You may read an introduction to the Letter to the Romans, here.
You may read an outline of the letter, here.
A prayer to use before reading Scripture, A prayer of John Calvin:
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
III. Romans 9:1-11:36 God’s Promises and God’s Faithfulness: Paul has made the case that Jew and Gentile are equal before God and has argued that Jesus’ death and resurrection, not Torah, save human beings. If this is true, what does it mean to be “God’s people”? Is Israel now rejected? And if so, what does this say about God’s covenantal faithfulness? In this section of Romans, Paul answers these questions. Paul addresses Israel’s unbelief in Jesus, reinterprets Torah to show how God has been at work in the world and how God has been faithful to the promises God made to Israel.
A. 9:1-5 Paul’s Grief Over Israel’s Failure to Believe, Despite Being Promise Bearer
B. 9:6-29 The Story of Israel, from Abraham to the Exile, Displays God’s Justice in Judgment and Mercy
C. 9:30-10:21 God’s Covenant Faithfulness Revealed in the Messiah
9:30-33 Faith, Works, and the Stumbling Stone
10:1-21 God’s Righteousness and the Worldwide Mission
D. 11:1-36 The Salvation of “All Israel” in Fulfillment of God’s Unbreakable Promises :
11:1-10 God Has Not Rejected Israel: “Remnant” can mean the people who have survived catastrophe, who have been preserved, and who provide continuity with the past. “Remnant” can also mean a small group distinguished by its particular piety or loyalty. This later sense is the one Paul is using here, when he distinguishes between “the elect” and “the rest”. The remnant are who they are only by God’s grace and not because of anything they have done.
11:11-32 “All Israel” Will Be Saved: While it may appear that God has abandoned Israel, in actuality, God has not. This is part of God’s plan and not a reason for Gentiles to boast. “Mystery” is not a puzzle to solve but rather is God’s purposes and plans that are unknowable, hidden from people.
11:33-36 Praise to the All-Wise God: These verses are probably an early hymn.
Luke Timothy Johnson sums up chapter 9-11 this way:
It becomes apparent after Paul concludes Romans 9-11 that the problem with the Jews is not fundamentally that they tried to earn God’s favor or that they based their claim to salvation on a “work-righteousness”. Paul’s argument has often been construed in this manner, but it is an inadequate understanding of Paul’s own description of his theology and mission. Some elements of this construal do enter into Paul’s logic of argumentation on the issue of the inadequacy of Torah, as he attempts to demonstrate why this measure of righteousness cannot be upheld for Gentiles. But these arguments must be understood in precisely that context: Paul’s justification of why Gentiles are not- and indeed cannot be- saved on the basis of Torah. In the process, Paul does clarify what his fundamental problem is with his fellow Jews, and it is simply this: because they so exclusively defined themselves by the traditional interpretation of Torah- reading Torah non – messianically- they could not be open to God’s new work both in Christ and, subsequently, among the Gentiles. (Johnson, 360-361)
IV. Romans 12:1-16:27 God’s Call to Worship, Holiness, and Unity The life of followers of Jesus as a community must reflect who God is and what God has done for God’s people. What Paul writes here is, not surprisingly, similar to what is in his other letters. But remember, Paul is not personally familiar with the church in Rome. He is not responding to questions from this church. Paul’s advise is the result of, the outgrowth of all that has come before in this letter.
A. 12:1-2 The Worship of Body and Mind “Bodies” here means “selves” or “whole being”. The word the NRSV and NIV translate as “spiritual” is logikos, which has the sense of “reasonable”. It could be paraphrased as ” a worship ‘that is worthy of thinking beings’ “(Wright, 705).
B.12:3-13 Unity, Love, and Community Living
C.12:14-13:7 The Church Facing the Outside World
12:14-21 Christian Living Amid (possibly hostile) Outsiders: The “burning coals” of verse 20 are a quote from Proverbs 25:21-22. Commentators think the burning coals are an image of “the burning shame of remorse for having treated someone so badly.” (Wright, 715). Some think this is a reference to an Egyptian ritual where a container of burning coals was carried on one’s head as a sign of penitence.(Meyer, 1068).
13:1-7 God’s Call to Obedience to the Authorities: Much has been written about these verses. Commentators believe that Paul is not offering a full theological statement about “church and state”. These verses do reflect a commonly held belief in Paul’s time; that God desired order (rather than chaos and anarchy) within society and governmental authorities are here to achieve it. Also rulers answer to God and ought to seek God’s guidance.
D.13:8-10 Love Fulfilling the Law: Fulfilling the Law does not mean doing “good works” to earn God’s reward, rather love is the action necessary for us to do because of the debt we owe to God and each other.
E. 13:11-14 Living by the Rising Sun : Live for God’s coming day of salvation.
F. 14:1-15:13 God’s Call to Unity of Life and Worship Across Barriers of Custom and Ethnic Identity : Instructions for the church. Probably, underlying the issues Paul discusses are some Jewish- Gentile tensions, but Paul avoids using the terms Jew/Gentile, circumcised/uncircumcised until 15:6.
14:1-12 Judging and Being Judged
14:13-23 Conscience and the Kingdom of God
15:1-13 Mutual Welcome, Based on the Messiah
G.15:14-33 Paul’s Apostolic Travel Plans : Paul explains his ministry and why he is coming to Rome. But first Paul must deliver the money he has collected to the church in Jerusalem. Paul sees this as an action to help relive the poverty of the church but also a way to bring Jewish and Gentile Christians together.
We don’t know if Paul ever made it to Spain. In fact difficulties on his trip to Jerusalem meant it was two years before he made it to Rome (Acts 20-28) and then he was under armed guard.
H. 16:1-16 Commendation and Greetings
I. 16:17-20 Watch Out for Divisions
J. 16:21-24 Greetings from Paul’s Colleagues
K. 16:25-27 Concluding Doxology
Read More About It:
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 14 “The Letter to the Romans”.
Knox, John, John Reumann “Romans” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Meyer, Paul W. “Romans” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Wright, N.T. “The Letter to the Romans” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume X, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press) 2002.