A popular message in the modern church is the difference between “faith” and “religion”. They are both so similar, yet so vastly different. In context of Christianity, the term “religion” refers to the law. The term “faith”, however, touches on the pathos: the commitment to Jesus Christ, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, and a renewal of life in His crucifixion of the world’s sins. Often, the church will pick a side, stating “Christianity is a faith, not a religion!” One will find churches on the other end of the spectrum, however, who believe the path to salvation is paved with the reciting of the Ten Commandments at every Sunday service. The burden of this comparison is in its contrast: it is difficult to define the relationship between one’s salvation, a commitment to Jesus Christ, and an obedience to the law. Romans 1-8 was written by Paul to deeply explore the implication of the claim that “Jesus saves”. Through this segment of his letters to the Romans, one can discover an explanation of the natural world and the insinuated worldview of a Christ follower.
One can find a delineation of the natural world, before and after Jesus Christ, mainly in Romans 1-3, 7-8. Through these chapters, Paul explores the gospel. Romans 1:6 (The Message) states: “We are who we are through the gift and call of Jesus Christ!” From here on out, the gospel is dissected for the Roman people to absorb. The gospel is written out multiple times throughout the Bible, and in Romans 1-8 Paul approaches it from the perspective of legalism. He strived to make it clear that the gospel was for everyone, whether they were religious or not. A continuous example used to amplify this is circumcision, versus the lack thereof. In context of the era, circumcision was a large religious responsibility of Jewish males. An uncircumcised man meant one who was not familiar with the temple or the doctrine. Paul repeatedly came back to this analogy, emphasizing that the gospel was for both the circumcised and the uncircumcised in order to place the salvation through Christ above the comfort of rituals, in a time where the order was often reversed. Romans 3 discusses how humanity is all in the same sinking boat, and here, Paul’s circumcision analogy is introduced. This is because humanity’s mutual “sinking boat” is the foundation of the gospel: it states that every single person has original sin, and therefore has sinned in the past and will sin in the future. No recitation of scripture or religious practice can change that. Our lifesaver, for one and all, is Jesus Christ, who gave us the capability to live out the glorious life God has made us for. Romans 7 explains how religion does not free us from our sin, but Jesus freed us from religion! Due to His sacrifice, rituals mean nothing before the throne. Our hope is in the gospel, not in the verses we have memorized, and therein lays our freedom. Romans 8 brings the message full circle: while the first chapter states that our identity is found in Christ’s call, the eighth chapter assures that our identity is confirmed in commitment to Christ. In all areas of life, religion can’t save us: only the blood of the Lamb can.
Romans 4-6 focuses on the perturbing question that succeeds an acceptance of the gospel: “now what?” The answer is that our worldview must now be adjusted so that commitment to Christ can be lived out. As Paul emphasizes, our “circumcision” does not put us right with God; Jesus Christ does. So what does this mean for living out our life? Romans 4 and 5 focus on putting our trust in the Lord and developing patience through our sacrifice of control. Trusting the Creator of the universe seems simple, as God has intrinsic credibility, but with our nature it is hardly that easy. When one accepts the gospel and commits one’s life to Christ, they are trusting the Lord in their plans, hopes, thoughts, dreams, and desires. They are assuring God’s seat on the throne in their life. Romans 4 connects this concept to our freedom from rituals: if humanity embraces what God did through Jesus Christ and puts trust in Him, it will be in the right. This directly affects one’s worldview because it means filtering all of our decisions through God, and obeying the outcome. Romans 5 adds to this by insisting to continue this trust in God when life gets hard. By developing patience, as the chapter emphasizes, we will be more willing to filter our decision through God, as opposed to clutching them to us and racing down a path other than the one paved by God. Trusting God means accepting God’s grace into our life, and developing patience means keeping the commitment.
Human nature pulls us two different ways: one way scoffs at the gospel and charges through life making unfiltered decisions, believing that making God, King will cause a loss of identity; the other way over-analyzes the gospel and clings to legalism, in attempt to confirm their salvation through human ways, rather than God’s way. Paul begs God’s children to ignore both temptations and focus on the message of Romans 1-8: the gospel confirms one’s identity and salvation, with no strings attached. The recipient gesture is a trust and subsequent obedience to the Lord. This decision will amplify our God-given traits and give us freedom through Jesus. Independence that is not centered on God backfires, and an emotionless commitment to the law is useless: this, precisely, is Paul’s petition to Rome.