David Field notes that there are dozens of ways to summarize Romans. Here, republished with his permission, is his:
I want to help you understand God’s good news: good news about Jesus, good news which saves, good news which reveals God’s covenant faithfulness (1.1-17).
As it is, God’s wrath against human rebellion and degradation is clear (1.18-32). God’s judgment is perfect and he will declare righteous only those who do the law (2.1-16). Being a Jew, privilege though it is, guarantees nothing. The fact is that all humans, as sinners, are condemned (2.17-3.20).
However, in the death of Jesus, God showed his unstoppable saving faithfulness and dealt with sin (3.21-26). And the fact that God declares righteous those who have faith in Jesus (whether Jew or Gentile) shows that this is how his global saving promise to Abraham is fulfilled. People are declared righteous because of faith, not because of works, circumcision, or being a Torah-person (3.27-4.25).
It’s all in Jesus that this reconciliation and restoration take place (5.1-11) and, because Jesus stands over against Adam, his achievement is all-encompassing (5.12-21). Those united to Christ are (and need to live as) new humans who can understand themselves as re-living (but this time effectively) the story of Israel: Exodus, Sinai, Wilderness, Inheritance (6.1-8.39). Exodus: they have left behind bondage to the death-realm of tyrant Sin and have been brought under the liberating rule of God, which is life (6.1-23). Sinai: this liberation is also liberation from the dark side of God’s good Torah which Israel, disempowered through being in Adam, had experienced (7.1-25). Wilderness and Inheritance: walking now in the Spirit, there is life in the present and glory-hope, through suffering, for the future (8.1-30). And all this, because of Jesus, is utterly secure (8.31-39).
To help you understand how ‘old’ Israel fits into all this, let me remind you from her history that God’s sovereign saving purpose has always, mysteriously, involved hardening and rejection of some – and, in relation to the salvation of Gentiles, it is misguided Israel that has been hardened and rejected (9.1-10.4). In Jesus the promised covenant-renewal has arrived (so that faith in Jesus and doing Torah are in some senses equated) and the good news is going to Gentiles while, sadly, Israel remains recalcitrant (10.5-21). However, there are some ‘old’ Israelites now (and many more to come) who have believed and God’s “harden A; save B; make A jealous and save more A; thus save A and B” method proceeds apace (11.1-32). Praise him (11.33-36).
And now let me tell how this global saving action of God, accomplished in Christ, plays out in your life together (12.1-12); in relation to others, including the authorities (12.14-13.7); as fulfilling Torah, and as you face the future (13.8-14). Because this is an in-Christ, by-faith, and Jew-Gentile reality, then it must be expressed in your Jewish-Christian, Gentile-Christian mutual acceptance (14.1-15.7). After all, Jesus was true Israel for the sake of the Gentiles, as Scripture shows (15.8-13). In my own apostolic ministry I’m in the same business – reaching Gentiles while honouring and relating rightly to Jews (15.14-32). God bless you, one and all; avoid division; and God be praised for his all-nations, Scripture-fulfilling, faith-realised, Christ-centred, Jew-Gentile uniting, good news (16.1-27).