Letter of Paul to the Romans Overview

From Peter Kreeft’s You Can Understand the Bible:

Romans is placed first among the epistles not only because it is the longest, but also because it is the greatest. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called Romans “the most profound book in existence.”

Romans is the only systematic theology in the Bible.

The main point of Romans, and of Christianity, and of life itself, is Christ.

Romans is the book that sparked the Protestant Reformation when Luther discovered the doctrine of justification by faith in it. The Catholic Church teaches this doctrine too, of course. The Church cannot contradict the Bible. That would be like a house contradicting its foundation. Nor is there any contradiction between Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith (in Romans and Galatians) and James’ teaching that faith without works is dead (Jas 2:14-26). Luther thought there was, and he called James “an epistle of straw.” But even Romans includes James’ point. It ends with Chapters 12 to 16 about the necessity of good works.

Romans is an extended logical argument, especially chapters 1 – 8. The unity of the argument centers around four key concepts: righteousness, faith, law, and sin. Paul uses each term over sixty times.

The first step is the problem, the “bad news” that we all have a mortal disease called sin. The good news is that all are offered salvation. The good news makes no sense unless you believe the bad news first. A free operation is not good news if you don’t think you have a mortal disease.

The transition from the bad news (1:18-3:20) to the good news (3:21) is objectively Jesus’ death and subjectively our faith. More exactly, Paul mentions three aspects of justification: by grace, by blood, and by faith. Its origins is grace (3:21-24), its means is Christ’s death (3:25-26), and our reception of it is by faith (3:27-31).


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