May 3, 2021

An Undeserving Cycle

Romans 1-4

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Paul, a servant 1 of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son,...


Paul, a servant 1 of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David 2 according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Longing to Go to Rome

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, 3 that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, 4 both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

16 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, 5 as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” 6

God's Wrath on Unrighteousness

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, 7 in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

God's Righteous Judgment

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking 8 and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

God's Judgment and the Law

12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded 9 as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically 10 uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code 11 and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

God's Righteousness Upheld

Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words,
    and prevail when you are judged.”

But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

No One Is Righteous

What then? Are we Jews 12 any better off? 13 No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11      no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”
13  “Their throat is an open grave;
    they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14      “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15  “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16      in their paths are ruin and misery,
17  and the way of peace they have not known.”
18      “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being 14 will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

The Righteousness of God Through Faith

21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

Abraham Justified by Faith

What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in 15 him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

The Promise Realized Through Faith

13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.

16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. 18 In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness 16 of Sarah's womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.


[1] 1:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface
[2] 1:3 Or who came from the offspring of David
[3] 1:13 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters
[4] 1:14 That is, non-Greeks
[5] 1:17 Or beginning and ending in faith
[6] 1:17 Or The one who by faith is righteous shall live
[7] 1:20 Or clearly perceived from the creation of the world
[8] 2:8 Or contentious
[9] 2:26 Or counted
[10] 2:27 Or is by nature
[11] 2:27 Or the letter
[12] 3:9 Greek Are we
[13] 3:9 Or at any disadvantage?
[14] 3:20 Greek flesh
[15] 4:5 Or but trusts; compare verse 24
[16] 4:19 Greek deadness

An Undeserving Cycle

Key Verse | Romans 3:21-24

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

Bio | Shelby Arledge

Hey, all you cool cats and kittens, it's Shelby. I have a new life in Christ. I'm a single mama to a wonderfully silly and smart 9-year-old boy (this gives me a front row seat to the Lord showing me grace every single day). I love intentional conversations with my clients, the music of Lauren Daigle, and Chiloso (extra veggies, no meat). I am blessed and humbled to serve every Monday at the ministry that changed my life and reintroduced me to the gospel: re:generation, Watermark's Recovery Ministry.

Central Truth

The Lord in His kindness has made abundantly clear both His existence and what sin looks like. We know these things to be true, yet we lean toward believing we can gain our own righteousness through good works or status. But wouldn't this make Jesus' sacrifice insufficient? 

Devotional | Romans 1-4

When I turned 16, my parents lent me their car for school with strict instructions: drive straight there and no passengers. Easy enough. But in my excitement, I foolishly agreed to take friends to Sonic (and,...

When I turned 16, my parents lent me their car for school with strict instructions: drive straight there and no passengers. Easy enough. But in my excitement, I foolishly agreed to take friends to Sonic (and, embarrassingly enough, straight into the menu pole!).

In Romans 1, Paul teaches two things: first, how God has revealed Himself through His creation and invisible attributes (Romans 1:19-20), and second, how humanity is trapped by sin and needs saving. The human heart is darkened, yet we reject Him and choose sin (Romans 1:21). There was no excuse. What this looked like for 16-year-old me was, "Dad, I know you, I know the rules, yet I chose the jumbo popcorn chicken."

In Romans 2, the Israelites' dangerous example of judging others while feeling exempt from judgment reminds us that no one is immune from sin nor from God's righteous judgment (Romans 2:3-4). We all are morally broken. Works are insufficient when it comes to righteousness, and pride is incompatible with salvation. This contradicts what my sinful mind knows so well. I normally "do good" to achieve acceptance and forgiveness.

"[F]or all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and following the Law can't save us as it's impossible to always keep them. But in Romans 3:26, we're shown how, in God's justice, He still required a sacrifice for our sins. But in His mercy He gifted us that sacrifice: Jesus. Jesus became what we are, so we could become what He is.

Wrecking the car got me grounded. Crossing double white lines years later got me fined (maybe, don't ride with me?). But when ALL my sin was accounted for by the Creator of the universe, I was given a gift? Rescued even, for my disobedience at 16, and my control and perfectionism today? My finite mind cannot begin to comprehend His infinite grace. We naturally wonder, "What did I do to deserve this?" Nothing. I continue to sin, yet He continues to pour out overwhelming grace—an undeserving cycle.

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Discussion Questions

1. In Romans 4, we see that Abraham was fully convinced of God's ability to perform what was promised. In what areas are you currently choosing to trust God? Are there any areas in which God seems too small?

2. As Paul writes in Romans 1:21, even those who know Him reject Him. Has there been a time in your life when you rejected God? If so, what brought you back to Him?

3. Our human nature tells us nothing is free. We must work to achieve anything in this life or to be seen as worthy. But in these four rich chapters, we are shown this is impossible. How are we able to receive the righteousness of Jesus? Are there times you fall into believing good works make us worthy of His righteousness?

4. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul lists many sin struggles he saw during this time period. List two or three of your current sin struggles. Who have you shared these struggles with? If you're looking for community, and a safe place to share any hurts, habits, or hangups, join us any Monday night at re:generation, Watermark's recovery ministry! 

6 Comments available

Greg Jones over 1 year ago


Does Samuel insinuate a sexual relationship between David and Jonathan? How can it if Romans1:26-27 means what it says? Obviously there are different thoughts concerning the question. Many probably wonder how others could even consider the thought.

If David and Jonathan =insinuation, then Saul found laying with Abner (1Samuel26:5)probably insinuates the same sexual thing. Judge between them then hold the thought.

Consider 1Samuel26:6, Ahimelek the Hittite and Abishai son of Zeruiah. Abimelek the Hittite stays behind, Abishai goes with David to find Saul and Abner, laying together. Judge between Abimelek the Hittite and Abishai. Or judge Hittites by Abimelek. Hold that thought.

Greg Jones over 1 year ago


Consider David, Bathsheba, and Uriah the Hittite.(2Samuel1-27) We know where David has slept, we see where Uriah the Hittite sleeps, judge between David and the Hittite.

Disgusted with Saul? The innuendo of he and Abner sleeping together is easy to go along with. Love David? Excusing his actions by understanding his desire for Bathsheba is easy to go along with. Both are judgements.

Should the narratives be related to each other?Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth name is this similar to Ahimelek the Hittite. Why does it shows up in 2Samuel11:21? A different understanding is not without merit.

Those who understand Samuel in this way view Romans2:1 differently than those who disagrees with that view of Samuel. That difference is understandable.

How did Paul understand 1&2 Samuel? No one is exactly sure. Why no one is exactly sure is understandable.

Michael Scaman over 1 year ago

In the servant songs of Isaiah God raises something to think about and it is about how Abraham became righteous. Is 51:1-2 And of course Abraham believed God and was counted as righteous.

It’s as if God said keep this in mind as you consider Is 53:1-12 and my suffering servant.

Sue Bohlin over 1 year ago

Thank you, Shelby!

I am really enjoying the NLT on this read through the Bible. There is such a freshness to even the most familiar chapters! Today I was struck by the marvel of the fact we can be “made right” with a wholly perfect, holy God. And since we can do nothing to make ourselves right with Him, it is simply a matter of responding in faith to the gift of being made right by God Himself. Whoa.

Hugh Stephenson over 1 year ago

2 of 2

God created Adam, Eve, Paul, me and everyone else in His image, (Genesis 1:26-28).

He invites me/us into partnership with Him as co-regent. He prepared Paul and gifted him. Same for everyone else.

He gave Paula race to run, (Hebrews 12:1-3). Me too.

He took Paul’s sin and rebellion and redeemed it.

Me too.

You too.

Father, thank for making me with a purpose for your use and your glory. Thank you for the race you have marked out for me. Thank you for the passion and endurance to run and complete the race, (1 Corinthians 9:24).

Hugh Stephenson over 1 year ago

GM Shelby. Well done. Maybe we should have an ice breaker comparing first car “incidents”.

1 of 2


a servant, (doulos: literal or figurative, involuntary or voluntary), called, (klētos: invited, appointed, divinely selected), apostle, (apostolos: sent forth, messenger, ambassador, special powers) set apart, (aphorizō: appoint, separate, set off)

Why did Jesus call Paul? And why then?

I am taught that Jesus came in the fullness of time, (Galatians 4:4-7). So did Paul. The Greeks spread a common language. The Romans built the infrastructure. Paul’s education in the Law was impeccable. His lineage gave him Roman citizenship, hence amazing privilege.

He violently persecuted Jews with zeal and energy. Then came the Damascus road, (Acts 9:1-31), read the whole passage if you have not read it in awhile.

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