Life is stressful! Seeking (earnestly) to be a righteous person in an evil world is stressful! Seeking (earnestly) to be a godly person in an evil environment increases the stress! It does not take long after conversion for most Christians to discover that becoming a Christian does not eliminate some stresses. Instead, for stress in general, Christianity merely refocuses stress. Most Christians find both temptations and learning to live by new values stressful!
The message of Romans (among many ways) can be grasped from the perspective of stress. Chapter one presented the clash between God’s wrath and the behavior of godless people (who often regarded godless conduct as “good” in their godless environment).
Chapter two focused on a basic boundary issue. There was an obvious difference between the conduct of conscientious Jews focused on a divine, revealed Law, and the conduct of all non-Jews (gentiles) who did not know that this divine, revealed Law existed. In time the Jews envisioned their role to be one of passing judgment on those who did not comply with God’s Law. Being judges of others rather than being practitioners of the Law became the role of Jewish “experts in God’s Law.” (It is always easier to evaluate others’ behavior than it is to apply God’s values to your own conduct.) The Jews knew they were right—they had the Law of the living, true, one God—other people were idolaters!
In Chapter 3, if what Paul said about everybody becoming righteous if they entered Christ, then Jews lost their advantage—a horrible, stressful thought to Jewish people! How could any person knowledgeable about God’s Law suggest that God devised a means of being righteous that was not founded on the application of that Law? The stress is escalating!
Paul said the “new” way for God determining righteousness was not “new” in chapter 4. It was the way God measured righteousness prior to the Law being revealed to the Jews. From Abraham (their forefather who existed before the Jewish people existed), God measured righteousness by faith, not by compliance with Law. Unthinkable! The stress increased!
In chapter 5 Paul said people were justified by faith in Jesus Christ, people had peace with God through Jesus Christ, and people had hope because of Jesus Christ. Instead of being helpless because of their failure to comply with the Law, people could be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. The Jews said, “What a strange way to look at being righteous before God!” The stress continued to elevate!
In chapter 6, Paul anticipated a question designed to discredit righteousness in Jesus Christ. Was Paul suggesting that people should sin as much as possible to achieve God’s purpose? Paul said that question suggested a ridiculous concept! Those who grasp God’s incredible achievement in Jesus Christ stay as far from sin as possible! Never would they deliberately sin! Why? They gratefully acknowledge what God continues doing through Christ. Sin is the problem! Sin never has God’s purposes as its objective!
Paul, in chapter 7 and the early part of chapter eight, said there are two ways to see life: in physical considerations through human eyes, or in Spirit-guided considerations through divine eyes. The first emphasizes human accomplishments as the person focused on “what I have done”. The second focuses on God’s achievements in Christ. People in Christ seek to look at and see things as God does.
Is that stressful? To the people to whom Paul wrote, the answer was a resounding, “Yes!” In an idolatrous society ruled by an idolatrous empire, following Jesus Christ produced stressful conflicts. Christians were a minority! Many times Christians seemed to be at a serious disadvantage. Could they endure in such an overwhelming idolatrous situation?
Paul’s answer was a resounding, “Yes!” in the last of chapter 8. Why? They would endure because of God’s strength! Paul often emphasized the incredible power God provided people. That power originated in Him. Consider Ephesians 3:20 and Romans 16:25-27. Also consider the statement in Jude 24, 25.
Though it often is stressful to be a godly person, the solution is not found in what you can do, but in what God can enable you to endure. Read Romans 7:18-8:4, and note God provides the Christian a solution in Jesus Christ that could never be obtained through human conduct/ achievement. The point is not that we sit and do nothing. The point is that it is always God we trust, not ourselves.
Trusting in what God did in Jesus’ death and resurrection provides the Christian strength and hope! Our acts of obedience are an essential expression of our faith in God and Jesus, but those acts are inadequate for eternal salvation! Only God’s accomplishments in Jesus’ death and resurrection are completely adequate for every human weakness as we seek eternal salvation. God and only God is the source of our strength in Christ Jesus!
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
1. Why is life stressful?
2. What is one way of looking at Romans’ message?
3. Viewed from stress, what clash is presented in chapter one?
4. Viewed from stress, on what did chapter two focus?
5. Viewed from stress, what did Jewish people lose in chapter three?
6. Why did Paul declare that the “new” way for being righteous was not “new” at all?
7. In chapter 5 of Romans, what three things did Paul say God provided to the Christian through faith in Jesus Christ?
8. In chapter 6, what question did Paul anticipate? Why was that concept ridiculous?
9. In chapter 7 and early 8, what are the two ways to look at life? What is the focus of each?
10. What made that way of looking at life stressful to them?
11. Why would they endure?
12. Where is the solution to be found?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 5
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