“August 5–11. Romans 1–6: ‘The Power of God unto Salvation’” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: New Testament 2019 (2019)
“August 5–11. Romans 1–6,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2019
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By the time Paul wrote his Epistle to Roman Church members, who were a diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, the Church of Jesus Christ had grown far beyond a small band of believers from Galilee. About 20 years after the Savior’s Resurrection, there were congregations of Christians almost everywhere the Apostles could reasonably travel—including Rome, the capital of a vast empire. But while Paul’s immediate audience was the Roman Saints, his message is universal, and it includes all of us today: “The gospel of Christ … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16, italics added).
The epistles are letters written by Church leaders to Saints in various parts of the world. The Apostle Paul wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament—starting with Romans and ending with Hebrews. His epistles are organized by length. Although Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, it was actually written near the end of Paul’s missionary journeys. For more information about the epistles, see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles.”
The following definitions may help you better understand the Epistle to the Romans:
- The law:
When Paul wrote of “the law,” he was referring to the law of Moses. Similarly, the word “works” in Paul’s writings often referred to the ceremonies and rituals of the law of Moses. Paul contrasted this law with “the law of faith” (see Romans 3:27–31), or the doctrine of Jesus Christ, who is the real source of our salvation.
- Circumcision, uncircumcision:
Anciently, circumcision was a token or symbol of the covenant God made with Abraham. Paul used the term “circumcision” to refer to Jews (the covenant people) and “uncircumcision” to refer to Gentiles (those who are not of the Abrahamic covenant). Circumcision is no longer necessary as a token of God’s covenant with His people (see Acts 15:23–29).
- Justification, justify, justified:
These terms refer to the remission, or pardoning, of sin. When we are justified, we are forgiven, declared guiltless, and freed from eternal punishment for our sins. As Paul explained, this is made possible through Jesus Christ (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Justification, Justify,” scriptures.lds.org; see also D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, June 2001, 18–25). In Romans, words like righteous and righteousness could be seen as synonyms for words like just and justification.
Grace is “divine … help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” Through grace, all people will be resurrected and receive immortality. In addition, “Grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.” We do not earn grace through our efforts; rather, it is grace that gives us “strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain” (Bible Dictionary, “Grace”; see also Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 107; 2 Nephi 25:23).
Paul’s teachings show that some of the Jewish Christians in Rome still believed that obedience to the rites and rituals of the law of Moses brought salvation. This may seem like a problem that doesn’t apply anymore since we don’t live by the law of Moses. But as you read Paul’s writings, especially Romans 2:17–29, think about your own efforts to live the gospel. Are your outward performances, such as taking the sacrament or attending the temple, leading you to conversion and strengthening your faith in Christ? (see Alma 25:15–16). How can you ensure that your outward actions are leading to a change of heart?
See also Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32–34.
Some people may feel discouraged at Paul’s bold declaration that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). But there are also hopeful messages in Romans. Look for them in chapters 3 and 5, and consider why remembering that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) is an important step toward learning to “rejoice in hope” through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:2).
Paul taught that the gospel should change the way we live. What statements in Romans 6 would you use to help someone understand how the gospel has helped you “walk in newness of life”? (verse 4). What personal experiences would you share?
As you read the scriptures with your family, the Spirit can help you know what principles to emphasize and discuss in order to meet the needs of your family. Here are some suggestions:
How can we show that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”?
Some people might say that because we are “justified only by [God’s] grace” (Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 3:24 [in Romans 3:24, footnote a]), there are no requirements for us to receive grace. Even though we can never do enough to “earn” God’s grace, God does ask us to do certain things to receive it. What can we do to receive grace?
What tribulations have we experienced? How have these tribulations helped us to develop patience, experience, and hope?
What did Paul say in these verses about the symbolism of baptism? Perhaps your family could plan to attend an upcoming baptism. Or someone in your family could share pictures or memories from his or her baptism. How does making and keeping our baptismal covenants help us “walk in newness of life”?
For more ideas for teaching children, see this week’s outline in Come, Follow Me—For Primary.