On Outlining Romans

Something that has increasingly frustrated me about the Mainline Church is that its acceptance of modern historical-critical methods and general rejection of inerrantist hermeneutics has often been accompanied by a lower regard for the authority of the Bible or the importance of intimate Biblical study. Say what you will about other aspects of inerrantist traditions, they frequently promote a much higher biblical literacy than we do. Often this literacy is accompanied by a high value on memorizing large quantities of Bible verses. Now, no doubt this kind of memorization regularly atomizes the Bible and unhelpfully neglects the nuances and counters of biblical narrative and argument, treating every verse as isolated aphorisms. But this misuse of something that has historically been a vital part of piety shouldn't give we in the Mainline should neglect memorization—especially if we believe that the Bible is our primary access to the Word of God through serious and pious engagement in the Spirit. Rather, it means we should take a different approach to memorization. Instead of memorizing isolated verses, we should start by memorizing the larger outlines of books of the Bible and then proceed to memorize verses to fill out those outlines. Our commitment to higher criticism should not lessen our devotional fervor or decrease our intellectual burden but should instead add to it.
So, to make this task easier, I've begun outlining books of the Bible as I study them in depth. Feel free to use these to help you in your endeavor. However, I would recommend making the outlines your own in conversations with the books you are reading. This will aid in memorizing. And please trust me when I talk about how healthful this exercise is. In my seminary Matthew class, our first test required us to memorize two things from each chapter of the Gospel. It was utterly incredible how much easier conversations went when we didn't have to fumble for minutes to find our references or resort to vague recollections.
Because we're reading through the book of Romans for the Good Book Club in Epiphany, my first outline I'm providing is from Romans. The larger headings are almost completely drawn from Luke Timothy Johnson's Reading Romans and I drew heavily from both Robert Jewett's Romans: A Short Commentary and Paul Achtemeier's Interpretation: Romans. I've added “notes” for places in the text that have especially important or contentious verses/themes. I'd highly getting a program like Anki and just putting this outline in to memorize.


The Good News of God's Righteousness 1:1-17

  • Greeting 1:1-7
  • Thanksgiving 1:8-15
  • Thesis: the Gospel is the power of salvation to both Jew and Gentile and God's righteousness is revealed through faith for faith 1:16-17

Faithless Humanity and the Power of Sin 1:18-3:20

  • Attacks on idolatry, which flows from yielding to falsehood/suppressing truth, and God's wrath revealed in God's letting people give themselves up to falsehood 1:18-32

Note: Paul on same-body intercourse 1:26-27

  • The fairness of God contrasted with the claims to superior status by birth/having the law rather than through right behavior 2:1-16
  • The Jew's advantage in having received the oracles of God  2:17-3:8
  • The evidence of all humanity under the power of Sin 3:9-20

God's Fairness Revealed in Jesus' Faith 3:21-31

  • Thesis restated and expanded: All have sinned and fall short but are justified by Christ's atoning death on the Cross 3:21-26

Note: Faith of Christ vs. Faith in Christ in 3:22

  • Questions, answers, assertions about the scope of the claim of Christ's redemption 3:27-31

How Faith Works: The Example of Abraham 4:1-25

  • Abraham the true ancestor of those who are circumcised in spirit (have faith) 4:1-12
  • God's promise inherited by Faith and not by the Law 4:13-17
  • Faith as trust in God's promise and the ensuing reckoning of righteousness 4:18-25 

God's Gift in Christ 5:1-21

  • Peace with God through justification secured through the unbelievable gift of Christ's death 5:1-11
  • Just as Sin and Death began to exercise dominion in the world through one man's disobedience, so too does the reign of God's grace through one man's obedience 5:12-21 

Answering Objections: Grace, Sin, and Law 6:1-7:25

  • Do not let Sin exercise dominion because you live in Grace and have died to Sin through your Baptism into Christ's death 6:1-14
  • You are slaves to whomever you obey, so if you present yourself to Sin rather than righteousness, you are slaves of Sin 6:15-23
  • The Law is only binding as long as you are alive and you have died in Christ 7:1-6
  • The Law is good but Sin seizes opportunity to deceive through the law 7:-13
  • We do not do the good we will to do through the war of the Spirit and the Flesh 7:14-25

Life in the Spirit 8:1-39

  • Law of the Spirit of Christ sets us free from Sin and Death 8:1-4
  • Life in the Spirit is setting mind of things of the Spirit and peace with God and will receive the resurrection life through the Spirit 8:5-11
  • We receive gift of adoption through Spirit, and if children of God then heirs 8:12-17
  • The whole creation longs for redemption and it is the Spirit that prays within us 8:18-27
  • God makes all things work together for good for those God foreknew and predestined for justification and glorification 8:28-39
  • Note: More than conquerors  and nothing can separate us from God 8:31-39

God's Plan for the Salvation of Jew and Gentile 9:1-11:36

  • Paul greatly grieved by the part of Israel that rejects Christ 9:1-5
  • The children of the promise rather than the flesh are Abraham's true descendants, and these by God's sovereign mercy 9:6-29
  • It is striving through Faith rather than Law that leads to attaining righteousness, but Paul still longs for all of Israel to be saved 9:30-10:4
  • All who believe in Christ's Lordship shall be saved, and Israel was given an opportunity to believe and rejected it 10:5-25
  • The part of Israel that rejected the Gospel did so to allow the Gospel to be given to Gentiles to make Israel jealous, which will lead ultimately to all Israel being saved 11:1-36 

The Transformation of Moral Consciousness 12:1-13:14

  • The transformation of our minds through presenting ourselves as living sacrifices 12:1-2

Note: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” 12:2

  • The Body is interdependent and gifts are given for the building of the whole body; injunctions toward love and humility 12:3-21
  • Submit to governing authorities 13:1-7
  • The one who loves has fulfilled the Law 13:8-10
  • Live in light and love because the Eschaton draws near 13:11-14

Righteousness in the Christian Community 14:1-:15:13

  • Do not pass judgement on differing practices of observance or strength of faith, but make sure that all things are done to the Lord's honor 14:1-12
  • Do what helps build up other members of the community and abstain from what causes them to stumble; it is not what you eat or drink per sethat condemns, but the spirit in which you eat or drink 14:13-23
  • Imitate Christ through the strong having patience with the weak in faith and through welcoming both Jew and Gentile alike 15:1-13 

Paul's Plan and Appeal 15:14-16:27

  • Paul's mission is primarily to the Gentiles 15:14-24
  • Paul is taking a collection for the church at Jerusalem 15:25-32
  • Networking and greetings 16:1-23
  • Final exhortation and prayer 16:17-19, 25-27