Discussion Guide for Roman 1:8-17
What’s Your Religion?
In America we like to think that religion is some compartment of life that is only confined to a few hours a week. Church is for Sunday and doesn’t affect much of the rest of your life.
This approach is both delusional and not practiced by any other culture outside of the west. Our eyes have been blinded into believing that only one part of life is religion. We are largely blind to who the true gods of our culture are and how much of our lives are spent pursuing them.
If you want to know about somebody’s religion, look at his calendar and bank statement. Massive amounts of time and energy are spent pursuing something that is placing demands on each person’s life.
Take a close look at the lives of people throughout the world. The entirety of human existence is a story of attaining some standard of righteousness.
Think about it: every single person is living his or her life to please somebody. Every single person lives his or her life for some purpose. We measure success and failure based on how he comes to that purpose.
In other words, everybody has a religion.
Religion isn’t just about a god.
Think about the standards of righteousness people try to attain today.
There are the major world religions: Judaism, Islam, “Christian” legalism, Buddhism, Jainism1. And then there’s worship of wealth, athletic success, family status, academic success, environmentalism, politics, atheism, selfism, consumerism, drug use, etc. etc. etc.
How are each of these standards a religion unto themselves? In other words, who is the god? What demands does the god make of people who pursue it? How does that religion consume people’s lives?
What makes the Gospel different?
From the very beginning of Romans, Paul speaks of himself as an apostle in a community that spans the world. This community has a religion, but it is unlike any other. Paul is not bound to preach an obedience of works, but an obedience of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:5).
Success (righteousness) in the life of the Christian community is defined by one word: faith.
Paul often expresses thankfulness for the church to whom he writes.
Why is Paul’s heart so overflowing with gratitude for people he hasn’t even personally met? He tells us in in verse 8. “Because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”
Paul carried a passion for the Gospel message and a sense that God was always up to something. He also understood the old adage: “all roads lead to Rome.”
God had strategically placed a church in Rome so that those roads would carry the news of faith in Jesus to the four corners of the known earth.
Paul longed to impart a spiritual blessing to this strategic church. He greatly desired to be part of the action by participating in what God was doing through them.
- From Romans 1:9-15, how do you know that Paul had the heart of a missionary?
- Do you think it is wrong to always desire to be a part of the action when it comes to the movement of the Gospel around the world?
- What would it look like for you to be a part of the action?
- How do you think God has strategically placed you, your job, and your church to carry the Gospel in all the world?
Romans 1:16-17 gives us the main idea for the entire remainder of the book. When Paul says he is “not ashamed” of the gospel, we know he means it. He literally staked his life on the preaching of this gospel on multiple occasions.
Paul will later explain how his own life and ministry illustrated the phrase “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
The point for us is that the Gospel is for people from every walk of life.
Our own religion will fail us every time. But, faith in the Gospel is the only way to obtain the power of God to salvation.
Bonus Facts: Martin Luther
Austin’s message on this text includes the story of Martin Luther’s conversion. I also highly recommend the documentary in the movie trailer above.
- In what ways are you tempted to be ashamed of the gospel?
- What price might you pay for refusing to be ashamed?
- How have you seen the power of God demonstrated through the Gospel this week?
- What are your thoughts about the conversion of Martin Luther? Was there ever a time in your life, similar to Martin Luther and Augustine, when you have had to wrestle with Romans 1:17: “the righteous shall live by faith?”
Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash
- a nontheistic religion founded in India in the 6th century BC by the Jina Vardhamana Mahavira as a reaction against the teachings of orthodox Brahmanism, and still practiced there. The Jain religion teaches salvation by perfection through successive lives, and noninjury to living creatures, and is noted for its ascetics.