The Significance and Application of the Book of Romans

November 9, 2015 — 4 Comments

Another post looking at the significance and application of books of the Bible: Romans. 

The Significance and Application of the Book of Romans

Photo Credit: Sweet Publishing

I. THE PURPOSE AND ARGUMENT OF ROMANS 

A. Purpose

Romans is Paul’s successful attempt to explain God’s marvelous plan of salvation for both Jews and Gentiles while also providing a picture of a righteous life lived in the Spirit.

B. Argument

1. The normal greeting from Paul and an introduction to the Good News (1:1-17).

Paul provided his normal greeting (vv. 1-7), his thankfulness (vv. 8-15), and introduction to the Good News (vv. 16-17).

2. A description of God’s anger against sin and the role of the Law (1:18-3:20).

While people should know the truth about God (1:19), they had chosen not to worship him (1:20-27), and as a result God abandoned them (1:28-32). Then Paul reminded the Romans that they were just as bad (2:1-4) and that would result in judgement (2:5-16). Yet while all people were sinful (3:9-20), God is faithful in spite of their sin (3:1-8).

3. Christ’s work and the faith of believers (3:21-5:21).

Paul made it very clear that people are made right in God’s eyes by putting their faith in Jesus Christ (3:21-22, 30). Next, Paul explained how that happened. Because everyone had sinned (3:23), God declared sinners righteous through Christ, freeing them from their sins (3:24) through Christ’s sacrifice (3:25). An example of someone made righteous by faith was Abraham (4:1-25). Faith (like Abraham’s) has made believers right with God and gives them peace (5:1-12). As a final note on the work of Christ and believers’ faith, Paul contrasted Adam’s sin with God’s gracious gift (5:12-21).

4. The relationship between sin and the new life in Christ (6:1-8:39).

Sin should not continue in the life of a believer and it should not grow (6:1-4). As a result of believers’ deaths with Christ and resurrection to new life with Christ, believers are no longer slaves to sin (6:5-11). Therefore, believers should live clean lives (6:12-23). While people might know about the Law, the Law no longer has an effect, and believers should use their freedom to do good work (7:1-6). The Law was not sinful, but it showed believers their sin and tempted them to sin (7:7-25). The believers new position is based on Christ and their life in the Spirit (8:1-17). That life in the Spirit should compel believers to look forward with eager hope to the release of their bodies from sin and vision of the future glory (8:18-30). In this work of Christ, his love for believers is the strongest of all things (8:31-39).

5. What about Jews and Gentiles (9:1-11:36).

Paul had a strong desire for his Jewish people to know Christ (9:1-5) because being a descendant of Abraham did not make the Jews holy (9:7). Instead, God had shown his mercy (9:14-16) to both Jews and Gentiles (9:24). Sadly, Israel did not understand the way of God (9:30-10:4) and as a result God’s salvation was offered to everyone (1:5-21). Yet Israel still has a place in God’s plan, and God has mercy on them (11:1-12). Furthermore, the Gentiles were offered the gift of salvation and have been graphed into Abraham’s family tree (11:13-24). In this way, God still has mercy on everyone (11:25-36).

6. The life lived righteously and correctly (12:1-16:27).

Believers are supposed to give their bodies to God as a living sacrifice in a way that does not copy the world (12:1-2). Believers are not supposed to think of themselves as better than others (12:3-8). Furthermore, believers must truly love others regardless of what treatment believers receive (12:9-21). Paul then moved on to share that all authority comes from God (13:1), so believers need to be obedient and respectful of the people God has placed in authority (13:2-5). This even means paying taxes (13:6-7)! Lastly, Paul told believers not to owe anything to anyone but instead to love others by doing good deeds (13:8-14). With respect to other believers Paul reminded his readers that they might need to alter their actions because of the weaker faith of people around them (14:1-23). Strong believers must seek to build others up in the Lord and accept weaker believers because that was Christ’s example for them (15:1-13).

II. HOW ROMANS CONNECTS TO THE ENTIRE BIBLE

A. Good News in the Entire Bible

Romans highlights the idea of the Good News of Jesus promised long ago in the holy Scriptures (Rom 1:2). Paul wrote that Adam (Gen 1-3) was a symbol and a representation of Christ, who was yet to come (Rom 5:14). Some other well known passages that attest to Christ in the Scriptures would be Deut 8:15 where Moses told the Israelites that God would raise up another prophet that would be greater than Moses. Later the prophet Nathan told David that his descendant would be called the “Son” of God and would rule forever (2 Sam 7:12-16; cf. Pss 2). The most clear prediction of Jesus was Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant (Isa 53).

B. Counted Righteous by Faith

Romans also emphasizes the fact that it is by faith that a person is counted as righteous. Romans clearly states that “we are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom 3:22; cf 3:20; 4:3, 9, 22). Faith as the basis for a person’s righteousness was first mentioned in Gen 15:6 referencing Abraham, and then reaffirmed in Heb 2:4.

C. The Role of the Law

How the Law applies to believers is also a strong topic as Paul attempted to explain its past and current role in the lives of believers. Paul mentioned that the Law was the basis for how the Jews would be judged (Rom 2:12) because the deeds of the Jews were supposed to match the Law (Rom 2:17-25). Paul also explained that the Law applied to those to whom it was given (Rom 3:19). Furthermore, Paul wrote that people sinned even before the Law was given (Rom 5:13) starting with Adam and Eve (Gen 3:6-7), continuing at the time the Law was revealed with the people making a gold calf (Exod 32), and the chaos in the time of the Judges (Judg 21:25). Finally it was because of sin and evil that God banished his people from Jerusalem in Judah and allowed them to be taken into exile (2 Kings 24:18-20).

D. Sinfulness

On the topic of sinfulness. Romans specifically mentions Adam’s sin in Gen 3 and how that sin brought death (Rom 5:12). Everyone died from sin, including Moses (Rom 5:14; cf Deut 34:5). Now that the Law is gone believers still struggle to stay away from sin (Rom 7:14-25).

III. HOW TO APPLY ROMANS TO YOUR LIFE

A. Four Principles from Romans

1. The Gospel was offered to the Jews and Gentiles

Paul had been given the privilege of telling Gentiles everywhere about what God had done for them (1:5-6). For those who do evil there will be trouble and calamity for the Jew first and then for the Gentile (2:9), yet there will be glory, honor, and peace for all those that do good, for the Jew first and also for the Gentile (2:10). Both the Jews and the Gentiles will be destroyed if they are wicked and disobedient (2:12). A true Jew, according to Paul, was not just someone who had been circumcised (2:18) but was someone that had a heart that was right with God (2:29). While the people of Israel were God’s chosen people (9:4), Paul reminded his readers of Hosea’s prophesy that others in addition to Israel would be God’s people (Rom 9:25 and Hosea 2:23; Rom 9:26 and Hosea 1:10). It was in this manner that God’s offer of salvation by faith was provided to everyone (10:9-13).

2. Salvation is by grace

It was with “undeserved kindness” that God used Jesus as a means to make people righteous (3:24). Salvation is called “God’s gracious gift” (5:15). The gift of Christ was a free gift (5:16) and a gift of righteousness (5:17). 

3. Justification is by faith

The book of Romans describes the power of God at work saving everyone who believes – the Jew first and then the Gentile (1:16). Believers are made right in God’s sight “from start to finish by faith” (1:17; cf. 3:20, 22; 4:3, 9, 22; 9:30; 10:4, 9-10). But what is that faith in? According to Paul in Romans sinners are made right by placing their faith in Jesus Christ (3:21, 25, 28, 30).

4. Righteous living should be a conscious effort for believers

Paul provides several direct descriptions of and prescriptions for the righteous life for believers (12:1-2 is probably the most direct and clear). According to Paul, glory, honor, and peace will be given by God to those who do good (2:11). Believers must not let sin control their lives (6:12; 13:12-14) but instead give their bodies completely to God (6:13; 12:1-2). While believers are no longer under the requirements of the Law (7:4-6), they still struggle with the human desire to sin (7:14-25). The new position of believers is life in the Spirit which means believers no longer follow their sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit (8:4), which is what believers are controlled by (8:9). Finally, believers must truly love others (12:9) even to the point of blessing people who persecute believers (12:14-21).

B. 2 Sunday School Activities 

1. When were you justified by faith?

Ask your Sunday School class to think about their lives and think about when they were made right in God’s eyes by their faith. Was there a specific point in time that this happened? Was it a process over a period of time? Did an event in their lives trigger that decision? If some are willing, ask them to share with the class.

2. How can you give your lives completely to God?

In Paul’s letter to the Romans he says that believers are to give their lives completely to God (Rom 6) and to live as living sacrifices (Rom 12). Ask your Sunday School class to think about what areas they have been doing a good job in and what areas they can improve in. If some are willing, ask them to share how they improved their living for God in the next week’s Sunday School class.

C. My Personal Application of Romans 

As I approach graduation from DTS and am looking for jobs I need to offer myself to God as his servant. Romans 12:1-2 is the most clear statement about how I need to open myself up to seeing what God’s will is for me. I need to be willing to allow him to direct me to where he wants me to live and to the work he wants me to do.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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