The One Man: Christians in Rome // Romans 15:8-21

How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge classical paganism and become the dominant faith of Western civilization? Although this is the only question, it requires many answers.
— Rodney Stark

When the Apostle Paul wrote his great letter to the church in Rome, he was addressing only several dozen Christian converts, who would have gathered in homes in the city's poorest districts. Surrounding this humble church, hundreds of thousands of pagan Romans, many of them hostile to the Jewish religion and its offshoots, made up the largest and most powerful city in the world. How could so few Christian believers, with no historic tradition to guide them and overwhelming cultural pressure to abandon their faith, become the first building block to an eruption of Christian converts in the decades to follow? How could this fledgling group even have survived the sweeping public executions of Christians that would come by order of the Emperor Nero just a few years later? The answer to those questions is contained in the content of Paul's letter. "Those who have never been told of him will see," the apostle writes, quoting the prophet Isaiah. The story of Christianity in Rome defies historical explanation or precedent. It is a story of God's power to save.


CALL TO WORSHIP

Since all things are seen and heard by God, let us fear Him, and forsake those works which proceed from evil desires; so that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come.
For where can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Or what world will receive any of those who run away from Him?

For the Scripture says in a certain place, Where shall I go, and where shall I be hid from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I go away even to the uttermost parts of the earth, there is Your right hand; if I make my bed in the abyss, there is Your Spirit.
Where, then, shall anyone go, or where shall he escape from Him who comprehends all things?

Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit, lifting up pure and undefiled hands unto Him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect.

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

You, Lord, through your works have revealed the everlasting structure of the world. You, Lord, created the earth. You are faithful throughout all generations, righteous in your judgments, marvelous in strength and majesty, wise in creating and prudent in establishing what exists, good in all that is observed and faithful to those who trust in you, merciful and compassionate.
Forgive us our sins and our injustices, our transgressions and our shortcomings.

Do not take into account every sin of your servants, but cleanse us with the cleansing of your truth, and direct our steps to walk in holiness and righteousness and purity of heart, and to do what is good and pleasing in your sight and in the sight of our rulers.
Yes, Lord, let your face shine upon us in peace for our good, that we may be sheltered by your mighty hand and delivered from every sin by your uplifted arm.

Deliver us as well from those who hate us unjustly. Give harmony and peace to us and to all who dwell on the earth, just as you did to our fathers when they reverently called upon you in faith and trust, that we may be saved.
We render obedience to your almighty and most excellent name. Give harmony and peace to our rulers and governors on earth.