By Caleb Keith –
After being fried from a nine-hour road trip, I could not find the mental power to write a proper blog this week. Instead, I offer up a short overview of Romans Chapters 1-4. I submitted this essay as an assignment for my New Testament Book of the Bible class. My professor for this course is Dr. Michael Middendorf, who is the author of the new Concordia Publishing House commentary on Romans. Dr. Middendorf’s instruction has been priceless, and I hope this overview is exemplary of that.
An Overview of Romans Chapters 1-4
Examining the first four chapters of Romans reveals the substantial nature of this book. While the particulars of each chapter differ from one another, the theme remains constant. Paul boldly proclaims in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the Good News, because it is [the] power of God into salvation for everyone who believes, to Jew first and also to Greek. For [the] righteousness of God is being revealed in it from faith[fullness] into faith, just as it stands written: ‘But the righteous person will live from faith.’” The other three chapters covered build off of and support this thesis.
A summary of verses 16 and 17 might read, “The power of God is the Gospel, and that power declares righteousness through the faithfulness of God.” The emphasis presented is of God and his action. Dr. Michael Middendorf explains that “The direction of the action is all from God to us.” Paul demonstrates the emphasis on God’s action as early as verse one. He describes his vocation as an apostle, and his state as a redeemed Christian as the results of God’s calling. Paul utilizes rhetorical skill by presenting his theme, not in one way but multiple connected narratives.
In chapters 2 and 3 Paul switches gears from describing faithfulness and righteousness to describing unrighteousness and the sinners condition before God. Even here the emphasis is on God. Unrighteousness is not judged on its own merit but against the righteousness of God. Romans 2:11 reveals that this judgment applies to all people, “For there is no partiality in the presence of God.” Just as the Good News is the power of God into salvation for both Jew and Greek, the Law is the Judgement of God into condemnation for both Jew and Greek. The Glue, which holds both these statements together, is the action of God unto men.
Paul does not leave things in damnation; he transitions the reader into the assurance of salvation through the declaration of God. Paul visits the Abrahamic narrative again emphasizing God’s action. It by “believing on the One who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is being credited for righteousness.” After the conviction under the Law in chapters 2, Paul delivers deep comfort by laying salvation in the hands of God, who is righteous and faithful.
Reviewing Romans chapters 1-4 has had a tremendous impact on the way I view vocation and assurance. The unyielding emphasis on God’s action and especially his calling adds tremendous value to the day in day out life of a sinner like me. Paul’s words give me firm assurance of my salvation, knowing that God is in control from beginning to end. The message of salvation Paul presents in these chapters extends past me and out into the world offered freely to all people. Unlike the rest of the world’s religions, the message presented here is not one of man working toward God but rather God calling out and redeeming man.
 Michael P. Middendorf, Romans 1-8 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2013), 83.
 Middendorf, Romans, 90.
 Middendorf, Romans, 152.
 Middendorf, Romans, 316.