Today: [Romans 1:] In the book of Romans Paul speaks with presumptive authority to a church that he has never met before. He reasons of truth and the reality of salvation through the merits of Christ and nothing else. He takes us by the hand and begins to walk us down what some have called the Roman Road, at the end of which we will be found embracing Christ and Christ alone as the basis of our salvation and the agency of the righteousness by which we confidently stand before the Father.
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[Rom 1:1-15 KJV] 1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared [to be] the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: 5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: 6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: 7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; 12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. 13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. 14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. 15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
We now come to the book of Romans authored by the Apostle Paul. Paul’s letter to the Romans is the 6th longest book in the New Testament and constitutes Paul’s magnum opus in which he expounds in theological terms the salvation for man found in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a work of massive substance and towering intellect. In studying Romans, we will not be afforded the luxury of dispensing with thinking for in its chapters we find a point by point assault on the sin nature of man brought to its knees at the foot of the cross. The authorship being that of Paul is beyond dispute having been firmly established by extra-biblical scholarship as early as the second century. It was written from Corinth around 55 AD and addressed to the Roman Christian community whom Paul had not had the privilege of meeting as yet. In light of this fact we are impressed by the authority that Paul asserts over this church in the center of the empire that he had no history with concerning its founding. It is also interesting that Paul wrote this pillar of apostolic authority from Corinth where the letters to Corinth reveal his apostolic recognition was deeply called in question.
What is the legacy of the epistle to the Romans? It’s most profound mark on Christianity is left in that it severs forever any link between the performance-based approach to God under the law and the appropriation of saving grace by faith and faith alone that was so riveting and liberating the Martin Luther in the days when the Protestant Reformation had its birth. What you should expect to experience as we study is a complete decompiling of all religious vanity or pride in your own worth or your own righteousness. You will be left having studied this writing with your anchor in Christ and Christ alone. The liberty that this brings to the believer is staggering and dumbfounding as well in light of the fact that the truths of the book of Romans are so little understood or taught in the modern church.
Paul begins his salutation to the Roman Christians by affixing the subject of his letter in v. 2 as “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord…” We read these words, and accept them without question. To the early Christians, these were founding principles as yet to be firmly established beyond question. They speak of the humanity of Christ being made after the seed of David “according to the flesh..” This implies that whoever and whatever Jesus is there is more to him than mere humanity. He is set apart. Human yes, after the seed of David, but “declared to be the Son of God by the Spirit of Holiness” and by “the Ressurection from the Dead…” What makes Jesus different? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the fact that he was the one man in all history to conquer death on His own merits.
That word “declared” in “declared to be the son of God…” is a word that land surveyors use when they come out with their measuring lines to stake out a piece of ground for a new owner. They are “declaring” the ground or the boundaries. We see by this that it was the Holy Spirit – the same Holy Spirit that Jesus gave to us when He ascended up on high, this Holy Spirit is the agency by which Jesus was distinguished as the remarkable, miracle-working, death defeating Son of God. Do you understand what Paul is saying? He is saying that Jesus didn’t use any secret power as the Son of God that was not or is not available to you and me by virtue of the indwelling of that same Holy Spirit in us. Jesus virgin birth never produced one miracle. His sinless nature never produced one miracle. All was by the instrumentality and the agency of the Holy Spirit that was then imparted to you and I in fullness on the day of Pentecost so that we are without excuse! We too as Jesus declared will do the works of Jesus and verily greater works than these because He ascended to the Father.
[Romans 1:16-32 KJV]
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed [it] unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in [their] knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; 29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, 30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: 32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
In the first part of our chapter Paul makes his introductions and now in v. 16 declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel (the message) of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. We know that salvation was offered first to the Jews and they as a nation despised the Holy One and fell under a veil of unbelief unto this day. What about the Greeks and other nations? Paul goes on to say that this message of the Christ (a Jewish Messianic concept) is not exclusively for Jews any longer but now because the Jew turns away and forsook his own mercy – now the nations of the earth are afforded the mercies found in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
Paul states in v. 16 that the gospel is the power of God and then in verse 17 states why he believes this: The gospel is powerful not because its words and its message are sacred in a superstitious way. The gospel is powerful because it reveals something called the righteousness of God. What is the righteousness of God? It is that native state of relationship that Adam was created for and enjoyed in the garden of God before the fall. It is a state of absolute acceptance and connection with the God of the Universe with no barrier or boundary excluding us from the fullness of His presence or power in any way whatsoever.
The gospel then is powerful, because it reveals righteousness and the basis by which the Edenic entitlement from the beginning may be appropriated by men once more because of who Jesus is and what He did for you and me 2000 years ago. What is that secret means of access? Is it learning something mystical? No. Is it being inducted into a secret society with dread oaths and secret rites? No. Is it giving your body to be burned or sacrificing yourself as a veritable icon of good works and moral perfection? No. All of these are filthy rags. The gospel is powerful and means of appropriating the righteousness of God because it points us to the simplicity of FAITH BELIEVING in the finished work of Calvary and not any other thing as the means and the agency by which we come into union with Christ and right relationship with the Father as entitled sons and daughters in the kingdom. What does this mean? It means that all that God is or could ever be in our life is brought online as our immediate experience by who Jesus is and what He did for us 2000 years ago and not any other thing than our simple belief, our “yes” and “amen” surrendering our lives to the implications of that glorious provision.
Verse 18 goes on to state that ANY OTHER ideation of expurgating sin, weakness, or failure is nothing but UNGODLINESS (not God-like) and UNRIGHTEOUSNESS constituting the error of those as the Jewish people who HELD THE TRUTH, even Jesus Himself in their ranks but they held Him in UNRIGHTEOUSNESS by not believing and therefore were excluded regardless of how rigorous they might be in adhering to Jewish custom, law, and statutes. These things are NOTHING before God who ONLY accepts not your goodness, your morality, your religious pedigree, none of these only the shed blood of Calvary and your confidence and abandonment of all alternative means of evaluating your worth as a human being other than saying from the heart “I have fallen at the foot of the Cross and surrendered myself body and soul to the savior forevermore…”
This demand that men answer for the truth of God is universal even among those who never heard the gospel or were exposed to Moses’ law. How can this be? Because v. 19-20 state that everything that can possibly be known of God is seen not in mystery but clearly in the created universe would one take the time and consideration to measure its truths. Men and science look at the universe and choose not to see the Creator and in so doing put out their eyes and the eyes of their disciples from that which God holds them accountable for. The scientist who never read a verse of the Bible will be held accountable for what he saw in the microscope for all of creation from atoms to the universe itself declare with unimpeachable declaration the reality of a loving God to whom every man, woman boy, and girl will one day give account of himself or herself to.
Because they professed themselves to be wise and excluded God, we find that God takes that culture and gives them up to the worship of that which is corruptible. Men and women try to find significance in natural things, in materialism or popular culture and it is all vanity; therefore the truth of God they cannot avoid they then turn into a lie pointing a finger of accusation at a God they claim does not exist. What is heaven’s response? Verse 24 tells us that this people, this nation that excludes Him from their thoughts and their public discourse will be GIVEN UP BY GOD to what v. 26 defines as same-sex relations and passions. Now let us consider something? If God gave them UP – if God gives a nation UP to these things why are we judging them for what God turned them over to? You cannot solve the problem on the level of the problem. The problem is that they did not include God in their lives, their culture or their public discourse, so God gave them over to what we as Christians judge them for. That is criticizing someone for blowing their nose because they have a cold. We need to focus not on the symptom but on that which brought it about. We waste our breath railing on the LGBT community when they are the symptom of something that we are responsible for and can do something about – bringing our testimony, our faith and our discourse regarding the claims of Christ to a world that has made every effort to exclude all mention of Him from their culture.
Paul goes on describing the descent into hell of those who have excluded God from their lives. They are v. 29 filled with unrighteousness, fornication, envy, murder, DEBATE, backbiters, spiteful, boasters. Hold on a minute! Have you seen any Christians (so-called engaging in debate?). Have you seen any Christians acting spitefully toward one another, or backbiting one another? Have you seen Christians acting in boastfulness or championing the boastful? What brings this about? What does this arise from? Let the word of God discern the hateful, boastful, spiteful, not just those in the world but those in the ranks of the church – what is their diagnosis? They (v. 28) do not like to retain God in their knowledge and are engaging in that which leads to a reprobate condition.
The chapter concludes. The stage is set. We stand at the judgment bar of the unshakable truth of God that must be confronted in us so that we might with full acceptance see our nakedness, our need of the savior and turn with our whole hearts toward Him abandoning all else.
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