As we start to look at Paul’s letter to Rome, it is obvious Paul is writing to the church. However, in the first chapter we see a message about the believers, and a message about the unbelievers. Let’s look at both of these.
The beginning of chapter 1 begins similar to other letters Paul has written, with a greeting to the church. Following that in verse 8 we read:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.”
The faith of the church in Rome is being proclaimed around the world. That is an impressive statement about the church in Rome, and must have been very encouraging to hear that their faith was making an impression to people around the world. Paul continues with this encouragement in verses 11 and 12:
“For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established; that is, that I may be encouraged together with you while among you, each of us by the other’s faith, both yours and mine.”
I love that while Paul wants to see them to impart some spiritual gift to the church and to encourage the church, he also wants to spend time with them to be encouraged himself. As we know, Paul was spreading the gospel to as many people in as many places as possible. It probably felt like an impossible task, but hearing of the faith of the church of Rome from around the world, it had to be an encouragement to Paul to know that the message would be spread even when he was unable to do it himself.
Paul concludes his message about the church in verses 16 and 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 to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’ “
This is an example of how the church should act, both then and now. We need to live by faith and never be ashamed of the gospel. We should share it everywhere we go, to everyone we meet.
Then Paul turns his letter to speaking about the unbeliever. Obviously, there were unbelievers in Rome, as there are unbelievers all around us today. Paul tells us that there is no excuse for not believing in verses 19 and 20:
“because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
God is evident in the world around us, so unbelief must be a choice. The choice of unbelief is when we don’t honor God or give Him thanks. Instead we rely on our own knowledge and understanding. So, even if we admit God is real and in control, if we do not honor him and rely on him, it is still unbelief. Paul continues to say that those who did not believe were turned over to their degrading passions and depraved minds. In verse 32, Paul points out that this is all worthy of death.
We are shown two very different lives. The first is one of faithfulness, and the second is one of unbelief. The first is one of encouragement and spreading the gospel. The second is one of sin and death. We need to each examine our own lives. Although we probably all belief in God, are we honoring Him, giving thanks to Him, encouraging and uplifting others, and preaching the Gospel?