CENI: A Better Way — Romans

man-behind-the-curtainRomans was written by Paul to a church he’d never visited, but Rome was, of course, the capitol and largest city in the Empire.

 Paul therefore wrote a lengthy, comprehensive epistle to that congregation, preserving for us a brilliant work of theology.

What does Romans say?

* All have sinned and need a Savior.

* God is faithful to his covenant to save his people

* God justifies his people by faith in his Son, the Messiah of prophecy

* God gives his Holy Spirit to lead us into righteous living

* God is sovereign

(I know this is woefully inadequate as a summary, but I’m not trying to write a commentary, just remind you generally of what the first several chapters deal with.)

We finally get to chapter 12, where Paul says,

(Rom 12:1)  Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.

“Therefore, … in view of God’s mercy” refers to all that’s gone before: In light of what we’ve just learned about God’s grace given through faith in Jesus …

And thus begins four chapters on practical Christian living. Paul tells us —

* To use our gifts in service to God — with an emphasis on those gifts that help build up the local congregation: showing mercy, encouragement, leadership …

* To love each other with a white hot intensity

* To love because love fulfills all the Law

* To bear with the weak and the strong without looking down on our brothers or judging them

* To accept each other as God has accepted us

Notice that the lessons of chapters 12 – 15 are the natural consequence of chapters 1 – 11. We cannot understand how very much grace and love we must extend to one another until we understand how very much grace and love God has extended to us. Romans is a commentary on Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

Incredibly, we take the lessons on grace in the first 11 chapters and fight and divide over them, as though Paul had never written chapters 12 – 15, when in fact chapters 12 – 15 are the point of the book.

You see, Paul was urgently trying to build unity through his teaching, not by creating new issues to divide over but by explaining that the direction of all the lessons — the sin of Adam, the covenant with Abraham, God’s election of Israel and the church, the promised Holy Spirit — it’s all for the purpose of creating a united Kingdom of loving people — who get along even when they don’t always agree. Miss that point, and you’ve missed the whole book.

What’s not in Romans

In composing his masterpiece of theology, writing to a church he’d never visited, Paul doesn’t —

* Address the order of worship

* Address elders and deacons

* Address the name of the church (the “churches of Christ salute you” is not about the name of the church. Rather, “of Christ” is about to whom the churches belong.)

* Address how to raise money or support missionaries

You see, Paul seems to think that the most important thing he could teach the church in Rome was about the grace of God and how that grace teaches us to be gracious to each other.

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7 Responses

  1. Excellent! Paul said in chapter one, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are at Rome..”, and did he ever! The letter is an unfolding of the richness of grace, the depth of mercy, the surity of God’s faithfulness, and the certainty of eternal rewards and blessing to those who simply trust Christ, receiving Him and all He has accomplished for sinners.

    It is in view of what Christ has freely given wicked sinners that we get our marching orders and live like who we are in Him.

    Royce

  2. Good points-Jay

  3. Excellent post, Jay. I particularly liked this:

    Romans is a commentary on Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.

    I think people often read Paul (especially Romans) “with their nose too close to the page.” In other words they focus on individual, isolated verses and miss the meaning of the whole letter. Paul’s letters are much different from James, Peter, and John. Paul goes on for chapters and chapters building the case for a single point. Lose track of the point he’s making and you’ll misunderstand the meaning of the individual verses.

  4. Reading Romans changed everything for me. I read it in one sitting IN context. I got so much out of it that I read the entire NT that way. One book at a time over one summer. I began to see that most of the proof texts I had heard growing up were severely out of context. Context is key in my opinion.

  5. And as Grace is the dominant theme of Romans so Unity is the dominant theme of 1 Corinthians. With every possible excuse to divide – background, teachings, sin issues, misunderstandings – Paul reminds them again and again they are one.

  6. Alan,

    I like the metaphor “nose too close to the page.” I’ve been guilty of this most of my life, because that’s how we’ve traditionally done expository teaching — which is how I like to teach. It’s taken me years to become familiar enough with the epistles to read them for their overall themes and for the author’s flow of thought.

    Because of this series, I’ve decided I need to repent and begin expository classes with an outline of the book and introduction to the apostle’s thought — which is a lot of work for us teachers, but surely a better approach.

  7. Kris,

    Exactly.

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