Paul’s Letter to the Romans may be the most influential book in the history of Christianity. It was Romans that sparked the Reformation of the 16th century and just about every other significant move since then. Romans is special because in it Paul presents his revelation of the life and work of Jesus Christ. Romans, in other words, is the Bible’s own key for unlocking the gospel of Christ.
And what a gospel it is!
Justification by faith (Rms 3:28)! Salvation for all who believe (Rms 1:16)! Righteousness from God (Rms 1:17)! Freedom from condemnation (Rms 8:1)! In short, grace – pure grace.
Romans is Paul’s masterpiece of grace. And just as you will better appreciate the masterpieces in the National Gallery when you view them with a guide, so too will you get more out of Romans if you are accompanied by a gifted teacher. Someone like Andrew Wommack for instance.
In his book, Grace – the Power of the Gospel, Wommack gives a verse by verse exposition of Romans or at least the first half of Romans. Reading this book is like are exploring a mine full of treasures. Here’s what Wommack has to say about the law:
“The law was given to bring us out of our deception that we could ever save ourselves. God revealed what real holiness is for those who think, I’m close. I’m a pretty good person. He gave a standard of holiness that was so detailed – step one through ten thousand – that it was impossible for anyone to ever keep it… The law wasn’t given so we could keep it. It was given to show us that we could never keep it.” (p.31)
Here’s what he has to say about Paul’s famous wretched-man passage:
“Romans 7 shows the impossibility of living for God. Most people don’t understand this. They think that when you’re born again God forgives you and then picks you up, winds you up, points you in the right direction, and says, ‘Now let’s see if you can do it right this time.’… The Christian life isn’t just hard to live – it’s impossible! It’s humanly impossible to love your neighbor as you love yourself… It’s humanly impossible to turn the other cheek.” (pp.123-4)
Many believers have a yo-yo relationship with the Lord. This is because they relate to God on the basis of their performance rather than trusting in His grace. They look at Paul’s words in Romans 7 and think he is describing their experience: up one day, down the next. But that’s not what Paul was talking about at all:
“Paul wasn’t crying, ‘I’m schizophrenic! Sometimes I do good, sometimes I do bad. I just can’t help myself.’ He was simply describing the inability of any of us on our own to live for God… Paul was describing the futility of trying to serve God in the flesh. The flesh part of us (body and soul) will always fall short. ‘Imperfection can’t be perfect…’” (pp.154-5)
The solution to this performance-based bondage is to stop trying to be Jesus and let Jesus be Jesus through you. Stop trying to succeed on the basis of will-power, which is a flesh trip, and start living by the Spirit. As many others have said, the Christian life isn’t a changed life, but an exchanged life. It’s about denying your self – that Martha-part of you that wants to get busy impressing Jesus with your works – and resting in Him and His finished work.
Performance-oriented believers tend to be sin-conscious. For them, Christianity is all about doing good while avoiding sin. Indeed, Romans does talk a lot about sin, but probably not in the way that you think. The word “sin” and its derivatives appears 49 times in Romans. On 47 of these occasions Paul refers to sin as a noun (e.g., sin nature, old self). Only twice does Paul talk about sin as a verb. In other words, Paul is far more interested in nature than behavior. It’s not so much about what you do but who you are. Those who are in Christ will walk according to the Spirit not because they have to, but because it is in their (new) nature to do so. The tree is good, so the fruit will be good too.
What’s the main takeaway from this book? You need to renew your mind:
“The key to the Christian life is the renewing of the mind. When you were born again, your spirit changed – but your natural mind didn’t. It remained unrenewed. You don’t need more of God in your heart. You already have all of God there. Everything you need is already in your born-again spirit – the life of God, the faith of God, the joy of God, the peace of God, the anointing of God, and everything else that’s of God – but it’s only going to manifest itself in your life to the degree you renew your mind.” (p.91)
Grace – The Power of the Gospel will change the way you think. It will liberate you from the curse of dead works and the performance mentality that still binds many in the church. Read this book and you will come away praising God for His goodness and Jesus for His perfect sacrifice. You will also come away with a greater appreciation for the gospel of grace.