Why do we teach Romans?

Monday, 8th June 2020
Image: why-do-we-teach-romans

Author: Peter Firth, IBC Tutor


Paul’s letter to the Romans is one several books of the Bible which the undergraduate students of the College are able to study in some depth. The course stretches over 12 weeks and each lecture is one hour in length.

Romans is the longest of Paul’s letters and stands arguably as the apex of his theological teaching. Within the context of the New Testament, it has been likened to a great mountain peak standing up above almost everything else; perhaps only the Gospel of John and the Revelation of John come close to it. Martin Luther called it ‘the chief part of the New Testament’[1] and John Calvin taught that understanding it leads to ‘an open door to all the most profound treasures of Scripture.’[2]

In light of the above statements, it is no surprise that Romans has been a favourite and a very powerful letter throughout the history of the church. Augustine was famously converted through hearing a passage from it being read. Luther made Romans the centre of the Protestant Reformation he was launching. John Wesley was converted through hearing a preface to the letter to the Romans, and found his heart ‘strangely warmed’. Later, in the twentieth century, the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, made the exposition of the letter to the Romans central to what he was doing in the aftermath of World War One. Today, it continues to engage the minds of theologians as they are confronted by the central issues of the faith within it.

These observations alone ought to be enough to ensure that Romans has a central place in our teaching programme at the College. There is, however, another reason why we are committed to teaching this great letter, one that goes to the very centre of what the College stands for and seeks to achieve.

Of all the Pauline letters, Romans is the one that puts forward in most detail the apostle’s understanding of the gospel. Indeed, one leading scholar today argues that it is the gospel which is the overarching theme of the entire letter. Paul highlights this concept in the opening sections of his letter (1:1, 2, 9, and 15) before going on to develop his understanding of it at some length in the chapters that follow. Two components of his understanding are particularly identified and then explored - a vertical one and a horizontal one. The vertical component centres on the fact that ‘the gospel is the power of God for the salvation to everyone that believes’ (1:16a) whilst the horizontal component focuses on the inclusiveness of the gospel, ‘first for the Jew, then for the Gentile’ (1:16b), in other words it brings believing Jews and Gentiles together into one body, the body of Christ.

If, as individual believers and as an Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland, we are committed to ensuring that our Lord’s mandate of preaching the gospel to all nations is fulfilled, then it is imperative that our students have a clear knowledge and firm understanding of what that gospel is and what it means to live it out. Romans is a book that assists us in these areas and is therefore an essential part of our teaching programme.


[1] Martin Luther, “Preface to the Epistle to the Romans” in Works of Martin Luther, Vol. VI, p. 447. Edited by H. C. Oswald. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1972.

[2] John Calvin, “Commentary upon the Epistle to the Romans” (xxix) in Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XIX, p. xxix.  Edited by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1993.



 (This article first appeared in the August/September 2017 issue of Insight. Insight is the magazine of the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland).

    Blog Archive

Let’s Read Irish Baptist College Conference (Online) From Intern to Undergraduate (Emily Middleton) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Reason for Redemption Baptists and Revival in the Long 18th Century Second Year Placements From Intern to Undergraduate (Josh Brown) Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The What and Why of Holiness Final Year During A Pandemic 2nd Year Placement Experience Friends of the College 2021 Update The Art of Reading More Books Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — The Real Possibility of Holiness A Basic Easter Fact The Servant King Podcast Let's Read: The Hole in our Holiness — You Are Holy Third Year Reflection Gospel Guardians: Protecting the Purity of the Gospel for Future Generations Graduation 2021 Book Review: Succeeding at Seminary Let's Read: The Hole in Our Holiness — A Work in Progress Why the Irish Baptist College is Vital to the Health of the Association A Good News Story: The Ministry Partnership Scheme Why Study the Biblical Languages? Profit in Toil: A Short Message on A Level Results Day Let's Read: Small Preaching Recognition Service Report 2021 Sin Forgiven: Nourishment for Life and Joy for Living Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Character of the Preacher Commencement Service Report Placement Friends of the College Update God Rejoices over His People: A Meditation on Zephaniah 3:17 Let’s Read: Small Preaching—Constructing the Sermon Evangelism Teams: Newcastle and Brannockstown Evangelism Teams: Stonepark and North Belfast Christian Fellowship First Year Reflections (Reuben and Andrew) Some New Books Let’s Read: Small Preaching—The Craft of Preaching Let's Read: Small Preaching—What is God Saying? A Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘The coming of the light’ Christmas Reflection on John 1 - ‘Life, Light & Glory’
Time to read Genesis...again Friends of the College - January 2020 Friends of the College - January 2020 Finances Tribute to Marion Craig The Resilient Pastor: Surviving & Thriving in Ministry Just a Blow-in? What is new on the shelves at IBC? Friends of the College - February 2020 Four Reasons to Study Theology Academically From Spain to Moira Testimonial Financial Update Friends of the College – March 2020 Irish Baptist Historical Society: The Mayflower Thomas Patient: the Father of the Irish Baptist Church Testimonials The Pastors’ Conference: An Encouraging Privilege Testimonials (part-time studies) In the worst of times: COVID-19 and the Book of Ruth Friends of the College - April 2020 The Long Wait: Victory Delayed Testimonials - Preparation for Ministry and Evening Classes The Leadership Podcast Testimonials - Ladies Study Fellowship The Leadership Podcast (part 2) Friends of the College - May 2020 Reflections from the Student Chairman Why do we teach the Old Testament? Reflections on first year at IBC Friends of the College - June 2020 Why do we teach Romans? IBC Placement Is Church History a Thing of the Past? Friends of the College - July 2020 Friends of the College – August 2020 Friends of the College September 2020 Recognition and Graduation Service Introducing the Irish Baptist College’s New Logo Commencement Service Friends of the College - October 2020 Filled with the Spirit: Soundings in Luke’s Theology of the Holy Spirit The Famous Five: The Abiding Relevance of the Solas of the Reformation Friends of the College - November 2020 The Importance of Theological Training in Fulfilling the Great Commission First Year Reflections — Tim Houston Singing: The Place of Theology in Corporate Worship New Library Books Friends of the College – Unite to Pray – December Christmas Reflections
Agree and Close notice.

By continuing on our website you agree with our Privacy Policy and to the use of cookies by third party plugins. Find out more here