The forum was the center of the Roman government; speeches were given there, elections were and it was the focal point of a Triumphal procession. There were statues and monuments to the great, the gods and leaders of Rome. Public trials were held there in the shadows of the towering colonnades and archways.
And if the Forum was the center of government then the Circus Maximus was the center of entertainment. The Coliseum wouldn't be built for 12-13 years yet. Circus Maximus could seat 150,000 people as they watched a chariot or a horse race. They also held plays and recitals as well as gladiator events and beast hunts. Violence and blood brought the cheers of crowds. Anything less brought boos and catcalls, unless it involved sex. Sex and violence were prevalent and popular, without shame, in Rome.
There were over a million people living in Rome at the time. However many of these people weren't able to engage in the culture or entertainment. They could care less about great architecture. This is because they were the slaves that built the roads and bridges. They were the working class people. Overshadowing all that was great about Rome was a city over run with slums. There was a great cultural divide. The rich and affluent were served by the poor slaves. It was those that have and those that have not.
In the middle of all this, was a church; and what a great place for a church. The need was great. We know from Acts 2 that there were folks from Rome present during Pentecost. These could be the same folks that started this church. After Pentecost, it is likely they returned to Rome and planted a church. Imagine that, amidst all this culture and architecture, right in the middle of all this power and prestige, under the eyes of the emperors and his great armies, a small group of people met to worship the Living God.
The book of Romans was written by Paul as an open letter to the Christians in Rome. The book was written about A.D. 57 from Corinth during his 3rd missionary journey and is sometimes called the Gospel according to Paul. He had not met these people but had heard of them. It was Paul's longtime desire to go to Rome to share his message with them. God had not yet revealed to Paul that he would go to Rome. At this time, for all he knew, he would never get there. So he wrote this letter to share with them the doctrine he taught to the churches in Asia.
In appearance, the odds were against these people. How could a church even be started, let alone thrive in a place like this. Nothing about Roman life promoted or made Christian life easy. Sin was legalized and celebrated. They were com+manded to worship false gods. Immorality was everywhere and viewed as normal.
There's not much about our own culture that makes the Christian life easy. In many ways were look very much like the Roman Empire. That's why we can draw so much from the book of Romans.
The book is split basically into 2 parts: What to believe and how to behave.
© 2014 Doug Ford
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From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God