Main Themes in Romans

“Le premier contact fut écrasant.” – “The first encounter was overwhelming.” M.-J. Lagrange, Saint Paul: Épître Aux Romains. Études Bibliques. Paris, 1950.

Romans 1:16–17 (ESV) 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.”

In Romans 1:16-17 Paul states his theme: the Gospel is the power of God for salvation for anyone who believes. Paul begins the letter by stating clearly the real good news is not about the emperor or the empire.   The real power for salvation comes from God, not the emperor or the empire.

main-themes-of-romansFirst, humans are estranged from God, unwilling and unable to respond to the revelation of God in creation (1:18-3:20). Paul demonstrates Gentiles suppress knowledge of God even though he clearly reveals himself in creation, then argues the Jewish people are just as estranged from God because of their own rebellion. By Romans 3:20, there is no one who seeks God nor is there anyone who even tries!

Second, despite human rebellion, God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (3:21-5:21). Paul uses a courtroom metaphor: the believer is “declared righteous” because of what Jesus has done on the cross. The believer obtains that righteousness through faith, not obedience to the Law or performance of rituals.

Third, those who believe are wholly identified with the death and resurrection of Jesus, therefore they should live a new life in Jesus (Romans 6-8). Those who believe are “dead to sin.” Once slaves to sin, now slaves to righteousness, but Paul goes on to say those who are in Christ are now children of God. The ethical implication of this new relationship with God is that the “in Christ” person is to act like they are part of the family of God. This new status cannot be lost, those whom God justified he will ultimately glorify.

Fourth, someone might object to this promise of faithfulness. God made promises to Israel in the past, and they appear to now be rejected as God’s people. Can we trust God when he says we cannot lose our salvation, since the Jewish people appear to have be rejected as God’s people, despite his promises in the Old Testament. In Romans 9-11 Paul shows that God is faithful to his promises, even those he made to the Jewish people. Paul constructs a detailed theological argument which shows God was not unfaithful in the past and he will act again on behalf of the Jewish people, so that “all Israel will be saved” (11:25-32).

Fifth, the “in Christ” life transforms thinking in every aspect of life. Paul describes this new life as a living sacrifice and transformed thinking (12:1-2). The gospel confronts both Judaism and the pagan world. By living out the life described in Romans 12-15 a Jewish person goes beyond the Law by exercising the law of love in every aspect of their life (very much like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount). But Paul goes beyond Jesus to discuss how Jews and Gentiles relate to one another (the stronger and weaker in chapter 14). But the life described in Romans 12-15 subverts Roman cultural scripts as well. The one who is in Christ does not pursue his own honor (like a good Roman), but seeks to serve others.

18 thoughts on “Main Themes in Romans

  1. I think that many people who study the Bible recognize the passion that Paul had, and the difficulties he struggled with, especially when a lot of the things he was asking went against the grain. Long’s reference to Paul teaching things that did not fit the mold of Roman society, is a good example of one difficulty. However, neither the non-compliant people, nor the roughness of the journeys, could keep Paul from doing the task that the Lord assigned to Him. Paul did a good job addressing all of the people in his letter to the Romans. He knew what to say to both reach, and get under the skin of both the Jews and Gentiles who had become believers. He wasn’t afraid to go against the mold, he was even recorded in the Bible to have had friction with Peter who had been one of the original 12 Disciples. My point is, that Paul shared the truth without fearing the consequences, and laid out clearly for all of his readers what a Christian looks like. What it means to be an heir with Christ, a member of the Body. As was stated in the article above, Paul said, “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,” (Romans 1:16). This was a key to the whats and whys of Paul’s letter to the Romans, he was essentially writing because the Gospel should be taught, and that the good news being proclaimed now was for everyone, not just one group or another making up the Christian church of their day.

    • I agree. Paul did not shy away from what God called him to do, but went above and beyond by making his messages relate able to the audience. As present day Christian, we should feel encouraged by the mind set Paul had in sharing the Gospel with people who are already set in their ways or do not know any thing about it. I understand it may be hard to speak to some people, but someone needs to be the one to plant the seed and trust God will make it grow.

  2. The main themes Paul created in the letter to the Romans show three very important ideas that Christians must remember. The first of those three ideas is that humans are separated from God and therefore are sinful and imperfect creatures. This idea is shown in Romans 3:23, which says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Broken and sinful humans leads to the second idea; the saving grace of Jesus Christ. This is shown in Romans 6:23 which says, “for the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God gave us life simply because He loves us. That brings me to the third idea, which I believe is that because Jesus gave us this wonderful gift of life, we should act like true children of God, living lifestyles pleasing to the Lord. God gave this gift freely, and it cost Him dearly, His children should try to repay Him by living according to His word.

    • I can see you summed all five themes into three which makes I believe for a Christian who already is familiar with this concept. What about theme 4 where we read how faithful God is? Is this important to include? I believe to gentiles, they would like to know if it is worth believing in a God if He only is going to undue His promises in the end. As theme 1 stated, Paul needed address the sinful act of the Romans, so by doing so he could later state God will be faithful to those who follow His Word.

  3. I wanted to speak to theme #4 that the argument of if a Christian can lose his or her salvation. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus speaks about who will enter the kingdom of heaven and only those who knew God will be able to (NIV). My pastor Daniel explained it to me this way with the image we are a three part being, spirit, soul, and body, that once you believed as you confessed with your month that Jesus is Lord your spirit man is saved (Romans 10:9, NIV). Your soul is working on becoming saved which means changing your behaviors to line up with the word of God (James 1:21, NIV). Then your physical body will be saved in the seconding coming of Jesus into a heavenly body (2 Corinthians 5, NIV). If you are a concerned Christian about if you have lost your salvation or not, you have not because you feel convicted about it. The only way someone, I believe, can lose his or her salvation if he or she denies God and all that He has done (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV).

  4. dnbazan13,

    I also have been struggling with the concept of eternal security. I wrestle with the idea that someone can be saved but can willingly chose to turn their hearts and back on God. Does that mean they still have their salvation because they “believed” at one moment in their life or because they said the magical prayer of confessing it out loud such as Romans 10:9 states? For me, I have a hard time figuring out the balance of salvation as not a means by works but by what Jesus has done, however, as believers in Christ we should (must) see transformation take place in our lives, if not, are we truly changed by the Gospel and by what Jesus has done?
    I guess my own convictions on this issue is how do we define salvation? How do we know if someone is truly saved? Is it as easy as saying Jesus is Lord and saying it aloud? I’ve heard the argument that “only God knows” whether someone is saved or not and its not our goal to focus on that.
    However, for my own desires, I would like to come to a conclusion that is supported by scripture. I am still seeking this concept out.
    As for now, my stance is that someone cannot lose their salvation if they are truly saved. What I mean by this is that if someone truly believes in Jesus Christ (they would be changed and transformed by that belief-although they would still struggle with sin). My guess of those who decide to fall away from God sometimes in their life, I personally believe that they were not truly saved because they truly did not believe and their lives did not reap the fruit/harvest.

  5. I want to touch base on the first point that was made, because it can be traced back to the very beginning of time. “Humans are estranged from God.” That statement goes back all the way to the Fall in the Garden of Eden back in Genesis 3. From that point on, our relationship with God has suffered. You see people who are unwilling to believe in God, and those who say that there is no evidence for God. I love the intelligent designer debate, because when I look out into the creation, I can see without a doubt that it was created by God, not a by-product of an explosion. Romans 1:20 speaks to this issue, and states the idea of natural revelation. Natural revelation is a term that Moo describes as, “…God reveals truth about himself in a general, more indirect way, in the created world itself” (p. 57). All people should have the knowledge of a creator when they look out into creation. Romans 1:20 backs this point up by stating, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” As you stated in the post, by Romans 3:20, no one is righteous in God’s sight- even with the wonderful creation they had around them. That is why the salvation through Jesus Christ is so important.

  6. It is amazing to see how God used a man who persecuted the church and killed Christians, to speak through and bring to the world one of the most impactful, and theologically substantial books. Paul is a true testimony to the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy spirit!

  7. May I mention another theme ? Righteousness, or the lack of it. Words including or stemming from δικαιος, αδικος, αδικια, δικαιοσυνη, occur all the time, and connect very readily with the covenant-theme, and theme of πιστια (or lack of it) in the Letter. The result is to show that the first 11 chapters – and by inference, those that follow – form a continuous & coherent argument. Perhaps the Letter is an essay in Covenant-theology ?

  8. I think when you read through Romans it is obvious Paul took on the challenge of becoming an apostle. Paul is never apologetic for sharing the Gospel. His passion for God is never hidden and I think that is one of the reasons Christians today are keen to use Paul as example of how we should live our lives for God. In one of the sections you talk about the object of God’s promises and what seems like the rejection of Israel as God’s chosen people. We are taught that GOd is unchanging and cannot change his character which would mean he always keeps or fulfills his promise. Joshua 21:45 “Not one of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass” (ESV). This verse would imply God keeps his promises but as sinful people we are able to squander those promises that God makes.

  9. Romans has this incredible structure to it that allows it to function as a stand-alone way to share the Gospel. It is one of the most quoted books, and it also walks through many of the issues that were common in the early church, and that are still relevant today. The “Roman Road” is commonly taught as a means for people to explain the need for salvation and how it came about. This “road” is reflected in the main themes of Romans listed here. The first main theme that humans are unable to be in the presence of God. The blog explains the Jewish people are included in this because of their rebellion. I think this section equates to explaining the need for salvation. We are estranged from God, because of sin and the result of this sin is death. The second main theme is the provision of salvation. Even though we are undeserving of it, God still offers it to everyone, and that salvation is provided through his Son, Jesus, and only through that, not by works, Romans 5:8 is a key verse to explain this in the Roman Road. Salvation is open to everyone, but it is only those who believe who receive it and receive new life in Christ. Once explaining the need for salvation and how salvation is provided, it is vital to explain how salvation is received, one needs to believe and profess that faith. The fourth main point is that God is faithful and will keep his promises. This is not only something good to hold onto in hard times, but it can also be part of the salvation narrative, because we can be sure we have received salvation because God is faithful to his promises, he will not suddenly just decide to take salvation away from you. The fifth main idea is that salvation should trans from one’s life. Once we have received Christ, we should put off the old self and take on the new, but this is not temporary. This should be a permanent, life-changing transformation of Christ in us that is then evidenced through our actions. We are saved by grace alone through faith, but the evidence of this is in how we live.

  10. Paul did not shy away from what God called him to do because in my opinion Paul’s personality wasn’t shy at all and when you God showed him what the true gospel is he ran with it and never turned back he had to tell everyone in his path or even if he had to go out of his way to preach the gospel that is what he did. One of the main these are humans are unable to be in the presence of God. Jewish people were included because of there rebellion. And I think it would be plausible to say that the next theme would be the knowledge of salvation. And the understanding of salvation. that there is salvation through Jesus and not by just doing works. Another theme that sticks out is that God is faithful and will keep his promises which is true even though things might not come when you really desire it but it will come when God says its the right time. Lastly the next main theme would be to activate your salvation and be able to transform to your knew ways. throwing your old self away and not looking back but being renewed in your heart and mind is what The Romans needed to understand and and apply it to there lives

  11. It is very interesting to think of the origin of the word “gospel”. When most modern Christians or even nonbelievers as well hear the word “gospel” it is typically associated with the good news of Jesus. However, it was apparently something that referred to the good news in the Roman society, specifically of the Roman emperor. In regard to Romans 1:16-17, TTP writes that the righteousness of God is what brings salvation and that faith is the only condition to receive it (TTP, 178). The textbook also points out that Paul intends for sin to be seen as a “cosmic power”, which is not something that I had ever thought of before (TTP, 179). I think it is also interesting to see that the Christians at the time of Romans still felt the divide between Jews and Gentiles in that Paul wrote to them that all are under sin. Whereas now, most Christians would agree that all are sinful no matter any differences. Our salvation is given to us through faith in Jesus Christ, whereas in the Old Testament sacrifices had to be made. However, Paul emphasizes that the covenant with Abraham was made by faith in God also (TTP, 181).

  12. Paul’s claim that the Gospel is God’s power for salvation, regardless of the emperor or the empire, is a crucial concept that resonates with Christianity’s everlasting message. It serves as a reminder in a world dominated by worldly powers and beliefs that ultimate salvation comes from a higher authority. The letter’s split into five major sections, each addressing a distinct aspect of faith, rebellion, redemption, and ethical living, helps readers in understanding the entire character of Paul’s teachings. The journey from human estrangement from God to the promise of faithfulness is a compelling story that emphasizes the transformative power of faith in Christ. The emphasis on living a life “in Christ” and the ethical implications of this new relationship with God are especially noteworthy. It emphasizes faith’s practical application and how it crosses cultural, religious, and societal borders. The blog post’s examination of Paul’s theological argument in Romans 9-11 on God’s loyalty to the Jewish people is especially important since it addresses a potential objection to the promise of fidelity. It emphasizes the idea that God’s promises endure, even when they appear to be tested by historical events. The blog article provides a thorough and informative summary of the major ideas of Romans, making it a helpful resource for both students and researchers. It emphasizes the biblical text’s enduring significance and its power to instruct and inspire individuals in their faith and ethical behavior.

  13. Whenever anyone asks what their favorite book of the Bible is, my hand always shoots up, and I answer that it is the book of Romans. Throughout my life I have grown to love the clear presentation of the gospel, and clear message that Paul is not ashamed to preach to all. Romans 1:16, to me, is a call to bring the gospel message to every area of life. I like the attitude that Paul exhibits by boldly claiming the truth in the midst of a contrasting environment. I like how Long puts it, that the “real power for salvation comes from God, not the emperor or the empire.” However, in my reading I tend to skip over the main point of this passage. Verse 17 tells readers that the gospel is the revelation of the righteousness of God. According to Longenecker, verse 17 is vitally important to understand in the context of the time it is being interpreted. For example, in the period of time right before the Reformation, this verse signified God as deistic being who exacts justice as the judge of all sin (Longenecker, 174). During the Reformation, one scholar in particular, Martin Luther, interpreted this passage differently. He reasoned that this gospel presented by Paul proved a loving and just God who provides a gift of righteousness to all of sinful humanity. I would have to agree with this view of God’s righteousness. With that, Romans 1:17 is the main theme of the entire epistle. When understanding this gospel message clearly, one can reason that they too are a sinner in need of saving. Then they can come to faith in Christ and receive that righteousness that is mentioned in verse 17.

  14. The second point made in this blog post is grace from God. Even though humans are rebelling and that humans are undeserving. God saved us all through Jesus Christ even when we did not do anything to deserve this. He saved us from our sins. The power of God is genuinely amazing to think about. He gave flesh to a part of Himself and made Jesus Christ. Jesus healed and guided many people to a better life. He got hung up on the cross and died for our sins. Although we may never be able to repay Him for this, we still can praise God for it and love Him for it. God also showed that He is faithful with His promises through Romans 9-11, as written in the blog post. This is important because if you truly believe in God, then He will deliver certain promises to you that will assist you in your life and put you back on track.

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