01 Oct How has Romans Remained Relevant in Every Generation?
Trends and fads dominate culture and history. In everything from music to fashion, what is hot today is cold tomorrow. In comparison, the book of Romans has been a favorite in every generation for nearly two millenia.
One Bible commentary says, “Paul’s letter to the Romans is regarded not only as his most significant writing, but as one of the most important writings in the history of the Christian faith. The popularity of Romans is evidenced by the endless number of commentaries, essays, and books devoted to the interpretation of the letter throughout the centuries. [Joseph] Fitzmyer [says]…’one can almost write the history of Christian theology by surveying the ways in which Romans has been interpreted.’ [John] Stott’s claim that ‘the church in every generation has acknowledged the importance of Romans’ also applies to virtually every major theologian throughout church history—from Ambrosiaster and John Chrysostom in the first centuries of the church, to Aquinas in the medieval period, to Luther and Calvin during the Reformation, to John Wesley in 18th-century Britain, to Barth’s influential commentary Römerbrief in the 20th century, to N. T. Wright’s recent Paul and the Faithfulness of God.”33
Romans is so big that its impact is far beyond Christianity, transforming entire cultures. One theologian has said, “Paul’s letter to the Romans is one of the most influential writings in the past fifteen hundred years of Western culture…More than any other book, Romans has been the forge of the Western psyche.”34 Another says, “This letter is arguably the most influential book in Christian history, perhaps in the history of Western civilization.”35
Within the history of Christian theology, Paul’s letter to the Romans has been a battleground between Catholic and Protestant theologians. Catholic Bible commentator Brendan Byrne rightly said, “While widely acknowledged as the single most influential document in Christian history, it has also been the most controversial…At the time of the Reformation the letter became a battleground within Christianity between Protestant and Catholic understandings of the faith.”36 Protestant Bible commentator Leon Morris says, “The Reformation may be regarded as the unleashing of new spiritual life as a result of a renewed understanding of the teaching of Romans.”37
For Protestant Christians, Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians are perhaps the most significant source of theological clarity teaching what the gospel of Jesus Christ is, and is not respectively. Theologian Douglas Moo says, “Paul remains a gigantic figure, whose impact on the history of theology is probably greater than that of any other biblical author.”38
One well respected commentator on Romans says, “From the death of Paul to this day there has not been a Sabbath when he was not read, recited or quoted in the public ministrations of God’s house; and so it will be to the end of time.”39
The early church father Chrysostom said of Paul’s writings, “Like a wall of adamant, his writings form a bulwark around all the churches of the world, while himself, as some mighty champion stands even now in the midst, casting down every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”40
Thomas Draxe, a seventeenth-century English Puritan described Romans as, “The quintessence and perfection of saving doctrine.”41 John Calvin said, “if we have gained a true understanding of this Epistle, we have an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.”42
To find the free Romans study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit realfaith.com or download the Real Faith app.
- Derek R. Brown and E. Tod Twist, Romans, ed. Douglas Mangum, Lexham Research Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014).
- 34. Stowers, Stanley K. A Rereading of Romans: Justice, Jews, and Gentiles (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), 2.
- Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart, How to Read the Bible Book by Book: A Guided Tour (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 317.
- 36. Byrne, Brendan. Romans. Sacra Pagina 6. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1996, 1.
- Jack Cottrell, Romans, vol. 1, The College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996).
- 38. D. J. Moo, “Paul,” in New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 136.
- Wm. S. Plumer, Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans with an Introduction on the Life, Times, Writings and Character of Paul (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1870), 13.
- 40. Wm. S. Plumer, Commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans with an Introduction on the Life, Times, Writings and Character of Paul (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Co., 1870), 15.
- Quoted in W. Haller, The Rise of Puritanism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1972), p. 87.
- Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, vol. 6, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), xxii–1.