ANCHORED DAILY: Romans Chapters 1-3

posted by Bethel Communications | Jun 29, 2022

Sarah Landon, a disciple of Jesus Christ, to the Anchored Daily listeners of Bethel church, who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Did you like my first century introduction? I hope you’re ready to put on your first century hats today because we have the honor of looking at the first three chapters of the book of Romans, Paul’s letter to the church in Rome.  You may not actually have to try too hard to identify with some of the struggles the church faced during that time.  You probably don’t have the exact concerns people of this time had.  I mean, you don’t need to be worried about your children becoming enslaved if you fall behind on payments, but I think you’ll find both their circumstance and Paul’s wise counsel are as applicable then as they are now.

To really soak in this ancient environment, here’s a little context.  The Jews had been driven out of Rome for about five years and the church was kept going by the Gentile believers.  The Jews have come back now and let’s just say that both groups approach their life in Christ from different angles.  Maybe you can think of a time in recent memory when there was a disagreement in the church about how to approach things.  It’s hard, isn’t it?  In the Roman church, it is creating division and disagreement, making it difficult to live and worship together, because frankly, some people are just wrong.  Or ARE they?

Paul hasn’t even actually met these people yet, but his hope is that this letter can help unite the Jewish and Gentile Christians.  His desire is also that the Gentiles would become obedient Christians for the sake of Christ.

To give you a little fly-over of our section, chapters one through three, Paul begins with an introduction and greeting where he already starts laying down some fundamentals of who Jesus is and the power of the gospel.  He moves on to explain why God’s wrath against sinners is completely righteous and justifiable.

I always keep an eye out for things that the author repeats.  Did you notice that Paul asks a lot of rhetorical questions?  It’s a theme through the whole letter, but he kicks it off in chapter 2 when he asks seven different questions in that chapter alone and then a whopping eighteen in chapter three!  He also begins responding to his own questions with, “No way, Jose!”  Ok.  He doesn’t actually say that EXACTLY, but it IS a translation, so he COULD have said the Greek equivalent, right?  The ESV translation says, “By no means!” He is really being a straight talker in the hopes of setting them on the right path together.

I have to admit, some of the things he talks about are really convicting.  Chapter 2 especially stood out to me.  Paul camps on the idea of judgement, both our judgement of others and God’s judgement.  He talks a lot about our hypocrisy, teaching one thing and living another.  Chapter 2 verses 23 and 24 really jumped off the page to me.  I like the way the New Living Translation expresses it.

“23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.””

Can all of my fellow religious people join me in saying, “Oof.”  Our boasting in the rules we follow only ends up discrediting God when we fail to measure up to our own standards.  #holierthanthou coming back tarnish our reputation, but more than that, God’s reputation. 

Maybe this particular verse stands out to me because of a very clear memory I have from when I was in high school.  I was hanging out with my older brother and his friends, who had attended church with their parents since they were little.  Somehow Christianity came up and I’ll never forget how one of them said, “I’ve decided not to be Christian because I can’t stand all of the hypocrites.”  I can’t say I was a super outspoken or devoted believer at that time, but I felt a profound sadness.  I could understand his sentiment and although I didn’t agree with his choice, his observation was sadly accurate. 

Unfortunately, when we make ourselves out to be really good at following rules, it ends up becoming a trap, that WE fall into, and that harms God’s reputation.  Not a pretty sight.  Fortunately, Paul clears it up, not by condemnation or shame, but by returning to our identity.  In chapter 2 verse 29 he answers one of his rhetorical questions, “No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”

May we be a people, not defined by the rules we keep, but the hearts we possess.  May we live a life example of humility, forgiveness, selflessness, and goodness, that we would be a credit to God’s reputation and not a liability.  May we hold our brokenness (because it’s there!) with honesty and ever return to the grace poured out by Jesus for our righteousness, just like Paul states in chapter 3, verse 22, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.”

Would you join me in prayer?

God, we are the undeserving recipients of your righteousness, your goodness, your grace.  May we hold tight to you and loose our grip on the letter of the law.  Holy Spirit, help us give you space to move in our hearts that we would bring glory to God living out the gospel. Amen.


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