Jews And Non-Jews Are One And The Same
[Romans chapter 1]
Today I will begin a series of studies on the writings of the apostle Paul in the order they appear in the New Testament, beginning with the book of Romans. The book of Romans elaborates on the apostle Paul’s ministry in great detail (others do as well, but we’ll start with this one because it is the first Epistle – and the first of Paul’s letters – after the book of Acts). Bearing that in mind, I will now begin with the first chapter:
“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the Gospel he promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” . (Romans 1: 1-6 NIV)
The first thing that we notice here is the phrase “ …the Gospel he promised beforehand through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David…”. Jesus was in fact a descendant of King David of Jerusalem from the Old Testament, the writer of the book of Psalms. Since King David ruled ancient Israel, Jesus was also an Israelite who walked the earth as a Jewish man just as David did. But Paul doesn’t stop there. “Through Him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ”. We have received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles! Therefore, we are all apostles like Paul. Paul was a Jewish man educated in the Jewish theological centers of his day. This would be equivalent to modern-day seminaries, and Paul was definitely a Bible scholar. But Paul takes his argument a step further with this next quote.
“I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written ‘the righteous will live by faith’.” (Romans 1:14-17 NIV)
Now let’s compare that with the first quotation from further above. “Through Him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.” ‘The obedience that comes from faith’and“the righteous will live by faith” is the same faith that Paul calls “the salvation of everyone who believes”. Also, please note that Paul uses Greeks and Jews as well as non-Greeks and Gentiles interchangeably. Although this is no big deal to the early 21st century Bible student, this was a radical teaching for Paul’s time since the Jews, Greeks and every other nation still considered themselves to be separate nations for nationalistic as well as religious reasons. The phrase “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” can be taken with a grain of salt since much of the Gospel, including this part, were written by Jewish people.
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse… (F)urthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind,to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they follow God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Romans 1, verses 18-20, 28-32, NIV)
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men…”. Translated into 21st century English this would read, ‘The more wicked and evil anyone may harbor in their hearts, the more God will stand against them’. People who are willfully evil, or who are just plain bad individuals for whatever reason (and sometimes for no reason at all), and who do not care whether they hurt anyone or not, aren’t being very smart because they only bring more judgment on themselves. Doing these kinds of things makes an already-miserable life even worse, but there are way too many people who completely miss this. The root cause of this seems to be hatred of God, or a refusal to even acknowledge His existence, let alone believe in him exclusively as we should. Paul writes a few lines defining his meaning in the next verse when he wrote, “They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil, they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” There it is again from Paul’s perspective. Evil and wicked people simply don’t have any sense, which to me is a nice way of saying someone is incurably stupid. Let’s all be on our guard against this, otherwise Satan may steer our lives in such a direction that we cross paths with one of these “ruthless” characters, all of whom are minions of Satan. Since obviously no one wants to be anywhere near to that, let’s be sure and take an internal inventory of ourselves. If any traces or issues concerning any of the things Paul mentioned is found, the best way to repent of whatever it is that presents a problem is to ask Jesus to take it from you.
Sin can sometimes be like kids getting their hands wet when playing outside in the snow, like I used to do when I was little. One day I put my wet hands on a swing-set I used to play on all those decades ago, and they got stuck. My mom had to come out and get my hands unstuck because I was unable. When we have sin in our lives, sometimes people who have been hanging on to certain behaviors and hang-ups have done so for so long that they can’t let go on their own. But if we only ask Jesus to help us get rid of whatever character flaw, personality defect, inadequacy or addiction by taking it from us, he will make up the difference. So we should voluntarily surrender our sins to Jesus by lifting them up with both hands and saying, “Lord Jesus, please take this from me. I don’t want it anymore, but I can’t seem to get rid of it. So please help me, in your holy name I pray. Amen”. We can all be sure that He will show up, and always with perfect timing, which can often be at the last minute. But when God does that, it is to show us that He was in charge of our lives, situations and circumstances all along. No matter who we are, or who we know, or how much (or little) we know, or how much money we have, God is still in charge of all of it. Be warned that those who put their faith in any of these other things instead of faith in God is living in a state of idolatry, a clear violation of the first two commandments. To avoid eternal death, which will be the fate of all idolaters, seek Jesus Christ, because he is the only correct way to eternal life. And that’s all I want from him. Ask him and He will do the same for you.