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Intended to Change the World An Introduction to Romans 1. What can you say to introduce Romans?

Back in May I went on a short-term missions trip to Zambia, Africa. On our way back we had a full day layover in London, England. The team and I planned a few different day trips, and I led a trip to Windsor Castle. Windsor Castle is an over 900 year old castle that is still in use. In fact, it is the weekend residence of the Queen of England. As we toured Windsor Castle, we were struck by the grandeur, elegance, opulence, and beauty of this amazing piece of architecture. Whether the: the Queens Ballroom, the Waterloo Chamber, St. Georges Hall (which is covered with the coats of arms of all the Knights of the Garter since its foundation in 1348), The Queens Throne Room, or St. Georges Chapel, it was all quite overwhelming in its extravagance. I found myself listening to the guided tour recordings and gazing all around at the intricate art, architecture, furniture, and pieces of history. One thing was clear: this was completely different from my world. 2. Here we stand at the beginning of a tour of a monumental work that far exceeds the prowess of any human Castle, Kingdom, or creation. We are about to enter into the depths of a spiritual Kingdom that is filled with divine extravagance. We are going to hear and see truth brimming with eternal significance. It is the Word of God. More specifically, it is the letter to the Romans. It is a letter that has had profound impact on Christians throughout the centuries. All 66 books of Scripture are inspired by God, but there is no other book in all of the Bible that more clearly and systematically teaches Gods plan of redemption in the Gospel. Perhaps that is why it has been so highly regarded, debated, and commented upon throughout history. Perhaps that is why it has had such impact on so many Christians in the last 2,000 years. 3. Augustine was converted upon reading a passage in the Letter to the Romans. 4. Martin Luther was converted as he read Romans 1:17: For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. Here is how he put it: I had no love for that holy and just God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret anger against him. I hated him, because, not content with frightening by the law and the miseries of life us wretched sinners, already ruined by original sin, he still further increased our tortures by the gospelBut when, by the Spirit of God, I understood the wordswhen I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from the free mercy of our Lord through faiththen I felt born again like a new

manIn very truth, this language of saint Paul was to me the true gate of Paradise. 5. John Wesley was converted on May 24th, 1738, when listening to someone read Luthers Preface to Romans. Wesley wrote in his journal: About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. 6. John Bunyan was inspired to write Pilgrims Progress, the second best selling book of all-time, because of his study in Romans. 7. Towering descriptions of the Letter to the Romans are found throughout the history of the Church: a. Luther: the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel; he believed that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, [and] occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of his soul. b. William Tyndale: the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, and most pure Euangelion, that is to say, glad tidingsand also a light and a way in unto the whole Scripture. He went on to urge his readers to learn it by heart. For, he assured them, the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is. c. Calvin : if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture. d. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet, called Romans the profoundest book in existence. e. The great Swiss commentator F. Godet wrote that in all probability every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book. 8. That Romans has had apparently great impact on this world should not be a great surprise when we learn that: The letter to the Romans is intended to change the world. A key to understanding Romans is to recognize that the letter is written to impact the world. It is not just a theological treatise, it is a letter with a purpose. The themes, the background, the setting, and situation of this letter reveal a far-reaching purpose. 9. That is not to say that other books of the Bible are less inspired than Romans, or do not have ambition to change the world. It is simply to emphasize that in many ways, Romans by its comprehensiveness and unique set of circumstances, has fulfilled a monumental purpose in changing the world.

10. So, as we embark on this journey together, I would ask for you to pray: 1) Pray that God would teach us by His Spirit. 2) Pray that I would be a faithful guide through this study. 3) Pray that our hearts and minds would be filled not with dead orthodoxy, but that we would be renewed by life giving truth. 11. FF. Bruce: there is no saying what may happen when people begin to study the letter to the Romans. So, let those who have read thus far be prepared for the consequences of reading farther: you have been warned. 12. Today we are going to look at an overview of this letter and discover that indeed it is intended to change the world. 13. We will look at 1) the Setting, 2) the Purpose, 3) and the Themes of this letter. 14. So, turn to the Book of Romans. I. The setting of the letter to the Romans involves the time it was written, the location, the recipients of the letter, and the situation. All of these help establish the context for the letter and help us to understand the purposes of the letter that follow. A. Romans was written in approximately 57 A.D., during Pauls three month stay in Corinth. 1. The Apostle Paul writes the letter of Romans at the tail end of his Third Missionary Journey. According to the book of Acts, Paul stayed in Greece for three months before returning to Jerusalem (Acts 20:1-3). After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 2. Corinth was the most location of Pauls three month stay. 3. The date of Romans is important b/c of the circumstances it entails. a. The end of the Third Missionary Journey, means Paul is about to travel back to Jerusalem with an offering from the Gentile churches to give to the Church in Jerusalem, who are predominantly Jewish Christians. b. Paul is anticipating a difficult reception. 30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, (Rom 15:30-31) c. Notice Pauls concern for both unbelieving and believing Jews 4. Paul is also anticipating visiting the church at Rome on his way to Spain, after his trip to Jerusalem.

a. This letter is preparing the Romans for his future visit (Romans 15:22-29). b. Pauls trip to Rome was not quite as he had planned. B. Paul is writing to the church in Rome, the capital of the known world. 1. There is a saying that All roads lead to Rome. a. Rome was the center of and capital of the world. b. It was the most civilized and developed city on earth. c. Rome was not just the seat of the emperor, and government of the world, it was a place of art, engineering, architecture, culture, politics, religion, and most importantly, commerce. d. The numbers of traders coming into and leaving Rome, by ship and foot, from around the world must have been immense. e. If someone wanted to do business with the world, then there was no better place than Rome to be. f. If someone wanted to influence the world, then there was no better place than Rome to be. C. Paul is writing to both Jew and Gentile Christians in Rome. 1. The church in Rome began with Jewish Christian converts. a. Paul did not start this church. b. It was likely started by Roman Jews converted at Pentecost. 1) Jews from all over the world traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks (or Feast of the Harvest or Feast of the first fruits). 2) They were present at Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11): 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabianswe hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God. 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, What does this mean? 2. Jews were present in Rome from at least 139 B.C. a. The numbers increase dramatically after Pompey conquered Jerusalem in 62 B.C. and brought Jews to Rome to be slaves. b. Historical records indicate that Jews had a strong enough population to merit political consideration. c. It is estimated that there were approximately 40,000 Jews in Rome during the First Century out of a city-wide population of about 1,000,000. 3. The fledgling Church there was first comprised of Jewish Christians

a. It is clear that Apostle Paul addresses the Jewish Christians in Rome (Acts 16:2-3,7,11; 2:17; 4:12-15; Rom 9:30-10:8). 4. Over time, Gentile Christians were added to the church. a. At Romans writing, Gentile Christians were the majority. 1) Due to the expulsion of the Jews in 49 A.D. by Claudius (Suetonius; confirmed by Acts 18:1-2). 2) Due to the predominance of Gentiles in the city. 3) Due to the resistant of Jews to the Gospel message. b. Paul was also clearly writing to Gentiles in Romans (1:5-6,13; 15:14-21; 11:13-24; 15:7-9). II. The setting helps us to understand the purposes of the letter to the Romans. A. Many describe Romans as more of a theological treatise than anything. 1. We can agree that Romans more theologically comprehensive. 2. We do not want to forget that it is still an occasional letter. a. It was written at a specific time, to a specific audience, for a specific purpose. B. By understanding the setting of the book, we are aided in understanding the purpose and application. 1. Key in Bible interpretation and application is finding the intended meaning for the original recipients. 2. (Example) C. So, what are Pauls purposes, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in writing this letter? D. Above all Paul is communicating his Gospel to the Romans. Paul communicates the clearest, most detailed, and comprehensive Gospel, that he says, is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. E. But why Rome? What have we learned from the setting and recipients that might help us to understand why Rome? Why not Corinth, Antioch, Jerusalem, or Ephesus? 1. First, Rome is the capital of the world. a. The Roman church had great influence upon the world (1:8). b. They appeared to have influence on other churches. (1 Clement, 96 A.D.) c. All roads lead to Rome, and go back to the known world. d. Rome has the potential to be a missions hub for the world. e. The strategic position and influence of the church at Rome made it a wise choice for a thorough teaching of the Gospel! 2. Second, there was tension between Jew and Gentile Christians. a. Jews may have reveled in their superior heritage (2:25-29).

b. Gentiles may also have been prideful: 1) Superior status as stronger Christians (Rom 14-15). 2) Possibly a higher economic station than the Jews. c. What can remove the prideful arrogance that Christians can easily hold onto? 1) A rich understanding of the Gospel. 2) The Gospel is the great equalizer. 3) Pauls Gospel, is utterly humbling and self crucifying. 3. Third, Paul also addresses theological errors and accusations from others against him. a. Paul is soon heading to Jerusalem. 1) Paul alienated many Jewish Christians, in harsh rebuke against Judaizers. 2) Paul was thought to be a Jew hater and anti-nomian. 3) Paul was going to face this in Jerusalem and there were connections b/w Jewish Roman Christians and Jerusalem. b. Only a carefully articulated Gospel can deal with these issues. 1) Pauls love for the Jews (9:1-5). 2) The continuity of the Gospel in Jewish history and present Gentile inclusion (9:6-16). 3) Gods elective purposes assure that a remnant of Israel are truly believers, like Abraham, like Isaac, like Jacob, like David (11:1-7). 4) Paul is not denigrating Jews, the Gospel simply makes clear that Gods salvation depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (9:17) So, then whether Jew or Gentile, God has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (9:18) 4. Paul is addressing conduct, or right living (Rom 12:1-16:27). a. How we live must be informed by the Gospel! b. So, the first eleven chapters of Romans emphasizes theology, while the last five chapters apply that theology to right living. c. The first two verses of chapter twelve are encapsulating a summary of right Gospel fueled conduct. I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (12:1-2) 1) The rest of the book exhorts conduct or models conduct.

2) Only a right understanding the Gospel will fuel conduct from affection, out of faith and worship, versus mere duty. 3) Romans 12:1, which is your spiritual worship. d. Based on the tension between Jewish and Gentile Christians, a summary expression of Gospel conduct was well needed. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think (12:3a) F. So, Pauls purpose was to change the world and Rome was a perfect place to address his most thorough explanation of the only means of changing the world, the Gospel. G. The influence of the Roman church, its connection with Jerusalem, the ethnic composition of the church, its location in the capital of the world; together help us to see why this letter is so carefully articulated and so broadly applicable. Paul was writing to Jews and Gentiles, slaves and free, weak and strong, citizens and foreigners; all of whom are looked upon by the church worldwide. So, the theological and ethical themes are not random, they are not to a phantom group, they are to a real group of Christians at a particular time in history, to strengthen them, so that they might change the world. III. Themes of the book of Romans. A. There are many themes in the book of Romans: The Depravity of Man, the Wrath of God, the Justification of Man, the Justification of God, Reconciliation, Union with Christ, Election, Reprobation, Prayer, Eternal Security, Assurance, Perseverance, Glorification, Submission, Love, Government, Christian Liberty, and even Godly Commendations. 1. It is exciting to realize that we will study many of the doctrines found in our systematic theology books! 2. Most exciting, is that these doctrines will be understood in the context of a specific purpose and setting. a. When we understand doctrine in the context of its practical application, it moves from dead orthodoxy to dynamic, life giving, practical, applicable truth. B. What is the overall theme of the book? 1. Douglas Moo: The gospel as the revelation of Gods righteousness, a righteousness that can be experienced only by faith (Rom 1:16-17). a. The shorter version is Pauls statement of the Gospel. 2. It could be expressed in a host of other ways.

a. My cumbersome attempt: The riches of Gods redemptive plan of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles brings righteousness, peace, and transformed lives to all who believe. b. But it is necessary, to speak in terms of the Gospel: for the Gospel is the power of God to salvation for all who believe. c. And since most agree, Romans 1:16-17 is a summary of the entire book, it is prudent for us to use similar language when we describe its contents: 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. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith. Conclusion 1. So, as we come to the book of Romans, we come very simply but quite profoundly to a book that presents the Gospel of Christ more clearly, more robustly, and more comprehensively than any other book in the New Testament. 2. We come to a book that because of the setting of the book and the nature of the Gospel itself (the power of God unto salvation), is intended to transform lives. Yes, even change the world. 3. Our responsibility then is to come with anticipation, ready to engage our minds and hearts, so that we ourselves would not be filled with knowledge alonebut be transformed by the renewing of our minds. 4. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25