Summary: When you open the Bible, do you expect God to speak to you personally? If you truly believe that the Bible is God's word then you should. You see, because God loves His people, He communicates His truth to them.
An Introduction to Romans
It is probably safe to say that there is no consensus in our society concerning God. Ideas concerning God are probably as numerous today as in any time in history.
Various theories about God have always been in vogue. There is the Atheist who says that God does not exist. Life is random and without any divine purpose. We are on our own. There is no true religion, since there is no God. Every person must determine what is right and wrong.
There is also the Agnostic who will admit that there may be a God but that we really cannot know much about Him. Since we cannot know much about God, it is of little value to try to discover and understand Him. This view is similar to what is called Deism, a philosophy which says that there is a God but that He is not involved personally in our lives or in history. A Deist would also deny that there is any special revelation from God, like the Bible.
And then there is the New Age thinking of our day. To the New Ager, God exists as some kind of "force" in the universe, like the "force" of the Star Wars movies. It, too, is a religion without revelation, in which anything goes.
We, as Christians, profess that we believe in a living, personal God. And because we believe that this God is a person and is personally involved in history, we also believe that He has revealed Himself to us. God has given us a personal revelation of Himself in the book we call the Bible. As Christians, we claim to believe that the Bible is God's Word. It is His message to us.
Now that brings us to a very important question. When you open the Bible, do you expect God to speak to you personally? If you truly believe that the Bible is God's word then you should. You see, because God loves His people, He communicates His truth to them. He has not left us to fend for ourselves. He has spoken to us in words that we can understand. Our challenge is to do something with what He has given us. Our challenge, when we open the book of Romans or any other portion of Scripture, is to view it as God's message to us today.
And Romans is a powerful message indeed! As we introduce this book today, let's make a few observations about the book itself which will help us to appreciate and apply its message to our lives.
A Powerful Effect
The first observation which should be made is that Romans has had a powerful effect throughout history. This book has literally altered the course of human history, as we shall see.
Normally, when we think of important documents, we tend to think of works of classical literature or political documents like our Declaration of Independence or U. S. Constitution. Works of classical literature certainly have influenced people because of their common sharing and the enjoyment they bring. They have been read and re-read by many millions of people. Likewise, profound political documents like our United States Constitution or Declaration of Independence have shaped the life of our nation and, to a lesser extent, the world. These documents have been scrutinized, analyzed, debated and defended for over two hundred years.
But the book of Romans has existed for almost two thousand years and has transcended political and geographical boundaries. It has been analyzed and read by hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people. And it has had an indisputable and powerful effect wherever it has been taken seriously. It has caused people to be willing to risk everything for the sake of the message it contains.
Some examples of Romans' powerful effect are well known. Augustine, a distinguished teacher and philosopher in the fourth century is one example. He was a man of great intellect and learning and had become convinced that Christianity was true. In spite of that knowledge, however, he continued to be held in the grip of an immortal lifestyle. He knew what he was doing was wrong but was powerless to quit.
While visiting a friend, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing the words "take and read, take and read." Since he did not know of any such song, he thought it must be a message from God to read the Bible. Finding a Bible, he opened it and began reading at that place. It was Romans 13:13-14,
"Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful natures."