First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
Paul wrote these words of encouragement to the Christian church in Rome. Situated in the heart of the empire, these believers faced a decadent culture with a strong faith. The result was that they were famous among all the Christian churches for their testimony as a church. And Paul wastes no time commending them for this kind of vivid and vital commitment to Christ.
He lets them know that they are living in a world that desperately needs the gospel. And he longed to preach it in Rome. He knew that the imperial center was rife with sin, but that made it ripe for the gospel! He knew that the truth was being suppressed by unrighteous men and that God's wrath was revealed against the ungodliness so prevalent among the Roman elite (Romans 1:16-18).
He knew there was enough natural knowledge of God's divine attributes from the natural world to lead even the most debauched person to struggle through a rudimentary awareness of God (Romans 1:19-20). They may have chosen to not honor what they knew about God as they turned to idolatry (Romans 1:21-23), but there was still hope for the gospel. They may have spiraled down from paganism to unmitigated passion (Romans 1:24-25), but God was still their creator. Their rebellion was expressed in sexual deviancy (Romans 1:26-27), in a debased way of thinking about everything (Romans 1:28), and in a laundry list of sinful characteristics (Romans 1:29-32). Yet it was here that Paul was eager to preach (Romans 1:15) because He knew that Jesus could change all this as lives were surrendered to Him... the truth and the experience that Roman unbelievers had always been searching for.
The fact that Roman Christians emerged from this kind of culture is an amazing testament to the saving power of the gospel. When people whine about how bad current cultures are, we only need to turn to Paul's fantastic treatise on the gospel here to be encouraged to keep preaching it! The gospel was designed to save the worst of us because it is meant to be proclaimed to all of us. And it can turn infamous sinners into saints with a famous faith!
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13