Romans Unlocked – Power to Deliver. By Rene A. Lopez. Springfield : 21st Century Press, 2005. 319 pp. Paper. $15.99.
The commentary literature on the book of Romans is absolutely voluminous, so why the need for yet another commentary on this book? Simply put, this one is both briefenough to attract a wide range of readers and in-depth enough that it will not be overlooked by scholars. In addition, Lopez allows the book of Romans to interpret itself, rather than forcing a theological system on it. The gospel, as Lopez sees it, “encapsulates the message found in the entire book of Romans (ie., justification, sanctification, glorification and a future for Israel )” (p. 27).
He makes an interesting observation (overlooked by many) that the words believe/faith occur twenty-seven times in chapters 3-4, while the words live/life occur twenty-five times in chapters 5-8, indicating that the gospel (deliverance from sin) is not merely limited to justification but includes the “resurrection-life” known as sanctification (p. 42). Understood another way, one might say that to be delivered from the destructive power of sin, the justified sinner needs to realize and experience his capacity to become the sanctified saint. Being declared right before God provides the potential for having victory over sin but does not guarantee it. Obviously, it is the goal of God in justification (as well as every Bible teacher’s goal) to see everyone who trusts Christ as their Savior experience the resurrection life of Christ; however not all believers take full advantage of the power God makes available to them through the Holy Spirit.
Many students of the book of Romans have discovered that certain passages and words, properly understood in their context, hold the keys that unlock the flow of this epistle. Lopez highlights those passages as 1:16 -18; 5:9-10 and 10:9-10; the key words are wrath, believe and salvation/save. He explains each in a clear and understandable way. He summarizes the main focus of Romans as being, “Only Those Justified by Faith Can be Delivered to Experience Life” (p. 28). His rendering of Habakkuk 2:4 as quoted in 1:17 , “The one who is righteous by faith shall live” (p. 42) clearly supports this thesis.
The style of this work is straightforward and simple for those with a working knowledge of Romans. Lopez comments on almost every phrase and sometimes on individual words. While there are no official footnotes in the book, the writer exhibits a thorough knowledge of recent commentary material, making reference to it throughout the work. Where there are options as to the meaning of certain phrases, Lopez lists them. For example, for 5:12 “all sinned,” he presents four views and prefers the seminal headship view. In 6:3-4 and the discussion of baptism, three views conclude with Spirit baptism being best. Commenting on 8:10 -11 and the phrase “the body is dead because of sin,” three suggestions are made. The discussion of 10:9-10 follows the tradition set by Zane Hodges , Joseph Dillow, John Hart and others. Finally, when discussing the phrase “all Israel will be saved” in 11:25 -27, he gives five suggestions, concluding that the whole nation of justified Israelites who remain alive during the tribulation will enter the millennium.
Other aspects that reveal Lopez’s overall interpretation of the book include his comments regarding justification: “Justification is a forensic term that means to ‘declare righteous,’ (not make righteous)….This distinction is extremely important. When a sinner is justified, his position changes before God, not the condition of his character or practice” (P. 77). He says Romans 4:4-5 are “essential to defining the exclusion of works in relation to justification by faith;” and “No other verse argues more strongly against considering faith a meritorious work than these.” When commenting on the terms old man and new man, Lopez follows the suggestion of Renald Showers. The old man connotes the unredeemed life in Adam while the new man represents the redeemed life in Christ (p. 89). Finally, the author suggests that the experience of Paul described in chapter 7 concerns his struggles during “Christian infancy.”
This will be the commentary I recommend to lay church leaders and Bible school students for a long time to come. It goes a long way toward unlocking the book of Romans by showing that it is not only about God declaring us righteous through belief in His son, but also about triumph over sin in the life of the redeemed.
Midvalley Bible Church
Salt Lake City , Utah