Romans 1-7 For You by Timothy J. Keller
This expository guide through the first half of Romans by Pastor Tim Keller is a helpful synthesis of Paul’s Epistle with an eye toward the pastoral and practical implications of the gospel. Though not a technical commentary nor devotional guide, Romans 1-7 For You is designed to allow the gospel to break through to the one reading with clarity and power. The result of this focus on the gospel is a clear reminder of the life, work, and ministry of Jesus Christ in the lives of every believer from beginning to end. Tim Keller is no stranger to gospel preaching and teaching, for he been in the midst of gospel empowered ministry as the Senior Pastor of Redeemer PCA in the heart of New York City.
Keller opens up his expository guide with a focus on the gospel. He writes, “Unsurprisingly the beginning of the letter is all about the gospel.” (11) He then fills out the meaning of the gospel with respect to Romans 1 by signaling that the good news changes heart, minds, lives and relationships, including bringing to us salvation and a place with the King (20). The beneficial aim that Keller describes is a salvation that is all of God through Christ but that is firmly situated in the world through a fully changed attitude accompanied with action. Contrasting the dead religions of moralism and legalism, the gospel is able to produce churches and believers that commend God to others because they are not beset with pride, arrogance, and smugness but humility with mercy (59). The very nature of moralism is a distancing oneself from the mass of humanity based upon the following of prescriptive laws. Yet, in the gospel, believers realize that we are all in the same boat and deserve the wrath of God save the goodness of God to send Christ on our behalf. The relentless quest for finding out who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong is less important than an embrace of the grace of God.
Charting the path of the difference between slavery to sin and slavery to God is an important concept in Romans 6. Keller writes, “So, in summary, slavery to sin begins at our birth. Slavery to God begins at our new birth, when God’s grace enables us to embrace the gospel in the heart (changing our motives and our “bottom lines”), resulting in a total change of life.” (152) Why is this important? For one, we need to know from what depths of sin we have been saved from in order to appreciate the cost of the sacrifice Christ made on our behalf. Furthermore, it is the grace of God given to us that changes our motives. No, for Tim Keller this is not prevenient grace but full on transformative grace. Keller really excels at bringing home the power of the gospel for believers in the throes of the deadening weight of both moralism and legalism that we can become enamored with. Rather, his expository guide is replete with examples of living by grace that is at the heart of the message of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
I think this is a great guide to those studying the first half of Romans. The only deficit I see is that at times I want more background insight on the situation at Rome but the guide is more geared to preachers looking toward the practical application of the gospel message found in the book of Romans.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company for the copy of this book in exchange for review.