Monday, July 22, 2019

Overview of Romans

euangelion is a Greek word that means Good News. In the first century it was a common word used in everyday life whenever news qualified as good. Like someone saying, “That’s good to hear.”

When the angel announced Jesus’ birth, he said: Luke 2:10-11 Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

The same word is also translated Gospel, which came from the old English word: godspell. Back then, the god part of the word was pronounced goad, which was Old English for good. The word spell meant a message with influential powers like a wizard’s spell, referring to a captivating story. It evolved to meaning good message or good news. The “d” was eventually dropped and the word became gohspel or gospel.

When the King James Bible was being translated, that was the word they primarily used for euangelion. But when Old English was no longer spoken, the word gospel lost its original meaning and slipped into use as merely a religious term.

In the NT, the writers added an article in front of euangelionthe – which made it definite good news, defining good news – the best good news. This news was uniquely good. In regular conversation, Greek speaking people would still ask: do you know any good news? But in Christian circles the question was asked: do you know the good news?

1Cor 15:1-5 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared

In a nutshell that is the message of the Good News, the Gospel. So, when NT writers wrote or teachers spoke the word euangelion they meant the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  

To explain the Good News, Paul wrote a letter to the believers in Rome. Rom 1:1-4 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 

In each city to which Paul ministered, his message was always the same: God had a plan. This is what He did to fulfill that plan and here’s how that plan applies to you. Now that you know, God would like you to believe it and receive the relationship it provides. Then, once you enter into that relationship, here’s how you live. But ministry to Rome was different. He hadn’t been there.

He told them: Rom 15:22-26 For this reason I have often been prevented from coming to you; but now, with no further place for me in these regions, and since I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while— but now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 

So, if we can imagine this, he was writing to a people who were strangers to him. He knew they met in house churches, were organized in some fashion and understood something of the Christian message, enough to be called Believers (Saints), but he didn’t really know if they knew what he felt they needed to know.

He was certain they knew Jesus had died, but did they understand why Jesus died? Did they recognize the price Jesus’ death paid? Did they know what was accomplished because He died? If they had received that salvation did they know what it meant to live as a Christian? Did they grasp what God committed Himself to do on their behalf?

So, to lay out his teaching, Paul began with his theme: Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH." 

In a world where the people lived under the daily influence of oppressive powers of the government, of pagan cults, of military forces, of a hedonistic society, not to mention the emptiness of life without God, was there a counter power that could deliver them from the burden of this oppressiveness while still living under the oppression and also place them into a personal relationship with God Himself?

To the Corinthians, Paul had written: 1Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

Because of that cross God was willing to exercise His power to save everyone who believes. The word saved means delivered. Delivered carries the idea of being set free from what oppresses or controls us. Which, to oppressed people, would tell them God’s power must be greater than any other power if it could free them from the burden of their oppression and give them a new life to live. So, if God’s power could do that, and somehow that power was contained within the Gospel, how could the power of that Gospel be released?

The Chinese developed gunpowder in the 900s. Some believe the discovery was by accident when the ingredients got mixed together and a spark exploded them. If so, that explosion gave gunpowder its mission – to blow things up. They found application in warfare but also in fireworks. In either, there was an anticipated result – the potential of an explosion. What was necessary was the igniter. The gunpowder was ready to release its power. All it needed was a spark.

The power of God, imbedded in the Gospel message, was waiting for the spark to be released. In Bible terms, the spark was faith – not just faith that the story was true, but faith in what God would do because the story was true. That power was the potential of a life-changing experience.

1Cor 2:4 My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 

Paul didn’t want to persuade people to believe the message, he wanted them to ultimately believe in the God of the Message. The power was not the information but what God would bring about when they believed.

The word power is quite expansive in what it can refer to:
  • Explosive power to initiate a dramatic effect. Like dynamite.
  • On-going power to generate the life it produces. Like a dynamo or generator.
  • Energizing power to enable the life to accomplish what God intends. Like connecting to a battery or plugging into the wall outlet.

Paul wants the Romans to know that power would have the same effect on anyone who believes. But to assure them that the effect can affect anyone, he had to explain that the need for that effect applied to everyone as well. Before he could offer them the privilege of what the Gospel provided, he had to show them why they needed it in the first place.

Rom 1:18-25 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  

Who would do such a thing? They did. They all, at one time in their lives, had relegated God to the unnecessary role of a mere bystander, or worse, an enemy to reject, resist or deny. They had all wanted no part of God at some point. So all of them were guilty.

Rom 3:22-23 there is no distinction, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

Paul used a term that painted a picture. Since everyone was familiar with archery, the image of an archer shooting an arrow at a target and missing it – falling short – was what they were doing with God. His target was the conditions He expected for a relationship with Him – godliness and righteousness. Their actions and attitudes proved they were neither godly nor righteous. Missing the target is called sin.

Paul needed them to know sin was so serious to God that it carried consequences. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

The consequence of missing the target was God’s wrath. But the message of Romans told them there also was a solution.

Rom 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 

Paul told them Jesus took the wrath of God reserved for them upon Himself and if they would accept His death as the means of God’s forgiveness, He would then present them to God as justified – just-as-if-they’d-never-sinned. So, though the wrath remained in effect for everyone else, they would personally be delivered from that wrath.

But there was more. Rom 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 

Free from wrath and delivered from an empty life, God would give them a new life which He would empower them to live. They no longer had to live a sin-dominated life.

Rom 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 
Rom 6:4 as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 
Rom 6:12-13 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God

But realizing there will be struggles because they remained in an oppressive world and would stumble on occasions, Paul told them God’s ultimate provision.

Rom 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 
Rom 7:20-21 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 
What’s the provision? Rom 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The same Lord that died for them, who released them from the wrath of God, who presented them justified before God, also empowered them to live the life He gave them.

Therefore: Rom 8:1 There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 

Now you can understand the concept of John 8:36 If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. Free from the wrath of God, free from the dominance of sin, free from the burden of oppression, free from condemnation. Free to live a full and abundant life.

So, if I am freed from God’s wrath, delivered from the burdens within my difficult life and given a new life by the power wrapped up in the Gospel, guaranteed by God’s eternal love, how do I maintain this life? Rom 12:1-2 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 

I renew myself regularly to the truth of what Jesus has done and live in the joy of the freedom He provides.
  • When I get overwhelmed, I remind myself I’ve been set free.
  • When I stumble and fall, I remember there is no condemnation but a hand reaching down to lift me up.
  • When I feel oppressed, I remember He who has begun this great work in me will see that it does what He promised it would do.

Can you imagine the joy of the Roman believers after reading this letter from Paul? That they can be oppressed but not beyond the strength God provides? That not only do they have a new way to live but a new reason to live? Can you feel the hope these words gave them? All because Jesus came, died, was buried, rose again and lives forever to guarantee that what the Gospel says is true.

Rom 15:13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

  1. Because the Bible is relevant, reliable and relatable, what Paul wrote to the Romans applies to us today.
  2. All the conditions, concerns and opportunities within this letter are as much for us as they were for the Romans.
  3. The same power he described is still contained within the Gospel message along with the same potential of result.
  4. The question remains: will we allow the Power of God to deliver us from the burden of our oppression and the sin that dominates our lives?

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