XVII. Romans: A Peek at Mirkwood

Let’s take a lesson from Mr. Bilbo Baggins when his company
was wandering around old Mirkwood. That little hobbit screwed up his courage
and scrambled up one of those dark trees to have a look about—seeing where they
were, where they had come from and hopefully where they were going. Trudging
along the path, the party might’ve lost focus of the point of the trip just the
fact that they were getting nowhere fast. So, at this point in our study, it
would perhaps be beneficial to take a look at where we are in the book of
Romans and simultaneously study some similarities in the lay of the land and
some differences. Perhaps we might even find out where we’re going.

High hopes, I know. As a side note, at the end of this post
there will be a (very long) list of the Romans series thus far. This post, will
then focus on some structural elements in the book as well as some patterns
within the thought-flow.

Frank Lloyd Wright's FallingwaterSee, people like to pull pages out of the Bible and make them
dance to their theological tune. If you disassemble Frank Lloyd Wright’s
Fallingwater House, categorize all its screws, bolts, widgets, wood and sundry
parts and then study them you might draw some good conclusions but you’ll never
figure out the beauty of the house or what it is to live in, or why it was even
built. All you’ll have is a bunch of lifeless wood, non-running widgets, dead
bolts and unscrewed screws. To appreciate all of that you have to study the
house in its entirety and see how this part meshes with that part and
constantly amazed at the beauty of the thing.

I guess music can also be another example. You take
Beethoven’s Ninth and organize all the notes on a page (all the A’s here, all
the B’s there, etc) all you’ll have is a bunch of notes. You would be ignoring
the purpose of the music, the notes in succession. And if you decided to pull a
movement from the end and place it near the front you’ll have a confusing piece
that wasn’t how Beethoven intended it.Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

So forget trying to organize the bits in Romans into tidy
theological packages and look at the book how it was intended. I find it
tremendously exciting to look at the movements of the Book of Romans and how they fit together.

The book is made up of four major sections, or movements, each
with a major problem and major solution. Section one points at the problem of
men being guilty before a God who judges sin; tremendous problem in that who
will survive the wrath of God? The solution in section one is that God has
provided a means to justify the ungodly via the vehicle of faith. Section two
points out the problem of men dying in sin—but God’s answer is that men will
live in the Spirit. Mind you, there are other problems in these sections (how
is a man to live before the Law? How is a man to live at all? Etc.) but there
are also given solutions. Section 3 is the problem of God’s historic people—why
is it that they don’t believe. Section 4 illustrates the practical problem of
God’s choice people living in this fallen world. Four questions, four answers.

Interesting when you probe deeper that Movement 1 and
Movement 2 both crescendo and climax with the beautiful key of God’s Love. Rom
5:1-12 takes us to the peak of God’s love—God who sent His son to die while we
were yet sinners—how much more will He save us now that we are His! Rom 8:28 –
39 pointing out how the triune God is on the side of those who believe on Him, and
showing how nothing can ever sever the believer from the love of God. Amen.

Movement 3, an admittedly difficult section, doesn’t climax
with God’s love—but rather God’s wisdom (Rom 11:25-36).
It would be best to keep that in mind when we study that portion…if we’re not
moved to praise God for His unfathomable wisdom we have missed the heart of
that section and a key point in the book as a whole. Movement 4 also climaxes
with the wisdom of God in Rom 16:25-27—the
Wise God who is able to establish the believer!

Four movements then, the first two climaxes in God’s love
the last two in God’s wisdom. The beauty of God’s salvation and righteousness
as presented in this book is a combination of God’s love and God’s wisdom—don’t
let philosophy tell you otherwise. Indeed, a walk through the Bible will show
us that the Love of God and the Wisdom of God are evident from cover to
cover—but that is a subject for another day.

The first movement also looks at the truth being suppressed
in the Mind and the results in wicked action in the body (Rom 1). The fourth
movement would have us look at presenting of our bodies as living sacrifices to
God in the effort of renewing our minds (Rom 12).

The second movement pits a struggle with the Law against the
Spirit (Rom 6-8). The spiritual mind can not thrive if it is in subjection to
the Law of the Flesh. Interesting that body and mind are also coming up again
here—but in this context it deals with the Law’s condemnation versus the
Spirit’s glorification. The fourth movement has us look at the practical
implications of living in the Spirit—focused on humility, no condemnation and
love. The believer exemplifies the righteousness of God when living under the law
of liberty and love, driven by the Spirit instead of the mandates of the Law
(Rom 12 -15).

Other things that you might see repeated in several
movements is mercy; mercy of God when He so wishes to show mercy (Rom 9), mercy
on those who believe (Rom 11) and mercy to each other understanding that God
was merciful to us (Rom 15).

Also note the progression of depravity. (Oh yes, I’m a firm
believer of Total Depravity but not in the sense that certain theological
circles like to use it). The first movement would show us that we are really
bad and guilty. The second movement will show us 1) that we can’t get rid of
the bad, because we were born with it and 2) the bad is made even worse by the
presence of the Law. Each of these minor keys of depravity will be augmented by
a chord of triumph over it!

So there you have it—not half as long as this
could’ve (and
should’ve been). Here’s a chart as well as all the links. Check
tomorrow for when we climb back down from the tree and answer the
question "Movements? So What?" :)

ROMANS OVERVIEW – Where God Is Justified
Section1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4
In Judgment 1:16 – 5:11 In Believer’s Mind 5:12 -8:39 In Historical Dealings 9 -11 In Believer’s Practice 12 -16
Problem Wrath versus Suppression  
God Must Judge Sinners Penalty of Inherited Sin is Death Israel Not Responding Living Sacrifice of Service (12:1)
Penalty of Guilty Sin is death  
Answer All men guilty so that God can Men die to the Law through Christ All shut up in unbelief so that God Men die to self as a sacrifice to Christ
justify the guilty through Faith and remade in the Spirit could show mercy and serve as a reasonable act of worship
Climax We Have Peace (5:1-11) Nothing Separates (8:28-39) All Israel Saved (11:25-36) Able to Establish You (16:25)
Love Demonstrated (5:5-11) Inseparable Love (8:31-39) God’s Wisdom (11:33-11:36) Wise God (Rom 16:25-27)
Patterns Mind then Actions (ch 1) Mind then Actions (ch 12)
Jews False Actions (ch 2) Law vs. Spirit Jews Action and Non-Reliance (ch 10) Spirt vs. Law
Gentiles Blasphemy (ch1, 2)   Gentile Danger of Removal (ch 11)  
Jew and Gentile (ch 3)
Differ Not Giving Thanks results in Dark Action Law binds and Spirit frees Gentiles boast results in being removed Spirit allows and doesn’t Oppress
Action of Jews results in blasphemy Action of weaker condemned Jews grafted back in Action of weaker not oppressed


I didn’t go super over 1,000 words because I can’t possibly go into
every detail on the book of Romans. I’ve studied the book about 2 years
ago and now I’m back to it learning, in all honesty, 10 times the
amount I learned then. In another two years I might be back to it and
wind up learning new things, praise the Lord. If you’re into
commentaries, Jeremy has a good list on his site. I’ve enjoyed Wuest’s Greek Word Study guide and Cranfield’s Romans (challenges my weak Greek).

  • Introduction: Romans, where God, the Defendant, is Justified. Overview of the main theme of the book.

  • Slave of Christ (pt 2) A bit about the Author, the mouth of the Defense.

  • Son of God with Power: The Defense’s Pre-amble. Reading the text with understanding.

  • Living by Faith: The Defense’s Main Point in justifying God introduced
    and reading the text by looking at the historical reference of the

  • Progression of Rejection: God’s wrath on the unrighteous heathen
    defended and reading the text by looking at the progression of thought.

  • Being a Good Person: God’s wrath on the moralist defended while examining the progressive nature of the argument

  • The Jews’ Treachery: God’s wrath on the Jew and looking at how a text can be misappropriated

  • Crime and Poetry: God’s right to judge defended and an introduction to the exegesis of poetic passages.

  • To Rhyme or Not To Rhyme: Poetic passages and the danger of
    interpreting them as not being poetry simultaneously damning infants to
    hell and God being glorified for it.

  • Man’s Doom and God’s Answer: The Defense’s summation of God’s right to
    judge sinful man and the introduction to the working power of salvation
    for men reflecting God’s righteousness defended when he justifies
  • Case Law: Established case of God declaring righteous through faith instead of by works
  • Effective
    Belief: The Defense’s culmination of the first line of defense. God’s
    right to judge stands as does his love in declaring a sinner
    righteous.(Romans 5:1-11)
  • Justification’s Hole: God’s righteousness in the mind introduced (Rom 5b)
  • Reckon Yourself Dead (Romans 6)
  • The Dilema of Law (Romans 7)
  • The Surpassing of Law (Romans 8 )
  • Related to the Series

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