Romans is Paul’s great, inspired treatise on the subject of righteousness. It is the longest of his thirteen letters (fourteen, if he authored Hebrews), and it addresses the subject of salvation is a very logical, organized way. While Romans is often the favorite biblical book for denominations that assert salvation is “by faith ONLY,” the Holy Spirit’s main point is that justification comes through obedient faith in Jesus Christ. The first six chapters of Romans present a very systematic explanation of the gospel, beginning with God’s righteousness and concluding with the obedient faith that leads to salvation. Chapters seven through eleven contrast Moses’ law and the old covenant with law of Christ, and they emphasize the inclusiveness of the gospel (for Jews and Gentiles alike) and the fact that Israel’s salvation must ultimately come through Jesus and the gospel, not continued observance of the old law. The last five chapters present instruction in practical Christian living.
Paul begins by emphasizing the identity of Jesus, pointing out that He is God’s Son (not “was”), and that He descended from king David according to the flesh (Romans 1:2-3). After this, he shows in verse 4 that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is “THE” definitive proof that He is the Son of God.
Romans 1:16-17 is Paul’s magnificent declaration of the essential purpose of the gospel; to reveal the righteousness of God so that both Jews and “Greeks” (Gentiles) may be saved. Jesus had promised in Mark 8:38 that those who are embarrassed, fearful, and reluctant (“ashamed”) because of Him will cause Him shame in the last day. Paul is very emphatic in stating that he is not embarrassed by the message God gave him to preach; in contrast, he would write to the Corinthians of those who would consider his message as mere “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). He further declares that the gospel is God’s “power” – His resource, or “tool” – the means He chose to use, to provide salvation to all who believe, without respect of their origins.
Paul’s discussion in Romans 1:18-32 of the moral plight of humanity (particularly the ancient Gentiles) highlights the following points about them:
- they are “without excuse” for their ignorance of God (v. 20) because He had provided abundant, visible evidences of His presence (vv. 19- 20);
- although knowledge of God had been available to ancient man, they chose to be ignorant of Him, ignoring Him (v. 21);
- in their ignorance, they adopted idolatry in place of worshipping the real God (vv. 23 & 25), dishonored their bodies in satisfying their physical lusts (vv. 24 & 26-27), and chose to live brutally and selfishly (vv. 29-31);
- therefore, God had “given up” (vv. 24, 26, & 28) on them, by allowing them to experience the full consequences of their perverse choices and stubborn wills.
- The summary of this chain of events in the ancient world comes in chapter 2:1-11, where Paul introduces the matter of judgement. In verses 6-8 he promises that God will “pay” every single person according to their works. Paul then goes on to distinguish between those who “obey the truth” by patiently persisting in welldoing, and those who are “contentious” in that they refuse to obey the truth (and thus choose to obey unrighteousness). The righteous receive eternal life, while the disobedient (Jew and Gentile alike) inherit punishment. He concludes with the declaration (v. 11) that God never “plays favorites.”