“Tolle, lege. Tolle lege.”
When you think of the book of Romans, what do you think of? Perhaps you think of dry doctrine – difficult passages – long sentences. Perhaps your mind goes quickly to Romans 8 and its most famous verse. “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)
For many, the book of Romans stands as a fortress defying our approach – a castle containing priceless jewels but locked away from our access. I suggest that God invites us to conquer this castle. He bids us walk the Romans road.
The 16 chapters of Romans are a treasure house offering soul transformation. It has been said that most, if not all, great revivals of church history have been directly tied to the book of Romans. Let me give you a few examples.
It was September of 386 A.D., and a young man sat in turmoil in a small garden in Milan, Italy. His riotous way of life had led him to emptiness. He later wrote of that moment, “I was twisting and turning in my chains.” Then he heard a child singing, “Tolle, lege. Tolle, lege” – a simple song in Latin meaning “Take it up and read it.” (Incidentally, no such song has been discovered from that time.)
The young man took this unusual song as the voice of God, a divine command. He found a scroll of Scripture and, opening it, “read in silence the first passage on which my eye lit.”
not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. Romans 13:13-14 (NASB)
With those words, Aurelius Augustinus later wrote in his Confessions, “At once, with the last words of this sentence, it was as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into my heart. All the shadows of doubt were dispelled.” We know this man as St. Augustine, one of the most important men in church history – in human history – who preserved the faith through the great storms of his times.
Fast forward a thousand years to Germany. A young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther sat in a tower at Wittenberg struggling with the demands of a righteous God. His description of that moment is as follows:
I had greatly longed to understand Paul’s letter to the Romans … night and day I pondered until … I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, He justifies us by faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn … the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning … this passage (Romans 1:16-17) became to me a gateway to heaven.
The light from Romans propelled the revival we now call the Protestant Reformation.
I could share more and speak of John Wesley and George Whitefield, William Tyndale and Watchman Nee. Frederic Godet says of Romans, "Every movement of revival in the history of the Christian church has been connected to the teachings set forth in Romans... and it is probable that every great spiritual renovation in the church will always be linked, both in cause and effect, to a deeper knowledge of this book."
Beginning tomorrow and for days ahead, we will both read and digest the jewel this is this great letter from the Apostle Paul. Please join with me as we discuss truth that transforms.
The child’s song that struck St. Augustine comes to us today, “Telle, lege. Tolle, lege” “Take it up and read it. Take it up and read it.”