Introduction to Romans 8

Originally posted January 9, 2020, at Women of Purpose.

Our Spring study began with an introduction to our topic. We will be studying Romans chapter 8, using Trillia Newbell’s If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth Of Our Great Salvation.

But Why Romans, and why only chapter 8? I turned to James Montgomery Boice to help us understand why, out of all the Bible, we should choose one chapter from one book. He opens his commentary series on Romans with the following:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

With those powerful opening words, written nearly two thousand years ago in the bustling city of Corinth, Greece, a Jewish Christian began a letter to believers he had never seen in the far-off city of Rome. What a letter it was! In any other circumstances and by any other hand, the letter might have been a mere incidental piece of correspondence. But the author of this letter was the apostle Paul, and by his hand and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit this bit of ancient writing became for Christians the most influential document ever penned.[1]

“For Christians, the most influential document ever penned.” That’s quite a claim! But Dr. Boice supports this claim by pointing out that the book of Romans was the instrument by which Saint Augustine was converted, when, while wrestling with the pull of the gospel and his desire to continue his immoral lifestyle he heard children singing “tolle lege, tolle lege” (take and read). Convinced this was a message from the Holy Spirit, he rushed to find his Bible and opened it randomly to Romans 13:13-14, and read “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” God knew exactly what Augustine needed to hear. Saint Augustine became “the greatest figure in the early Christian church between the apostle Paul and Martin Luther.”[2]

By the 1500’s, the Church had lost its way and the Lord used a fiery monk named Martin Luther to reignite the gospel truth of justification by faith. Luther himself was guilt-ridden and lived in terror of God and his holy and righteous judgement. Aware of the depths of his own sin and his utter helplessness to obey the Law of God, he found no peace in Christ until he began a desperate study of Romans. The Lord opened Luther’s heart with his assurance that “in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (1:17), and he was soundly converted. “…When by the Spirit of God, I understood the words—when I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from the free mercy of our Lord through faith . . . then I felt born again like a new man. . . . In very truth, this language of Saint Paul was to me the true gate of Paradise.”[3] God used this transformed monk to set the fire of the Protestant Reformation, a world-changing event indeed.

And so, we will be studying one chapter of this world-changing letter. Why? Well, it’s funny. When I looked at James Boice’s introduction to his commentary on chapter 8, he reveals right away that he considers it the greatest chapter in the Bible. But then he realizes that he may be caught in a contradiction. For he had, years before, declared that Hosea chapter 3 is the greatest chapter in the Bible! I can’t help but think how very appropriate it is that we should therefore be following last Fall’s study of Hosea with this study of Romans 8.

So, why is it the greatest chapter, if not in the whole Bible, at least in Romans?

Charles G. Trumbull wrote:

The eight of Romans has become peculiarly precious to me, beginning with “no condemnation,” ending with “no separation,” and in between, “no defeat.” This wondrous chapter sets forth the gospel and plan of salvation; the life of freedom and victory; the hopelessness of the natural man and the righteousness of the born again; the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit; the resurrection of the body and blessed hope of Christ’s return; the working together of all things for our good; every tense of the Christian life, past, present, and future; and the glorious, climactic song of triumph, no separation in time or eternity “from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”[4]

And finally, I give Trillia Newbell the final word on our study:

If God Is For Us will take us on a journey into Romans 8, reminding us of our great salvation, our inheritance, and ultimately the love of our good Father. Romans 8 can be easily quoted—and often is—but through If God Is For Us I hope that we might meditate deeply on it, soaking in the goodness of this truth and rejoicing in the mind-boggling reality that God intends nothing but good for us. My prayer is that, together, we’ll gain a greater understanding of the significance of this passage of Scripture and why these verses mean so much to so many.

We will accomplish this through reading the text, through studying God’s Word, through daily reflection on the passages, and ultimately through prayer. But God must do the work in our hearts for us to understand. Let’s ask God to help us as we seek to know the God of our salvation in ever-deepening ways.[5]

Amen, Trillia, I share this prayer.

[1] James Montgomery Boice, Romans, Vol. 1, Justification By Faith (Romans 1-4) (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1991), 11.

[2] Ibid., 12.

[3] J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, The Life and Times of Martin Luther, trans. H. White (Chicago: moody Press, 1958), pp. 55, 56. Quoted by J. M. Boice, Romans, vol. 1, p. 13.

[4] Quoted by J. M. Boice, Romans, vol. 1, p. 782

[5] Trillia J. Newbell, If God Is For Us (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019), 20

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