“Wrestling With Romans”
Our Attitude to Scripture:
Our attitude to, and our use of Holy Scripture says a lot about us as Christians. It is this that will determine the kind of Christian we are and will be. I recall a minister reporting the lament of another servant who said he had Christians in his congregation who did not want to go too deep. One can only marvel, stand astonished at such a statement, even wonder if they have truly entered in to the experience of true spiritual life. I love the puritan attitude to Scripture, their depth of love and devotion to the Bible. Everything for them had to be brought to the touchstone of Holy Writ. What a difference between that and the former complaint, I don’t want to go too deep. I guess maybe the book of Romans would be considered too deep for such to even contemplate studying, though it was through reading the book of Romans that Martin Luther was converted? For those who do have a desire for depth, perhaps, I hope, this will serve as an introduction, certainly no more than that. These are only expository notes, but perhaps they will serve as a launch pad into greater depths. I have just received a book of daily readings myself, a compilation of Puritan teaching, taking me through a whole year. Wonderful, I look forward to it with relish. I suggest to you that here is something much better, not because I have penned the notes, but because it is an exposition of Scripture, the Word of God, much more precious than gold.
The Attitude of Jonathan Edwards:
You could measure your attitude to Scripture with the thought of how much you are willing to wrestle. Not everything in Scripture is easily understood, Peter makes that very point with regards to Paul’s writings (2Peter 3.15-16). You could measure the depth of your devotion to Scripture by comparing it with, say, the attitude of Jonathan Edwards, the North American Puritan teacher. Listen to what was said of him; “from his early years, Jonathan Edwards devoted his life to the study of Scripture. Early on he resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. Even while young he began to study with his pen in his hand. He studied prayerfully, developing thoughts which he wanted to preserve in writing. His massive literary production stands as a testimony to this. He took to heart the statement of the Westminster Confession of Faith on Scripture, Chapter One, Section Six; “The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. For Edwards, not only is Scripture necessary for man to come to a sound saving knowledge of God, but it is the sole source of truth and the authority by which man is to interpret all of life. The Bible is the standard by which all things are to be judged. Jonathan Edwards’ life…centred around the Bible, it was the touchstone of his entire life”. May it be ours also.
An Attitude of Discipline:
No gain without pain, was a favourite maxim of the Puritans. True it is, our willingness to wrestle is crucial in the fight for godliness. For it does not come naturally. We have to apply ourselves, devote ourselves to Scripture, to reading and to study. Surely the measure of our willingness to do this is the measure of our love for God? If we really want what he wants? If we really want his will for our lives? If we really want to glorify him and to be useful Christians. Then the way to be most useful in the work of your Church, in extending the Kingdom of God, is know your Bible better. You can give your friends and neighbours all the smart answers under the sun, but if you do not expose their minds to the mind of God you will do them no real, lasting spiritual good. The mind of God is expressed in Scripture. So go to it, switch the television off, put the paper down, lock yourself away in a quiet room somewhere, open up your Bible and prayerful wrestle with the Scriptures, with Romans, you cannot lose.
How to get the best out of this book:
This is only a suggested method of use, that would hopefully help. Begin with a time of prayer asking God the Holy Spirit to enlighten, to give you understanding of what you read. To sing a Hymn or a Psalm of praise. In your devotions it is important to have a good solid hymn book (or Psalter) by your side, a good Hymn book is also a teaching aid. I say a good solid one, for much of the modern stuff is not only frivolous, but some are downright erroneous theologically. Also the modern phenomenon of lightsome chorus singing is not encouraged, good, solid, tried and tested Hymns packed with good theology will teach you along with your Bible. Read the Bible, other passages too, besides the one you are studying for the day. Perhaps a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New, and then to read the appropriate passage from the book of Roman’s, then follow with a careful reading, checking all the cross references as you go. This followed by a time of serious and prayerful consideration of what has been read, this I believe can only enrich the soul and increase, heighten spiritual life. You could even finish with a devotional hymn, thanking and praising and adoring God for all his goodness and kindness to you. Perhaps you have your own method, the latter is only a suggested guide to help in your devotion to God. Of course it takes time, but time set apart for God each day is imperative for the Christian life, if you are to grow, stay healthy, be strong, overcome evil, practice good, and serve the Lord in righteousness. Be strong in the Lord! You cannot achieve this without the word of God dwelling in you richly.
I hope, I trust, I pray that God will bless you as you use these notes, that they may inspire genuine thoughtful holiness, not by any means an infallible guide but a help to understand what is infallible, the Holy Scriptures.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)