Joy, Peace, and Hope for Everybody – An Introduction to Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Study of Romans, Part 1: Romans 1:1–17)

Key Thought: Joy, Peace, and Hope are possible through reconnecting with God through the good news about Jesus

Joy. Peace. Hope. Aren’t these what all of us want? 1,900 years ago, a Christian missionary named Paul wrote to the new church in the city of Rome, Italy. At the end of this letter, he wrote a blessing or a benediction. In this blessing, he said, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (15:13). This blessing expresses what He wants to see happen in the people He is writing to. He wants them to experience joy, peace, and hope.

Just think about this for a moment. What if we were the type of person who was filled with joy, peace, and hope? What would it be like to have hope for good things no matter what happened? What would it be like if the disappointments in the world could not shake us from a place of joy and peace? That’s what the missionary Paul wanted for the people in his life, indeed, for people all over the world. He dared to dream that joy, hope, and peace could be realities.

How We Get Joy, Peace, and Hope
He also had a very distinct idea of the types of things that would get people there. The main thing was a focus on God. He wanted them to enjoy the blessing of praising and glorifying God. That is generally the missing ingredient that keeps us from joy and peace. We are made to glorify and enjoy God. When we have God in our sights, every other problem, even if it is real, seems a bit smaller. The people who cause us trouble seem a little bit smaller.

But that doesn’t mean that people don’t matter. His blessing or hope was that people would not only glorify God but do it together. He had a sense that humans were made for each other and meant to work together. Humans can do amazing things when they work together, and they are made to work together. That’s the goal for human beings: joy and peace flowing from a focus on God and harmonious working together.

On every point here, the Christian missionary Paul knew that this is not how things generally were. People are filled with grief rather than joy, worry rather than peace, despair rather than hope. They don’t think much about God, and they often don’t work well together.

So, what is to be done? That’s the message that Paul had to share with the world. He called His message the “Gospel.” The Gospel just means an announcement. In the ancient world it referred to an announcement of a victory, the birth of a prince, or a new king.

The Gospel was all those things. It was an announcement of a new King and a victory that would bring us back to joy, peace, and hope. That King’s name was Jesus. Jesus was a Jew who was born 2,000 years ago. He preached and taught about God and what He called God’s Kingdom. He claimed to be God’s promised Savior of the world and indeed in a mysterious way, the very equal of God and the Son of God. Then, the Roman government put Him to death.

That would just be a strange and peculiar story, if something else had not happened. His disciples said that He rose from the dead. That’s what He had told His followers. He said He would be put to death and come back to life. And He pulled it off.

Paul and the Gospel
Originally, Paul did not believe that at all. In fact, He tried to jail and even put to death those who believed what Jesus said about Himself. Then, one day He showed up in Damascus, Syria saying that Jesus was everything He said He was. From there, He went all over the world founding communities or churches that would believe the same.

What happened? Paul said that he was on the way to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus and there Jesus appeared to Him and spoke to Him from heaven. He was so convinced of this that he never looked back and even gave up his life for the sake of this truth.

Paul, the unbeliever, had become a believer that Jesus was the one that could get people back to glorifying God and living together in harmony and fill them with joy, peace, and hope forever.
That’s what Paul writes about in this letter. Remember that this letter is a letter. It’s not a book written in the abstract. It is a letter written in a particular context.

This book was written to the Roman Christians. Paul had never met them. He had been working for a long time in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire. He felt that his work there was done. He wanted to go to the Western part, to Spain in particular. On his way there, he wanted to stop by Rome. He wanted their support and prayers. In a way, Romans is a sort of missionary fundraising letter.

In this letter, Paul explains what he taught all the churches. He wanted to encourage them and wanted them to know what he taught. Of all his letters, this one is the least specific and most general. In that way, it is extremely applicable to us. It does not deal with specific issues in specific churches. It deals with the general issues of humanity and how they are answered in the message about Jesus.

Try to put all this into the context of Paul’s blessing at the end. How do we become people filled with joy, peace, and hope who glorify God and do it in harmony with other people? That’s what this letter is all about. Second, remember that this is a missionary letter. He wants everybody to experience the joy, peace, and hope that come from the Gospel. That should be our focus, too, just as it was that of the Apostle Paul. We should want joy, peace, and hope for everybody.

Questions and Advice for Building Your Own Outline for an Introduction to Romans

  1. Use the benedictions to explain the purpose of this letter and the purpose of the Gospel. What are the five blessings Paul wants people to receive?
  2. What is the means that Paul believes will enable people to become the people His blessing says that they should be?
  3. What did Jesus claim about Himself? What makes His claim plausible?
  4. What is the story of the Apostle Paul and how does it confirm the message about Jesus?
  5. What type of literature is Romans? Who did he write it to? What was the purpose?
  6. How does the missionary focus affect how we read the letter?

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How are you doing at feeling joy, peace, and hope? What do you think is the way to get to a better place?
  2. Do you think you are glorifying God moment by moment? What does this look for you?
  3. How are your relationships with other people? Can you continue relating to other people when things get tough? Can you help people work to get to a better place?

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