How to study the book of Romans
Romans is one of the most well-known books of the Bible.
You’ve probably heard a hundred sermons from the book of Romans. You might list Romans 8 as one of your favorite passages. You might be aware that Romans contains some of the key passages on predestination, the doctrine of justification, the doctrine of sanctification, and other core doctrines of the church. And you probably know the role a verse from Romans played in Martin Luther’s articulation of the 95 theses that launched the Reformation.
Romans has had a life-changing impact on the lives of millions of people. It’s not hard to argue that this short letter written to a group of Christians two thousand years ago has changed world history.
So whether you know it or not, you have probably been influenced by the book of Romans.
What the Bible says about predestination
In any conversation about predestination, election, and God’s will in the act of salvation, two verses from Romans 8 are usually cited:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Romans 8:29–30)
These two verses are some of the most scrutinized in the Bible, so let’s take a moment to unpack them in more detail to see what they tell us about predestination.
See what Douglas Moo says about Paul’s understanding of predestination:
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Advice on studying Romans from Douglas Moo
We recently sat down with Douglas Moo to talk about some challenges students face when studying Romans. Take a look at what he says.
And be sure to check out his new online course, The Book of Romans: History, Meaning, and Application.
I’ve talked to Christians over the years who say, “Oh, I’m not ready to study Romans yet, that’s too heavy for me.”
You’ve probably heard it taught maybe from the pulpit, maybe you’ve taken a Sunday school class on it. You’ve read it. You’ve studied it perhaps even in Bible study.
Romans is a book that addresses many of those fundamental worldview issues. What does it mean to be a Christian? What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How is it relevant to me and to my church?
I think some of the reasons we therefore…
What is justification?
In Romans 1:17, Paul writes: “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”
This does not refer, in so many words, to “justification by faith.” However, the idea is clearly expressed: God’s righteousness is “by faith from first to last.” It is the one who is “righteous by faith” who will gain spiritual life.
What does this mean? Douglas Moo explains:
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Whose Wrath? (Romans 5:9) — Mondays with Mounce 293
No matter how word-for-word a translation tries to be, there will always be some confusing sentence that requires interpretation. Sometimes, the more word-for-word translations just leave it confusing, but other times even the NASB and ESV (for example) feel the need to interpret.
Rom 5:9 says, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (NASB). The italics show that “of God” is not in the Greek, which reads, σωθησόμεθα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς.
The ESV simply says “the wrath of God” and footnotes 1 Thess 1:10 and 2:16, referencing also Romans 1:18. Cranfield adds the reference to 1 Thess 5:9.
HCSB and KJV simply say, “from wrath.” Others say “God’s wrath” (NIV, NRSV), and the NET adds the footnote, “Grk, “the wrath,” referring to God’s wrath…
Is Church Unity Possible? – An Excerpt from Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary Series)
The Story of God Bible Commentary explains and illuminates each passage of Scripture in light of the Bible’s grand story. It aims to set each passage within the context of Scripture and leads the reader to (1) “Listen to the Story,” (2) “Explain the Story,” and (3) “Live the Story.”
In his commentary on Romans, Michael F. Bird examines each portion of scripture through this three-step process. This week’s excerpt is taken from the “Listen to the Story” and “Explain the Story” sections of Romans 14:1 – 15:13 revealing the apostle Paul’s instruction on the perennial problem of church disunity.
LISTEN TO THE STORY
Problems of Disunity The Roman…
How Should Christians Relate to Governing Authorities? Michael Bird Clarifies
“Origen, who knew Roman brutality all to well, said: ‘I am disturbed by Paul’s saying that the authority of this age and the judgment of the world are ministers of God.’” (Michael Bird, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Romans, 442)
Michael Bird brings clarity in his new Romans commentary (The Story of God Bible Commentary series). He helps us hear and explore the text in it’s original Roman context, while also applying it to our current global one.
Below we explore four…
Two Unusual Translations (Romans 5:6)
Paul wants to stress that the “utter dependability of our hope” (Rom 5:5a) is based not on the power of human love (v 7) but on God’s love as demonstrated by his death for sinners (vv 6, 8).
In v 6 Paul writes, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Ἔτι γὰρ Χριστὸς ὄντων ἡμῶν ἀσθενῶν ἔτι κατὰ καιρὸν ὑπὲρ ἀσεβῶν ἀπέθανεν). There are a couple of interesting points to be made about the Greek.
First, γάρ is introducing not just v 6 but vv 6-8 (see Moo). If we used the simplistic gloss “for,” as do most translations, it makes the connection between paragraphs a little harder to parse. How does Christ’s death for sinners relate to our hope stemming from our justification? But when you see the γάρ introducing all…
Special Access and Endurance – An Excerpt From Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary Series)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)
Approaching Holy Week brings our thoughts to the implications of Christ’s work on the cross. In his new commentary on Romans (The Story of God Bible Commentary Series) Michael Bird leads through the text of Romans 5 with humor and depth of insight into the great gift we are given and the hope that results.
Reflect on this excerpt of the commentary from Romans 5:1-11:
The summative nature of Paul’s language easily lends itself to application in both the ancient Roman churches and in the contemporary ones, especially in relation to the real meaning of our salvation and how it proves to be transformative for our own character…
Michael Bird on the “Gracism” of Romans 3:21–31
Aussie Michael Bird observes what many Americans often forget: “Blacks, whites, and Latinos are never more segregated than when it comes to attending worship services.” Sunday at 11:00 a.m. truly is the most segregated hour in America.
What we need is a healthy dose of “gracism.” Bird’s fresh look at Romans 3:21–31 will administer this vital antidote.
Gracism means that grace is both preached and practiced toward others. Gracism means that the most ruthless and efficient way to destroy our tribal enemies is by making them our brothers and sisters in Christ. (135)
What Bird reveals about Paul’s central passage on justification is a…
Why Did Paul Write Romans? Michael Bird Offers 5 Possible Reasons
Like many practitioners, my shelves groan under the weight of a cohort of Romans commentators, including: Cranfield, Dunn, Fitzmyer, Jewett, Moo, Nanos, Schreiner, and, of course, Luther, Calvin, and Barth.
It’s time to add another: Bird.
Michael Bird’s new Romans commentary is a worthy addition to our shelves. Not only because he exploits Romans’s narrative world and situates the letter within the broader biblical story. But because of how he views Romans, which informs his commentary:
Romans is a word of exhortation, a masterpiece of missional theology, culturally savvy apologetics, christological exegesis, pastoral care, theological exposition, and artful rhetoric… (11)
His Romans-In-Brief helps answer our question. So does the history of interpretation…
Finally, A Commentary by South Asian Scholars for South Asian Readers
Several years ago an American friend worked with pastors in Ukraine, offering ministry encouragement and strategic insights. At his first meeting he was greeted by a baseball diamond diagram popularized by an American book helping churches supercharge their ministry. They were using it to help guide their Eastern European churches.
He thought the baseball analogy was contextually out of place. Instead of importing American ministry strategies, he encouraged these leaders to create contextual ones for their indigenous ministries.
The same could be said for Bible commentaries.
Biblical insights from Western commentaries can be helpful elsewhere. Yet non-Western churches need resources to explain the Bible, relate its meaning to specific contexts, and apply Scripture to their life and ministry. Now we have such a resource for South Asia.
The new South…