This first chapter of Romans starts out as Paul’s letters do, with Paul stating his credentials and then a greeting to whom he is writing. The difference in the letter to the Romans and most of Paul’s other letters is that Paul planted the churches to which he was writing in most of his letters. But he did not plant the church in Rome. It is believed that there were Romans who were present at Pentecost and they returned to Rome and the church was birthed in Rome through those people. Therefore, the faith that came out of Rome was from that movement. Paul only knew of them because as stated in verse 8 their “faith is proclaimed in all the world.” Paul had been praying to go to Rome but something was preventing him. He tells them in this letter he wants to come to Rome so that they may be “mutually encouraged”. He recognizes however that at the time his main ministry is not in Rome.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17)
What is the righteousness of God? In my studying I read that the righteousness of God does not describe man as being righteous. The righteousness of God is something that we receive from God. It is a gift from God to man, not a description of man. I think as a human race we tend to think of righteousness in uncomfortable terms. We do not want to think of ourselves as righteous in that we think that would be pious or haughty. However when we realize that the righteousness that we receive from God is a free gift when we become christians it tends to compel us to want to live a more righteous life for God. Living righteously simply means living right in the grace that God has given us.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18)
There is a wrath of God to contend with when people go on living in ungodliness and unrighteousness. The commentary stated that ungodliness refers to sins committed against God and unrighteousness refers to sins of man against man. When we go on living however we choose, knowing that it is not right living it is suppressing the truth of God. I have heard people often say “this is just who I am” or “I am what I am” but “God loves me for it anyway”. This is suppressing the truth of who God is. Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins and He is the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world. It is true that we all sin and that we all fall short. However when you just excuse your sins and don’t work on them, lay them down and attempt to change within the power of God that you are given, then you are not living in the truth of who God is and what Jesus came to do for us. Yes God loves you (ME) anyway, however He expects me to work on those sins and to lay them down. This does not mean I will ever become sinless but that I will grow in Christ and some of the sins that I formerly committed will not be a struggle for me anymore.
Basically, what I see is that we may all be at a different level in our christian walk. This is where in my opinion grace will come in. Someone who is a new christian may have sins that you if you are a more seasoned christian do not have. We must give grace to the one who is growing in their faith. But growth is the key. According to Paul in this first chapter, if you do not honor God nor give thanks to him for what he has done for you, then you have a foolish heart. God may give you over to a debased mind. And before we all get to pious thinking our sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s let’s look at the list.
“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29-32)
Ouch! I don’t know about you but my toes are sore. Lord forgive me for the things that are in my heart and the ways I have not honored you. Please help us to recognize what in this list may be ours and Lord, please help me to lay down to you what I need to change in my own life.