Christianity 101

Posted: January 7, 2016 in Romans, Route 66, Uncategorized

Route 66: Romans, “Christianity 101”

It is considered one of the greatest books in all of the New Testament.  It is certainly one of the most influential books of all time.  Hardly any book of the Bible has had a greater impact upon the Church than the book of Romans.  It almost single-handedly caused the Protestant Reformation through Martin Luther – it was the foundational text used in the conversion of church leaders from Augustine to the Wesley brothers – it is still the foundational text used in the conversion of millions as people are led down the “Romans Road.” (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9)

What is all of the hubbub about?  To put it simply: it’s about the gospel.  The book of Romans is the New Testament explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Whereas in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the gospel is portrayed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – in the book of Romans the gospel is explained in the theology of Paul.  Why is the gospel needed?  What happens once people believe?  What are the ramifications of faith?  Who are God’s people, and how do they live?  All of those questions (and more) are answered in Paul’s letter to the Romans.

There is no doubt that Paul actually did write this historical letter to the Christians in Rome, and hardly any debate about it at all.  Even the most liberal of theologians agree that Paul is the author.  Not only does he plainly identify himself in the opening line, his theology is on full display, and his personal plans and greetings match up perfectly with what the history of Acts records of him.  Liberals might not agree with Paul’s doctrine, but they cannot doubt his authorship.

Not only do we know that Paul wrote the book of Romans, but we can be reasonably certain as to when he wrote it.  It was prior to any visit of Paul to Rome, as he desired to go, but had not yet had the opportunity (1:10-12, 15:22-24).  Paul specifically mentions his missionary travels (15:19-20), as well as the fact that he was currently on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a benevolence offering received from the Gentile churches (15:25-26).  He also mentions that he was in the city of Erastus the treasurer (16:23), being hosted by a man named Gaius (16:23).  Put it all together, along with cross-references from Acts & other Pauline letters & we can easily determine that Paul wrote the letter around 57AD while on his 3rd missionary journey, while staying in Corinth prior to heading to Jerusalem.  According to Luke’s account, this puts Paul around Acts 20:1-3, while he was in Greece for three months.

By this point in time, Paul is a seasoned missionary & apostle.  He has already dealt extensively with Judaizers who tended to follow him from town to town early in his ministry.  He has gone through physical persecution & local jail time.  He has already written several letters to various churches, correcting doctrine & false practices.  He’s been able to rejoice with some of his children in the faith & forced to bring discipline upon others.  If nothing else, Paul was experienced!  He had been many places & done many things – but there were two places he had not yet ministered: Jerusalem & Rome.  He was currently on his way to the first, and he would eventually be taken to the second (though under arrest).

The letter to the Romans is unique among Paul’s letters in that this was not a church he planted, or in which he had been personally involved.  He knew many Christians who were there (travel was common to/from Rome), but his relationship to the city was entirely long-distance via correspondence.  Perhaps for this reason, Paul spends a lot of time explaining Christian theology from start-to-finish.  This is (for Paul) Christianity 101.  It isn’t a comprehensive systematic theology covering every possible topic under the sun – that simply wasn’t Paul’s objective.  Although he does briefly touch on issues such as the end-times & spiritual gifts, he doesn’t delve into these things too deeply.  Instead, he spends most of his time teaching the gospel of God: the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.  He looks at why it’s needed – how it comes about – how it works out in the lives of believers, etc.  Knowing Paul’s long-distance relationship with the Romans, this makes perfect sense.  After all, if you could only impart one main topic to a group of people you had no guarantee of ever conversing with again, what is it you would explain?  The gospel.  You’d want them to know how they could be saved, and be assured of their salvation…you’d want them to know Jesus.  And that’s exactly what Paul shares.

Before we get into the actual text itself, we need to understand what the document is.  This is an epistle – a letter.  As we’ve done our systematic study of the Bible, the book of Romans is the first formal epistle we’ve come across, and letters/epistles will make up the bulk of the remainder of the New Testament.  And Paul is the author of most of them.  Although Paul did not write the majority of the New Testament (as many people mistakenly believe…that distinction goes to Luke, via his gospel & Acts), he did write at least 13 of the 21 epistles. (The book of Hebrews is disputed…)  He is the 2nd most prolific author of the New Testament, followed closely by the apostle John.

In any case, a letter is just that: a letter.  These were not academic books written for potential classroom students – these were not theoretical papers to be submitted for peer review – these were real letters to real people who lived in real time.  To be sure, some of the letters were more theological than others (Romans is perhaps the most academic of Paul’s, whereas Philemon is the most personal), and many (if not all) were meant to be read by more than one person – but they were still letters.  So we need to be careful to always interpret epistles in the original context they were written.  What Paul wrote to Timothy as a young leader in the church is bound to be a bit different than what he wrote to the Corinthians, with their need for rebuke.  The context of the letter is crucially important to proper interpretation.

So what do we know about this letter?  Remember, we know Paul was the author, and that he wrote it while on his 3rd missionary journey.  We also know that he wrote it to a group of Christians he never visited: the Romans.  We don’t know when the gospel first arrived in Rome – no doubt, it wasn’t long after the original sermon from Peter on the day of Pentecost.  On that day in Jerusalem, there were visitors from Rome (Acts 2:10), and if they were included among the 3000 who were saved, they would have taken the gospel of Christ back to Rome with them.  From that point the church grew (with or without apostolic leadership), and the readers of Acts are later introduced to some Jewish believers who had left Rome by the names of Aquila & Priscilla.  The reason they left was due to an order from the Emperor Claudius expelling all of the Jews (Acts 18:1-2).  Historically, we know that Claudius issued the order specifically because of disagreements between Jews & Christians (via the account of the Roman historian Suetonius).  Eventually the Jews & Christians were allowed back in the city, and it is at that time that Paul wrote to them. 

In any case, Paul wanted to go to Rome, and likely knew that God would eventually take him to Rome, so Paul took a prime opportunity to write to the church that was there. As becomes apparent throughout the letter, Paul understood the church was comprised of both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians & so he gave his explanation of the gospel that provided the grace of God to both.

What does the letter to the Romans tell New Testament Christians today?  Primarily it gives us the reasoning behind our faith.  Romans barely touches on issues of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, resurrection, and 2nd coming (though it does address them a bit) – rather it concentrates on the reasons behind and ramifications of Jesus’ work.  Why is the grace of Jesus needed?  What does the grace of Jesus do?  How do we respond to the grace of Jesus?  These are issues that weren’t only important to the Christians at Rome – these are things that speak to all Christians throughout all time.  These are foundational issues of our faith.  When we understand Romans, we understand our eternal assurance in Christ & the grace He gives.  When we don’t, we’re left tossing in the wind, bound to legalism and guilt.

The letter to the Romans is the longest of Paul’s letters, and is the most systematic of any of them.  Like most of Paul’s letters, Romans has a two-part structure – which according to most of his letters is usually doctrinal-practical.  In Romans, however, it’s difficult to get too far away from doctrinal teaching & Paul weaves it through almost everything he writes (even his greetings).

Opening (1)
God’s Gospel

  • Man’s Depravity (1-3): the need to be saved
  • Justification (4-5): the work of salvation
  • Sanctification (6-8): the life of salvation

God’s People

  • Old Covenant Israel (9-11): mystery in the meantime
  • New Covenant Church (12-15): what Christianity looks like today

Close (16)

Introduction (1:1-6)
Right from the get-go, we get the gospel in a nutshell!  After introducing himself in his identity (a slave of Jesus) and calling (an apostle of Jesus), Paul immediately dives into the gospel itself.  This good news message (ευαγγελιον ~ evangelism) is something that is of God, prophesied through the prophets of God, concerning the Son of God in His humanity & deity, and proven by the power of the Spirit of God & Jesus’ own resurrection.  That IS the good news!  God has reached out to all the world with the gift of His Son, proven who He is through His birth, death, and resurrection, and through faith Him we are offered eternal grace & a new calling.  The simplicity and profundity of the gospel of God is nothing short of amazing!  It’s all because of one Person (Jesus), and that one Person changes everything.

Greetings (1:7-15)
Now that Paul has introduced himself (and a lot more!), he writes of his thanksgiving for the Romans & his plans to come see them.  Paul clearly understands that his plans are subject to God’s own plans for him (1:10), but this was certainly a desire of his heart.  He was the apostle to the Gentiles, and there was hardly a more prominent Gentile city in the world than that of Rome.  Paul was always willing to go somewhere new and see what God would do. 

Thesis (1:16-17) –
Romans 1:16–17, "(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”"

Not only were these words key to Martin Luther’s own understanding of the gospel & turn away from works-based religion, these words are key to the entire book of Romans.  THIS is what Paul desired to share with the people in Rome: the gospel.  The gospel of Jesus saves.  The gospel of Jesus has power to save.  The gospel of Jesus saves those who believe.  The gospel of Jesus is for everyone: Jew & Gentile.  The gospel of Jesus reveals the righteousness of God.  The gospel of Jesus shows how God justifies people through faith in Jesus alone.  This is what the gospel is & does, and this is why we need never be ashamed to speak it.

  • We live in a culture today in which it is becoming increasingly unpopular to boldly proclaim our faith in Christ, yet that is the very best thing we can possibly do!  What is it that people need?  Salvation from eternal damnation.  How does it come?  Through faith in the good news of God through Jesus Christ.  It cannot be earned, nor can it be bought…but it can be received.  This is good news!  And it needs to be shared with all the world!
  • Have you experienced the power of God through the gospel of Jesus?  Have you been saved because of faith in Jesus Christ?  There have been multitudes of people who were part of the church, outwardly in good-standing, who still believed they needed to work their way to heaven.  That’s not how it comes.  It only comes through the power of the gospel.  We (you) must believe to be saved.  If you never have, tonight you can.

Man’s Depravity
With the subject of the gospel introduced, Paul starts listing off the various ways we can know that the gospel is so desperately needed.  It’s because mankind is so desperately wicked.

Depraved Gentiles (1:18-32)
First, Paul looks at the Gentiles.  Here, he provides the answer to the oft-asked question: “What if someone never meets a Christian?  Is it still just for God to judge them for sin?”  The answer is YES.  God has revealed Himself to all the world through the physical creation all around us (1:19-20), and yet people still choose to worship themselves & other idols.  With every willful rebellion, God gave mankind over more & more to our sin, to the point that every culture around the world is utterly corrupt.  People not only practice sin themselves, but give approval to others who do the same. (1:32)

  • How easily this can be seen in our own American culture!  The farther away we slide from our Christian heritage & even Biblical morality, the faster our culture decays.  We are at the point now that institutions once based upon the word of God now actively work against it, approving every sin that God hates.  God is not mocked…He will give us over to our sin.  The only hope America has is the gospel – the power of God unto salvation.

Depraved Jews (2)
It isn’t only the Gentiles, but also the Jews.  As a Jew, Paul anticipated the objection of the Jewish believers in the midst of Rome.  “Surely, we aren’t as guilty as the Gentiles.”  Wrong!  The Jews did the same things, engaging in the same sins, despising the goodness of God that would lead them to repentance (2:4).  Although the Jews had the law, they acted as if they were Gentiles, causing all of their “Jewishness” to be worthless.  Circumcision is to be of the heart; not the letter (2:29).

  • Though we are Christians, a similar principle can be seen all around us.  In the Bible belt, hardly anyone questions a person’s Christianity if they do all of the “right” things, speak the “right” words, show up at all the “right” churches, etc.  Yet if their righteousness is only outward, it’s worthless.  What God desires is inward heart change – true faith.  Without that, we have no share in the gospel…we have no salvation.

Depraved humanity (3:1-20)
Paul sums it all up quoting from the Psalms, writing that “there is none who does good, no not one.” (3:12).  All of mankind is lost.  Even those who attempt to keep the law are lost, simply because no one can do it.  All the law does is demonstrate our guilt & the righteousness of God; it never demonstrates the righteousness of man, simply because we have none.  So what can we do?  Nothing.  It is what God has done…

Answer to depravity (3:21-31)
All of this takes us back to the gospel, which reveals the righteousness of God (1:17, 3:21).  How so?  Romans 3:23–26, "(23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (25) whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, (26) to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."  ALL have sinned – ALL need to be saved.  And all CAN be saved, all through the work of Jesus alone!  Jesus makes us right in the sight of God – Jesus purchases us back from the slavery of death – Jesus satisfies the wrath of God – Jesus makes it possible for God to pass over our sins & demonstrate His righteous grace.  The problem is sin, and the answer is Jesus.

So if this is what Jesus does, how can anyone experience it?  If someone can only be justified through the grace of God, how can we receive the grace of God?  Rom 3:26, have “faith in Jesus.”  This isn’t new to Paul – it’s not even new to the New Testament.  This is the message of the gospel from the very pages of Genesis…

The example of Abraham (4)
Never in the Old Testament do we find example of people earning favor & their own righteousness before God.  Certainly we see OT saints obeying God, engaging in sacrifices, rituals & other things – but never do they earn righteousness.  The only way anyone ever is declared righteous in the OT is by God’s own initiative of grace.  This is wonderfully demonstrated in Abraham.  Abraham was declared by God to be righteous long before he was circumcised – long before he ever laid Isaac upon the altar.  Abraham was declared to be righteous when God gave him a promise, and Abraham simply believed God.  Certainly Abraham followed up his faith, demonstrating it by his obedient works, but his works did not justify him.  His justification came by the fiat (declaration) of God.

Why is that included in our Bibles?  Because God knew we needed to know about it, in order to respond to the gospel of grace. Romans 4:23–25, "(23) Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, (24) but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, (25) who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification."

  • How are we saved? (Justified)  The same way Abraham was: by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!

The work of Jesus (5)
With the example of Abraham given, now Paul writes more of what Jesus did in our justification.  Keep in mind that to be “justified” is to be made right.  When we “justify” a scale, we make the necessary adjustments for the scale to measure out correctly.  When we balance our checkbook, we’re “justifying” it with the bank statement.  When it comes to sin, we are justified in God’s sight through the work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus has done the necessary work on our behalf to make us righteous in the eyes of God.  This wasn’t done because we deserved it (we didn’t!) – it was done simply because Jesus loves us.  He died for us while we were yet sinners (5:8), when we were still enemies of God.  Now we have been reconciled to God, all because of Jesus (5:11).

How can it all take place?  Because Jesus stands in the place of all mankind.  Paul explains it in terms of headship.  At the very beginning of the human race, Adam was the head of all humans.  He fell, and all of humanity fell with him.  Jesus comes as the 2nd Adam, reversing all of it.  Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law, yet died & rose again, now He can offer life and grace to all who believe.  As Paul writes, “but where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…” (5:20)  The grace we have received through Jesus is amazing!

Of course salvation doesn’t stop with our justification.  Yes, through Jesus we are justified in God’s sight & we have the wonderful blessing of having our sins forgiven.  But what does that mean for the present?  That’s where we see the ongoing work of our salvation through our present-day sanctification.  This is still the work of Jesus, but for us in the now…how He continues to set us apart, helping us live righteously unto God.

Freedom from sin & death (6)
The first freedom is Christian’s freedom to now live for God.  Prior to being justified by Jesus, we were slaves to sin.  Now, we’re free.  That’s what baptism symbolizes: our death to sin & new life in Christ.  Baptism doesn’t confer our salvation; it declares it.  Now that it is declared, we can (and should) make the conscious choice NOT to sin.  Before, we didn’t have that option – sin was simply what we did.  Now, we have the option.  Now we are no longer under the dominion of sin (6:14), although we are under dominion.  What rules over us?  Righteousness!  We are still slaves, but our Master is vastly different.  No longer do we serve sin; we serve God.  That is true freedom!

Freedom from law (7)
It is not only freedom from sin, but freedom from the law that we have been granted.  Here, Paul seems to speak primarily to his Jewish readers, but the principle still applies to all of us.  After all, the law condemns all, because all have rebelled against it – whether we read it on a piece of paper, or if it was written on the wall of our hearts.  The law of God isn’t bad…on the contrary, it is very good in that it reveals to us God’s righteousness & our sin.  But because of Christ we have died to the law & we have been raised from the dead with Him.  The difference is that now we obey God out of freedom; not legalism.  We “serve in the newness of the Spirit & not in the oldness of the letter.” (7:6)

While on the subject of the law, Paul gives one of the most profound descriptions of a Christian’s personal struggle against sin.  That which we don’t want to do, we do – that which we want to do, we don’t.  ALL of us struggle against sin, and we constantly wage war against our fleshly temptation.  The good news for all of us is that this is exactly why Jesus died!  He delivers us from this body of death, and praise God for it!

Freedom in the Spirit (8)
So far, Paul has primarily written of what we are free from; now he transitions to what we are saved for.  Once we are free from sin & law & it’s condemnation, now we can live in our freedom according to the Spirit (8:1).  The Spirit confirms to us that we belong to God (8:9) – the Spirit confirms to us that we are children of God (8:14-15).  As we walk in the Spirit, we demonstrate the work of the Spirit within our lives & we have all of the confirmation we need.

In the process, the Spirit works on our behalf.  He bears witness to us that we are heirs of God (8:16-17) – He prays for us, making intercession on our behalf (8:26).  He gives us that desire for heaven, and we long to be with Jesus, having every assurance that we will be where He is.  What kind of assurance has God given to us who believe?  Steadfast: Romans 8:37–39, "(37) Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (38) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, (39) nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

With this, Paul sums up his theology on our basic salvation through the work of God.  Now he turns to who we are as the people of God…

Old Covenant Israel
It’s evident from the letter that there was a mix of Jewish & Gentile believers among the church at Rome.  No doubt this caused some tension (just like it did in Jerusalem & everywhere else), and part of Paul’s objective was to help bring unity between the two groups.  He himself never shed his own Jewishness, but neither did he jump into Judaizing legalism.  He struck a great balance, and that’s what he tries to impart in this next section.

Israel rejected Christ (9)
First, the elephant in the room needed to be addressed.  Did the Jewish people as a whole reject their Messiah?  Yes.  This grieved Paul to no end, and he would have himself accursed, if it only meant the salvation of his ancestral people. (9:3)  Remember that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for the Jew & the Greek.  The flip side to that is that there is no salvation apart from Christ for either Jew or Greek.  Because the Jews rejected Christ, they brought upon themselves the wrath of God.

Of course the Jews’ rejection of Jesus was something planned by God from before the foundation of the world.  So are the Jews innocent of their lack of faith?  Is God unjust for His wrath upon them?  No.  Delving into the mysteries of God’s sovereignty, Paul affirms that God has the right to give salvation to whomever He desires – even as at the same time God has the right to judge all for their sin.  One cannot find fault in the salvation of God because ANY act of salvation is an act of grace.  By definition, it is undeserved.  No one has a “right” to salvation, not even the Jewish people.

Israel needs Christ (10)
With all of that said in Ch 9, God still does desire His people to be saved.  They earned for themselves His wrath, but God does not change His gospel to exclude anyone.  Romans 10:9–13, "(9) that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. (13) For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”"

God does want the Jews saved, and that’s why He has sent preachers to them.  That’s why we have been entrusted with the Great Commission.  Someone needs to go and tell those who are lost how they can be forgiven, and that someone is us!  Many will reject it (just like the Jewish people by & large do to this day), but those who do believe will be saved…no matter their background.

Israel will receive Christ (11)
Ultimately, in the sovereign plan of God, the Jewish people WILL be saved.  There will come a day when they all come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  Why?  Because God repeatedly promised that they would.  It is impossible to read the OT prophets and not see the constant promise of a Messianic kingdom inhabited by those of Israel.  God said they would live under the Messianic king, so they will…God’s promise is not void!  Romans 11:25–27, "(25) For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (26) And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (27) For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”"

So that’s the plan for the future…but what about the present?  For now, ALL people who have faith in Christ have been made into one body: the Church.  Whether Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference (a point Paul makes in Ephesians & Galatians).  How are God’s people supposed to act now in the present time?  That’s what Paul goes on to teach…

New Covenant Church
Living as a sacrifice (12)
In light of everything Paul wrote up to this point: the work of God in our justification & sanctification – the love of God not only for the world, but specifically for His old covenant people of Israel – how are people supposed to respond to that love?  By living fully for the glory of God.  God the Son sacrificed Himself for us, now we are to live as sacrifices for Him.

Paul describes this in a series of exhortations which run the gamut from using the spiritual gifts given us by God (12:6-8) – living according to loving humility (12:9-13) – living in unity (12:14-16) – living in peacefulness (12:17-21).  Basically, we are to live transformed lives because God is the One who has transformed us.  We have been changed from the inside-out, and we are continually changed as our minds are renewed by the gospel & grace of God (12:2).

Living as a kingdom citizen (13)
Part of transformed living plays itself out in how we relate to our culture.  We now fully belong to God, but we still physically live within the world.  Thus we are to submit to the government, pay our taxes, and generally trust God to guide us through even the evil culture in which we reside.  We are to love our neighbors around us, and live as the people of God in order that we might be faithful witnesses of Jesus to all the world.

Living in love (14:1-15:6)
Within the Church, we are also to love one another, seeking to be unified.  We major on the majors & minor on the minors.  If someone has a conviction different than ours about a minor doctrine, we aren’t to make a fuss or impose our own convictions upon him/her.  We all serve the same Master, and none of us will answer to each other on the day of Judgment.

Neither should we judge one another, nor should we stumble one another.  We need to be careful that our own freedoms don’t trip up someone else within the Church.  For the Romans, this included their meals (Jewish kosher diets vs. Gentile freedoms).  For us, this might include alcohol consumption, or certain entertainments we might otherwise enjoy.  If it’s going to cause grief to another Christian or cause them to sin, then it simply isn’t worth it.

Summary (15:7-13)
At this point, Paul starts to wrap it up.  Again he writes how Jesus brings Jews and Gentiles together all to the glory of God.  Because of the work of Jesus, now all peoples everywhere have the opportunity to praise God.  Paul’s prayer for the Romans was that they would continue in the gospel: Romans 15:13, "(13) Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  They had experienced the power of God unto salvation through Christ – now they could abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit as they remained in Christ.  (Don’t miss the promise of joy & peace to those who believe in Jesus!)

Personal plans (15:14-33)
Remember this is a real letter to a real people, so some of those more personal aspects begin to show up.  Paul writes of his previous ministry among the Gentiles & desire to travel to Rome.  He had wanted to come earlier, but was delayed.  At the time, Paul understood that his visit would have to be delayed further, because he was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver a contribution from the Gentile churches.  However, his plan was to make the delivery & come to Rome on his way to Spain.  We don’t know if Paul ever made it to Spain, but he certainly did make it Rome.  (And it happened after he delivered the contribution…just not in the way that he planned.)

Personal greetings (16:1-24)
Chapter 16 is filled with a whole list of names, some of whom the Bible speaks, but others of which we have no idea.  All in all, Paul knew them – the Roman Christians knew them – and (most importantly) God knew them.  They were all part of the family of God, and it was only natural for them to pass along greetings to one another.

Note: Peter’s absence.  Contrary to Catholic tradition, Peter was not the founder of the church in Rome.  He did live & (eventually) die there, but his presence came long after the gospel had gone forth among the people.

Benediction (16:25-27)
Paul ends the letter with as much doctrine as he began – once more coming back to the glorious gospel of God through Jesus.  Romans 16:25–27, "(25) Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began (26) but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—(27) to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen."

God IS able to establish us in the gospel, which is now revealed to all the world.  Praise God & amen!

Are you grounded in the gospel of God?  As Paul introduced himself to the Romans, the most important message he could think to share was that of the gospel.  He wanted them to know how they were desperately in need of Christ, how Christ saved them by grace through faith alone, how the Spirit equipped them to live for Christ in the present day, and the plans that God had for His people.  This is the good news of God.

This is the good news for ALL people.  For some, it’s the good news they need to hear in order to be saved.  To date, they are estranged from God, given over to their sin & the gospel of Christ offers freedom and life.  To others, we have partaken of the gospel…but it is still good news.  Remember that Paul was writing to Christians in Rome.  This is the gospel in which WE need to be grounded.  This is the gospel from which we must never stray.  Everything we have in God is because of the faith we have in Christ.  Jesus is enough, and Jesus is our everything.

Stay grounded in the good news of Jesus!  Plant yourself there & be rooted.  It may be Christianity 101, but it is THE most important truth of all time.

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