Martin Luther’s chapter-by-chapter summary of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

I noticed a neat feature while working through Luther’s commentary on Romans – Luther offers a one-sentence summary of each chapter of the epistle!

I’ve always appreciated this sort of exercise. Back when I was precepting at Princeton Seminary (i.e., leading weekly small-group discussions), I did something similar with Gregory of Nyssa’s Great Catechism . . . although I freely admit that my exercise was arguably not as compelling as Luther’s. But I think this way of sketching a text helps give you a sense of the text as a whole while at the same time orienting you to each part. It also teaches you to think in terms of the progression of an argument. So, given that I find such things so useful, I thought that I would share Luther’s with you, gentle readers.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans: Glosses and Scholia, Luther’s Works volume 25 (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1972). If you want to find these, just turn to the first page of each chapter’s section in the “Glosses.”
  • Chapter 1 – The apostle shows that he loves the Romans and then reproves the faults of those who follow their own lusts.
  • Chapter 2 – The apostle refutes the faults of the Jews, saying that as far as their guilt is concerned they are the same as the Gentiles and in a certain respect even worse.
  • Chapter 3 – The apostle shows in what way the Jews were better than the Gentiles, demonstrating that the Gentiles as well as the Jews are in need of the grace of Christ.
  • Chapter 4 – Through the example of Abraham the apostle demonstrates that faith is required for salvation, and that the old law does not suffice for salvation.
  • Chapter 5 – The apostle demonstrates the power of faith in the justification of believers, because death reigned from Adam to Christ.
  • Chapter 6 – The apostle declares that we must not continue in our sins but must do what is good.
  • Chapter 7 – The apostle establishes the cessation of the old law, which is the law of death; and he is dealing here with the law of the tinder. [Ed. note: Luther does not here refer to the currently popular smartphone app.]
  • Chapter 8 – He shows that we must cling firmly to the law of Christ, since His law is the law of life and the law of the Spirit.
  • Chapter 9 – The apostle grieves over the obstinacy of the Jews; he shows that the Jews have not been deprived of the promise of the fathers, and he reminds us that the Gentiles have been called.
  • Chapter 10 – The apostle prays for the Jews, showing that the righteousness which renders a man worthy of eternal life comes alone from the law of Christ and faith in him.
  • Chapter 11 – The apostle turns back the insulting of the Jews by the Gentiles and describes the present blindness of the Jews; he concludes concerning the depth of the wisdom of God.
  • Chapter 12 – The apostle instructs the Romans both in the things which pertain to God as well as those things which pertain to our neighbor.
  • Chapter 13 – The apostle is teaching that subjects should obey their superiors by assisting them and loving them.
  • Chapter 14 – The apostle encourages those who are greater (stronger in faith) that they not despise those who are less (weaker) and that they should not cause them to stumble but should edify them in peace.
  • Chapter 15 – The apostle encourages the strong to uphold the weak and promote their good; and he excuses himself for not visiting the Romans in person.
  • Chapter 16 – The apostle sets forth certain examples of good people to be imitated; and he urges us to persevere.
If only Luther had thought to introduce more variety into how he started these sentences . . .



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