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Word from Scotland

    by Sandy Shaw

An Introduction to Paul's Letter to the Christian Church at Rome
Date Posted: May 10, 2021

Turn with me to the letter to the Romans. I am turning to Romans for a very special purpose. We do not come to this Study page for entertainment – nor do we ‘attend church’ for entertainment - but to be edified - to be built up - encouraged - strengthened - fed and nourished - sacramentally - by God's Holy Word – and of course, to Worship.

We come open and eager and prepared to receive all of God's truth.

This ‘introduction’ is a longer article than usual.

Romans - although spiritually deep - and regarded by many as very deep, spiritually speaking - it is also simple enough for each of us to digest and understand.

Let me tell you about three men whose lives were profoundly influenced by the Book of Romans.

In the summer of 386 AD the Prof. of Rhetoric at Milan was brilliant intellectually, but morally he was in a mess. He heard a child saying "Tule Rege Tule Rege" - take up and read - take up and read - and he picked up Romans Chapter 13 and read verses 13,14 . Walk honestly - put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was Augustine - the man who was to become St Augustine. His life was changed!

We must not despise nor ignore the history of the Church. We have 2,000 years of history - and yet I remember discovering about 15 years ago that it is not church history - it is Kingdom History - because each time there is a major development, it is the Kingdom of God breaking through.

Take November 1515 - Martin Luther was lecturing on Romans - an Augustinian Roman Catholic Monk - and he came across the Righteousness of God. Through Grace and Mercy, God justifies us. "I was re-born - I went through open doors into paradise. This passage of Paul in Romans became the gateway to heaven."

So began the Reformation - Calvin - Zwingli - Knox in Scotland.

Then on 24May 1738 - there was that Anglican Clergyman - who was not as yet converted - in St Paul's London in the morning - and in Aldersgate on the Sunday evening - when the preacher was reading the Martin Luther's Preface to the Book of Romans - when his heart was strangely warmed. It was John Wesley of The Methodist Church.

He never meant to leave the Church of England - but very seldom can an old formal system cope with the New Wine of the Holy Spirit which God gives.

Read it through. During these coming days, study it.

St Chrysostom had it read to him twice a week. Bengal said - "This is the Festal Epistle". Take it and read it. It has been said that Romans is PURE EVANGELISM because it is the PURE EVANGEL - and yet so much is not mentioned.

Martin Luther went on to say - "Christians should memorise it." Yet some Christians have never read it through once.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, take us only to the Cross and the Resurrection.

In Romans we have all of that - plus Pentecost and what followed.

It is a clear pure Gospel. There is only ONE GOSPEL. This is the heart of our Christian Faith.

It was written around 56/58 AD - when Paul was on his third and last missionary journey - in Corinth - in the home of Gauis. Paul had seen the Gospel work. Paul was no longer a young man - he was experienced and mature - and he knows the Gospel.

Why did he write the Gospel? Why did he write the Gospel in a letter? Why did he send a letter to Rome? Why is it in our Bible?

We know he used an EMANUENSIS - a stenographer - a secretary – writing in longhand. Paul is pouring it out - and someone is writing it down.

There are greetings - personal notes - the main subject - personal notes again - and further greetings. He sent it by Phoebe, a deaconess in the church at Cenchrea - she carried one of the most important parts of our Bible.

Unlike the other letters - Romans is written to a church Paul did not found and never visited. He had never seen these people - yet we have the personal names of men and women - they were like friends - 35 to 40 members of the Church.

Romans does not deal with local problems - not like Corinthians. Paul writes about subjects and topics. He does not commend, command, criticise or rebuke.

Rome - we do not know who first preached in Rome. Was it Peter? There is no mention of him. If Peter had preached there surely Paul would have mentioned this.

In Acts 2 - at Pentecost - there were visitors from Rome. We do know that there were some 40,000 Jews in Rome. Were some converted on the Day of Pentecost? For many years it was largely a Jewish Christian Church in Rome.

Claudius became Emperor and got fed up with the Jews over ‘Crestus’. Around 54AD he issued an edict - "Jews must leave Rome" - 40,000 had to leave - ethnic cleansing is not new. The Jews have always been hounded.

Every Jewish Christian had to leave Rome - and we read of that Christian couple Aquila and Priscilla moving to Corinth - and Paul would hear of the Church of Jesus Christ in Rome - so it became a Gentile Church.

Two years later Nero invited the Jews back to Rome. The Gentiles were now running the Church. The Jews who had been running the Church were returning. Problems arise when newcomers arrive.

Jews began the Church in Rome - Jews had to leave - Jews then return - no wonder there was some tension. And no wonder Paul goes on to say - "Don't boast you Gentiles - and Jews do not think of yourselves as superior".

Why did Paul write to them? Because of his godly ambition - Paul was called to be the apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul was based at Antioch - and his ministry had spread from Antioch - and there was this new centre in Rome. He wants to get to Rome - to the centre - to build you up!

He wanted to strengthen this key church - and give them a spiritual injection!

Then he so wanted to go to Spain - Chapter 15 verse 24 - spreading the Gospel - planting churches - all over the Roman Empire. He needed a praying base, which could support him. Antioch was too far to go and report back. Rome was to become his new headquarters.

But the church there must know that the missionary or apostle was going to preach the true Gospel. Now we are gradually beginning to see why he wrote Romans - to help them - and to make them a base for him to travel further west.

Paul sends his sermon on ahead. He preached to them in a letter - just in case he did not manage to get to them in person - and he almost didn't make it - physically speaking. Through this letter he has helped thousands - as he puts his preaching in writing.

What is it all about? LAW occurs some 70 times. Chapter 1verses 16,17 is a summary . It is all about the Gospel - the Good News of being saved - and being right with GOD - Salvation and Righteousness.

Chapters 3,4 contrast the way of faith with the way of works - 5,6 contrast the way of life with the way of death - 7,8 contrast the way of the spirit with the way of the flesh - the way of the Gospel with the way of the law. The Gospel is based on the Cross of Jesus Christ - whereas the law is based on the Commandments - and that way of getting right with God does not work. It cannot work.

This is 'bad news' - we need so much more than 'try to live a good life'!

It is faith not works - life not death - spirit and not the flesh - and the Cross and not seeking to keep the Commandments.

As a Pharisee, Paul knew the way of ‘trying’ did not work.. Did it bring him pardon? No. Did it bring him peace - or forgiveness? No. Did it bring him power in his life? Never.

Then he met Jesus - he came to the Cross - and there was pardon - peace - baptism - power.

In this one Book there is one lesson - to learn the right way of getting right with God - and for many it is a very hard lesson to learn. You do not just turn away from your own badness but from your own goodness too. That is why some people do not come to have real living faith in Jesus Christ - and Romans deals with that.

Our goodness is dung - shit. Our righteousness is filthy rags. We need the righteousness of Christ - this necessary goodness we can receive from Jesus.

Romans is the longest letter we have from this period - some 7,000 words.

This is NOT a summary of all his preaching – there is no explanation of the Kingdom of God - little mention of the resurrection and ascension of Jesus - or about the Church - no mention of the significance of bread and wine - repentance and being born again is absent - and he says nothing about heaven and hell. So this is NOT a summary of all his preaching - nevertheless it is highly significant and vitally important for the faith - our faith.

Augustine, Luther, and Wesley's hearts were strangely warmed and touched - and lives were influenced. May that happen to us.

“Almighty God, warm our hearts as we come to Your Word – touch our lives afresh as we seek to serve a rebellious and sinful world. Enable us to have a firm grasp of our Christian Faith – as solid grounding - so help us to grow and mature – as we give You thanks and praise for those who have gone before us.” Amen.

"Point of Reference" from Fred Price

What is man that you are mindful of him? Ps. 8:4

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Biography Information:

Alexander 'Sandy' Shaw is pastor of Nairn Christian Fellowship in Nairn, Scotland. Nairn is 17 miles east of Inverness - on the Moray Firth Coast - not far from the Loch Ness Monster!

Gifted as a Biblical teacher, Sandy is firmly committed to making sure that his teachings are firmly grounded in the Word.

Sandy has a weekly radio talk which can be heard via the Internet on Saturday at 11:40am, New Orleans time, at wsho.com.

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