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2. The Letter to the Romans

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“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22 NIV)

The Key Question

While growing up, were you better at playing a sport than your brother or sister was? Or, were you better at making good grades in school or more talented than a sibling? Did that make your parents love you more than them? If you were not as good at sports or grades, did they love you less? Hopefully, your answer is “no.” Good parents who truly love their children do so equally regardless of one’s ability or achievement. And, they take into account what each child needs and how their differences are expressed. Good parents can give equal love to their children while allowing them to do different things.

The key word for our lesson today is equal. The question to ask is: “How are we equal?” Some of Paul’s friends needed to know how they could be equal to other people in God’s eyes while still being different.

The People and Their Need

Today’s letter was written to a group of believers living in Rome, the largest city in the Roman Empire. The Romans were hardworking, highly organized people who built towns and roads throughout the Roman Empire. They were proud of their accomplishments, and Rome was the center of their world.

We do not know who started the church at Rome. After Jesus’ resurrection, Roman Jews visiting Jerusalem for Passover heard Peter preach the gospel in Acts 2:10 (“some visitors from Rome”) and believed. They may have gone back to Rome, shared the gospel with their friends, and started a church of Romans who believed. About 15 years later, Emperor Claudius got mad at the Jews and kicked them out of Rome. For their own safety, Christian Jews left town. At that time, Christianity was still considered part of the Jewish religion. That left mostly Gentiles (non-Jews) in the Roman church. They got used to not having the Jewish Christians around and might have even felt relieved not to have them.

The Jewish Christians had a tendency to think they were more righteous (better at worshipping God) than the Gentiles because the Bible was written by Jews and for Jews. Jesus was a Jew, and God had called the Jews His chosen people. After 5 years, it was safe for the Jews to come back to Rome. Suddenly, in the Roman church there were Jewish Christians again who still thought they were better than those who stayed behind. It was not a healthy situation.

While in Corinth on his 3rd missionary journey, Paul heard what was going on with the Roman church. Though Paul was a Roman citizen, he had not yet been to Rome. He did, however, know quite a few of the Roman Christians and was planning to visit them. The two groups needed to get along. So, he wrote a letter. We have that letter called “Romans.” It is a gift from God to us.

In his letter, Paul reminded both groups of Christians—those who had once been Jews and those from non-Jewish backgrounds—that they were equal before God. Neither was better than the other. Both had been equally guilty of sin.

By faith in Christ, both had been made equally right with God. Even today, Christ makes us all—from different countries and traditions—equally right and acceptable to God by our faith in Christ. Let’s find out what that means.

The Answer: Christ Is Our Righteousness

In Romans chapters 1, 2 and the first part of three, Paul writes that every person who has ever lived has sinned (done wrong things that displease God). Only Jesus never sinned.

1. Read Romans 3:9-12. Who is right with God (righteous) on their own or does anything good in God’s eyes on their own?

The phrase “to be right with God” means the same as the word “righteous.” When you are right with God or “righteous,” you are not separated from Him because of your sin. No one is right with God (righteous) or does anything good in God’s eyes on her own. That includes Jews as well as non-Jews.

2. Read Romans 3:19-20. “The Law” refers to the rules the Jewish people followed to please God.

  • Will following all the Jewish rules make anyone right with God?
  • Trying to follow rules makes us aware of what?

3. Read Romans 3:21-24 then read each verse one at a time and note what it says:

  • Verse 21—
  • Verse 22—
  • Verse 23—
  • Verse 24—

Jesus Christ, who is completely righteous because He never sinned, died for our sin on the cross. When we believe, He takes our sin away and gives us His righteousness. This makes us acceptable to God. “Justify/justified” means to be declared not guilty of sin. This works equally for every person. In Romans, Christ is our righteousness as described in Romans 3:22.

4. How do we get right with God—by following rules or by faith in Christ?

5. How do we get right with God—by our own traditions & way of doing things or by faith in Christ?

Christ is our righteousness. That’s how everyone’s Christian life begins.

6. So, if you put your trust in Christ to take away your sin, are you more or less right with God than…

  • Someone from China who is the top athlete in the world and is also a Christian?
  • Someone from Iraq who once worshiped the Muslim god but now worships Jesus?
  • Someone from central Africa who once worshiped the sun and moon?
  • Someone in professional ministry like Beth Moore, Jennie Allen, or Ann Voscamp?

The answer to the above questions is “neither.” Every believer is equally right with God and has equal righteousness from God. There is no distinction.

7. Are you confident that you can trust Him and His love for you to be equal to His love for the most famous Christian you know?

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Christ is our righteousness. Once you are made right with God by faith in Christ, you receive Christ’s righteousness so that when God looks on you, He sees Christ in you. This is God’s grace-gift overflowing to you.

God loves all believers equally—regardless of your looks, your career, your family, or your talents. His love for you is perfect.

Living Dependently on Christ

1) Bible verse to learn:

“This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:22 NIV)

2) Response in prayer & praise:

Thank God for His free gift of Jesus. Thank God for sending His Holy Spirit to live in you to help you live a life that pleases your God. Thank Jesus for being your righteousness, making you right with God by faith so that you are loved equally by your God.

3) Getting to know Him more:

Spend a few minutes each day reading parts of this wonderful letter and reflecting on how God’s marvelous grace offers you a life of freedom and joy.

  • Read Romans chapter 8. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Romans chapter 12. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Romans chapter 13. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Romans chapter 14. Reflect on what you read.
  • Read Romans chapter 15. Reflect on what you read.

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