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Devotion for February 01, 2006


In the preface to his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Martin Luther wrote: “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament. It is purest Gospel. It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul. It is impossible to read or to meditate on this letter too much or too well. The more one deals with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”

All Scripture has been given by God for our edification and encouragement, and the book of Romans certainly has a wealth of theological and practical teaching. Numerous people have come to faith through reading Romans, and countless believers have had their faith increased through studying it. As Luther said, one cannot meditate on its message too much or too well. Addressed to believers who inhabited the most important city in the ancient world, Romans displays the power of the gospel. Probably written during the three months that Paul spent in Greece while on his way to Jerusalem, it expresses his longing to visit Rome (vv. 8–10; cf. Acts 20:2–3).

Given Rome’s strategic place in the ancient world, it is worth noting that the gospel did not come there through the ministry of an apostle or even as the result of a targeted evangelistic campaign, but through the witness of believers who visited the city in the course of their business. It soon became the location of a vibrant church. The presence of Jews and Gentiles in the Roman church was a source of strength but also produced some tension. One of Paul’s goals in writing this letter was to address some of the theological and practical questions that had arisen as a result of differences between these two groups of worshipers. This book is a portrait of the gospel’s power to forgive and transform, and it outlines obligations that are part of the Christian life.

Apply the Word

As we begin our study of the book that Martin Luther described as “the purest gospel,” it is appropriate to take the reformer’s advice and meditate on its key verse, also our verse for today. Memorize and spend some time meditating on Romans 1:16. If you have trouble memorizing, try writing out the verse on a three-by-five card and carry it around with you. Keep it in your pocket and review it when you have a few spare moments during the day.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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