“Romans Chapter-By-Chapter” Series
If you were stranded on an island with only one book of the Bible, which book would you choose?
This question is intentionally difficult because Christians have been given a book wherein ALL of it is said to be necessary and profitable (2 Tim. 3:15-16), however many Christians, if they HAD to choose, would pick the Epistle of Paul to the Romans. Why? Because the book of Romans is unsurpassed in explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ. It expands on critical doctrines like justification by faith, the righteousness of God, and grace vs. works in more detail than any other book of the Bible.
This article begins a series that I am planning to write that will cover Romans chapter-by-chapter. This series serves a different purpose than verse-by-verse teaching. Verse-by-verse study is vital for mining the riches of God’s Word, but this “Romans Chapter-By-Chapter” series is intended to get snapshots of key truths throughout the book. I will attempt to find the key verse that best summarizes each chapter (sometimes I might cheat a little and do two posts covering two verses) and briefly explain the argument that is being made.
So, if a summary is the goal, then what about the whole book? What does a snapshot of the entire book of Romans look like?
Romans is an epistle (letter) so we have to notice the author, audience, and purpose of the letter. Instead of imagining our snapshot of Romans, let’s let God’s Word tell us what it is!
The author is given in the first word of the book, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). This is the same Paul (formerly Saul) who as a zealous, religious Jew had persecuted and murdered Christians (Acts 9:1) until Christ dramatically intervened, changed him, and gave him a mission “to carry my [Jesus’] name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Before he was saved, Paul was extensively educated in the Old Testament law (Acts 22:3). When he realized that Jesus was the Messiah that the Old Testament promised (Acts 9:22) his eyes were opened to the riches of the Old Testament. The book of Romans is filled with quotes and illusions to the Old Testament that Paul uses to build and substantiate his writing. God took a violent, educated man who was steeped in false religion and turned him into the greatest missionary for Christ that the world has ever seen.
The audience is recorded as “All those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” (Romans 1:7). Clearly these folks were Roman believers who made up the Church in the imperial capitol city. Paul had never been to Rome (Romans 1:13) but he loved those saints and was passionate about visiting them and preaching the gospel to them (Romans 1:15). It is God who calls a person to be a Christian and each one is loved by God! If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then Romans is for you! And, by the way, it is for you to share.
The purpose of the letter is given in two places using parallel sentences, Romans 1:5 and Romans 16:26-27. Romans 1:5 combines the purpose for the book with Paul’s own life purpose as an apostle, “To bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.” Romans 16:26-27 closes the book with echoes of chapter 1, “[The mystery] has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ.” Notice three things about these statements. First, the emphasis on “all nations.” Before Christ, God had worked primarily with the Jewish people, however, Jesus came with the mission of redeeming people from every nation and ethnicity in the entire world (John 10:16, John 11:51-52, Revelation 5:9). His “Great Commission” to the disciples, and by extension all believers, was to “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Among the Apostles, Peter primarily ministered to Jews while Paul aggressively expanded his mission to reach gentiles from all over the map (Acts 13:47, Romans 15:18-19). This theme of God throwing open the gates of the gospel to all nations is a vital theme to notice throughout the book of Romans. Many of the theological arguments that Paul makes are intertwined with the discussion about Jews and Gentiles and how they relate to God.
Second, notice the phrase “obedience of faith” in both verses. In that phrase we get a glimpse that the operating principle in Romans is “faith.” Faith, in contrast to law and works, is the principle by which God saves sinners. However, Paul writes with the intention to “bring about the obedience of faith.” Remember, he is primarily writing to people who are already believers, so he has the goal of bringing about further maturity in the faith and the obedience to God that corresponds to faith. He wants believers to obey God more and more. This purpose is intertwined with Jesus’ Great Commission mentioned above. God’s people are not only to proclaim good news throughout the world as they make disciples, but the discipleship process moves forward “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). The gospel of Jesus Christ is the critical message by which people are saved, but it is also the message that empowers, motivates, and strengthens believers to obey and glorify God.
Third, both passages refer to to the glory of God as the ultimate purpose for spreading the gospel and obeying God. Romans 1:5 uses the phrase, “for the sake of his name” and Romans 16:27 says, “to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ.” This theme is the most important theme in the universe! It means that the reason why Paul wrote and taught, or why any Christian preaches truth and walks in obedience, is not for moral self-improvement, societal gain, or even for escape from eternal fire. God saves and changes people for the exaltation of His own glory and fame. Jesus Christ is God and deserves to be praised! “All things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). The manner in which God saves people, the character and love that He displays, and the manner in which he frees people from sin is all designed for His great glory.
Romans is a book about the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is about that gospel going to all nations.
It is about that gospel going to all nations to make them obedient through faith.
It is about that gospel going to all nations to make them obedient through faith for God’s glory!
I hope you’ll follow along on our journey through this great book. God still uses it to change lives, and I believe He can use it to transform you!