May 10, 2015
I am rarely at a loss for words. Preachers usually have something to say about most everything. And my personality is that I generally have an opinion about everything, and I often want to express that opinion. I frequently have to force myself not to say something and too frequently I have had to ask forgiveness for ungodly motives in my talkativeness.
Occasionally — very occasionally — I find myself stumped for something to say, or for the right thing to say. When the girls were born, I’m sure I said something, but I do remember being overwhelmed by the wonder of their births. And since this is Mother’s Day, I might tell you about my wife, the mother of my children. I could describe to you her physical beauty — the tenderness of her hands and the warmth of her smile and the charm of her eyes. Or I could tell you of her character and godliness that is regularly and encouragement and exhortation to me — her joy in giving things away, her quickness to serve others, her humility in not wanting attention (like what I’m doing now), her wisdom in parenting and counseling. But in reality, there is so much to tell you about her that I am stumped if I have to condense it down to some one aspect of her. Why am I attracted to her? Because she’s Raye Jeanne and she’s my wife!
That’s a little of how I feel this morning as I approach my message, because today I get to say some words for the first time that I’ve been anticipating for about a year — open your Bibles to Romans chapter one. And now what should I say about this magnificent book? Yes, I have already spent many hours reading and studying this book, and reading books about this book. I have compiled a document of over 16,000 words on the background to this book (over 60 double-spaced pages worth of material), so I have something to say about what is in this book.
And yet the closer I’ve gotten to Romans the more overwhelmed I’ve felt about teaching this book — all Scripture is inspired by God, yet this book stands as unique among the biblical books. It is not “more inspired,” but it is a giant among the other biblical writings — a “Mount Everest,” John Piper has said. He has also called it, “the greatest letter ever written.” One of my favorite commentators said that Romans is “the Cathedral of the Christian faith.”
Luther said of this letter,
This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.
And in the prologue to this letter in his final translation of the New Testament, William Tyndale said of this letter:
I think it [essential] that every Christian man not only know it, by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too oft, or study it too well, for the more it is studied, the easier it is, the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is, and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.
So what shall we say about this book? How about, “Let’s get started!”
This morning, rather than beginning with Romans 1:1, I want to give you the big picture of the book —
- What was significant about the church in Rome and
- Why did Paul write them and
- What is unique about this letter and
- What is this letter about?
Let me answer the last question first, and then come back to it again at the end of the message. This statement will not only shape the direction of this message, but it will also shape the direction of our study of this book over the next months years.
Romans is about the gospel, which is the power of God for salvation (and sanctification) to all (both Jews and Gentiles) who believe (1:16).
And here are four questions to shape our understanding about this book:
- What Was the Church in Rome Like? The Recipients of the Letter
- Why Did Paul Write Romans? The Purpose of the Letter
- What is Unique About Romans? The Characteristics of the Letter
- What is Romans About? The Theme of the Letter
Download the rest of this sermon overview of Romans.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.