Paul wrote it. The Holy Spirit inspired it. Millions of lives have been changed by it. If the Gospel of John is the lobster of the New Testament, then Romans is filet mignon. This letter addresses the gravity of sin, the concept of justification, the necessity of faith, the struggle with sin, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the future of Israel, the gifts of the Spirit, the purpose of government, the existence of gray areas, and much, much more. Welcome to a life-changing study of the Book of Romans.
As part of this study, we want to encourage you to engage with the biblical text during the week in preparation for each message. To assist you in getting into God’s Word, we’d like to suggest a couple of commentaries to read each week for you to choose from. Page numbers will be provided each week in the bulletin.
For lighter reading:
The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary, Volume 2, covers the entire NT in one volume. Romans is covered in only 85 pages! For next week, please read pp. 523-26 which covers Romans 1:1-17, as well as any background info contained on pp. 519-23 that might interest you.
For heavier reading:
The New American Commentary on Romans by Robert Mounce. This will require 10-15 pages of reading each week. For next week, please read pp. 59-74 which covers Romans 1:1-17, as well as any background info contained on pp. 21-58 that might interest you.
When Paul writes a letter to a church, he normally gives thanks for them by identifying one outstanding characteristic. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul thanks God for their faith which is being proclaimed “throughout the whole world.” He proceeds to elaborate on the notion of faith and its ability to mutually edify believers. Furthermore, the Gospel is powerless in our lives apart from faith, and faith is powerless in our lives apart from the Gospel. How is your faith? How is your faith influencing others?
If Paul were to write a letter to Trinity Bible Church, what outstanding characteristic would he thank God for?
For next week's sermon on Romans 1:18-32, we suggest you read one of the following:
PP. 527-530 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or the equivalent in the newly released volume entitled The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, New Testament)
PP. 75-86 in the New American Commentary on Romans
How would you respond if a stranger stopped you on the street and told you in an enthusiastic voice: “I have your cure!” Your first response might be hope or joy or gladness as your react to his contagious emotion. But it wouldn’t take long before you would have to confess, “I didn’t know I was sick.”
The message of the Gospel is our cure. God’s righteousness in exchange for our sin; Jesus Christ’s crucifixion in exchange for our death; sonship in exchange for enmity; eternal life in exchange for eternal wrath – these comprise the good news of the Gospel. But before Paul expounds on the cure in his letter to the Romans, he must first remind them of their terminal disease: Sin.
For next week, read Romans 2:1-16.
PP. 530-532 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in the newly released volume entitled The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, New Testament)
PP. 86-97 in the New American Commentary.
A thirst for justice lies deep within every human heart. This imprint reflects the Just God who created us in His image. However, because of the Fall and subsequent sin, mankind, as tarnished image-bearers, lacks the ability to judge impartially. Still our hearts cry out for justice, for wrongs to be made right, for retribution to be paid on behalf of offended parties, and for punishment to be meted out to the guilty.
The good news is that God supplies justice in full measure where humans fall short. Our God is just and unbiased. He always passed the right verdict. The bad news (for some) is that on the day of God’s ultimate judgment, He will judge “the secrets of human hearts.”
For next time, read Romans 2:17-29.
PP. 532-34 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary/The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged EditionPP. 97-103 in the New American Commentary.
It is possible for us to have an appearance of obedience without true obedience. That’s because God does not only take our behavior into consideration, but also our thoughts and motives. That’s why the Bible tells us that although man looks at the outward appearance to make judgments about his fellow man, God looks at the heart to draw His conclusions. For God, heart matters are the heart of the matter.
At this point many people will feel hypocritical, recognizing that their heart and their behavior don’t always perfectly align. If this is your story, don’t seek to live more authentically by lowering your behavior to match your heart. Rather, pray and ask God to cleanse your heart and your mind to match your shiny veneer. Purity of motive, not alignment of deeds to our impure motives, is the goal that honors God.
I’m sometimes asked by unbelievers, “Why did God need to create people?” The question is unanswerable, since it presumes that God needed something . . . anything. God created us for His glory, but He didn’t need to do so. The doctrine of aseity says that “God is self-existent, not dependent on anything else for his existence.” Our existence does not change God.
Having said that, it is true that our existence reflects God. And our obedience isn’t the only thing that positively reflects God’s character. In an ironic twist, both our sin and our holiness are used by God to display His glory. Our sin demonstrates God’s holiness; our unfaithfulness demonstrates God’s faithfulness; our injustice demonstrates God’s justice; our unworthiness demonstrates God’s worthiness; our unrighteousness demonstrates God’s righteousness.
For next week, read Romans 3:9-20.
PP. 535-536 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in the newly released volume entitled The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, New Testament)
PP. 106-111 in the New American Commentary.
The bad news gets worse just before Paul turns to the good news. As he summarizes our natural condition apart from divine grace, the situation couldn’t look more bleak. He first emphatically declares every human sinful – without exception. As if that weren’t clear enough – which it isn’t, since every fiber of our natural, fallen DNA illogically defends our innocence – Paul then gives a human anatomy lesson by attaching sins to the members of our body. Finally, he links our guilty condition to a holy God who will rightly hold us accountable. Conclusion: We are all culpable. We are all guilty. We all have blood on our hands. We are shamed into silence.
Ironically, that is precisely where God meets us in salvation. We don’t encounter a holy God by lifting ourselves up to Him, but by recognizing the lowness of our natural state – and there we will find Him at the cross.
For next week, read Romans 3:21-31.
PP. 536-539 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in the newly released volume entitled The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition, New Testament)
PP. 113-120 in the New American Commentary.
Another way to righteousness? You heard it right: There is another way for us to be declared righteous. That’s the best possible news, in light of our utter inability to be declared righteous by our own obedience (which was the worst possible news). This new path to righteousness is paved by our faith in Christ’s obedience, whereas the old path was paved by our obedience – not a very trustworthy foundation!
We marvel at God’s awesome plan unfolding before our very eyes. A plan that predicted our disobedience and rebellion, and therefore created another solution: Christ achieved righteousness by perfectly obeying the law throughout his life; we place our faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross; the righteousness accomplished by Christ is transferred to our account as though it were ours all along. And God is glorified as the originator and executor of the plan. Marvelous. Beautiful. Grace.
For next week, read Romans 4:1-25.
PP. 539-543 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 120-132 in the New American Commentary.
As Paul carefully weaves his argument for righteousness by faith, he provides an extended illustration designed to put any objections to rest. Chapter four of Romans involves the person of Abraham, the father of all those who believe. According to Paul, we have more in common with Abraham than we might think. He, too, was declared righteous by faith and not by obedience. God created the “justification by faith” mold, and He used Abraham to do so. Abraham trusted God and His promises prior to the giving of the Law, prior to his circumcision, and prior to God making good on those promises. Thus, he was declared righteous by faith alone: Sola fide.
For next week, read Romans 5:1-11.
PP. 543-545 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 132-138 in the New American Commentary
In chapter five, Paul begins to describe the results of being declared righteous by faith alone. Believers have been reconciled to God; we have peace with God. It is therefore false to assume that any suffering we encounter is a result of God’s wrath. Rather, our suffering will result in God’s glory if we endure it and remain opened to what God wants to teach us. In fact, we can rejoice not only that our relationship with God has been restored, but that our suffering is an opportunity to glorify the One who gave His Son to suffer and die for us. We rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.
For next time, read Romans 5:12-21.
PP. 545-550 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary.
PP. 139-146 in the New American Commentary.
We live in a messed-up world. No one would argue with that. The controversy arises over how the world got messed up in the first place. The Bible gives us a clear answer: “sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned.” Adam messed everything up, and we've succeeded at keeping it in that condition.
Is there any hope for our world? The Bible provides another clear answer: “those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness [will] reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ!” Jesus will set everything right again.
For next time, read Romans 6:1-14.
PP. 550-553 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 147-154 in the New American Commentary.
We’ve covered justification – that by God’s grace a Christian is declared righteous the moment he takes Christ as his Savior. Now we begin to tackle sanctification – that the believer grows in holiness in his relationship with God. You mean we’re not done with sin? Nope. And sin is not done with us. According to Robert Mounce: “Any justification that does not lead to sanctification is a sham. Any sanctification not founded upon justification is an exercise in legalistic futility and does not deserve the name.” Let’s get ready to rumble . . . with sin.
For next time, read Romans 6:15-23.
PP. 553-554 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 155-159 in the New American Commentary.
In chapter six of the book of Romans Paul paints a vivid description of slavery. The first half of chapter six informs believers that we are free from slavery to sin. Sin no longer has power over us, and we are free to “disobey” our inclination to sin. In the second half of chapter six, Paul discloses the beauty and benefits of slavery. Yes, slavery can be a very good thing. Slavery to God, that is. The burden of the passing pleasures of sin can never compare with the freedom Christians experience as slaves to God. Do you experience it? There is a distinct quality of beauty in slavery . . . to God. For next time, read Romans 7:1-6. PP. 554-556 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition) PP. 159-163 in the New American Commentary.
In chapter six of the book of Romans Paul paints a vivid description of slavery. The first half of chapter six informs believers that we are free from slavery to sin. Sin no longer has power over us, and we are free to “disobey” our inclination to sin.
In the second half of chapter six, Paul discloses the beauty and benefits of slavery. Yes, slavery can be a very good thing. Slavery to God, that is. The burden of the passing pleasures of sin can never compare with the freedom Christians experience as slaves to God. Do you experience it? There is a distinct quality of beauty in slavery . . . to God.
For next time, read Romans 7:1-6.
PP. 554-556 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 159-163 in the New American Commentary.
In Paul’s day, a Jew could be considered enslaved to the Old Testament commandments. He was obligated to serve “the Law” through obedience and, in the event of disobedience, he suffered the consequences the Law outlined. The Law is a harsh master.
When a person becomes a Christian, their legal relationship to the Law dissolves. They no longer have a slave-master relationship to the Old Testament commandments. Instead, their relationship to the Law changes, and they embrace a slave-Master relationship with God. Are you enslaved to the Bible’s rules or are you enslaved to the God of the Bible?
For next time, read Romans 7:7-25.
PP. 556-559 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 163-172 in the New American Commentary.
Christians have been released from the Law’s condemnation, but we still maintain a relationship to the Law. It still serves as a mirror to identify the parts of us that need cleansed. For that reason, the Law is a very good thing. It upholds the standard of cleanliness that every believer strives for. Don’t fault the mirror if your face keeps turning up dirty.
At the same time, don’t think you’ll never have to take a washcloth to your Christian face.
There are two types of people in this world: Forgiven sinners and unforgiven sinners. And there are two types of forgiven sinners: Those who are fighting with sin and those who have surrendered to sin. Are you struggling with sin or is sin having victory over you? Today, Paul teaches us that holiness is work.
For next time, read Romans 8:1-11.
PP. 559-562 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 172-180 in the New American Commentary.
“The inner sanctuary within the cathedral of Christian faith.”
“The tree of life in the midst of the Garden of Eden.”
“The highest peak in a range of mountains.”
These are all descriptions that Christian leaders have offered for chapter eight of the book of Romans. The chapter begins with “no condemnation” (8:1) and ends with “no separation” (8:39). In between, we find a message of victory, hope, and life.
The key to unlocking the secrets of chapter eight rests in the frequency of the words it employs. The Holy Spirit, the giver of life, is mentioned 19 times – more than any other New Testament chapter. The same Spirit that gave Paul victory, hope, and life resides in every believer and offers the same power today.
For next time, read Romans 8:12-30.
PP. 562-565 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 180-189 in the New American Commentary.
God has showed us that we are saved apart from our efforts, we are fully justified by God, we are forgiven of our many sins, we are showered with grace, and we have God’s Spirit of life inside of us. This may come as a surprise, but the news only gets better as we continuein Romans.
Christians are not only sinners forgiven by the King of kings. We are adopted into his royal family. We are His heirs with all the rights and privileges thereto. And God has made some remarkable plans for the future of His family. Rejoice! You are a child of God.
For next time, read Romans 8:31-39.
PP. 565-567 in the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary (or equivalent in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged Edition)
PP. 189-192 in the New American Commentary.
For the most part, life is filled with uncertainties. We can only be confident of a few things in this world. Paul ends this powerful section of Romans with a comforting list of promises that believers can embrace in good times and in bad. We can be confident that God has no worthy opponent. We can be confident that our imputed righteousness precludes any legitimate accusations against our souls. We can be confident that Christ’s sacrifice has earned us an irreversible verdict of innocence. We can be confident that no one and no thing has the ability to cause God to stop loving us.
We can be certain of these most important things. And suddenly the things we cannot be certain of don’t seem important any more.
Having spent the first half of Romans explaining the truths of Christianity, Paul spends the second half encouraging believers to practice their faith that was purchased at so costly a price. But before he addresses the nuts and bolts of practical Christianity, Paul explains the unfinished business of Israel.Paul distinguished between Jews and Gentiles (circumcised and uncircumcised) in chapters 1-4. The distinction faded away as Paul’s outlined the Gospel in chapters 5-8. Now Paul returns to answer important questions regarding the Jews in chapters 9-11. If Israel is God’s chosen people, what is their relationship to salvation that is found in Jesus Christ? Are they considered exceptions to the Gospel? If not, has God’s plan failed? Is there any future hope for Israel?
I was shocked to notice that I had never used the word “sovereign” in a sermon title before. Shocked because the word means so much to me and my daily walk with the Lord.Sovereignty is God’s absolute authority over and management of humankind and the universe. It combines His ability with His right to rule. He alone is God. We are not. His absolute control limits our control. His absolute freedom limits our freedom. Here's how God described Himself in the Book ofIsaiah :
Isaiah 45:5 I am the Lord, I have no peer,
there is no God but me.
I arm you for battle, even though you do not recognize me.
45:6 I do this so people will recognize from east to west
that there is no God but me;
I am the Lord, I have no peer.
We learned from Romans chapter nine that since all of mankind has rejected God, He has the right to reject mankind. Fortunately for us, He is gracious to redeem many of us despite our ignorance and hostility toward Him. In fact, in chapter ten Paul applies that message of salvation equally to Israel. Certainly they have missed the "Messiah Freeway" and remained on the "Moses Tollway," but salvation is still offered to them. In chapter five of book one in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis offers a good reminder at this point: “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”
Do you feel like it’s too late for you in some area of life? Is there something in your life from which you need to turn? Progress can begin today.
In today’s passage, Paul uses himself as Exhibit A in arguing that Israel is not irredeemably rejected by God. Israel rejected God’s Messiah, and God rejected Israel (along with all unbelievers), but the door is still open to the salvation for those who come to God through Christ. And Paul is not alone among the Israelites who can experience salvation. Not only do Israelites have the possibility of salvation by grace through faith in Christ (see chapter ten), but some have the certainty of salvation. God has chosen a remnant by grace from among Israelites and Gentiles through whom to shine His redemptive glory.
A Christian’s posture before our great and awesome God is one of complete humility. He is, after all, solely (and “soul-ly”) responsible for our salvation. He sees us for who we really were and are. He not only paid for our every sin, but knew of them and became intimately acquainted with them on the cross. When we look into His eyes, we experience a deep sense of gratefulness and humility.
A Christian’s posture before a non-believer should look similar. Instead of lording our salvation over them, as though we somehow deserved the free gift because of some perceived merit or worthiness, we should recognize the common ground of sin and unworthiness we share. The chief difference between believers and non-believers is not inherent within, but rests with God’s grace. Because of that grace, we have the riches of abundant life and eternal hope that the non-believer longs for. Instead of operating from a position of superiority, we might leverage their jealousy of such things to our evangelistic advantage and “save some of them.”
Paul brings the section on Israel, chapters 9 - 11, to a climactic close with one of the most beautiful doxologies in the Bible:
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! 11:34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? 11:35 Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? 11:36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.
It's only three letters in Greek, but this transition word carries the weight of eleven chapters on its shoulders. With the word translated “therefore,” Paul draws upon everything he had previously written to the church at Rome—all the bad news about sin, all the good news about righteousness, all the doctrine and theology, all the truths about God and national Israel—and transitions to the “so what?” section of the letter. In light of all the truths we’ve read so far in Romans, our lives should change. We should integrate these truths in a life-transforming way. Otherwise, we are merely a little smarter. Otherwise we love with word and tongue but not in deed and in truth. Otherwise, we become mere hearers of the Word instead of doers of the Word.
Are you ready for life-transformation? Are you ready to practice righteousness?
It’s been said, “Love is a verb,” and Paul paints a beautiful picture of the actions of love in Romans 12. Mountains of confusion exist over the concept of love. We misuse it romantically; we wield it manipulatively; we give it selectively; we abuse it selfishly. But according to Paul, we should exercise love toward everyone—friend and foe—although the way we love may look different in different situations. In Romans chapter 12, Paul writes with rapid fire as he gives application to a biblical love “without hypocrisy” that God expects us to practice toward believer and nonbeliever so that we can “live in harmony with one another.”
Not only does love for one another foster healthy Christianity, it also fosters a healthy state. Love, according to Paul, is the only thing we should owe to one another—and we should pay it out upon every opportunity. If we fail to love one another, however, and choose to do evil instead, God has instituted government authorities to enforce justice. Indeed, one of the principle purposes of government, according to Paul, is to encourage good conduct and punish wickedness. For those bent on evil, government should be an instrument of fear and act as a deterrent to immoral behavior. When it fails to do this, it fails to carry out God’s will for a nation. It fails to please God as His “servant.”
The greatest threat to unity in the church today is not this or that doctrine. Sadly, most Christians couldn’t care less about doctrine. Instead, they go to battle over gray areas. A gray area can be defined as anything not explicitly addressed in the Bible. They are preferences and opinions, whether pertaining to music, missions, personalities, facilities, politics, etc. Paul addresses gray areas in his letter to the Romans by singling out two groups of people. The first group represents those who look at gray areas and see black and white. The second group sees gray for what it is, but must strive to be sensitive to the first group to prevent them from stumbling. The first group leans toward the letter of the law; the second group leans toward the spirit of the law. Which group are you in?
We are each born with an instinct toward self-preservation. Because of the fall, the instinct to “preserve ourselves” has changed to an instinct to “please ourselves.” We clamor to get to the front of the line; we battle for the biggest piece of the pie; we strain to end up on top. We compete to win, and cause others to lose by definition.
As is often the case, the Bible calls Christians to live unnaturally in this area. Instead of pleasing ourselves, we are told to bear one another’s failings. Instead of being served, we are commanded to serve. Instead of gratifying our flesh, we are instructed to deny ourselves such gratification. And the moment we are tempted to cry “unfair!”—we have only to look upon Christ. Though rightly deserving of gratification, service, and pleasing Himself, the King of kings became a Servant of servants for our sake. He modeled what it means to truly live unnaturally by living supernaturally. Who are we to think we are above such a life of service if the King has modeled it for us?
At last we arrive at Paul’s concluding remarks which are characteristically bold. Here, Paul defends the integrity and scope of his ministry, and describes his plans for the immediate future. Far be it from Paul to set his sights too low. For most evangelists traveling from Judea,
Paul had made firm plans to visit the church in
Paul concludes his letter to the Romans in the same way he began: Encouraging ongoing obedience to the Gospel. Such obedience requires a watchful eye on troublemakers who seek to deceive believers. Paul instructs those in