Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome can be called many things. Clearly, this became his magnum opus. It is the first systematic theology of the Christian faith. This letter may be considered the believer’s constitution—the Christian Magna Carta. We might even call it a manifesto of the new kingdom, for it not only declares our essential beliefs, it establishes our agenda as Christ’s disciples. But more than anything, the words Paul and his amanuensis, Tertius, penned twenty centuries ago are no less than the revealed Word of God. Through human agency, the Almighty Creator has breathed out, revealing a grand plan.
“The plan of salvation” outlined in this letter to Christians living in first-century Rome has more than the rescue of individuals in view. The plan of God is more than a mere fire escape through which a few find safety from the flames of eternal punishment. This grand plan—of which all are invited to become a part—is nothing less than the Creator’s intention to bring His creation back under divine dominion, to cleanse it of evil, to redeem, reclaim, and renovate the universe so that it, again, reflects His glory. The plan of salvation is good news to each individual, but the greater news is the return of God’s righteousness to its rightful place in the world. Some day in the future, Christ will tear the veil between heaven and earth, and the righteousness of God will sweep the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2) from his stolen throne, and will again rule over creation. This future is inevitable because God’s plan is unstoppable.
In the meantime, the righteousness of God lives in the hearts of those who have received His grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, each individual reading Paul’s letter to the Romans must answer two questions. First, will you allow God’s transformation of the world to begin with you? As Paul will explain, this is not an invitation to try harder, but a plea to submit to His grace before it’s too late. Second, if the righteousness of God lives within you now, will you keep it hidden? If you lack knowledge, read on. The book of Romans will explain all you need to know. If you lack courage, this exhortation from an intrepid apostle to a beleaguered church in first-century Rome will revive and reinvigorate your confidence.
Whatever your situation, wherever you happen to be in your spiritual journey, I am convinced that the time you invest in a careful study of this letter will change you forever. This has been true of generations past, and the power of God’s Word has not diminished over time. As you read, the Holy Spirit has pledged to provide whatever you lack. You need only believe His promise. If you submit to these truths, then you too will discover, as did Paul, that “the righteous [one] shall live by faith” (1:17).
Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Romans, Swindoll’s New Testament Insights (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 19–20.
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