People say ‘I’m a practical person, just don’t worry about the theory.’ Paul responds ‘It’s when things are difficult that i come back to the foundations.’
Romans 1:1–7 (NLT) 1 This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News. 2 God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. 3 The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 4 and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. 5 Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. 6 And you are included among those Gentiles who have been called to belong to Jesus Christ. 7 I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a Christian theology 101. Martin Luther (1483–1546) called it “the masterpiece of the New Testament.”
He spends the best part of 11 chapters laying down a well thought out foundation to faith that is centred around the Good News, the power of the Gospel – what we believe and what God has done and what God is doing through the person of the Holy Spirit; then he transitions into “Ok, now you have the theory…”
Romans 12:1–2 (NLT) 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
So then he talks about ch 12 service, spiritual gifts, ch 13 relationship to society and governing authorities – ch 14-15 relationship to others – law of love, law of liberty – welcoming of others as God has welcomed you.
Theoretical and the practical – people say to me today “just give me the practical stuff” or “just tell me what to do” or “just give me the take away – the five little hops to heaven… I’m not much of a theory person…”
That’s fine – but in my experience, it’s when things are difficult that I come back to the foundations…
- like when my soul is troubled with my own sin and rebellion and failure and Paul reminds me: Romans 8:1 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
- Or maybe I’m figuring that if I could be just good enough that God would accept me – Romans 3:20 (NLT) 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
- Or maybe I’m figuring how can God ever love someone like me? Romans 5:8 (NKJV) 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- PPT Or I’m thinking I’ll never be strong enough to make it as a Christian and Paul writes back to us: Romans 8:26 (NLT) 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.
- Or I’m thinking this is too hard. If God were so loving and kind why am I suffering? I didn’t sign up for this deal: and Paul reminds us – (you’re think you’re doing it tough – you’re ready to throw in the towel? I got shipwrecked, stoned, beaten, imprisoned, rejected, others wanted to kill me) Romans 5:3–5 (NLT) 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
- Or I’m thinking ‘why do I need to keep reading my Bible? Why are we encouraged to go to a LIFE group where they read the Bible? Why should I start my day with a devotion time (I’d prefer to be doing social media…)? Paul smiles and says: Romans 12:1–2 (NLT) 1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
- Or I’m thinking I’m so far from God right now, I’m just so anxious – how could He ever forgive me? And Paul says: Romans 8:38–39
Or I’m just struggling to believe the Bible – Paul quotes from the OT in this letter more than in all the other Pauline letters together. There are at least 61 direct quotations from 14 different books. Psalms and Isaiah are the most frequently quoted.
Or my experience with other Christians has been ordinary and I have to sit next to people in church that eat meat or drink booze or have a different bible translation or who have tattoos or who’s worship music is too loud or too fast or too slow or too new or too old…. And Paul quietly says…
Romans 14:1 (ESV) As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him or her, but not to quarrel over opinions.
You see, when someone says to me “oh we’re done with Romans”, my response, no, we’ve just started!
So before we close, with the person alongside you, share
- something that God has taught you
- a promise that you’re holding onto
- a sin that you’re struggling to have victory over
- an awareness of the grace of God in new ways
- a sense of renewal in the Holy Spirit
- a renewed appreciation of the Good News
Romans 16:25–27 (NLT) 25 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time. 26 But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him. 27 All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen.