The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the church at Rome around 57 AD. He hoped to visit them, so was writing to introduce himself. To do so, he presents the gospel, point by point, which makes this letter a “gospel tract”—surely the best ever written.
1:16 The word “gospel” means “good news.” That good news is that God provides salvation for all who put their faith in Christ.
1:18-20 God gives us good reason to believe He exists. There is an inner witness (19), the sense deep within us that there must be a God. There is also an outer witness (20), the things God has created. Clocks, houses, books, and automobiles were all made by someone. Surely Someone made the world we live in.
3:10-12 Paul quotes from Psalm 14, which says that everyone is guilty of moral failure—everyone has, at some point, turned away from God to “do his own thing.”
3:23 Again Paul reminds us of our situation. We have all sinned, doing what we shouldn’t and not doing what we should, and our sin separates us from God.
3:24-26 There are several key words in this passage that help us understand the gospel.
“Justified” – This word is a legal term, similar to “acquitted.” To be acquitted doesn’t mean we didn’t do the crime. Instead, it means we don’t have to pay the penalty.
“Redemption” – Today a store “redeems” a coupon by “buying it back” from a customer. In Paul’s day a slave could be “redeemed” out of slavery by paying a price. Jesus has paid a price—His life—to redeem us from slavery to sin.
“Propitiation” – In Paul’s day someone might sacrifice an animal to one of the gods in order to “make things right” with that god. In contrast, God Himself provides a sacrifice for us so that our relationship with Him can be restored. That sacrifice, or “propitiation,” is His son Jesus.
“Grace” – Having our relationship with God restored isn’t our achievement. Instead, it is a gift from God, an act of grace by a God who seeks relationship with us.
Imagine getting a ticket for speeding. You go to court and the judge fines you an appropriate amount. At that point he is just—he has done what the law required. But imagine that he then opens up his own wallet and pays your fine for you. Doing so makes him your justifier—the one who makes things right between you and the requirements of the law. In the same way, verse 26 says God is both just and our justifier.
5:12 When Adam, the first man, sinned it brought death into the world. There are many ways people die, but the reason we die is because we have inherited death from Adam.
5:8 Many people think that making things right with God is a matter of “being good” and “acting religious.” In other words, it’s up to us to make the effort. However, the truth is exactly the opposite. God saw our need of help before we did. God acted to make things right before we even realized there was a problem. And He acted in love—despite our sin and rebellion.
5:1 Trusting in what God has done for us in the ministry of His son Jesus means that we have peace with God. Many people think they have peace with God, but it’s only wishful thinking. Others know they’re in trouble and either ignore the problem or work hard at “being religious” in order to try to make things right with God. But when we trust in Jesus, we have genuine peace with God—as His gift to us.
6:3-5 Baptism is a death, burial, and resurrection. When you are put under water, it is a “death” (you aren’t breathing) and a “burial.” Being brought up out of the water is a “resurrection.” In that event, you “die to sin” and are “born again,” experiencing a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism also looks ahead to physical death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Verse 5 tells us that baptism “unites us” with Jesus’ own physical resurrection. Someday we will die, but someday we’ll also rise to eternal life with Him.
6:23 The bad news is that what we deserve for our sin—our “wages”—is death, which is eternal separation from God. The good news is that God, through Christ, offers us the gift of eternal life.
10:1-3 Israel—the Jews—rejected Christ and tried to be good enough for God by being religious. So do a lot of people today. It appeals to our pride to think we can “fix” what we have “broken”—including our broken relationship with God. There are two problems with this idea. First, it doesn’t work, because we can’t be good enough to make up for our sins. Second, we don’t need to, since God offers us salvation as a gift when we trust in Jesus His son as our savior and lord.
12:1, 2 Christianity isn’t just some ideas to believe, it is a life to be lived. Paul has explained the gospel for eleven chapters at this point in this letter. Now he “shifts gears” and for the rest of the letter—five more chapters—he focuses on how we should live. Our new life isn’t something we do so that we can please God or make Him love us, because He already loves us. Instead, it is something we do to show our love for Him and to express our worship for Him as a gracious and loving God.
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