Do you long to know how to please God? To know when God will be pleased with you? Do you desire to grow deeper in your understanding of the Christian faith? Questions like these motivated me to begin a fresh study for myself in the foremost letter of the New Testament.
There may be no better place to go to discover the richness of the Christian faith, than the book of Romans. Historically, it has been one of the most transformative of books. It was the means God used for the conversions of Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther and John Wesley. It has been instrumental in my own life as well.
Situationally, it really speaks well to us today. The people of Rome were a minority group in a relatively tolerant culture. Rome permitted all faiths to be practiced privately, on the condition that one bowed the civic religion, swearing, “Caesar is Lord”. Today, we live in a relatively tolerant culture, where all is permitted in personal faith, as long as you bow to the civic religion in public expressions, “Naturalism is Lord.”
Thematically, Romans is a missionary support Letter. Paul is planning a missionary journey to Spain, and he covets their support and prayers in sending him off. But he knows that the Romans are a small, weak group, fighting amongst themselves on the relationship of Jew and Gentile to the gospel of God, concerning his Son, Jesus Christ. Paul writes to clarify the meaning and nature of the gospel, with the promise to evangelize, Rome, and use his apostolic gifts to strengthen the church, solve their main difficulties and the request that in return they encourage him and send him on to Spain.
The controlling theme of the letter is Paul’s understanding of the gospel, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” he declares, “because it is is the power of God for salvation unto all those who believe, the Jew first, and also the Gentile. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written ‘the righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1:16-17).
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