Summary: Paul's letter to the Romans is an occasional letter. What was the situation facing the church in Roman that caused Paul to pen one of the most amazing presentations of the gospel of God? In sermon, we investigate the background to Paul's letter to the Romans.
A. In the year 386 A.D. a young professor of rhetoric named Aurelius Augustinius was wasting his life away in dissolution and debauchery.
1. Then one day, he happened to pick up a Bible, which just happened to fall open to the book of Romans, where his eye just happened to fall upon Chapter 13, Verses 13-14: “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
2. Instantly that Word from the Lord convicted his heart, and the prodigal professor renounced his wicked ways and became a devout Christian.
3. In fact, the man the world would later come to know and admire as "Saint Augustine" not only left his old life of sin behind him but he went on to develop into one of the most influential scholars in the history of Christianity. And it all began with the book of Romans.
B. One of the most far-reaching religious transformations in history was launched in 1515 A.D. when a German monk named Martin Luther was appointed to teach the book of Romans at the University of Wittenberg.
1. For many years Luther had struggled unsuccessfully to pacify his tormented conscience by strenuous works of religious merit, but no matter how much he did, it was never enough.
2. Then, while studying Paul's letter to the Romans, he came to realize that his whole approach was misguided: salvation is not earned by human righteousness.
3. It was in Chapter 1, Verse 17, where Luther discovered the revolutionary statement: “The righteous will live by faith.”
4. Luther realized that it is trusting faith, not works of merit, that make us right with God.
5. This profound insight not only set Luther free from the spiritual anxiety that had oppressed him for so long, but it also provided the spark which ignited what we know today as the Protestant Reformation. And it all began with the book of Romans!
C. When John Bunyan was thrown into the Bedford jail in 1660 for refusing to stop preaching without the permission of England’s ecclesiastical authorities, it was the book of Romans that he read, and the truths he found there inspired Bunyan to write Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the most influential religious books of all time.
D. The Methodist revival of the eighteenth century, which swept over the young nation of America like a mighty force and had changed the lives of millions, began in a small Bible study in London in 1738 when John Wesley heard someone reading from Luther’s Preface to Romans and for the first time Wesley comprehended, in a profoundly personal way, that the death of Jesus was for his benefit. And it all came from Romans.
E. Clearly this book called Romans packs a powerful punch!
1. In fact, the theme of the book of Romans talks about the powerful punch of the gospel.
2. In Romans 1:16-17, Paul wrote: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
3. The Greek word translated “power’ in verse 16 is dunamis – from which we derive the word “dynamite”!
4. That is an appropriate word, because the message of the book of Romans has been “dynamite” from the first day it was written until now.
5. Jimmy Allen, a long-time teacher at Harding, likes to say, “If you ‘get’ Romans (i.e., understand it), then God will get you! (i.e., change you / save you).”
F. Paul’s letter to the Romans is still transforming people’s lives, just the way it transformed Augustine, Martin Luther, John Bunyan, and John Wesley.
1. And how wonderful it is that you and I can read and study the same inspired letter that packs such a powerful punch.
2. For the last thirty one years of preaching here at Wetzel Road, I have preached through almost every book of the New Testament, but I have waited for the right time when to preach through Paul’s letter to the Romans.
3. Over the years, I have considered preaching through Romans, but each time I backed off from the task thinking I wasn’t ready for the challenge.
4. John Piper describes the reason why he hesitated to preach through Romans for 18 years saying, “I felt like a mountain climber gazing up into the clouds around the peak of Mount Everest and then turning to lower heights. It felt very daunting.”