James Jordan writes about Romans and N.T. Wright:
For me at least, the so-called “Old Testament” is very clear about individual salvation by faith alone. That’s exactly what the first of the Ten Words commands: “I did it all; you didn’t do anything; I’m your God, now put all your trust in Me and in no other gods.”
But historically, the Church has tended to despise the so-called OT, evening inventing the phrase “Old Testament” to describe it, as if the seamless Word of God is really two separate books (a notion not found in the Bible itself). Hence, it is as if the so-called NT has to start all over again.
And, since the Reformation, Paul has to start all over again. Paul has to say again what has already been said countless times in the Torah, in the Psalms, and in the Prophets. God through Ezekiel, for instance, repeatedly tells us that each person stands as an individual before the judgment seat.
I just think that this is a goofy assumption to bring to the Pauline writings and to the “NT” in general. The Bible is not a Tibetan prayer-wheel that just goes round and round over the same ideas in book after book. (It’s preachers who do that, preaching their pet ideas over and over regardless of what the text in front of them says.)
My point is that I’m not bothered if someone says that Romans is not about how to get saved. Frankly, I don’t expect Romans to be about that. If that’s what Paul wanted to say, all he needed to do was point to Exodus 20. Similarly, if “works of the law” means “earning salvation,” once again all Paul needed to do was point to Exodus 20.
I don’t need N.T. Wright to tell me this. I learned it 25 years ago in seminary. I’ve operated with it for all my ministry.
Of course, none of the above actually deals with the question of what Paul is doing in Romans. Maybe he is largely concerned with individual salvation in Romans. Maybe he’s not. My own opinion is that the book is largely about the resurrection of the human race, which was ripped in half (and hence slain) in Genesis 17, and which is reunited in the resurrection of Jesus. But there’s more in the book than that, obviously.