You may already know that the apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was originally known as Saul of Tarsus. He was a Jewish rabbi and part of the ultra-holy group known as the Pharisees. Saul of Tarsus believed Christians were worthless and was happy to see them persecuted. Then one day Saul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus. As a result, Saul made a complete transformation and was appointed by Jesus as an evangelist to the Gentiles. Previously, only Jewish people were being converted to followers of Jesus. Now Saul of Tarsus would be known by his Roman name, Paul, and proudly carry out the duties assigned to him by Jesus and begin converting non-Jewish people knows as Gentiles to Christianity.
Paul was a man of great courage. Most Jewish people had a hard time accepting Jesus as the messiah they had been waiting for. The messiah was supposed to usher in a new kingdom, but this did not happen with Jesus. Therefore, Paul suffered ridicule from many Jews; and most Gentiles simply believed the story of Christ was foolishness. So Paul suffered from ridicule from many Gentiles as well. But Paul’s personal experience with Jesus Christ fueled a passion that could not be contained or slowed by rampant disbelief.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 (NIV)
Paul had plans to return to Rome and establish it as his home base, but there was a problem. The church in Rome had become divided. The Jewish followers of Jesus were still dedicated to the old Jewish rituals like keeping the Sabbath, eating kosher foods, and circumcision. However the Gentile followers of Jesus did not accept those rituals as part of Christianity. As a result, before his return to Rome, Paul sent the Christian church there a long letter detailing the teachings of Jesus. This is one of the most important books of the Bible, because it is a comprehensive outline of the foundations of the Christian faith.
Paul’s letter is known as the book of Romans. This is not a difficult book to read and understand; however, it is so packed with information you would be well advised to slow down and take your time digesting each chapter. This is a book about the righteousness of God, how God rescues the world through Jesus; and most importantly, this is a story about unity.
“I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.” Romans 1:14-15 (NIV)
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