Scripture Reading: Romans 1-2 ...
What is going on in your life and in the world around you? It seems that things are going “from bad to worse,” as the human race faces the threat of extinction through nuclear war, climate change, disease, terrorism and an endless list of self-inflicted destructive attitudes and behaviors. Pretending that all is well is a foolish endeavor, given the current state of mankind, whether in our families, our nations or the world at large. Why is all of this happening, and is there any hope for mankind? While some try to save the planet, the real question is, “Can we save the human race?” And the answer is, “NO!!” WE can’t save the human race ... but ... the God who created this planet and who created mankind in His image can and will save those who believe in Jesus from His coming judgment!!
That is what the Bible is about and what Paul’s letter to the Romans is about. Romans is written to "all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints" (1:7). These words, along with the rest of the letters of the New Testament, were written to those who believed in Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. At the beginning of his letter, Paul immediately explains the purpose of his writing and of his entire ministry in Chapter 1, verses 1-4, where he says that he is "set apart for the gospel of God ... regarding His Son ... Jesus Christ our Lord." Then he says that the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel is "to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith" (1:5). He speaks personally to his readers and says, "You also are among those who are called to belong to Christ" (1:6).
God’s calling of some to Himself sets the context for the entire letter to the Romans and reveals why you and I need to hear his words - God's words, too. He states it clearly in Chapter 1, verse 16, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, ..." Think about that, the Gospel is the "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!" Eternal life rests in hearing and understanding and believing this message!! Romans is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in Chapters 3-8 Paul is going to give the longest and clearest explanation of the message of the Gospel found anywhere in God's Word.
As you read these first two chapters you will discover Paul laying the groundwork for WHY people - ALL people - need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The popular idea today that God loves everybody and forgives everybody and ultimately gives life to everybody is crushed in these chapters. Sin is sin, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, and God's wrath will fall on the religious and the non-religious who do not confess their sin and their need for a Savior and who thus do not believe in Jesus Christ.
It all has to do with “righteousness.” Notice what Paul declares in Chapter 1, verse 17: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” In order to live in God’s presence you must BE righteous, good, perfect. Most people today think that if there is a “God,” He must be loving and kind and good. Why, then, do the most primitive tribes of people all over the darkest places of the world FEAR their “gods”? Mankind has an inner awareness that there is a “righteousness,” a “goodness,” toward which we are drawn, but which we cannot attain. Many people reject what they call “the idea of ‘God’” because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Guilt does that!
Ignoring the truth, however, does not change the truth. God does not lower His standard of righteousness simply because you and I cannot attain His standard of righteousness. In fact, Paul makes it abundantly clear in these first two chapters that God’s judgment is the just consequence of mankind’s foolish rebellion. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God made it plain to them” (1:18-19). God’s wrath, His just judgment, is the inevitable consequence of sin.
What follows in verses 21-32 reveals the perilous state in which we find ourselves and explains the condition of our world and more specifically, of the heart of mankind. “Although they knew God (the truth they “suppress”), 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 ...” (1:21-22). This is the tragedy of the human race that continues to be displayed before our eyes today.
People often ask, “What makes people do what they do?” You read about it in the news and you see it replayed over and over. Families, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states and nations all experience the same destructive power of unrighteousness, “unrightness.” Since mankind rejected the knowledge of God, “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts ...” (1:24). “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts” (1:26). “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (1:28). God “gave them over,” He “let them go!”
And lest anyone think that you and I are any better, Paul speaks to those who consider themselves “religious,” who are “righteous in their own eyes,” and says that these pass judgment on themselves when they judge others because they, too, are unrighteous and in need of repentance: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed” (2:5). Sin brings judgment, and as we will see as we go on to Chapter 3, we all deserve God’s wrath.
Jew or Gentile, trying to be “good,” to live by God’s law or by some other standard of good behavior or morality falls short. Being a Jew was not enough and being religious was not enough to avoid God’s wrath and His coming judgment. The only sure and certain hope is the inward work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel (2:29). That's why the Gospel is such good news! In the Gospel a “righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith!”
Heavenly Father, I read Your Word and I hear Your call to the obedience that comes by faith and I long to be righteous. Thank You for Jesus and for the righteousness I receive by faith! May Your Spirit circumcise my heart and make it Yours! In His name, Amen