“This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.” Romans 1:1
Paul’s letter to the Romans is a kind of Christian manifesto. To be sure, it is also a letter, whose contents were determined by the particular situations in which the apostle and the Romans found themselves at that time. Nevertheless, it remains a timeless manifesto, a manifesto of freedom through Jesus Christ. It is the fullest, plainest and grandest statement of the gospel in the New Testament. Its message is not that ‘man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains, it is rather that human beings are born in sin and slavery, but that Jesus Christ came to set us free. For here is unfolded the good news of freedom, freedom from the holy wrath of God upon all ungodliness, freedom from alienation into reconciliation, freedom from the condemnation of God’s law, freedom from the dark little dungeon of our own ego, freedom from the fear of death, freedom one day from the decay of the groaning creation into the glorious liberty of God’s children, and meanwhile freedom from ethnic conflict in the family of God, and freedom to give ourselves to the loving service of God and others.
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. Calvin wrote, ‘if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture’. The same appreciation of Romans was expressed by British Reformers. William Tyndale, the father of English Bible translators, in his prologue to Romans, described it as ‘the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, that is to say, glad tidings … and also a light and a way in unto the whole Scripture’. He went on to urge his readers to learn it by heart. For, he assured them, ‘the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is’. As we go on this journey through the Book of Romans, please be in prayer that we all will come to a greater understanding of God and His Good News.