The apostle Paul wrote the letter to folks in Rome. Paul was a gifted and renowned scholar and teacher of the Old Testament and the Christian Gospel. He was called by God to be the apostle to the Gentiles. But by about 57 A.D. (more than 20 years after Jesus’s resurrection) no apostle, including Paul, had yet visited Rome. Rome was the center of the Roman Empire, the Gentile government that dominated the area where Paul ministered. There were some Christians there and a whole lot of non-Christians.
But, Paul had a busy schedule and other ministry obligations prevented him from going to Rome. So, he wrote a letter instead. It sounds like he cheated the folks in Rome, right? But he didn’t.***
The letter to the folks in Rome is probably the most thorough and extensive authoritative teaching on our Christian faith. It is written in a manner that addresses Jews, Gentiles, Jesus-believers, and non-Jesus-believers. This text is what the gathering of friends will read together and discuss. The issues addressed in the text include (among many others):
- What happens when I die?
- What is sin(s)? What is sinfulness?
- “Salvation”? Salvation from what? Or from whom?
- Who needs “salvation”? Why?
- What is the “faith” that brings salvation?
- Why did God choose to provide for salvation through a thoroughly horrific means – the torture and murder of Jesus?
- What is a mere mortal human’s role in getting this faith and salvation?
- What if I object to God’s means and methods for salvation?
- If I have this salvation?
- Now what? Live Christ-like? Seriously? How does that work out? What if I am not wired that way?
- How do I invite folks to share in it? Do I need to sugar-coat some hard stuff?
Romans will teach us, comfort us, make us uncomfortable, and challenge us. Guaranteed.
*** And, to be fair, Paul not only later went to Rome, he was killed there by the Roman government (the same government that tortured and murdered Jesus, which set the stage for Jesus’s resurrection and our salvation).