Paul is writing to Christians in Rome from Corinth just as he is preparing to bring the offering of money to the church in Jerusalem. Chapter 16 tells us Phebe from Cenchraea (where Paul is writing) will be carrying the letter to the Romans.
The foremost issue of the letter and its reason for composition is the question whether or not Gentile Christians should be circumcised and follow the law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul’s major point throughout the entire letter is that Christians are saved from sin through Christ alone and not by keeping the works of the law, including receiving circumcision.
2. What we learn about God.
God desires His own to be separated away from the common.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God. “
Though God’s desire for people and things to be separated unto Himself isn’t the main idea of the chapter, yet it still adds to the flavor of the overall message. The gospel’s fruit separates the holy out from the sinful by transformation of sinners in Christ. The work of the gospel continues to separate or sanctify believers through the Holy Spirits transforming work. Paul identifies himself as an especially called out servant separated to God’s purpose. God has always had His called out people or things separated for His own pleasure and use.
(ot verse, separated)
Belonging to God in this special way is what makes something or someone “holy”. Holiness is the state of something or someone that belongs to God in entirety without the taint of sin. For human sinners, our holiness does not come from ourselves but is imputed by Christ who died to give us His holiness. Therefore, anyone in Christ can offer themselves as a holy offering to the Lord totally separated for His service. Such is Paul’s case, “a servant of Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.”
We cannot call ourselves to apostleship, however through Christ and the gospel we can offer our lives as a holy gift to the Lord’s service.
God desires the Gospel to be preached especially where it has yet to be preached.
“I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” v16
This is not just Paul’s desire, for his own desires come from the working of the Holy Ghost in his life. Paul explains why he hasn’t been able to visit the Romans as of yet. It is because other places have a greater need for the gospel. And where the need is greater there also lies a greater debt to those who need to hear it.
This is also telling of God’s heart in the matter. When He inaugurated the Gospel plan by becoming flesh and working in Israel, He had at that time also held the need of the world in His heart. He would train men who could take the message for Him. This was done not out of need to supplement a lack of ability to take it Himself, but according to His design. He desires for those who have been blessed by the Gospel to also be its preachers.
As it comes down to the question, where then should I preach? While there are other scriptures to consider, do not forget to consider this one as it reveals to us the heart of God. He wants the most needy to hear.
“Righteousness by faith” reveals that God wants an intimate relationship with you.
“For there is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” v17
This verse communicates what every person needs, righteousness with God. Without righteousness with God, the scriptures conclude all to die in their sin, forever separated from God in the Lake of Fire. Only righteousness with God will deliver someone from eternal punishment. That righteous with God is delivered by faith in Christ.
However behind this verse is the heart of God when you ask the question what does God looking for when He extends righteousness to other? He is looking for the relationship that only faith can build.
Sometimes we use the word “faith” in a way that doesn’t describe biblical faith at all. To have faith in God does not merely mean we simply acknowledge with wavering lips that He exists somewhere in the heavens. No, this faith, the biblical faith is a faith that trusts and risks everything on the reputation of God.
Let me explain in a much smaller category. When you want to buy a used car, you want to look for a salesman who is trustworthy–someone with a name of faithful reputation. You want to believe that this person will not cheat you, but give you a fair deal. Unless you are a master mechanic, you will have no choice but to have faith in the person you are buying from. In this scenario you are practicing something that is much closer to biblical faith.
God wants you to risk everything on Him–your marriage, you children, your job, your life. Paul inserts a quotation from Habakuk to show this has been a biblical principle all throughout God’s revelation of Himself. The quotation says, “the just shall live by faith”. And so everything that we have that constitutes our life is risked on God’s reputable name.
At first, because you do not know God, this faith may look shaky, but faith builds in intimacy and produces the relationship that God wants to have with you. God is wanting and yearning the relationship that He created you for–by faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
God is angry over our sin.
“For the wrath of God is revealed form heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” v18
To ignore God’s anger and focus only on the love of God is to distort Him and ultimately worship a false god. God’s love would not be complete without understanding His anger and specifically what makes Him angry.
Just as people often misuse the biblical idea of faith in modern vernacular, so the word “sin” is often misused. It is not adequate enough to say sin is doing bad or naughty things because that would not explain the magnitude of God’s wrath and judgement that is manifested in the world today. It also doesn’t help anyone understand why there is a hell and place of torment day and night.
If faith is what God wants from us so that we might enter into an intimate relationship with Him, then sin is everything that thwarts God’s will for man. If I desire most of all to have a relationship with my son that is both loving and genuine, then sin would be anything that disrupts that relationship.
Sometimes the Bible describes God as a King and Jesus preached the kingdom of God is here and therefore people should repent. In this scenario, sin is anything that does not submit itself to God’s kingdom. The call to repent is to humble oneself before the King and give Him our full allegiance.
In Romans chapter one, sin is all “ungodliness and unrighteousness of men that suppresses the truth”. The truth that all men should know is God is there, He has created all, and they have not honored Him, rather they have suppressed this truth. If you cannot yet grasp what sin is yet, you still still be able to discern that the Bible is not merely talking about naughty acts of sin, but something deeper in the heart, some attitude that stands against God and His truth.
Paul gives to the Romans examples of truth suppression they would understand immediately. For instance, as the Roman christians would walk the streets of Rome they would see idols in the shapes of “birds, animals, and creeping things” v23. The pagan population would purport these images to be the divine which is gross sin against the truth of who God is.
Paul is speaking in general terms to encompass all of humanity at this point. God’s punishment for sin was to simply let them be consumed by their own lusts. God’s most severe judgement is to remove His hand from the sinner and allow them the “freedom” they so desire. The result is their hearts and minds are consumed by lusts.
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:…For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections” v24, 26
An example of this type of judgement is the resulted is homosexuality to which Paul refers to as “unseemly”, and “vile affections”. These words stand in stark contrast to our own modern societies normalization of it. As a reminder, Paul is still speaking in general terms, and though he does not pull punches when it comes to naming the sin, he is still writing the book of Romans in hope that any sinner would respond to the Gospel, repent, and turn to God. The larger point being made is the normalizing of sin is a sign of God’s wrath and judgment as He gives people over to their own lusts.
Verse 28 goes to describe that under this wrath and judgement, sexual deviations of all sorts will rise and more of what was once considered vile will become “normal” in the society that is being judged by God. As this society continues its spiral to eventual destruction more and more obvious sinful behavior will become normalized. Paul gives a list of examples in 29-32.
If you’re curious to as why God’s judgement is to simply let people do as they please, the answer is suggested throughout the whole chapter. God only needs to remove Himself from our lives to seal one’s doom. From the beginning, God is good and He is life. But once He has removed Himself, there is only evil and death. Under this judgement, everyone has chosen of their own volition to rebel against God, therefore God’s anger against them is and open-and-shut case. But the coming of Jesus and the Gospel means there is hope of eternal life even for the most vile and unseemly sinner.
3. How Does this Passage Point to Jesus and the Gospel?
The letter of Romans is all about the Gospel. It is God’s power unto salvation against the forces of sin.
The Gospel separates the common from the uncommon.
Paul introduced himself as a person separated to the service of the Gospel. Previously, Paul was commissioned to attack the church and deliver Christians to punishment and death. But after he met Jesus on the road, he was transformed and “separated” as a special vessel unto God for preaching the Gospel (see Acts 9:13-15).
How did God separate Paul to this service? Through the Gospel, namely the blood of Jesus Christ. As Jesus died on the cross, He became sin for Paul and others who would believe. His death and shed blood was given to God as a substitutionary sacrifice for all sin of mankind. When Paul believed on Christ, the blood of cross was applied to Paul’s account and cleansed him of all sin past and future. Paul was separated from sin to the service of God called by this new sin-free identity in Christ. This doesn’t mean Paul lost his volition to make his own choices, but Paul chose to live out his identity and a living sacrifice everyday (see Roman 12:1-2).
Without Jesus and the cross, this new identity in Christ, free from sin would have never been made available to him. Paul’s conversion widely read all over the world teaching sinners how they two can be cleansed from sin and serve the living God.
Theres so much in this chapter about being separated for God’s special use. Even the idea of taking the Gospel to where it is needed the most would assume great gospel by those who would take it. They would need to be greatly prepared and “separated” in their hearts to perform the task.
The truths of this passage would point us to be committed to a intimate relationship with God. Like all relationship, they require work and faithfulness. I want to be useful to the Lord and take the Gospel to where it has the most need, but I cannot do that without being a properly separated vessel for God’s use. The power to sustain the servants life comes from daily walking with God.
Living this life would mean managing the minutes of my day to seek God and spend has much time in the Word as possible. As I take inventory of my time, am I spending the time needed to be devoted? If nothing is has important as being empowered by God, then what can I stand to lose to make sure I’m constantly attending on Him?