Sunday, December 25, 2011
Scripture Sunday: The Book of Romans
Romans is Paul's letter to the church--the group of believers in Christ--in Rome. It 's a theological book that explains a lot of Christian doctrine, and it can get rather complex at points. To me, the ideal way to understand Romans is with the aid of a good trustworthy commentary, though there are still plenty of nuggets of truth we can pick up for ourselves without added help.
One of the first well-known verses in Romans is 1:16, where Paul is discussing the possibility of coming to preach in Rome and says he is prepared to do so, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." I like this verse for a few different reasons. At the end, it reminds us that the salvation of Jesus was offered to the Jewish nation first. Christianity was for the Jews, but God extended his mercy to the Gentiles also, not as secondary citizens but as a kind of additional blessing to the family of believers. I also love the first part, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ", which people often quote by itself because it is so powerful. It's so easy to be shy about your faith in the Son of God, but we're called to be brave and forthright about it. There's no shame in loving the savior!
Chapter 2 has some good counsel about sin and hypocrisy. Verse 1 says, "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things." There's no room for any human being to say that they are perfect while tearing down others for their sins. Gross sin and wrongdoing are easy to spot in others, but we rarely want to turn that same level of judgement on our own selves. Verse 6 reminds us that God "will render to every man according to his deeds". We will all get a recompense one day, and it will be in line with our actions on earth.
Chapter 5 has some beautiful points about Jesus' sacrifice for our sins: "For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (5:6-8)" This passage highlights that Jesus did not die for us because we were worthy of his sacrifice or because we had earned it or ever would earn it through good behavior--he took our punishment even when we had done nothing to deserve the exchange. He did it out of love, and all that remains is for us to accept him and live our lives for him. No fear of eternal punishment is left after we decide to serve Jesus; "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans is an intense theological book, but it's also a very rewarding book to read.