The apostle Paul was preparing for a trip to Rome. He sent this letter so that the people there would understand who he was and what he believed. He thought he would be going to Rome on his way to Spain. But first, he needed to go to Jerusalem to visit the temple of God for the last time. On his way to Jerusalem several different people warned him that he would be arrested there and possibly killed. Apparently he had a premonition of his coming death. Paul had suffered much in order to tell the good news to the world. I believe he had worked out a plan whereby he would visit with the apostles in Jerusalem and then he would set his face toward Spain. I hesitate to say that he was surprised by the things that happened to him when he arrived in Jerusalem. Paul had seen many things that he had expected to be one-way that turned out totally different. He had been an active opponent of the Christian faith until he was stopped by the Lord Jesus himself on the Damascus Road. That completely changed his attitude towards the church. From that day forward he lived up to these two verses. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Paul came to faith in Christ and was immediately warned that he would suffer much for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ! He had told the Corinthians about his suffering in his second letter to them. Being a servant of Christ meant that he would face beatings, constant danger and periods of hunger and thirst. He lived with a constant concern for all the churches. (1 Corinthians 11:22-29).
While he was planning his trip to Spain he went into the temple completely innocent of anything wrong. He was recognized by some of the folks from the Province of Asia and they started a riot. Roman soldiers came and rescued him. He had said that he was willing to die in Jerusalem. I think he actually wanted to die for his Lord. I suspect that he was anticipating his death and felt robbed by the soldiers.
In order to protect him from the Jews in the temple the Roman soldiers arrested him! He might have been martyred there except for the fact that he was a Roman citizen! While he was being held for questioning his nephew came to warn him that there was a plot to kill them. 40 men had taken an oath to not eat or drink until Paul was dead. He had his nephew tell the plan to the commander of the Romans. He was immediately sent to Caesarea, with a large armed escort, which appears to have been the seat of Roman authority in the region. There he was able to give his testimony to the soldiers guarding him and to the governor himself. But he was kept in prison! Instead of going to Rome he sat in a Roman jail for two years.
When it appeared that the Romans were going to take them back to Jerusalem he exercised his rights as a Roman citizen. He demanded that he be tried by Caesar. Now finally, he was going to Rome. Not just traveling to Rome but going first class with the Roman government paying for the passage and guarding him along the way. This letter that he had sent contained all the information needed by the church in Rome and the Romans themselves.
He was not ashamed of the gospel and he wanted them to understand it. We don’t have time to read the whole letter but we can summarize parts of it that support the idea that the message Paul preached was good news. In the first chapter, aside from the theme verses, Paul tells about God’s wrath on the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Paul explained the need everyone has for justification through faith. Because, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That is bad news! Now, what is sin? Sin is anything we do that God is not pleased with. Sin is failure to obey God in action or attitude. God had given his people 10 Commandments and hundreds of laws and rules. When Jesus came onto the scene he explained the commandments. The Jewish teachers had created a large volume of rules so that they could believe they obeyed the law of God. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus pointed out that being angry with your brother makes you subject to judgment and calling someone a fool but make you subject to hell.
The law said, “You shall not commit adultery.” Jesus said that anyone who looks with lustful intent has already committed adultery in their heart. Sin is not just acting wrong. Sin is harmful and has destructive consequences. Sin ought not to be but it is and has been since the beginning.
When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden they did not only become guilty they passed their guilt on to all their unborn children even until today. The bad news, that all have sinned, is made worse by the fact that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is typical of sin in general. First, it caused mankind to doubt the truth of God. Second, their sin proclaimed that God was holding them back from what they could be. Third, their identity is taken from them. They were no longer subject to God. Satan had convinced them they would be like God. Last of all, sin makes no sense at all! James, our Lord Jesus’ brother, pointed out, So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. (James 4:17).
Paul told the Romans, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). He added -- The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
With all the bad news there is also the beginning of good news. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8).
Part of the good news is that we have been set free from the law and its punishment. We died to the law through the body of Christ (Romans 7:4). As a result…
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4). So, we are no longer subject to sin. The Spirit of God has come to live in those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Paul’s instruction to the Romans is very clear…
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Romans 10:9-11). And verse 17,so faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The faith we have received from God has given us the ability to believe.
The remainder of the book of Romans teaches how to apply the truths in chapters 1 through 11. In chapters 12-16 the marks of a true Christian is revealed.
What was the result of this letter being sent to Rome and of Paul being sent there after it? What good came out of all the bad? During his imprisonment in Rome, Paul wrote other letters. Probably, the letter to the Ephesians was one that was written in the prison in Rome. Without a doubt, in my mind, the Philippian letter was written in Rome. At the end of the letter to the Philippians, in his greetings, Paul wrote, The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. (Philippians 4:21-22). Had he bypassed Rome and gone on the Spain he could not have written those of Caesar’s household. He would not likely have met them.
This passage points backward to an event and Paul’s trip to Rome. The decision had been made to travel to Rome by ship rather than walking, or horseback. During that journey they encountered a severe storm. During that storm Paul was visited by an angel and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.” (Acts 27:24-26). Paul understood from that encounter that he could not die before he came to Rome.
Three or four years before Paul had gone up to Jerusalem realizing it probably would be his last visit. He intended to move on from Jerusalem to Spain so that he could preach the gospel to people who would not have heard it before. That was his intention and he planned accordingly. God had a different plan that involved two years in prison and shipwreck in a violent storm.
The angel had promised that Paul would go on to Rome even though he was in a ship that was doomed to be destroyed by a storm. When they grounded the ship on the island of Malta they went ashore and built a fire to dry off. In the course of building the fire Paul joined in with those who were gathering wood. As he took his load to the fire a snake came out of the bundle of wood and bit him on the hand and he shook it off in the fire. The natives recognized that this was a very poisonous snake and assumed he would die of the poison very quickly. They assumed that he was a very bad person and was being punished. When he did not die they decided that he was a god! From one extreme to another!
Have you trusted Jesus for your salvation? Today could be your day.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.