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The book of Romans
Seneca was as statesman and philosopher.  He was an acting adviser to Nero.  His philosophy was that there was a spark of good in every man.  Yet Seneca called Rome "a cesspool of iniquity".   Seneca was later forced to commit suicide by Nero for suspicion in a plot to assassinate him.  Later, Juvenal, a writer and poet, called Rome a "filthy sewer into which the dregs of the empire flood."  Yet, Rome was the center of power, the center of the world at the time.  Imagine being a Christian in Rome in 57A.D.  Rome was a great city and the capital of the great Roman Empire.  It was the center of all that was important at the time: architecture, poetry, music, law, warfare, art, literature, technology and language.  They built buildings, roads and bridges that are still marveled at today. 

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.

Originally published in 2009.  Revised and updated in last quarter of 2014 and first quarter of 2015. 

© 2014 Doug Ford

No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Greeting; The desire to visit Rome; The just shall live by faith; God's wrath on unrighteousness.
2014 revision.
God's righteous judgment; The Jews guilty as the gentiles; Circumcision to no Avail;
God's Judgment defended; All Have Sinned; God's Righteousness Through Faith; Boasting Excluded.
Abraham justified by faith; David celebrates the same truth; Abraham justified before circumcision; the Promis granted through faith.
Faith triumphs in trouble; Christ in our place; Death in Adam, life in Christ.
Dead to sin; alive to God
From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God
Freed from the law; Sin's Advantage in the Law; Law cannot save from sin.
Free from indwelling sin; Sonship through the Spirit; From suffering to glory; God's everlasting love.
Israel's rejection of Christ; God's purpose in the rejection; Israel's rejection and God's justice; Present condition of Israel.
Israel needs the gosple; Israel rejects the gospel.