Samuel Abatte

Week 42: Acts 19-28; Romans 1-4

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Romans is the most complete discussion of Christian practice and theology found in the New Testament. Paul’s arguments are complex but worth the effort to thoroughly study them. The book is divided into three sections: the law (chapters 1-8), Israel (Chapters 9-11) and Christian living (Chapters 12-16).

The Law: The role of the law in salvation and sanctification were confusing to the Roman Christians. The law was given to instruct us in what behaviors please and displease God. Paul says, “I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.” (Romans 7:7). However, the Jewish people mistakenly believed that it was obedience to the law that brought about justification — being in a right relationship with God. Paul points out, “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in God’s sight for through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20).

Paul cites that “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (4:3). This occurred many years before the Law was given and even before circumcision was established as a sign of the covenant that God made with Abraham. The covenant promised that through Abraham’s descendants, ALL nations would be blessed. Jesus ultimately traces His human lineage back to Abraham — thus fulfilling the promise God made to him.

Paul also discusses that, “Through one transgression (sin) there resulted in condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness (Jesus death and resurrection) there resulted in justification of life to all men” (5:18). We die to our old sin nature through baptism. It symbolizes our death and burial (being placed under the water) and then being raised to new life in Jesus (coming up again out of the water). Paul declares that we should “consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11).

Israel: While God makes salvation available to all nations, He has not forgotten His chosen people. While Jesus was rejected by the religious leaders of His time, many Jewish people came to identify Him as Messiah after His resurrection as recorded in the book of Acts. God has not cancelled His covenant with the people of the nation — witness the fact that Israel became a nation again in 1948. As gentile believers we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Jewish people.

Paul states that when we become believers in Jesus the distinction between Jew and gentile disappears (10:12). Gentile believers are described as wild olive branches that have been grafted into the native olive tree of the Jewish people (10:19). He also reassures the Jewish believers in Rome that “all Israel will be saved” (11:26).

Christian Life and Unity: In John17 Jesus prayed for the unity of all believers. The final chapters of Romans describe how we are to live so that we live in peace with each other and the government (Chapter 13). Special emphasis is placed on self-denial on behalf of “weaker brothers” (Romans 14:15).

Dr. Samuel Abatte is a physician practicing in Wasilla, Alaska. This column first appeared in the Frontiersman, a Wick newspaper serving the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska.