By Hedieh Mirahmadi
Background: The book of Romans in the Bible was written by the Apostle Paul, also known as Saul. He was such a devout believer in Judaism that he severely persecuted the followers of Christ.
When he was on the way to Damascus to arrest believers there, God got his attention, as recorded in Acts 9:1-6. Supernatural light blinded him, and as he lay on the ground, he heard the voice of Jesus.
A lot of people didn’t believe in the power of seeing Jesus after he had ascended. Many don’t believe that he appears to people today even if he did so for Paul back then.
But others do believe in the power of God to do anything, and that Jesus is the same as before, today and forever. If you are one of them, then you accept that these things are still possible.
In my own conversion experience, I heard Jesus’s voice, then saw a vision of him. He made it abundantly clear to me that He called me for a distinct purpose, just as He called Paul. I, too, was a believer in another faith: born of a sacred lineage and a devout Muslim. Christ revealed Himself to me, and therefore I cannot deny the calling He has placed on my life. It may involve pain and suffering, as it did for Paul.
In Romans, Paul expresses his deep desire to promote unity between believers in Jesus who were originally Jewish and those who were Gentiles.
Since everyone who was not Jewish was considered a Gentile, that term encompasses nearly all of humanity who accept and are born again in Christ, including atheists and Muslims.
Paul wrote passionately and convincingly, with love and respect for the Jewish people. He wanted them to realize the immense gift of grace that comes through the acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior. He also plainly described the dangers of not doing so.
I found his arguments brilliantly articulated, with grace, divine power, and conviction. His words spoke to me so clearly about why faith in Jesus is so irrefutable and necessary.—We all need faith. Not only for our salvation but for joy and transformation in this life as well.
I want to share with you some inspiration I received from the Holy Spirit about how the Book of Romans relates to my own experience.
General Themes in Romans
- Paul begins his argument by describing God’s wrath against all mankind. In case his Jewish readers thought that their heritage somehow made them better, Paul shows otherwise in the second chapter. In fact, a Jew who judges a Gentile stands condemned by the same standard. All sin. All must repent. No one has the right to point accusing fingers at anyone else. The people who confidently believe they have measured up to God’s righteous standard may be in the most danger.
- Only through acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only begotten Son of the one true God can we achieve reconciliation and unity. Christ represents the fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to humanity. These go all the way back to Abraham, the father of all monotheistic religions, including Judaism and Islam.
- Paul sought the reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles but also wanted to be clear and convincing about the consequences of not accepting the one true God alone is worthy of worship.
- God’s very first commandment is that his people worship no other gods. But Paul recognizes that all of us are slaves to temptation and sin, because we put our other desires such as wealth, sex, and fame as idols. Our idolatry of our desires rather than God can only lead to sin and death. God reveals his wrath on our unrighteousness both individually and as a society. Proper fear of God entails fearing both his wrath and his grief.
- In the seventh chapter, Paul eloquently describes how even the most devout adherents to religious law can be the worst perpetrators of sin. The law reveals what sin is, and our flesh then desires it. It’s a vicious cycle. We agree with the law and want to follow it. But the sin that still lives in us impels us to live otherwise. Only the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit can rescue us from this body of death.
- Though Paul wrote to Jews and Roman Gentiles, the universality and eternal nature of the word of God applies to all humanity at all times. So it is a warning to any learned believer that they should avoid self-righteous thinking or the condemnation of others as if their sins are somehow less than the sin of those less versed in the law. The other great monotheistic religions should take heed. Jews don’t accept the divinity of Christ or even acknowledge he was a prophet. In the Islamic tradition, Jesus was born of an immaculate conception, ascended to Heaven without death, and is believed to return in the last days to defeat the anti-Christ. However, it only assigns him the title of prophet and absolutely denies his divinity. If Muslims can consider this objectively, without the lens of politics, they can take heed of the Scripture as the infallible word of God for humanity and not just a “holy book.”