Daily Devotional

November 3, 2019

Daybreak: Romans 1:1-17

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) is considered to be one of the most influential figures in Christian church history. Luther spent his early years as a Catholic monk and theological scholar. He was very zealous in his efforts to please God, engaging in fasting, long sessions of prayer, numerous pilgrimages, constant confession, and even flogging himself as a religious discipline. He frequently went many hours without sleep and endured frigid cold without proper cover in an effort to prove his sincerity. As he later commented, “If anyone could have earned Heaven by the life of a monk, it was I.”

In spite of Luther’s efforts, however, he could not find peace with God. It seemed that the more he tried to do for God, the more he became convinced of his own sinfulness. He was increasingly terrified of the wrath of the Almighty and this became a terrible burden upon his soul.

In 1515, while preparing a lecture on Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Luther read the words of our focus verse, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” He spent long hours pondering this passage. At last God opened his eyes to the understanding that salvation was not obtained by fearing God or being enslaved by religious practices. Rather, it was a gift of God’s grace, received by faith in God’s promise to forgive sins for the sake of Christ’s death upon the Cross at Calvary.

This understanding marked a major change in Martin Luther’s life. He began looking at the church’s teachings with new eyes. In 1517, he composed a document calling into question some of the basic tenets of Roman Catholicism, including the practice of selling “indulgences” — a rampant practice by the Roman Catholic Church of collecting payment for absolution from punishment for some specific types of sins. His Ninety-five Theses set forth two central beliefs: that the Bible rather than the pope is the religious authority, and that salvation must be received through faith in Jesus Christ, rather than by deeds.

In 1521, Luther was summoned to appear before the Roman Emperor in Worms, Germany. Luther assumed the purpose was for another debate, but in reality, it was a trial at which he was asked to recant his views. He responded with the now-famous words, “Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning . . . then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience.” Then he added, “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen.”

By the time an imperial edict calling Luther “a convicted heretic” was issued, he had escaped into hiding. However, word of Luther’s courageous actions and his teachings spread, and ultimately were the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century — an event that had an incalculable effect on world history.

The truth that Paul the Apostle declared in today’s text, and that Martin Luther came to recognize as the way to peace with God, is still changing lives today. There is only one way to a right relationship with God — through faith in Jesus Christ. By trusting in what Jesus did at Calvary to obtain our salvation and repenting of sin, our relationship with God is made right. Thank God for His wonderful plan of salvation!

Background

These opening verses of Paul’s epistle to the Christians in Rome can be divided into three sections: the Apostle’s introduction and greetings (verses 1-7), an expression of his feelings toward these believers who had no personal knowledge of him but whom he had long desired to visit (verses 8-15), and his initial statement regarding the content of his message (verses 16-17).

The title “Apostle” generally was used as a designation for the twelve men whom Christ appointed to be with Him (see Mark 3:14). However, Paul asserted in verse 1 that he was not only a “servant of Jesus Christ,” but that he had been “called to be an apostle.” The word translated “called” means more than merely being invited, but includes the sense of being appointed — Paul had not assumed the office himself, but was set apart to it by the authority of Christ. The Judaizing teachers (Jewish Christians who taught the necessity of circumcision) of the time disputed Paul’s claim to apostleship, so he seemingly deemed it necessary to declare his credentials at the outset of this letter in which the teachings of the Judaizers would be overthrown.

The Apostle continued by showing the connection between the old covenant (given through Abraham, Moses, and David) and the Gospel of Jesus Christ (verses 2-6). In support, he pointed out that Christ had been predicted by Old Testament prophets, that His Davidic descent was a fulfillment of prophetic utterances, and that His divine nature was proved by His resurrection from the dead. Paul then addressed his epistle to the church at Rome, and gave the apostolic salutation conferring grace and peace (verse 7).

Paul went on to commend the faith of the Roman believers and to state his purpose in wanting to come to their city. He related three specific desires: that he would be a spiritual blessing to them, that he would receive fellowship and comfort from them, and that his visit would result in spiritual fruit (verses 11-13). The Greek word translated “comforted” in verse 12 has a sense of “encouraged” rather than the provision of consolation or solace.

In the final two verses of our text, Paul presented a core statement of what he meant by “the gospel,” asserting that it was “the power of God unto salvation.” His message established the universality of sin, the impossibility of man rescuing himself, God’s provision of Jesus Christ as the means of mankind’s salvation, and the necessity of faith to receive the offered blessing. The word translated “power” from the Greek dunamis expresses strength and potency; the English word “dynamite” is a derivative of the same Greek word.

Paul stated what he felt about this Gospel with the restrained expression, “I am not ashamed . . .” The Apostle was well aware of what was arrayed against him: the traditions of the ages, the philosophies of a powerful and materialistic society, and bitter hatred and prejudice. However, he refused to be deferential or apologetic in the face of these opposing forces, and without hesitation proclaimed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a life-changing agent for everyone who believes.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

I.    Introduction (1:1-17)
    A.    Greetings to the Romans (1:1-7)
    B.    Paul’s concern for the believers in Rome (1:8-15)
    C.    Theme (1:16-17)

A Closer Look

  1. According to verse 11, what did Paul long to impart to the believers at Rome, and why?

  2. Why do you think Paul said he was a “debtor” to the Greeks and the Barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise (verse 14)?

  3. What are some ways our lives can demonstrate that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”?

Conclusion

Our own efforts or attempts to be righteous will never be enough. There is only one way to have a right relationship with God, and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the price He paid at Calvary for our redemption.

Reference Materials