What did Paul write in the epistle to the Romans?
Paul wastes no time dancing around the
essential issues in his letter to the Romans. After a warm salutation Paul
goes for the Jugular vein by explicating the desperate sinful condition of
the heart of all men and making it very clear that none, especially the
Jews, are without excuse. All men are slaves to sin and are alienated from
God. There is no means by which we can, of our own accord, come into
relationship with God. The Gospel is the announcement of a divine Savior,
that is Christ, who has come into the world to reconcile this tragic
situation and freely grant the righteousness of God to all who demonstrate
faith in Him. Paul exemplifies Abraham as a model and refers to His faith
as instrumental in received righteousness, an inheritance, and posterity
from God. Faith has always been the way of God and is to be regarded as
the only method by which we are justified to Him.
Paul begins this next section by
describing the act of justification as being made at "Peace with God"
or reconciled to Him. While the most spectacular work of the gospel is its
victory over sin, the implications of that triumph and its unsurpassed
power extends far beyond as we come into a relationship with God by faith
in Jesus Christ. We come to know Him as Master, the one in whom we can
trust to both provide and protect. We learn to see him as our Father as He
declares us his children and imparts to us His Holy Spirit, giving us
power over the flesh and transforming us into His own reflection. Finally,
we are able to lean on Him as our hope for salvation through His promise
of Christ to declare us completely righteous by faith, enjoying eternal
union with Him.
Many wonder if God has then neglected His
promise to the nation of Israel? Of course not. The appropriate question
is: Who is Israel? God has transferred His covenant privileges, which came
through Abraham and now fulfilled in Christ, from Israel to the Church.
Paul takes two misconceptions of God's covenant with Abraham head on in
this letter to the Romans. He points out first that God never assured all
Israel the benefits of His promise as a sort of birth right by heritage.
Secondly, it is Israel that is to blame for not embracing Christ even
after God had made it clear to them through prophesy and His written word
in the Old Testament. Paul reminds the Gentiles, while exhorting the Jews,
that salvation has come to the world through the Jews.
Paul have continued in the faithful witness of God's history with their
nation and are being saved by their faith in Christ, not in the law. God
will fulfill His promise and "all Israel will be saved." The
church is the new Israel, the people of God and He has provided for them
redemption through faith in Christ.
In the final major section of Romans, Paul
turns toward the practical application of this gospel of grace in the
lives of believers. The grace of God not only has the power to achieve
it stimulates believers toward sacrificial giving to both God and neighbor
fulfilling the commands of the law. God has given a wide range of
spiritual gifts to the church through His Holy Spirit that both make up
the body of Christ and enable believers in various forms of service. Being
free form the law does not give Christians a license to disregard the law
or the necessity of civil government. We must be obedient to the law using
it not to justify our salvation, but to motivate us toward service in
Christ. Our service is to be permeated with love and it is through this
love that we reflect the light of God to the world. In addition, Paul
takes the time to wrap up his message by addressing the division among
them regarding the practice of Jewish law, its rituals and warns them
against false teachers that initiate the conflict among them. Paul's
message is one of unity. It is essential to the gospel that the Jews and
Gentiles live in harmony with one another living in mutual tolerance and
common respect. This is the way of the gospel and the body of Christ.