Romans Says It All
The Letter of Paul to the Romans — explaining justification by faith to the early Christians
Photo of my Church of the Front Range Bible In One Year Journal. Please excuse my scrawls…
“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”
Romans 8:5-6 NLT
Our church did something different than the usual “Bible In One Year” program by creating journals that provide Bible readings for each day (usually four chapters or so) and require you to do more than passively read the Bible. The staff wants us to really sit down and read, research, reflect and respond on everything we read. The result is that Barb and I have learned more about God’s Word since we started doing the journals than we did in years of following a good B1Y program developed by Nicky Gumbel.
Why? Needing to pull out verses God is drawing our attention to, researching them using a variety of tools, writing down our learnings and observations, meditating on the verses, and finally recording what God wants us to do in response to that day’s verses is hard work — and it forces you to really try (with the help of commentaries) to understand what the original writer of a book, chapter or verse was explaining about God.
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Due to Barb’s recent surgery and recovery, I got behind in my reading. Today when I picked up the turquoise-covered book again (that’s a picture of today’s entry at the top of this post), I was happy to find that the Letter of Paul to the Romans (AKA “Romans”) was in this week’s reading.
Paul wrote this letter to the early Christians in Rome from Corinth in AD 57, shortly after Nero had become the Emperor of Rome. Nero became emperor at age 16, and actually started his reign with some signs of sanity — for example, he allowed slaves to file complaints about their treatment to the Roman authorities. Things went downhill rather quickly. After the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, Nero found it handy to blame Christians — persecution at its finest — and with Christians arrested and brutally executed by "being thrown to the beasts, crucified, and being burned alive"1.
Nero was also “famous” for his “marriages” to males, including Pythagoras (AD 64, a freed slave) and Sporus (AD 67, a young boy who Nero had castrated). It’s in the midst of this political and social chaos — not unlike today — that Nero found that Christians made a useful scapegoat.
Paul’s work is of the utmost importance to Christians because it is the first time that justification by faith in Jesus Christ is explained in detail. Romans was the basis of Martin Luther’s teaching on justification by faith alone, the heart of the Reformation, Protestant theology, and non-denominational Christianity.
The online Encyclopedia Brittanica has one of the best short summaries of Romans that I was able to find:
Paul declares that God’s righteousness has always been manifest in his dealings with humanity. Though the Apostle notes with pride the unique religious heritage of the Jewish people (the Covenant, the Law, the patriarchs, and Christ himself), he declares that righteousness no longer comes through observance of the Mosaic Law, not even for Jews, because God now manifests his righteousness through Christ, whose righteousness is the source of righteousness for all humankind. Paul, however, cautions his readers that righteousness is not a license to sin. The letter also contains several specific exhortations, such as to repay evil with good, to support and love one another, and to be obedient to civil rulers.2
Romans is, in my opinion, one of the best books of the Bible for explaining that all people are sinners, but that God makes us right in his sight through Jesus Christ. Read and understand that, and much more of the Divine Mystery becomes clear.
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Heaven On Wheels Daily Prayer:
My Father in Heaven, thank You for forgiving my sins. Please help me to steer away from temptation, and be with me always to keep my eyes fixed on the Holy Spirit instead of worldly things. Let me live a life worth of no condemnation, and please let my life be an example to others of how You want us to live. AMEN.