Jesus depicted in stained glass

What is the book of Romans about?

Romans is focused on Jesus, God’s salvation offered through him, and how to live when we have committed our lives to God’s service.

The Bookends of Romans

Authors often have very similar sections near the beginning and near the end of their books. They are the bookends of the book. Bookends give the reader clues to the author’s central message.

The bookends of Romans are Romans 1:1-7 and 16:25-27.

Unifying concepts in the bookends

The following concepts are seen in both passages:

God                                        1:1,7               God                                       16:26-27

Christ Jesus                            1:1                  Jesus Christ                           16:25

Gospel                                    1:2                  Gospel                                  16:25

Beforehand                             1:2                 long ages ago                        16:25

Prophets, Holy Scriptures      1:2                  prophetic writings                 16:26

Regarding his Son                  1:3                  of Jesus Christ                      16:25

With power the Spirit             1:4                  by command of the eternal God 16:26

Gentiles                                   1:5                  nations                                 16:26

Faith                                        1:5                  believe                                  16:26

Obedience                               1:5                  obey                                      16:26

What do these bookends teach us?

The book of Romans focuses on salvation through Jesus Christ.

The entire Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, are part of this salvation.

Faith and obedience are part of the gospel message. There is no true faith without a changed life. As John Calvin noted when he responded to the Catholic Council of Trent, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.” Luther made similar statements

The Gospel is consistent with the Hebrew Scriptures. We can and should see Jesus in the entire Bible.

The mystery of the inclusion of the Gentiles is mentioned before the ending bookend in Romans 16:25. The inclusion of the Gentiles is obviously rooted in the call of Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3. Abraham would be a blessing to all humanity. Paul’s ministry would focus on bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles.

The Gospel is for everyone. It is not separate messages for different groups of people. As Jesus made clear in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:1-23. Different results are seen in different soils but the seed is the same.

Some have seen politics and Paul’s view of the Roman government as central to understanding the book. That is not an emphasis seen in these bookends.

Romans is focused on Jesus, God’s salvation offered through him, and how to live when we have committed our lives to God’s service.

I have posted on this subject earlier but wanted to revisit these passages to include more insights from this pivotal book.

Questions for consideration:

Have you been tempted to separate obedience from faith?

Have you even been tempted to treat the Hebrew Scriptures as irrelevant for Christians?

Have you ever wished that the Gospel could be a little bit different for some of your friends? Maybe certain things that really offended them could be underplayed.

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