Over the next year, we are going to be going on a journey through the books of Romans and James (with a few pauses in between to cover other topics as the need arises). I am going to be doing things, though, in a different manner than you may be used to. I hope it is useful in helping you understand what both books are saying separately and in the larger context of Scripture as a whole.
What we are going to be doing is looking at the two books simultaneously. We will be breaking them down into sections, using the NIV’s section titles and breaks. I will be using, though, the scriptural text of the ESV. My reasoning? I think the NIV gives us good topical breaks for a blog-type environment. I am using the ESV text because, while being highly readable, it is much more literal than the NIV, giving us a better picture of what the authors were actually trying to say.’
As we study, we will begin with some introductory material on both books and then dive into Romans. Each week we will cover one section of Romans until we get close to a section of Romans that some authors have put up as a contradiction in the Scriptures between it and James. At that time, we will alternate between James and Romans until we come to the section in question, at which time we will deal head-on with the question of justification by faith apart from works versus justification by works and not faith alone.
Once we finish James, we will return to Romans alone and finish the year out with the final exhortations of Paul.
I have chosen to do this study this year for a number of reasons. For starters, my mother-in-law has felt inspired to study Romans this year and I want to give her some further food for thought on the book and maybe some perspective that she (and other readers as well) may not have thought of.
More importantly, though, there are a growing number of people discussing something called “Free Grace Theology.” On the surface, I am in agreement with what they are saying. Salvation is by grace alone through Christ alone. Our works bring nothing to the table. The problem is in the way proponents of this view are starting to handle Scripture. Any talk of works is viewed as an attack on the sufficiency of Christ. The talk is gradually, and vocally, becoming more and more antinomian. I want to combat that aspect of the Free Grace movement and deal honestly with the texts that deal most pointedly with the topic. Romans and James do just that.
That said, even though I see an error in a theological position, I am not going to be going out of my way to attack it. You won’t see me saying that a particular verse says one thing and “free grace advocates” say something else. We are going to be study Scripture alone and reaching conclusions about what the text is saying both in it’s original context and to us today. That is it. I am not on a theological witch hunt to root out and burn heretics. I want to glorify God and proclaim His supremacy. I pray that this year’s study may do just that.
Soli Deo Gloria!