The Letter of Paul to the Romans: An Introduction

Hey Frank,

Sorry I’ve neglected you lately, old friend. I remember how I told you I’d do this study for you, and though I know we’re both busy, you are still important to me as a dear friend. I want to continue sharing my faith with you, and dialoguing with you. So every once in a while, if you have time, check my blog and hopefully I’ll have something new to share with you (By the way, I’ve decided to switch to studying Romans because the more I’ve looked at John, the more complex it seems. Regardless, Romans is a very good book of the bible and one that has changed my life personally. I think you’ll like it).

It’s crazy to think about the fact that you’re in law school now. I’m really happy that you made it, that you’re happy, and that you’ve finally honored your grandmother the way you always planned. I know there’s still a lot of work ahead of you, but you’re so blessed to be where you are right now. Man, I still remember those late night conversations we had where you expressed the indebtedness you felt towards your grandmother for the sacrifices she’s made for you—how she loved you no matter what you did or how you treated her. I saw that you truly love her; your only goal was to thank her for all her support over the years. Needless to say, I was really touched by your commitment to her.

As we start the letter of Romans together, my hope is that you would come to see the deep, deep love and care that God has for you. This book shows us how many times we’ve turned away from God, how we’ve denied and rejected him at every corner; it illustrates our foolishness as sinners and our blindness to the truth; it captures our disregard for He who loves us the most. And yet His love for us was so great, so faithful that He still sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for wretched sinners like us. Much like your grandmother, God loves you no matter what you’ve done or how you’ve treated him; Paul writes that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (5:20). For Jesus Christ died for our sins and bore the wrath that we deserve, so that we might live according to God’s will through faith.

This letter is without a doubt one of the greatest letters the apostle Paul has ever written, his magnum opus if you will, and I’m excited to be sharing it with you. Just to fill you in, Paul of Tarsus (formerly known as Saul in the Jewish community)is the author and he is considered the most influential Christian, ever. He wrote half of the New Testament and is an example of God’s grace in and of himself. Paul used to be one of the up-and-coming Pharisees within the Jewish community and a persecutor of Christians, a murderer. In fact, the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death as Paul watched. The bible says that the witnesses of the murder “laid down their garments” at the feet of Paul (Acts 7:58). What’s more, Paul even approved of Stephen’s death (Acts 8:1)!

Paul himself is an example of God’s love and the redemption we have in Christ. Paul’s horrific past is recounted in Philippians 3: 4-7 where he calls himself a “Pharisee” and “a persecutor of the church”. He had spent years hunting down and murdering Christians for game; he enjoyed bringing Christians pain and anguish. Christians themselves feared Paul and his harsh treatment of them—just read Acts 9 and you’ll see for yourself. Yet his sins were no match for the grace and mercy of Christ. His life was drastically transformed. When Paul writes his letter to the church at Rome, he is situated in Corinth on his third missionary journey.

Frank, I mention Paul’s background because I remember talking to you about how you felt disqualified from God’s love. Whether it’s because of past crimes you’ve committed, immoralities in your life, or even those jokes you used to always make about God when we talked, I recall you telling me that your sins were unforgivable. A lot of times we think that our sins are too great for God to ever forgive, that even if we wanted to believe in Jesus, he wouldn’t want us. But Frank, too often our past or present sins blind us from seeing the fullness of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Paul is a perfect example of God’s all-encompassing forgiveness! God’s love for us is perfect. It took a perfect love to send Jesus Christ to die on the cross for all our sins. No matter what you’ve done past, present, or future, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is more than adequate in giving us a clean slate. So don’t think that your past sins discount you from the grace of God. If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can never out-sin God’s grace.

These are just some of the things covered in Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. Romans is a long book, but it’s worthwhile. Paul explains our need as sinners for justification through Christ, and the exacting works of the gospel in our lives; he also illustrates how our justification is by faith alone (1:16-17), and how God works all things according to his plan (9:1-11). I think you’ll enjoy the study because Romans is oriented towards the intellectual and is very methodical in its approach; it describes how the gospel should affect the Christian’s everyday life, not just the point of their conversion. There is so much of value in this letter, so I think it would serve us best to go through it slowly, bringing out all the riches of God’s inspired word.

Let’s keep in touch throughout this study, and please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or want any clarification. As always, I’m praying for you, Frank.

Responding to the Love of Christ,
Brian

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