Posted by: William | January 12, 2008

Becoming a Student of Romans

As my commentator, Leon Morris, points out, many great people in church history ascribe their spiritual overhaul to the book of Romans; Augustine, Luther, Wesley all on some level give tribute to this epistle as having been fundamentally and personally important to them. The epistle is sometimes called the greatest letter ever written. The letter played a powerful part in sparking the reformation.

Yesterday, I began a more rigorous structure of study of the book of Romans; far more rigorous than I first expected anyway. Acknowledging recently that I can only go so far reading scripture and marking my insights, I decided that I ought to prayerfully and carefully walk into a more structured and thorough study of the bible. Being that I’m not a seminary student (yet) and being not fully equipped with an adequate set of tools for biblical exegesis, I thought a wise course of action would be to follow a book of the bible slowly through with a commentary. Knowing already of the foundational truths in Romans, I selected it book and sought a commentary. Based on reviews, I chose the Pillar New Testament Commentary series; this installation written by Leon Morris.

The book arrived earlier this week. In terms of commentaries, this one is probably medium-ish in size, weighing in at around 600 pages. To me, that’s intimidating and frankly a somewhat uncharted territory. Even still, yesterday I began reading the introduction; all of the background and historical information concerning the book. Today, I started the actual study. So far it is challenging, but a challenge I must admit to being excited to face.

In the mean time of this study (which at this rate, I expect will take several months), I would like to have my head in other biblical books and am hoping to find less rigorous commentaries that will aide in more general study. Does anyone have personal experience with a good commentary series like this; namely from an author or editor grounded in reformed theology?

Of all these things, I pray that with greater understanding of the Word of God will come greater love for and devotion to God, bringing also a joy in discipline and a hatred for sin, to the end that God would be glorified in Christ Jesus in me in every way that he will.



  1. I was just thinking that it would be a good thing for you to read and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to give you understanding..and then look to man’s interpretation.

    Hey I got your Christmas card! thanks for the follow through.

    Careful about getting your head so full of knowledge without the balance of allowing God to cause what you are reading to come alive in your life…heart and mind. Did you know that Spurgeon and C.S.lewis both smoked tobacco? a little trivia on two of my mentors I had filed away

  2. I’ve heard Romans referred to as the ‘Gospel of Paul’. It is an outstanding piece of work. I would put the admonitions of Paul right after Jesus’ teachings.

    If you really want to study the book of Romans you need to first learn Greek and then read it in its original language. Any English translation is a commentary unto itself that has the bias of the translator(s) built into it. Even using multiple translations is not as good as reading the original text.

    Why would you further want to bias yourself by limiting commentary to a reformed theologian? Why not read a representative sampling of many commentaries from a variety of backgrounds? Why do you equate ‘good commentary’ to that which is ‘grounded in reformed theology’?

    I will echo what ‘destinysweet’ said to you – read it for yourself and make your own decisions about what it means based on your own direct relationship with God, made possible by Jesus Christ, and guided by the Holy Spirit.

    No matter what form you use to aid your study, you should always follow these basic principles:

    1. Understand History/Culture – what’s going on? what biases are built into the text?

    Example – Paul talks in I Corinthians about “women should remain silent in the churches”. The historical context is that men and women were gathered in different areas of the churches/temples, essentially the women were limited to the “gallery” and if they were going to ‘speak’ it would be yelling across a crowded room to get her man’s attention – this would have been highly disruptive in any social setting yet alone a church service, and was therefore prohibited by Paul.

    2. Understand the language – what biases are built into the language of the day?

    Example – Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” We usually think of this as being impossible because we immediately think of a sewing needle. There was actually a city gate in Jerusalem that was called “Eye of the Needle”, so Jesus may have been inferring this short city gate (he might even have pointed at it while speaking) thus inferring that the feat was difficult (the camel would have had to stoop or crawl to get through) but not impossible to happen.

    3. Derive the meaning of the message – what is the author/speaker trying to say? What is the larger meaning, not just the literal meaning?

    Example – The Psalmist says that God “will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” This certainly is meant to be a metaphor, otherwise God is some form of bird…

    4. Application – what does the passage tell me to do today.

    Ask yourself how the passage will affect your day-to-day living; how it will change the way you interact with others; how it will change your way of thinking, etc.

    I look forward to hearing about what you are learning from your study of Romans!


  3. 2b4dGuy…good word.

    Yes..the rich man who came to the city with a caravan of camels loaded down with goods to sell ( or bringing home if he lived there) had to enter in the eye of the needle gate,where all the camels had to be unloaded completely so that the camel could then go is an analogy,as I have seen it..when we are attempting to enter the kingdom …Jesus is the gate..and we must be unloaded of all that we are and own..all that makes us ‘something’ in our own eyes/minds as well as that of others…the more the rich man had,the longer it took to get the whole shebang through..I believe they even collected a tax for the amount the merchants would sell in the city market as well..I’m not sure how that fits what I’m saying here…perhaps it is more taxing on a person who starts out thinking they are ‘all that’ to begin with in regards to actually being able to enter in through Him. There is so much more to stepping over that threshold than most folks can grasp…may God illumine our hearts and minds to know His Son…in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily..who rose from the dead and lives to intercede for the saints. May we be as He is in this..interceding for the fallen..the decieved and the potential saints who may be lost now..the just live by faith..let us extend our faith for the lives of others..get our eyes off ourselves and soar!

    (not meant to say you do not..The Holy Spirit has been speaking to me about the dire need for this..true intercession,genuine and effective…we have been consumed with this very is rigorous..He says it is mandatory.)

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