I have to confess that Romans is perhaps my favorite book of scripture. Given the way that most Latter-day Saints think of Romans, that marks me as at least strange, if not perverse. It also means that I will have to restrain myself to keep the notes for this lesson to a reasonable length. To do that I have selected a few verses that I think get at the heart of Paul’s message and focus on those. I have also appended an outline of the book as a whole so that you can perhaps understand Paul’s overall message better.
Verse 7: Why does Paul describe the saints in Rome as “beloved of God”? Doesn’t God love everyone? If he does, why describe any particular group as beloved? In verse 1 Paul said that he was called to be an apostle. In verse 6, he tells the saints in Rome that they too have been called, and in this verse he tells them to what they have been called: to be saints. What does the word “saint” mean? What does it mean to be called to be a saint? When do we receive that calling? How do we fulfill it?
Verses 9-10: What does it mean to say that both the Jews and the Gentiles are “under sin”? In verse 10 Paul quotes Psalms 14:1 and 53:1. How can Paul be serious when he says that no one is righteous? For example, isn’t President Monson righteous? Compare these verses to verse 23. What is Paul’s point?
Verses 19-20: The JST changes verse 20 in this way: “For by the law is the knowledge of sin; therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.” According to these two verses, what does the law teach us? What does it mean to be justified? Justified before whom? Why can’t the law justify us?
Verse 28: “Without” in this verse means “separated from,” “outside of,” or “apart from.” (Compare the use of the word “without” in the hymn, “There is a Green Hill Far Away.”) The word translated “deeds” could also have been translated “works.” Using that information, put this verse in your own words. Can you explain what Paul is saying? Compare this verse to 2 Nephi 25:23. Are Paul and Nephi saying different things? If so, explain how. If not explain why not. (See also Luke 17:7-10 and Mosiah 2:21, as well as 2 Nephi 31:19.)
Verses 1-3: Paul’s argument in these verses is that in Genesis 15:6 we see that Abraham’s faith counted as righteousness before God gave him a law to obey. Therefore, obedience to law is not what makes one righteous. If obedience doesn’t make one righteous, what does? Is obedience, then, irrelevant according to Paul?
Verses 4-5: What does verse 4 tell us about those who work for a wage? How is that relevant to Paul’s discussion of our relation to the law? In verse 5, who is Paul speaking of when he mentions the ungodly? Who justifies the ungodly? (Compare Romans 5:6.)
Verses 1-2: What kind of peace with or in relation to God do we have? How has Christ given us peace with God? What is grace? What does it mean to say that we stand in grace (verse 2)? Paul says that we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” What does that mean? Does it have anything to do with eternal progression?
Verses 1-2, 11-15: Does Paul believe that the doctrine of salvation by grace and not by works means that we can do whatever we please if we have been saved? Explain why not.
Verses 1-2, 4: If I don’t have to obey a set of rules, what do I have to obey?
Verse 13: What does “mortify” mean? How is Paul using the word “flesh”? (See the first clause of verse 9 for help answering that.) What does Paul mean when he speaks of killing the flesh? Is he speaking of asceticism or self-torture?
Verses 15-17: What is the promise to those who, through faith in Christ, live by the Spirit? What does it mean to say that this promise is conditional, that to receive it we must “suffer with him”? How do we do that?
Verse 1: What mercies of God has Paul just described (chapters 9-11)? What does it mean to present our bodies a living sacrifice? (Compare Omni 1:26.) Why is doing so our “reasonable service”? Christ made his body a living sacrifice. Is Paul asking us to imitate him? How would we do so since, presumably, we are not expected to suffer as he did in Gethsemane or be crucified? Do the things that follow in this chapter and the next chapters tell us what it means to make ourselves a living sacrifice? What does that suggest about “good works”? Why do we do them, for example?
Verse 2: What does it mean to be “conformed to this world”? How would we avoid that? (See Alma 5, especially verse 14.) What can transform us? As used here, the word translated “mind” has a different meaning than we usually associate with mind. It refers to how we orient ourselves in the world, whether that orientation is explicitly conscious or not. What does the word “prove” mean as it is used here? Why do our “minds” have to be renewed in order for us to know what is good, pleasing, and perfect according to the will of God? Does that help us understand why the law cannot save us?
Given what you have read of Paul, how would you explain the relation between works, grace, and salvation? If someone who is not LDS challenged you, saying that LDS don’t believe in salvation by grace, could you use Paul to explain why that is not true?
Here is my outline of Romans (others are, of course, possible). Perhaps it will help you better understand the letter as a whole.
Please comment on this at Feast upon the Word.