The Special of the Day… From the Orange Moon Cafe…
What if you opened your Bible one day to discover only sixty five books in the canon of Scripture? You find that no epistle to the Romans is included in the table of contents.
Of course, if this were actually the case, you would not be aware of the omission because Romans would not have been intended or included in the Word of God. I suggest this to raise consideration of the circumstances that led to the writing of this wondrous portion of the Bible.
"I long to see you, that I may impart some spiritual gift to the end ye may be established, that is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith of you and me" (Romans 1:1-11).
"Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation, but as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see, and they that have not heard shall understand. For which cause also I have been much hindered from coming to you" (Romans 15:20-22).
Paul greatly desired to come to Rome for many years, but could not do so because the Lord had other purposes for him, in other places and with other people. This raises the possibility that had the Apostle been free to visit Rome as he so longed to do, he would likely never have written the epistle to the Romans. Disappointment led to the dispensation of Romans into Paul's heart by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and its distribution not only to Rome, but ultimately, to the entire world through its hallowed place in the Word of God. Without the Apostle's disappointment, it is likely that only sixty five books would grace the canon of Scripture.
Even the very possibility of a Bible with no Roman epistle causes one to shudder. In one sense, because all Scripture is the Word of God - "every word of God is pure" - it may be that no portion of the Bible is more important than another (Proverbs 30:5). However, Paul's epistle to the Romans shines with so much light regarding the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that its place of significance cannot be overstated. The poet Coleridge declared Romans to be "the most profound writing in existence." I wholeheartedly agree. In a Bible that overflows with living water offered to all, the most rushing and life-giving stream may well surge from the holy fount of Paul's letter to Rome.
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all that believe" (Romans 3:21-22).
Again, the Roman floodtide of God's grace in Christ might not exist had Paul been able to do what he so wanted to do. Let us make the possibility personal to our own lives and experience. What ray of light may shine through our lives because of some disappointment? What lack of opportunity may result in gain for the glory of Christ and the blessing of others? What letter to our world may we be writing with the ink of sadness because we trust and submit to God in the shadow of our obstacle? Paul likely did not know his letter to Rome would be included in the New Testament text. He simply wrote to the Romans for the purpose he mentions. Thus, our brother may not have been aware that "the most profound writing in existence" would be read throughout history by billions of needy hearts.
We are not the Apostle Paul. However, the same Spirit of the Lord Jesus who led and enabled our brother to be what he was lives in us if we have believed. Thus, both our delights and our disappointments serve to fill our being with the glory of Christ as we commit ourselves to serve as lamps of His light. What epistle of God's grace in Christ may we be writing because circumstance hinders us from doing something we long to do? Only eternity will tell. But the fact that sixty six books comprise the canon of Scripture tells us that our disappointments will not be wasted.
"But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel."
Weekly Memory Verse
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me.