Paul therefore wrote a lengthy, comprehensive epistle to that congregation, preserving for us a brilliant work of theology.
What does Romans say?
* All have sinned and need a Savior.
* God is faithful to his covenant to save his people
* God justifies his people by faith in his Son, the Messiah of prophecy
* God gives his Holy Spirit to lead us into righteous living
* God is sovereign
(I know this is woefully inadequate as a summary, but I’m not trying to write a commentary, just remind you generally of what the first several chapters deal with.)
We finally get to chapter 12, where Paul says,
(Rom 12:1) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.
“Therefore, … in view of God’s mercy” refers to all that’s gone before: In light of what we’ve just learned about God’s grace given through faith in Jesus …
And thus begins four chapters on practical Christian living. Paul tells us —
* To use our gifts in service to God — with an emphasis on those gifts that help build up the local congregation: showing mercy, encouragement, leadership …
* To love each other with a white hot intensity
* To love because love fulfills all the Law
* To bear with the weak and the strong without looking down on our brothers or judging them
* To accept each other as God has accepted us
Notice that the lessons of chapters 12 – 15 are the natural consequence of chapters 1 – 11. We cannot understand how very much grace and love we must extend to one another until we understand how very much grace and love God has extended to us. Romans is a commentary on Jesus’ Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
Incredibly, we take the lessons on grace in the first 11 chapters and fight and divide over them, as though Paul had never written chapters 12 – 15, when in fact chapters 12 – 15 are the point of the book.
You see, Paul was urgently trying to build unity through his teaching, not by creating new issues to divide over but by explaining that the direction of all the lessons — the sin of Adam, the covenant with Abraham, God’s election of Israel and the church, the promised Holy Spirit — it’s all for the purpose of creating a united Kingdom of loving people — who get along even when they don’t always agree. Miss that point, and you’ve missed the whole book.
What’s not in Romans
In composing his masterpiece of theology, writing to a church he’d never visited, Paul doesn’t —
* Address the order of worship
* Address elders and deacons
* Address the name of the church (the “churches of Christ salute you” is not about the name of the church. Rather, “of Christ” is about to whom the churches belong.)
* Address how to raise money or support missionaries
You see, Paul seems to think that the most important thing he could teach the church in Rome was about the grace of God and how that grace teaches us to be gracious to each other.