Guest post by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Thanks for joining us for Reboot! This week we’ll start with Romans 1-2. Because Romans is an epistle, I encourage you to read it pretty straightforwardly, like any other letter you might receive. I’ll blog about our reading every Monday, not to exegete the passages for you, but rather to share some thoughts and encouragements.
Let’s begin with prayer. A simple, “Holy Spirit please grant me grace to understand what I read and satisfy my heart with good news” will suffice. If you read something you don’t understand—pray for wisdom again, dig a little deeper, or just set that portion aside for the time being. The ESV Study Bible notes may prove helpful, too.
Need Some Good News?
We all have an insatiable appetite for good news. In years past I’d wait for the mail to come, feeling hope bubble up when the postal truck finally went by. Maybe there will be good news today. So I’d run to the mailbox only to find it crammed full of advertisements, or worse yet, bills.
Nowadays we constantly check our inbox, Facebook, Twitter, texts, and news sites to see if there’s any good news—or at least something to break the monotony. Generally speaking, there isn’t much more than an occasional giggle, a Hmm, that’s interesting, or more commonly, And I care that you tried a new shampoo today why? Seems like I check these sites to find something to cheer my heart or satisfy me. Yet I always come away empty. And I don’t think I’m alone.
The Lord understands our longing for good news. Proverbs 15:30 says, “good news refreshes the bones.” Likewise 25:25 reads, “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” I do need refreshment. My soul is thirsty for that cold water.
So here’s some good news for you: You don’t have to wait for the mailman. There is a fountain of refreshment available to you right now.
The Bad News and Good News You Weren’t Expecting
Paul saw himself as that proverbial voice of “good news from a far country” to the church at Rome, and by extension, to all of us. The headlines of the good news are writ large in 1:16-17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “the righteous shall live by faith.”
Paul’s primary point in Romans is to help us understand and believe the gospel, the good news that all God’s demands have already been satisfied by Jesus Christ, his Son. He wants us to know that the gospel is more than lifeless word. When believed, it carries with it the power to transform the heart by assuring us that all our sins are forgiven and that Jesus Christ lived perfectly in our place.
But in order to prepare us to receive and appreciate the good news, Paul began his letter with some pretty bad news: Neither the irreligious Gentile (chapter 1) nor the religious Jew (chapter 2) have obeyed God’s rules for righteousness. None of us measure up. It will be good to remember this when you’re reading about the disobedience of both Gentile and Jew, so you don’t think Paul is trying to get you to try harder to be good in order to earn God’s favor. No, he’s telling you that all your efforts won’t be good enough. Once you understand this, you’ll begin to thirst for the good news to come, and you’ll really rejoice when he brings it to you.
Let me leave you with these thoughts: There is good news, but it’s not the news you were expecting. The good news is that you’re more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe. Chapters 1 and 2 will teach you that. The rest of the good news is that you’re more loved and welcomed than you ever dared hope, as chapters 3-8 will demonstrate.
So let’s get reading. Let me know what you’re learning through Crossway’s blog and I look forward to connecting with you there.