“Wrestling With Romans”
Spirit and Word (Chapter 1 Verses 1-7)
The Book of Romans has been described as the gospel according to Paul, that is a very apt way of describing it. Wherever we go in the Bible it is all the gospel, is it not? Paul wrote Romans, it is thought, around AD.58, at the end of his third missionary journey, at the end of his stay in Corinth (Acts 20.1-6). Paul is the author on the human level, the Holy Spirit is the author on the Divine level (2Timothy 3.16; 2Peter 1.21). The letter was designed for the Church in Rome obviously. We think that to declare that Peter was the supposed head of the Roman Church supposes just a little too much. Would the great Apostle be so uncouth as to write a letter to a Church in such a major and strategic place as this was, in the then known world, knowing, it had an Apostle as its Pastor and not offer some kind of salutation to him in the opening greeting? We think not. There is not even a mention of him in all the greetings offered at the end (Romans 16.3-15). The Church was made up of Jews and Gentiles, though mostly of the latter (Romans 1.5-6). It is Paul’s desire to visit them when he can in person (Acts 19.21; Romans 15.23), because his Christian heart wants to bless them (Romans 1.10-11). He himself wants to be refreshed by them (Romans 15.32), no doubt in Christian fellowship. At the same time he fears he may never arrive and so writes this letter to them.
The Church in Rome is surrounded by unbelief and worldly philosophy. So Paul seeks to instruct them in defending and confirming the message of salvation, because that very gospel of salvation was at stake then, just as it is in many ways today. He makes a clear presentation of what the gospel is (Romans 1.16), as well as commending them for the goodness amongst them (Romans 1.8). They still have a need to learn, as we all have, that is a particular aspect of our Christian lives we need to pay particular attention to, Christian learning, growing in our knowledge of our Saviour and the salvation granted to us (2Peter 3.18). It has been suggested by some that Paul’s letter to the Romans would have been above the heads of his readers, but is not that true of all Scripture, and of ourselves too, but we need constantly to be stretched, to wrestle with truth, and we certainly need the solid concrete, the granite of Romans under our feet in these dreadful days we live in. No Scripture truth is grasped by mere intellect, only by the inward working of the Holy Ghost (1Corinthians 2.9ff). That is a poignant reminder to us all, that our need is not only the Word of God, but the Spirit of God also, His help, illuminating the Scripture, our hearts and minds too, as we read and study it. So as we study Romans let us together ask for His sovereign help to wrestle with and grasp the truth revealed.
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1997)