[Romans Study 1-3]
Introduction I: Romans And The Key Figures
Paul, Loyalist To God’s Love
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.” (Acts 9:3-5)
The risen Lord came to him with the most unexpected, shocking, love. Something impossible, unimaginable, and incomprehensible, within the boundary of law that he so adhered to, had just happened to him.
“Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” (Acts 9:8-9)
After the Lord called Saul, he could not see for three days, a period he spent in prayer and fasting. He must have sought an answer to this mysterious incident: ‘Lord, why do you hold on to me? Why did you come to me, who you must abhor most, who deserves to be cursed, the worst of all sinners? Why do you call this persecutor and forgive and love me?’
The law he abided by said: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” (Exodus 21:24-25) Apart from the law, something different, completely different came to him. It was unconditional love poured down on Saul, and it shattered his whole world.
The most sublime of love is forgiveness. When he was unconditionally forgiven by the Lord, he did not take this love for granted.
Fully meditating on this electrifying, heart-trembling love, he laid down all his past, never making light of this surprising love; not even once did he forsake this love, through the last moment of his life. Since this conversion, he, as a faithful, loyal servant of the Lord, preached the love of God until he returned back to Him.
This man undoubtedly was one of the great intellectual minds, not only of the church but also of the world. Unmistakable is Paul’s tremendous reasoning power, his logic, his arguments, and the way in which he marshals evidence and facts, and then presents them.
To be sure, Paul is a theological teacher and thinker, who deeply understood the riches of this new world of truth. But he was not satisfied with these internal abundances and enlightenment. More importantly, he lived the life, the life of the Gospel. He practiced the word of the Gospel. His words that testify to the love and redemption of Christ, therefore, are testimonies of his life, so shining and powerful as his own life. He is one whom we cannot follow without having our whole lives set in motion.
Paul’s background represented the height of intellectual, political, and religious standards of the time. He was immersed in the richness of Greek culture, held citizenship in the Empire of Rome, and was a Jew by birth. He was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Pharisee of the Pharisees, an expert in the Jewish understanding and interpretation of the law of God.
How did this proud, highly intellectual, precise, and perfectly lawful person end up preaching the love of God?
It was God’s love itself that transformed Saul. Because of God’s love, Saul of Tarsus became Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles.
1. Share your reflection on the Epistle to the Romans based on today’s study.
2. How would you describe Paul based on today’s study.
3. Today’s study includes amazing life-transforming stories of a few eminent figures in the history of Christianity. After their conversions, the power of the Holy Spirit was surely present with them in their mighty work of God. However, it is vital to know that the Holy Spirit does not work undistinguishing in the same way to all men; He does not dictate to all men. “What the Holy Spirit does is to take these men with all their gifts and power and use them and employ them. … The Holy Spirit takes the men who have surrendered themselves to Him and He uses all the gifts with which they are endued. It was God who gave them these gifts. It was God who saw to it that Paul was born in Tarsus. It was God’s way of preparing him. He had a task for him. And so you see the glory of God shining out in all this.” Reflect on your personality and discuss how your gifts can be used for God’s purpose.
Thank you for leading us to this Bible study on the Epistle to the Romans. We have realized that this Epistle had the power to sustain the history of Christian Church and has furnished the fire to the weary souls and transformed them to be mighty warriors of Christ.
Lord, we thank you for letting us study your great minister, Apostle Paul. You used Paul and his talents so preciously and tremendously once he surrendered to your unconditional love. Surely your glory was shining out in Paul’s life.
We, too, wish to know your love and therefore surrender to you. May you take control of our lives and use the gifts that you endowed in creating us. As no two flowers are alike, no two birds are identical, we too in our own way wish to display your glory.
As we embark on this journey of discovering your Gospel through this study, open our eyes that we may see wonderful things in your word. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.
Republished with permission from Dr. Christy Tran, the author of “The Epistle to the Romans: Paul’s Love Letter from God.”