Romans: God's Good News for the World. Bible Speaks Today series.

By John R. W. Stott
Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity (1994). 432 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
6.2 (Fall 1995) : 257-260

Stott takes up the issue of how far back Adam lived. Adam was around 10,000 years ago, but a type of homo sapiens existed at least two million years ago, Stott decides. He apparently believes that these (pre-Adamic hominids) were not authentically human, not God-like, not bearing God’s image, not homo divinus as Adam was (164). Stott also favors animal as well as hominid death before the death that accrues from Adam, and sees the relevance of death in Rom 5:12 as only in reference to mankind in the sense of Adam and his descendants. Many will regard his comments here as a failure to give Genesis or Rom 5:12 their proper due.

He sees baptism in 6:3 as water baptism, but does not suggest baptismal regeneration; baptism only pictures union with Christ and does not secure it (173). The "body of sin" in 6:6 is not the physical body (cf. 6:13; 12:1) but "the sinful self" or fleshly, selfish nature. Some will disagree with Stott's opinion that this view fits the context best (175).

One finds helpful comments on reckoning (6:11) and "presenting" (6:13). On 7:14-25, some will feel that Stott confuses the issue in seeing a reference to Jewish Christians of Paul's day, regenerate but not enjoying freedom in Christ, under the law but not yet in or under the Spirit, reborn but enslaved to rules and regulations (210). To Stott, Romans 8 goes on to describe the ideal, the life free in Christ. He does not clarify how his view of 7:14-25 harmonizes with his comments on 8:14. In the latter, only those led by the Spirit are sons and daughters of God (231), which would appear to exclude the persons Stott sees in 7:14-25 as reborn yet not in or under the Spirit.

The author assumes on 11:25-26 that the church is "the Israel of God" of Gal 6:16. He still believes that in Romans, "Israel" is ethnic or national Israel in contrast to Gentile peoples. In v. 26, he argues, Israel has to mean those of ethnic, national Israel. The great mass of Jews will be saved (Stott is not exactly clear when), not every single Israelite. Stott obscures vv. 25-26 further by seeing "all Israel" as Israelites saved throughout this present age, a steady flow into the church (305). He appears to be amillennial, to have no room for a millennium with a future for ethnic Israel as distinct from the church.

Comments on 14:10b are in vague generality with no detail on the judgment seat of God. A reader would reasonably expect to find some help on how this important subject relates to other passages in Pauline letters on this judgment (e.g., 1 Cor 3:10-15; 4:5; 2 Cor 5:10; Eph 6:8; Col 3:24). The commentary offers an insightful discussion of facets in Paul's request for prayer (15:30-32).

As to its value on most passages, the commentary rates highly among popular, vigorous expositions of Romans for the general reading audience. For diligent expository pastors and teachers, it will retain value at many points, but they will need to turn to other works besides.