As Romans begins, Paul makes a point about the pervasiveness of sinfulness – particularly among God’s people. Chapter 1 is normally interpreted as referring to the pagan gentile world, but it does not. It refers to those who have historically been God’s people – the Jews. In Chapter 2, Paul includes Christian people, Jews and gentiles, and especially does he focus on the Jewish Christians. His point is plain: Jewish Christians do not stand “right” before God because of who they are. Being “righteous” is a matter of faith (chapter 3). It’s always been that way. It is the way it was with Abraham (chapter 4).
But now a change has been made. Now, righteousness is not just available by faith to Jews, but is available to everyone through Jesus Christ.
That being true, believers can be at peace with God, even in difficult times. Even in sinful times. In days past, sin always ruled. But now, through Christ, sin does not have to rule your life. Grace rules.
Unfortunately, the notion that “grace rules” leads some people to live as if it doesn’t matter what they do, grace will cover it. In the chapters to follow, Paul maintain that grace is not a license to sin. Rather, because of grace, we have become different people, and God has higher expectations of us.