I will begin my Romans study on July 1. Until then I wanted to post my very simplified overview to remind you where you are in the overall contest of the letter.
Romans is a letter from Paul to a Christian Church in Rome. I believe it is important to keep in mind the tension between followers of Jesus and the Roman Government/Culture. For a period of time all Jews were banished from the city, because of their destabilizing message. What message could be so destabilizing?
The Church in Rome believed that a King had already established a permanent Kingdom that no earthly ruler could thwart or overthrow. I imagine the Emperor did not take kindly to this theology. A group of people who stopped working on a day of the week, avoided sacrificial practices to numerous deities, held “love feasts” in their God’s honor and stopped the worship of the Emperor would have become highly visible. Likely words like treason and sedition were muttered throughout the streets.
Because of the church’s geographic setting and the path of the letter, I believe Paul’s desire is to encourage and motivate through the scriptures as he shares this great letter.
Chapter 1 – Paul states his desire is to encourage his Roman listeners. He begins his letters by contrasting those who live by faith with the wicked. The righteous live by faith; the wicked live in opposition to faith; and all are separated from God apart from faith.
Chapter 2 – Paul doesn’t want his Roman readers to think they are superior to those in the culture. God’s judgement is on Jew and Gentile alike; Jews will be judged by the law and Gentiles apart from the law. God’s chosen people are those who are changed internally.
Chapter 3 – So if Jewishness or being one God’s people is an inward reality, then what advantage is there being a Jew? Just because God has graciously given the gospel to the Gentiles doesn’t mean they should become arrogant. Jew and Gentile alike are under sin. Jew and Gentile alike are apart from God. Righteousness does not come through the law. So does the law have value?
Chapter 4 – Righteousness is by faith. Paul uses the scripture to prove it. He is going to validate, through the scriptures, the movement of God through the Gentiles. The movement through the Gentiles is being operated the same as God has always worked through his people. And now we all are sons of Abraham who have faith.
Chapter 5 – So how do I have peace with God? Because of Jesus! Why was I separate from God? Because of Adam.
Chapter 6 – The natural question: If peace with God is based on Jesus’ actions, then do my actions actually matter? Can’t we just live any way we want? No because you were immersed into death. Which means you are not you in the same way you were you before?!?! Jesus is alive in you and because of Jesus you have life!
Chapter 7 – Because you have already been immersed to death you are no longer bound to the consequence of the law. You now live by a new law. A law that is written on your heart. You are a new creation. The eternal you exists, but it’s still hanging out with old you. And old you does stuff that new you thinks is dumb (Fight Metaphor). Another less dualistic possibility is the old you is moving closer and closer towards a new you, while sometimes slipping backwards and moving forwards (Journey metaphor).
Chapter 8 – Its sounds like this Spirit is forcing you to do his will. That doesn’t seem nice right? Well someone who is in the Spirit has a changed nature. That means you do naturally the things the spirit wants you to do. This might seem hard to live in both worlds, but someday you will live in a world without the dichotomy.
Chapter 9 – Paul starts reminding the reader that God chose Israel and now it looks bad. But what God started with Israel is being finished with the Gentiles. So why did the Gentiles receive the message of the Gospel? Because of God’s mercy. God gave you a chance.
Chapter 10 – Israel can still return. Anyone who believes can be saved. But they have to hear the message. That’s our job!
Chapter 11 – So this might make us nervous. God’s people are separate from their God. And if they are, so could we. God has started a work in the Gentiles, but couldn’t this go haywire as well? Well it could. But God is long-suffering and can bring Israel back in to the fold.
Chapter 12 – There is a big break here from the previous chapters. In light of all that said, how should we live? We are to be a living sacrifice.
Chapter 13 – Paul continues speaking into our lives. We should submit to the authorities. God put them there. We should be good neighbors to the Romans. For the day is coming when we will no longer live lives in a world that is not our own.
Chapter 14 – How should we deal with others in the Church? There were so many differences within the church. I am sure they could have split into so many factions, but Paul wanted them to be united in Jesus. The little niggly things were meant to be stepped over, cast aside out of love.
Chapter 15 – Paul wraps up his; how we should treat others section. Also, he wraps up his focus of this letter. He has encouraged and motivated the Church in Rome. This letter has focused on reminding the church that God’s work is not easily thrown away. God loves his people and asks them to work towards his Glory.
Chapter 16 – Paul ends his letter with some personal notes.
This wraps up my quick, brief understanding of the Book of Romans. It’s not based upon any commentaries and I’m not guaranteeing this understanding, but I do feel that it makes sense in light of the historical context and literary context of the book. I hope it encourages and motivates you as you do your weekly readings.