“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16)
In his gospel-centric letter to the church in Rome, Paul boldly proclaims that salvation is provided to all who believe through the power of the gospel. Across the pages of Romans, we see how the gospel of Christ fulfills what is lacking both in Judaism and among the Gentiles. Join me on a walk through the first half of this book as we look at the need for salvation, the provision made for salvation, and the result of salvation.
The Need for Salvation
In the first chapter of the Epistle of Romans, man’s sinful condition is apparent. The apostle Paul gives a clear picture of the unrighteousness of the heathen. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shown it unto them.” (Rom. 1:18-19) People have become estranged from God because of their individual wickedness and “that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.” (Rom. 1:21) This disconnect from Creator God and the self-righteous attitude of man has caused him to attempt to fill a void by creating other gods. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Rom. 1:22-23) Thus God has given men up to their lusts and “reprobate minds.” A need for salvation.
However, this sinful condition was not limited to the aforementioned Gentiles. Instead, Paul points out that the Jewish believers who made up the church of Rome were guilty of despising the riches of God’s goodness. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds.” (Rom. 2:5-6) Although the Jews had a heightened view of their self-righteousness, Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, shows that their sin was even more inexcusable than that of the Gentiles because they had the light of the law. “Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou are that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemned thyself; for thou that judgest does the same things.” (Rom. 2:1) Their self-righteous nature was causing them to put their works above the grace of God, but in reality, they could not keep the law perfectly. A need for salvation.
All men, regardless of ethnicity, are in great need of a Saviour. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:10-12) As a result of living in a sin-cursed world, men naturally do not seek God. Neither do they have a fear of God before their eyes. Paul goes on to say that comparing oneself to the law would not save man from his sinful state but would simply magnify man’s guilt. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Rom. 3:19-20).
The Provision Made for Salvation
Considering the dark condition of man and the fact that there is no remedy found in the law, what can be done to rescue the souls of men? Man in his depraved state could never gain acceptance with God of his own accord. Having sinned and being corrupted there is nothing that will atone for our guilt. It would be foolish for man to think provision could be found in the law. One could never be justified or saved by the law that they have transgressed. All are guilty, and therefore all have need of righteousness before they can appear before a holy God. But, must guilty man remain under the wrath of God?
Praise God that we were not given these first chapters of Romans alone. Instead, the Holy Spirit guides Paul to write, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:21-26)
We are not left to find our way in the darkness. Instead, the righteousness we need in order to be delivered from our guilt of sin is made manifest in the person of Christ Jesus. This righteousness is imputed without the law and eliminates the need for Gentiles to conform to the laws of Judaism. Yes, the law is so far from justifying us that it points us to the only means of justification – Christ, our righteousness. The law and the prophets bear witness to this glorious reality. The only provision made for the remission of sins is justifying faith. This faith has Christ as its central focus and is given to all who believe.
An example of this saving faith is found in the life of an Old Testament saint, Abraham. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:3) The Jews highly valued their relation to Abraham and viewed him as one with great works. But Paul maintained that Abraham was only justified by faith. “For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God.” (Rom. 4:2) Abraham was a blessed man because the Lord did not impute his sin on him but rather imputed the perfect righteousness of His Son. This example, recorded in the pages of Scripture, is for the express purpose that we might know how to receive this imputed righteousness. “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25)
The Result of Salvation
So what are the results of receiving this imputed righteousness? The results are vast, but first recorded would be the freedom from wrath. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1-2) By faith, we lay hold on the strength of God and are at peace with Him. Being brought from death to life, we are no longer at enmity with our Creator.
Next, we are saved from sin because “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so, might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 5:20-21) We no longer have to be bound to sin because we are “alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11) Sin does not have dominion over us because we are not under the law but under grace. As Matthew Henry says, “A life devoted to God is a new life; before, self was the chief and highest end, but now God. To live indeed is to live to God, with our eyes ever towards him, making him the center of all our actions.”
Then, we are freed from the law. “But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6) The law condemns every person, but the work of Christ reverses that sentence. We “are become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” (Rom. 7:4) The law wonderfully shows us our sin, points us to the perfect righteousness of Christ, and then is abolished. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4)
And, finally, we are delivered from death. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 7:24-25) Instead of living under the law of Moses, believers have been called to live under the law of the indwelling Spirit. We no longer walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit living inside of us. This very Spirit delivers us from death. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:2-4) Because of this, we are secure in the love of God, and nothing can ever separate us. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
Written by NBB Alumna: Rachel Sheppard