Read Romans

A collection of John Dickson's tweets on Romans


A section-by-section explanation of Paul’s letter to the Romans via Twitter (by John Dickson, Centre for Public Christianity, Oct 2011)

1. #ReadRomans B'ground 1. Acts22:1-23 Paul's call to bring light to all nations is central to Rom & gave the West its universal egalitarianism

2. #ReadRomans B'ground 2. Paul dictates Rom to his scribe Tertius while in Corinth around AD57 after 25yrs taking gospel to nations/gentiles

3. #ReadRomans B'ground 3. Central controversial question of 1st c. Xity: On what basis is God's grace available to nations? Rom answers that.

4. #ReadRomans B'ground 4. Many criticised Paul for his universal egalitarianism. Rom defends his view against such deceivers (cf 3:8, 16:17)

5. #ReadRomans 1:1-7 He begins this letter to a church he’s never visited with a statement (creed) of their ultimate common-ground: the gospel.

6. #ReadRomans 1:1-7 Note the ‘bookend’ summary of the gospel: Davidic birth + resurrection over all, ie the story in the Gospels. Cf 2 Tim 2:8

7. #ReadRomans 1:1-7 Is the gospel (news of Jesus from birth > exaltation), rather than some peripheral, the basis of my fellowship with Xians?

8. #ReadRomans 1:8-13 Typical Paul: leading with heartfelt prayer. If the gospel is the BASIS of Xian fellowship, prayer is its 1st EXPRESSION

9. #ReadRomans 1:8-13 The letter itself will impart a ‘spiritual gift’; later, Paul explains the benefit he hopes to receive back, Rom 15:24

10. #ReadRomans 1:14-17 Here Paul states the theme of the letter: God’s righteousness brings salvation for ALL on the basis of faith/belief

11. #ReadRomans 1:14-17 What is ‘God’s righteousness’ here? Read Isaiah 51:1-5. It is His merciful action to save Israel, then the nations

12. #ReadRomans 1:14-17 In these lines we find reason to relax in God’s grace to us, and reason to get busy in God’s mission to the world

13. #ReadRomans 1:18-32 1st argument of Rom: salvation’s doorway is the same for all (faith), because our share in sin & judgment is the same

14. #ReadRomans 1:18-32 Paul denounces Gentile sin in stock Jewish phrases, but he’s also laying a trap for those who think they’re exempt (2:1)

15. #ReadRomans 1:18-32 Why is homoerotica singled out? To illustrate what idolatry also underlines: humans swapping God’s purpose for their own

16. #ReadRomans 1:18-32 NB the climax of sin for Paul isn’t idolatry or homoerotica but deceit, pride, dishonouring parents, heartlessness, etc

17. #ReadRomans 2:1-4. Having spent 14 verses on Gentile sin, Paul now spends 49 verses (to 3:20) saying Jews (nb 2:17) are in the same boat

18. #ReadRomans 2:1-4. Having drawn Jewish readers into applause at the condemnation of Gentile sin, Paul springs his trap: you are the same!

19. #ReadRomans 2:1-4. NB shift to 2nd person singular, a rhetorical device allowing readers to hear Paul debate a hypothetical Jewish teacher

20. #ReadRomans 2:1-4. Who am I daring to judge (while doing similar things)? Lord, in your kindness lead me to repentance.

21. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. God doesn’t show favouritism. Whether Jew or Gentile, the one who ‘does good’ is safe; the one who doesn’t isn’t.

22. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. Great debate about this section: Is Paul teaching salvation by works? Is it a ‘hypothetical’ soon to be rejected? Or …?

23. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. I think Paul has in mind people in Christ, enabled by the Spirit to ‘do good’/‘fulfill law’ (2:29; 6:13; 8:6; 12:9)

24. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. But, for now, all he wants to stress to his interlocutor is: Jews have no claims on life; Gentiles needn’t despair of it

25. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. Lord, may I never rest in the name ‘Christian’, thinking I have rights on Life.

26. #ReadRomans 2:5-16. Lord, may I never rest in the name ‘Christian’, thinking I have rights on Life. Your judgment and mercy alone prevail.

27. #ReadRomans 2:17-29. Back into diatribe with an imaginary Jewish teacher: you teach the Law to Gentiles but break its commands yourself.

28. #ReadRomans 2:17-29. Paul may be alluding to a scandal in Rome 25 yrs earlier: a Jewish teacher of Gentiles took off with temple gifts!

29. #ReadRomans 2:17-29. NB. The passage opens with someone boasting about outward signs & closes with God praising another for the inner heart

30. #ReadRomans 2:17-29. Lord, keep me from boasting of knowledge or privilege, and help me to live to receive your praise only.

31. #ReadRomans 3:1-20. 3 parts: Jewish questions re God’s faithfulness; OT quotations about Israel’s sin; conclusion about universal guilt

32. #ReadRomans 3:1-20. 1st, the interlocutor objects that, on Paul’s view, God’s faithfulness to Israel is diminished & human evil encouraged.

33. #ReadRomans 3:1-20. 2nd, Paul offers a litany of OT passages about sin, specifically about the sins of Israel.

34. #ReadRomans 3:1-20. 3rd, Paul concludes the first major section of Rom: everyone, including Israel, is silenced before the holy God.

35. #ReadRomans 3:1-20. Human depravity is both the most unpopular and most easily verified teaching of the Bible.

36. #ReadRomans 3:21-31. Verse 21, the most beautiful BUT in the Bible.

37. #ReadRomans 3:21-31. NB: ‘just’ ‘justify’ ‘righteous’ ‘righteousness’ are forms of the same Greek word (x9 here). Enjoy the righteous-fest.

38. #ReadRomans 3:21-31. Justified = ‘considered right’. In Paul it has both a legal & relational sense: we’re acquitted & friends with God

39. #ReadRomans 3:21-31. We don’t get what Paul says of Jesus’ death until we get Leviticus 16:14-16. The great Yom Kippur / Day of ‘Atonement’

40. #ReadRomans 3:21-31. “Emptied himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race” (Charles Wesley). Never get used to that – never!

41. #ReadRomans 4:1-25. What Paul claims in 3:31 he now demonstrates: justification by faith recovers the original principle of the Jewish Law.

42. #ReadRomans 4:1-25. If Abraham was righteous prior to the 1st covenant-obligation (circumcision), justification by faith must be primary.

43. #ReadRomans 5:1-11. The ultimate ‘count your blessings’: justified, peace, access, grace, hope, love, Spirit, saved, reconciled. Thank God.

44. #ReadRomans 5:12-21. Ultimate leveler: there is not Jew or Gentile, privilege or disadvantage; we’re either in Adam or Christ, sin or grace.

45. #ReadRomans 6:1-14. Paul now answers 4 questions critics put to him (6:1,15, 7:7,13): Won’t your Law-free gospel lead to lawlessness?

46. #ReadRomans 6:1-14. Jesus died & rose to conquer sin: how could those who identify with him (by faith & in baptism) be relaxed about sin?

47. #ReadRomans 6:15–7:6. Paul answers his critics’ question: Without the Jewish Law to bind them to righteousness, how will converts do good?

48. #ReadRomans 6:15–7:6. Answer: believers have ended the ‘marriage/obligation’ to a sinful self and are now wedded to Christ through the Spirit

49. #ReadRomans 7:7-25. We ask: Is Paul describing his own struggle with sin? But the question he’s answering is: Does he blame the Law for sin?

50. #ReadRomans 7:7-25. Paul’s point isn’t that he himself can’t obey the Law but that all sinful nature (rhetorical ‘I’) is powerless to do so.

51. #ReadRomans 7:7-25. Paul has turned his critics’ view on its head: his gospel of grace doesn’t lead to sin – the Law itself does. Brilliant!

52. #ReadRomans 8:1-16. Paul’s thinking here draws on Jeremiah 31:31-34 & Ezekiel 36:25-27 (worth a read). New Law. New hearts. New Spirit.

53. #ReadRomans 8:1-16. Paul’s final answer to critics: whereas the old covenant entangled & condemned, the new covenant pardons and empowers.

54. #ReadRomans 8:1-16. My question on reading this text: Confident of mercy, enlivened by the Spirit, is my life silencing the critics?

55. #ReadRomans 8:17-39. All of Israel’s blessings have been bequeathed to the one faithful Israelite, Christ, and so to his siblings by faith.

56. #ReadRomans 8:17-39. The promises to Israel – new creation, resurrection, Spirit, election, glorification, love – fall on those in Christ

57. #ReadRomans 8:17-39. In the universal finale, something so magnificent will take place that it will satisfy every human heart – Dostoevsky.

58. #ReadRomans 9:1-33. Chapters 9-11 answer: What does Paul’s message of grace to all nations mean for the chosen nation, Israel?

59. #ReadRomans 9:1-33. All Jews would say ‘amen’ to Paul’s argument: Jacob’s election & Pharaoh’s rejection were God’s sovereign choice. But…

60. #ReadRomans 9:1-33. If God had a right to choose Israel & reject Gentiles (1-18), he has a right to do the reverse, as he promised (19-33).

61. #ReadRomans 10:1-21. If chap.9 emphasizes God’s right to reject Israel, chap.10 explains why that is fair: Israel refused the gospel.

62. #ReadRomans 10:1-21. Paul says righteousness is a gift, it’s near, clear, widely published and foretold in Scripture – & still it’s rejected

63. #ReadRomans 11:1-24. 1st half of Paul's momentous response to the question, Is Israel’s history with God over? Answer: not by a long shot.

64. #ReadRomans 11:1-24. The ‘remnant’ = the large number of Jewish-Christians of the 1st century – a sign of things to come! Stay tuned.

65. #ReadRomans 11:25-36. What Paul said was an historical possibility, he now insists will be an eschatological reality: Israel will be saved.

66. #ReadRomans 11:25-36. Taking ‘Israel’ as a metaphor of the church would increase, not correct, Gentile conceit. No, Paul means Israel.

67. #ReadRomans 11:25-36. Israel’s disobedience, Gentile inclusion, Israel’s salvation—all in God’s sovereign plan. Worship is the only response

68. #ReadRomans 12:1-21. If Israel’s promises, sacrifices, Law & Temple all culminate in Christ, what does WORSHIP now look like? Paul explains.

69. #ReadRomans 12:1-21. Worship is about using your gifts in church (1-8), building Christian community (9-13) & serving the world (14-21).

70. #ReadRomans 13:1-14. Having advocated non-retaliation for the Christian community (12:14-21), Paul affirms the State’s right to just force.

71. #ReadRomans 13:1-14. Having affirmed the State’s right to just force (13:1-6), Paul reiterates the Christian’s calling to love.

72. #ReadRomans 13:1-14. Anticipation, an overlooked biblical motivation for ethics. The kingdom is dawning; let’s live as if it’s already here.

73. #ReadRomans 14:1-23. Paul’s universal egalitarianism (Jew & Gentile one before God) isn’t just theology; here he shows it’s sociology also.

74. #ReadRomans 14:1-23. Extraordinary accommodation by Paul: whatever you decide on food & Sabbath laws, please don’t look down on the other.

75. #ReadRomans 14:1-23. The differences b/n Jewish & Gentile Xians were probably as great as those between any modern denomination. Just saying

76. #ReadRomans 15:1-13. ‘Unity of nations’ was eschatology for ancient Jews, theory for Stoics and a present reality for the first Christians.

77. #ReadRomans 15:1-13. Racism was ruled out in the church from the beginning. When it arose, it was a contradiction of first principles.

78. #ReadRomans 15:14-33. Here Paul reveals his motivations in writing Romans. Rereading the book in light of these verses is truly illuminating

79. #ReadRomans 15:14-33. Paul writes Romans as a manifesto of his calling to the Gentiles & to garner Rome’s support for further such missions.

80. #ReadRomans 16:1-27. Conclusion: commendation (1-2), greet Romans (3-16), warning (17-20), greetings from Corinth (21-24), blessing (25-27)

81. #ReadRomans 16:1-27. Some names here are Jewish, others are clearly Gentile. Paul’s warm greetings embody the purpose of the letter: unity.

82. #ReadRomans 16:1-27. Leaving aside modern women’s ministry debates, note how many women Paul praises; one he calls an apostle (Junia v.7)

83. #ReadRomans 16:1-27. Paul had said his calling was to inspire the praise of God from Jew & Gentile (15:7-10); now he closes with a hymn.

For further extensive resources on the New Testament and the biblical worldview, search the Centre for Public Christianity website:

Topics & People in this post