Facing the Future With Paul’s Letter to the Romans

apostle paulIf you want a generic gospel presentation written out in what Christians in North America today might call ‘doctrinal form,” you would probably be best served by Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. It presents human salvation through the work of Christ and the action of the Spirit in a thorough and direct way.

But if you are thinking about history and the future and how you should work toward it, then the most important book in the Bible is probably Paul’s letter to the Romans.

 

While Paul’s message overlaps with Ephesians, naturally, Romans concentrates on the Great Commission and they course of history. A few observations:

 

  • Romans begins and ends with the Great Commission (“the obedience of faith” 1.5; 16.26; note also 15.18).
  • Romans shows a spiral downward into apostasy and death in history (1.18-3.20; 5.12-21; 7.7-24; 9.1-22) which, surprisingly, provided the opportunity for God, in Christ, to condemn sin and vindicate (justify) all who believe in Jesus (3.21-26; 5.6-11, 16, 20, 21; 7.25-8.8; 9.22ff).
  • Romans shows how intensifying sin was so important to God’s plan to save us, that he gave the Law to Israel for just that purpose–to intensify sin (Romans 3.19, 20; 4.15; 5.20; 7.9-11).
  • Romans directly takes on the accusations made against God’s character for using Israel in this way (1.16; 3.1-8; 6.1; 9.19-23).
  • Romans assures us that the life and grace and salvation that is to spread and rule the world after the death and resurrection of Christ must far surpass and overwhelm the sin and death that Adam brought into the world by his sin (Romans 5.12-22).
  • Romans promises that God will bring this about by breaking the cycle of sin leading to more and worse sin (Romans 1.18-32; 6.19) and replacing it with the work of the Spirit to bring us from new obedience to more new obedience (Romans 5.1-11; 6.1-23; 8.1-39).
  • Romans shows us that God’s promise that his grace will triumph over and conquer sin in the world (Romans 5.20, 21) is meant to be carried out by each Christian in his own body conquering his own body parts (6.1-23).

 

To recap then, Romans is a book about past and future history, promising that as the world was marred by Adam’s sin, it will be more than fixed by Christ’s obedience for for and in us. Christ’s kingdom on future Earth will far outshine Adam’s slavery in the past.

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