The book of Romans, written by the Apostle Paul is an essential book in understanding the theology of the Bible. It has been called the “key to understanding all scripture” by many of the early church fathers. It was written to set the record straight among believers from Rome and then subsequently throughout the rest of Europe. The main theme throughout the entire book of Romans is all men everywhere, whether Jew or Gentile, are sinners. We are physically incapable of righteousness ourselves, and that our heritage or station has nothing to do with how God views us.
From the very beginning of Romans we see that God’s righteousness is sufficient for His chosen people, the Jews, and now to the Gentiles. (Romans 1:16) It is through the Gospel itself that the power of God for salvation is transmitted. No one is without need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as He Himself commanded it preceding His death on the cross. (Matthew 28:19,20) Knowing the command of the Great Commission and the need for the Gospel’s transmission, Paul makes clear to the Romans that there is no partiality in Christ.
Therefore, if the salvation is made available to people of all nations regardless of their heritage and background, it must be made clear the purpose of salvation. It is clear in Romans that through Adam all people are made sinners and all are without excuse toward God. John Piper states, “Romans teaches that the most fundamental problem in the universe is that God’s human creatures – all of us – have sinned and fallen short of his glory and are now condemned under the omnipotent wrath of God.” That even nature alone reveals the presence of the Lord, so no one can claim ignorance to the creator. It is also made clear that it is through this sin that men suppress God’s truth purposefully. (Romans 1:18)
Not only does this show us our own need for Christ’s salvation, but it impresses upon the believer the importance of the Gospel in the lives of men and women everywhere. If we cannot recognize our own depravity and sinfulness, how can we emphasize the spreading of the Gospel into all the nations? We see the need and we respond to our own regeneration by offering the truth of the Gospel to everyone else. This is also sufficiently explained that it is through the very first man, Adam, that sin entered into the world. Romans 5:12-13 says “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given”.
Even though sin was around before the Law, Paul goes on to explain that it is the Law itself that reflects our sin back to us. That we are made to see God’s high standard, and that we all fall short of it. (Romans 3:23) Though the Law itself is good, it was never sufficient in offering salvation. No one could maintain a life in which was sinless, because our very nature caused us to do the things that were in subjection to our flesh (nature). It is through understanding that the Law couldn’t justify us, that we realize that no amount of “good works” or deeds could make us right in the sight of the Lord. If it were possible, the people could boast on the things they did to earn favor in God’s eyes. Further clarified in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
Paul makes clear that even though the Jews have recognized and worshipped God the Father and have anticipated the arrival of the Messiah, the Jews aren’t any more special than the Gentiles when it comes to salvation. (Romans 3:22-23) He even goes so far as to say that because of the Jews, God’s name has been blasphemed throughout the world. This leaves no room for anyone to put themselves above the other in God. All are sinners, none can save themselves.
With this understanding in mind, the most natural question is “then what could we possibly do to please God?” and Paul’s answer is not only simple, but absolutely profound. There is nothing we can do, no one is righteous, no one seeks after God and no one understands. (Romans 3:10,11) The law can’t save us, the knowledge of God can’t save us and we cannot save ourselves. It is therefore by Christ alone that man can be saved. It is our faith alone in Christ that justifies us (Romans 5:1). That faith itself is given to us by God, so that yet again we cannot be the active agent in our salvation. This concept is mentioned later in Romans 12:3, “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” John Piper again explains; “the last bastion of pride is the belief that we are the originators of our faith.”
Even though we did nothing specifically to be born sinners, it was through Adam’s disobedience that we are all guilty and condemned by the sin we were born into. It is through Jesus Christ and His specific act of righteousness, counter to Adam’s act of disobedience, that anyone is made right before God. (Romans 5:18,19) It is through Jesus that we die to sin and come alive in Christ. When we are in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin as we have died to it. Therefore, we must strive to live in such a manner that is obedient and respectful to God for the price He paid for our salvation. What a humbling experience to realize that nothing we did or could do could save us, that Christ alone drew us out of our sin nature and now stands at God’s right hand to vouch for us to the Father!
What assurance we as believers can have in the work of salvation through God. Not only are we united in Him through the death of our sin but we will also be united through resurrection. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, removed our hearts of stone and replaced them with hearts of flesh.
We serve an amazing God who in His omnipotence and omniscience is willing and able to save us. That no matter the state of our being, how sinful and depraved we were, He called us into a newness of life. That we can share that same message of hope to others through the Gospel, and it can be the power of God unto someone else’s salvation. That we are adopted into God, among other believers in which we share a rich inheritance. How humble we should be to know that we deserved death, but while still in sin Jesus died for us and His righteousness is counted as our own righteousness.