Biblical commentary is not a subject that I have, as of yet, chosen to write about. However, I love studying the Bible and particularly the book of Romans. So, I decided that I would post my thoughts on how the book of Romans should be outlined. I have studied, in depth, for the last 6 years or so, the book of Romans, and in seeking to understand Romans I became dissatisfied with the traditional 3 part structure of Romans. The traditional structure of Romans has a hard time interpreting Romans 5 and 7, and the more I study it, the more that I am convinced that the way in which we interpret Romans 5 will determine how we understand the entire book of Romans (I am not saying that it is a hinge chapter, or anything like that; I think that you will see what I mean as I procede to unpack this outline of Romans.).
In the traditional 3 part structure of Romans, some authors put Romans 5 in the first part - Justification, while others put it in the second part - Sanctification. It seems to fit well in both sections. However, in doing so they discount Romans 5:12-21, and look primarily at Romans 5:1-11. Romans 5:12-21 seems uncomfortably situated between Romans 5:11 and Romans 6:1, at least if you hold to the traditional 3 part structure. Furthermore, if Romans 6:1-8:39 are said to be about sanctification then Romans 7 seems uncomfortably situated in between Romans 6 and 8, and must be interpreted in a way that does, in my view, violence to the text, and to what Paul is saying in Romans 7. As for Romans 7, I have written a paper in which I present arguments for how I think that Romans 7 fits into the book of Romans. So, I will not at this point address, in detail, my thoughts on Romans 7.
On top of that, Romans 9-11, in the traditional view are almost seen to be some sort of insertion. They don't fit well within the 3 part structure, because they don't talk about sanctification (in the 3 part view - 6-8), nor do they talk about the practical consequences of the theology of Romans 1-11 that is found in Romans 12-15:13. They seem to be uncomfortably situated between 8:39 and 12:1. (In the traditional 3 part division there are a lot of uncomfortable verses.) I will begin by giving my outline of Romans, I will explain it a little bit, and the rest is up to the reader. I think that the following outline makes better sense of Romans 5:12-21, 7:1-25, and Romans 9-11, than the traditional three-part view.
Outline of Romans
I) Introduction and Purpose Statement - 1:1-17
II) Justification by Faith Alone - 1:18-5:11
A/ The depravity of the Gentiles - 1:18-32
B/ The depravity of the Jews - 2:1-3:8
C/ Therefore, All mankind is equally depraved before God - 3:9-20
D/ Justification by Faith Alone - 3:21-5:21
(i) The exposition of Justification by faith alone - 3:21-31
(ii) This is the way it's always been - Old Testament examples/ proofs - 4:1-25
(iii) The Consequences of Justification by Faith - 5:1-11
III) Comparison of the Old with the New - 5:12-8:39
A/ The exposition of the Comparison - 5:12-21
B/ Answer to a First Question that arises from the Comparison - 6:1-23
C/ Answer to a Second Question that arises from the Comparison - 7:1-8:39
(i) Life under the Law - 7:1-25
(ii) Life under the Spirit - 8:1-39
IV) If we are no longer under the Law of Moses, then what about the Jews? - 9:1-11:36
A/ History of the Jews - 9:1-33
B/ Present State of Israel - 10:1-21
C/ Future State of Israel - 11:1-36
V) Practical Application of the Preceding Argument - 12:1-15:13
A/ Life in the Church - 12:1-8
B/ Life in Society - 12:9-21
C/ Christians and the Government - 13:1-7
D/ The ultimate principle - Love - 13:8-14
E/ Dealing with differences of opinion based upon tradition - 14:1-13
VI) Closing & Salutations - 15:14-16:27
I think that the above outline is able to put both halves of Romans 5 in their appropriate places within the book of Romans, and because they are in their proper places the rest of Romans falls into place. Romans 6-8 are in the context of Romans 5:12-21, and Romans 9-11 is, partially, in light of the conclusion of Romans 5:12-8:39. (I say "partially" because a friend of mine, Joel Macieras, told me that he thought that Romans 9-11 was the continuation of a point that Paul started making in Romans 3. His idea sounds interesting, however, I do not want to make that claim myself. It is, extremely likely that Paul is writing 9-11 in light of the two preceding section [according to my outline], but I will stick with what I have said above. Either way, Joel's suggestion, if it is right, still seems to fit nicely within my outline.)
In Romans 5:12-21 we see Paul comparing Adam with Jesus, comparing what the sin of Adam brought to what the grace of God in Christ Jesus brought. We also see Paul comparing the law of Moses, and it's results, with the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and its results. In Romans 5:18-21 he sums up the comparison beautifully. However, Romans 5:20-21 leaves us with some hesitations, which Paul then proceeds to address. You will notice that Paul says in Romans 6:1 "What shall we say then?", and in Romans 6:15 "What then?" These two phrases refer back to Romans 5:20-21 where Paul made the claim that "the law came to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. Then, in Romans 7:7 Paul again says, "What shall we say?" This time he is referring to the second question that comes up from Romans 5:20-21, namely, if the law increased sin, then it must be bad, which is essentially what he says in Romans 7:7. Therefore, Romans 7:1-4 outlines the position of the Christian concerning the Law, as a way of introducing the second question. In Romans 7:5 Paul summarizes what he will go on to say in Romans 7:7-25; and in Romans 7:6 Paul summarizes what he will then say in Romans 8:1-39. So, we see in Romans 5:12-8:39 a constant comparison of the old with the new, this is what it was, now it is this. (My terminology is probably not perfect, I'm not sure that "old" and "new" are the best words to use, but for the time being it gets the general idea across.) Also, I think that this outline does more justice to what Paul is trying to say in the passages which are difficult when seen from the traditional view. Furthermore, though, in this outline, the section of Romans 6-8 could not be technically entitled "sanctification", it does address the issue of sanctification by grace as opposed to trying to be perfect under the law.
I will leave it at that, and let the reader compare my outline with the book of Romans (My paper on Romans 7 would help to complete the thoughts presented here.). It seems to me that this outline makes more sense of the book of Romans than the traditional 3 part view, and, not only that, but makes Romans 1:18-11:36 into a complete exposition of the Gospel, well organized, well argued, and easy to explain. Thank you for considering my humble ramblings on the Epistle to the Romans.