The Main Themes of Romans
The is perhaps the only book in the Bible that is organized systematically like a theological textbook from beginning to end with each point leading to the next. This is not how biblical books are typically arranged.
In this letter, there are several main themes.
Pre-eminently, Elohim is the Just Judge of the universe to whom all are accountable (both Jews and Gentiles). This concept alone is huge, since most humans don’t want to believe they’re accountable to anyone except their own egos.
The Torah is Elohim’s standard of righteousness by which he will judge the deeds of all men (both Jews and Gentiles) fairly. If people can accept the fact that there is a supreme God to whom they’re accountable for their actions, then it’s a short next logical step to accept that such a God has laws that man must follow if he’s not to run afoul of that God.
Next, Paul counters a religious system that purported to explain who that God was and what he required of sinful man. This was Judaism. The problem is that Judaism had perverted the truth of Elohim into a racially exclusive, legalistic, works-based salvational system. Paul attempts to correct this error, and restore this religion to its original truth.
Paul then presents the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Yeshua the Messiah is at the center of YHVH’s process to redeem sinful man.
Before Elohim, the God of the universe, there is no racial inequality between Jews and Gentiles. Elohim isn’t a racist. All are equal before him. All are sinners, and all need Yeshua.
Paul’s Epistle to the Romans keeps Yeshua and the gospel message front and center, yet at the same time Paul weaves together the good news of Yeshua with that of the righteous lifestyle of Torah-obedience. Together, these two messages form a beautiful tapestry-like picture encompassing the message of the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation — a message of the salvation of man resulting in his being reconciled to Elohim his becoming elevated to the spiritual status as a child of Elohim.
Part 1 — Introduction: The Cornerstone of the Gospel Message
At the very beginning of his epistle, Paul carefully and boldly sets in place the cornerstone for what is to follow. He declares the preeminence of the gospel message and his submission to the lordship of Yeshua the Messiah and his unflinching mission to preach this truth.
1:1–17 The theme of Yeshua and the gospel message are front and center.
Part 2 — Putting Man in His Place
In this section, Paul climbs into the seat of his spiritual bulldozer and begins leveling the playing field between groups of people by putting man in his rightful place before Elohim, who is the Just Judge of the universe. He first attacks the godless heathen for their refusal to submit to Elohim, even though the evidence pointing to the Creator is all around them. YHVH is justly angry that man is so spiritually blind.
1:18–32 Paul presents YHVH Elohim as the Just Judge of the universe. Even though men have been given the witness of the creation to point them to Elohim the Creator (v. 20), men have rejected him and his truth for the sins of idolatry, sexual lewdness, and moral debauchery. The end results of such sin is the death penalty at the hands of a righteous and just Elohim (v. 32).
Part 3 — The Torah Is Introduced
Before Paul can preach the message of the gospel with fruitful results, he next lowers the blade of his spiritual bulldozer against religious pride and hypocrisy. He begins to clear away some of the religious misconceptions that had arisen in his day that were hindering the spreading of the gospel. Men’s unbiblical traditions rooted in human pride and egotism were at the root of these problems.
Paul introduces the Torah-law as the standard by which YHVH as the Just Judge of the universe will judge all men.
2:1– 16 The righteousness of Elohim’s judgments are expanded upon. The Torah-law as the righteous standard by which Elohim will judge both the ungodly and the righteous is introduced (vv. 2, 8, 12–24). The goodness and mercy of Elohim is revealed (v. 4), but a day of judgment is still coming when all men will be held accountable for their actions (v. 16).
Part 4 — The Arrogance of Religious Men Is Brought Down
Now Paul zeroes in on the Jewish religious hypocrites and takes them to task for their arrogance in claiming to follow YHVH’s righteous Torah standards, when in reality they don’t.
2:17–29 Paul then reprimands those Jews who proudly claimed to follow the Torah-law but didn’t practice it. Similarly, Paul criticizes the Jews who were proud of their self-righteousness because they were physically circumcised, but he declares that if they’re not circumcised in heart, it avails them nothing (vv. 25–29).
3:1–8 Although the Jews are a privileged people because Elohim gave them his Torah, they too will be judged if they fail to obey the Torah (vv. 1–8). Their disobedience doesn’t change Elohim’s righteous standard by which he will judge all men.
3:9–18 All men are sinners (violators of the Torah), both Jews and non-Jews (i.e., Greeks).
3:19–23 Paul then introduces the concept that sin is the violation of the Torah, and that by the deeds of the law no man is justified (made right) in the sight of Elohim.
Part 5 — Salvation Is by Grace Through Faith
Salvation by faith has always been YHVH’s path of redemption for men, as Paul proves by citing historical precedence from the book of Genesis. Abraham was saved by grace through faith, and not by his righteous works, when he came into a right spiritual relationship with YHVH.
3:24–31 Next, Paul introduces the concept of being justified freely by Elohim’s grace through the redemption that occurred via the shed blood of Yeshua in which we must have faith. Man is not saved from his sins (and YHVH’s judgment against sin—as Paul outlines in chapters one and two) by the good deeds of Torah-obedience. Even though we aren’t saved from the penalty of sin by the good deeds of Torah-obedience but rather by faith in Yeshua, man still needs to follow the righteous standards of the Torah (v. 31).
4:1–23 Abraham believed in Elohim and it was accounted to him for righteousness long before there is any mention of his being circumcised or keeping the Torah.
Part 6 — Summary Up to This Point
Next Paul summarizes the main points of the gospel message that he has made thus far.
5:1–11 Having established, up to this point…
that Elohim is the Just Judge,
that man is sinful,
that Torah is the standard which defines sin and righteousness,
that Torah obedience can’t atone for man’s sin,
that redemption from the penalty of sin occurs only by YHVH’s grace and through faith in Yeshua whose shed blood atones for man’s sin,
Paul goes on to explain that since man’s sinfulness has been legally dealt with, man can now enter into a spiritual relationship with Elohim (called reconciliation, v. 11). Through this process, the love of Elohim is revealed to men (vv. 5–8).
Part 7 — The Second Adam
The salvation of man from his sin has been part of YHVH’s plan of redemption of sinful man from the very beginning.
5:12–21 Paul now presents the concept of Yeshua being the Second Adam. As the first Adam led men into sin and separation from Elohim, Yeshua lived a sin-free life and through faith in him, men can be reconciled back into a loving relationship with Elohim. Furthermore, one reason that YHVH gave man his Torah is so that man’s sinfulness would be clearly delineated paving the way for eternal life through Yeshua.
Part 8 — Grace Isn’t Torahlessness as Pictured by Baptism
Next Paul counters the concept that somehow grace can be misconstrued as license to sin (i.e.,to violate the Torah).
6:1–14 Just because those who have placed their faith in Yeshua have been forgiven of their sins doesn’t mean that they can continue to sin (i.e., violate the Torah, vv. 1–2). Sin must be a thing of the past for those who have faith in Yeshua and who are now united with him spiritually. Paul shows how the ritual of baptism for the remission of sins is a picture of man’s uniting with Yeshua’s death, burial and resurrection. As such, the baptized individual is now to view his old sinful man as having died in the watery grave, and having been “resurrected” out of the watery “grave.” The baptized person is to view himself as having a new spiritual life in Yeshua as he endeavors to become like him (vv. 3–11). As such, he’s to turn from his former sinful lifestyle, and follow YHVH’s standards of righteous (as outlined in the Torah, vv. 12–14).
6:15–23 Paul asks the question that even though redeemed men have been set free from (or are no longer under) the penalty of lawlessness, which is death, by the grace of Elohim, shall he continue in sin (lawlessness)? Elohim forbid, Paul announces in the most emphatic terms (v. 15)! This is the second time he has made this important point in this chapter (see vv. 1–2). If we sin, he asks, doesn’t this make us a slave to sin? How can this be if we have been set free from sinfulness and the penalty of sin, which is death (vv. 18, 23)? Become instead, Paul urges us, a slave to righteousness (i.e., Torah-obedience, v. 19), which leads to eternal life (v. 23).
Part 9 — Yeshua Set Us Free from the Penalty of Sin, Not from Torah–Obedience
Paul continues to make the point that just because one is set free from sin, one isn’t free to continue sinning — that we can go on flaunting the Torah.
7:1–6 Paul then presents an allegory from the Torah that when a husband dies, his wife is free to remarry, for she is no longer legally bound to her husband. If she remarries, she’s not guilty of the sin of adultery. When we sinned, we were like that adulterous woman, but since Yeshua died in our place, taking upon himself the death penalty for our spiritual adultery, and through him our old man is dead and we’ve become a new creation, we’re now free to remarry without incurring the wages of sin (Torahlessness), which is death.
7:7–25 Just because the law pointed out our sin doesn’t mean that the law is itself evil, affirms Paul. Similarly, just because we are sinful by nature doesn’t make the Torah evil because it defines sin. What is evil is our sin nature that dwells in us, which constantly fights against our spirit that wants to do right by obeying YHVH’s Torah (vv. 13–21), and not the Torah, which is good and spiritual (or eternal, vv. 12, 14).
Part 10 — The Reality and Victory of Walking in Spiritual Freedom
Paul turns a corner in this chapter and begins to show what the victorious walk of the redeemed believer should look like.
8:1–39 Now that he has dealt with the justice of Elohim, the sinfulness of man, the righteous standards of the Torah, the grace of Elohim, the new spiritual life in Yeshua, and the difficulty one faces in struggling against sin, he opens up before us a new world of spiritual possibilities through Yeshua the Messiah. In this chapter, he talks about walking in the Spirit and being free form the law of sin and death through Yeshua (vv. 1–11). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the believer can walk in victory over sin, and enter into the deepest relationship as spiritual sons of Elohim leading to eternal life (vv. 14–26). It is the Holy Spirit that helps us in all aspects of our spiritual walk including…
helping us to overcome the weaknesses of our sinful flesh nature (v. 26)
helps us how to pray (v. 26)
intercedes for us (vv. 26–27)
The child of Elohim can rest assured knowing that he is in Elohim’s protective care as he is preparing him for ultimate glorified sonship in the family of Elohim by conforming him into the image of Yeshua (vv. 28–30). With these factors in the believer’s favor, how can the child of Elohim lose in the battle against the world, the flesh and devil? After all, he has…
the Holy Spirit helping him (vv. 26–27),
YHVH directing his life making all things work out for him (v. 28),
YHVH conforming him to the image of Yeshua his Son (v. 29),
the divine calling of Elohim (vv. 28, 30),
YHVH’s free gift of salvation (vv. 30, 32, 33),
the love of Elohim (v.v 31, 37),
the resurrection power of Yeshua (v. 34),
and Yeshua at the right hand of Elohim interceding for him (v. 34).
It is for this reason that Paul can make the victorious declarations that if Elohim is for us, who can be against us, and that we are more than conquerors through Elohim who loves us (vv. 31, 37)! Therefore what could possibly separate the believer from the love of Yeshua the Messiah (vv. 38–39)?
Part 11 — There Is No Racial Inequality or Prejudice in YHVH’s Plan of Salvation
Paul begins to bring down the middle wall of partition that was still separating the Jews and Gentiles. Only by the removal of this man-imposed barrier can the elimination of strife or division within the family of the redeemed of YHVH occur.
9:1–29 Now that Paul has laid out the gospel message of salvation through Yeshua the Messiah, he turns another corner and focuses on his desire to share this message with his fellow Jews who have yet to accept Yeshua (vv. 1–5).
However, the Jews’ rejection of the gospel has paved the way for this message to go to the Gentiles (vv. 6–24) until the fullness of the Gentiles (see Rom 11:12, 25 cp. Gen 48:19) come to faith in the Messiah (vv. 25–29). Interestingly, Paul goes on to equate the Gentiles with the lost sheep of the house of Israel when he quotes Hosea’s and Isaiah’s prophecies (vv. 25–29).
9:30–33 Paul then begins to chip away at the racial prejudice and disparity that existed between the Jews and Gentiles in that the former made the latter feel like second-class citizens, since they weren’t “the chosen people.” He shows that the Gentiles can have righteousness (through faith in Yeshua) even though they didn’t obtain it through a knowledge of and obedience to the Torah (v. 30).
At the same time, the Jews didn’t attain righteousness through the works of the law (as he has already explained in chapters three and four, v. 32).
Paul is, in effect, further leveling the playing field between the Jews and the Gentiles so that they will unite in love through faith in Yeshua the Messiah and become the one new man (Eph 2:11–19) where there is neither Jew or Greek (i.e., Gentile, Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:11).
Part 12 — Yeshua and the Torah: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Paul next shows how the concept of Yeshua, salvation and the Torah are inter-related and indivisible concepts that work together in the life of the saint.
10:1–21 With a pleading heart, Paul again reiterates his desire for the Jews to come to know Yeshua the Messiah (vv. 1–3).
He then goes on to show how the Torah points to Yeshua who, in bodily form, is the ultimate expression and end goal of the Torah (v. 10).
Paul than quotes Deuteronomy 30:12–14 with regard to the Torah, but, in the place where Moses uses the word Torah, Paul substitutes the word Messiah. In Paul’s mind, the Written Torah and Yeshua the Living Torah are synonymous (vv. 5–8). After all, John in his Gospel states that Yeshua is the Word of Elohim that was made flesh (John 1:1, 14), and what Paul writes simply confirms what John states.
Paul then goes on to write the phrases that the church often has new converts recite almost like a mantra “to receive salvation” (vv. 9–10). However, far from being a formula for “getting saved,” Paul seems to be saying that if you have faith in and pursue the Written Torah, then it will lead on automatically to faith and belief in Yeshua the Living Torah-Word of Elohim to which the Torah of Moses pointed, and of which Yeshua is the full expression and the end-goal or target (v. 10). To believe in Yeshua not only leads to salvation, but it also involves in believing (and obeying) his word (see John 14:15) resulting in salvation for both Jews and Gentiles (vv. 12–13). It is for this reason that the gospel message must be preached (vv. 15–18) even though the Jews have largely rejected it (v. 16).
At this point, Paul again quotes a prophecy from the Tanakh pertaining to the house of Israel (the northern kingdom) and unequivocally equates those ancient Israelites to the Gentiles of his day (vv. 19–21).
Part 13 — The Fullness of the Gentiles Grafted In
YHVH’s plan of salvation is all-inclusive and is open to all the nations of the world — the Gentiles.
11:1–36 Even though in chapters nine and ten Paul expresses his deep sadness that more Jews hadn’t come to faith in Yeshua, he explains that the Jews’ rejection of the gospel wasn’t final. This is all part of YHVH’s plan of salvation that includes many more people than just the Jews. Through their spiritual blindness (v. 25), salvation has come to the Gentiles (v. 11) who, as a result, will be grafted into the olive tree, which represents the nation of Israel (vv. 16–24), so that the fullness of the Gentiles will come to faith in the Elohim of Abraham as promised under the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 48:19). In this sense, the gospel message has become like a huge fishnet,which as been cast into the sea of humanity to catch many spiritual fish among the nations to become grafted into the nation of Israel, to become sons of Abraham (Gal 3:28), and children of Elohim, as well, (John 1:12) through Yeshua the Messiah. Again, Paul uses prophetic terms the prophet Hosea related to the northern kingdom of Israel (e.g., “obtained mercy” etc. vv. 30–32 cp. Hos 1:6 and 2:1) and applies them to his Gentile audience.
Part 14 — The Believer’s Spiritual Walk: What It Should Look Like
Paul begins to show how the righteous redeemed should walk out their faith.
12:1–21 Walking out our faith within the body of Yeshua. Now that Paul has presented the gospel message and leveled the playing field between Jews and non-Jews, he moves to the next stage of spiritual development for the redeemed believers: relationship among fellow believers. What should be some fundamental aspects of spiritual life within the community of believers? What does the walk of righteousness look like? The most important thing is to become like Yeshua by laying one’s life down in sacrificial service to one’s brother (vv. 1–2). After that, be a vessel through which the gifts of the Holy Spirit can flow as we serve one another (vv. 3–8). Walk in love one for another including our enemies (vv. 9–21).
13:1–7 Obedience to civil authorities. In this chapter, Paul continues the theme of the righteous walk when he states that believers should submit to the civil authorities (vv. 1–7).
13:8–10 Love is the fulfilling of the law. Paul continues admonishing us to love our neighbor by fulfilling YHVH’s Torah-commands, and he specifically lists the last five of the Ten Commandments as examples of how to act (vv. 8–10).
Next, Paul summarizes what he believes should be the walk of the redeemed righteous by offering a general admonition to believers to awake spiritually, come out of the spiritual darkness of this world, and to put of the sinful works of darkness and to follow Yeshua (vv. 11–14).
Next Paul concludes his epistle by showing how the saints should treat each other. The love of the brethren, as Yeshua taught, will be the identifying mark of the true saints.
14:1–15:3 Walking out our faith toward weaker spiritual brothers. Paul next addresses potential problems that might arise within the fellowship of believers that could cause strife, division and offense. He shows how to deal with weaker brothers, offenses and how to walk in forbearance and love one for another (vv. 1–18). He then offers a general admonition for believers to walk in peace, edify each other, and do nothing that will cause your brother to become offended or to stumble spiritually (vv. 19–23).
The first six verses of chapter 15 are a continuation of the thoughts of the previous chapter. Here Paul admonishes those who are strong (or mature) spiritually to support and even to lay down their lives in love for those who are weak spiritually after the example of Yeshua (vv. 1–3).
15:4–13 Finally, he urges believers to be like-minded and to walk together in unity in worship of Elohim and Yeshua (vv. 4–6). In doing this, Elohim will be glorified (v. 7), and the Gentiles will come to faith resulting in their glorifying Elohim as well (vv. 9–13).
Part 15 —Conclusion: Final Admonitions, Warnings and Salutations
15:14–16:27 In this final chapter, Paul signs off by Paul discussing his ministry of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (vv. 14–21), and his desire to visit Rome (vv. 22–33).
Paul offers greetings to various individuals along with some final admonitions. He warns against those who cause division and strife and gives some brief instructions on what to do with them (vv. 17–18). He closes this chapter and the book with a prayer of blessing (vv. 25–27).