Travel back in time with me. Let’s go back to the winter of AD 57. We’re at a narrow land bridge between mainland Greece and the Peloponnese, where a Roman city rakes in fortunes from heavy-laden ships and cash-heavy tourists. Outside the city, in the home of a wealthy and hospitable Christian named Gaius, two men discuss a scroll. One paces the room, pouring out his thoughts to the other, who sits at a large table, taking copious notes.

The speaker walks with a deliberate strength, although his shoulders are rounded and a noticeable hitch interrupts his gait. His arms and face bear the marks of wind, sun, age, and mistreatment. His fingers are knotted and curled and fused in an unnatural angle, the telltale sign of multiple stonings. You would expect that a body such as this would contain a broken, demoralized spirit, but the eyes reveal something different. They flash with energy and sparkle with the optimism of a teenager about to get his driver’s license.

The city is Corinth. The one pacing the floor is Paul; his amanuensis at the table, Tertius. The document they are preparing will eventually become the apostle’s letter to the church in Rome, the most significant piece of literature the Lord would ever commission His most prolific evangelist to write. Little does Paul or anyone realize the impact it will have through the centuries to come. From [Origen of Alexandria] in the [third century] to Barnhouse of Philadelphia in the twentieth, countless theologians will pen innumerable pages of exposition and meditation from the apostle’s magnum opus. Augustine will find the seed plot of his faith in this letter. This document will spark a revolution in the heart of Martin Luther, who will reintroduce the truth of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—a doctrine all but obscured by the dogma of men who stood to profit from a false gospel of works. It will ignite the mind of Jonathan Edwards, strangely warm the heart of John Wesley, and fuel the revival fire of George Whitefield.

Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Romans, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 10–14.

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