A. THE BOOK OF ROMANS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT.
In my own Christian walk, I have found that the Book of Romans is one of the most relevant books of the bible because of it’s relevance to our world today. It is also that part of the New Testament that brings to reality, the life and the finished work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in our everyday living. That life and work which brings down the barrier between God and man; that brings the only solution to the innumerable problems caused by man’s pride of thinking "I can go it all the way" without God; as it demonstrates the effects of God's truth upon mankind. The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is that solution.
Paul is the author of Romans but he did not write it himself as seen in Rom.16:22. "I, Tertius, the writer of this letter, greet you in the Lord". This is the only mention of Tertius in scripture. He actually wrote the book of Romans from the Apostle Paul's dictation.
This letter was written in commercial bustling city of Corinth, Greece (The London or New York of that time); and sent between A.D. 55 and 58. Paul was at the tail end of his third missionary journey at the time of its writing.
Although Paul had never personally been to Rome before, he wrote this letter to the saints in Rome (1:7) whom he had never met, which informs his longing to visit them (1:11). He was also not the founder of this church, so he definitely had written the letter through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The keywords and phrases to get familiar with in Romans include; Law, sins, Sin, Blood of Jesus, Cross, grace, faith, justice, flesh, spirit, justification, sanctification, eternal purpose, Glory of God etc.
B. WHEN AND WHY WAS IT WRITTEN
Paul wrote the letter to introduce himself and communicate his love for them and his desire to visit them (1:9-12). He hoped to go eventually to Spain and wanted to first fellowship and minister to them in Rome, with the hope that they will assist him in his ministry in Spain. For the present he must return to Jerusalem for he is taking gifts for the relief of the poor brethren there. Toward this end, he desires their prayers for God's blessings (15:23-32).
We can see the fearlessness of the writing as guided by the Holy Spirit as he was forthright with issues he picked up with the Romans despite the fact that he already knew that he was going to need their help for his ministry in Spain.
C. NOTABLE THEMES AND TESTIMONIES OF THE BOOK
1. TRUTHFULNESS OF CHRISTIANITY.
Augustus, a philosopher and teacher who lived between the fourth and fifth centuries came under conviction concerning the truthfulness of Christianity. He like the scientist or well off bankers of his day (even today as you will see in our cities) as he described in the 8th book of his "confession" similar to "Cityboy: Beer and Loathing in the Square Mile" by Geraint Anderson which describes life within the square mile of the city of London – the bankers’ haven.
Despite these bouts of conviction from the Holy Spirit He kept putting off the chance of confessing, renouncing and turning away from his sinful ways.
So one day while he was in Milan Italy he heard a child singing in Italian
"Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires".
This was the beginning of the ministry of St Augustine as he was later known. After this experience he wrote in 8th book of his "confession":
"No further would I read, nor did I need; for instantly, as the sentence ended—by a light, as it were, of security infused into my heart—all the gloom of doubt vanished away."
"take, Read" "take, Read". As he had never had a song like that before he taught this could be a message from God (how so religious of him!!): So he rushed to the nearest copy of the bible he could lay his hands on and opened at random. The first words that met his gaze were in Romans13:13-14 (ESV):
2. FUNDAMENTALITY OF "RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH" TO CHRISTIANITY
This letter to the Romans, just as it deals with the morally deficient individual, so does it deal with the morally astute person, it deals very much with those who want to please God by their own works.
For Luther, instead of growing closer to God – He felt further away. Instead of getting to love God more – He hated Him more for requiring apparently impossible standard of righteousness in him as a believer and all human beings in general. He gradually developed a secret anger against God. In his desperation, by grace he found the book of Romans and in chapter 1 verse 17 Luther read:
"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith".
By reading this Luther realised that it was not his own righteousness that God was looking for, but the righteousness of Christ that is available to anyone who cares to ask for it. He discovered that we do not have any righteousness of our own to bring to God because we are bankrupt sinners. We receive God’s righteousness, not through any works of our own, but by faith alone in the finished work of Christ. When we put our faith in Christ, we take God at His word and believe what He says about us and His saving grace in Christ. Luther said:
"I had no love for that holy and just God who punished sinners. I was filled with secret anger against Him. I hated Him. . . . But when I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from the free mercy of our Lord through faith, then I felt born again like a new man."
Luther, like Paul, discovered that Christianity is Jesus Christ, that it is not about the philosophy of men, like Paul said in his letter to Timothy:
"As I warned you when I was on my way to Macedonia, stay on where you are at Ephesus in order that you may warn and admonish and charge certain individuals not to teach any different doctrine. Nor give importance to or occupy themselves with legends (fables, myths) and endless genealogies, which foster and promote useless speculations and questionings rather than acceptance in faith of God’s administration and the divine training that is in faith (in that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence) - Whereas the object and purpose of our instruction and charge is love, which springs from a pure heart and a good (clear conscience and sincere (unfeigned) faith."
Like the first and most important commandment tells us;
LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND
Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?
Do you love Him with all your heart?
Do you love Him with all your being?
Does He occupy your thoughts?
Is He the centre of your attention?
Do you speak often of Him?
There is nothing like being conquered by His love. It lifts you out of the "shallow and selfish, constantly shifting ebbs and flows of cultural sands" of our day. May our very person, like the "man in Christ," be filled with more and more of Him
"who loved me and gave Himself for me"
"You are not your own; you were bought at a price"
Paul was in love with Christ, and that is the only way you can explain him. He had been conquered and captivated by the living Lord Jesus Christ. I believe with all my heart that when He has conquered our hearts, we will love Him the same way and then and only then will our contemporaries say of us, "There is a man, or there is a woman, or there is a young person in Christ."
The question now is;
Is this ancient writing now relevant in our 21st century jet set, Internet propelled, Godless, credit crunched, self righteous society?
How does this apply to our very existence or survival- can we expect this letter to meet our needs today?
The answer to this is yes and I say again yes because as JM Boice puts it:
"Christianity has been the most powerful, transforming force in human history – and the book of Romans is the most basic, most comprehensive statement of true Christianity"
Looking at the Political background at the time Paul wrote the letter; the first century church was under Roman rule.
God used Roman rule (epitomised by the world political, economic and religious set-up of today) to protect, to consolidate, to extend, and to test His young church. The city itself was prosperous and growing. Working class, slaves (just like the employment laws of today that guarantees maximum profit for the employer often to the detriment of employees and their families) and also aristocracy lived in Rome. Economic subsidies, wealth, poverty, entertainment, government, public buildings, parks, famous people, military, and intrigue filled the city.
Nero was the emperor at this time. He ruled from A.D. 54-68. He became the emperor at age 17 and committed suicide at age 31. Just like today (especially in the western world) There was a reasonable decent standard of living (for some, more that enough for them and generations of their children) which tends to make a man think that he is self sufficient and able to "go it" all the way without God, a gradual move to the situation Paul describes in chapter 1 verses 28-32:
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."
D. OVERVIEW OF ROMANS
Book of Romans demonstrates the effects of God's truth upon mankind. The heart of this letter is the barrier between God and man and the solution to this problem.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the solution.
The gospel message is that God's righteousness is offered to mankind based on the death and resurrection of Christ; man receives God’s righteousness by faith in Christ alone.
So in the course of our study of the book of Romans we will be looking at God's truth in these categories:
Eternal Purpose: Greeting and introduction:
Universality / Outworking of Christianity in individual and national life:
Day to Day Christian Living, (Romans 12-16).
21st Century Roman Road can be found at sabaothmin.org