Tag Archives: Romans

Romans 3:1-8

Here is my mindmap of this passage:

Rom 3:1-8 mindmap

Here are the scrolls.

Here are some more questions:

1. What question opens this chapter? How is it rephrased?
2. What is the answer to the question(s)?
3. What other answers could be expected?
4. How does Paul connect advantage/profit with belief in an unexpected way?
5. Whose fault is it when someone doesn’t believe? Why?
6. What does our unrighteousness do (v5)?
7. Why might God be called unjust (v5)?
8. Why is God NOT unjust?
9. How does ‘my lie’ affect God/my judgment?
10. How does Paul connect good and evil?
11. What do others say Paul says about good and evil? How does he respond?

Romans 2:17-29

Here is my mind map of this passage:
Romans 2:17-29 mind map
The scrolls is here.
And here are a few questions of my own:

How does Paul describe what a Jew does?
How does he describe who a Jew is?
How does he describe their teaching?
What good deeds does Paul explicitly mention for the Jews?
Which of their hypocrisies does Paul explicitly mention?
What laws do they both teach and break?
What is the consequence of this hypocrisy?
When is circumcision profitable?
When is uncircumcision profitable?
How does one see inward circumcision?
Who will ultimately reward the truly circumcised? What implications does that have for us?
How will circumcision relate to obedience in judgement?
How does Paul compare two definitions of being a Jew?
What are the implications of inward/outward circumcision?

Romans 2:1-16 thoughts

This passage begins with something of a break in subject matter, though with a lot of continuity. If Romans 1:18-23 is really best summarized as “they are without excuse” (v20), then this passage can be seen as building on and extending that point with a different audience in focus: “you have no excuse” (2:1). That is, the break is that Paul is addressing a different kind of sin, and a different kind of sinner, but the main point is the same. Just as the immoral pagans had no excuse, the people addressed here also have no excuse.

Also in the opening verse, I find the passing judgment argument interesting, in as much as one’s passing judgment really does imply that one knows the law that one isn’t keeping oneself, making any excuse invalid. This echoes what is said elsewhere is scripture:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12 ESV)

So when we put ourselves in the place of a judge over another, we put ourselves in the place of God. But furthermore, as we judge the law, we remove ourselves from being doers –and this is a critical point for Paul in Romans 2:1, too, I think, that judges are not obeying the law themselves.

Furthermore, verse 4 tells us of the kindness of God in holding back his wrath, which is meant to lead us to repentance. This reminds me again of a biblical principle:

The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment,
but the sins of others appear later.
(1Tim 5:24 ESV)

There is also another Chiasm in these verses, as pointed out in the scrolls, from v6-11:

  • A: 6He will render to each one according to his works:
    • B: 7to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
      • C: 8but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
      • C: 9There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
    • B: 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
  • A: 11For God shows no partiality.

As I find true in other kinds of parallelism in scripture, seeing this structure opens up other ways of understanding. For instance, I would not normally see a parallelism between verses six and eleven, though the parallelism between 8-9 is clear, and between 7-10 is also clear (to the point of using “glory” and “honor” in both). Assuming this is right, which looks correct to me, then we must ask in what sense are six and eleven parallel? That is, in what sense does “He will render to each one according to his works” mean something like “For God shows no partiality”?

The answer to this question answers another question, which I’ve seen come up a number of times this week, which is, how do we deal with the fact that Paul seems to be teaching works righteousness here? Is God really saying “do the law and be justified”, as v13b seems to be saying? Some say that this is a hypothetical possibility that never happens. I don’t think Paul is being hypothetical here; rather, he is either talking about an increase of righteousness which comes by pursuing the law by faith (as claimed by John Piper), or else he is talking about a righteousness which is complete an accomplished by Christ and no one else (though those who are in Christ will share in it, as we will continue to see).

But if vv6&11 are equivalents, then we have another possibility. We generally think badly of “works” because we see them as a way to seek justification, apart from “faith”. But that is not the opposition in view here, by Paul. He is not opposing works with faith, but rather with partiality, or favoritism.  That is, while Paul elsewhere says you are not justified by your works, but rather by faith, here he is saying you are not justified by favoritism, but rather by your works. He is not making the argument that we can be acquitted by our works, but rather that when we meet our judge, he won’t just let us off because we have the right lineage. God is not partial. Rather, he will look at our works, and judge us justly.  Now as I see it, there is no conflict there with justification by faith alone, because anyone who honestly looks at his works, when told that they will be the basis of his judgement, should fall on the floor and cry “mercy!”.

So it is “the doers of the law who will be justified” (v13b),  but anyone with a clear view of himself will know that doesn’t apply to him. I am not a doer of the law, but a judge of it (2:1, James 4:11-12). I like to apply the law to others, rather than do it myself. And even where I want to do it myself, I fail. So any honest take on myself should tell me that either I trust the only one who really has done the law, and receive his mercy, or else there is no hope to be justified for me.

Fortunately, this is precisely what Jesus offers us. He has accomplished the law for us, and offers to pay for our sins, and provide us a righteousness which is not tied to our works, but which does nonetheless impact our works, and bring us slowly by slowly more in line with his own obedience.

But we won’t do that, so long as we hold on to the vain hope that our decency, or our lineage, or our club or church memberships, or anything else, will give us an in with the judge. If we think we can bribe the judge to provoke favoritism toward us, why would we ever give up on our works and trust Christ?

Finally, I think it is interesting that there is little in this text to state the ethnic group Paul is addressing here. I have long thought this passage was addressing Jews, but I was challenged this weekend to reconsider, and I think it is better to look at this section as being toward moral, or decent, people, of whatever ethnic group. Maybe they are Jews, maybe they are Gentile pagans. Whatever their ethnicity, they keep their lawns well manicured, and don’t get drunk or sleep around. But while they are not the hedonistic pagans described in 1:18-32, nor clearly the Law depending Jews of 2:17ff, these decent people also need Christ, and cannot count on their decency  to save them, whether that decency is derived from Abraham or Greek or Roman civics. We all need Jesus; there is no excuse for any of us.



Romans 2:1-16 (Moral Sinners)

Here is my mind map for this section:

Romans 2:1-16 mindmap
You can get a copy of the scrolls for this section here.

And here are a few questions of my own:

Who is Paul addressing now?
How does the reader condemning himself?
What is God’s judgment based on?
What is the purpose of the questions in v3-4 ?
What is the source of this person’s treasure/store of wrath?
How does Paul describe ‘the day’?
What will the judgment be based on? What is it not based on? Describe each group.
What will each group get? How is there “no partiality”?
Who gets ‘tribulation and anguish’?
Who gets ‘glory, honor, and peace’?
What does ‘partiality’ mean here?
What happens to people who sin without the law? And ​ with ​ the law?
Who will be justified by the law?
Who was the Law given to? Who will be judged by it?
How can those without the law be justified by it?
What role does the conscience play?
What will God judge? (v 16)
What role does the conscience play in all this?

Romans 1:18-23 thoughts

As I thought through the structure of this passage (especially in making the mindmap here), I noticed what at first seemed a lopsided structure. That is, it looks like the first half is pointed forward to the end of v20, while the last half is pointed back to it. But then I recalled an old poetry class, where we looked for what we called fulcrums, the point on which a poem turns in mood, emotion, whatever. And I think this happens with prose, too, as the flow of an argument turns on the main point of a section.

That is, as Paul writes “.…So they are without excuse. For.…”, he is building reasons before and after what I now take to be the central thesis of this section, that people are without excuse. There is no way in which people will be able to say to God, “But .…” and avoid his wrath on that account. His wrath is revealed, and there is no excuse.

Another point of detail, that a number of people I talked with this weekend missed, is the object of wrath. Later, in ch 9, Paul seems to talk about people as “objects of wrath”, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on here. If we look carefully at the opening verse, “the wrath of god is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men”, we see that God’s wrath is against our ungodliness and unrighteousness, not against us. This of course immediately begs the question of the difference, but I think it is important. If God’s wrath is against our sin, then we have options. That is, will we keep our sin, and hold it close to ourselves, and get burned up with it? Or will we let it go, and escape that wrath ourselves? As Christians, we understand that the wrath of God against our sin was satisfied in Jesus as he bore our sin on the Cross. Our sin has real consequences, real wrath. And as we trust Jesus, he bears that cost, so we don’t have to, so we can survive the coming day of wrath, and even some of the wrath that is currently visible (IMHO).

So, when we talk to those who don’t honor God or give thanks to him, we can have confidence that this isn’t because they are truly ignorant. There is something in each of us that gives testimony to the presence and character of God. And nature itself screams out his eternal power and divine nature, as we see the beauty and order of what he made, and as we see that what he made was clearly meant to outlast us.

Someone said that we must deny the truth about God, if we are going to allow ourselves to keep sinning. Because if we allowed ourselves to feel the full weight of that truth, we would be forced to change –to get out of the way of that bus coming at us, rather than tell ourselves it isn’t really going to hit us.

One final note, given the presence of idolatry in this passage. We may have a hard time connecting to this charge today, since we don’t think about idolatry much. But if we think about the things that we sacrifice other things for, the things we cut out time and energy for, those are the things that are truly valuable to us.  And personally, I was sickened to watch players kiss the Lomardi trophy last Sunday, as happy as I was with the victory. 😉

Let’s not forget to let the reality of our sin and God’s wrath sink in. As we consider what the power of God for salvation (v17) is saving us from, it is important to understand clearly what the consequences of our sin are, both for today and in eternity.

Romans 1:18-23

Here is my mind map for Rom 1:18-23:

Rom 1:18-23 mind map

The link to the scrolls is here.

Here are some other questions to get you thinking:

1. Does Paul seem to change the subject in this section? How/Why?
2. How does he describe the objects of God’s wrath?
3. What are they suppressing?
4. What did God show them? How?
5. How did they respond?
6. How did God respond to their suppression?
7. How does Paul describe them in the end?
8. How should these people have responded to God’s judgment?
9. How should you respond to God’s judgment?


Romans 1:14-17

Here is my mind map of Romans 1:16-17 (ESV):

Here are some questions to get your juices flowing:

1. What are the three causally linked sections of these verses?
2. What is the basis of Paul’s relationship to the Gospel?
3. The power of God in the gospel is for what purpose?
4. The power of God in the gospel is for who?
5. The power of God in the gospel is for which ethnic/social groups?
6. On what basis can it reach each of those groups?
7. What scriptural grounds are there for saying this (c.f., Hab 1-2)?
8. What is the purpose of the power of God in your life?
9. How do you express faith (or not)?

And you can get the scrolls for this section here.

Romans 1:8-15 thoughts

Our local church lead pastor spoke on the Gospel Compulsion this morning, which have otherwise been entitled A Pastor’s Heart. This passage seems to talk mostly about Paul’s desire for them. But while you could take that as a particularly relational message (which I think it is), it also contains a good deal of content. This isn’t just schmoozing, which at the end of the day means nothing more than we like each other (or I want you to think that I like you, anyway).

This pastor (as do most faithful church planters, I think) has specific desires for the church in question. Paul boasted of their faith which was widely known. He also saw the exchange between them as mutually beneficial, as spiritual gifts are used on both sides for the building of the church. But as well, there is the question of harvest: Paul wants fruit among them, as well as from the other gentiles where he has worked.

These last two points I found interesting, in that people presumed a different audience for each. Fruit obviously refers to ministry to non-believers, and spiritual gifts is toward believers (since he isn’t handing out spiritual gifts, so this must refer to his use of his own for the building of the church…). But I don’t see it that way. As I see it, they each can apply to both. The line “impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you” (v11) Can mean using my gifts for your benefit, but if Paul is evangelizing, then there would be new Christians in the group. As those people come to Christ, they would receive the Holy Spirit (with the gifts of the Holy Spirit) on conversion. In that way, Paul would be a very practical means by which those gifts would come to them, though he is neither their author not direct distributor.

In the same way, we may speak of a “harvest” as new converts, but I hope that we see that there is growth, development, and maturity to be sought after in those who are already Christians –and these can be appropriately viewed as fruit.

So we come back to the pastoral principle that we cannot know the state of another’s heart, so we are bound to treat everyone more or less the same way. We hope for the best, but we pray and preach against the worst. Yes, we must at some point decide who to baptise, let join the church, or receive communion. But we preach the Gospel (to ourselves and others, in season and out) because we all need it, not only for conversion, but also for our daily wellbeing and spiritual health.

6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
(Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)



Romans 1:8-15

Here is my mind map of Romans 1:8-15 (ESV):

You can get the scrolls for this lesson here.

And here are some more questions to get you thinking:

1. What does Paul say first? Why?

2. To what does he call on God as witness?

3. What does he pray for?

4. Why does he want to see the Romans? Who would benefit? In what ways?

5. Why hasn’t he seen the Romans yet?

6. What is his ‘debt’? To whom?

7. What is Paul’s desire?