The Weaver Book Company (weaverbookcompany.com), who I have only recently become familiar with, has launched a new series of workbooks designed to help Christians better understand the flow of New Testament books. The purpose of the series is to “draw out the back story that lies behind the writings of the Bible” (p. 9). The first workbook in the series focuses on the text of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The author’s specific intent is to “draw out the main ideas in Paul’s storyline by observing what he actually said in his letter to the Romans” (p. 11). The intended audience of the book is study groups of Christians in any form (Sunday School class, small group, person study, etc).
The workbook begins with the reader doing an overview of the entire book of Romans. The reader is expected to read each section of Romans (the workbook divides the letter into 24 sections) and give in a sentence or two the main ideas that Paul was communicating. The lion’s share of the workbook is then divided into the following sections:
- The story of God’s eternal plan
- The story of creation, Adam, and the fall into sin
- The story of Abraham and the calling of a nation
- The story of Moses and the Law
- The story of David, Isaiah, and other prophets, and their expectation
- The story of Christ
- The story of the Holy Spirit
- The story of Paul and the inclusion of the Gentiles
- The story of the church
- The story of the future
For each section, the author gives a basic biblical overview of the subject, then selects a number of passages from Romans that speak of that particular theme. The reader is to read the passage and answer a question from the author on the nature of the text and how Paul’s writing fits into the overall flow of that theme within redemptive history.
The workbook closes with a chapter containing 24 practical application questions directed from Paul to the reader and taken directly from the text. I found these to be particularly helpful and thought-provoking. There is also an optional written assignment for more formal groups, and some really good commentary referrals.
I have never seen a workbook quite like this. Maybe there is something equivalent out there, but if so I am not aware of it. As such, the series fills what I believe is a major lack in many small group studies. Because the workbook places Romans in the flow of redemptive history, it forces the reader to see everything that Paul writes in the context of the larger flow of scripture, and not just in isolation. Another great strength is the fact that in working through the book the reader will have read almost every text in Romans. In that sense, the book functions as a stand-alone devotional help. The texts are placed out-of-order and divided based on the themes that are emphasized, but you know that going in, and having a Bible open while studying will eliminate any lack of flow. The author asks some really good questions, and I think it would really challenge a lot of Christians to better understand how all of scripture ties together.
If I were to find weakness, I think I would have to qualify it by saying that you have to understand the inherent limitations of a book like this. It is not your typical small group or personal Bible study that is heavy on application and textual exegesis. It is rather a broad-brush look at redemptive history in Romans. That will discourage some readers. Most of the work is left in the hands of the readers. For instance, if you want to understand a word better or are confused by what a text means, you find a lot of help within the text itself. For this reason, the workbook works best with someone who is going to have a Bible and a decent commentary open while studying.
Overall, I really liked this workbook. It was something different, and it contributed to my overall understanding of Paul’s writing in Romans. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to place Romans within the larger context of redemptive history. It was a good read, and I will wait with anticipation for the second workbook (on Revelation and written by J. Scott Duvall) to be printed. Those interested in purchasing a copy should visit the company website (www.weaverbookcompany.com).
About the author
Kenneth Berding is professor of New Testament studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. Before coming to Biola, he was a church planter in the Middle East. An overseer at Redemption Hill Church, he has a heart for God and ministry and has written many worship songs. He is the author or co-editor of numerous articles and books, including Sing and Learn New Testament Greek, Walking in the Spirit, What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About, Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, and What Are Spiritual Gifts? Rethinking the Conventional View.
Brian Dempsey is the Lead Pastor of Washington Baptist Church in Dillsboro, IN. Brian has degrees from Northland Baptist Bible College (BA), Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) and is currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).