Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 24 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Romans, Part I: State of Man.”
In today’s episode, I am beginning a six-part series for the podcast under an overall, umbrella title, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”
Today, we’ll begin with a quick introduction to both the series, and the Book of Romans itself. Then explore Paul’s message to the Roman believers in the first three chapters.
So, first off, here are the titles of each episode of the series as we move through the book:
- Episode I, “State of Man”
- Episode II, “Righteousness by Faith”
- Episode III, “Love Can Build a Bridge”
- Episode IV, “Living for Jesus”
- Episode V, “Living Sacrifices”
- Episode VI, “The Kingdom of God”
I hope you will be able to tune in to listen or read each of these episodes in the coming weeks. If you miss one, of course, you can always go back and listen to it at your convenience. Or, you may want to review a point I share later just to get a better understanding of Paul’s teaching. At any rate, I do hope, and pray, that the thoughts I present in this series with inspire you to make your own “deep dive” into Paul’s teachings in Romans. This letter to the Christian believers in Rome carries the core of New Testament theology more completely than any other single book. It is Paul’s greatest theological legacy for the church throughout all subsequent eras and ages. And, it is absolutely vital for our spiritual journey today.
Please pause with me for a moment as we ask God’s blessing on our study today, and throughout the course of this series.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for all you do for us. Thank you for the messages of love and grace you send to us in the pages of the Bible, the written Word of God. And thank you for the ministry of Paul the Apostle who wrote this letter to the believers in Rome. Please guide our minds and teach us the things you want us to know as we work our way through this little series of Studies in Romans which I have titled, “Saved by Grace; Powered by Love.”
In Jesus Name, amen.
Paul’s epistle to the Romans was probably written around A.D. 56-57, but no later than A.D. 59. The earliest extant—that is still existing—manuscripts of Romans comes from about A.D. 200. Church historians and biblical manuscript scholars all agree that there is ample evidence supporting the authenticity of the text as we know it.
Paul wrote his letter to the Romans to introduce himself to the church there. He intended to stop there en route to Spain, to get acquainted with the local believers, and perhaps to raise funds for continuing his journey.
The Roman church was a mixture of Christian Jews and Roman believers. Paul had got wind of a major controversy brewing among them, and he needed to present the truths of the true gospel of Jesus.
The big issue was, “How can anyone be right with God on the final Day of Judgment?” In addressing this question, Paul’s one overriding purpose was to exalt Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah—the savior for all mankind, whether Jew or gentile.
With all that, let’s begin.
After a brief introduction of himself as the writer of the letter, Paul addresses the letter to his intended recipients:
“To 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” (Romans 1:7-8).
Before moving away from this first introductory verse, let’s ask a question:
Who are the believers “in Rome?”
Of course, I’ve already spoken of the Jewish Christians—probably individuals who had traveled from Rome to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, and while there they witnessed the testimony of Jesus’s disciples as they proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus, empowered by the fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. (You can read about this experience in Acts:2).
There were also gentile believers—Romans, Greeks, etc.—who had received the report of the people returning from Jerusalem with the incredible story of Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior for the entire world. These gentiles had believed the report, and were part of the Roman church.
But, beyond that, in a certain sense of the word, we are all “in Rome,” meaning that we are all sinners, we are all “in the world.”
However, in Paul’s opening greeting he says that grace and peace are extend to ALL from God the Father and from Jesus. Grace and peace are sent to everyone, because everyone is “loved by God,” and all are called to be God’s “saints.”
(By the way, a “saint” in scripture is simply one who believes in God, and has accepted His promise of eternal life in the righteousness of Christ.)
A few verses later in chapter 1, before outlining the sinful nature of all humanity, Paul presents the promise of the gospel.
“The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
It’s a good thing Paul lays that foundation of good news before he continues. In the next few passages he “pulls no punches” in describing the sinful state of all humanity.
“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, breed, and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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” (Romans 1:29-32 NIV).
No one is righteous
Paul continues his description of the sinful state of all humanity all the way deep into chapter 3, showing that Jews and gentiles are all in the same basket: All are sinners in rebellion against God and his law.
“There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Now, far too often preachers read these texts and stop short of what follows. It seems we need to emphasize the sinful depravity of all human beings so people will know how bad they really are. Maybe that will motivate people to “get their act together” and live a more respectable life among their fellow humans.
Here’s what the preachers miss: Verse 24 is a continuation of verse 23, and contains the most wonderful promise from God.
Here is the core truth of God’s gospel of grace!
Dear friend, that is the what we must keep remembering and sharing about the state of man and the infinite love of God that pours his grace into our lives.
The same individuals who are identified as reprobate sinners (“all”) in verse 23, are the exact same people who are declared “justified freely by [God’s] grace” through the “redemption that came by Christ Jesus” in verse 24!
For those of you with a linguistic bent, the word “all” is the antecedent for both of the identities that follow: “all” have sinned; “all” are justified freely by his grace!
That does not mean—or imply—that everyone will be saved. It simply means that in God’s eyes everyone is already forgiven, justified, and qualified for heaven. However, although God wants to save every individual of Adam’s race, he knows that it hinges on the freewill choice he gave and guaranteed to each of us. We are not compelled to accept his free gift of forgiveness and justification. We can still choose the way of life or the way of darkness. It is up to each person to make that choice for him/herself.
Here are four spiritual steps you may take to receive God’s promised gift of eternal life:
- Understand that God loves you. Jesus told a man named Nicodemus, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
- You are a sinner. We read earlier from Romans 3:10 and 3:23 that everyone is counted as a sinner. We all have fallen short of God’s ideal for us—by our own choice—and thus, as sinners, we all deserve to be separated from God, who is the source of life itself, and thus experience eternal death.
- However, all is not lost! Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, gave His life as a redemption for us—while we were still sinners! (See Romans 5:8). Recognizing this ultimate gift of Jesus who exchanged his life for our death opens the way for us to enter into life.
- We enter eternal life by accepting and receiving God’s gift. This is simply the opening of our heart to God’s Spirit, letting go of our natural spirit of rebellion and self-centered desires and practices, and allowing God’s Spirit to take up residence in our spiritual heart.
If you have not already done so, I’m inviting you today, right now, to take that final step. Accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and let him be Lord of your life. I can tell you from my personal experience, taking this step was the beginning of a life-long journey of fulfillment and growth in grace. From that moment until this very day, I have known a deep peace that surpasses frustration, sadness, loss, grief, disappointment, and anger. I can say with full assurance, God will always be with you to encourage, guide, provide, and lead.
Are you ready to enter into life today? If so, please bow your head with me right now and say this simple prayer:
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part II of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “Romans, Part II: Righteousness by Faith.” Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you! I’ll explore those next few chapters in Paul’s epistle where he details the basis and experience of living by faith in our present world. I’m excited to share this incredible truth of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
If you enjoy these Podcasts and Blogposts, please do share the links with your friends, family, or whomever! My many thanks—in advance!