Romans Part One: Deep Dive
| REVEREND KEITH GARNER
There can be no more important question than to ask how a person can be both accepted by God and live in his presence day by day. It could be argued to be the underlying thread running through the whole of the Bible. It comes to a climax in what is generally considered to be the most important letter Paul ever wrote – that is the Book of Romans in the New Testament. It would certainly be difficult to overstate the influence of this letter upon the way Christians think and live. Martin Luther believed that Romans was so important that it should be memorised word for word and thought about every day. It has helped to shape the history of the Christian church.
Whenever I begin to study a book of the New Testament, I find it helpful to ask why the book was written in the first place and discover something about the particular recipients or early readers. With Romans there is one fact we must always remember, which is that Paul, and indeed Peter at the time this letter was written, had never been to Rome. When Paul eventually reaches Rome, it will be in the difficult circumstances of captivity and awaiting judgement by the highest of Roman authorities.
Unlike some of the early churches to whom Paul wrote, the church in Rome was not one congregation but a number of different what we might call “house congregations”. These home fellowships would be typical at the time, for it wasn’t until at the earliest the third century that church buildings were widely used. It could be one of the reasons why Paul laid such an emphasis upon the gift of hospitality. Romans 16 gives identification of some of these home groups and their leadership in verses 3 to 5, 10, 11, 14 and 15.
An examination of the first chapter of Romans helps us to understand the heart of what Paul is saying. Romans 1:16-17: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Building on the words of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, Paul gives us his gospel in a nutshell.
Like the opening bars of a symphony, or even the preliminary music by a rock band, the writer introduces ideas that will be explored throughout his piece. The theme of the whole book can be sustained in four main sections with an opening and then an extensive final chapter which includes greetings and farewells. These sections are:-
The gospel of God which we need in our lives: 1:18 – 3:20.
The gospel of God that has been given to us: 3:21 – 8:39.
The gospel of God which may be refused: Chapters 9 – 11.
The gospel of God and its outworking in our daily lives: Chapters 12 – 15.
If we accept the proposition that this book explains to us what being right with God is all about, we need to further acknowledge that this relationship crosses all the tenses of time – that is past, present and future. Whilst what we know as justification, described in Romans, cannot be said to be the whole of the Christian life, we can declare that every aspect of our Christian living flows from justification. There are three great implications that make it clear that we are truly living the Christian experience and equally truly understanding what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. We have peace with God (5:1). God has made us members of his family and we need never fear him. We have been given an introduction through grace (5:2). Paul describes this as our access into God’s presence, in which we stand. This is grace which is the unmerited love of God, upon which our whole Christian experience and our mission into the community is built. We boast in and recognise that at the centre of everything is the hope of God’s glory (5:2, 5:5).
This theme of hope emerges as we understand the new relationship that Christian people have through Jesus Christ. For me, it sits at the heart of my Christian experience and it is the missiological driver for our engagement in the world.
Reverend Keith Garner AM is the CEO/ Superintendent of Wesley Mission. In his role, Keith has the responsibility of leading almost 2,000 staff and more than 4,000 volunteers across 130 different centres, and well over 1,500 congregation members. Since taking up the role in 2006 Keith has thoroughly immersed himself in the life and work of Wesley Mission, inspiring those who serve alongside him through his passionate teaching and preaching and mobilising others through his role as social advocate and spokesperson.
To find out more about Reverend Keith Garner or Wesley Mission, head to https://www.wesleymission.org.au/