Summary: Made righteous through the righteousness of Jesus, which we receive by faith in Him. Whoever believes in Jesus shall not be ashamed. Whoever calls upon His name will be saved. Sincere faith leads to public confession of Christ.
CONFESS AND BELIEVE
According to a Roman historian, the Emperor Claudius ordered all the Jews to leave Rome after public disorders caused by the preaching of the claims of Jesus Christ in the synagogues. This fact is echoed in the Scriptures, where we find the Jewish Christian couple Aquila and Priscilla playing host to the Apostle Paul in Corinth (Acts 18:2-3), and travelling with him to Ephesus.
It appears that when Claudius died, his successor the Emperor Nero lifted the edict, for by the time that Paul wrote his letter to the Romans the Apostle’s friends and co-workers were back in Rome. (Romans 16:3-4).
For at least five years, Jewish Christians had been absent from Rome, leaving the Gentile Christians in charge. This no doubt gave rise to tensions between the two groups when they were reunited. For the first time in history, the local Church had been led by people who were not from Abraham’s earthly family.
Although Paul had not yet been to Rome, he knew a lot of people there and perhaps heard about the particular problems which they were facing. The arrival of so many Jewish Christians in the now predominantly Gentile fellowship would have been a challenge to the leadership and unity of the community in Rome. Prior to their expulsion from the City, the Jews had founded and led the Church. However, now the Gentiles had become used to having things their own way.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is very carefully thought out, and tactfully worded. He spoke of the unity of the body of Christ, and how we as the members of that body belong to one another. He spoke of living in harmony.
In the land of the Jews there was the beginning of the unrest which would ultimately lead to rebellion, and the destruction of Jerusalem. With the Emperor still just a youth, Rome itself was far from secure, and Paul taught submission to the authorities as appointed by God.
Paul spoke of the different groupings within the Church as the “weak” and the “strong.” Some Jewish Christians had problems about what they might and might not eat. Some kept particular solemn days, in accordance with their earlier Jewish faith. Paul encouraged the strong to be patient with the infirmities of the weak.
Paul emphasised the impartiality of God in His dealings with Jews and Gentiles. All were under sin, so what right had one group to feel superior to the other? As descendants of Adam, through whom sin had entered the world, all stood guilty before God. As believers in Christ, those who were Christians were redeemed by the same Saviour.
It is amazing to observe the passion of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, on behalf of his people Israel. There was no doubt in his mind that the history of the Church was bound up with the history of Israel. It was “to the Jew first” that the gospel was preached. As Jesus said, “salvation is of the Jews.” Paul’s own missionary procedure on arriving in a new city was to go first to the synagogue with the gospel, and only after that to the Gentiles.
However, the other nations would in time partake of the blessings of the gospel. Paul spoke of the unity of Jew and Gentile within the church. (Romans 15:8-9).
The promise to Abraham was that in him all the families of earth would be blessed. In the meantime, Paul mourned the fact that many Israelites had refused the gospel. He taught the Gentile Christians in Rome to bear with the infirmities of their Jewish brothers, since the Church would not even exist without them.
The destiny of Jew and Gentile in the Church is bound together: the gospel was preached to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, and will be preached to the Jews again.
Paul prayed fervently that Israel might be saved. The tragedy of his people was that they were seeking to establish their own righteousness by the works of the law. Yet God’s law is impossible for man to keep: we are all sinners, and fall short of the glory of God. We cannot cancel out our sin, our rebellion against God, by multiplying our good deeds. The only way is through Jesus Christ, who is “the end of the law” (Romans 10:4).
If we are to be made righteous before God, it is only through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a righteousness which we receive by faith in Him.
Moses envisaged a time when the children of Israel would have broken the law, and been driven from their land. Yet God still addresses His ancient people, calling them to Himself not through works, but in the spirit and in faith.
According to Paul, the object of that faith can only be the Lord Jesus Christ. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9).