Romans 1 (NRSV)
Romans has always stood at the head of Paul’s letters, and rightly so. Since Acts ends with Paul’s arrival in Rome, it is logical to have the Epistle section of the New Testament begin with the apostle’s letter to the Roman church, written before he visited the Christians there. More decisively, Romans is the most important book theologically in the whole New Testament, being as close to a systematic theology as will be found in God’s word.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, 6including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.
7To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.
This is the Christian and true way of praising people — not to praise people for their own sake but to praise God in them first and foremost and to attribute everything to Him, as Isaiah 43:21 says: “This people have I formed for Myself, they shall show forth My praise.”
Then the apostle shows that God is not praised except through Christ. As we receive everything from God through Him so we must return everything to God through Him since He alone is worthy to appear before the face of God and to carry on His priestly office for us, as in Hebrews 13:15: “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruits of lips that acknowledge His name.”
Therefore, he praises God through Christ for these people. While it is characteristic of envy to be sad about a neighbor’s good gifts and to curse them, here we see love. For it is the nature of love that it rejoices in the good gifts of the neighbor, especially his spiritual gifts, and glorifies God in them.
–Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans
9For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.
Before our Father’s throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.
11For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
We share each other’s woes,
our mutual burdens bear;
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
13I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15—hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
The Power of the Gospel
16For 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. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”
. . . which may also be understood, “the justified-by-faith ones shall live.”
What wonderful words! HERE is Rich Mullins singing them.
In August of 1513, a monk lectured on the book of Psalms in a seminary, but his inner life was nothing but turmoil. In his studies, he came across Psalm 31:1: In Thy righteousness deliver me. The passage confused him; how could God’s righteousness do anything but condemn him to Hell as a righteous punishment for his sins? Luther kept thinking about Romans 1:17, which says that in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous shall live” (Habakkuk 2:4).
The monk went on to say: “Night and day I pondered until . . . I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise . . . This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.”
Martin Luther was born again, and the reformation began in his heart.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
The Guilt of Humankind
19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
2 Kings 17:15 (NIV)
They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.
24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
Galatians 5:19-23 (NIV)
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.