Not Ashamed of the Gospel
Open Your Bible
Romans 1:1-17, Psalm 40:9-10, Mark 8:34-38
Take a minute to put yourself in first-century sandals as a part of the Christian community in Rome. Think about the struggles, persecutions, and the day-in and day-out challenges of growing the Church in a world that opposed the new message of Jesus.
Now picture gathering in a friend’s main room with other believers. It’s a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ who have different backgrounds, wounds, experiences, and convictions than you, but the same faith. Your group has gotten word from a faithful leader who has been doing gospel work in cities far and wide. Paul, the persecutor-turned-radical disciple, has sent a letter to the believers in Rome. So you gather together to hear what he has to say. And sitting there, in a room of women, men, slaves, Roman citizens, immigrants, and poor and wealthy believers, a faithful benefactor and sister in the faith, Phoebe, shares with you all words of rich, gospel reminders.
Where we might read Romans today as a robust theological treatise, full of ten dollar spiritual words, the Christians in Rome would have experienced this letter from Paul as practical encouragement born out of theological truth. The diverse gatherings of believers in Rome had challenges, just like any church of its day or ours. Jewish and Gentile Christians weren’t on the same page about how their faith played out in practice. Did the Gentiles have to conform to the law? How were both groups going to coexist with different understandings of how to live out their faith?
Paul’s words of encouragement about the salvation and grace of Jesus Christ are a reminder that even the most unlikely people can experience radical unity. We discover in Romans that, when we keep the main things the main things, those differences don’t have to divide us. The points on which we build our faith are the aspects that unify us. After all, every one of us is a former prisoner who has been set free because of Christ. All who claim Jesus for salvation stand in His righteousness, His sacrifice, and His grace extended to unworthy sinners.
So come to the book of Romans with fresh eyes for the journey ahead. Imagine what it would have been like to sit and hear Phoebe share these words from Paul of grace, truth, and challenge from Paul. Remember in this reading of Romans the good news for you that is the gospel of Jesus—the freedom and new life that we get to live out because of it. I pray it sinks into our bones, informing and infusing every corner of our lives as we walk in faith.