It has been said that the book of Romans is one of Paul's most heavily theological writing. Some call Romans a 'theology textbook'. Martin Luther in his preface to Romans writes, "This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament." Augustine, Luther, John Wesley, as well as countless others trace their spiritual renewals to the reading of Romans.
Paul's Letter to the Romans was written around AD 56-58, close to the time in which Paul was concluding his third missionary journey. He was eager to visit the church at Rome at this time because he heard a lot about their faith and he had also personally prayed for them, asking that he might be sent there to visit them.
It would be worth bearing in mind that this letter was addressed to a congregation that Paul had yet to meet.
Rome was home to a million people, some of whom were from foreign lands, including a fair number of Jews. The cosmopolitan church in the Roman Empire's capital city was therefore a mixture of some Jews although a majority of them were Gentile believers who were less concerned about the Jewish Christians.
Amidst such a multi-racial and multi-religious backdrop, confusion and conflicts were unavoidable. This is very much similar to our very own churches in Malaysia today.
Hence, as you read through this letter, you will find that one of Paul's innermost concerns was to tell the Roman church about the core teachings on faith in Christ.
However, don't get stressed out or become much too concerned about your level of theological background when reading this book. Let the letter speaks to you in its own ways. Read it prayerfully and slowly. To know Jesus is undoubtedly the best achievement anyone can gain in life, and Paul encourages all who hear and read this message to come to know Him too. This could be your most significant month!
Suggestion Bible reading:
- First, read through the letter in one sitting.
- Then, choose any week, one week that is convenient for you to read through it again more systematically. Pray for God's guidance and let Him speak to you as you go through this letter.
Day 1: Romans 1 - 3:20 What We Are by Nature
Day 2: Romans 3:21 - 5 How to Become a Christian
Day 3: Romans 6 How to Live a Christian Life
Day 4: Romans 7 What Our Struggle with Sin is like
Day 5: Romans 8 How to Live a Spirit-Filled Life
Day 6: Romans 9:30 - 11:12 Why Israel Is Set Aside
Day 7: Romans 12 -16 How to Serve God
- Journal your thought/insights, questions and prayers as you read.
- Make full use of Bible handbooks, commentaries, atlases and dictionaries if you would like to gain a deeper understanding of what you are reading. These external references will be very useful tools that will help you to study God's word more effectively.
Both of us are infected with serious skin diseases. We want to attend an open-to-all grand wedding feast. We want to go, but we have serious skin diseases. We both realize it, but we ignore it. It doesn't hurt us that much anymore because we are used to it - in fact, we think that it is so common that hardly anyone would care about it. It's normal, we say. No big deal...
Paul suddenly come and says, "Both of you have serious skin diseases! [Shout] You might lose your hands and legs...or even your life if you don't go for emergency operation. Futhermore, don't expect that they will ever gonna welcome you to the feast. However, I assure you, if you go to this Good Doctor, you'll be cured 100%. This is His Name card. Please, please, call him!"
Would you call Him?
So it is with Paul's letter to the Romans. For the most part, Paul focuses on how sinful people can be restored to a right relationship with a Holy God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. He tells us that we have a serious problem, namely, we are sinners.
"There is no one righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10)
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23)
In other words, there is no escape - a dead end. We have to admit like it or not, that we are sinners.
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12)
And to make it worst, he writes,
"For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a)
By now, there's no hope in attending the wedding feast...or is there?
After Paul states the real conditions of our depravity, he then reveals our need for God's righteousness. He proclaims that only by faith is the crucified and risen Lord that we can have this free-but-costly-gift of God's righteousness.
"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8)
That's amazing! It's like, while we still having skin diseases, the Feast Master invites us to come...well, only if we're clean and cured, of course. Now, it's up to us whether we want to accept the invitation or not. If we believe in Christ, God will make us righteous; we will be "declared righteous" (Rom 2:13). God provides us the righteousness He demands of us.
The call is to believe and to be cured; to trust in the Good Doctor and to let Him do the operation; to accept the invitation to the wedding feast; to meet the Master and to have a relationship with Him. On the Name card, Paul assures us,
"If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved" (Rom 10:9-10)
And in case we missed it, he writes a remark behind the card,
P.S. 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (Rom 10:13)
This is my summary reflection on Romans:
Sin is humanity's problem. Salvation is God's solution. Faith in Jesus is sinner's hope for eternal life.
What is your response? Would you call Him?