In this second volume of Pastor Timothy Keller’s study of Romans, he naturally maintains the same approach to the study which was employed in his writing of the first volume, clarifying at the outset that this book “….is not a commentary,” but rather that, “it is an expository guide, opening up the Scriptures and suggesting how they apply to us today” (9). It should come as no surprise to experienced readers of Keller’s work that the book achieves this goal admirably, while offering plenty of inspirational insight and theological “food for thought” to readers.
As in the previous volume, this book is divided into twelve chapters, with each chapter (except the last one) being further divided into two equal “parts” of just over six pages. The six-page readings certainly help to present this rich material in more manageable portions, but it still strikes me as odd that this content wasn’t simply presented as twenty-three chapters, since that’s essentially what it is.
Keller explains that, while the first half of the book of Romans explains “…the wonderful truths of the gospel: of justification by faith, of union with Christ, of salvation through Christ alone and not through our works,” this second half of the book primarily aims to answer the question, “How does faith in the gospel of Christ actually lead to change in real life?” (7). Keller acknowledges a further division in the book of Romans, between chapters 8-11, explaining the ground of Christian assurance – which Keller defines as solely “the work of his Son on the cross and and work of his Spirit in our hearts” – and chapters 12-16, presenting a theological summary of the Christian life. Regarding this application of the gospel to our lives, the author rightly declares “The believer’s life is to be lived out of gratitude. We live to please our heavenly Father by obeying him, even at cost or inconvenience” (8).
As always, Keller serves as a most helpful guide in our study of the biblical text, not only because of the solid pastoral exposition and application which he offers, but also because he helps us to see the tremendous impact that this portion of Scripture has had on believers throughout history, and the similar impact which it should continue to have in our lives today. As he delves into the biblical text himself, he also provides interaction with past writers such as Augustine, Luther and Calvin, and more recent authors such as John Stott and Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Throughout this expository guide, Keller helps clarify many difficult subjects about which Christians often get confused, including…..
– Romans 8:28 NOT being intended for every person (45);
– God’s promises to Israel having NOT failed (63);
– Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? (65 ff.);
– Who, precisely, is the “Israel” which will ultimately be saved? (95 ff.);
– How fully should believers submit to their governmental authorities? (129 ff.).
As an additional help for readers, the book also includes a glossary, and two helpful appendices – a summary of Romans 8-16 in outline form, and a thorough discussion of the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and election (two especially challenging subjects for many believers). This study is both concise and exciting, with Keller lovingly navigating his readers through the often frightening waters of this rather heavy theological book, raising nearly all of the same questions that we’re prone to ask as we read this material, and providing sound pastoral responses that are sure to help calm many of our anxieties about the book of Romans. Best of all, he draws attention to all of the major points which are made by the biblical text and gives us good motivation for considering it more fully and applying it more appropriately in our relationship with Christ.
NOTE: I received this book for free from The Good Book Company (through Cross-Focused Reviews) in exchange for my preparation of this honest review of the book. I was not required to write a positive review of the book.