Day 341 Acts 20:1-3, Romans 1-3

Day 341
Acts 20:1-3, Romans 1-3

After Paul dispatched his letter to the Corinthians, he revisited the churches of Macedonia and began preaching the gospel in Illyricum, the mountainous territory that runs along the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. He moved south for the winter in 56 A.D., spending three months in Corinth (Acts 20:1-3). Apparently, the turmoil in Corinth had receded some, providing Paul the opportunity to write a letter to the Christians in Rome.

Paul’s epistle to the Romans was his magnum opus. It is an extraordinary document. Every word in it matters. His style varies throughout with the use of conventional forms, magnificent theological stretches, and wonderful outbursts of praise. It is the most profound exposition of the gospel of Jesus Christ ever written, inscribed with elegant prose and enthralling poetry. The letter was first dictated to Tertius. Once completed, it was delivered by the hand of Phoebe to his old friends, Aquila and Priscilla, who had recently returned to Rome from Ephesus (cf. Romans 16:1-3). One of the earliest references to Christians living in the imperial city was from the Roman historian, Suetonious. Claudius expelled Jews from Rome in 49 A.D. (cf. Acts 18:2) after repeated riots, which the historian asserted, were “instigated by Chreestus,” the “Anointed.” The unrest may have resulted between those who believed in Christ and those who did not.

Paul had nearly thirty friends in Rome who unreservedly accepted his apostolic authority. He thought of them with gratitude and prayed for them constantly. As a consequence, his letter began by expressing his long-hoped-for-dream to visit the believers in Rome, whose faith had become renown in the capital and beyond. Before setting his sails and allowing the wind of the Spirit to move his contemplations across the vast gospel-expanse, he introduced himself to the whole church, consisting of many others whom he had not met in three “I am” statements: I am a man under obligation both to Greeks and barbarians (1:14) I am eager to preach the gospel in Rome (15) and I am not ashamed of the gospel, “for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (16).

As Paul began to unpack the depth and breadth of his theme, his voice resounded with the melody of the gospel. It is the good news that the perfect righteousness of God is not something anyone can earn. It is a gift to be received by faith alone in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. “For in it” [the Gospel], Paul said, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The just shall life by faith’” (17). The gospel was for everyone, he stressed, but first everyone needed to know how desperate their problem truly was. As it happened, over the next two and a half chapters, Paul sought to explain how the entire human race was under the wrath of God (1:18-3:30). His words have reverberated down through the centuries with unrivaled force, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (18). One line followed another as he painted one of the darkest portraits of humanity’s inherent disorder. The problem with the entire human race was that it had rejected God and was living in full-scale rebellion against Him (19-32).

Paul made the case that every person, Jew and Gentile alike, was under divine judgment. He warned that apart from the intervention of God, “there will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil” (2:9). The Jews, for whom the Law was engraved on stone tablets and then written down for their instruction, had smugly turned away from God. The Gentiles, for whom the Law was impressed upon their consciences, have shamelessly violated it. No one was without excuse, “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law (2:12). Paul asked, “What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good.

The whole world was equally condemned, wholly accountable, and completely silenced (3:19-20). Then in stirring Pauline fashion came the verbal hinge upon which everything turned … “But now” (21a). But now there is a righteousness from God which is a gift through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul announced that the righteousness God demanded was the very righteousness He freely gave as a gift in His Son. In perhaps the greatest paragraph ever penned the music of the gospel rang out, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:21-26). The gift of God is His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, the Great Propitiator, who is received by faith (3:27-30).

O God, Your gospel is too profound for me to fully understand fully and yet so amazing that I rejoice in every part. Just when all the air seemed to be sucked out of the universe, Christ appeared to suffer in my place and to pay the penalty I deserved. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for His cross. In His Saving Name, I pray, Amen.