MONDAY, MAY 22
SCRIPTURE: Romans 1
Today we start what I hope will be an incredible journey through Romans.
As I was preparing to read through the first chapter, I thought maybe I should take just a moment and talk about how the New Testament is organized. Obviously it begins with four Gospel accounts, not four different stories but four different views of the same story. The fifth book of the New Testament is a history book of the beginning of the church. And the sixth book, Romans, is the first epistle or letter in the New Testament.
Perhaps you have wondered why it is first. Or, maybe you have never wondered that. Well… Romans is first because it is the longest letter written to a specific church. That’s right. There is no great spiritual reason the New Testament is organized the way it is. Once you get to the letters, it is the longest letter to a church down to the shortest letter to a church. Then it is the longest letter to an individual down to the shortest letter to a individual. Then it is the longest general epistle (not written to a specific church or individual) down to the shortest general epistle. And then it ends up with an eschatological book that we call Revelation.
Now that I have cleared that up… I want to call your attention to Romans 1:16. This is a most powerful verse. Paul said he was not ashamed of the Gospel. That may seem a bit of an odd thing to say. But I think it is an important thing to consider. Remember the Gospel was identified with a poor Jewish carpenter who was crucified which was the lowest form of execution given to criminals. There would have been no reason for the powerful Romans to give any consideration to the Gospel. To make it worse, the Gospel came from Jerusalem, a notoriously troubled city in one of the little nations Rome had conquered. Rome, on the other hand, was a most proud city that housed not only the “emperor” of the Roman Empire but also the most feared military in all the world. And now this “fable of a resurrected Jew” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25) was going to be spread by another Jew who was basically a tentmaker. The Romans would have given absolutely no consideration to any of this.
So, from the world’s view, there would have been countless reasons for Paul to be ashamed of the story he wanted to tell. But he wasn’t. In fact, this story that we call the Gospel had emboldened him. He feared no one. But he wanted everyone to hear this story.
It is, after all, no ordinary story. It is the power of God for salvation. This Gospel is the only message with the power to change men’s hearts, their lives, and ultimately their eternity. This Gospel is the only message with the power to save anyone.
And boy, did Rome need saving. Even with all her military power, Rome was a weak city. The reason that is true is Rome was one of the most sinful places on the face of the planet. Immorality and iniquity were rampant. Just look at Romans 1:28-32. It was this sinfulness that would be the ultimate downfall of the Roman Empire.
But don’t miss the fact that verse 16 says the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to “everyone”. It went to the Jews first but it was just as available to the Gentiles. In fact, Paul is known as the Apostle to the Gentiles. (Remember Gentiles are everybody who are not Jews.)
Of course, the Gospel must be believed to be accepted. Salvation is available to everyone but only those who believe the message are saved. As Paul told the Ephesians in Ephesians 2:18-19, it is “by grace through faith” that we are saved. We have to believe to receive. We have to have faith to be saved. Thankfully, that same Ephesians passage goes on to tell us that God actually gives us the ability to believe, to have faith in the saving message of the Gospel. He is a good God! And Jesus is a glorious Savior!