Reflections on Romans 1-8

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on Judges, Ruth, Acts, Jeremiah and Lamentations.

6 months ago on this blog I wrote regarding Romans: “I will be back in this book in August. Maybe I’ll find something to say other than, ‘It’s a difficult book.’ It does get better from chapter 8 on, though.”

I’m glad to report that I’ve got much more to say this time round, having enlisted help from people more knowledgeable than myself. This post is on the long side, so I’ve broken it into 11 scan-friendly sections.

1:1-1:17

The epistle to the Romans is about the gospel of God (1:1). The gospel has its origin in the Old Testament (1:2); its content is Jesus Christ (1:3-4); its purpose is to call people to the obedience that comes from faith (1:5).

Paul is obligated to all people, eager to preach the gospel and not ashamed of the gospel. Such should be our attitude.

1:18-3:20

Paul addresses 3 kinds of righteousness:

  • “I don’t know so you can’t blame me.” (1:18-20)
  • “I’m basically good, but I have occasional lapses.” (1:21-32)
  • “Other people are worse than me.” (2:1-3)

He states that everyone has a sin problem, from the person who’s never heard of the God of the Bible to the pious law-abiding Jew. We are all under God’s wrath and nothing we do can save us.

3:21-31

God has provided a solution to His problem of justifying the wicked. The source of this justification is Christ Jesus (3:24) and the way we receive it is through faith (3:26). This excludes any and every human boasting (3:27).

4:1-25

Abraham was justified by faith alone, before the Law of Moses was given so that he might be the father of one united church of Jews and Gentiles (4:1-5, 9-12). All other believers in OT times were likewise justified through faith (4:6-8).

Each believer has contributed ZERO to their justification, which should lead to a great sense of humility in us. We shouldn’t look down on fellow believers who aren’t as spiritual as we are. Most of all, we shouldn’t look down on those who have not yet believed. The ground is level at the cross.

[I greatly benefitted from these talks by Christopher Ash on Romans 3:21-4:25: Rom 3:21-26 (length: 40:27), Rom 3:27-4:12 (length: 49:17); Rom 4:13-25 (length: 40:05)]

5:1-11

All Christians have equal access to God through Christ (5:1-2). Our access isn’t based on our experience or on how focused our prayer is, for example. Its sole basis is faith in Christ.

We have not earned God’s love and cannot do so (5:5-8). His love is for the powerless, the ungodly, the sinners, His enemies. All we can boast (rejoice) about is our confident future (5:1-2); our suffering and afflictions (5:3) and God (5:11).

5:12-21

There are two human races: one captained by Adam and the other by Christ. Adam sinned > death came into the world > death came to all humankind. Christ lived a life of righteousness > justification came into the world > righteousness comes to all who believe. Note how Paul uses the how much more construct to compare the gift and the trespass (5:15, 17, 20).

A person is therefore in one of two camps. Either they’re in Adam and condemned to death, or they’re in Christ and under grace.

6:1-23

If you’re in Christ, you have died to sin (6:1-14). If you’re in Christ you’re enslaved to God (6:15-23). Therefore, count yourself dead to sin and offer yourself to God.

7:1-25

Despite having a new life in Christ, the believer still struggles. The Christian is torn between Adam and Christ, because of the remaining sin nature.

In this chapter Paul in no way disparages the law, but has a lot of good to say about it (7:12, for example).

8:1-17

As Christians, we have not only indwelling sin, but also the indwelling Spirit of God. The law of the Spirit does what the law couldn’t do: deliver me from condemnation and give me life (8:1-2).

The gospel sets the believer’s heart on the things of God (8:5-7). However, it is up to the believer to put to death the misdeeds of the body (8:13). Our motivation for doing that is the future hope of glory (8:17).

8:18-30

My present trials aren’t compensated by present glory, but by future glory (8:18).

Creation is groaning , the church is groaning, the Spirit is groaning. God has subjected creation to futility, though its bondage isn’t permanent. The church groans, awaiting the reality of the redemption of our bodies.

The will of God in our lives is that we be glorified, that we be conformed to the likeness of His Son (8:28-30).

8:31-39

The climax of the book of Romans. Though this section can stand alone, in order to fully appreciate it, one needs to read all that has come before.

What are the main causes for despair in a Christian? Our many enemies, and those of the gospel (8:31-32); our many sins (8:33); our many afflictions (8:35-36). Yet, we can rejoice that God guarantees our preservation, and that nothing can separate us from His love (8:37-39)!

Go to chapters 9-16.

Sources: Christopher Ash, Mark Dever, David Jackman, Dick Lucas.