Reading Plan for Days 50 to 56:
Sunday, 2/26: Acts 25-26
Monday, 2/27: Acts 27-28
Tuesday, 2/28: Romans 1-3
Wednesday, 3/01: Romans 4-5
Thursday, 3/02: Romans 6-8
Friday, 3/03: Romans 9-10
Saturday, 3/04: Romans 11-13
Some Introductory Comments:
Paul and the New Testament Epistles
Of the 27 books of the New Testament, 21 of them are letters, and of these 13 are attributed by content or tradition to Paul. Indeed, it has often and very rightly been said that the majority of our understanding of Christian faith and theology comes to us through the writings and influence of the Apostle Paul.
We should note that it was not Paul’s interest or aim to create a systematic theology for Christians (though the letter to the Romans, Paul’s most theologically articulate, might come close). Rather, he was a pastor-preacher responding to specific communities and specific issues. As noted scholar Raymond Brown shares in his textbook Introduction to the New Testament:
There is a somewhat different tone and emphasis to each [letter], corresponding to what Paul perceived as the needs of the respective community at a particular time. This fact should make us cautious about generalizations in reference to Pauline theology. Paul was not a systematic theologian but an evangelizing preacher, giving strong emphasis at a certain moment to one aspect of faith in Jesus, at another moment to another aspect – indeed to a degree that may seem to us inconsistent.
Each letter of Paul’s then is to a particular community with particular issues or needs. (We will be discussing the backgrounds to these communities and letters in our Wednesday evening Bible Study.)
Introduction To Romans
I wanted to note here that it was during a Bible Study that was reading Martin Luther’s Preface to the Letter to the Romans that Anglican Priest (and founder of the Methodists) John Wesley experienced a dramatic moment of awakening, wherein he felt his “heart strangely warmed.” This is a foundational example in our Methodist tradition of how the reading of Scripture can inspire and transform people!
Romans was likely written by Paul while he was in the community of Corinth, so probably during the years 55 to 56AD. Of all his letters, Romans is the most comprehensive statement of Paul’s understanding of the gospel and Christian faith, and comes close to a “systematic theology” (an intentionally organized statement of faith). Unlike the other letters, Romans is written to a church and community of Christians that Paul did not found and had not yet visited, though according to Acts he does end up in Rome at the end of his life.
Blessed reading to you this week! Please post any comments, insights, or questions you might have in the comments section below.