Paul’s letter to the Romans is packed with theological teaching that has shaped Christian doctrine and practice for nearly 2,000 years. For believers today, some of the most powerful parts of the letter are its words of assurance about our salvation and its call to live a new and better life in Christ.
At various points (especially in Rom 5 and 8), Paul makes bold, direct statements that assure Christians of the favorable way God sees them because of Christ:
• “we have been declared righteous by faith” (Rom 5:1)
• “we have peace with God” (Rom 5:1)
• “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God” (Rom 5:10)
• “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1)
• “we are children of God, and if children, also heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:16)
• “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8:39).
Each of these statements clearly affirms God’s power to transform his wayward people—derailed by their own selfishness—into the people he created them to be. Through the death and resurrection of Christ, believers have been set free from the exhausting slavery to sin: the destructive choices, the cycles of guilt, and the “trying harder next time” (Rom 6:5–7). We are brought into the family of God (Rom 8:14–17; compare Eph 3:1–13). These assurances can provide strength and encouragement as we confront the everyday realities of living in a world that is still bent toward sin.
While offering assurances about what God has already done, Paul calls on Christians to pursue a lifestyle that is better for them and honoring to their Creator:
• “do not let sin reign in your mortal body” (Rom 6:12)
• “present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness” (Rom 6:13)
• “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1).
Paul gives these instructions as proper responses to a restored relationship with God, not as prerequisites for it. In these calls to a new lifestyle, Paul is again speaking to the challenge of embodying the righteousness of God while much of the world rebels against God.
Key Term. The paradoxical idea of a “living sacrifice” (Rom 12:1) is powerful and evocative; it involves surrendering the whole self in response to God’s gift of salvation through Christ. Paul’s metaphor comes from Israel’s sacrificial system—which showed Israel’s acknowledgment of their wrongdoings before God and against others (see Lev 6; compare Isa 53:10). But Paul’s use of the word “living” draws a sharp contrast with the typical slaughter of an animal. “Living sacrifice” may refer to being alive in Christ—experiencing the fullness of life, according to the way God intended. It could also describe the process of being sanctified—that is the work the Holy Spirit does in us to make us more like Jesus, gradually teaching us to be more obedient to God and his purposes (to live like people who bear the image of God; Gen 1:27).
Everything we do can be oriented toward praising God because of what God has already accomplished in Christ. All of us who place are faith in Christ are transformed into God’s people—assured of our place in God’s family and empowered to live in his ways.
Quote. Christ loved you before you loved him. He loved you when there was nothing good in you. He loved you though you insulted him, though you despised him and rebelled against him. He has loved you right on, and never ceased to love you. He has loved you in your backslidings and loved you out of them. He has loved you in your sins, in your wickedness and folly. His loving heart was still eternally the same, and he shed his heart’s blood to prove his love for you. He has given you what you want on earth, and provided for you an habitation in heaven. Now Christian, your religion claims from you that you should love as your Master loved. How can you imitate him, unless you love too?
How would you define the relationship between faith and right living (Rom 1:16–17)? How does faith affect a person’s relationship with God (Rom 3:21–31)?
Why is Abraham’s example of faith so important for Paul (Rom 4:1–12)? What connection does Paul make between Abraham and all of humanity (Rom 4:13–25)?
What does Paul’s comparison of Adam and Christ reveal about God’s plan for releasing people from their slavery to sin (Rom 5:12–21)?
What is the relationship between “the Spirit” and “the flesh” (Rom 8:1–17)? In what areas of life is this contrast especially apparent to you? What difference does it make that believers have been given the Holy Spirit?
How does love fulfill the law (Rom 13:8–10)? How could living from a motivation of love change your relationships with family and friends (Rom 12:9–13)? How might it change your interactions with acquaintances and strangers?
What does it mean to “bear the weaknesses of the weak” (Rom 15:1)? What is Paul talking about when he says “accept one another, just as Christ also has accepted you” (Rom 15:7)?
Pray to God in thankfulness. Thank God for reaching out and creating a way for people to know him, even while they were his enemies. Pray that God will give you confidence about your place in his family. Invite the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and lead you deeper into what it means to be a “living sacrifice.” Ask God to help you accept his grace in Christ, so that you might share it with others.