Romans 8-16 For You Edited From the Study by Timothy Keller
This second installment on Romans from the pen of Pastor and Author Timothy J. Keller is a winsome and careful reflection on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Adding to his wise comments on Romans 8-16 is an excellent appendix on God’s Sovereignty and Election, which in a few pages covers objections to election but focuses also on the free actions of human beings. By giving us a short snippet of election from a whole Bible perspective, Keller helps us see this grand doctrine through the story of Scripture.
In the opening lines of commenting on Romans 8.4, Keller singles out what Christ’s work does for us by writing, “Everything Christ did for us was in order that we might live a holy life” (15). Therefore, the aim and purpose of Jesus’ entire life, death, and ministry was to push us toward a holy life, one that would live not under the weight of condemnation but under the guidance of the life-giving Holy Spirit. How does this take place? In the next few pages Keller bears mentioning that as we set our minds upon the Spirit, we are able fight sin and temptation from a renewed mind, and as we do so this frees us from the feeling that mustering up more courage is the answer.
Taking up the weak and strong believers in Romans 14.1-23 up for discussion, Keller points out the real significance of the debate in the church. He writes, “The “weak” are any Christians who tend to promote and regard non-essential cultural and ceremonial customs as being critical for Christian maturity and effectiveness. For example, the older generation in a particular church might feel very superior to the younger folk who like contemporary music in their worship….Thus they have taken the issue of taste, custom, or culture and elevated it to an abiding, trans-cultural mark of spiritual maturity” (149). Spiritual maturity based upon non-essential customs generally pushes division and dissension in the church and rarely points to the unity that Christ died for among believers.
Lastly, you won’t want to miss the appendix on God’s sovereignty and election. Rejecting fatalism, the Islam notion on “kismet” and any other philosophy that would deem human actions wholly insignificant, Keller writes, “Our choices have consequences and we are never forced by God to do anything other than what we want. Yet God works out his will perfectly through our willing actions. It is a marvel” (201)! This concept of compatibilism is common in the ranks of evangelical authors from D.A. Carson and others. Keller goes onto to point out a most interesting thing, that, “The doctrine of election is necessary to preserve the doctrine of justification” (209). In other words, without election we open up ourselves to all kinds of interpretations that find our humility or goodness as a reason for God’s choosing, rather than resting in God’s unmerited free grace in salvation.
This is an essential book in understanding Romans 8-16. Though not technical or academic, the truth of God’s Word shines through as you read through these pages.
Thanks to the good book company and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.