After five studies so far in the Book of Romans, it’s good for us to remind ourselves what we’ve seen thus far. I really hope everybody is taking notes as we go, and is taking time to go back and review them! The exhortation we have from 1 Thessalonians 5:21 is to “test everything; hold fast what is good.” That testing is done by checking against the canon of Scripture.
Here are some of my personal reflections from the road so far.
Laying a Foundation
Whenever I start reading a new book, I’ll typically skip over the dedication, the preface and the introduction, and go straight to chapter one. Similarly, it can be tempting to looking only cursorily at Paul’s introduction, but this is a mistake. In it, he lays the foundation for who God is, who Christ is, who he is, and who the Romans are. That is, the principle characters for the following 400+ verses. Why is Paul’s letter authoritative, for the Romans and for us today? Why is Jesus rightful king? All established for us in those first seven verses.
Paul’s Purpose and Prayer
Reading Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer for the Romans – a people whom he had yet even to meet – is a tender thing. His model is that pray is first and it is frequent. Looking ahead to 15:30, Paul encourages the Romans to “strive together with [him] in their prayers to God.” Do you strive in prayer? Is it something you work at, something that costs? His whole ministry was fully submitted to the will of God — which is precisely why he’d not yet been able to go to Rome. The will of God, the purpose and heart of God, came above all else for Paul, even his own plans. Therefore, everything was covered in fervent prayer. This is a great model for the wider church!
The Power of God
Verses 16 and 17 are foundational to the rest of the book. What is the gospel? Why, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes! But what does it really mean to believe? The concept is deep, comprising belief, agreement, faithfulness, trustworthiness, reliability and genuineness. We considered three aspects, which were:
- Surrender to God: in believing in God we aim to fully align ourselves with our new king. We have a new allegiance.
- Intellectual assent: of course we must agree with the tenets of the gospel
- Commitment of the will: one of the most fundamental aspects of faith is that commitment to follow our Saviour.
I found this challenging, and we had good discussion on this in our life group. To what extent do we really believe the gospel? We could empathise with the heart cry of the father in Mark 9:24, where he declares “I believe, help my unbelief!” For me, it isn’t difficult to agree with the gospel because there’s excellent evidence. The challenge is to allow it to permeate every aspect of my life, and let surrender to God and commitment of the will become more and more foundational. Does my work ethic reflect the gospel? Does my marriage reflect the gospel? What about my heart when things go wrong? The storms that blew through recently caused my roof to leak. It’s not nice, seeing water streaming in through your kitchen ceiling! What does surrender to God look like now? If God is trustworthy and reliable, how should I respond to this new challenge?
The Romans Road
We’ve many more miles to cover on our journey through Romans. We’re praying – striving together in prayer – that the word of God would have its full effect, and stir up greater faith: greater surrender to God, greater agreement with Him, and greater commitment to follow His will.