EXCERPT AND INTRODUCTION
This morning, this moment, we are standing together down at the end of a long valley looking up through the clouds toward the incomparable heights of our ultimate destination. That destination is a heart comprehension of Paul’s letter to the Romans. And though that description is figurative, this is one of those rare times when the extended metaphor or analogy actually holds. The reason it holds is because any study of Romans is a difficult, arduous, and dangerous task and because the Epistle to the Romans is without question, the Everest of the Bible.
Now let me ask you, “Does that language seem too dramatic? Does it sound like a used car salesman trying to pitch some high-priced lemon? Does it sound like some egg headed professor trying to promote a class that he knows otherwise will go unfilled?” If it does, consider this for a moment. There have been more commentaries written on Paul’s Epistle the Romans than on any other book of the Bible. In fact, one commentator I read argued that Romans is the single most studied, most written about document in western civilization. Now there is a really good reason for that. Listen for a moment to what Martin Luther (1522 AD), the great German reformer, wrote in his preface to the Epistle to the Romans:
This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes. Now think about how Luther said what he said…
…it’s the chief part of the New Testament.
…it’s the purest gospel.
…it ought to be studied every day.
…it ought, in fact, to be memorized.
…the more you study it the better it gets.
Now Luther’s evaluation may be true or it may be false but the fact that he said it that way and said it so passionately ought to cause us to stop for a moment and listen. That is especially true since William Tyndale, the great English Reformer, came along four years later (1526 AD) and said almost exactly the same thing:
Forasmuch as this epistle is the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, and most pure Euangelion,…and…a light and a way in unto the whole scripture, I think it meet that every Christian man not only know it by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man…can read it too often or study it too well: for the more it is studied the easier it is, the more it is chewed the pleasanter it is, and the more deeply it is mined the more precious the things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein…
Now I love that, but I was surprised by what Tyndale says near the end of his prologue:
Wherefore it appears evident, that Paul’s mind was to comprehend briefly in this epistle the whole learning of Christ’s gospel, and to prepare an introduction unto all the Old Testament. For without doubt whosoever hath this epistle perfectly in his heart…hath the light and the effect of the Old Testament with him.
Do you get that? Not only did Tyndale agree with Luther that Romans…
…is the principal part of the New Testament.
…is pure good news.
…its a light to the whole of Scripture.
…ought, in fact, to be memorized.
…ought to be studied continually.
But he also thought that Romans to be …
…the key to understanding the OT.
Now let me ask you a question, “Should we pay attention to Luther, Tyndale and Calvin when they say that Romans is the heart of the Bible? Should we listen to them when they say that a knowledge of Romans is essential to the development of Christian maturity? Should we listen to them even though the modern church seems largely indifferent to Romans?”
I think the answer to that is, “Yes.”
Introduction to Romans
Romans 1:1-7 – Part 1
Romans 1:1-7 – Part 1
Romans 1:1-7 – Part 2