The Romans Challenge
Fifteen years ago I decided to preach through Romans. At that point I was 14 years out of seminary and thought it was time I tackled Paul’s greatest epistle. Before then, I had taught through it in a Sunday School class on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I thought my congregation would benefit from a detailed exposition of Romans. Little did I know that the venture would prove an enormous blessing to my own soul. I grew spiritually in so many ways, and my knowledge of God was immeasurably deepened, as I slowly climbed the “Mt. Everest of Scripture.” In retrospect, I’m glad I waited a few years to tackle it, and I’m glad I didn’t wait longer than I did.
Quite simply, there is no book in the New Testament like Romans. I love 1 Peter and I love Hebrews and I love Revelation–all for different reasons. But by general agreement, by consensus across the centuries, there is no book like Romans for a clear, consecutive exposition of the heart of the gospel. Here in sixteen chapters Paul lays the foundation of the Christian faith.
Luther loved this book.
So did Calvin.
Donald Grey Barnhouse gave us four volumes on Romans.
Martin Lloyd-Jones preached over 350 messages on Romans and only got to the middle of chapter 14.
James Montgomery Boice also gave us four volumes on Romans.
John Piper just finished eight-and-a-half years of preaching through Romans.
And the greatest Bible commentators prove their mettle by tackling this book.
I ended up preaching the book in four sections over four years (You can find those messages here). I started each January in a new section of Romans–1-4, 5-8, 9-11, 12-16. And I preached around sixteen messages from each section. As I have said, it proved a blessing to the church and strength to my own soul.
I thought about this when Brian Bill sent me a link to this blog entry by Bill Oudemolen, pastor of Foothills Bible Church in Littleton, Colorado. Several years ago I encouraged Brian to start preaching through Romans. The series (which is still is progress) has resulted in some magnificent expositions (see, for instance, his series from Romans 1, I Am Not Ashamed) of this portion of God’s Word.
I thought it also because last week I preached through Romans 9-11 at Word of Life Florida. I told the folks that we were going to be in heavy water all week long–and we were. It wasn’t typical conference fare, and that section is probably the most challenging part of the book. But I felt again the power of Romans as we caught a glimpse of God’s amazing plan for history that includes both Jews and Gentiles, and when you finally reach the summit, theology becomes doxology (Romans 11:33-36).
As readers of the weekly email sermons know, I am working my way through Romans 12-16. I am going slower this time, which is a luxury that pastors don’t always have. Each week I’m seeing things I hadn’t seen the first time around.
All of that to say . . . Pastor, why don’t you preach through the book of Romans? Don’t you think it’s time you set aside smaller things and climbed the Mt. Everest of Scripture? It won’t be easy, and you shouldn’t rush it, and you need time to prepare your congregation, and you need the support of your leadership. But what if you decided to start Romans this September? That would give you almost seven months to gather the books you need and to study this great epistle on your own.
What would happen in America if thousands of pastors began to preach through Romans? Our churches would be changed, Christians would be deepened in their faith, and God might be pleased to send a mighty revival to our churches and a spiritual awakening in our land. In any case, it would do us all good to set aside the touchy-feely stuff and tackle the book of Romans.
Obviously, I can’t tell anyone else what to preach, and I wouldn’t do it even if I had that power. But think about it. Pray about it. There are many pastors who have been meandering through the lowlands of “felt-need” preaching whose ministries could be transformed if they would “man up” and preach through Romans.
What do you think? Click here to add your comments.