When we think of how amazing grace is, we cannot help avoid. It’s glorious. Philip Yancey one time noted,
As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside. I’ve found that words tend to spoil over the years like old meat. … I keep circling back to grace because it is one grand theological word that has not spoiled. I call it “the last best word” because every English usage I can find retains some of the glory of the original. 
The word ‘grace’ is used in numerous ways. Someone who maintains an air of elegance and charm is said have ‘grace.’ Yet we need to go back to “the glory of the original” for sure and see why grace is so very much amazing!
To this end, we approach Paul’s glorious epistle to the church in Rome and shall spend this Wednesday and the next six or so covering Paul’s magnum opus. Paul wrote this epistle around A.D. 57, just six or seven years prior to his death at the hands of Emperor Nero. Paul had never visited this church. In Romans 1:10-13, Paul shares his heart by telling the Roman church that they were:
…always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles (Romans 1:10-13).
Even at the end of his letter, he was longing to see them on his way to Spain — possibly using the Roman church as a base of operations as he ministered in what is now Western Europe.
The Roman church was filled with both Jewish and Gentile believers, which explains why he spends so much time showing where they both stood before God. More on this in a moment. But the question arises: “Why did Paul write Romans?” Look with me at Romans 1:16-17 to see the central theme of this entire letter:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (ESV).
This book is about the righteousness of God. Leland Ryken and Philip G. Ryken note:
“This book’s thesis statement (1:16-17) alerts us to the central place that the righteousness of God occupies in this plan — the righteousness that God both demands in our obedience and offers to us as a free gift, received by faith.”
We see this in Romans 1:5-6 as Paul presents Jesus Christ, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:5-6, ESV). God demands our righteousness, but our sinfulness shows that we cannot be righteous, but by the faith that God gives us we are made righteous through the Gospel. The rest of this work is about the righteousness of God: why we need his righteousness, how we obtain this righteousness, how we live out this righteousness, how God maintains control over all things in displaying his righteousness, and how God’s righteousness transforms our spirits!
(Part II next week)
 Philip Yancey, What So Amazing About Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 12.
 Leland Ryken & Philip G. Ryken, ESV Literary Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007), 1671.
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