Bible in a Year, Week 6: Romans

This is the sixth weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is the book of Romans. It should only take about 10 minutes a day, or about 2-3 chapters a day to complete the assignment.

Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Romans.

Background: It is obvious that the apostle Paul wrote Romans because of the very first word and introduction of the letter. It seems from chapter 15 that he wrote this on his third missionary journey as he was about to return to Jerusalem, which would have been between 53-57 A.D. Other evidence may indicate more specifically that he wrote the letter around 57 A.D. from the city of Corinth at the end of that journey.

Paul wrote the letter to them because he was not able to visit them. The dominant theme and central concept of the letter is righteousness. Paul addresses how it has been lost by all people who are sinners, how it is received through faith in Jesus alone, and how it changes our lives to live for Christ. Thus, it could be said that the theme of Romans is Righteousness from God.

Romans 1: Paul begins this letter in typical fashion. It was a common opening for letters of this time, as it was also for Paul’s letters. There are three parts to the opening A) Identification of the author, B) Identification of the recipients, C) Greeting. Paul greets them appropriately in grace–God’s undeserved love–and in peace–God’s free gift through Jesus.

Paul then expresses his great desire to be with the Roman Christians. How he longed to share more with them about the gospel–the good news that Jesus Christ is Savior. That news of free and full forgiveness is a message that Paul was determined to share with all. He was not ashamed at all to share that great news with anyone and everyone. What a joy to know and to share that righteousness comes from God through faith and not through our works.

Paul continues in chapter one by showing the need for the gospel. All people in the world are sinners. All are and continue to act in a corrupt and sinful way. All deserve God’s wrath and punishment.

As a number of sins are mentioned here in this opening chapter, it should be noted that homosexuality is also mentioned. God is very clear in these words that homosexuality is indeed sinful and against his will. Gays and lesbians come up with all kinds of reasons to continue in their lifestyles: “I was born this way,” “It feels good,” “Times have changed,” “This is real love,” “God’s Word doesn’t apply any more,” and so on. Yet none of those reasons (or excuses) are valid. It is against God’s will. Even the “I was born this way” excuse is not valid. While that issue won’t be discussed here, even if a person were born that way, it doesn’t matter. All people are born sinful. Does that mean they should sin? If a person is born with a predisposition to hate (which we all are because we all are sinners), does that mean it is permissible to murder? It is not our opinions or thoughts or feelings that matter on such issues. God’s Word and his decrees are what matter. We must follow his commands and not our own desires.

Romans 2: Paul continues his thoughts in chapter 2. Since all are sinful, no one can stand in judgment of others. The fact is, because all have sinned, all will be judged. “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.” Whether you are Jew or Gentile, whether you are Christian or non-Christian, all people will be judged and condemned by God if they sin.

Speaking of the Jews, being Jewish or a descendant of Abraham does not help. Following the laws of Moses does not help. Those things do not give a free pass to heaven. For even those that are Jews are sinners. And all sinners come under God’s judgement. Thus, Paul establishes a key point in 2:28-29: True Jews are Jews by faith (which means they could be Jews or Gentiles but are more importantly believers in Christ as Savior).

Romans 3: Building on the previous two chapters, the sinfulness of the world is established once more in chapter 3. Quoting several psalms, Paul emphasizes the point that there is no one who is righteous before God. The key Bible verse that summarizes his point is found in verse 23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But with that section Paul makes a transition. He goes on to to relate how all are sinners yet all have also been forgiven through Jesus. He continues in verse 23, “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.”

There is nothing that we can or need to do. Our declaration of innocence is free through the redemption (buying of freedom) that came through Jesus’ life and death. Thus, Paul boldly asserts, “We maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Again, there is nothing we can or need to do. Salvation is ours through faith!

Romans 4: Paul proves the point of universal justification through a story from Israel’s past. Abraham was justified and declared innocent through his faith. Jesus had not yet come yet. However, as he believed, it was credited to him as righteousness. Salvation belonged to him through his faith–not because of his faith, but through his faith!

Thus, Abraham’s offspring are not his literal descendants. Abraham’s children are those who join him in faith and who are credited with righteousness. The true Israel is a spiritual Israel–the collection of all believers.

Romans 5: This declaration of innocence (justification) brings us such great joy! Knowing that we need not do anything for our salvation, this causes us to rejoice in the hope that we have. We can even rejoice in our sufferings because they develop perseverance, character, and even more hope in the eternal life that is ours!

It is a wonder to note how God accomplished this salvation. Paul compares and contrasts Adam and Jesus in chapter 5. As death and sin and punishment came through Adam, so also life and forgiveness and salvation came through Jesus. One man brought the ill effects of sin into the world, one God-man brought the blessing of forgiveness and justification to all.

Romans 6: Since we have been justified freely and fully, should we just go on sinning then? Should we live it up because we know we will be forgiven anyways? Paul famously answers, “By no means!” We now have new spiritual lives because of Christ. Our new man now goes on to live in thanks and love and obedience to the Lord. Our new man pushes aside our old man so that we live in accord with the ways of the Lord.

For we have been baptized into Christ. When we were baptized, it was as if we were on that cross or in that tomb with him. It was as if we rose with him from the dead. For when we were baptized into Christ we were united with him and his work.

These words about baptism in chapter 6 are more proof positive that children and infants ought to be baptized. If baptism works such wonders, if God can bring such grace and forgiveness through the water and the Word, why withhold that from anyone? Certainly children and infants are also sinners. Scripture is beyond clear about that. Therefore we dare not withhold from them the forgiveness of sins and a connection with Christ!

Now that we have been justified and baptized and connected to Christ, we are now his slaves. Not slaves in a derogatory or demeaning way. No! Rather, we are God’s servants who willingly and joyfully do his bidding out of thanks and love for the forgiveness he has given.

Romans 7: But oh what a struggle it is! Every day the old sinful nature wages war against the new spiritual nature. Often the good we want to do we do not do. Often the bad things we do not want to do we do anyways. Thus the battle rages on, and often we lose and fall into sin. We can only but join Paul in saying, “Thanks be to God!” Though we battle and fight and often fall into sin, we still have forgiveness in Jesus!

Romans 8: The comfort that we continually hold on to as believers is the new life that is ours in Christ. Through faith we have a new life, a new life that is governed and guided by the Holy Spirit. It is he who lives in us and works with us to do what is pleasing to God and what is right. In fact, he even helps us with his own prayers on our behalf. What a comfort to know that God the Holy Spirit himself is praying for us and working for us!

Thus, as God’s children, we can know that everything can and will work out for our good. Whatever comes our way, we can remain confident that he has his plan in mind. Whatever problem, danger, or disaster, there is nothing in all the world that can separate us from the love that is ours in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Romans 9-11: In these chapters Paul returns to the topic of Israel. How his heart hurt that the majority of the Jews had rejected Christ! How he longed for them to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah! Yet over and over again they rejected God, his grace, and his chosen Savior, Jesus.

Once more Paul makes clear then that God’s true children, and the true Israel, are the ones who believe in Jesus as Savior. We are the ingrafted branches that God has brought into his family. As we see this point then, that true Israel is a spiritual Israel (believers), we understand what he means in chapter 11. When he says that all Israel will be saved, he does not mean that there will be a worldwide conversion of the Jews. The nation of Israel will not be restored to former glory and all the Jews come to faith. That is a false teaching and only wishful thinking. Since true Israel consists of all believers, Paul means in chapter 11 that all believers will be saved and not all those of Jewish descent.

It should also be noted here that Paul addresses the topic of faith itself. How does someone come to faith? How does one come to believe? Not by personal choice or decision or acceptance. As Paul says elsewhere, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ accept by the Holy Spirit.” Rather, Paul tells us in chapter 10 that, “Faith comes from hearing the message.” We come to faith because God works that faith in our hearts through his Word. One cannot come to faith apart from hearing the Word of God and the good news of salvation.

Romans 12: This rich love and mercy of God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ compels us to live for him. We can offer our lives as living sacrifices to God, sacrifices that show our thanks to him. Paul gives examples of how we can living such lives of love at the end of chapter 12.

Romans 13: We are reminded in chapter 13 that God has established the authorities. We may disagree with some government decisions. We may want a different candidate to be in a leadership position. But nevertheless, God has established government to rule over us and put it in place for his good purposes. Thus, we are to submit to the authorities–as long as they are not commanding us to do something contrary to Scripture.

Romans 14-15: Continuing with the overriding principle of love, Paul talks about the weak and the strong in chapters 14-15. Those who are stronger in faith should not flaunt it over those who are weak. Just because God allows us to eat any creature, we should not flaunt that over one who is conscience-bound to being a vegetarian. In modern example, just because we are allowed by Scripture to drink alcohol in moderation does not mean that we should flaunt it over those who struggle with that concept. Once more, the principle we follow and live by is simple–love!

Romans 15-16: Paul concludes in a similar way that he opened this letter. He expresses his desire to visit the Romans and to continue sharing with them the good news of salvation and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Until that time, he urges the Romans (as all Christians even today) to watch out for those who cause divisions. We should be wary of those who teach contrary to the Word of God and those who may cause divisions in the church. In love for our souls, the souls of others, and the Word of God we are to keep away from them!

We pray then as we conclude the book of Romans that God would increase our faith and our trust in him through these words that are so rich in teaching and truth. God grant that as we learn more about our Savior we also maintain Paul’s claim in our lives, “I am not ashamed of the gospel!”

Next Week’s Readings (starting 2/13/11):  1 & 2 Corinthians

To view or download a copy of the 1-Year Bible Reading Plan (New Testament first), click here.

 

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Posted on February 8, 2011, in Bible in a Year, Church and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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