To walk the Roman road is to walk with the Apostle Paul. Not always the most pleasant of company but one who will always make you consider your spiritual state. He told us the kind of company that he would be in a letter he wrote two years previous, “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Co 11:1) As we reacquaint ourselves, preparing to embark on this journey, the apostle is quick to help us in finding the proper attitude: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus.”
We step onto the Roman road not as conquerors ready to declare the edicts of the king. Rather, we start the journey as servants. I find this to be an incredible opening statement for such a rich theological book, especially a book that has been the foundation of so much of the church’s belief and practice for the past two millennia. Paul does not set out to provide a systematic theology meant to be the standard for the church age. Instead, he sets out on a heartfelt mission to declare the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ and its all-encompassing span. Keen students of the Bible will take note of this attitude and it will affect the way in which we hear everything that follows.
A servant brings no message of his own but relays what his master has told him. We know from experience Paul’s heart for Israel and we recognize this will color some of the more impassioned pleas. The gospel underpinnings, on the other hand, are not emotionally recorded but spiritually inspired. The tension between these two voices in the letter contribute to its power.
As I read–as we read—we’re initially called to examine our own attitude with regard to the gospel. Have we lost the awe of what Christ has done on our behalf? Is the gospel become a battleground over which we divided theologically rather than a gift of God given to be shared to the very ends of the earth? I’m humbled to remember moments where I have stood in the camp of the latter or, in my busyness, taking the former for granted. Quietly reconsidering a portion of the letter often dismissed to get to the “meat” I’m deeply grateful that the spirit has slowed me down to consider my worthiness to walk with Paul down this road to Rome.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 1:1 – 7