Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Romans 1

Abandoning the axioms for now because I underestimated the ambition of the project...
I would like you to join with me in a 16 day study of the book of Romans. Each day, I will post a relatively brief devotional on the contents of the chapter. I ask that you first pray for God to grant you guidance and understanding, then read the scripture, then read the devotion, ponder any questions I may tack on at the end and perhaps read the chapter again.
Romans is widely considered to be the pinnacle of the apostle Paul's work in describing and defending the gospel of Jesus Christ and it is well worth our attention for a period of personal revival and renewed attention to our roots. It is my prayer that you will really take the study of this masterpiece to heart, it is the inspired word of the Almighty, written down so that you and I might glimpse his perfect truth. Nothing should be taken with more gravity than the study of the divine and a flippant overview of such an important subject profits nothing. With that introduction out of the way, let us begin.
READ: Romans 1
The Apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Romans by the authority of God. The mention of his own name in the first verse seems merely a formality before he goes into praising the name of his savior. Paul let Christ define who he was; his call was to preach Christ. His mantra was that Jesus of Nazareth had conquered death and shown himself as God, and Paul preached it at constant risk of death and reality of ridicule so that just a few might be saved.
After establishing the Lord on who's behalf he wrote, Paul tells the church (or perhaps churches) in Rome how often he prays for them (without ceasing!) and how he would like to come and impart a spiritual gift to them. The Gifts of the Spirit were special abilities which the apostles were able to pass on to believers, granting gifts from healing to prophecy. The receivers of these gifts could not pass them on, so with the death of the last apostle (John) the abilities quickly died out. The purpose of spiritual gifts was to help establish credibility for the gospel message (v 11) so with the completion of the Bible, its purpose was fulfilled.
Paul doesn't linger on spiritual gifts long, he quickly gets back to his real message: Salvation. He reveals that he has a responsibility to preach to the lost and dying world around him, from the most educated Greek to the savages in the country side - they all needed Jesus. Paul knew that the gospel revealed the true character of God - grace for those who would just sincerely ask.
But grace is meaningless if men deserve God's favor. Often the harsh reality of sin is buried in popular preaching, but Paul didn't shy away from it. The KJV translates the start of 18 particularly well: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." Nature itself proclaims the Lord, Paul explains, but men want to control the divine so badly that they worship animals and the works of their own hands. Pantheism and idolatry reflect the pride of a wicked race, trying to limit God's perfection to something they can understand and control. God sent the spirit of conviction to gnaw on their hearts, trying to turn them from their ways, but when they refused, He allowed them to sear their hearts with hot irons, so they would be insensitive to His prodding. It is not a pretty picture which Paul paints, but Jesus explains why in Luke 7:40-43. Until we understand the debt we owe, we cannot appreciate the free pardon.
Stay with me and we will see what greatness God has wrought from our sin.
(1) Do you make it a real point to pray for the faith of other Christians (v 9)? Why or why not?
(2) Read verse 16 very slowly and carefully. What does it mean to you in your daily walk?
(3) Looking at the list of sins in vv 29-32, how many can you charge yourself with? Do you understand the miry pit from which God has lifted you? Or do you refuse to leave the mud of your own life for the glory of God?
(4) Will you pray for God to give you an opportunity to share your faith tomorrow? Will you really look?

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