The Letter of Paul to the Romans is a book of the Bible that will forever be challenging to me. I thoroughly enjoy great theological conversations and learning deep spiritual constructs, but this book is all-you-can-eat and then some. However, as my favorite professor at Mid-America Seminary used to say, “Mayonnaise is a complex word but everyone understands what it is.” The same is true about a book like Romans if we sit down with an open heart and ask God for wisdom and clarity. Yes, pastors typically have the incredible privilege and gift to dedicate time and finances to higher education, but the Holy Spirit is alive and active in all believers. Jesus teaches in John 16 the work of the Holy Spirit includes “[guiding] you into all truth…”
Let’s take a quick look at a familiar verse(s) with fresh eyes and open hearts.
Lecrae and the 116 Clique helped make Romans 1:16 even more famous. But to fully appreciate such an important truth, we must also consider verse 17 in context. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
The first question you should ask yourself is, “What is the it by which the righteousness of God is revealed?” The clear answer is the “gospel” – as identified in verse 16. This will likely be obvious to this point. Now what I want you to consider is what I believe the Holy Spirit to be teaching me. The righteousness of God. What is this? What relevance does it have in my life? In my humble opinion, the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel can be understood in at least two concepts.
Answer. There is a truth that exists and that is you and I were created by God and for God (Genesis 2, Colossians 1). An additional truth is that our sin forever separates us from a relationship with God (Genesis 3). In the protoevangelium – the first explanation of the gospel, evangelism – of Genesis 3:14-15 God clearly declares and defines the answer for our sinful condition. God will provide His only Son, perfect and sinless, as a sacrifice for the wrath of God against sin. In a holy paradox, through the power of God’s righteousness He both executes punish for sin and also forgives the penalty of sin by the work of His Son Jesus on the cross. This is righteousness in its purest form. Nearly incomprehensible – dare I say amazing grace! – this is the only answer for our salvation, for abundant life in this life and eternal life in the next.
Example. Nothing quite brings home a theological truth like immediate application. I was awake at the table before anyone else in the house. I had a hot cup of coffee, my Bible, my journal, and a nice view of the bird feeder in our backyard. Only a few minutes into my reading of Romans 1, our youngest son began to stir in his crib. His room is only a few feet away from the kitchen table. His stirring soon turned into being full-blown awake a solid hour before his usual time to get up. Talk about frustrating! Come on God, I’m doing my quiet time like I’m supposed to! Why would you let me be interrupted?! Why? Because apparently my devotional life needed not only understanding but application. This righteousness from God is both unearned and undeserved. You and I are like my son. We are the interruption to God’s perfection and holiness. He never intended creation to be filled with the consequences of sin. Genesis 2 and 3 teaches us He had joy in the presence of His greatest creation – us! So how does He treat our sinful interruption? With love. John 15:13 Jesus teaches, “Greater love has no one than this, that somebody lay down his life for his friends.” And perhaps the greatest verses for us to believe are Romans 5:7-8, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is not only the answer for our own sin and salvation, but it is our example in daily life. That toddler who is on your last nerve. That co-worker who received the praises that you deserved. That neighbor who plays their music too loud. That unexpected or unexplained crisis. Our example is to love others and trust the Father.
This truth is so wonderfully simply, I’ve already found myself claiming it as a responsive mantra in daily life: “He is my answer, He is my example. He is my answer, He is my example.” These words are a convicting truth and a powerful comfort.