We live in Flannery O’Connor’s “Christ-haunted South.” It’s easy to become inoculated to the gospel, as we’re constantly taking in bits and pieces of Christianity all around us. The gospel–what Jesus did and does for us in it–can easily get reduced to a set of correct beliefs or behaviors. Times of personal dryness, bitterness, passivity, even cynicism can result.
What’s the solution? A fresh look at the real thing.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul unpacks the gospel in a way we’re not used to hearing. There’s no weak, insipid version of God’s good news here. The gospel, God’s gospel, is the righteousness of God being revealed. It’s for believers. And it’s for the rest of the world, too.
Why is the gospel mainly about God’s righteousness being revealed? Because God’s wrath is being revealed. Romans 1:18-32 is a hard-hitting indictment against the non-believing world. Sin is, at the core, an exchange of the glory of God for lesser, created things. Any disorder that we see in the world, even the disordering of our sexual affections, is about the exchange of God for something else.
Lest the religious world should begin to feel smug about their successful behavior modification techniques, Romans 2 is an indictment against sin in the believing world as well. “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” All the advantages of having high moral standards are of no advantage at all if we can’t live up to them perfectly.
Paul goes on to deftly demonstrate that the whole world—religious or irreligious, Jew or Greek—is guilty of profound sin and justly under the wrath of God. He spends three chapters arguing like an Apostle, not willing to let anyone off the hook with a superficial diagnosis of our core problem. The heart of our problem is the problem of our heart, and a superficial diagnosis would only lead to a superficial remedy.
In what feels like a breath of fresh air, after much talk of sin, wrath, and judgement, we arrive at Romans 3:21 “But now the righteousness of God is being revealed…” We read why Jesus really had to die, and we feel it. In the gospel, God gives to us what He demands from us: His righteousness. By punishing sin in Jesus, God’s justice is vindicated. He gets all the wrath; we get all the grace. And we get justification—righteousnessification.
This justification—sin forgiven and righteousness applied—is ours by faith. Romans 4 proves, through the example of Abraham, that there’s no possible way to earn or get righteousness credited to us apart from believing on Jesus. Paul goes to great lengths, in his most systematic and comprehensive letter ever written, to develop for us the doctrine of justification by faith.
In Romans 5 and 6 (where we’re currently positioned in our Christian-Education study), we begin to plumb the depths of the spiritual blessings of the gospel. We see that the gospel of God’s righteousness credited to us is, like Jerry Bridges says, “not just the ABC’s of the Christian life, but all of the Christian life.” The gospel means we have peace with God, hope in suffering, and grace that super-abounds over our sin.
There’s more to Romans. Much more. It’s an exciting letter to read and be transformed by together. We hope you and your family will join us this Sunday morning at 9:15 in the Fellowship Hall.
What are Redeemer folks saying about the study of Romans?
From Kyle Babb:
Romans has been a great way to throw us off of our proverbial high horse of self-righteous pride and into a reliance upon the complete work of Christ. How unfathomable and incredible it is that God would take us—objects predisposed to His wrath through our rebellion—and use us as objects on which to pour out His righteousness. In this New Year, hopefully, we can proclaim, as Paul, that we are bondslaves of Christ, rather than servants of ourselves.