Written by: Corey Latta
To say that Paul’s epistle to the Romans is an important book in the Bible is an extreme understatement. Romans has influenced some of the most important figures in the history of the Church. Saint Augustine, in the moments before his conversion, heard a mysterious voice say, “Take up and read. Take up and read.” He opened his Bible to Romans 13:13 and surrendered his life to Jesus’ Lordship.
Martin Luther said “Romans is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.”
Romans is the very heart of the gospel, so for the next few weeks, we’re going to delve into a few of the epistle’s most beautifully powerful moments.
Paul had never been to Rome, when he wrote to the Roman Christians. He planned on visiting Rome shortly after writing his letter, and he hoped to use Rome as a base for future missionary endeavors to Spain. Very early in the letter, he gives the congregations at Rome what we could call the epistle’s “thesis” in 1:16–17: “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.’”
This is a passage to “take up a read.” This is a passage to know by heart. Paul is about to push into exquisite, and at times complicated, theology but not before planting the simple, profound flag of gospel truth. This message of the crucified God holds the very power of salvation, not only for the ethnically elect, the Jews, but also for the rest of humanity, the Greeks. Both Jew and Greek find themselves under the cross, in need of a righteousness not their own. Paul says this gospel unifies everyone who hears it by removing the presumptions and the privilege of those who knew God but took Him for granted and by adding to the Christian church those who have never known God but who’ve come to believe in Christ.
Both Jew and Gentile now inherit a new faith in Christ from the Jewish faith of old. God’s revelation of Christ comes from the clear scriptures on which the book of Romans was built. There is a lot more to say about what Paul really means when he says he is unashamed of the gospel, but for now, let’s pause on that and remember three takeaways
- Want to hear from God? Go to His Word. Try Romans. God has used His own Word to move in the hearts of its readers, and He will always continue to do so.
- Much like Romans 1:16-17, virtually every book of scripture has some kind of main idea or predominant phrase. Identity those main ideas when you read the book. To get the most out of your time in scripture, try to read the passage aloud, writing down any thoughts, prayers, or life truths the Spirit might be revealing to you.
- The power of God has been, and will forever be, available to those who approach God through pure faith.
Be on the lookout next week for part two, when we’ll dig into the meaning of Paul’s “thesis” and talk about what it means to be unashamed.