The book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians in the church at Rome, though Paul had never visited Rome. The theme of the book is in the first verse:
"Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).
That's the theme: "separated to the gospel of God." Paul was called to be an apostle, a "sent one." He was sent to proclaim God's message of good news! He was sent to share the gospel! He viewed himself as set apart for this task above all others.
The Gospel of Christ
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Why do we need this gospel, this good news? Because "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18).
Ungodliness refers to wrong attitudes about God--ignoring Him, disregarding Him, living as though He doesn't exist. Unrighteousness refers to wrong actions against God and others. Wrong attitudes about God inevitably lead to wrong actions--sinful actions. And all sin is an attack on the truth about God. It suppresses the truth.
Paul explains the reasons for God's wrath: men knew about God but turned away from Him and embraced false gods. The result is that God gave them up to a series of depraved behaviors man desires.
The whole world is guilty before God and He will judge us. God doesn't judge on the basis of a person's pride, or position, or privileges. Unlike us, God judges impartially.
Justification by Faith
Is there no hope then? If we are all guilty before God, are we all condemned to suffer God's eternal wrath and judgment against our sin? No, Paul assures us that there is hope: "By the deeds of the Law no deeds will be justified in His sight" (Romans 3:20). Justification becomes the major theme of the next section, and from chapter 4 on, of the entire book. "Justification" is being declared righteous. It's God giving to us a right standing before Him.
Justification by faith apart from works is what Romans 4 is all about. Paul uses the life of Abraham to show he was justified by faith and nothing else. Not as a result of his good works, or his religious rituals (including circumcision--which was a big deal for the Jews who became Christians in the early church), or because of the law.
"Therefore having been justified by faith" sums us the entire first four chapters of the book. We have been declared righteous enough for heaven, not by doing good deeds, or by keeping religious ordinances, or by obeying the ten commandments, but by faith in the death of Jesus Christ. Now because we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God. Not only do we have peace, we have hope (a confidence that we'll not only get to heaven, but that we'll get through trials on earth). When God allows us to be toughened through the fire of trials, we can be assured that He has a purpose for it.
If you have trusted Christ as your Savior from sin, you've ben justified and declared right with God. The Father punished the Son for your sins, and you will never need to be punished for them. But this means more than merely deliverance from sin's guilt and punishment. It also means deliverance from sin's enslaving power.
God wants us to pattern our lives after the Spirit's model rather than after the standard of our sinful human natures. But how can we walk according to the Spirit? "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5).
It all begins in the MIND! I'm convinced that this is one of the most important concepts relating to Christian living found in the entire Bible. We see it again in Romans 12:2. If you want to change the way you live, you will have to change the way you think. And to change what you think, you must change what you feed into your mind.
The subject of the entire chapter of Romans 8 is triumphant Christian living. We learn from the first 13 verses that victory is both desirable and possible because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We learn from the next four verses that victory is desirable and possible because we have an honored position in the family of God.
We can live triumphantly in times of trials, by understanding the certainty of future glory. God is going to turn our groaning into glory! Suffering is an inescapable ingredient of living. But woven throughout the passage is the promise of glory. We as God's children will someday be glorified! Paul then explains the purpose of life.
Believers may get down periodically over the difficult circumstances in their lives. But they can be assured that through it all God is working out a grand and glorious purpose which nothing can thwart and no one can hinder. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
God Is for Us
Along with Romans 8:28, Romans 8:31 is another popular passage. "...God is for us, who can be against us?" Satan is against us, trying to defeat us and destroy us. Our old sin nature is against us, trying to bring us back into our old slavery. Unbelievers may be against us, jealous of our peace and joy, resentful of our separation from sin. Paul isn't saying that the Christian has no opponents. The point is that it makes no difference who is against us. They cannot prevail so long as we are aware of the greatness of our God and resting in His sovereign care. I like what J.I. Packer says about this verse. "...what is being proclaimed here is God's undertaking to uphold and protect us when men and things are threatening, to provide for us as long as our earthly pilgrimage lasts, and to lead us finally into the full enjoyment of Himself, however many obstacles may seem at present to stand in the way of our getting there. The simple statement, 'God is for us', is in truth one of the richest and weightiest utterances that the Bible contains" (J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 238).
Does It Really Matter What You Believe?
But what about those who don't confess their sin and accept by faith the payment of Jesus' death for their sin? Romans 9 addresses this. And what if they've never heard of God? Paul tells us in Romans 10.
Does it really matter what you believe? A great many people in the world--if they believe in a God at all--are convinced that all roads lead to Him. Pick a road, any road, and follow it sincerely, and everything will turn out all right. But that's not what the Bible says. (You can choose to disbelieve it if you want; you have that option. But that doesn't change the truth of what it says.) And whether or not you believe it is going to make a great deal of difference to you personally. In fact, it's going to make an eternal difference. The sincerity of your intentions isn't going to change that. The Apostle Paul is concerned lest those who are clearly--and even sincerely--wrong should confuse and mislead true believers in the church. So he concludes his letter with a warning about false teaching and false teachers, and a reminder of what we do need to believe.
We are Complete in Christ
In his doxology, Paul says, "Now to Him who is able to establish you..." (Romans 16:25-27). Paul gives glory to the one who is able to "establish" us. The word means "to make firm, to make stable." All that we need to find stability and fulfillment in life is found in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ--all that we need!
God is able to establish you in accord with the gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ. We are complete in Him. Our stability and our strength is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. He in Himself is enough.