This teaching begins with a reading from Romans: Volume 1, by Donald Grey Barnhouse (link below).
Romans is the first of thirteen letters from Paul, 9 written to groups and 4 to individuals.
Paul, born Saul, a Roman citizen in Tarsus, was remarkably well-trained in Jewish law. A scholar and zealot, Paul was “at the head of his class” in his academic and religious advancement.
A passionate prosecutor of the early church, let’s observe the famous moment of his first meeting with Jesus Christ:
“As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”5And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said,“I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
Acts 9:3-9 NASB95
Students of Scripture have long-marveled at Paul’s logic, theology, doctrine, clarity, emotion, and compassion in these letters.
This letter is the premier example of the epistolary form of writing, not only in the Pauline body of material and in the New Testament but also in all of ancient literature. It stands first in every list of the Apostle Paul’s writings though it was not first in time of composition. This bears witness to the importance of the work both in its theme and in its content. It may also reflect the significance ofthe location of the letter’s first readers, the imperial capital of Rome.(He continues)In addition a possible tie grows out of the fact that the Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome so that his letter to the Romans follows naturally in the order of Biblebooks. (1.)
Paul’s letters are magnificently constructed, often considered theological and doctrinaire—but these letters are also a work of art. His works are essentially 50/50: theological and practical.
This most systematic of all the Epistles traces the story of the gospel from condemnation to justification to sanctification to glorification. It explains God’s program for Jews and Gentiles and concludes with practical exhortations for the outworking of righteousness among believers.
Deeply theological, this work is also personal. Paul, a Jewish legal scholar-turned Christian apologist, writes of people by name to correct, rebuke, encourage, and even defend in his letters. One clear characteristic of Paul’s writing: He knew his people.
“Romans, Paul’s magnum opus, is placed first among his thirteen epistles in the New Testament. While the four Gospels present the words and works of Jesus Christ, Romans explores the significance of His sacrificial death. Using a question-and-answer format, Paul records the most systematic presentation of doctrine in the Bible. But Romans is more than a book of theology; it is also a book of practical exhortations. The good news of Jesus Christ is more than facts to be believed; it is also a life to be lived—a life of righteousness befitting the person “justified freely by His [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24)(2.)
This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes.” (3.)
Reading this comment from Martin Luther pushes me to examine my experience and interaction with Scripture.
The problem with prosperity, in my estimation, is that we have become comfortable in our own successes and God has become an also-ran. When does God hold First Place in our lives? In crisis?
I think the troubles we have in this life may be the guardrails of getting back to what’s important eternally.
Our prosperity is not inherently bad. But are we using our resources for the glory of Jesus Christ, or just for comfort?
“It is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam.” (4.)
- The primary message of Romans is The Righteousness of God
- 1-8 God’s righteousness revealed (sin/salvation/sanctification)
- 9-11 God’s righteousness vindicated (sovereignty)
- 12-16 God’s righteousness applied (service)
Note: Chapters 1-11 are deeply theological, chapters 12-15 are deeply practical.
“Once saved, always saved” is a true theological idiom, but a terrible theology if we don’t understand it. It’s a positional declaration of Christ’s work for your life and mine. How shall we then live? is the ongoing question.
- Another outline:
- Sin and judgment (1:18–3:20; 7:7–25);
- Righteousness (3:1–4:12; 5:17–21; 6:15–20; 9:30–10:13);
- Salvation (3:21–26; 5:1–11; 6:1–7:6; 8:1–39);
- Faith (3:21–4:25);
- The death and resurrection of Christ (3:21–26; 5:6–21; 6:1–11; 8:1–4);
- The law (3:27–4:25; 7:7–25);
- The Holy Spirit (8:1–27);•the role and status of Israel (9:1–11:36)
Justification by Faith
Perhaps one of the most important themes of Romans.
Paul writes with line-by-line detail and defense of man’s sinful condition. Man is helpless, defenseless, hopeless apart from the work of Jesus Christ. Paul writes clearly about how dire our condition is.
Paul’s command of the OT is remarkable, he was trained in the Rabbinics. Consider Romans 3:10-18, all references from the Old Testament that Paul didn’t have a quick-reference to find—he knew them:
Romans 3:10–18 (NASB95)
as it is written,“THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”
A summary many Christians know, Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Because we are sinners, the wages—what we earn—is death: Separation from God.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Man can do nothing to remedy our sinful state. But God demonstrates (shows, explains) His own love toward us…
We could not get to Him so He came to us in our sinful state.
We could not be good enough to get to God; He was good enough to come to us.
The righteousness of God can only be appropriated by the work of Christ. Christ was motivated by His Father’s love to die for you and me.
His love is otherworldly, not like human love.
We’re never going to have a relationship that’s vital, growing, and meaningful with the God of the universe by what we do, until we understand what He has done: He lived, He died, He was buried, and three days later, He overcame death.
The gospel message in the book of Romans is par excellence:
This is who He is, and by believing in His name, you are given the gift of eternal life—freely.
Let Romans remind us of our sin nature, that God loved you and me when we were quite unlovely, and help us to fall in love with this Person who died in our place, instead of us.
Donlad Barnhouse Romans Four Book Set: Click Here.
- John A. Witmer, “Romans,”in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 435.
- Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 369, 371
- Martin Luther, “Preface to the Epistle to the Romans” (1522), in Works of Martin Luther (1932), Vol. VI, p. 447.
- Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910), Vol. I, p. 766