The Book of Romans; The Original Diversity Document
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Near the end of Paul’s three journeys throughout the Mediterranean world, he wrote The Epistle to the Romans, or more commonly known as the Book of Romans. While this is the first of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, it is actually the last one he personally wrote, sometime in 57AD. This letter is considered to contain the most complete theology of all the letters in the New Testament.
In fact, its message is so rich in thought, that I recently had someone tell me they are part of a Bible study group that would review the Book of Romans for a full year. Yes, every week for a full year!
Every sentence in Romans is so deep in explaining our Christian faith, I can easily see how this would be possible. Even a year might not even be enough!
What’s more remarkable, is that while the letter is addressed to the Christians who lived in Rome, Paul had not been to Rome at the time of this writing. So you might ask, why did Paul write this letter? Well, the answer is a little complicated.
Three years earlier in 54AD, there were two groups of Christians in Rome, who were bickering with each other to the point of social disruption and were thrown out of Rome by the emperor.
One group was Jewish Christians who had practiced Judaism prior to converting to Christianity. Possibly even from Jerusalem. The second were Gentile Christians or not originally connected to Judaism. Ironically, even though both groups lived in Rome, they viewed themselves as separate factions and worshipped separately.
The Jewish Christians viewed themselves as superior and often criticized their Gentile brethren. In turn, the Gentile Christians were a bit anti-Semitic and recoiled at the criticism they received from the Jewish Christians. Creating a very rancorous environment
Paul found out about this from some of the exiles who went to Corinth from Rome. By the way, Corinth was where Romans was written. Both sides told Paul their point of view. Paul, himself grew weary of the complaints and decided to sit down and write the letter to ALL the Roman Christians.
I stress the word, ALL, as this was the point that Paul was trying to get at in his letter.
And this important, what created this great masterpiece of Christian writing was written to resolve a localized issue. Paul was such a gifted writer and deeply committed to spreading the message of Christ, that resolving an ordinary dispute turned into the preeminent statement of our faith.
Amazing a local issue of two bickering groups from the 1st century created the Book of Romans. So wonderfully written, that its message resonates with believers in the 21st century.
As a side note; this is how I believe God created the Bible; using inspired people, through God-inspired circumstances, that created all the words of the Bible.
The circumstance here was two groups of people who had created divisions amongst themselves, forgetting the important message that God created all humankind in God’s image. And that regardless of our origin, race, gender and any other difference we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. In this letter, Paul exhorts those arguing to remember these points by saying; “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
But not only does Paul do that, he explains in great detail the purpose of Christ. He further explains for the Gentile Christians the special value of Jewish Christians. Likewise, he explains the special value of Gentile Christians. Like any good parent, Paul writes in great detail why both sides should like each other and not fight.
Paul is very clear, that what makes a good Christian is their faith in the risen Lord. Not their biology, origin, male or female, or whether they are Greek or Jew. That is through faith we are all saved. Each chapter, builds on this theme, taking the reader from; justification, to peace with God, to the grace of God and how we are reconciled with God through Jesus. In extremely exquisite writing Paul lays out in Romans, thoughts that would transcend generations eternally.
What I love about this letter is how important it is for those of today. Beyond its deeply detailed explanation of the importance of faith and the grace of God, it points out that we are ALL brothers and sisters in Christ. Because we are Catholic, it doesn’t mean we are better or worse than Methodists or Baptists or Quakers. And likewise, as Methodists we do not have superiority over any other denomination. Our faith in Jesus and God’s grace make us equal.
Sometimes even within denominations today we see these unsavory splits. Take the current schism in the Methodist denomination. They are acting in a very similar manner to what happened between the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians two thousand years earlier, effectively putting their social views ahead of faith and the grace of God. To the point, they have agreed to split up!
The simple message of our faith is that through our faith in Christ we are justified with God and we receive grace and mercy from God, equally!
The beauty of Romans does lie in its wonderful explanation of faith and the grace of God. It also lies in its very important statement on diversity. As Paul said over two thousand years ago; everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Listen to the Full Podcast – The Book of Roman’s
Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman
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