America’s mirror image
Devotion in Motion
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.”
The Church in Rome had quite a reputation in the ancient world.
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers, making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.”
This church was spoken of around the world, but one of the reasons why is that Paul spoke of them often before God’s throne. Though he’d never visited them, he prayed for them diligently. According to Acts 2:10, present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were a group of Jews from Rome. It could be that they were converted by Peter’s sermon, filled with the Spirit, and returned to Rome to start a church. Over the years their church became famous – not for its building, or pastor, or size, or organization… Notice, this church was renowned for their faith! Paul wanted to visit the church at Rome, and he tells us why, verse 11,
“For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established – that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith of both you and me.”
Folks usually flocked to Rome for amusement. Rome hosted the Forum, and later the Coliseum. You could catch a chariot race at the Circus Maximus. But in the belly of this vast city, beneath the glitz and glamor, were a small group of people – precious and important to God. Paul desired to visit Rome so he could build up these believers – to give and to receive. And this is what church is about! We’re like a blood bank. Some days you donate blood. Other days you get a transfusion.
Paul wants to impart a spiritual gift. Verse 13, “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.”
Paul had wanted to come to Rome, but he’d been busy elsewhere. Paul sensed a responsibility to all men. He owed God for His grace, but his debt was made payable to his fellow man. This is how we say thanks to Jesus, by loving the folks He died to save. Paul had tasted God’s grace, and he responded, “So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
History documents that long before the Goths and Vandals rode their horses into Rome the city collapsed internally. Rome became rich, privileged, and spoiled. Rome was constantly lusting for new ways to be entertained. The Romans became lawless out of sheer boredom. Tacitus wrote of the city’s perverse attitude, “the greater the infamy, the wilder the delight.” Roman civilization fell victim to moral collapse. Here’s how it happened…
Rome lost respect for human life. Babies were viewed as an inconvenience, and left at the market to be sold as slaves… Marital fidelity became an unheard of virtue. The debutants of Rome dated years by the names of their husbands… Fourteen of the first fifteen emperors became so bored with their natural appetite for women that they sought perverse pleasure in homosexual acts. Romans legitimized homosexuality, even with young boys.
Imagine this… the wife of Cesar Claudius, the Empress Agrippina, would leave her palace at night and work in the brothels for the sake of sheer lust. You’ve heard of skid row – welcome to skid Rome. Rome was a raunchy and rowdy place, yet Paul wasn’t intimidated. He was ready to preach in Rome. For he was proud of the Gospel, and he declares his confidence in its power.
In verse 16 he states, “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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Understand, the Gospel is the greatest change agent known to man. The truth that Jesus died to forgive our sin and rose to live in our hearts has the ability to transform hearts, history, culture, and even the future. This is why churches that stray from the Gospel do a disservice to both God and men. We need to trust in the Gospel of Jesus enough to share it with our friends.
Beginning in Chapter 3, Paul will explain the Gospel, but first his strategy is to convince us of our need. It’s been said, “Before the Good News can be received, the bad news has to be believed.” We won’t sense our need for a Savior, until we first recognize our sin. Amen
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