If Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians was a contemporary email, the first paragraph could go something like this:
“Hi. I’m Paul. We haven’t met in person, but I’ve heard a lot about you. You’ve probably heard about me too. I would really like to meet you in person to talk about ministry I’m hoping to do in Spain. But while I’m writing you, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you some pretty important things.”
Romans is, at its core, a letter from the Apostle Paul to Christians living in Rome. Paul wrote it in a particular time, to a particular people, for particular reasons. However, it is more than a letter written around two-thousand years ago to people living almost nine-thousand kilometers away. Romans is an invaluable resource for Christian theology, and is often considered the pinnacle of the Apostle Paul’s letters. This letter deals with core aspects of Christianity: justification by faith as the heart of the gospel; the hope that salvation offers; complexities surrounding Gentile conversion and unbelieving Israel; and the transforming power of the gospel for Christian conduct. These topics were not only timely and pressing issues for the original audience, but remain crucial for us to understand today.
Romans is a long letter that deals with a variety of key theological ideas, and we don’t want to rush through it too quickly. This fall our sermon series will focus on the first three chapters of the letter. The climax of this section of the letter occurs when Paul writes two of the most beautiful and shocking words in all of Scripture, “But now…” (3:21).
But first, we must walk through the beginning of this remarkable letter to see the depravity of humanity so we can fully grasp the depth of the hope available in the gospel of Jesus Christ.