After spending a quarter studying Paul's letter to the Galatians, Seventh-day Adventists have the privilege of continuing the study of the gospel, this time in the book of Romans, during the fourth quarter of this year. It was the light from this book -- "The just shall live by faith" -- that pierced the mind of Martin Luther like a lightning bolt from heaven and freed him from the bondage of trying to earn his salvation. That was 500 years ago. The light of the reformation continues to shine with greater brilliance in each successive generation, and the study of the book that started it all will ignite a fire in the heart of every earnest seeker of truth.
Personally, I am thrilled with the opportunity before our world church to study Romans because of what the book means to me. Nearly three decades ago, friends invited my husband and I to attend a seminar on the book of Romans. The teacher, Pastor E. H. "Jack" Sequeira, was an "African bush pastor" of Indian descent who had devoted his post-conversion years in Africa to studying the gospel, especially the book of Romans. We listened with rapt attention that Sunday as Pastor Jack unfolded the gospel, chapter by chapter, beginning with Romans chapter one. By the time we got to chapter five, I felt like I had been struck by lightning! The gospel was unfolded in a way that was new and thrilling. On that day the "light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus" (2 Cor. 4:6) shone brightly in my heart and I experienced something akin to the disciples' description of their talk with Jesus along the road to Emmaus: "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?" Luke 24:32.
The book of Acts tells the amazing story of how God sent Philip to give a Bible study to an Ethiopian eunuch along the side of the road in the desert. When Philip met the man, he asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
The eunuch replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" "And He asked Philip to come up and sit with him."
The Bible says that Philip did just that, and "opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him." That roadside Bible study led to the eunuch's baptism, and no doubt he became a teacher of the Word upon his return to Ethiopia. (See Acts 8:26-40).
It is God's purpose that one should teach another. We shouldn't feel humiliated that we don't understand the Bible. We are dependent upon the Holy Spirit to be our teacher, and the Spirit often uses other people to explain the Word.
Romans is a book that many have found hard to understand. If you find yourself hungering for a deeper knowledge of the gospel, don't suffer alone! Utilize the resources with which God has blessed us to unlock the truths of the gospel.
Like the woman who lit a lamp to find the lost coin, Advent believers have been blessed with a divinely-inspired flashlight in which to search out the hidden gems of Scripture through the ministry and writings of Ellen White. And Sister White, in turn, urged that God had raised up two young men, Brothers
A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner to further explain the vast treasure of gospel truth centered in Christ.
Sabbath School Insights readers may wish to avail themselves of further study resources, such as Waggoner on Romans, a verse-by-verse exposition by E. J. Waggoner. His introduction to the book of Romans is included here in connection with our Sabbath School theme for this week:
"Inspiration assures us that in all of the epistles of Paul there are 'some things hard to be understood.' 2 Pet. 3:16. Perhaps this is the case with the Epistle to the Romans in a greater degree than with any other. But they are not impossible to be understood, and it is only the 'unlearned and unstable' who wrest them unto their own destruction.
"Note that it is only those who wrest 'the other scriptures' to their own destruction who thus miss the point of Paul's writings. They who have a desire to understand and who read the simple promises of the Bible with profit, will not be among that number.
"In beginning this study it will be an encouragement to the reader if he will remember that it is simply a letter written to the church in Rome. We can not suppose that the congregation in Rome differed from the great body of Christians in general. Of them we read that 'not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.' 1 Cor. 1:26. The truest followers of Jesus have always been among 'the common people.' So in the church in Rome there were doubtless shopkeepers, artisans, day laborers, carpenters, gardeners, etc., and many servants in the families of wealthy citizens, together with a few who might hold some position of rank. When we consider that it was confidently expected that people of this sort would understand the letter, we may be encouraged to believe that the same class of people can understand it now.
"Paul's exhortation and assurance to Timothy form the best guide to the study of all his epistles, and the whole Bible as well: 'Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things.' 'God is his own interpreter.' The words of the Bible explain the Bible. This is why you should closely question the text so as to get at exactly what is said, in connection with what precedes and follows.
"The notes that accompany the text in this study are designed to fix the student's attention more closely upon the word, and for the benefit of the casual reader. That the study of this epistle may be greatly blessed to those who pursue it, and that the word may become more highly esteemed by all because of the increased light that the Holy Spirit may cause to flash from it, is the earnest prayer of the writer" (from the introductory "Note to the Reader From the Author," Waggoner on Romans, E. J. Waggoner).