We begin with the knowledge and understanding that we will rely on the Lord for guidance in this study. It’s been my hope for a while to have some in-depth Bible studies in the Archive, but I have encountered several problems.
Firstly, when it comes to an actual book study, I really haven’t been able to write out my thoughts in that sort of ?article? format. Normally, I would just pin up one of the outlines I’ve worked out, but that has been looking horrid. All in all, it offers no real learning besides a skeletal overview at the very best. No, an actual study had to be worked on and would inevitably have to be in an essay format.
Secondly, I’ve found it much easier to do an article on some ?hot? topic. You take something you feel a passion for and go with it?it basically writes itself. When you decide ?Let’s study the book of Leviticus? some people may not be too excited.
Which leads to my third problem on subject matter. Obviously, we’ll be doing one of 66 books, but which one? I spoke to some of my geek friends about it and they suggested everything from Ecclesiastes to Revelation and someone mentioned Song of Solomon and I’ll let you figure that one out. I’ve been studying Galatians fairly in-depth and started considering that perhaps that would be the book to share. As I wrote out my notes I realized that Galatians (although written earlier) has a lot of information that is expanded upon in the book of Romans.
Lastly, was my education or lack thereof. I am not a theologian in that doctoral sense. I am simply a man who reads the Word and studies to get some deeper understanding of the passage and of the Lord Himself. If you’ve read the mission statement of the Archive, you would know that I’m a born again believer who takes the Bible as the inspired Word of God and therein studies it literally. Therefore, my theology may differ from your own and that might turn you off to the study completely. I hope that isn’t’ the case.
But all in all, my desire and hope is that we delve into those unsearchable riches of so that we may be filled with all knowledge and spiritual understanding of the very will of God so that we may subsequently walk worthy of Him in all things, increasing in knowledge so that our hearts are moved to worship and thanks to our Lord, to whom be the glory, power and honor forever and ever, amen.
Ground Rules & Introduction
Therefore, with much fear and trembling I progress to the introduction of the book of Romans, a powerful book indeed. A book that has, at times, been referred to as ?the Fifth Gospel? or ?The Gospel according to Paul?. The very book that convinced the likes of Martin Luther to look beyond the practices of Christendom and unearth truths long lost. I pray that I am up to the task.
Romans, as you know, uses a question and answer format to illustrate attacks and defense of some pivotally key points. Some have used the book as a manual for apologetics. Others have highlighted a path to salvation by answering the unasked questions of unbelievers?all valid uses of the book. The book is versatile in the way it’s written and applicable in many areas.
But in the literal study of scripture, it is always helpful to try to look at the written word from the eyes of the writer. We sometimes bring a lot of theology and doctrine to portions of the scripture and wind up ignoring what is blatantly said in a passage. Therefore, it would be helpful on the outset of this study if we establish some ground rules illustrated by the following points.
As a first rule, I will try to stick to the passage in question. I am not planning to leave the book unless the author himself refers to a passage outside of the book or in the case that a passage elsewhere refers to a similar topic. As previously mentioned, the book of Galatians has some profound similarities yet illuminating differences with the book to the Romans.
There are also some difficult words and concepts in the book of Romans, and whenever possible I will pause and restate the difficulty in plain American English. In the very likely chance that I still do not get the point across I will illustrate the concept with examples either from the Old Testament (if the writer is using such an illustration) or from the Modern World relying heavily on prayer to the Lord that my text is understandable?
This brings to mind the very fact of reading the text. I may make references to portions or verses without actually citing the exact location (it would be my fault of course, since I would likely forget a reference here or there). In that note, it is best if you the reader keeps me honest and reads, rereads, and rereads the text to get an overall picture of what is being said.
It is for this reason that I will be following the flow of the argument in the letter to the Romans instead of focusing on definitions here or there (although in some places I may very well need to do that). This letter was written to actual people and therefore requires seeing it as the writer would have intended it and how the recipients would have received it. They would never have stood up in their assembly and said ?Let us open our letter from Brother Paul and read from chapter 7?. They would simply read and their understanding would unfold as they read.
Therefore we might expect to see, much like in any letter, the progression of information. All necessary information may not be at the forefront of the letter. The letter may build towards a point, culminating in the thought flow with one grand point that couldn’t have been taken as a given without the previous points being established.
We might subsequently expect to see several diverging thought flows that unite with the major thought or theme of the letter. For example, music is written in such a way that there is an overall theme to the score, and yet, there are also movements. The movements may switch in key from major to minor, reflecting the tone of the portion, but the overall theme of the score is still present. Likewise in a letter a writer may have a major reason for writing but may highlight different aspects in the letter to illustrate certain points.
That’s what’s interesting about the book of Romans. A cursory glance will take us from the uttermost depths of the depravity of man to the very glory of God?and yet it’s all part of a major point or theme. Such a winding path may seem confusing but if one realizes that this path is all one road leading to a set destination, the trip may become easier.
Some have said that the major theme of the book of Romans is ?How man is justified?. They point at the passages which highlight the gospel of God and the way that man is brought into a position by the very grace of God eternal. They highlight the sanctification process in various chapters and eventually the very glorification of mankind?all awe-staggering and amazing.
It is in fact at the very heart of the gospel that the Eternal God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die a sinner’s death on a tree, reviled by His very own creation. On that cross He suffered the scorn of His creation but also the very wrath of God, as Yahweh poured out His righteous punishment of sin on that Jesus Christ. Believing on Him and what He has done results in a man being saved and declared ?Justified? by the Holy God!
But in actuality, the book of Romans is only partially concerned with man’s justification. Paul is mostly concerned with God’s justification. Read like that, it may still look like one and the same thing. For this reason, let’s look at an example from the book of Luke, chapter 7.
In this portion which I’m referring to, the reports of Jesus’ actions have reached the ears of John the Baptist. He sends Jesus a message, as if unsure ?Are you the Promised One that we seek?? he asks in 7:20 . Jesus answers the disciples of John that they are to go back not with his answer but with the actions they have witnessed performed at the hands of Jesus.
Now, the crowds started to speak about John and Jesus explains John’s role. He was the one who was sent to prepare the way before Him. John was a messenger for the real thing?who was Jesus Christ. Now at this point in 7:29 the people are astounded and it says that the tax collectors and the people justified God, by being baptized with the baptism of John. In contrast, the Pharisees and the lawyers did not heed the counsel of God and were not baptized by John.
What were they doing in their “justifying of God”? In the NASB, it says that the people ?acknowledged God’s justice? whereas the Pharisees and lawyers ?rejected God’s purpose?. This was illustrated by the fact that one group was baptized and the latter group was not.
In effect, the first group acknowledged that God was right. They were sinners and needed to repent of their sins. They couldn’t do it on their own but needed God’s grace to do this. They justified or acknowledged or declared that God is right and they were wrong.
The Pharisees and lawyers, on the other hand, did not acknowledge this but they rejected God’s purpose for themselves. They, in their hearts and subsequent actions, rejected the Lord and stood tall in their own righteousness claiming, if you will, ?We’re right. God is wrong.?
Paul is declaring that God is ?Just? or ?Right? and he’s illustrating the point in four major movements in the book of Romans. Firstly he declares God’s righteousness in light of his right to judge. Secondly he declares God’s righteousness in light of his developing righteousness in the mind. Thirdly he declares God’s righteousness in his dealings with his Chosen people. Lastly he declares God’s righteousness in practical daily living.
In simple English, ?God is right! He is Just. He is just in the way he judges and punishes sin. He is just in the way He forgives sins and by what means. He is just in the developing of His mind in a believer. He is just in the way He has dealt with His people and will deal with His people. He is just this very moment, in our very actions. God is the only righteous one.?
Paul says it simply. ?Let God be true and all men liars?.
Let me end my long-winded introduction there and hope that in the following days and weeks we can really get some thought-juices flowing. Pray for me.