The Letter to the Church in Rome – Romans – is the apostle Paul’s signature writing. It is as close to a systematic theology as we get in the New Testament. Its central theme is righteousness. God’s righteousness which bestows righteousness upon believers stands in stark contrast to the unrighteousness of the world. It is a call to believers to live the life of righteousness.
It is my plan to take time each Friday for how ever long it takes to look at Romans, listen to its challenge, and present what I feel should be our response. Today, we will talk about some introductory materials regarding Romans.
I will be using the commentary on Romans by C. E. B. Cranfield (I.C.C) as my primary guide to Romans with several other resources. Cranfield has also produced Romans: A Shorter Commentary which is a handy layman version of his classic. Douglas J Moo’s Commentary on Romans is also highly recommended for the serious student of Romans.
Paul wrote this letter late in his ministry, during a short period of time when he had some “down time.” Cranfield dates it around late 55 to early 57. He says it was probably written while he was in Corinth, waiting for a good time to leave on his journey to Jerusalem.
Tertius was the scribe who was writing the actually letter – tradition says Paul’s eyesight was poor and had a hard time writing and wrote in very large letters so he could see what he was writing. Due to the cost of writing materials, Paul used someone else to scribe what he wanted since they could fit a lot more on the writing material.
I can picture Paul sitting there with Tertius dictating what he wanted to say. Just as Tertius thinks he has it down perfectly, Paul says, “Wait wait wait, lets say it this way instead.” Then poor Tertius has to sit there, scratch the letters away with a special knife used as an eraser while Paul sits there impatiently with the exact words he wants to say hoping not to forget.
Romans has that feeling to me of a very refined theology. Paul was concerned that the truth of the Gospel and the life of the believer have a very solid foundation (Romans 15:15). This was not as much of a personal letter to a church as The Letter to The Church which just happened to also be a personal letter to the church in Rome.
Paul certainly was moved by the Spirit to write this letter. It has influenced people throughout the ages to solid orthodox theology. Martin Luther was certainly influenced by it as were most of the Reformers. In someways, it presents a standard by which we can judge the truth of what people are saying theologically.
The theme of Romans is “The Path of Salvation: The Just Shall Live by Faith.” Of the scriptures that we were taught as children to memorize, a grouping of them was called “the path of salvation”. John 3:15-16 of course was one in this group but most were from Romans. Romans 3:10-12, 3:23, 6:23, 8:1, 8:28, 8:31, 8:38, 10:9-13 are just a few that I unfortunately have at least in part forgotten. I will certainly be working on memorizing them once again.
I look forward to continuing this study next week and explore this path of faith as presented by Paul.
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