The Significance of Romans

To all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
–Romans 1:7

The book of Romans is one of the most significant books of the Bible. It is the first letter in the New Testament. The reason it is the first New Testament letter is not because it was written first chronologically but because the early church considered it the letter of primary importance. Most of the revivals in the history of Christianity were sparked by a study of the book of Romans.

First, consider the conversion of Augustine in the late 300s. Augustine was a professor in Milan, Italy, but he lived an immoral life. One day he was in the park, weeping, when he heard schoolchildren singing, “Take up and read.” Augustine decided to act on those words. He went back to his apartment, and beside his bed was the book of Romans. As he opened that scroll, his eyes fell on Romans 13:13-14: “Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Augustine later said, “Instantly, as the sentence ended . . . all the gloom of doubt vanished away.”

More than 1,000 years after Augustine, a monk named Martin Luther was teaching the book of Romans at the University of Wittenberg. As he read Romans over and over, he became convinced that righteousness is not earned by works but by God’s grace. He said, “I had greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans, and nothing stood in the way but that one expression: ‘the righteousness of God.’ . . . Night and day I pondered until . . . I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise.” The book of Romans sparked the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s.

More than 200 years later, in 1738, a minister named John Wesley wrote in his journal: “In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society at Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” It was the book of Romans that worked in John Wesley’s heart and caused him to begin a movement that eventually reached millions of people with the gospel.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Romans: Grace-Powered Living” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Augustine, “Confessions” (Newberry, FL: Bridge Logos, 2003), 214. Martin Luther, “Gesamtausgaben seiner lateinischen Schriften” (Wittenberg, 1545), quoted in F. F. Bruce, “Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 471. John Wesley, quoted in Christian History Magazine Staff, “131 Christians Everyone Should Know” (Nashville: Holman Reference, 2000), 182.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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