Romans: Cornerstone of Christian Living
- Friday, May 14, 2010
The Spirit is our source of strength but also a sign of our security in Christ. Security that God works for our good (8:28). Security that we were chosen by God and will one day see Him face-to-face (8:29-30). Security that God is for us and not against us (8:31). And security that nothing, either in heaven or on earth, can separate us from the love of God (8:38-39).
The Future of Israel (Romans 9-11)
Not everyone, however, has that sense of security; not everyone is saved. And that grieved Paul, especially because many of the unsaved were fellow Jews. How could it be that God's covenant people of old could be so resistant to the gospel?
Paul explained that Israel's rejection of God is both a matter of God's sovereign choice (Romans 9) and Israel's stubbornness and self-righteousness (Romans 10).
Does that mean God has given up on Israel? Paul's vivid depiction of an olive tree in chapter 11 assures us that He hasn't. Though unbelieving Jews have been "cut off" from the olive tree (the community of the redeemed) and believing Gentiles have been grafted in, "all Israel" will one day be saved and grafted back in (11:26).
This divine plan caused Paul to praise God for His "unfathomable" ways (11:33). Though we can't always explain why God does things the way He does them, we can trust that He is God. And His plans, like His person, are perfect.
How, Then, Are We to Live? (Romans 12:1-15:13)
Having laid out the truth of what Christ has done for us, Paul, in his usual style, turned his attention to how life changes for those who are in Christ.
In light of the "mercies of God" (Romans 1-11), Paul urged us to "present [our] bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual service of worship" (12:1).
What does this mean? It means that the Christian life is a sacrificial offering of gratitude to the God who has set us free to serve Him.
How do we serve Him? Rather than being "conformed" to the world, we're to be "transformed by the renewing of" our minds (12:2). And rather than dwelling on our own importance, we're to consider the value of others (12:3-8). We're to live in a way that serves and benefits others and that combats evil with good (12:9-21).
The realm of civil government also takes on new meaning for the Christian. We're to pray for our leaders, submit to them, and live exemplary lives under their reign (Romans 13).
Life in Christ also brings freedom from external standards of righteousness. Though we're all to be sensitive to and respect the convictions held by others, righteousness isn't defined by our participation or abstinence. "The kingdom of God," said Paul, "is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (14:17).
Pleasing ourselves isn't the goal of the Christian life (15:1). We're to follow the example of Christ and work for the good of our neighbor, "accept[ing] one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God" (15:7).
The Christian life is a different life. And all the resources we need to live it are found in Christ Himself.
Conclusion (Romans 15:14-16:27)
With the lesson now complete, Paul finished his letter on a more personal note. Commentator John Stott captured the essence of Paul's heartfelt conclusion.
The apostle seems to be experiencing a twinge of apprehension about how his letter will be received. If so, the rest of it will disarm and reassure them. He writes very personally (maintaining an "I-you" directness throughout), affectionately ("my brothers," 15:14) and candidly. He opens his heart to them about the past, present and future of his ministry, he asks humbly for their prayers, and he sends them many greetings. In these ways he gives us insight into the out-working of God"s providence in his life and work.
Paul closed his letter in a way we would expect from a man who simply couldn't get over the grace and the greatness of God.
"To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen" (Romans 16:27).
We don't know for sure whether Paul ever made it to Spain. But he did eventually travel to Rome - as a prisoner - and ministered there under house arrest for two years (Acts 28:16-31). His second journey to Rome ended in martyrdom in AD 68. The Emperor Nero's execution order ended the apostle's life, but it couldn't silence his voice.
And it never will.
View a chart on the book of Romans.
1. New Geneva Study Bible, ed. R. C. Sproul and Mois Silva (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 1764-65.
2. John Stott, Romans: God's Good News for the World (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1994), 377.
Adapted from Insight for Living, God's Masterwork: A Concerto in Sixty-Six Movements, vol. 4, Matthew through 1 Thessalonians (Plano, Tex.: Insight for Living, 1997), 60-67. Copyright © 1997 by Charles R. Swindoll.
Publication date: May 14, 2010
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