In the nearly two thousand years since the apostle Paul penned his letter to the Romans, scientific and technological changes have radically transformed society. Despite the dramatic changes that have taken hold of the world, the fundamental problems humanity faces remain unchanged. The book of Romans addresses the unchanging realities of the human condition and provides a solution for the challenges we face through the saving work of Jesus.
According to Paul, humanity’s fundamental problem is that it has denied the obvious; that there is a Creator, and He deserves our loyalty, love, and worship. One look at the night sky, the majestic mountains, or the intricacies of biological systems should convince the most ardent skeptic that God is. By denying what is self-evident, we have alienated ourselves from the life-giving God (Romans 1:20–31).
Romans reminds us that our alienation began when our first father, Adam, alienated himself from God in the garden (Romans 5:12–19). Through his failure, he unleashed upon the world the twin problems of sin and death. Unfortunately, we followed in his footsteps and have contributed to the destruction of God’s good world by our own rebellion against the Creator.
According to Paul, the sad reality is that alienation from God comes at a tremendous human cost, a cost we see paid in human suffering. Alienation from God gave human nature a bent to addiction. It has infused us with a persistent inability to do right even when we want to do right. Alienation fromGod has led to moral confusion (Romans 7:15–24). It has deeply wounded God’s good creation with environmental degradation (Romans 8:18–23).
Romans reveals that alienation fromGod has manifested itself in the breakdown of our relationships. Paul sees it in our tendency to gossip (Romans 1:29). It is evident in parent-child discord (Romans 1:30). It is apparent in the disordering of our sexuality (Romans 1:24–27). We witness it every time we pass judgment on others (Romans 2:1). It is evident in our religious hypocrisy(Romans 2:17–24). It happens when church members quarrel over their opinions (Romans 14:1). It is seen in the racial, ethnic, and religious tensions that plague society(Romans 1:16, 17; 2:7–11; 3:21–24, 28–30; 4:3–16; 9:8, 22–33; 10:11–13; 11:32; 15:7–12; 16:25–27). Like the Romans, we face these same issues. We meet them at work and at school. We face them with our friends and colleagues. We face them in our romantic relationships and marriages. We see them played out in the social and political problems that plague our world. Most sobering is that we meet them in the darkest recesses of our own hearts and minds.
Romans also tells the story of God’s plan to remove our alienation fromHim and replace it with reconciliation. Reconciliation with God doesn’t happen because we took the initiative. We were actively fleeing the presence of God (Romans 3:11b, 12a). Reconciliation doesn’t come through our works. Our works are a mess. Reconciliation doesn’t come through the law. The law merely alerts us to our need for reconciliation (Romans 3:19, 20). Reconciliation comes from God’s initiative as a gift of His grace. Through Jesus’ redeeming and justifying death, we are reconciled to God (Romans 5:10). Acrimony, fear, guilt, shame, and condemnation are all replaced with peace with God (Romans 5:1). God welcomes us into His family as beloved children. And now, God couldn’t be any closer to us than He is, since He lives within believers by the Spirit (Romans 8:9–14).
Romans moves from alienation to reconciliation and from reconciliation to restoration (Romans 8:9–23). In and through the church, God is restoring us to a united human family held together by the presence of the Spirit in each member. This new community is bound together so tightly that it’s as if we were each different parts of the same body (Romans 12:3–8). In this new community, we are called to extend Christ’s reconciling mission by welcoming one another as Christ welcomed us (Romans 15:7). According to Paul, the church is to be the place that embodies the reconciling and restoring work of Christ by pointing its members to relational, moral, and social restoration.
Believers are to pursue reconciliation and restoration as we live out, through the Spirit’s power, the sincere love and tender affection that God revealed in Christ on the cross (Romans 12:9–13:10). While we wait for the restoration of all things when Jesus returns, Romans urges us to work for reconciliation and restoration now.
The message of Romans is as relevant today as the day it was written. Human nature is unchanged. Our society, communities, and congregations still confront the same alienation, division, and relational breakdown that the Romans faced. Over the next thirteen weeks, follow this study on the book of Romans as we join Paul’s path to reconciliation and restoration by God’s grace.