Reign of Grace: Reading Romans Responsibly: Part 1: An Introduction

Reign of Grace: Reading Romans Responsibly: Part 1: An Introduction

Introduction

  • “If you get Romans, then God gets you.”
    • Yet, this quote implies there is some difficult in “getting” what Romans is all about.
    • Certain passages we may know (Rom. 1:16; 3:23; Rom. 6:3-4); yet do we know the totality of this epistle? Do we know what its about?
  • In thinking of our theme “Know the Message, Accept the Mission” we can’t fully know the message—not fully and intimately—without knowing the message of Romans.
    • Martin Luther says within Romans we “find most abundantly the things that a Christian ought to know, namely, what is law, gospel, sin, punishment, grace, faith, righteousness, Christ, God, good works, love, hope, and the cross; and also how we are to conduct ourselves toward everyone.”
    • We maybe would say Romans is the gospel summarized, but it would be more accurate to say it is the gospel explained.
  • Romans is Paul putting the gospel under the microscope, examining the complexity of this thing we call the gospel.
    • It answers some of our most pressing questions about Christianity: why does man need saving? Why does god save man? How does God save us? What does he save us for? What does salvation even mean?
    • At the most basic level for the individual, Romans continues to be relevant because it answers two questions: How can I become saved? How can I stay saved?
  • This is why Romans is so fundamental to the life of the church.
    • Leon Morris, “It is commonly agreed that the epistle to the Romans is one of the greatest Christian writings. Its power has been demonstrated again and again at critical points in the history of the church.”
    • Revival and restoration within the church is often the result of a deeper study of this book—and we pray that the Lord will work in that as well.
  • Because of this we are beginning a new series “Reign of Grace: Reading Romans Responsibly.”
  • An important part within this study is discussing introductory matters.

The Author and Origin of Romans 

  • As is his custom, Paul informs us of his authorship at the outset (1:1).
    • Gives credentials, but more importantly, his identity in Christ (1:1b).
    • Yet, this doesn’t negate his national heritage (11:1).
  • In fact, Paul’s unique identity sets him up as the perfect individual to write this epistle.
    • Not only was he a Jew but a “Pharisee” (Phil. 3:5) which was the “strictest party” of the Jewish religion.
    • He was a legalist in the sense that he tried to attain salvation through law keeping (Phil. 3:6).
    • This makes Paul a unique character, for after his conversion he is now preaching, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20).
    • Important to remember: the system of salvation that Paul is preaching is radically different than what he believed as a Jew. 
  • As far as the place of origin, it seems that Paul most likely wrote this letter on his third missionary journey.
    • While in Ephesus he decided to go to Jerusalem for Pentecost (Acts 19:21).
    • On his way to Jerusalem he stopped in Corinth and remained there three months (Acts 20:1-3).
    • It was during this time he most likely wrote the epistle (AD 57-58). Apparently staying in the house of Gaius (Rom. 16:23) who was one of the converts at the house Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14).
    • Phoebe, who carried the letter to Rome, was a Christian from the nearby church in Cenchrea (16:1).
  • Who, when, and where Paul wrote the letter isn’t disputed; but the why is a different story.

The Purpose for Writing Epistle 

  • We have these letters and often don’t think about the reason that motivated the writer, yet there always seems to be some purpose:
    • John for example says that he wrote his to produce faith (John 20:30-31).
    • Other of Paul’s epistles were written to address serious moral issues or false doctrine (Corinthians, Galatians, and Colossians).
  • While various opinions about this, it seems that the one that makes most sense from the text is that:
    • Paul desired to preach the gospel at Rome (Rom. 1:15).
    • Had never been there before, had planned to go and was hindered many times (Rom. 1:13).
    • Based on this experience, and his desire to preach the gospel to the saints in that area, he believes the only way he may be able to do that is in written form.
    • So preach he does, going into the molecular structure of the gospel, and produced what is considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—NT book.
  • But, what’s it really about?

The Major Theme: The Reign of Grace 

  • If you ask a Historian the question, “What caused the Great Depression?” Or “What caused World War II?”
    • You might think the answer would be simple. But often it isn’t. Complex and hard to nail down a single thing.
    • It is the same with the book of Romans.
  • Yet, I believe that the major focus of the book of Romans is the contrast between two systems of salvation: salvation by grace and salvation by law—which one of these systems actually works?
    • What I mean by works, is which one overcomes man’s greatest problem: sin.
    • Sin is presented within the book of Romans a dark spiral of wicked actions that men commit against a Holy and Righteous God (Rom. 1:22-ff).
    • Yet, interestingly Sin (and its counterpart Death) are often used, not as a plural noun, but as a singular entity; as if Sin is the dark power/force that has enslaved humanity in order to bring its partner into the picture—Death—so as to destroy all that is good.
    • Notice 5:12-14.
    • Sin isn’t simply a problem to be solved, but a power to be conquered. 
  • So, the question of Romans is: what can save man from the oppressor of sin and death?
    • As we will quickly see, it isn’t law; that is doing good and being good in order to break the chains of slavery—a slave can’t be good enough to be released.
    • Through the law comes knowledge of sin (3:20) and therefore no one can be saved by it (3:21). Laws nature condemns, it doesn’t justify (7:10).
    • This is the exact system that Paul and the other Jews had come to live under.
    • So, how can man possibly hope to be saved from the wrath of God, and from the enslaving power of Sin and death?
  • The answer of Romans it is only through the power of God’s grace, experienced within Jesus Christ, that we can hope to be saved—it is only when we let grace reign.
    • In fact, salvation within Romans is seen as the careful working of Grace’s power to overcome the power of sin and death—this is the gospel, the “power” of salvation that Paul speaks of in the beginning (Rom. 1:16).
    • Like child soldier, stolen from our village at a young age, who know nothing more than death and destruction, we need some outside power to come in and save us.
    • Notice the language of Rom. 5:17-21; 6:9, 12, 14.
    • The grace of God is the only power strong enough to break the chains of sin and destruction that are in your life.
  • Romans, in all of its glory, shows us how God, in His infinite wisdom, conquers sin and death, and bring grace to reign.

Conclusion

  • May have noticed that our subtitle is “Reading Romans Responsibly”; this is due to the often irresponsible reading committed by many.
    • The surveyor. Just quickly surveys and takes scriptures out of context.
    • Calvinist.
  • Our desire to is to see Romans in all of its clarity, glory and truth—to see the picture that it paints of our wonderful God who lavishes grace upon us.
  • And, if we can get the picture Romans is trying to paint—then God gets you.

0 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *