Today, we are reading God’s word.
Why are we reading Romans?
Because it is my jam! Actually, because many consider this to be the greatest literary works of all time. It lays out the Gospel, salvation, and God’s love to ALL people who come to Him. It helped me tremendously as I tend to want to be an overachiever, depend on works for worth, and have a past of believing that is how you gain God’s favor. But Romans says otherwise. Our salvation comes from what He has already done for us, not what we will ever do. We must die in the flesh, accept His gift of Grace and be reborn in the spirit of Jesus Christ. That is Romans and it is amazing.
The Whole Series…
In this passage…
In last week’s passage, Paul addresses the Jewish people of the day. Many people of the time had come to the conclusion that as the Jewish people they were saved merely just by being Jewish. There were a lot of questions at the time about what it meant to be Jewish, the chosen people of God, and to be a Gentile/ Greek (everyone else) and a Christian. Were Gentile Christians expected to uphold Jewish traditions and laws before being Christian?
Paul explains that it is not the ceremonial circumcision, the law, or being a in a specific group that justifies you before God…
Obeying the law is a matter of the heart, not the action. The ceremonial circumcision is an outward expression of an inward devotion to God. ~ “…His praise is not from man but from God.” ~ Romans 2:29
Essentially in much of Chapter 2, he is calling out the hypocrites. Do we obey law for law’s sake and claim to be of God, meanwhile our hearts are vacant of the spirit?
In Chapter 3,
Paul continues to talk to the Jewish people, addressing them as those entrusted with God’s word. Can we ever be perfect? Because one has the law, does that make them less sinful? Is anyone without sin?
And then it really starts to get good….
What are we justified by???
…through faith! It’s all about His grace, friends!
Remember the context…
Paul is writing this in a time when many Jews were wondering if these new ‘Gentile/ Greek’ Christians should follow Jewish law. When Paul is talking about the law here, he is addressing the Jewish law of the Torah, the old testament. Should one follow the Jewish law before following Christ? And if not, will a non-Jewish person be judged for not upholding the law, if they never knew it? This was a hot debate at the time.
At that time, Gentiles most likely will never have heard the word of the living God.
When he speaks of the righteousness of God in Paul’s day this would be referring to God’s faithfulness to His promises to Isreal and His covenant with them. In Jewish courts of the time, there would be three parties, the plaintiff, the defendant, and the Judge. The judge was called to be impartial and carry out the law whether that was to punish wrongdoers or support the innocent. His judgment showed his righteousness or faithfulness to the covenant. In the same way, God’s righteousness is His faithfulness to His chosen people.
As with much of the bible, there remains a context we must understand when reading any passage. But it is a living word and the verses continue to speak to people of all ages, at all times, in all areas of the world.
God Remains Faithful
1Then what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision? 2Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.
3True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful? 4Of course not! Even if everyone else is a liar, God is true. As the Scriptures say about him,
5“But,” some might say, “our sinfulness serves a good purpose, for it helps people see how righteous God is. Isn’t it unfair, then, for him to punish us?” (This is merely a human point of view.) 6Of course not! If God were not entirely fair, how would he be qualified to judge the world? 7“But,” someone might still argue, “how can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” 8And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.
All People Are Sinners
9Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10As the Scriptures say,
19Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
Christ Took Our Punishment
21But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. 22We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.
23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
27Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
29After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
~Romans 3:1-31 NLT
Paul starts this passage by asking, if we said in chapter two that God will show no favoritism to the Jewish people for having the law over the Gentile who does not, then what advantage is there to be Jewish? Paul responds with the Much! The Jewish people were the only ones to have the word of the living God. At this time, if you were not Jewish there was a super good chance that you will have had no access to God’s words. Think about that! We know through the word of God we are able to become so much closer to Him. Our relationship with Him is largely based on our time we spend in His word, learning about Him. The Jewish people had the word and a covenant with the one, true living God. That is huge.
But Paul wants to make this distinction- having the law does not save/justify us with the Lord. The law serves to highlight the fact that we can never be perfect, as God is.
“None is righteous, no not one….. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”
…But God is good…
And for me, this is when it all starts to get so good! In the ESV, the wording starts off a bit different.
God’s faithfulness is not shown through the law. Rules don’t justify us with Him. I’m going to repeat this next part because I can not say it any better. Paul says it all.
23For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. ~Romans 3:23-26
I mean, come on! Does that not say it all right there? He then follows this by stating that our boasting in our works, in our obeying of the law does not make us accepted by God. It does not save us, make us more right, or better than anyone else. We can never be perfect.
28So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. ~Romans 3:28
But then Paul says something that I do not believe I would have understood, even short time ago. Not until you have given your life to Christ does all this make sense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the bible is like an ocean. There is always more to find, understand, swim and discover. Paul then says…
31Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law. ~Romans 3:31
When you surrender to God, turn your life to Christ and walk in faith, something different happens. You want to follow Him. You want to obey. You want to live to know Him and make Him known. Only when we have faith do we understand what it means to uphold law.
To understand His Grace
Questions to consider…
What does Paul say about God in verses 1-8?
2. Like the Jewish people had been entrusted with God’s word in Paul’s time, we have been entrusted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How have you upheld His teachings?
3. Why do you believe Paul chose to quote from the old testament so often in this passage? What message is it bringing?
4. What is said here about how God treated sins of past times?
5. Do you feel like you are walking by faith, or boasting in achievements? How do you feel about Paul’s statement that nothing you do, no level of obeying will save you, but rather it is through God’s grace we are made right?
…Next week ~ The Faith of Abraham, ~Romans 4:1-25
As we begin reading the book of Romans, it is good to know some backstory- Who wrote it? Why? When? Who for? Why is it special?
was a man chosen by God to explain the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. He was an unlikely pick and a testament to God’s grace and how He pursues us. His radical transformation from a Christian persecutor to who many consider being the patriarch of the Christian faith was shocking and beautiful. It symbolizes all of our hope. As Paul writes in many of his letters, in summary, if ‘this sinner (referring to himself) can overcome and be born again in Christ we all have hope in Christ.’
The letter of Romans was written by Paul to the church in Rome about 57 A.D. He wrote to them to let them know he was on his way and to apologize for not coming sooner. He also wrote this not knowing if he would make it there alive, as his ministry of bringing Christ to the world was very dangerous, something we so take for granted.
The church in Rome was not planted by Paul himself, unlike many others at the time. It is believed that the church in Rome was most likely formed by the Jews who had been in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:10).
This was written to help clear up and bring the full Gospel to those disputing the justification and mercy of Christ to all believers and not just those who first kept Jewish law. At this time, there were still a lot of Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles who wanted to become Christians must become Jewish in their customs first before being saved by Christ.
The main point of Romans is Paul bringing the heat- He teaches that it is not by law or works that we are saved. It is not by what WE do, but by what GOD DID for us that saves us. We are justified solely because of Christ amazing gift of grace to forgive our sins. We were never expected to be perfect as God’s law is an expression of Him and therefore perfect. Our works are impossible in saving us because we are not perfect as only God is. We are expected to accept our imperfection, recognize our sin, accept His gift of grace, rely on Him through faith, and because of this our works become an expression of our love and knowledge of what He and only He could do. Law, nor works save us or make us Christian.
Resources used in this study:
Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley
N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides, Romans, N.T. Wright