Five Texts From Romans to Help You Explore the Whole Bible
When you know virtually nothing about the Bible, memorizing a verse or verses felt like quite an accomplishment. And it was!
Memorizing the “Therefores”
“There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). “Therefore, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1). “Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies…”(Rom 6:12).
These are fabulous verses and were committed to memory (from a translation now seldom used in public reading of the biblical text which always messes me up when using a newer translation). But each text had a “therefore” in it. It never occurred to me at the time that the “therefore” was there for a reason. I was encouraged in what I knew and didn’t know what I didn’t know. All was well until I started reading the text in context.
Five Passages Worth Studying
I love asking questions pertaining to the biblical text. I now want to know what the “therefore” is there for! So let me suggest some pondering about the following biblical quotations from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. I recommend that we don’t be too quick to answer without reading the context of these verses.
General Revelation and Common Phrases (Romans 2:14-15)
“When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.”
When reading this passage, questions come to mind like “Is this an example of ‘general revelation’, the base knowledge of God everyone has access to?” and “How does the law become written on the heart?” It also brings to mind Jeremiah 31 and other “written on the heart” texts? Text like this cause us to dig deeper, not just into Romans, but into themes from throughout scripture.
How to Understand Old Testament Figures (Romans 4:1-2)
“What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.”
Two questions are brought forth in looking at this text closer:
First of all, why did the editors of the translation used here not follow Paul’s usual convention in Romans and translate the text with the short question “What shall we say, then?” And then have the following translation of the rest of the verse: “Have we found Abraham to be our ancestor in a human, fleshly sense?” (Romans 4:1,2 KNT).
Second, is Abraham simply an Old Testament example like David will be later in the chapter? By leaning on the stories of scripture, Romans provides a method for understanding the Bible as a whole.
Making Things Right (Romans 7:14-15)
“For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
Of course, this section has caused many an argument about the argument in Romans! But what is going on?
It is so easy to place myself in this section and resonate with the battle that sometimes resides in my own self. Yet, we must not simply yield to sentimentality (this is how I feel sometimes) and stick to the broader line of reasoning that resides in the section of Romans 6-8. What fun it is to reflect on the broader story that Paul is following and teaching from. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
This was one of my treasured verses from early in my Christian walk. But which way does the “therefore” point? It often points backwards. But here the reasoning is given in the following verses. When fully understood this way a greater beauty of God’s work of “making me in the right” emerges.
Making Sense of Predestination (Romans 8:30)
“And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Why not end on a deeply mysterious text! We may wrangle over how the word “predestined” is to be understood or argue about “justification”. But why is the word “glorified” in the past tense? In what sense is this now true? Is there some sense that is usually missed because we don’t understand what it is to be “glorified” in this present day?
Wonderful questions, don’t you think? So, these are just a few texts that lead me deeper into the study of Paul’s majestic Epistle to the Romans. Though I have studied and taught Romans for over 35 years, these are still wonderful words from Paul worth deeper study.
Now Available: Romans, Part 3!
We are excited to announce that the third installment of N.T. Wright Online’s course Paul and His Epistle to the Romans is now available. This course is designed to take around ten weeks to complete and will cover Introductory Issues regarding the whole Epistle as well as in depth exegesis of Romans 12-16.