Romans is the most difficult book in the New Testament for me. After all these years, I still struggle with making sense of parts of it. So what I decided to do was back out and look at it from a higher altitude, so to speak, and look at the big picture. Doing this, helps me a lot.
Lets face it, one of the big mistakes in Bible Study AND Bible teaching is trying to zoom in too close and draw conclusions from the minutiae rather than get the big picture right first. Looking ahead, that is frequently one of the problems we’ll deal with when we get to the book of Revelation. By looking at the big picture we gain perspective. That’s how I’ve approached Revelation for years, so I decided to use that same approach with Romans, and it’s helped me a lot.
Traditionally, Paul wrote the book from Corinth, shortly before his third missionary journey and trip to Jerusalem where he was arrested. He gives strong indication of this time table towards the end of chapter 15.
Ok, let’s look at the themes Paul covers in Romans. Keep in mind he’s never been to Rome. He’s writing to a Church he’s never visited and has only heard about. That’s why he sticks to more general themes than say, in his letters to the Corinthians. As a preacher, I will usually approach a message differently when I’m at a congregation I am unfamiliar with than I will in a place where I know the congregation well and where I am well known. You can feel a sense of formality in Romans as compared to the way he writes to congregations where he is better known.
After his introduction, Paul goes into the text of his letter where he addresses some universal truths
- The sinfulness of Sin and God’s hatred of it.
- The Universal lostness of the human race – We’ve all sinned
- Jesus has provided a remedy for our predicament
- Paul takes a diversion to deal with the Judaizers and Explains Israel’s Predicament as well as his personal love for his own people
- Chapters 12-14 have advice for practical Christian living ( Finding our personal gifts and ministry, dealing with secular authorities, and how to relate to legalists and people with differing social mores as they relate to acceptable behavior.)
- Finally, Paul spends time in personal greetings to people in the Church he is familiar with. You can almost feel his desire to be with them.
So, in essence, the Paul’s letter to the Roman Church is a presentation of the Gospel, but from the perspective of someone already a Believer rather than as a message trying to convince a skeptic or seeker to follow Christ.