What does it say?
Paul probably wrote this letter to the Romans from Corinth around 57 AD. He’s not been to Rome yet, but clearly has a great desire to go. By this time the Gospel is freely flowing through the Roman world and has reached the capital. As we have seen elsewhere, there is division among believers in Rome along the dividing line of those believers from a Jewish background and those that are Gentile believers.
The first chapter of Romans is a brief summary of Paul’s life mission and also a remarkable summation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Beginning in 1:18 Paul describes the downward spiral of humanity due to sin. Chapters two and three are a classic description of the human problem of sin.
What does it mean?
The heart of this passage is Romans 1:15-20, giving us the essence of ministry and God’s witness through scripture and creation, leaving us all defenseless and without excuse before God. Paul’s motive for going in to such depth about the nature of human sin is to emphasize its universality. In other words, whether one is from a Jewish or Gentile background, we all stand equally guilty and ashamed before the God we have disobeyed. Romans 2:1 warns us not to judge others. This is foundational truth for what Paul is doing in this letter to heal the breach between Jewish and Gentile believers in Roman, a division so deep that they can not even fellowship with each other.
The Jews have the Law but cannot keep it. The Gentile do not have the Law, but have God’s truth written in their hearts and will answer for what light they do have. After such a universal condemnation, Paul concludes chapter 3 pointing to God’s grace and the fact that true righteousness is only by faith, never by our works, religious background or the lack of it.
Romans 3:26 is an important truth. If God were to simply excuse sin without judging it, he would not be just nor would he be God. By judging sin in the Person of Jesus Christ and his substitutionary sacrifice, God is both just and the justifier of all of us that put our faith in his finished work.
How will I respond?
Now that I have found forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus Christ, do I sometimes judge others, forgetting that I, too, was equally guilty? Do I sometimes make stereotypical judgments about other groups of people the way that Jews and Gentiles in Rome were doing? What the most important practical action step I can take today as the result of this reading?