This week we start a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Romans is one of the most important books that can be preached in a church. It goes to the very heart of the gospel and of living as Christians.
No letter has had such a dramatic effect in the lives of people down the centuries as Romans. This letter transforms all who approach it with hearts and minds open to God’s work in their lives. It does not matter how often we have studied it, new transforming treasures are discovered each time. It is arguably the most important of the sixty-six books of the Bible.
The whole Bible is important. For every word of God is precious and has inestimable value. Yet the Bible is not a flat and undifferentiated collection of books. Some parts are history, some are poetry, others apocalyptic or proverbs. There are some parts of the Bible that prepare the way for others, while some are the fulfilment of earlier prophecies or laws. There are some practices of the Bible that are even made ‘obsolete’ by later parts.
Putting it a little crudely the apostolic letters in the New Testament are where the rubber hits the road. The letters spell out for Christians the conclusion and application of the Gospel message to life now. We live between the resurrection of our Lord and his return. What it means to live in this period of God’s world and how to live appropriately now is addressed directly in the teachings of the letters.
Amongst the New Testament letters, Romans is the one with the most sustained argument about God’s plans in the world as they apply to the Christian life.
All the letters of the New Testament, including Romans, were written in and to a particular situation. Some like 1 Corinthians or 2 Timothy or 1 John, have their particular situation dominating the issues discussed. Others like Colossians or Ephesians, while written in a specific situation, are of a more general nature about God’s plans and Christian living. However none are so long, intense or sustained as the letter to the Romans.
Romans’ particular context is spelled out in chapter 1 verses 8-14 and chapter 15 verses 14-32. It was written by the missionary apostle Paul to a church that he had for some time been planning to visit and even now was laying plans for coming to them before passing on to Gospel work in Spain. Paul’s missionary travelling plans created for him the context in which to spell out the whole purpose of God for the world. Only in the light of this large plan of God can the Romans understand Paul’s plans and the appropriate way for Christians to live as God’s people.
Under God’s inspiration this particular situation in Paul’s life provided for us this magnificent letter that has so transformed the lives of people down the centuries and around the world. It was personally crucial to Martin Luther in the sixteenth century and John Wesley in the eighteenth. That is the Reformation and the Evangelical Revival came out of the leaders’ study of the letter to the Romans.
We should pray that God will use this letter in our lives, that we may understand his gospel properly, seeing his plan for the world and our lives in his plans and purposes.
Please pray for the Commonwealth Day Observance to be held in the cathedral tomorrow, Monday 13th March at 12:30pm. This is the first time that the Observance has been conducted outside of Britain. The Observance will be conducted in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Earl of Wessex, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations, The Prime Minster, and the Premier.
Unfortunately the large number of official guests, representing the 53 nations of the Commonwealth has meant that attendance is by invitation only. The Observance will be televised live by the ABC. The theme of the observance this year is “Health and Vitality’. The Archbishop will be preaching on Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8.
We value your prayers for all who would come to hear God’s word on this occasion, for all those members of the Cathedral community who have a responsibility on the day – especially for Ross Cobb and our choir, for the Archbishop as he preaches and for all who may be watching on television.