Later this week we begin the magnificent Book of Romans. What has come to be in many minds the peak of Paul’s writings was actually a missionary fundraising letter, most likely penned from Corinth around A.D. 57 and delivered to the Roman church by Phoebe. But through the providence of God, it has become arguably the most influential letter written in Christian history.
A bird’s eye view of the structure of the Romans looks like this:[i]
- The Gospel as the Revelation of the Righteousness of God (1:1-17)
- God’s Righteousness in His Wrath against Sinners (1:18-3:20)
- The Saving Righteousness of God (3:21-4:25)
- Hope as a Result of Righteousness by Faith (5:1-8:39)
- God’s Righteousness to Israel and to the Gentiles (9:1-11:36)
- God’s Righteousness in Every Day Life (12:1-15:13)
- The Extension of God’s Righteousness through the Pauline Mission (15:14-16:23)
- Final Summary of the Gospel of the Righteousness of God (16:25-27)
As you can see, Romans is about the righteousness of God. But the reality is that Romans practically contains all the main themes of Paul’s writings in one. J.I. Packer lists these themes as: God, man, sin, law, judgment, faith, works, grace, creation, redemption, justification, sanctification, the plan of salvation, election, reprobation, the person and work of Christ, the work of the Spirit, the Christian hope, the nature of the church, the place of Jew and Gentile in God’s purpose, the philosophy of the church and world history, the meaning and message of the Old Testament, the significance of baptism, the principles of personal piety and ethics the duties of Christian citizenship — et cetera!”[ii]
So take up and read! Paul’s letter to the Romans has built up the Church for the past two millennia, and God is ready and willing and able to encourage and instruct you through this same letter. But be prepared, for “when the message of Romans gets into a person’s heart there is no telling what may happen.” [iii]
P.S. — If you would like to see all of Paul’s words arranged in one letter, Pastor Doug has recently completed such a project, The Complete Paul. This book is “a compendium of everything the Apostle Paul wrote in systematic, topical order using the Book of Romans as the framework around which to arrange all the topics.”
[i] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008).
[ii] J.I. Packer, Knowing God (InterVarsity Press, 2011) 254.
[iii] Ibid., 253. Full quote: “All roads in the Bible lead to Romans, and all views afforded by the Bible are seen most clearly from Romans, and when the message of Romans gets into a person’s heart there is not telling what may happen.”