Timothy Keller has presented two prior volumes in his “For You” commentary series. I have had the pleasure of reading Judges for You, though I have not read Galatians for You yet. The series consists of hardcover (or Kindle) books that run under 200 pages, and is presented by The Good Book Company.
This one is Romans 1-7 For You. First, Keller is to be commended for not trying to cover Romans in a complete 200 page book. The haste would have been problematic. Even with the breakdown, it is difficult to address every thing in the seven chapters covered.
The format of Romans 1-7 For You is straightforward. There are 12 chapters, plus front and end matter. The front matter includes a basic introduction to Romans, but this is more focused on the impact of the epistle than to examine major issues in Pauline scholarship. This is fine, because that’s not the focus here. Grab a more academic book for those.
Each chapter is divided into 2 segments that are present practical sides of Paul’s writing. These segments are closed with discussion questions. An additional benefit in these segments is the glossary linkage on Bible words or lesser-known vocabulary. I think it’s born out of e-book set up, where a quick click pulls a definition, but it translates well into print using gray-shading.
Overall, Keller’s work in Romans 1-7 For You reflects his emphasis in other areas. The focus here is on the Gospel as knowing a person, Jesus Christ. This, rather than a defined set of propositions, is the initial focus of faith. From there, Keller builds out how Romans shows us the propositions and truths that matter.
I like Romans 1-7 For You. It is clear, concise, and practical. I found myself more enthused for making headway in the theological passages of Romans and seeing these with fresh eyes thanks to having Keller’s work at my fingertips.
Further, Keller drives his readers to read the Scriptural text as well. He heavily references, rather than quotes, the Biblical material. I like this, just simply as a feature, because it forces the reader to take Romans 1-7 For You alongside the text of Romans.
A brief nod should be made to two well-constructed appendices that outline Romans and provide a guide for identifying and destroying idols of the heart in the life of believers. The third appendix is more of a summary of how learning more of the New Perspective on Paul can help, but is not crucial. It’s not a bad appendix, but it feels like it is there to say “Yes, I’ve read the NPP, no, it doesn’t change what I think about Romans, but I don’t want to argue about it.”
In summary, I would commend Romans 1-7 For You to anyone looking to work through Romans. It’s handy for personal devotional use, basic teaching, or as another source alongside your heavy reference works. It does not replace a good, academic commentary, but supplements one nicely.
(Note, I did receive a copy of this book in exchange for the review.)