ROMANS 1 – 2:29
The Object of Faith - Romans 1:1-7
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. 6 And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
“You just gotta believe!”
When life gets hard, when no solution seems available, someone will inevitably offer up that tired phrase as encouragement. “You just gotta believe!”
Believe in what, exactly?
In governments? In myself? In money? Those things may seem capable of solving problems, but they really can’t.
Essentially, every small problem originates from one big Problem for which none of us has a solution. Sin. Sin results in animosity, frustration, pain, tears, and death.
In whom, then, should I put my trust when things go wrong? The problem of sin is too big for me to solve.
Trust “Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Jesus did what we never could or would do for ourselves. Though we don’t deserve it, he provided us with the perfect solution to the Problem of sin.
His perfect life and death is the “Way” God chose to pay for our sins. His powerful resurrection shows that he is God our Savior. His forgiving love and peace are just what we need to start over, as Paul did, and live our lives for him.
When life gets tough, when problems pile up higher than we can manage, when tears start flowing, and hope seems to fade, God calls us to believe in his Son – the Solution to all of life’s problems, big and small.
Now, that is worth believing!
Prayer: Eternal God, thank you for the grace and peace which are mine because you invited and brought me to believe in the Solution to all my problems, Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.
The Response of Faith - Romans 1:8-10
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. 9 God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you 10in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.
I’ve always been a little uncomfortable when people say, “Nice sermon, pastor!” In the same way, it’s always made me a little uneasy when applause is given in response to a Christian’s acts of Christian service.
In fact, it is my joyous responsibility to proclaim the grace of God to the best of my God-given abilities on any given week. Likewise, we always have the happy privilege of letting the light of Christ shine through us into the world. Just as trees are planted to produce fruit, and the sun was created to give light during the day, so the love of Christ compels us to live for Christ.
When people take notice of your deeds of faith, when you notice the Spirit at work in the lives of others, whom do you thank? It’s not wrong to thank people, but don’t forget the words of Paul that are quoted above.
Paul thanked his God. That ought to be our first response, too. Thank God that there are people who let the light of Christ shine. Thank God for giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.
Is it wrong to thank others for their acts of faith? No. But it may give the wrong impression. It may lead to selfish pride. We are better served, and more importantly, God is better served, when he is thanked.
Thank God, for it is God who called us to be holy. God is the one who poured his love into our hearts. God gave us faith in Jesus our Savior, faith from which that love flows.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for shining the light of the glory of Christ into my heart of darkness. Lead me always, by the message of Christ, to live a life of thanks and praise to you. Amen.
The Obligation of Faith - Romans 1:11-15
I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—12 that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles. 14I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.15 That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.
One lesson every toddler must learn is the concept of sharing. But it’s not just little ones who have this struggle. Egotism is no respecter of age.
There is only one way to break out of that cycle of self-centeredness—faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
God loved the world so much that he shared his Son with us. Though he is God, Jesus did not demand and cling to his rights as God. The Master of all became the servant of all. The immortal God died and rose again that we might have life in him.
This is good news which Jesus urges us to share.
Faith in Jesus Christ enables us to look beyond ourselves to the needs of others. Just look at what the Spirit did for Paul. Before his conversion, Paul did what Paul thought was best. After the scales fell from his eyes, the Spirit filled him with the desire to share Jesus with others. He owed it to the world, regardless of the personal cost.
We, also, are obligated to share Jesus with the world. Do you know someone who needs comforting, encouragement, forgiveness, peace, or hope? Only Jesus provides all of that, and so much more. Share Jesus and you may be surprised at the results. In the process of lifting someone else up, you may find that the Holy Spirit gives you a faith-lift too.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the people in my life who teach and train me to know the love of Jesus. Make me strong to look beyond myself and to share Jesus with someone in need of an encouraging word. Amen.
The Purpose of Faith - Romans 1:16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
There is far too little shame in our world today.
So many feel – demand even – the right to do what they want, say what they want, express themselves how they want, live as they want.
“It’s my life. I’ll live it my way.”
That kind of shameless talk may be popular. In the end, though, it always ends in separation from God and death.
There is only one Way which leads us through death to immortality. And there is only one Map which shows us that Way. The gospel directs us to Jesus Christ. He alone did what was right in the eyes of God, at all times. Then he suffered for all the sinful things we have done and ever will do. His resurrection is proof that our sinful shame has been removed.
Imagine that you receive an e-mail from a millionaire. He promises you a share of his wealth. You won’t get that share if you mark the e-mail as spam and hit “DELETE.” But when his words convince you to believe that he is telling the truth, then it’s yours. That’s also true of God’s precious work of salvation. He did it all for us. He planned it, and procured it for us through his Son. And we benefit from it when the Holy Spirit uses the power of the gospel to call us to faith in Jesus as our Savior from eternal death.
Jesus Christ assures us that all of our sins, all of our unrighteous acts are forgiven on the basis of the salvation that he fully accomplished for us. Our life in connection with Jesus Christ is shameless in God’s eyes because God has declared us righteous by faith in Jesus.
Now as children of God we no longer want to live to satisfy shameful desires. As we lean on him for strength, he enables us to stand strong on the Word of God, even as the world calls us bigots, fools, and old-fashioned.
Don’t be ashamed of that!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for removing the guilt of my sin by your death on the cross. Fill me with your grace that I may always treasure your salvation and live by faith without shame. Amen.
The Cover-Up - Romans 1:18-20
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
When we don’t like something that is plainly seen, we try to cover it up. Photo programs on our computers “correct” pictures. Drywall mud and thick paint fix walls. Make-up covers blemishes. The “problems” were plainly seen, but we figured out how to cover them up.
Fixing red-eye in a picture or covering a skin blemish is fine. But God is angry when we cover up something else that is plain and clearly seen—God himself. When we cover up God, and his power and wisdom, we stir up God’s wrath.
How do people stir up God’s wrath? The apostle Paul wrote that people “suppress the truth.” How do we “suppress the truth”? Do we soak in nature’s great beauty and forget that we’re looking at the work of God? Have we believed the theory of macro-evolution instead of God’s clear truth that he created this world in six 24-hour days? God has blessed us with the place we live, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and all the things and joys of life. Do we see all these good things and forget to thank and praise God for them? When we’re in pain or facing a challenge, do we forget to ask God for his help and blessing? When we forget and rely on ourselves, we suppress the truth that we are blessed with God’s powerful and wise care.
God graciously and clearly shows himself to us. He has made the truth plain and easily seen by all. God shows his power and wisdom in his creation. When we lift up our eyes and see the sun, moon and stars; when we stand by an ocean or at the foot of a mountain; when we marvel at the power and beauty of the human mind and body, we see God’s power and wisdom.
God has also made the truth even more obvious and easier to see in the Bible. In God’s Word, he clearly shows us who he is—holy and loving, just and compassionate, all-powerful, all-knowing and kind. While God doesn’t hide himself from us, God does show us what he mercifully covers. God hides our sins when he covers them in the forgiveness Jesus won for us. That is the perfect cover-up.
God and his love is not something you want covered up. God lovingly shows himself to you. See God’s power and wisdom in the world around you. Open up your Bible and see God clearly.
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for clearly showing yourself to me. Forgive me for the times I have ignored you or your truth. Help me to see you more clearly every day. Amen.
Want to Trade? - Romans 1:21-27
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Over the years, there have been some horrible trades. If you’re a fan of the stock market or a professional sports team, you can relate. You can probably remember a trade that seemed doomed from the beginning, and then only got worse.
In a letter to Christians in Rome, Paul wrote that people made a horrible trade: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25). What was the trade? It wasn’t a sports or financial trade. People made a huge religious trade that was doomed from the beginning and only gets worse with time. They traded worship of God for worship of things. They chose worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator. That was a bad trade that only got worse. They thought they were showing their wisdom by rejecting God, but really they were just being foolish. Their choices showed their futile and darkened thinking. People even misused God’s gift of sex, and in ways that according to natural law do not even seem wise. Their sexual perversion was not a glorious freedom, but only a twisting and abusing of God’s gift of sex.
Not much has changed since this was first written. Today, people still choose to worship created things instead of the Creator. People do this whenever they make something besides God their ultimate thing – the thing in which they find their highest love and joy and hope. People love their families, their careers, their stuff, their hobbies or themselves more than God. People still wildly abuse God’s gift of sex. Using sex any way a person feels like is not freedom. It is slavery, and a twisted abuse of God’s good gift. All those are created things. Why would we choose to love them more than our God who created them?
Here’s the truly crazy thing – although people chose to reject God, God chose to love the whole world. The sins that people embraced, God took and put on his Son, Jesus. The punishment for rebellion that we and everyone deserved, Jesus suffered. We had made a horrible trade. God made the trade that saved the world; that saved you and me.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, forgive us for the times we have traded you away and loved the things and people you made more than we have loved you. Thank you for giving your Son to rescue us. We thank and praise you for all you give us – in this life and forever in heaven. Amen.
Do You Approve? - Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
If you owned a grocery store, do you think what types of payment you approved and accepted would be important? How would business go if you decided that you would accept cash, checks, credit cards, Monopoly money and verbal IOU’s? I think you’d move a lot of product, but that your bottom line might struggle a bit.
It’s important to accept and approve the right things.
From the last verse of our reading for today, we see that we have a huge problem with that. We know what we should accept. We know God’s righteous decrees. Yet, we choose to do and accept so many things that fly in the face of God’s law and commandments. Read again the lengthy list of sins that we get swept up in. And, if you didn’t know before, you know it now – “those who do such things deserve death.”
Since we’ve accepted and done so many of those unapproved things, will God accept and approve us? We would have a better chance of being accepted at Wal-Mart or Trader Joe’s with Monopoly money than being accepted by God on the basis of what we have done. We don’t have what it takes to meet with God’s approval – not even close!
Thankfully, God’s acceptance of us doesn’t depend on us, but on him. If we fast-forward a few chapters in the letter to the Romans, Paul gives us great comfort. He tells us that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). Jesus gave up his life and died for our sins. God accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins. And God declared you not guilty when he raised Jesus from the dead. God accepts and approves of you because of Jesus.
Now, what will you accept and approve? Worthless Monopoly money? Every kind of wickedness and depravity? No! Forgiven children of God accept and approve what God righteously decrees. We pursue God’s will for our lives because God pursued us and gave us new life.
Prayer: Gracious God, thank you for approving and accepting me because of what Jesus did for me. Give me the wisdom and strength to pursue, approve and do only what pleases you. Amen.
Take a Long Hard Look at Yourself - Romans 2:1-4
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
My mom always told me that whenever I point my finger at someone, I always have three fingers pointing right back at me.
Her point was clear, “I should be a little more concerned about my own behavior and a little less concerned about the behavior of others.” Turns out that my mom is pretty smart.
It is easy to be self-righteous as we look at the conduct of others. Just watch the local news and you can find someone worse than you are. But each one of us will have to stand before God one day to account for our own actions. When we do, we won’t be trying to measure up to someone else, but to God’s standard of perfection. How could anyone hope to escape God’s judgment?
But God has shown each one of us kindness. He does not rain down lightning bolts from heaven as punishment on us. He doesn’t pound on us day after day. He is kind to us. He gives us time to realize the wrong that we have done. He doesn’t treat us like we deserve.
God shows his kindness in many ways, but the greatest way is through his Son, Jesus. Even though Jesus lived perfectly, he willingly faced the judgment that we deserve. He accepted the blame for our sin. He faced God’s judgment for us and paid for our sins with his life. What a great gift! What a great God!
So the next time you are tempted to point a finger of judgment at someone, point them to the cross of Jesus instead. There you will find forgiveness for them and yourself.
Prayer: Dear Father, thank you for all the kindness you have shown me in my life. Everyday you remind me that you love and care for me. Lead me to enjoy the forgiveness I have in Jesus and to share it with others in my life. Amen.
No Favorites - Romans 2:5-11
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
Have you ever seen a statue of “Lady Justice”? She holds the scales in her hand to show that she is just. She has a blindfold over her eyes to demonstrate that she does not show favoritism.
But Lady Justice is a myth. She does not exist. Many doubt the integrity of our court system. The rich seem to buy their freedom. The poor can’t afford to bring their cases to court.
But God promises justice for all people. He uses the picture of a courtroom to show a day that is coming in the future. Each person will face him. This day is real and the judgment will be just. God will “repay each person according to what they have done.”
This justice might sound good at first, but it concerns me. I know the wrong I have done. I know the sin in my heart. My efforts to do good often end badly. More often than not I am stubborn and unrepentant. I deserve a guilty verdict.
How about you? How do you think you will do in God’s judgment? Have you done any wrong that God has seen?
The writer of the book of Romans was not calling the people to clean up their lives. He was encouraging them to be honest with themselves and God—to confess their wrongs. God wants us to confess our guilt and throw ourselves on his mercy. He promises forgiveness to all who do—no matter who they are.
Prayer: Almighty God, you are both a righteous judge and my loving Father. Help me to always be honest with you about my sin and to turn to you for forgiveness. Amen.
The Law on My Heart - Romans 2:12-16
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
3500 years ago God gave Moses and the Children of Israel the most well-known table of laws ever written. He gave them the Ten Commandments.
Perhaps the reason why the Commandments have stood the test of time and why they ring so true is that they were written somewhere else long before they were given to Moses. From the beginning, God has written his law on the hearts of all people.
God’s law is written on your heart. Think about it. You don’t need the Ten Commandments to tell you that murder is wrong, do you? As a child when I was taking cookies without asking, I tried to hide it. I knew taking something that I shouldn’t was wrong. The author of Romans would say, “My thoughts accused me.”
It is helpful that God’s commands are written on our hearts and in the Bible with the Ten Commandments. It makes each of us both aware and accountable for our actions. But knowing the law is only part of the matter. Keeping the law is what no one can do.
When teaching a lesson on the Ten Commandments Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish God’s law, but to fulfill it.” Jesus knew that no one could keep the law of God perfectly, so he came to do it for us. Through faith in Jesus we become “righteous in God’s sight.” This was the gospel or “good news” that the apostle Paul came to preach.
So the next time your conscience is bothering you, know that it is God’s law doing its work on your heart. At that same time remember Jesus, the one who takes your sin away.
Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for writing your law on my heart and giving it to me in the Bible. When I have done wrong, point me to Christ where there is forgiveness. Amen.
Getting to Heaven - Romans 2:17-24
Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth– 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Do you want to go to heaven?
God in heaven is holy, absolutely perfect. He says about heaven, “Nothing impure will ever enter it” (Revelation 21:27). And he makes it clear how to get there: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
So it makes sense that people would try to rely on the law of God to get to heaven. After all, God has given us his law, and we know that keeping the law pleases him. Some people even teach others to keep the law in order to get to heaven.
The trouble is that those teachers of the law don’t teach themselves. If they did, they would realize that they break it. It’s obvious to everyone but themselves. No one can keep the law perfectly. If those teachers actually applied the law to themselves, they would realize that they are not going to heaven by keeping it.
Jesus did keep the law perfectly. But rather than the glory of heaven he deserved, he suffered the punishment of hell for all of us who have broken the law. God made the one who had no sin to be sin for you (2 Corinthians 5:21). And then, in a breathtaking act of grace, God credited you with Jesus’ perfect life. You go to heaven through faith in Jesus, not through keeping the law.
Prayer: Lord, as I teach others your law, help me to apply it to myself, and to trust in you for my salvation. Amen.
Outward Signs of Inward Faith - Romans 2:25-29
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 If those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.
How do you show that you are a Christian? Is it by wearing a cross necklace, or by sporting a religious tattoo?
Before Jesus came, God told male believers to show that they were believers by becoming circumcised. Observant Jewish families made sure that their male babies were circumcised already in infancy. Circumcision became a sign of being faithful to God.
The problem is that people sometimes show outward signs that they are believers but do not act like it. They do not love God with all their heart. They do not join the people of God for worship. They do not show love to other people, even those who don’t deserve it.
Circumcision was meant to be an outward sign of inward faith in the coming Savior. Cross necklaces and religious tattoos are meant to be outward signs of inward faith in Jesus as Savior. But circumcision, jewelry, and tattoos will not save you.
Only Jesus can save you. He kept the written code of the law, outwardly and inwardly. God the Father praised him, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 17:5). How do you show you are a Christian? Trust Jesus!
Prayer: Holy Spirit, circumcise my heart, and help me to express my faith in Jesus by all that I do. Amen.
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