I have the current bulletin series on hold at the moment due to my being gone all last week to class in Texas. I want to share some insights I gained last week in our discussion and reading about the application of the message of Romans.
Most treatments of Romans are heavily influenced by a Lutheran view of Romans, which views it merely as a "Compendium of all Christian Doctrine." Without going into details all the problems with this view, let me just point out that s every one of Paul's letters have a situation behind them that prompted the writing of that letter. Romans is no exception.
We now know more than we have about the situation of the Roman church. Among the Jews of Rome, there were riots instigated by "Chrestus" (probably a misspelling for "Christos," that is, Christ). Civil unrest among Jews due to the preaching of the Gospel was nothing new. Jews, Jewish Christians, and Gentiles Christians were a volatile mix in the synagogue, so Claudius outlawed Jews meeting in their synagogues. Eventually, Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome, which included Christian Jews since they were not yet distinguished from each other. That left behind only the gentile Christians, who were now meeting in homes.
When Claudius died, the Jews began to return. What they found was a thriving gentile church meeting in homes. Paul mentions at least five in chapter 16. The way a Jewish Christian served God and the way a Gentile served were quite different from each other. Even though there was no longer any open strife in the Roman church, there was division and contempt.
Paul had already preached everywhere in the east, and was now setting his sights on the west, namely, Spain. He wanted the church in Rome to help him in his mission to Spain (15:24). But the church in Rome would not be able to if they were splintered. They needed to be unified.
This is the situation when Paul writes Romans. His goal was to unify the Roman church in spite of their differences. The solution? A treatment of the theme: "The Righteousness of God (Rom 1:17)."
The message of Romans is: God is righteous, and therefore does not show favoritism, but justifies ALL (Jew AND Gentile) on the basis of faith in Christ, and not by works of law. Every chapter is an expansion or a practical application of this message. The highpoint of Paul's practical application is love and acceptance of one another even has Christ accepts us (13:8 - 15:13). Righteous God accepted the service of both Jew and Gentile even though they had differing (but sincere) convictions. Therefore, the Roman Christians should also accept each other.
Paul recognized that there would be those who would never accept this, so he concludes with the instruction to keep an eye on and turn away from those who cause dissensions contrary to what he had just taught them (16:17). If not, Paul knew that they would hinder the mission of the church.
Romans has a very important and practical message that should enable any church to move forward with the mission of Christ.