Every letter which Paul wrote had its purpose to address some particular problem(s) in the church. A common situation that Paul continually went after was the disunity between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile believers. The Roman church had within it both groups of people. Paul’s great concern was to not establish and maintain two distinct churches based in ethnicity, but one church completely centered in the person and work of Jesus.
The problem was that many of the Jewish Christians thought they had a leg-up by simply being Jews. They tended toward a certain arrogance in which they took for granted that new Gentile believers must also adopt Jewish ways. But the Gentiles fared no better. They believed the Jews to be hopelessly stuck in their traditions and tended to look down on their brothers and sisters.
Into this situation Paul makes it clear that no group of people is better than the other because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift.” This kind of teaching was like a sonic boom to the church. Although both Jew and Gentile were to appreciate one another’s differences, those differences were secondary to the grand design of the church to show no favoritism. All are sinners. All come to Christ by grace through faith. There is no ground for human boasting of pedigree or practice.
The Western church today finds itself increasingly within a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural milieu not too unlike the early Roman church. Taking a good close look at the book of Romans would be a wise approach to fostering corporate unity and personal spiritual formation. For then we will see ourselves through biblical lenses.
Just God, you are the one who justifies based upon your own good pleasure. Thank you for delivering me from my wayward beliefs. Help me to appreciate your gracious justifying work more and more, to the glory of Jesus. Amen.