For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” —Paul in Romans 1:16–17
Paul’s letter to the Romans is widely considered his most towering theological work. This helps explain why it is listed first among Paul’s letters in the Bible, even though it was not written first. In this way, the order of Paul’s writings shows that Romans is of the first order.
Regarding Romans in comparison to the rest of Paul’s writings, D. G. Miller says, “Some passages in his other writings may reach higher emotional heights or contain momentary flashes of deeper intuitive insight into the wonder of the gospel, or … set forth the cosmic grandeur of the gospel in more profound terms. In its totality, however, Romans stands alone in the massiveness of its thought and the power it has released in history through its testimony to the gospel as ‘the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith’ (1:16).”8
Paul’s big idea in Romans is the Good News of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we will examine in our study of this majestic masterpiece, this includes:
1. God’s work for us—We are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by imputed righteousness.
2. God’s work in us—We are regenerated, or born again, by the power of the Holy Spirit by imparted righteousness.
3. God’s work through us—We live the Christian life as members of the Church doing ministry to serve the mission of God as the fruit of imputed and imparted righteousness.
After surveying a wide breadth of writings on Romans, one Bible commentary concludes, “Commentators generally accept that Paul states his basic theme or thesis in Romans 1:16–17 and that all the letter’s other ideas and themes revolve around this center.”(1)
Commenting on the big idea of Romans, theologian John Murray said, “The epistle to the Romans is God’s Word. Its theme is the gospel of his grace, and the gospel bespeaks the marvels of his condescension and love. If we are not overwhelmed by the glory of that gospel and ushered into the holy of holies of God’s presence, we have missed the grand purpose of this sacred deposit.”(2)
In Romans 15:14–33, Paul summarized his ministry to that point and outlined his missional strategy for the future. Paul was called of God to bring the gospel to non-Jews and had spent roughly 20 years evangelizing Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece (Achaia). He felt that his work there was largely completed. Paul’s hope was to travel to Rome to encourage the church there and raise financial and spiritual support so that he could then set up a new mission outpost in Spain. In Romans 15:23–24, Paul says, “But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.”
Why do you think it is it significant that Paul preached a gospel of grace?
(1) Derek R. Brown and E. Tod Twist, Romans, Lexham Research Commentaries, ed. Douglas Mangum, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
(2) John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, Vol. 1 in The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1968), xi.
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