10 Reasons Why You Should Preach through Romans
Early on in my ministry as a senior pastor, I thought it would be good if I preached through Romans. The congregation seemed hungry for it, and I planned to stay here for many years, so I thought Romans would provide a good theological foundation for a long-term ministry. John Piper waited until the end of his pastoral ministry before he preached through Romans. I didn’t have that much wisdom, so I dove in.
While I believe I would do a better job these many years later, I don’t regret preaching through Romans so early on. I had no idea what this book would for our the congregation. These many years later, I can say with both conviction and fondness you must preach through Romans. I listed 10 reasons below, but there are many more.
1. You will be preaching the gospel.
From the greeting (1:1) to the doxology (16:25) the gospel is saturates this book. Romans teaches us our need for the gospel (1:18–3:20), the provision of the gospel (3:21–5:21), our growth in the gospel (6–8), the sovereignty of God and the gospel (9–11), and our life together in the gospel (12–16). Romans will ground your congregation in the gospel.
2. You will be telling your church what Paul taught the early churches.
Ever wonder what Paul taught the believers in Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, etc.? Paul wrote the book of Romans to a church he’d not been able to visit yet. What he wrote to them is what he would have taught had he been there in person. If this was foundational for the early church, then it certainly remains foundational for our churches.
3. You will help your people face many necessary but difficult questions.
What happens to the people who never heard the gospel? Is homosexuality really sin? Are sincere Jews really unbelievers? Don’t people really mean well? How can a loving God punish sin? It’s all in Romans and more.
4. You will help your people think systematically and theologically.
The organization and presentation of Paul’s argument will shape your people’s thinking. In our culture, where feeling trumps reason, Romans offers a welcome antidote. Your people will become familiar with faith, grace, redemption, justification, propitiation, sanctification, election, and predestination. Paul considered these topics necessary for the church because they are.
5. You will help your people think carefully about election and predestination—and you’ll cultivate in them a white-hot heart for evangelism.
Can a deep love for the doctrines of grace fuel and fire a heart for evangelism and missions? It did for Paul—and it’s intended to do so for us. Romans 9:1–10:1 presents a God-exalting, pride-crushing, soul-swelling presentation of election and predestination sandwiched in between the cry of the apostle for the salvation of his kinsmen. Paul is a model not only of how to understand these truths, but also how we ought to preach them.
6. You will help your people have a gospel-oriented way of addressing issues of race.
Like most of the NT churches, the church in Rome was initially dominated by Jewish people along with a few Gentiles. But the emperor kicked the Jews out of Rome for a couple of years, so the church was free to have some serious BBQ pork at the annual summer picnic. I’m taking a few liberties here, but you get the point. When the Jews returned to Rome, it seems that much of the Jewishness of the church was gone and a more Gentile-friendly atmosphere was in place. The friction that ensued was probably the reason why Paul was so desperately needed. So he wrote Romans to help them address some of their race-based tensions until he could get there.
7. You will help your church learn how to deal with disputable issues.
It wasn’t just racial issues. There were also tensions between weaker and stronger believers. Every church has to figure out what they’re going to die over, fight over, argue about, pick at, or just discuss. The counsel, principles, and commands found in 12:1–15:13 are essential for unity in our churches, but preaching through the book helps everyone see that how we deal with disputable issues is a branch from the root and trunk of the gospel.
8. You will prepare your people to die well.
I’ve read Romans 8:18–39 in many hospital rooms and can hardly think of a greater text to read at the bedside of a dying saint than 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” The only comparable encouragement in my mind comes at the end of Romans 8. Preaching through this book takes you through the anguish and frustration of Romans 7, which loads you with conviction and confidence in the glorious eighth chapter.
9. You will never run out of funeral sermons.
Romans 1:16–17; 3:21–26; 4:16–25; 5:1–5; 5:6–11; 8:1–39.
10. You will exalt Jesus!
Jesus is the gospel. Preaching Romans will make much of Jesus and you and your people will only love him more.
So, yes, early on I started preaching through Romans. I didn’t have the sense to plan a preaching schedule. I just preached the next text, and then the next text—sometimes preaching a verse, sometimes a word, sometimes a paragraph. It took a long time—a really long time. Stephanie was in the first grade when I started; she was a freshman in college when I finished. With the exception of two other series, the rest of the time was in Romans. While I wouldn’t recommend taking this long, I have to say that James Montgomery Boice provided an example of a long series in Romans that was fruitful. I witnessed the same thing here.
The effect on our church was profound. The gospel became central to our life. Expositional preaching became treasured. We learned to love rich theology. Election and predestination were no longer third-rail issues. People were converted, baptized, and joined the church. Ten to fifteen guys who grew up in that series are now serving as pastors. I’m not sure it was a revival as we tend to think of revival but it sure was close.
Brothers, you must preach through Romans!
James Montgomery Boice
John Piper’s The Justification of God (study on 9:1–23)