Welcome to Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Martin Luther said of this epistle, “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.” Why did Luther hold Romans in such high esteem? Because, he said, “this letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel.”
What makes Romans so special? While all Scripture is God-breathed and equally valuable, Romans is unique in that it is the most comprehensive, well-organized expression of Christian doctrine assembled in one place in the Bible.
Luther wasn’t the only person who regarded this letter in this way. Paul did too. We see this in today’s reading when Paul actually gives us his thesis for the entire book:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”
– Romans 1:16-17 CSB
The reason Paul is so eager to preach Christ is that he believes the gospel has the power to give life where there is none. Jesus alone is the way to salvation. The message of Christ is free to all and powerful enough to save those who believe.
Paul wrote this letter to explain to Jewish and Gentile converts alike what it means to believe in and be redeemed by Jesus Christ. This book reaches back deep into the Old Testament. It walks us through the origin and problem of sin, the reality of guilt, the impossibility of saving ourselves, and the ultimate rescue we’re given in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Romans is meant to be thorough—a practical, theological guide for the follower of Jesus. This book calls believers to trust Christ as it unfolds what it means to live by faith. By faith we anticipate our eternal home. But by that same faith, we also learn how to live as followers of Christ in this world. Romans speaks to both.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul says, is the righteousness of God—meaning it is the way by which we are able to stand in the presence of God and live. In the work of Jesus, we see the character of God on display. In this letter we find a God of compassion, patience, and justice. We see unfathomable love displayed to complicated and broken people—a generosity of grace and mercy.
Whether you are new to what it means to follow Christ, or you have read this letter many times over, read the book of Romans as though it is telling a single story—the story of how God rescues us through the sacrifice of Christ.
Written by Russ Ramsey