Since Romans is commonly considered the greatest exposition of Christian doctrine ever written, I urge you to set a goal to master the book of Romans. Become so well acquainted with its content (the whole book) that you can think your way through the entire book with your eyes closed. This short outline flows out of Romans 1:17 as key verse, and may aid in tracing Paul’s thoughts. You might consider my booklet on Romans 5-8, “Re-created Humanity”, as an aid to that powerful section as you continue to master the entire book by rapid, repeated reading.
Prologue & Epilogue (Romans 1:1-17 & 15:14-16:27)
Paul had never met the Christians at Rome face-to-face, so the prologue is carefully crafted. In 1:1-7, Paul first ties the message he has preached all around the Mediterranean basin to God’s Big Story beginning with Genesis 1-3 and flowing through OT Scriptures (1:2). Second, it focuses on Jesus, who is both fully man and fully God, oh mystery (1:3-4), leading to lifelong abandonment to Him (1:5-6). In the Good News, a “righteousness of God” is revealed that restores all those who believe to God’s original Eden-intent (1:16-18) and leads to our eager desire to tell others (1:14-15). Paul later explains this as our only “reasonable” response (12:1-2). This righteousness is a restored standing before God together with all His people. Paul then systematically relates the entire letter to unfolding this concept of God’s restored righteousness.
1. SIN – Romans 1:18-3:20, “What is the state of mankind separate from God?”
God’s Righteousness Required – Each person is a sinner, whether a reckless sinner (1:18-32), a “respectable” sinner (moral, 2:1-16), or a religious sinner (Jew as illustration, 2:17-3:8). All have sinned before God (3:9-20). In God’s mercy, He has provided light for each category of sinner in order to woo them back to God’s unchanging Eden-intent of intimacy at home with Him. For the reckless sinner, nature (1:18-20); for the respectable sinner, our conscience (2:15); and for the religious, God’s written Law (3:2).
2. SALVATION – Romans 3:21-4:25, “How can such sinners be rescued & restored?”
God’s Righteousness Provided – God Himself has set things right through Jesus Christ our Lord as He revealed His righteousness and imparted it to all who believe as the only way home.
3. SATISFACTION – 5:1-8:39 (9-11), “Who are we now in Christ through faith?”
God’s Righteousness Imparted – To very briefly summarize: through our faith-response, God is now fully satisfied with His people. He re-creates us in His image and restores us to His Eden-design so we are also fully satisfied in Him. Through faith in Christ, we are new creations with a right standing before God. Chapters 5-8 are the mountain summit of Romans. Each prior thought leads up to and all that follows flows from it. Romans 5-8 is the launching pad for sanctification (Romans 12:1f). But please distinguish the things that differ. Don’t confuse the two. Satisfaction has to do with what God has already done in us through faith in Christ, and sanctification is the process of working this out together as partners in life on our journey. This section is about Reality, how God sees each of His children, and is fact (with a short peek forward toward sanctification in 6:11-14). I also believe God is on the march to recover this high view of redeemed humanity in the church today, perhaps the most central message on God’s agenda for us at this time, true of every believer. This is why I wrote “Re-created Humanity” to massage this section (free download).
4. SANCTIFICATION – Romans 12:1-15:24, “How can we partner with the Trinity?”
God’s Righteousness Practiced – Sanctification is the ongoing process by which the Trinity partners with us to change us from the inside out so we walk more in alignment with who we truly are. These transforming responses partner with the Spirit for lifelong, ongoing change and fruitful ministry.
Click here if you are interested in a FREE, no-strings-attached Word copy of a booklet on Romans 5-8, “Re-created Humanity.”