Studying Romans was AMAZING! Romans and 2 Corinthians are definitely my two favorite New Testament books. But we still have many more books to get through so that might change 🙂
Paul wrote this letter to the Roman church somewhere between 54-57 AD. The Roman church was made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers as Paul addresses both directly.
The main idea of the book was that both the Jewish and Gentile believers were saved through grace by faith, not through the law. This truth, which was the very essence of the gospel, was supposed to unify them:
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation. For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants…
I want to share the definition of “righteousness” according to the Hebrew Greek Lexicon:
- in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God
- the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God
- integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
From this definition, I see that Paul isn’t just talking about a righteousness that “gets us people into heaven,” but about a righteousness that produces the correct way of living today.
God highlighted to me how the main message in Paul’s letter to the Romans applies to the modern church. Even non-Jewish believers today try coming up with some way outside of God’s grace to become “righteous” (to start living in integrity, purity, rightness, etc). This happens when believers start self-imposing rules on their lives and behaviors that God never told them to impose.
Let’s say a Christian is struggling to overcome some kind of addiction or unhealthy dependence on something/someone, realizing that they’ve become a slave to it (which is obviously outside of God’s righteousness). To break free, that person might start applying self-imposed rules to help them break free from their sin.
For example, someone with a porn addiction might try to cut it out all together because they feel ashamed and can’t seem to overcome it as a Christian. But if they haven’t received grace from the Spirit to walk this out, then their self-imposed rules will fail them and they may even turn back to their sin with a stronger craving. This results in more shame, disappointment and perhaps anger at God.
This is why the law wasn’t able to impart righteousness under the old covenant. The Israelites’ history proved that man was just not able to overcome the power of sin without God. The same holds true today without His Spirit and grace.
Even though it is tempting for believers to take their holiness in their own hands, without God’s grace, it will always result in striving. Paul realized this, too. Whenever he set his mind to do the right thing, “death” was at hand, because he was under the temptation to do the right thing outside of the grace of the Spirit:
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.
This concept is confirmed in the Epistle to the Colossians:
All these regulations refer to things that perish with use; they are simply human commands and teachings. These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-imposed piety, humility, and severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in checking self-indulgence.
Our self-imposed rules on our lives have no value to counter self-indulgence! If that is our goal, to counter overindulgence, then we must put our hope in Christ alone, not in self-imposed rules.
This should come as great news for believers. We don’t have to try to become holy because the Spirit does it for us. All we have to do is learn how to discern God’s voice so we can obey Him in whatever He’s calling us to do so that He can work in us. This, I believe, is what walking in the grace of the Holy Spirit means. And it is the Spirit’s grace (strength) alone that can bring wholeness, healing and righteousness:
…the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled us.
God has been faithful to bring me healing in so many areas of my life without my “help.” He doesn’t leave one part of my heart untouched. I’m sure that He has a lot more He wants to do, and I can trust that He will do it.
But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
This blog post is continued into a second part on a different topic from Romans if you care to read on!