1. What is the nature of the Gospel of Christ? Of Grace? Of forgiveness?
2. Is the Mosaic law final and authoritative?
3. How does God justify the guilty through grace, before they have had a chance to perform good works to prove their worthiness?
4. Should Gentiles become Jewish before they become Christian?
5. How is this life lived out in practical ways?
These things are still relevant to us. Consider: Not just how mankind is justified before God, but how will you be justified before God? It’s an eternal topic that needs examining. Why do you get to go to Heaven, and so many others do not? Now that you are in Christ, what is your life supposed to look like?
Let me say a little about the church in Rome. See Acts 2:10. “…Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, parts of Libya… visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes…”
There were believers from Rome on that special day we call and the Jews called, Pentecost. The Spirit fell on them, converted them. They had just enough fire and knowledge to be the nucleus of a group of believers in the city of Rome.
That initial fire is never enough for a lifetime. Letters from apostles are needed for them and for us, to know the rest of the mind of the Lord. Too many today trust an experience to carry them all the way home. Experience is essential. That’s how it all begins. But that is not what we are to seek afterwards. As newborn babies, we are to desire the pure milk of the word, says Peter. Too many ignore down-to-earth apostolic teachings, and with itching ears, looking for more and more experiences, they flock around people who promise the same! An experience a day is not necessarily on the road to Heaven.
Rather, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Rather, “Your Word is a light to my path.” We are to stay constantly in the teachings God has given us. Forty different men over a 1600-year period, wrote words that were little by little gathered by the Holy Spirit into one volume, so that the people of God would have all the Light they could possibly use to be the Light that God wants to use.
But regarding the evolution of the church in Rome. Rome was the political center of the world. The church, at first, was a despised, persecuted part of that empire. But the church grew in numbers and then in influence, political influence. In the centuries that passed, the Roman church government began to look like the Roman Empire’s government in its practices, its offices, its methods. In fact, a hybrid church was being formed that was part spiritual and true, part political and false. It is with us still. [And it can happen to any congregation that is not satisfied with God’s ways and wants the ways of the world to be introduced].
We who live in a free land must be careful not to be depending on government for our answers, not to be mixing with political government in the churches. We are a separated people. God is our President and King and Emperor. And our provider.
We honor rulers. Pay our taxes. But we do not copy them or depend on them. Let Rome serve as a horrible example, to be avoided, of government interference and dependence.
The growing church of Rome, being in the capital city, came to believe that it had the right to rule the rest of the church, even though Biblically Jerusalem was the center of everything now and in the future, as in the New Jerusalem. Over the first decades there were actually five major centers of Christianity, but the Roman pontiffs began to claim more and more authority over the church until much of that church just believed God had spoken, or were forced into allegiance by political concerns. They bowed to Rome’s authority. The church of Jesus somehow became known as the Roman Catholic Church.
Nowhere had God predicted a Roman center for God’s people. No human capital was in the mind of Jesus when He told the woman at the well that “neither here nor in Jerusalem” will men worship, but rather the Spirit of God will be the center of the worship of Jesus.
But Rome never got that. And it was that Romanism, still a political monstrosity that some have equated with the mystery known as Babylon, some reformers and Puritans, with antichrist. And all who came out of her knew, this is not the simple faith that Jesus started. [We always must emphasize that we are not talking about individual Catholics, but a system out of which God eventually calls His people.]
The true church is headquartered in Heaven. Its members are in many of the groups called churches all over the world. The boundaries of that church are unknown. But the work of calling out and saving and equipping those who have been chosen of God to salvation has gone on in spite of all that ignorance on our part, and will continue until He comes and takes away His people one day, and sets them up to rule and reign with Him. Even in the worst days of Romanism, God had a people.
Let’s look at a quick outline of Romans.
I. Greetings, Intro, & Theme, 1:1-17.
II. Condemnation. The need of God’s Righteousness (1:18-3:20)
III. Justification. The Provision of God’s Righteousness. (3:21-5:21)
IV. Sanctification. Demonstration of God’s Righteousness. (6:1-8:39)
V. Restoration. Israel and God’s Righteousness. (9:1-11:36)
VI. Application. The Behavior of God’s Righteousness. (12:1-15:13)
VII. Conclusion, Greetings, and Benediction. (15:14-16:27)
Though the basic message of the letter is God’s Righteousness vs Man’s righteousness., there are many topics we will cover in the study of Romans:
1. Salvation by faith.
2. Universal guilt.
3. Death to sin.
4. Freedom from the law.
5. The work of God’s Spirit.
7. The place of Israel.
8. The Christian life.
9. Submission to governments.
10. Love. Liberty.
12. False teachers.
Through the years, people have had much praise for this letter to the Romans:
Martin Luther praised Romans: “It is the chief part of the New Testament and the perfect gospel . . . the absolute epitome of the gospel.” More than that! A verse from Romans, 5:1, changed Luther forever. What power in the Word! But wait, there’s more. That verse, because it changed Luther, changed the Roman Catholic system to which Luther was connected. [counter-reformation]
More than that! It changed the course of world history. Wars have been fought between those claiming to be Christians on the Catholic and the Protestant side. The religious map was reorganized. One could argue that this free nation, whose founding fathers sought refuge from the persecutions of Rome, this very nation built its constitution on the basis of Luther’s discovery and reformation. Romans is worth a look. A serious look. And like all the Bible, no matter how many times you have examined it, it will still yield to you precious insights if you are patient enough to dig deeper and deeper!
Luther’s successor Philip Melancthon called Romans, “The compendium [summary, abstratct] of Christian doctrine.”
John Calvin said of the Book of Romans, “When anyone understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.”
Samuel Coleridge, English poet and literary critic said Paul’s letter to the Romans is “The most profound work in existence.”
Frederick Godet, 19th Century Swiss theologian called the Book of Romans “The cathedral of the Christian faith.”
G. Campbell Morgan said Romans was “the most pessimistic page of literature upon which your eyes ever rested” and at the same time, “the most optimistic poem to which your ears ever listened.”