- Day 36. Acts 19-21:36
- Day 37. Acts 21:37-25:22
- Day 38. Acts 25:23-28
- Day 39. Romans 1-3
- Day 40. Romans 4-6
- Day 41. Romans 7-8
- Day 42. Romans 9-11
This marks our sixth week of the Summer Reading Program. If you have been consistent with your readings up until this point, props to you! As you continue your devotions throughout the week, you will soon encounter the first of many epistles (an epistle is a formal letter directed to a person or group of people). The book of Romans is arguably one of the greatest books in the New Testament that has ever been written for its clearest systematic presentation of Christian theology in the whole Bible.
But to understand the significance of this book’s contribution to Christian theology, in part we need to grasp the intricate details surrounding the birth of this letter. One of Paul’s ambitions, at the time of writing this letter, was to expand his ministry of the gospel to unreached places where Christ was not yet known – beyond Rome and even as far west as Spain. And in order to reach Spain, Paul developed a ministry strategy to set a base of missionary operations in Rome.
However, if Paul wanted his plans to be realised, he had to rally support for his gospel ministry from the Christians in Rome by giving a comprehensive exposition of the gospel – the good news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Unless they were on board with the message that he taught and preached, Paul would not have received the support he needed to sustain his missionary work in Spain.
And today in the 21st century, we see that Paul’s heart for the eternally lost has reached the four corners of the world, where the glories of Paul’s saving message of the gospel is found written down in the Scriptures we now have in our hands. Let’s quickly uncover the major themes that emerge out of this letter!
Firstly, the Gospel is God’s revelation of His righteousness (Rom. 1:1-17). The book begins with a declaration that the gospel is God’s revelation of His righteousness within His plan to redeem sinful humanity:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Rom. 1:16-17)
Secondly, God reveals His righteous wrath against sinners (Rom. 1:18-3:20). The power of God to bring salvation to the lost brings true hope and assurance to those who are powerless to escape from their captivity to sin and from its horrific consequences. This is because the influence of sin has penetrated into the hearts of every human being – both Jew and Gentile – and therefore all have fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). No one is able to remain unscathed by God’s wrath for the wickedness they have committed by robbing God of His glory and prostrating themselves in idol worship to created things that can never satisfy their deepest longings (Rom. 1:18-23). We were left to drown in our own immoral filth (Rom. 1:26), allowing the destructive consequences of our sin to take its course on our lives as we await to receive the due penalty for our wicked rebellion (Rom. 1:27).
Thirdly, God imputes his saving righteousness on sinners (Rom. 3:21-4:25). Yet, God’s grace shines most fervently through the backdrop of our darkness. He didn’t leave us to die to our sin but He sent His own Son to die in our stead, so that by placing our faith in Him we may escape God’s eternal wrath and be clothed in His Son’s righteousness. The condition for salvation applies for any who desire to be reconciled with the God of the universe, irrespective of their ethnic status (Rom. 3:27-31).
Fourthly, God’s saving righteousness creates a new humanity (5:1-8:39). After unpacking the gospel of grace in the first four chapters of his letter, Paul then explores the implications and applications of the gospel for sinners who are saved by Christ. God saves with the purpose of recreating a new humanity, a new family who are no longer in Adam but are now in Christ (see Rom. 5:12-21). These sinners are transformed by God’s Spirit (see Rom. 8:1-11), where their old humanity has died with Christ and their new humanity was raised with him from the dead – all of which is symbolised in their baptism in Christ (see. Rom. 6:1-14).
Fifthly, the Gospel is the fulfilment of God’s promises to Israel (9:1-11:36). The Jews would have brought the Word into question as to whether God has failed to deliver His ancient promises to Israel, given that non-Jews were now grafted into God’s covenant family to enjoy its blessings (see Rom. 11). Many would have asked, “Has God abandoned Israel?” Paul wants to make it clear that God has not failed to keep His promises (Rom. 9:6a); however, His promises to Israel had to be understood within the entire scope of His revelation to mean that “Israel” was not limited to ethnic Israel (Rom. 9:6b-8). Simply being an ethnic Jew doesn’t automatically make one a member of God’s covenant family.
Lastly, the Gospel unifies the Church (12:1-16:27). If God has fulfilled His promises by creating a multi-ethnic family of believers who are saved by the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, then the most reasonable response for these believers – both Jews and Gentiles – is to be unified together as God’s church. This unity is to be expressed through love by serving one another with their God-given gifts, as well as overcoming tensions and conflicts through humility and forgiveness (see Rom. 12-13). As Jews and Gentiles reconcile with each other despite their ethnic differences, it sends a powerful message to the unbelieving world that God’s covenant community is a community like no other you will ever find. Imperfect as it may be, God intends to use His church’s unified love as His principal means to gather more sinners into His family.
Now you can see how all the bits and pieces fit together to show Paul’s theological thought as he was writing this masterpiece of a letter. But as you turn through the pages of this epistle, it is also clearly evident that Paul’s heart was saturated with erupting desire to worship God. Paul demonstrates for us that doxology must accompany robust theology. As we read Romans, then, may we also be drawn ever so deeply by God’s grace that praise and worship to His name will naturally flow from all of our hearts, all of our minds and with all of our souls!
1. What has Romans taught you about the nature of God and the nature of humanity so far?
2. What divine blessings has struck out to you as a member of God’s family?
3. How can you be using your God-given gifts to serve His church?
4. What are some of the habitual sins in your life that need to change in response to your God-given identity in Christ?
5. How would you present the gospel in a concise manner to a family member or friend who does not know Jesus?
Paul’s doxology in Romans 16:25-27 is a befitting prayer to pray as we give thanks to the infinitely-wise and all-loving God for revealing to us the way of salvation through His Scriptures:
Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.