Often overlooked in Romans is the significance of Paul's beginning statements. In this sermon, we study this overlooked section. In most overviews of Romans this is referred to as the "Introductory matters (1:1-17)." Many students of Romans seem to have the impression that the real material is what follows: The wrath of God (1:18-3:20); the grace of God (3:21-8:39); the plan of God (9:1-11:36); the will of God (12:1-15:13). The concluding material (15:14-16:27) is also overlooked many times, but that is not our subject in this lesson.
The Nature of Romans
What is the book of Romans? The easy answer: a letter or an epistle. True, but what else can we know? A survey of themes in Romans suggests a focused intent, more than just a general letter. Suggested themes include God, the impartiality of God, a Christian doctrinal treatise, and a compendium of Christian doctrine (Melanchthon). Wedderburn, in his little book Reasons for Romans addresses the distinction between a letter and a theological treatise. We must understand that the writing is occasional or situational and that it clearly addresses the relationship between Paul and the Roman church, especially with regard to Paul's travel plans. Further, there is a recently renewed emphasis on the Jewish-Gentile problems which are addressed in Romans, especially with regard to the offering.
First Century Letters
Letter-writing in the first century was not done precisely as it is today. The salutation includes the writer as well as the recipients. There is generally a laudation or praise section, frequently a transition, and often a theme statement. All of these are clearly in view in Romans. Less usual is the inclusion of personal matters, which are more often included in the concluding section. The personal references in the early part of Romans may suggest that there is some defensiveness in Paul's writing, desiring to justify his failure to visit previously. In the salutation, note how Paul identifies himself: servant, apostle, one set apart.
I want to suggest that the theme of the introduction, perhaps of the entire book, is evangelism. Many have seen the salvation theme in Romans. As we consider the theme of evangelism, we will look at the contents of the book under three headings: the gospel, the people, the preaching. Do we understand the gospel? The gospel is God's power for salvation when we clearly see the gospel, the messengers, and the result of evangelism when the gospel is proclaimed in its power by the messengers God chooses.
I. The Gospel
II. The people--Paul and the Romans
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