Letter to Christians in Rome: Preface (pt 1 of 2)

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I have my favorite sections of the Bible. I love teaching Ephesians; Hebrews; and Colossians. In the the Tanakh, what Christians refer to as the Old Testament, I love to read and teach from the writings of the Prophets (Isaiah and Jeremiah primarily). However, I would say my most favorite section is Paul’s letter to the Christians at Rome.

Many consider the letter to the church in Rome as being the most powerful document ever written. It is pure gold from beginning to end. One writer referred to it as the Magna Carta of the Christian faith. It is reported that John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers in Constantinople, had it read to him once a week to keep him grounded in the Christian faith.

Augustine, a distinguished teacher and philosopher in the fourth century is one example. He had become convinced that Christianity was true, but he continued to be held in the grip of an immoral lifestyle. He knew what he was doing was wrong but was powerless to quit.

It is said that while visiting a friend, Augustine heard the voice of a child singing the words “take and read, take and read.” Since he had never heard a song like that before, he thought it must be a message from God to read the Bible. So he found a Bible, opened it and began reading at 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.”

Augustine wrote that his life was instantly changed and he went on to become a prominent figure in the church of Jesus Christ, some say since the apostle Paul.

This is the book that lit the fire in Martin Luther’s heart and brought about the Protestant Reformation, changing the history of Europe, as well as the world. Look at something Luther wrote:

“I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him. Therefore, I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what He meant.

“Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by faith.’ Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before ‘the justice of God’ had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressible sweet in greater love. The passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.”

In the Preface to his Commentary on Romans, Luther states,

“This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.”

John Calvin certainly agreed with this statement, “If we have gained a true understanding of this epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.”

Many years later John Wesley, listening to Luther’s preface to his commentary on Romans, found that his own heart was “strangely warmed” by God. Even though he had already entered into the ministry and had been a missionary to the Indians in America, Wesley saw this as his conversion. His life was powerfully changed and out of his ministry came the great evangelical awakening of the eighteenth century. The course of European history was forever changed by that great revival.

I bet we could find several other examples. I am thinking of John Bunyon. While he was studying Romans in the Bedford Jail, was so inspired by this book that he wrote, Pilgrim’s Progress, a classic in Christian literature. Karl Barth, a German theologian, shook the theological world by his arguments on the book of Romans. He set liberal Christianity on its ear, demolishing many of their arguments.

So we are going to look at this letter to increase our Faith, but also to revolutionize our walk with the Lord!

If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at The Rome

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