“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-4).
“Through him we [Paul] received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake” (Romans 1:5). It is unfortunate that Romans 1 is so frequently associated with condemnation and much less frequently with salvation, but as I have grown in the Lord, the Holy Spirit has expanded my notions of wrath and grace. As it turns out, my ideas about wrath and grace were quite ungodly; they were quite human, in fact. And being human, more accurately, our human brokenness, is a big problem Paul elaborates on in his letter to the Romans. Fortunately, Paul also joyfully proclaims the solution: Jesus Christ, the Lord!
In Romans 1, the apostle Paul answers the quintessential, burning question, on everyone’s minds. The apostle explains, in his letter, why all of humanity needs Jesus Christ, and why God’s verdict against humanity is just, for all people, everywhere, Jews and Gentiles, alike. “For although they knew God, 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 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:21-23). The revelation of wrath was God stepping back and giving humanity what it wanted. God made Himself known to all, yet humanity pursued futile philosophies and speculations, and consequently, lost the capacity to see and think clearly. Therefore, should God pour out His wrath even upon those whom have never heard of a Savior, His verdict remains just; their unfaithfulness to what they could have known convicts them. Despite all the scientific achievements we enjoy today, our boasting in ourselves is but a delusion, another idol, for we are repeating the very same error as those Paul referred to in his letter. Our boastful egos make no room for God, and as a result, our world plunges deeper and deeper into ignorance, in every way that truly matters. “’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). A timeless truth emerges, the truth expressed in Ecclesiastes: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (1:9). Humanity needs Jesus Christ, because humanity is lost without a Savior, in every respect.
What’s so exciting is what Paul makes apparent in the first four verses of his letter! Not only is there nothing new, with regard to the futility of humanity, and here is the exciting news, but there is nothing new, with regard to the righteousness of God! “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God—the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:1-4). And recall that incident all the way back in Genesis 3, God declared the coming of a Savior, even in the midst of passing judgement. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Even in the midst of wrath, there is room for grace, and much for this reason, I believe God has helped me come to see the relationship between grace and admonishment. In fact, I’ve come to believe that grace without some measure of reproof is counterfeit. Indeed, the righteousness of God demands that sin be punished, and the penalty for sin is eternal death; Jesus paid the penalty in full that righteousness demands. No wonder Paul was so eager to preach the Good News to the Romans in person. “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). God’s wrath against sinful humanity was not without grace; God’s wrath was not poured out without mercy, and as with grace, I will probably never see wrath quite the same again.
Romans 1 is full of any number of other revelations and wonderful truths worth exploring, but I have written what I believe the Holy Spirit has guided me to write.
Romans 1 speaks into our lives today; both the consequence of sin, as well as the way to restoration and life. As I embark on my Roman holiday, I look forward to the journey ahead. I found condemnation in Romans 1, but I also found salvation, and I believe to portray this chapter in any other way is doing a great disservice to God. Until next time, and Romans 2!
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