Survey of the Book of Romans

The purpose for Paul's writing to the church at Rome in A. D. 56 can be found in Romans 12: 1--"I appeal to you, therefore, brethren . . . " After a lengthy writing, Paul was able to write in 12: 1 to a "you" that encompassed both Jews and Gentiles. Unity In Truth was what he was striving for. Not unity regardless of truth, but unity in truth.

Paul wrote what man would later call most of the first two chapters to "reign in" the Gentiles to the YOU. Coming from their former world of abject sin, it did not take Paul long to make the case that the Gentiles had been lost and desperately needed Jesus Christ. Paul rests his case on the Gentiles in Romans 2: 16. His efforts in showing his countrymen (the Jews) that they needed Christ, and not the Old Law, took a lot more "white space." That argument begins in Romans 2: 17 and ends in 11: 10. Perhaps the most plausible reason for Paul's writing may be that he wanted to show the Gentiles and the Jews how to work together in God's church. In the book, Paul shows that both Jews and Gentiles are both accountable and are both guilty before God: Without Jesus Christ, both are equally condemned. After cutting both parties down to size, he is able to show both how to live lives that are totally given over to Christ. By extension, the Holy Spirit through Paul speaks to us today also.

The book of Romans is a very deep book, like the book of Hebrews. Its challenging logic has blessed some Christians and has caused division among others. Perhaps part of the reason for the book being mis-perceived so much is the belief that Paul was trying to write a very deep theological book. One is reminded of Sir Isaac Newton, the great physicist and mathematician. In seeking how to describe the motions of falling objects, Newton invented calculus. After solving his physics problem, within a year he had left calculus and never returned to it. The apostle Paul writes about the interrelationship of faith, grace, works, confession, baptism, and unity in an effort to unite the Gentile and Jewish members of the church at Rome. The deepness of the book is like the complexity of Newton's calculus. Paul did not write the book to be a deep book; he wrote it to solve a problem. Rather he wrote the deepest parts of the book to the Jews to help them accept the Jesus who was their only hope. One only has to look at the unsophisticated nature of the audience (Rome) to see that Paul's goal could not have been that of writing a complicated book.

The book of Romans has been described as "the most nearly self-sufficient book in the New Testament"--that is, if the Bible were destroyed all but for one book, the book that could most nearly describe what a person needed to do to understand God's purpose and do what he needed to do to fulfill his part in the purpose would be the book of Romans. This declaration is not an invitation for anyone to cease studying the whole Bible or to concentrate soley on Romans.

Both some of the greatest theological enlightenments and some of the gravest misunderstandings have come out of the book to the Romans. Those who wish to affirm the Calvanistic doctrine of original sin may find a passage in Romans 5: 12-14 that could seem to do so. However, to say that the guilt of Adam's sin in the garden could be extended to all mankind directly is to run head-on in conflict with the Old Testament in Ezekiel 18: 20 and the New Testament in II Corinthians 5: 10 and Galatians 6: 7, 8. And some have had so much cognitive dissonance about the roles of faith and of works in salvation that they have yielded to Martin Luther's addition in Romans 5: 1, in which he felt compelled to add the word "only," to make it read that we are justified by faith only. To do this is to add to God's word (see Revelation 22: 18, 19; Galatians 1: 8, 9) and to run directly into conflict with the only passage of the Bible in which the words "faith" and "only" occur next to each other, James 2: 24, "Ye see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only." The book of Romans is a book that needs to be very carefully read if error is to be avoided.

Certain word combinations never occur in the Old Testament or the New. "Work" or "works" and "only" do not occur next to each other anywhere in the Bible--use your computerized Bible to verify this. "Grace" and "only" never occur next to each other. If man were saved by grace only, how could any be lost? Yet Christ said that most would be lost (Matthew 7: 13, 14). The most definitive passage in the Bible against cheap grace is in Romans 6. "Church" and "only" do not occur together and the concept that church affiliation all by itself, without obedience or faith, is not found in the Bible either in principle or in specific word choices."Baptism" and "only" do not occur next to each other, though I Peter 3: 21 could be taken by some to infer that baptism alone could save. Romans 10: 9, 10 affirm that confession and baptism save, but the word "only" or "alone" is not there. As mentioned, the only time that "faith" and "only" occur next to each other in the Bible is James 2: 24 which solemnly declares that man is NOT saved by faith only, but rather is justified by his works. So salvation is not by anything "only." When man tries to take God's word and boil it down to something overly simple, he misses the wonders of the wisdom of God in the plan of salvation that He has made. This realization of the complexity and beauty of God's plan to reconcile man to himself is the reason for Paul's effusive declaration in Romans 11: 33-36.

Some statistics bear mentioning. The word "God" appears 153 times in Romans, more than any other Pauline book and more than any other New Testament book except Acts. "Jesus Christ" is mentioned less in Romans than in any of his other books. Romans is a book about how to become acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.

The book is most easily divided into two sections: the Revelation of God's Righteousness (1: 1 -- 8: 39) and The Applications of the Righteousness of God (12: 1 --16: 27). Traditional divisions include the division of the book into a theoretical section of the first 11 chapters and a practical section of chapters 12 through 16. The theoretical section is an explanation of "how things work" and the practical section is on "what our part is in making things work."

The theme of the book is Romans 1: 16, 17--" For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."

I. The Revelation of the Righteousness of God (1: 1 -- 11: 36)

A. Introduction (1: 1 - 1: 17).

B. Guilt of the Gentile (1: 18 - 2: 16).

C. Guilt of the Jew (2: 17 -- 11: 10).

D. The grafting of the olive tree: Spiritual union of the Jew and Gentile. (Romans 11: 11 -36).

II. The Application of the Righteousness of God (12: 1 - 16: 27)

A. The new walk in Christ transforms lives. Chapter 12

B. Responsibilities toward higher powers and neighbors. Chapter 13.

C. Righteousness of God demonstrated in Christian Liberties.(14: 1 - 23). 15: 13). Following Christ's example (Romans 15: 1 - 15: 13) as a plural you.

D. Conclusions, commendations, and greetings.. (15: 14 - 16: 27)

Special angles/special explanations: Chapter 6 portrays baptism as a burial more vividly than other passages in the New Testament. Chapter 14 addresses Christian liberties more fully than other NT passages. Pauls arguments against the keeping of the Old Law in Romans are echoed in Galatians.

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