The Apostle Paul writes to the world-renowned believers in Rome, the center of the world at that time, in order to answer a slanderous charge made to them against Paul and his message. Paul’s detractors claim his emphasis on faith overturns the law. Paul says that ” just living by the law” does not achieve personal justice before God, while “just living by faith” does. Paul then demonstrates what a just life looks like: harmonious living with Jesus as the leader. Paul also makes clear the choice a believer has: to walk in faith and the power of the resurrection and experience resurrection life, or walk in sin and unnecessarily experience the negative consequences.
Following the law, or rules, can never make us spiritual, but walking in the Spirit fulfills the law. Institutions, and people in general, are inclined to use rules to attempt to control others, using the threat of condemnation to control them. But there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus, so there is no reason for believers to submit to such control. Paul is arming the Roman believers receiving this letter, who are already world-famous for their faith, with the knowledge that no person or circumstance can separate us from the perfect and all-encompassing love of Jesus, so they will reject the competing Jewish “authorities” attempt to condemn them in order to gain control.
Further, Paul offers up the reality that serving Jesus (rather than men) will bring the suffering Jesus suffered (including rejection by men) but that suffering leads to an unfathomable reward – to be a joint-heir with Jesus, to co-inherit what Jesus inherited for His faithfulness to His Father. For all these reasons, Paul exhorts the believers in Rome, and by extension us, to reject the control of rule-making legalism and serve Jesus with a true heart.