16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17)
Since Romans is primarily a work of rich theological doctrine, it contains little historical material. Paul does use such familiar OT figures as Abraham (ch. 4), David (4:6–8), Adam (5:12–21), Sarah (9:9), Rebekah (9:10), Jacob and Esau (9:10–13), and Pharaoh (9:17) as illustrations. He also recounts some of Israel’s history (chs. 9–11). Chapter 16 provides insightful glimpses into the nature and character of the first-century church and its members.
The overarching theme of Romans is the righteousness that comes from God: the glorious truth that God justifies guilty, and condemned sinners by grace alone through faith in Christ alone. Chapters 1–11 present the theological truths of that doctrine, while chs. 12–16 detail its practical outworking in the lives of individual believers and the life of the whole church.
Some specific theological topics include principles of spiritual leadership (1:8–15); God’s wrath against sinful mankind (1:18–32); principles of divine judgment (2:1–16); the universality of sin (3:9–20); an exposition and defense of justification by faith alone (3:21–4:25); the security of salvation (5:1–11); the transference of Adam’s sin (5:12–21); sanctification (chs. 6–8); sovereign election (ch. 9); God’s plan for Israel (ch. 11); spiritual gifts and practical godliness (ch. 12); the believer’s responsibility to human government (ch. 13); and principles of Christian liberty (14:1–15:12).
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “As the preeminent doctrinal work in the NT, Romans naturally contains a number of difficult passages. Paul’s discussion of the perpetuation of Adam’s sin (5:12–21) is one of the deepest, most profound theological passages in all of Scripture. The nature of mankind’s union with Adam and how his sin was transferred to the human race has always been the subject of intense debate.”
Additionally, Bible students also disagree on whether 7:7–25 describes Paul’s experience as a believer or as an unbeliever, or is a literary device not intended to be autobiographical at all.
The closely related doctrines of election (8:28–30) and the sovereignty of God (9:6–29) have challenged many believers. Others question whether chs. 9–11 teach that God has a future plan for the nation of Israel. Some have ignored Paul’s teaching on the believer’s obedience to human government (13:1–7) in the name of Christian activism, while others have used it to defend slavish obedience to totalitarian regimes.
I encourage you to take the time to study the Epistle to the Romans. Following our completion of the life, ministry and theology of the Apostle Pau, Romans will be out next study at hiswordtoday.org.
Have a blessed day.
Soli deo Gloria!