If you’re reading through the New Testament this year with us, then the final words of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 should still be ringing in your ears. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age.” Into all the world – including the very heart of the ruling empire.
Ah, Rome – the seat of a powerful kingdom that ruled the western world. In the first century, Rome was the center of the western world in every way: law, culture, power, and learning. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul succinctly addresses the whole scope of Christian doctrine, which, at that time, was still being passed along orally from town to town. Paul writes this letter from the city of Corinth, to believers in Rome (mostly gentile, but not entirely) a couple of years before Paul goes to Rome for the first time.
Paul structures a clear argument that unfolds point by point:
Romans 1-3 Introduction, the problem, and the need for the gospel (the end of chapter 3 is the theological core of the whole book, and the Bible for that matter);
Romans 4-5 Expanding the concept of how we become righteous before God
Romans 6-8 The working out of the gospel in a Christian’s life (chapter 7 is the famous “struggle with sin” that my family calls the Dr. Suess passage, and chapter 8 is full of well-known promises…)
Romans 9-11 Linking the gospel to the Old Testament for Jewish believers
Romans 12-16 Practical advice on specific problems
Great revivals in church history have been spawned by the study of Romans. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley all trace their spiritual renewals to a reading of Romans. Romans is a book to savor, read it slowly and carefully. Though it is complex and requires concentration, it has no equal as a concise statement of the Christian faith!
St. Peter’s Square, The Vatican in Rome, March 2017