Romans is a letter

This last Sunday Pastor KPaul started at the beginning of the book of Romans. It’s the start of a journey that we will finish on December 31 of this year: studying the book of Romans together as a church. I’m excited about this year, and I hope you are too. Before we dive to deeply into the individual verses of a book like Romans, it is helpful to take a step back and look at the book as a whole.

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Romans is called an epistle. That just means that it is a letter. Letters are written to someone by someone else. In this case, the apostle Paul wrote the letter, and, according to Romans 1:7, he wrote it, “to all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people.” So who is Paul?

Paul was a Jew. He is first mentioned in Acts 7:58. Here in Acts, Stephen, a man described as full of faith and the Holy Spirit has been arrested. Stephen gives this speech to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling body) that blames them for murdering Jesus. They got a little upset and drug him outside the city to stone him. And Saul is the young man who holds the coats while they kill him. The first verse of chapter 8 says, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.” So we know which side Saul was on. The passage goes on to say that Saul began to destroy the church. He took people from their houses and threw them into prison. But then in chapter 9 of Acts, Saul meets Jesus quite dramatically with a blinding light. By chapter 13, Acts has left the story of the disciples in Jerusalem and just starts following Paul around the world as he tells people about Jesus. And if you are wondering about the name change, Acts 13:9 simply says, “Saul, who was also called Paul….”

So Paul tells people about Jesus. He is a Jew and a Roman citizen (Acts. 16:37). And though he travels far and wide in the Roman world, he has never made it to the capital city when he writes this letter called Romans. In fact, it seems that the letter might have been groundwork for a future visit that he is planning. Eventually Paul does get to Rome (read the end of Acts), but it isn’t like he planned. He ends up arriving as a prisoner waiting for a hearing with Caesar, after a really hard trip. But that is after the letter.

Here is the thing about a letter: when you get one, you read the whole thing. If you just read a few sentences at a time, with a week in between each reading, you will miss the big picture. It’s like trying to put the puzzle together without the picture. So that’s why I encouraged you last week, and I am encouraging you again to sit down and read the whole letter. If reading it sounds challenging, most people in Rome didn’t read it, they heard it read to them. So you could have your Bible app read it to you. You can listen to it in just over an hour with a really slow voice talking to you. But do the whole thing.

Mark key words, that is words that jump out at you. Write down questions that you think about. Email them to me at whatsontheneedles@outlook.com. I’ll share them with KPaul, and then we can try to answer your questions about Romans.

I’m looking forward to hearing what you ask about the book of Romans and writing my next post about the gospel.

May you be blessed by God’s word today.

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