"For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ďThe one who is righteous will live by faith.Ē Romans 1:16-17
Today we begin a journey that Iíve never taken with a congregation before: an exploration of Paulís letter to the Romans. Sure, Iíve preached bits and pieces of Paulís magisterial letter: how suffering can lead to hope in chapter 5, how our baptism mirrors Jesusí death and resurrection in chapter 6, our adoption as Godís sons and daughters in chapter 8, the practical stuff on gifts and Christian living in chapter 12, even the list of greetings in chapter 16. But Iíve been reluctant to tackle the long and involved line of reasoning that Paul develops throughout the sixteen chapters of his most famous and influential letter.
Why so reluctant? Because in a world of Twitter-length posts, most of us arenít used to attending to such a long and involved argument as Paul articulates in Romans. Because itís daunting to try to digest even a cursory amount of what has been written about Romans over 2000 years. Because even the experts on Romans donít agree with each other, giving rise to such sub-groups as traditional interpreters of Romans, the New Perspective on Paul, and even the Radical New Perspective on Paul.
Well then, if Romans is so challenging, why preach it? Because Romans is vitally important to our understanding of the Christian faith and doctrine. Because Romans profoundly influenced great figures in church history such as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Karl Barth. Because our world needs a healthy dose what Romans has to offer: an honest assessment of the human predicament of sin, a hopeful understanding of Godís care for the created order, a heart-felt appreciation of the saving work of Jesus Christ, and a life-changing orientation to the power of Godís indwelling Spirit.
So this fall, Iím inviting us to engage deeply with Paulís letter to the Romans. You may want to use an app such as Audible to listen through Romans once or twice a week. No, you donít have to understand every nuance of Romans to live well as a follower of Jesus. But if you want to deepen your appreciation of Paulís understanding of who God is and what God has done, Romans is easily Paulís most important letter and is arguably the most influential letter ever written. May we be challenged, energized, and deepened by our exploration of Romans this fall.
Love in Christ,
The Next Right Thing
Twelve Questions to Probe Your Pride
The Romans Road
For Students of Many Ages
Holding On and Letting Go
And Your Daughters Will Prophesy
Inspiration: Sabbatical 2019
Anxious in August