6 March 2012Romans 1:16-25
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (v. 16)
Paul gives us the focus for his whole letter to the Romans in
the first few lines of today's passage. It is concerning the gospel
(good news), which is about salvation by faith through God's
Salvation is a broad term with its meaning stemming from Israel's deliverance from captivity in Egypt and into the freedom of the promised land (Deuteronomy 6:21-23). It is a term used to describe Jesus and his work (Luke 19:9). Salvation is used by Paul to mean God's work in delivering people from the acts and effects of living opposed to God. We are brought into a loving relationship with God, by God. This is for everyone who has faith and is backed up by Paul in verse 17 with a quote from Habakkuk 2:4.
Righteousness is a moral and ethical integrity which only God truly possesses. Paul argues that the righteousness of God is imparted to anyone who has faith in the gospel presented. The condition of faith is the same for everyone, regardless of religious or cultural background.
The actions of Gentiles (non Jews) and God's view of them is then analysed in verses 18-25. The term "wrath" (v. 18) may make us uncomfortable, but clearly points us to the activity of God against everything that is unjust and wrong in all spheres of life. It is the powerful action of the God of love against all that is unloving.
Written to a church living amongst the pagan rituals, moral corruption and pleasure seeking of gentile Rome, the original readers would have recognised Paul's description of a downward spiral. People had no excuse because the nature of God was self-evident. The heartbreaking phrase, "God gave them up" (v. 24), is not just God letting human beings get what they desire. We must also face the writer's thought, that God actively hands over people to their destructive consequences.
In your life what have you been saved from? What have you been saved to?
What kind of upward or downward spirals are at work in your culture or life? To what extent Paul's analysis one that you can identify with?
How do you react to the idea of God's wrath? Where and against what wickedness do you think it is revealed?