are internal, but such peace and hope cannot stay inside. Verse 12 and 18 tell us:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.”

The gospel message of hope and peace is exactly what our world in turmoil desperately needs to hear and experience. May we know it ourselves and share it with others.

Read This Week: Romans 4

To the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring. – Romans 4:5-8, 16 NIV

It is interesting about us as people when it comes to starting and cultivating a relationship with God. We would rather work instead of trust. Our natural tendency is to do before we believe; earn before we submit. We default to attempting things on our own. We want to acquire our way to heaven instead of placing our faith in the only way. We desire to be righteous by our good deeds instead of the all-encompassing sacrifice of Christ.

Paul addresses this age-old human problem of striving versus believing in Romans 4. He has already said in Chapter 3 that God justifies all people by faith and that no one, regardless of heritage, culture, or background, can boast about their works. The Apostle reiterates this truth in verse 8: “The one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.”

It is humanly impossible to do anything that will justify us as righteous before God. That is only accomplished through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. This passage goes on to teach that justification by faith alone goes back to Abraham in the Old Testament. Paul writes, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” So if Abraham was justified by his faith and not his great works, that means we are too.

If we are justified by faith and not works, that means salvation is not restricted to one group of people. Paul quotes David and says, “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.” All those whose sins are forgiven, not just some of those. If we are justified by faith and not the law, that means we live by trusting in God’s perfect truth and promises, not a standard dictated by imperfect people.

The example of Abraham in this chapter shows that from the beginning, the Lord’s way of relating to human beings is by faith in Him rather than on works that could never be adequate to close the gap between the two. By faith is how God desires for us to be in relationship with Him.

This is the faith that works; faith that is key to a blessed life. Verse 6 beautifully says, “Blessed is the one to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.” We are blessed when our works are the outflow of our faith, not the replacement for it. We are blessed when we live and rest in the justification before God provided through Christ, instead of striving needlessly and without merit to take His place.

Read This Week: Romans 3

This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:22-24 NIV

One of the most treasured things about doing life on earth is experiencing the diversity of its people. It is a privilege to be alive and see the different races, cultures, backgrounds, anthropologies, and persuasions come together to form the beautiful tapestry of the human race. Because of this, our differences should not be ignored or avoided but celebrated, and declared appealing, respectable, and valuable. 

In recognizing our differences, we should also be aware of our sameness. No matter where we are from, what language we speak, or custom we adhere to, we are all made in the image of God. We all have inherent worth and an eternal destination. But we all have the same problem too. We are all born sinners in need of salvation and restoration to God. We are different people with the same dilemma in need of the same solution.

So far in Romans, Paul has outlined our shared problem of sin and God’s judgment, and he continues this in chapter 3. He writes in verses 9-10:

“We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one. No one understands; no one seeks God.'”

Paul makes it clear that there is no distinction between people in this. Everyone, despite their heritage, origin, or effort, shares the same fate. He continues to expound on this in verse 20 by saying that “no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law.” But in the next verse, Paul turns away from our shared problem and begins to focus on God’s solution for all – the gospel.

Paul affirms that God has made available to all people the right relationship to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ. Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” all people must repent and believe in Christ for salvation. Just as all are separate from God because of sin, all are declared righteous through grace that comes through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Just as we are all subject to death and God’s judgment, we are all likewise beneficiaries of His mercy and eternal life through the resurrection of Christ. It is the same gift of redemption for all different people.

We experience the same difference as human beings. We are unique and different people who have the same natural predicament. Yet, in our differences, we have the same hope in the same gospel. It comes through the one, true God who loves all, and sent His Son to save all who believe.

Read This Week: Romans 2

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
– Romans 2:1-3 NIV

At the end of Romans 1, Paul writes the most detailed, ominous, and graphic description of what happens to human beings when we continuously and willingly deny God and His truth. It is a sobering picture of lostness and man’s potential for evil when there is blatant defiance toward the Lord and no fear of consequences. He also notes that rebellion against God does not come from being unaware of Him, but being aware and choosing still to refuse and oppose Him.

Paul begins the second chapter talking about another form of lostness and unawareness that has a religious appearance. He turns his attention from culture and people far from Jesus to his Jewish people and those claiming a relationship with God. He noticed that the Jews were judging and condemning the Gentiles for their behavior and lifestyles. But Paul is not about to let this go without addressing the hypocritical and damaging nature of it. He writes in verse 1:

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

Here, the Scriptures warn those living in the 1st century and modern believers that expecting God to look the other way at our sin but punish the sins of others is to invite God’s judgment on us. Paul asserts that we are all subject to God’s perfect judgment and that He is the only worthy and righteous judge.

Therefore, those who know God should share the truth and hope of Christ with the lost while alerting them to the consequences of sin. What we are not to do is replace God as the adjudicator of people and pretend our sins are not under the same judgment. Essentially Paul is saying to check yourself before you feel tempted to elevate yourself above other people. Just because you agree with God’s law doesn’t mean you don’t also have to obey it. No one will escape God’s judgment.

This is a great checkpoint for us who claim a relationship with Jesus, especially in these troubled times. May the Holy Spirit empower us in obedience to His truth and law and not the judgment of others. May our hearts break for our sin as much as it does for the visible sin in our culture. May we not expect God to condone our unrepentant sin while punishing the same in the world. May our salvation from God’s wrath propel us to see others rescued and not condemned. Let’s check ourselves daily.

Read This Week: Romans 1:18-32

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. – Romans 1:21-22, 32 NIV

Back in 1984, singer and songwriter, Steve Perry penned these words to his hit single, Foolish Heart

“Foolish heart, hear me calling. Stop before you start falling. Foolish heart, heed my warning. You’ve been wrong before, don’t be wrong anymore.” 

The angst and perilous warning of not listening to a foolish heart is seen and felt in this haunting song. But so much more is seen and felt in the Apostle Paul’s words about a foolish heart in the back half of Romans 1. 

He has already told the Roman Christians that the evidence of God and his power and righteousness can be seen and understood in human consciousness and creation. Because of this reality, Paul says that we don’t have an excuse for not recognizing, knowing, and honoring God with our lives. So, the only explanation for turning our backs on faith in God is the foolish heart willfully rejecting the truth.

This passage in Romans is clear that we do not fall into sin by accident or in some unconscious, rebellious sleepwalk. We know what is right and the way to respond to God, but we deliberately reject Him to do what we want. Paul writes in verse 21:

They knew God, but they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

The foolish heart hears God calling but actively exchanges His truth and knowledge for all manner of evil things outlined in verses 24-31. This is a conscious decision that people make in choosing the world over God, accepting lies instead of the truth, and thinking it is better to live independently from the Creator.

The darkened heart doesn’t heed God’s warnings, and it makes fools out of us when we follow it instead of the wisdom of God. The foolish heart leads us to poor choices, destructive sin patterns, and ultimately undermines the authentic expression of Christ in the world. 

This doesn’t have to be the case. We can correspond to God’s truth and heed the warning of the Holy Spirit before we start falling. The foolish heart has been wrong before but doesn’t have to make us wrong again. We can submit to the presence and power of God to guide our lives. We can have wise hearts as we seek to know the Lord, give Him thanks, and glorify Him in our attitudes, actions, and witness to others who need Jesus.

Read This Week: Romans 1:1-17

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17 NIV

What is the point? That is a common question that we ask about so many things, including life itself. Discovering the point or purpose of something is a worthwhile endeavor, especially when we claim that thing is the foundation or our lives. Unfortunately, we seem to only think about the point when we question if there is one. The rest of the time, we mostly put our heads down to get through the day.

But this is not the desire God has for humankind. It is not His aspiration for the world; for every person, race, and culture. The Lord has revealed Himself in multiple ways and makes plain the purpose and power of following Him. No book in the Bible outlines this better than Romans, specifically the first chapter.

The Apostle Paul begins his letter by telling of his commitment to them and the preaching of the gospel. He also outlines what will be the theme of his writing: the Good News that is centered on Jesus and the purpose it holds for all those who receive it. Paul, through the Holy Spirit, reveals God’s glory, character, judgment, and salvation. He writes this about the revelation of God and the power of the Good News of Jesus:

What may be known about God is plain, because God has made it plain. It is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed — a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

God has not kept Himself hidden. His person, purpose, and power are available to us. God has revealed Himself to human consciousness (v.19), in creation (v.20), and through Jesus Christ (vv.6-7). Because of this, Paul writes that we are without excuse to know who God is, and those who reject Him do so by willingly turning away from the truth and denying Him by their lifestyle. Those who accept His gospel and acknowledge their need for Him will be saved from judgment and counted as righteous.

We need the gospel because we are sinners in need of salvation and a restored relationship with God. We need the power of that salvation to live by faith and do what is right. Apart from God, we have the capacity for all manner of evil things (vv. 24-32) but in Christ, we have the ability to live for Him, unashamedly preach His gospel, and accomplish amazing things in the world for His glory. That’s the point.