Romans 1:8-17 (ESV)
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
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 has never been to Rome. The Roman church sprang up without Paul’s direct involvement. It wasn’t planted by him on one of his missionary journeys.
So, this letter is different. When Paul writes to a church he planted, he knows who he’s writing to and what they’ve been taught.
But that’s not true here. Paul knows that they’re believers, and he’s ecstatic about that, but he doesn’t know what doctrine they hold to. Sure, there are some things they must believe, but knowing a few facts about the amazing things that happened in Israel is not a complete system of theology.
Without a theology that hangs together well, all kinds of errors can creep in. Paul is well aware that churches have plenty of problems with people whose understanding got way off track. Those heresies even infect churches he planted. Some of his other epistles deal directly with those problems.
So Paul really wants to get to Rome to make sure they have the whole thing straight. I mention you always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
Until then, this letter will just have to do. That’s why this epistle is so thorough.
Part of being a doulos of Christ is studying. Getting things wrong matters; so we’re called to make a special effort to get things right. Understanding God is impossible, but we should try to understand as much as we can.
The Bible is a finite book about an infinite subject. It’s designed to be understood by normal people, but it stretches our capabilities to the limit. Paul’s epistle to the Romans will make you think.
But this book will change you.
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