Summary: Can God be trusted? Yes, because He was, always is, and always will be true to his nature and true to his word.
In the spring of 1941, Hitler launched a plan to murder every Jew in Europe. It was called the "final solution".
Hitler believed that the Aryan race was superior to all others; and he believed the Jewish race to be inferior to all others. I think we all have a desire to believe we are superior to others - whether in the things we believe, the amount we earn, how we think, what we eat, and how we act - anything that will set our minds to believe we are better than someone else.
Hitler’s "Final Solution" was a systematic programme of "ethnic cleansing" where almost six million Jews left this world for the last time. That act is absolutely mind numbing. And yet the same type of thing has happened repeatedly since then, and is happening today on lesser scales:
- In the Sudan one and a half million have died in the last 20-or-so years due to a mistaken belief that oil fields are of greater value than human life.
- Or how about Rwanda in 1994 where the farming Hutu’s tried to annihilate their cattle-owning Tutsi neighbours where 500,000 were killed in a ten-week period.
- Maybe Palestine and Israel because land and national pride are seen as supreme over human rights and value.
- Afghanistan - where more civilians have been killed in the last six months than the number killed when the World Trade Centre collapsed. That suggests that an American life is worth more than an Afghan one.
- There’s also Somalia, Romania, Zaire, Burma, East Timor, Ambon, Bosnia, Northern Ireland.
You may think I’m over-simplifying things. Maybe so, but if I don’t, then I can’t understand it. But all of these huge tragedies boil down to the fact that one group of people think that their beliefs and wants are so much more important that someone else’s and they are prepared to kill for them. They are all based on conceit. And they highlight and perfectly demonstrate on a global scale Paul’s words in Romans 3:10-11 quoting from the Psalms and Proverbs - "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God."
In the timelessness of eternity, God launched a plan to rescue those who are righteous before him. It is the real "final solution".
Today we’re continuing to look at the totality of God’s plan of salvation written about in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We’re looking at chapter 11, but as we grapple with parts of it, we need to establish the context in which the letter was written, why it was written and how it was written.
The first grappling hook is to look at the church in Rome - its demographics and history. As you can imagine, most of the early converts to Christianity were Jews. This was the case until after Pentecost when the Apostles were dispersed from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth [Acts 1:8]. Rome would have been one of the later ports of call in that dispersion. Many of the Christians in Rome would initially have been Jewish, but that had changed over time. We can assume that by this time - around 55-57AD or 25 years after Pentecost, the majority of the Christians in Rome were gentiles, but with Jewish converts still making up a significant minority of believers (much like men in the church today - a minority, but with our presence still felt).
2. Reasons Paul wrote
Our second hook is to reiterate why Paul wrote to the Romans. The primary reason is because he wants to minister to them and to be ministered to by them [1:11-12]. As the God-appointed "Apostle to the Gentiles", he wants to glorify God by sharing fellowship and encouragement with converted Jews and Gentiles together. His plan is to take the collection from the Macedonian churches to Jerusalem and then visit Rome on his way to Spain. He is thus fostering prayer support for his continuing journeys. [15:23-32]
3. Structure of Romans
The third hook is to quickly review the structure of the letter to the Romans. The letter is broadly divided into three parts being chapters 1 through 8, which deal primarily with the righteousness from God and the saving work of Jesus. This key idea is summarised in verses 16 and 17 of chapter 1: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’" This righteousness is contrasted to the sin which we all display.