Sunday we started a new series on the Book of Romans. We are spending the summer studying this book, so we appropriately are calling the series: Roman Holiday. This book is found in the New Testament and is actually a letter form a man named Paul, written around 58AD to a faith community in the Empire’s capital and largest city, Rome.
For Paul, this letter is different.
The difference comes in his relationship to his audience. For the most part, Paul’s letters were written to places and communities that he had visited, or churches he started. He spent significant time with the people to which he was writing. But the church in Rome, he had not yet visited. He had a desire, a calling to go to Rome and longed to be with them (1:11). He is not sure that will actually happen. So as he writes, he writes knowing he may not get the time to spend with them, to teach, disciple, mentor and encourage. Although he is optimistic about visiting them, this letter might be his only shot to communicate with the church in Rome. And Paul has something very important to communicate with them. The context is important to understand because it means the words of Romans are extremely precious and crafted with care.
Think about writing a paper in college. The more information you want to communicate to fortify an argument or position on a topic, the more words and pages you would use. But when the professor wants the project to be under… say, three pages, you have to be much more concise and strategic with your words. It takes more time to write less but communicate more. But if written well, fewer words are more effective for communication.
President Woodrow Wilson, when asked how long it takes to prepare a speech responded with, “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
Paul has one letter to convey his theology and hope for the church. He takes great care in preparing this letter. And the letter to the Romans is outstanding. It is considered his magnum opus. Martin Luther called it the purest Gospel we have and the richest part of the New Testament.
For us, this letter is different.
We are reading the greatest work of Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit. So as we prepare our hearts and open our minds to receive from God, let us approach this study on the Book of Romans with great expectation. May God speak to you, reveal his heart, challenge your lifestyle, and transform you into his likeness over the next eight weeks.