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Day 293 – Thru the Bible
Today we start Romans. Here’s the overview video for verses 1-4.
Video – Read Scripture: Romans 1-4
How does this video help you understand the first four verses in Romans?
Romans 1 – God fulfills His promises. In the polytheistic Roman world of hundreds of gods, there is One who sends “the gospel”. This is the good news of a Savior who will destroy death and rescue creation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:18–39). This gospel was promised in advance, as the Old Testament prophets and their writings attest. They pointed to David’s Son, God’s Son, whose heavenly favor was confirmed by His resurrection from the dead. To get the message of salvation out, God in His grace set apart messengers (apostles) like Paul. They announced a blessing to be received “among all the nations”, an echo and fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3). That message and blessing continue to penetrate the world today.
The heartbeat of those who know God through faith in Jesus is to make Him known. Paul longs to visit Rome “to preach the gospel” there and through mutual encouragement to take the gospel to even more distant lands, like Spain (Romans 15:24). The gospel’s proper application is for the benefit of those still unreached; those who receive it must battle the temptation to soak up its benefits solely for themselves.
At the same time, the gospel is not irrelevant for those already in Jesus. Notice that Paul says he is “eager to preach the gospel” to the Roman church—those who already knew the gospel (Romans 1:15)! Paul viewed the gospel as the daily food for every human heart, since it is not just abstract truth but “the power of God.”
Announcing the epistle’s theme, Paul speaks of the power of the good news of Jesus’ coming, His life, His saving death, and His resurrection. Through proclamation, Jesus’ words and work save “everyone who believes”, whatever their identity, social location, ethnicity, or other human distinctives. This takes place as “the righteousness of God” (i.e., God satisfying His justice by putting the penalty of our sin on Jesus) “is revealed” to those who confess faith in Jesus so that they might live faithfully. Undergirding these truths is Old Testament Scripture, in this case Habakkuk 2:4, quoted in Romans 1:17.
The gospel gains urgency in the light of God’s verdict on humanity. Transgression gives rise to divine wrath. Examples of transgression are ingratitude and idolatry. Homosexual behavior is also depicted as odious in God’s sight. None of us is innocent of a number of the sins described.
Behind the good news of the gospel lies the tough news that all people are implicated in acts and attitudes that God has promised to punish unless His means of grace are embraced. The gospel is the antidote, for through trust in Jesus comes “the obedience of faith,” believing as God knows is best for us. Our lives grow in the richness of knowing and being known by Jesus.
This chapter is a reality check for all of us. How do you see the reality of you sin here?
Romans 2 – Paul expands on the human plight. People condemn themselves by the way they judge others for things they themselves do. Paul’s rhetorical questions confirm the universality of human error. God kindly gives time for repentance and reform, but people presume on Him and store up future woe, when God will act to vindicate His name.
“According to his works” can be rendered “according to how a person lives.” Some will seek God and receive eternal life. From numerous other passages (example 3:22) we know that this will be through faith in Jesus’ finished work. Others will spurn the call to follow Jesus, to take up his cross. They will be “self-seeking”. One way or the other people’s choices will position them before God in ways they will either rejoice in or bitterly regret, in this life and the next.
Paul continues to sketch the contours and consequences of humans’ estrangement from God due to their sin. There are two classes of people on earth: those “without the law,” the Gentiles; and those “under the law,” the Jews. Gentiles have an inner awareness of God’s moral demands but do not live up to their own sense of right and wrong. Jews are descendants of Abraham and of Moses, who received the law from God. But God’s standard is not merely to have Abrahamic ancestry and to hear the law: it is to fulfill the law by doing what it says. Paul charges the Jews (his own people group; see 9:3; 10:1; 11:1) with dishonoring God by violating the law He gave them. This gives God a bad name among the Gentiles, all those who are not of Abrahamic ancestry.
Paul will eventually turn (see Romans 3:21) from his focus on sin and judgment to take up again the gospel, which he last mentioned in 1:16. But in God’s wisdom this portion of Romans is devoted to a lengthy and stark depiction of the lost human condition. Readers and hearers of Romans can be confident that the wounds of this frank appraisal of human fallenness will provide a platform for the announcement of God’s healing solution later in the epistle.
Blessedness before God requires transformation of the heart. This insight is at least as old as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 4:4), Moses (Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6), and Abraham, whose circumcision (Genesis 17) confirmed, and did not substitute for, personal trust in the God who had spoken to him (Genesis 12:1–3; 15:6). God established His covenant through Abraham’s faith before sealing it (i.e., pledging to honor the faith represented) through the sign of circumcision, which symbolized the removal of impurity (Romans 4:11). In Romans 2:25–29, Paul chides his fellow Jews for equating ritual (circumcision) and ethnicity with blessedness. God’s acceptance or “praise” comes through His work in the heart “by the Spirit.” Paul (like Jesus’ forerunner John the Baptist; Matthew 3:9) knew from experience that too many of his fellow Jews had lost sight of this truth.
The gospel of grace transforms us from the inside out. Changed at a heart level, we live differently; we cannot simply act in a certain way in order to become changed at a heart level. If the heart is not right with God, no ritual will supply the true righteousness He requires.
How has the gospel transformed you from the inside out?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s video and reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
Videos produced by www.TheGospelProject.com.
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