The Book of Romans has always been one of my favorites for two reasons. First, the doctrinal truths helped me understand justification, redemption and propitiation when I was a brand new Christian. I have never doubted my salvation in large part because I was encouraged to read this book as a new believer. I like this book for a second reason because I met my wife Beth in a Romans class at Moody Bible Institute. Reading this book always makes me think of her.
As much as I love the Book of Romans I have always been intimidated to preach through it. Part of that has to do with its length, but mostly it has to do with its depth. I frankly didn't think I was worthy to preach through this great book. After all, what can I add to what has already been done by contemporary preachers like Ray Pritchard, John Piper, John MacArthur, and John Stott? Just knowing that Luther and Calvin have pored over these pages always made me feel inadaquate to the task of preaching Romans.
While I enjoy tackling topical preaching, I always strive to do so expositionally (by camping in one key passage). My preferred method of preaching however, is to take an entire book like Colossians, or Nehemiah, or 1 and 2 Thessalonians, or Malachi, or Philippians, or Titus.
Luther said that Romans is "The chief part of the New Testament, and the very purest gospel, which, indeed, deserves that a Christian not only know it word for word by heart but deal with it daily as with daily bread of the soul. For it can never be read or considered too much or too well, and the more it is handled, the more delightful it becomes, and the better it tastes."
John Calvin wrote: "When anyone gains a knowledge of this epistle he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture." The English poet, Samuel Coleridge, referred to Romans as, "The profoundest piece of writing in existence." The noted scholar F.F. Bruce once said: "There is no telling what may happen when people begin to study the Epistle to the Romans." William Tyndale, who translated the Bible into English, believed that every Christian should memorize Romans. John Chrysostom used to have someone read Romans out loud to him twice each week. After hearing it read so many times, he said this: "Romans is unquestionably the fullest, deepest compendium of all sacred foundation truths."
Frederic Godet, a Swiss theologian, said: "Every movement of revival in the history of the Christian church has been connected to the teachings set forth in Romans... and it is probably that every great spiritual renovation in the church will always be linked, both in cause and effect, to a deeper knowledge of this book."
Lest we think that these stories just happened long ago and far away, I heard of one man who visited a church service recently where the pastor was preaching through Romans. At the end of the service, the person sitting next to him asked him how long he had been a Christian. To which the young man responded, "About ten minutes." One of our newest church members attributes a verse in Romans to his conversion, and two weeks ago, when Eric Elder spoke to the students, he told them that God used Romans 1 to free him from the bondage of homosexuality.
I pray that that we will see a number of conversions and recommitments during our study together and that God will bring a wave of repentance and revival to us at this time and at this place for His glory and for our good.
You may wonder why we are studying Romans right now. I have waited more than twenty years as a pastor before preaching through this profound book. I have thought about it many times but have backed away. Don Grimes has asked me for months when I was going to tackle Romans. My friend Ray Pritchard challenged me to preach through this weighty book. But then the Holy Spirit made it clear to me in a way that I couldn't resist. Here are some reasons why we are roaming through Romans:
- Over the last several years many new believers have made PBC their home. In order to grow to maturity, the Bible says that we must move from milk to meat. Incidentally, Hebrews 5:12-14 refers to the meat of the Word as "teaching about righteousness," which is what Romans is all about. It's time to wade from the shallow waters and plunge deeply into the waves of God's Word.
- The Book of Romans contains the clearest statement of the Gospel in the New Testament and is a magnificent explanation of Christianity itself. Every vital teaching of our faith is found in capsule form within its pages. Donald Barnhouse said, "Romans has the most complete diagnosis of the plague of man's sin, and the most glorious setting forth of the simple remedy."
- This study will make a good follow-up to our just completed Old Testament Journey. You may be surprised to know that Paul quotes from the Old Testament 69 times in this letter and draws from its themes to establish and illustrate key points.
One of the reasons I've put off preaching through Romans is not only its depth, but also its length. Some pastors have plowed through verse-by-verse with no breaks, like Martin Lloyd Jones, who spent 13 years preaching through Romans and only made it to chapter 14 before he died. He preached 29 sermons just on the first chapter! We're not going to go that slowly but we are going to take enough time to plumb its depths.
I've also learned from John Piper's approach that if God wills, we will take breaks from Romans and then come back to it until we finish it. I hope it doesn't kill me, but if it does, I can't think of a better way to go than to die in the pulpit preaching the Book of Romans.
As we come to the end of Romans 4 in a few weeks, I am so glad that I followed God's promptings. Since one our purposes for this year is to "grow deeper," I can't think of a better book to help us do that. Just this past Sunday one woman met me at the door with tears in her eyes and said, "Now I know that I'm really saved!"
If you're a pastor and you're not sure about whether or not to preach through Romans, may I encourage you to do so? Who knows, revival might just break out if churches across this land uncover the truths of Romans once again!