Study Notes and Personal Bible Study Activities for
the Book of Romans
Romans 1:18-32 Be in no doubt, before God no one is guiltless or able to excuse his or her sin – we are all guilty and worthy of judgment. And no one can save himself or herself. The Spirit’s purpose in showing us this very realistic ugly and hopeless picture of mankind is to create in us a longing for the only One who can save – Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
Read again the comforting words of Romans 1:16-17.
Romans 2:1-24. Hear the harsh reality - There is no one that is righteous. Saving righteousness is ours only by faith in the Righteous One – Jesus Christ.
Romans 2:25-3:8 Paul points out two great delusions that man cherishes about religion: 1) That mere outward physical observance of religious rites makes a believer, and 2) thinking that our sins are a good thing because they allow God to show His goodness. Let’s hear and heed Paul’s assessment of such foolishness!
Romans 3:9-31 Relish the cool, life-giving refreshing water of the Gospel in verses 21-26.
Romans 4:1-12. God uses the example of Abraham and the timing of events of his life to assure us that a person is justified by faith, period. Not by works.
Romans 4:13-5:5 Paul continues his discourse on how Abraham was saved. This is a powerful reminder that Old Testament details were not just of passing historical interest or ‘just for the record’, but for our learning and to assure us of our salvation.
Romans 5:6-21 What a miracle of love – “Christ died for the ungodly!” What a message to share personally with others, “Christ died for me, of all people, and know that He died for you!”
Romans 6:1-23 Read this chapter over several times for the sheer beauty of what it tells us about our baptism - what it makes us sharers of, what it freed us from and what it liberates us to be. Then read Psalm 16:1-11 and see how its words reinforce and celebrate what we see in Romans 6
Romans 7:1-13 How bad is sin? It is so evil that it takes what was meant to give life, the Law (v. 10a), and produces death.
Romans 7:14-8:8 We, as believers, agree with and desire to keep God’s Law, but there’s our sinful flesh tripping us up, over and over again. Is there an answer for our plight? Yes, there is, and Paul encourages us to walk continually in that Answer.
Romans 8:9-21 Paul reminds us of where our allegiance is to lie. But what if we are persecuted for that allegiance; is faithfulness to God worth the pain? Ponder and delight in Paul’s wonderful hope filled answer.
Romans 8:22-39 As we have just seen in Ahijah’s case, being a believer does not mean a life free from trials and strife. But take comfort and rejoice in all that you, the believer, have going for you. Listen to the song “God is For Us.”
Romans 9:1-21 Paul aches for his people who reject Christ. Blessed as they were, they lost the blessing by unbelief, and ones who are not physically descended from Israel become Israel (the Church) being children, not of the flesh, but of the promise – the Gospel
A deeper dive into Romans 9:5 - Christ, who is God over all, forever praised.
Writer Allan Peterson tells the story of a man looking back on his childhood. The story goes something like this. When the man was a boy he’d fallen into the bad habit of being late for his family’s evening meal. One day his mother warned him yet again not to be late. But once again the boy was careless and ignored the time. When he finally got home his parents were sitting at the table, waiting for him. His mother had prepared one of his favorite meals. His father’s plate was full, and it looked as though he was about to dive in with his knife and fork.
Then the boy looked at his own plate. There on his plate was a piece of dry, unbuttered bread. The boy teared up, swallowed hard, and sat down in front of the meal he knew he deserved.
Then the father did something the boy would never forget. He silently took the boy’s plate and replaced it with his own. Then, with no one saying a word, the boy watched as his father carefully ate the one piece of bread.
Years later, that boy, now a man, said this: “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.”
You and I deserve a meal far worse than a dry piece of bread. For all of the times you and I have conveniently forgotten God and his will for our lives, we deserve to choke down the bitter plate of abandonment, despair, death and hell. But in the Person of Jesus Christ, God quietly took the plate we deserved and replaced it with his own. Then, at the cross, he swallowed the horror on our plate, piece by piece, until our plate was clean.
And because he did, you and I now have before us a plate of forgiveness, peace, joy, heaven.
The boy never forgot what his father had done. You and I will never forget what our God has done. Christ, who is God over all, is forever praised.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, you took away the plate of my punishment and replaced it with a meal of sweet forgiveness. Move me never to forget what you have done. Amen.
Romans 11 – Here’s a link to a sermon from Star of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (WELS): “Gods Grace is Always Amazing”
Romans 12 – Listen to the hymn “Be Thou My Vision”
A deeper dive into Romans Chapter 13:
While the images and spirit of the Fourth of July are fresh in our minds, perhaps it would be good for us Christians to refresh our hearts and minds by considering some basic facts about government and being governed. A good place to do that is in the opening verses of Romans chapter thirteen. May the LORD graciously bless our consideration of His Word so that He is glorified and others, as well as ourselves, are blessed through our obedient response of faith.
Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
“Everyone...subject”- 316,175,074 - at the moment of this writing, that is the government’s population estimate for the USA. To different degrees, each of these individuals (including myself!), wants to celebrate “Independence Day” by being free of the rule of anyone else - including God. But God - to whom everyone is ultimately subject, whether they accept that or not - declares His will that “...every person be subject to the governing authorities”.
The word translated here “be subject” is a form of the same word spoken to Christians in Ephesians 5:20 when it says “...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”. In Christ’s Church, the members of His body submit to the Head by voluntarily from their hearts submitting to one another. Faith produces this love - this sincere willingness to put others first. This voluntary subjection is a work of the Gospel.
In the realm of society - politics if you will - there is subjection too, but it is not voluntary. In general, with the exception of Christians, this subjection is not a fruit of faith through the work of the Gospel. Instead, it is a product of obedience commanded by and enforced by the Law of God. This Law applies to “everyone”. It especially applies to believers in Christ. They will want to show their faith in God by faithfully accepting and following His will to be “subject to the governing authorities”. In a sense then, Christians will want to celebrate “Independence Day” by acknowledging their dependence upon God and their dedication to obeying His will by accepting His subjection to people in authority not as a result of coercion through the Law but of conversion through the Gospel.
PRAYER: LORD, I humbly acknowledge my absolute submission to You. Help me to do this also through my submission to Your will by being “subject to the governing authorities”. AMEN
Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
“...by God” Not long after man defiantly declared his independence from God by disobeying God’s will, God established His plan for man to be ruled by other men. God established government. Bible believing people see this beginning after the flood when God stated: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed...” (Genesis 9:6a)
Again, we hear it: “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. God expressed His own authority by “instituting” “authority”, that is, government. God’s establishment of government is an extension of the natural state of a child being subject to his or her parents. Since sin had entered the world and brought with it all the unruliness which leads to all unhappiness, it was a fundamental part of God’s love for sinful man that He established government. His loving purpose was to lessen the daily impact of the rebellion of sin by putting sinners under the control of others. To accomplish His good purpose, God necessarily uses people to rule. The problem is that both the people who are ruled and those who rule are sinners. Rulers and subjects alike are people who are not completely - and, sometimes not at all - obedient to the authority of God.
So, God exercised His authority by instituting government. The government in power at each particular place and at any particular time is there by the permission of God even though He doesn’t approve of everything (and, sometimes, of anything) it does.
PRAYER: LORD, help me to recognize government as something You have established for my good. As Your child, help me to respect Your authority by respecting the authorities You have permitted to have authority over me. Graciously give me governing persons who are a blessing to me and my family. AMEN
Romans 13:2 “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
“resist...judgment” Disobedience leads to judgment. It is as simple as that. A necessary consequence of not subjecting oneself to government ought to be experiencing punishment from the authority that has been resisted. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrong doer.” (Romans 13:4)
Current events around the world - as always - show us the trouble that comes to societies that are unruly. “Resist(ance) will incur judgment”. The God-given “sword” will be used (but not always in a godly, god-intended manner or degree). As people disobey, different levels of force are exerted to maintain or regain governmental authority. This may lead to great loss of life and property and freedom. When people are not self-disciplined and respecting of authority, authorities will discipline using the level of force they deem necessary. Often that force will err on the side of too much rather than too little. In either case trouble and hardship are the result.
In a land that has enjoyed the level of personal liberty we have in the USA, we Christians will want to be conscientiously careful that we do not use our political freedom in ways that are disorderly, disrespectful, or even disobedient. Personal disagreement with another’s governmental or economic philosophy or policy must never be expressed by God’s people in a way that is disrespectful of those in authority. Persons may tirelessly and passionately work to promote the social order they think will best serve for the prosperity and peace of the land they love. Such a pursuit must be done in a spirit that is pleasing to the LORD and respectful of other citizens with whom they disagree.
PRAYER: LORD, forgive me for failing to appreciate and express my thanks to You for the large degree of peace that I have been granted on a daily basis in my country. For Jesus’ sake, graciously restrain those who are unruly so that peace may continue and increase. AMEN
Romans 13:3 “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good.”
“Do-gooders” God did establish government for good. The authorities that God established are His servants - “God’s servant for your good”.
God’s servants, His authorities, serve for the good of people when they prompt and promote what is good and when they prevent and punish what is evil.
It is painfully obvious that there are some in positions of authority who do not use their authority with respect to the One Who has permitted them to come to power. Such persons use their power not to promote the common good but to enrich their personal possessions.
Meanwhile, believers in Christ who are in authority - as parents, as leaders in society or in the Church - will recognize the great privilege the LORD has graciously given to them. They will use their positions to honor Him and to bless others as He intended! Believers under authority receiving God’s blessings through those in authority - at home, in society, in His Church - will be eager to express their love for God by showing respect and giving honor and appreciation to those who are in authority. To the degree that happens, that’s a peaceful godly society! No small blessing!!
PRAYER: LORD, graciously give us good government and good “governed”. AMEN
Romans 13:6,7 “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
Life and taxes - You know the old saying. It goes something like this - there are only two things that are certain: death and taxes. It’s hard to argue against those two realities. Until Christ returns, death is the certain destiny of every single person in every country on earth - no exceptions. There may not be any place on earth without taxes either.
We, who believe in Christ, of course have a higher and more certain reality - LIFE. “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3). In Christ, we are certain of life - eternal life! As heirs of eternal life, we have a different perspective about earthly life. A different perspective about death and taxes too.
We know that for a believer in Jesus death is the springboard to heaven not the trap-door to hell. Until that time, our life-time is a time of grace. A time to respond to His grace with loving obedient service to Him that brings blessings to others. With respect to taxes, as people who have inherited all that we have from the LORD, we know and accept that His representatives in authority - home, society, Church - deserve support from us as they serve us on His behalf. So, recipients of God’s love, will lovingly care for their family in all generations; they will lovingly provide for the well-being of those who serve them through Christ’s Church; they will cheerfully pay taxes for the livelihood of those who serve as government workers. The level of those contributions will be determined by the law of love, with respect to family and Church; and, by the law of the land, with respect to the government.
PRAYER: LORD, help me to provide for those You have placed in authority for my good in my life. Teach me to do this in a way that shows my love and respect especially for You but also for them. AMEN
Romans 13:5,7 “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T” It is commonly stated that our society is becoming less and less polite and respectful. Perhaps you agree. There can be no argument that there is a great amount of disrespect in our society. The target of much of that disrespect is those who are in authority - in the home, in government, in the Church.
It must be honestly said that a significant factor in the disrespect is often the despicable behavior of those who are in authority: Unloving parents who are not mindful of the will of God and the good of their children; unfaithful officials who do not see themselves as servants of God serving the people they govern but seeing the citizens as “sheep to be fleeced”; “Church people” who abuse the flock of the Good Shepherd instead of caring for them. You know the headlines.
Horrific true stories of the sinful failures of persons in authority appall us. But, as the children of God we need to be careful about our own attitudes and actions! We must not be purveyors or consumers of lies or unfounded accusations. We must see to it that our own performance in areas of authority is godly and good - serving with humble, penitent, pure hearts. We must be careful lest the failures of people in authority be misused by us to justify our own disrespect and even disobedience. With reference to that, Luther has an interesting insight which he expresses in the Large Catechism in his explanation to the 4th Commandment where he states we are to show respect to parents (and, by extension, to all other authorities) “no matter how lowly, poor, frail, and strange they may be”.
Believers in Christ follow His lead - when they are in authority they lead as servants following the Servant; when they are under authority they show respect as to Christ Himself.
PRAYER: LORD, give me Your Spirit so that I respect You by doing Your will. Empower me to live a life worthy of respect and to show respect to Your authorities whether they are proving themselves worthy or not. AMEN
Let’s reread God’s statement upon governing and governed as it is found in Romans 13. As we do, let’s marvel as we realize and remember that the person the LORD used to write His will in these words at the time he was writing was himself suffering at the hands of unjust accusations by people unjustly claiming to be “the people of God”; wrongfully languishing in prison by an unjust government; and soon to be murdered by that government. How extraordinary is his respect for God in the midst of such circumstances!
Romans 13:1-7 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
PRAYER: LORD, You are My GOD, to the extent that I am under authority or in authority may I reflect my submission to, faith in, and love for YOU above all. AMEN