As the Romans Do

It was a day like any other day. I’d been third grade for almost a week, and it was alright. More of the same classmates, more Shirley grammar assignments, more math review before starting multiplication tables. Nothing exciting had appeared on the horizon, and it looked as if I’d simply be repeating the bland, boring life of second grade. And then it happened.

Mrs. Semple walked into our classroom, toting a stack of Level 1 Latin primers. And before you could say, “Amo, amas, amat,” I was in love.

Now I know what you are probably thinking: Why in the world would a third grader be learning Latin? At my classical Christian school, Latin was an integral part of the elementary curriculum. We started in 3rd grade and continued until 8th, when we shifted to the wonders of Logic and Critical Thinking. Oh, the syllogism-filled joy!

(Note: I realize the second question you might be asking is, “Why in the world would a third grader be giddy about learning Latin?” Rather than re-delving into my already oft-explored intellectual idiosyncrasies, I will simply direct you to my other blogs on this subject. Simply put, I’m a hopeless nerd.)

For the next five years, I thoroughly enjoyed my tri-weekly Latin classes and was truly saddened when I had to choose between Latin and German upon entering high school. Don’t worry; I got to take Latin IV my senior year. #bestclassever.

Now some of you out there are still unconvinced that Latin was worthwhile. Yes, it’s a dead language. And yes, no one speaks it anymore (that’s why it’s called a “dead language,” in case you were wondering.) But Latin really does come in handy in everyday life. If you’re taking the SAT or GRE, you’ll find Latin roots everywhere—and your score will drastically improve. Like the show Law and Order (or the movie Legally Blonde)? Understand bona fide terms like pro bono, mens rea, habeas corpus, and quid pro quo. Plus, Latin makes you look cool, albeit in a rather nerdy way. 🙂

So as you can see, the uses and applications of Latin are multifaceted and conglomerate. And because we are still using Latin, this dead language is very much alive! (Or should I say, “vivacious”?) Isn’t that magnificent? But wait; there’s more.

This week at the Kanakuk Institute, we studied the book of Romans. And although this book was written almost 2,000 years ago to a group of people who, like their native language, are now very dead, we can stilll learn so much from it today. So strap on your sandals, tighten that belt, and readjust that toga because we’re going on a quick journey through the book of Romans.

The scene opens on the apostle Paul. He’s just finished up his third missionary journey through Asia Minor and into Greece and Macedonia. The year is approximately 57 AD. A church has been growing in Rome ever since the Messianic Jewish believers returned there after experiencing Pentecost in Jerusalem. Though Paul has never personally visited the Roman church, he plans to do so soon. In the meantime, though, he decides to write them a letter explaining all the tenets of the Christian faith—the culmination of his years as a bondservant of Jesus Christ. In a sense, you could call this book his magnum opus (Latin for “great work,” of course.)

The overall outline of the letter is simple: Behavior follows belief. In other words, you have to know what you know before you can live it out. Thus, he spends the first eight chapters on belief. Like the Marines, he completely breaks down all their paradigms and rebuilds new ones. Then in the last five chapters, he explains what to do with it.

“Now wait,” you might be thinking. “Aren’t there 16 chapters in Romans? That only adds up to 13!” Yes, your math skills are exquisite; I did leave out three chapters. But don’t fret; we’ll come back to those.

Okay, so back to the beginning. Let’s break this down.

In chapter one, Paul explains a central truth: God has revealed Himself. That’s right; all of creation shows who God is, His divinity, and His unlimited power. (Don’t believe me? Visit Niagara Falls.) God also reveals His wrath. Why? Because He is completely, fully, undeniably righteous. And we are not. As the epitome of righteousness and as our Creator, God has a right to hold us to His perfect standard. But instead of choosing to submit to and obey Him, we choose to go our own way and make gods for ourselves. Result: Sin. And a general state of crappiness.

In chapter two, he addresses the Jews. Aren’t they special because they’re Jewish? No. (And yes. But we’ll get to that later.) No, they aren’t special because they have failed to keep God’s law. They’re failures. Just like the rest of us.

Chapter three: We stink. Badly. God gave the world His law to show us how to live, and we didn’t keep any of it. He’s the only righteous One. Like arrows missing the target, we’ve all fallen hopelessly and miserably short of His perfect standard. But according to His great mercy and love, He did something incredible. Instead of leaving us to wallow and decay in our sin, He sent His only Son Jesus as the payment for use. By His blood, He bought us back and redeemed us. #awesome. #understatement

Cut to chapters four and five: We are saved through faith alone! It’s only by Jesus’ sacrifice and grace that we can have a right relationship with God. Before Jesus, we were ruined by the sin born into us through Adam and Eve. But now because of Jesus, His righteousness and holiness is imputed—spread through—to us who believe. #reallyawesome #anotherunderstatement

Moving right along to Romans 6: What do we do with this grace? Keep sinning? Heck no, techno! No, instead we are continually made new through a process known as sanctification; this is a fancy word to say that God is setting us apart for Himself to be like Him. We are now dead to sin; it’s no longer our master. Instead, we are alive in Christ and free to live for Him.

Chapter 7: No more Law! According to the “power of suggestion,” the Law tempted us to sin even more. No bueno. This internal struggle of the sin nature (old self) versus the spirit (new self) continues through the process of sanctification. Paul expresses his frustration about it. #bummer

(And now for my favorite chapter in the Bible. Romans 8! Go read it for yourself! Right now!!! I mean it!)

Did you read it? Okay, good! Romans 8: Just as we are waiting to be finally made perfect and be freed from the frustration of sin, the world waits eagerly to be redeemed. Even during this in-between time, God is working powerfully. Everything happens according to His greater purpose of conforming us more and more into the image of His Son Jesus. Nothing can separate us from His love, and through Him, we can overcome anything.

Now we come to those special three chapters: 9-11. These all deal with God’s chosen people, the Jews. Paul is beyond distressed about the condition of his kinfolk. He so desperately wants them to be saved, that he would trade his own salvation for theirs. They are special in God’s sight, but they will only be saved through Jesus. He will restore Israel in due time, but right now, theJews have rejected Jesus, so Gentiles could be brought into the covenant.

How to apply all this? Let’s look at chapters 12-15. As believers, we should give ourselves fully to God as living sacrifices, ready and willing for Him to use us. We honor Him when we use our gifts for His kingdom, when we treat others with love, when we submit to His will, and when we worship Him with our entire lives and beings.

And last but not least, the end of 15 through 16: Paul concludes by telling the Romans to get ready, get set and go. Prepare to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard it. And then go do it!

So whether you’re a third grader, a Law and Order cast member, or just someone who stumbled upon this blog (no pun intended), I encourage you to carpe diem and read Romans for yourself. Examine it. Study it. Internalize it.

And then “do as the Romans do.” 😉

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