Is it possible to overstate the importance and significance of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans? I don’t believe so. Not that one book in sacred Scripture is ‘more’ inspired than any other, but there is something about Romans that sets it apart as the pinnacle of Paul’s writings. Maybe it is Paul’s logical progression or his clear presentation of the Gospel as the universal prescription for what ails us or his soul-piercing precision; and quite frankly, it is probably all of the above, but Romans is different-both in content and in impact.
With that said, are new and seasoned Christians alike, afraid to taste the waters? Do we put Romans 8:28 on a refrigerator magnate while willfully turning a blind-eye to chapters 9-11? Is Paul’s example of homosexuality as an example of our lust-gone-wild too radical for society’s current whims of “if it works for you…”? With certainty, Romans is polarizing. It is a game-changer. And for my money it should be read, studied, analyzed, understood, and applied.
And that is exactly what pastor and teacher Tim Keller has provided for all that would come to this fountain. His book, Romans (1-7) For You, is a fantastic resource of a seasoned Christian attempting to walk with the reader through one of the most significant additions to sacred Scripture. Like Phillip accompanying the Ethiopian eunuch, who was lost in the confusion of Isaiah, Pastor Keller sits down with the reader and in a very palatable way, offering his insight and explanation. It is not a commentary on Romans, it is not even a devotional on Romans, it is in fact a pastoral guide through a very important section of Scripture so that the reader can be both enlightened and compelled to heed the Gospel’s call.
This book is best suited for those fascinated by the Epistle to the Romans but may feel too intimidated by any number of factors. Pastor Keller does a great job of bringing Romans to the reader without compromising the integrity of the message. This book could serve as a tremendous resource for small groups and the like simply by taking advantage of the chapter size and the discussion questions at the end of each break.
As one would expect from Pastor Keller-this work is well-researched, the format is very easy to use, and his explanation of the text is accurate and digestible. Here is a quote from pg 46 tackling the apparent conflict between works and faith: “…the apples on an apple tree prove life, but they don’t provide it. The apples are the evidence that the apple tree is alive, but the roots are what pull in the nourishment to keep it that way. In the same way, faith in Christ alone provides new life (he gives his righteousness, the righteousness of God, to anyone who believes); but a changed life of righteousness is what proves we have real faith.” And there is more where that came from.