Reflections on Romans

The gospel is God’s answer to man’s wreckage

Romans 1 is terrible. It’s terrible to be told you are under the wrath of God. The explanation, while brief, explains exactly the world we live in. Carnage. Wreckage. Death. God made a beautiful cosmos and made us the pinnacle. We took and smashed it. The result? Death and a million depressing consequences we see all around us. Some we get used to, like locks on our doors. Others we fear, like the fraudulent nature of our lives and our impending death. Some we don’t think about nearly as much as we should like the reality of wrath forever. This week, my daughter Madeline asked me, Daddy, what is hell like? I told her a few things and one was, it goes on forever and ever. You cannot escape hell. That’s Romans 1.

What is striking is how Paul’s explanation of why the world is the way it is, is utterly different from contemporary explanations. We are told, man is born good. The ills of society are the fault of religion, lack of education, lack of money. The solutions include government control, globalization, faster internet.

The world diagnoses the problem very differently and tries to solve the problem very differently. Paul’s diagnosis is that sin and punishment explain the world. The cure is nothing other than the gospel of God through faith in Jesus Christ producing new life in us. The result is a new society of Christians who are amazed at the grace of God, love one another despite different opinions on secondary matters, despite long standing racial and ethnic loathing. In Romans 1, we are sinners ready to fight each other. By Romans 16 we are greeting one another with a holy kiss.

How? The gospel. The deepest explanation of God’s grace and gospel ever. We summarize it with, we are great sinners and Christ is a great Savior.

Government can’t do it. Schools can’t do it. Money can’t do it. The gospel does it. The world needs a Savior and his name is Jesus.

A small gospel makes petty Christians

It’s easy to see other people’s weaknesses. We’ve spent three years seeing the Roman church for how petty many of them were. They let little things become big and divisive things. It’s easy to do. We do it all the time. Romans gives perspective by placing the massiveness of God’s grace and love next to the petty secondary matter. It shows how small ethnic differences and liberty differences really are.

It’s like a trick fisherman use. Growing up we fished all the time. At the end of the day, we often took pictures. Fishermen always want to make the fish appear bigger than they are. What do you do? You always hold the fish closer to the camera. The closer the better. Do that and a perch looks like a great white shark. What happens when you put the perch next to an actual great white shark? It puts the perch in perspective.

Paul sent a great white shark to Rome. The gospel in Romans puts the perch and minnow issues in perspective. Or it should. When we lose sight of the glory and the grandeur of the glory of God in the gospel, a gospel of God’s infinite grace toward me, God’s people will degenerate into squabbles about the pettiest things. The minor thing becomes a major thing instead of keeping the main thing the main thing.

It’s been a year of small things appearing to be big things. The Christians who keep a proper perspective are those who have a giant gospel. Romans has helped us. Let’s not sweat the little things or get cranky about the little things. Let’s care about the big things and there is nothing bigger than the gospel.

© 2021 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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