Intro to Romans- written 15 years ago)
Perhaps the greatest singular book of importance in the entire word of God is Paul’s writing to the Romans.
I assume you believe, and hold dear that God’s oracle to man, called the holy scriptures, are the only record from heaven to man, whereby we may know and act upon what God has uttered.
Romans, that masterpiece of logic and truth, which silences the adversary, and glorifies God, is what we have before us.
Romans, a book breathed through the very spirit of God, to and through that singular apostle of grace. Paul the teacher, prophet, true pastor, and evangelist, comes on the scene with clarity and power, demonstrating, explaining, and proving, that the gospel in all its glory, as seen in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, is God’s wisdom in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
The word of the Lord Jesus was, ‘I have many things to say unto you,’ and his unfolding of truth through Paul is one of those many things. So we believe the words of Paul are the very words of the Lord Jesus, and we can see the tender hand of God, as he exhorts his own people with the hope of glorifying God.
And this dear friend, is the most important theme of Romans, for yes, while it is a blessing to be brought from darkness to light, it is a greater affair for a sinner to now give glory to God. Paul will prove that mans deeds are set aside, and his very mouth is stopped, for the apostle defends the court of heaven by stating man has no good to speak of, while he unfolds this wonderful truth and doctrine of the righteousness of God.
So above all, Romans is a book of sound doctrine, and many a man has been slain by the arguments of the apostle. Paul proves the importance of rightly dividing the word of truth, and holding securely to Paul’s doctrine, will save a soul from a multitude of poor teachings.
So the epistle begins: Paul a servant of Jesus Christ. This statement is accentuated by the fact that this man Paul, who was known as Saul of Tarsus, was once an enemy of the gospel of Christ. But this very book serves as a treatise and an example of how the grace of God can convert the very chief of sinners.
Saul of Tarsus, according to his own words, was a stellar example of law-keeping. Yes, he was a Jew, a Hebrew, an Israelite, and a Pharisee. He had a pedigree unlike all others. Circumcised the eighth day, of the tribe of Benjamin, named no doubt after Israel’s first king Saul. If any man could boast of law-keeping, it was this man.
As a disciple of that learned elder Gamaliel, Saul was the finest example of how a person walked according to the righteousness which was in the law, in fact, he was blameless. It was Saul of Tarsus, who stood by when the man of God Stephen was being stoned to death. Yes, Saul agreed, this man was meshumed, traitor to the true God of Israel, and such as he are not deserving to live.
Saul of Tarsus would have also agreed that the Pharisees interpreted the law correctly when they dragged the adulterous woman to the presence of the Lord Jesus, and sought her death as well. Lawbreaking according to Saul, could not be done by any soul desiring to please God.
Saul was taught that to break the law, one could not be a servant. But reader, Saul would be taught by the Lord in heaven, that yes, the law was given through Moses, BUT, grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. It is the grace of God that came upon Saul of Tarsus, he was converted to the true God of heaven, as he sat in his glorious blindness pondering the wrath of the law, and the freedom and majesty of the grace of God.
Paul the apostle was now God’s man for the time, and he with all humility would now say, I am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. He made the claim as chief of sinners, and he begins his epistle, ‘Paul a servant of Jesus Christ.’
Paul, content to consider himself a servant, tells us he was called to be an apostle. You will understand that countless thousands hate the fact that Saul of Tarsus, a Jew, an Israelite, and a Hebrew, spoke with power as he testified of the Jewish Messiah. But is not this the foolishness of God?
That is, Saul of Tarsus was on his way to Damascus, with the blessing of his superiors, to capture, hail in prison, and torture many, who only called on the name of the Lord. Saul had no thoughts whatsoever of encountering the Lord most high, yet, he was thrown off his horse, and heard words from heaven that shook his very foundation: ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?’
The world of Saul of Tarsus came to a screeching halt that afternoon, for he heard the Lord of creation speak, and not only did he hear words, but he heard words spoken TO him. And not mere words to deliver a message, but the word of God spoken to his own heart, mind, and conscience.
Saul received an answer as to who the voice was, it was the Lord Jesus, the very one in whom he counted as a mere evil influence upon so many. But an influence? Surely not, but the Lord of all glory, and because of the blinding presence of the glory of God, Saul could not see, and he would explain later, that he could not see for the glory of that light. This blindness was not punitive!
And thus the Lord Jesus spoke to this blind man: ‘but rise and stand upon thy feet, for I have appeared to thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee. Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified through faith that is in me.’
What words from heaven, what a charge to a man who was a blasphemer and a persecutor. Is it any wonder that certain disciples doubted as to the conversion of this man? God would make Saul of Tarsus a minister and a witness? He would make him an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles, a pastor to the people of God? Yes, the grace of God is seen in the most unlikely places, and the heart of Saul of Tarsus was the most unlikely of places.
So this man is found in the city, being obedient to the heavenly call, and sits for three days, without bread or water, as he muses on the law, the prophets, the psalms, and the wonderful transformation upon him by the grace of God. Paul would write later, that he was a pattern to all sinners, and he would unfold in the very book of Romans; that forgiveness of sins and a place among the redeemed could only come by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul would go to his grave defending salvation by grace through faith, as this was the first word he learned by the Lord of glory. Thus, God now calls him to write to the Romans, and to us, to further teach the wonders of the glorious gospel. Not now Saul, but Paul the apostle, one called so by God to speak forth the praises of the grace of God. Paul would state first he is a servant, and in this simple word, we see the large heart given to this man of God.
Yes, an apostle, but first a servant, a servant with a purpose, separated unto the gospel of God. Paul would tell us that the gospel concerns the son of God, for the holy scriptures said he, wrote of him. Paul’s first defense was not only in stating that the Lord was the Messiah, but that the Messiah was in fact the son of the living God.
And this was done through the spirit of God through the scriptures. But not only the scriptures, but the holy scriptures. Words from a holy God, directed through the Holy Spirit, to Paul, that he might explain the holiness of God. What a man of God Paul would become, as he learned the reality that all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.