the gospel of God

“More than any other Pauline letter, Romans presents a single, sustained argument. What constitutes the heart of the argument is much debated. For some it is Paul’s theology of justification by faith, certainly one of the prominent themes of the letter. For others, it is the mission to the Gentiles and how they relate to Israel within God’s overall plan. But to reduce Romans to a single theme, even one as important as either of these, is to oversimplify a complex argument. …

“As one of the most influential of Paul’s writings, if not the entire NT, Romans has left a deep imprint on the church’s thought and has even altered the course of its history. … Romans has profoundly shaped how the church has thought about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the way humans experience God’s saving grace. …”

“Probably written from Corinth at the conclusion of Paul’s mission in the Aegean [57-58 A.D.], Romans stands at a critical juncture in his life. Having completed an important phase of his mission to the Gentiles, and even more important, having completed the collection for the poor Jerusalem Christians, he stands poised between two sets of anxieties: those connected with delivering the collection to Jerusalem and the usual anxieties of beginning a new phase of mission work that will extend the borders of his mission eventually to the coasts of Spain. …

“Internal tensions within the Roman church related to the success of the Gentile mission in Rome may be an additional motivation for writing Romans. It is possible that some well-established Gentile Christians were reluctant to welcome back to Rome returning Jewish Christians who earlier had been banished from the city by the emperor Claudius [49 A.D.; cf. Acts 18:2]. If so, this was all the more reason for Paul to clarify God’s purpose in extending the divine promise to Gentiles and to show how his apostolic mission related to that purpose. This in turn would have made the ticklish question of Israel’s role within God’s overall purpose even more pressing, given Israel’s general reluctance to accept Jesus as God’s Messiah.” (A Critical Introduction to the New Testament by Carl Holladay [Abingdon, 2005], pp.348-349)

Heavenly Father, I come praying to you in the name of him to whom I belong, your Son, Jesus, my Lord. You have purposed for a long time, and promised for nearly as long, to bring good news into this world and my life through Him. I praise you for your perfect, penetrating work in dispensing this unspeakable, fantastic gift. Pure grace, it is! You, in your absolute holiness, have waded off into my anything-but-holy ways and have brought your very Spirit of life to me in the midst of my diseased ways. Through Jesus you have entered into my very own bondage, death, and have bursts its bonds. How could it be that you love me, or the rest of this world, so? May this great news never grow old to me and may your greatness working through it ever touch me and transform me more into your likeness. May you see fit to call me to, and use me in, your mission to speak of, and live by, this good news of yours everywhere I go. Amen.

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