Thursday, June 28, 2018

Book Review: Commentary on Romans

Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Martin Luther. 1954/1976. Kregel. 224 pages. [Source: Gift]

First sentence from the Preface: This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes. Therefore, I, too will do my best, so far as God has given me power, to open the way into it through this preface, so that it may be better understood by everyone.

This is an abridged commentary for the 'popular' audience looking for the 'fundamentals' of Luther's evangelical teachings. If you count Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans as a chapter, this one has seventeen chapters. There is one chapter per chapter of Romans. This commentary includes the text of Romans.

I am glad I read it. I want to start off by saying that much at least. Perhaps my expectations were on the high side--expecting every single sentence to be a brilliant gem, expecting every sentence to be as wonderful as the Preface itself. With reasonable expectations, I think this one would rate well with most readers.

I'm not sure if the abridged edition is the perfectly perfect fit for me. Not having the unabridged to compare it to, I can't honestly say for sure. There were times that I found this commentary to be rushed. Whole books could be written--have been written--on short sections of Romans. Romans contains so many grand, glorious, foundational doctrines that to spend just a short time per verse seems a slight injustice. (For example, I could easily imagine an author dedicating 224 pages to unpacking the wonders of Romans 8.)

It reads like a commentary and not a devotional. I think the Luther devotional that I read a year or two ago spoiled me.

But because it was abridged, it did move quickly. One or two chapters per day felt like a good speed. And there is a lot to be said for movement and progress. This one wasn't intimidating, and again that is a plus.

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. (xvii)
Judgment day is called a day of wrath and a day of mercy; a day of tribulation and a day of peace; a day of damnation and a day of glory. On that day the wicked will be punished and put to shame, while the righteous will be rewarded and crowned with glory. (55)
In this life we never reach such perfection that we fully possess God, but we must continually seek after Him; indeed we must seek Him evermore, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 105:4. Those who do not make progress in seeking after God, are bound to retrogress;... We must never stand still in seeking after God. (71)
To believe God means to trust Him always and everywhere. (82)
Christ's resurrection is not merely the pledge of our righteousness, but also its cause. (87)
It has been said that human nature knows and wills what is good in general, but that it errs and does not will what is good in special cases. It is better, however, to say that human nature knows and wills what is good in special cases, but that in general it does not know and will what is good. The reason for this is that it knows only what it regards as good, honorable, useful and not what is good in the sight of God and the neighbor. Therefore it knows and wills the good only as it is connected with man's own interests. (118)
Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good (Romans 12:9). This command seems easy to perform but it is most difficult because of the emotions of hate, love, fear, and hope. There is no one who can truly save that he abhors what is evil and cleaves to what is good. (174)
In all we do, we must consider not what we have done, or what there is to be done; not what we failed to do or what we should fail to do; also not what good we have done or what good we have omitted, or what evil we have done or omitted. But we should rather consider of what nature and how strong our good will has been, and the readiness and cheerfulness of our heart which with which we have done all or intend to do all. (197)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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