Summary: Paul the Apostle knew who he was (and was not) and his job in the kingdom. It’s his passion for his job that led him to write to a group of people he’d never met, in order to introduce himself and the theology of grace to them. It encourages us to know ou
I think it is great to study the book of Romans just after leaving Acts. Much of Acts is devoted to what Paul did—whereas in Romans we get to see how Paul thinks. Paul wrote the letter in about A.D. 57, which coincides with one of his visits to Corinth (Acts 20). Paul was looking ahead to the next phase of his ministry. He’d spent a lot of time spreading the gospel into the nations around his home town of Tarsus, but he dreamed of taking it to the next level, moving his HQ from Antioch to Rome, and going out from there to Spain and perhaps points beyond. But Paul needs to introduce himself to the believers in Rome, folks who may have first heard the gospel in Jerusalem at the Day of Pentecost, years earlier.
So Paul writes them a letter of introduction, but what an introduction it was. Romans is perhaps the greatest treatise on the theology of the gospel that we know of. Paul was an extremely intelligent and articulate man, raised in two cultures (Greek and Jewish).
Though Paul had not been to Rome, he was familiar with the church there through Priscilla and Acquila, who were Jewish Christian tent makers that had been expelled from Rome and who gave Paul a job and were instrumental in helping him in the ministry.
The church in Rome was likely not organized, it consisted mainly of Jewish converts, and Gentiles who had either come to Christ in Rome or who had migrated there, having come to know Jesus through Paul’s ministry elsewhere. However, it was a very influential church, as we’ll see today.
Paul’s reasons then for writing Romans including, introducing himself to them, and asking for their support of his ministry, and also to introduce his theology, to counteract some of the awful stuff being said about him. In that defense we have one of the most theologically richest books in all of Scripture.
Romans breaks basically into two pieces. Chapters 1-11 are the understanding of the gospel (including our guilt, justification by faith, sanctification of the believer, and the problem of the Jews and unbelief), then the second piece is chapters 12 – 16 the application of the gospel. In Romans Paul talks about. By the way, Romans was Paul’s 5th letter, after both Thessalonian epistles, Galatians, and 1 Corinthians.
Paul could have introduced himself in many ways to the Christians in Rome. He could have called himself Saulos Paulos (first and last names), a Roman Citizen. He could have told them he was a Pharisee and well educated man. He could have even boasted of his mission, given by Jesus, which resulted in many thousands coming to Christ and churches established in city after city. But to them he is simply Paul, the servant. For a Roman citizen to call himself a servant was unthinkable. A servant (bondservant) was subject to the whim and will of his master. Paul does not identify himself as a leader but a servant. No matter how long we know the Lord, no matter how much we have accomplished for him, and no matter position of leadership he has placed us in, we are really on the same plane as every other disciple of the King of Kings—we serve at the pleasure of the master.
Second, Paul identifies himself as “called to be an apostle.” Paul had a special mission. This was his assignment as a servant. Jesus called him to that assignment on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Paul’s assignment – “set apart for the gospel.” Specifically, Galatians 1:16 tells us, Paul was to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
What is your assignment? Do you know? Do you care?
So now we move to talking about just what this “gospel” is. There are three very important aspects here that we need to touch upon.
It’s a promise (not just a prophecy, which could be an advance notice of something happening). God made the promise and he is committed to it.
It came through official sources
Those sources wrote down what God said for us.
Why is this important? The Bible is not just a bunch of made up sayings and stories. The Scriptures are purely God’s message to us. It is what God wants us to know. It doesn’t answer every question but it answers the most important one—how do we get back into fellowship with God.
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The Scriptures have a focus—that focus is God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Many Jews didn’t get the fact that everything in the Old Testament (what the readers of Romans would have understood as the Scriptures) leads to Jesus, the Messiah. What Paul wants us to understand from the get go is the dual nature of Jesus—that he is fully man, a human descended from David through both his mother and step father, and that He is fully God, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit, then declared as God’s Son at His baptism in the Spirit of holiness: