The Letter to the Romans was written by Paul and it was his magnum opus that explored the idea that humankind’s relationship with God was changed for the better through the work of Jesus Christ. It was Paul’s explanation of what the gospel is. In many ways, it’s also one of Paul’s clearest explanations of the need for and results of Easter.
God created humans in order to be in relationship with them. But humans had the habit of doing the opposite of what God wanted which led to damaged relationships between God and humankind.
To fix this problem of damaged relationships between God and humankind, God sent the Son, Jesus, as the way/the sacrifice that would restore and repair God’s relationship with humans.
Romans is not necessarily a happy go lucky book. Truthfully, some of the book can be depressing because Paul spent a lot of time telling his readers that they were sinners. Romans 1-4 fits this description.
In those chapters, Paul told his readers that because they were controlled by their flesh, their natural tendency was to go in the opposite direction God wanted them to go. None of them naturally wanted to follow God, not even their ancestors.
Paul told them that it did not matter whether a person was a Jew, someone who was born into the chosen lineage of God or willingly chose to follow the laws and principles given by God in the Old Testament.
It also did not matter if a person was a Gentile, someone who was believed to be on the outside of God’s love due to not following God’s laws or principles. Everyone in both groups (Jews and Gentiles) naturally did what they wanted instead of doing what God wanted.
Because of humankind’s tendency to do as they wanted instead of as God wanted, God had every right to pass judgment against everyone in the world. Everyone needed help to be acceptable before God.
Paul was not trying to be a moron or trying to put his readers in their place when he said that. He was telling them the truth. All humankind needed restoration because no one could live right before God.
But, out of love for all creation/humankind, God could not/would not leave humankind that way. God gave the world the help it needed through God’s Son, Jesus. Through God’s sacrificial love, as evidenced in Jesus, humankind’s relationship with God was restored through the work of Jesus through his death on the cross and resurrection on Easter Sunday. Through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, anyone who trusts in that work of Jesus has full access to God restored.
In Romans 5, Paul told his readers that, through Jesus, they/we have been given access to God’s grace. The idea that he has behind that word is similar when a person was granted the privilege of entering the presence of a king or other highly important person of the time.
Knowing that no one ever deserved to be able to approach a king, a the person knew that if they were in the king’s presence, it was only because the king wanted them to be there or someone close to the king made it possible for them to be there.
The same is true for humankind’s restoration to God. It did not occur because we were able to make it happen. It happened because God loved us and wanted us to experience God’s presence unhindered. And Jesus was willing to lay down his life for us to be able to enter God’s presence.
Amid this wonderful news, Paul said that a challenge would still exist even though their/our relationships to God have been fully restored. That challenge is that life is not always perfect. People will still get sick. Unfortunate things will still happen to those whom we love. We will still get bad news and have not so great experiences in life.
The past month of watching the spread of COVID-19 and understanding that most of our lives will not be as normal as they used to be is an unfortunate testament to how correct Paul was.
Paul told his readers that, although grace is available and present in our lives, life is not perfect, and we are not perfect. But, the imperfections of life do not have to get us down. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God provides us with the strength and wisdom to endure all that life throws at us until the day that God returns and recreates us and the world.
Paul says that we are not only able to be at peace with God, but we are also able to be at peace, in general, no matter what life throws our way. Because we have been restored to God’s presence, nothing that we experience has the power to overcome us. Instead, we can embrace the hope that comes in knowing that Jesus has restored us to God.
Dr. Laird Stuart writes, “This passage sets us on the pilgrimage of hope. Hope comes from experiencing this progression as God feeds us and leads us through it. Hope also comes because before us is the cross, a sign both of the suffering of Christ and of the triumph over death that God made possible for him and for us. These two sources of hope are intertwined. It is the cross before us, like the north star, that calls us forward through this pilgrimage from suffering into endurance and character on our way to hope.”
The benefits of Jesus’ work, his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, are available to all humankind through God’s grace and through faith in those works. Today, more than ever, we can embrace the hope that comes from the work of the cross. Hope that as God did not allow Jesus to be overcome by life or enemies, we will not be overcome by anything either. This is one of our greatest hopes as those who claim Jesus as our Savior.