1. Theme: The Righteousness of Jesus Christ
2. Key Verse: Romans 3:21, 22
Three brief outlines are presented with a view toward showing how the book of Romans might be organized. No details are included in these outlines. They are shown solely for the purpose of helping the student get the big picture of Romans.
I. Sin (Guilt) 1:1 - 3:20
II. Salvation (Grace) 3:21 - 11:31
III. Service (Gratitude) 12:1 - 16:27
I. The Nature of Sin and Grace 1 - 3
II. The History of Grace 4
III. The History of Sin 5
IV. The Struggle Between Sin and Grace 6, 7
V. The Nature of the People of God in This World 8
VI. The History of the People of God in This World 9 - 11
VII. The Plan for the People of God in This World 12 - 16
I. Introduction (1:1 - 1:17)
II. Man's Condition in Sin
A. Man is condemned for what he does: sin (Rom. 1:18 - 3:9 )
B. Man is condemned for who he is: a sinner (Rom. 3:10 - 3:18)
C. Man is condemned by the law (Rom. 3:19 - 3:20)
III. Man's Situation in Christ
A. Righteousness by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21 - 4:25)
B. What God has done for believers (Rom. 5:1 - 5:21)
C. What God has done to believers (Rom. 6:1 - 7:6)
D. The present struggle (Rom. 7:7 - 7:25)
E. The present and future victory (Rom. 8:1 - 8:39)
IV. God's Sovereignty
A. God elects His people (Rom. 9:1 - 9:33)
B. God seeks His people (Rom. 10:1 - 10:21)
C. God's plan for His people (Rom. 11:1 - 11:36)
V. His People's Response
A. A Christian's response to His calling (Rom. 12:1 - 12:21)
B. A Christian's response to non-Christians (Rom. 13:1 - 13:14)
C. A Christian's response to other Christians (Rom. 14:1 - 15:33)
VI. Conclusion (Rom. 16:1 - 16:27)
4. General Comments
From Romans 1:13, we can infer that when Paul wrote this letter, he had not yet personally visited the congregation at Rome. They were evangelized and grew under the ministry of another. By the time Paul wrote to them, they were a mature, strong church (Rom. 1:8). With this in mind, we can understand why, from a human point of view, Paul would be inclined to provide them with a complete and profound discussion of the Gospel. He was thorough since he could not be there in person to talk with them, and he wanted to be sure that he had anticipated and answered as many questions about and challenges to the Gospel as possible. He was deep because he knew that they would be able to grasp and appreciate the riches of God's marvelous grace.
However, we must never get the idea that this letter is a relic of personal correspondence, from one man to a church, which happened to survive the centuries. The letter to the Romans is God's Word for every man of all ages. God used Paul to write a message that would confront sinners with their folly and leave them without any excuse (Rom. 2:1-5, 3:19), as well as comfort believers with the wonder (Rom. 8:37-39, 11:33-36) and the hope (Rom. 5:2,4,5, 8:20-25, 15:4,13) of the Gospel.
Some of the important ideas developed in the book of Romans are as follows:
1. The book of Romans carefully describes the standard of the Gospel: the righteousness of God (Rom. 3:21,22).
2. The book of Romans carefully describes the motivation of the Gospel: the love of God (Rom. 5:8).
3. The book of Romans carefully describes the objective of the Gospel: satisfaction of the Law of God by Jesus Christ (8:3,4) and by the believers (Rom. 7:22, 8:4, 13:8).
4. The book of Romans carefully describes the blessings of the Gospel: salvation from the wrath of God (Rom. 1:16, 5:9,10) and adoption as children of God (Rom. 8:14-17).
5. The book of Romans carefully describes the scope of the Gospel: God's elect, both Jew and the Gentile (Rom. 3:9,28-30, 9:11,24).
6. The book of Romans carefully describes the effect of the Gospel upon those whom God saves: they have the power and the desire to serve God from their heart (Rom. 6:4,17), they have a great desire for the spiritual benefit of others (Rom. 1:11,14,15, 9:2,3, 10:1), and they have a desire to glorify God (Rom. 5:2, 15:9-12).
Above everything else, the book of Romans displays the majesty and glory of God. God is the pure and perfect Judge of all men (Rom. 2:11,16, 3:4). God is the Creator who sovereignly dispenses His grace according to His will (Rom. 9:18-21). God is the Lord of history (Rom. 4:21, 9:17, 11:4, 16:26). God is unique in His wonderful character, such as His justice (Rom. 3:26), love (Rom. 5:7,8), and wisdom (Rom. 11:33). In a way, the whole book of Romans leads up to and points to the very last verse (Rom. 16:27).
5. Observations on Specific Verses
a) Romans 1:16-17
Volumes could be written about these important verses. Because this is a survey, we shall concentrate on only a few ideas. First of all, we shall look at the phrase, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel." We must understand this phrase in the light of two facts. One is that Paul is bringing the Gospel to Rome (Rom. 1:15). Another is the fact that the Gospel is the power of God (Rom. 1:16).
Verse 16 says that the Gospel is power, not just ordinary power, but the power of God Himself. So, if God has the power to create the universe and shape history as He wills, why, in light of the fact that there is such a strong witness (Rom. 1:8), are there so few Christians in such a large and wicked city as Rome? The answer is that the power of salvation is not measured by the amount of people who become saved. After all, the gospel of salvation in not just made available, like vegetables in the market place, and then people decide whether they want it. Salvation is a gift of God, given only to specific people, believers. God has certain people in mind and works powerfully in their lives. We could express the idea this way, "Do you want to see the power and success of the Gospel? Then look at the believers. They are the ones for whom the Gospel was intended, and it is in their lives that you can see such extensive and profound evidence of God's work of salvation."
The point of the phrase "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" is that when Paul goes out to preach the Gospel and reflects upon the results of his efforts, he is not overcome by doubts or confusion, for he knows that the power of the Gospel is not measured by comparing the quantity of those who say they are Christians to the general population. Rather, it is measured in the lives of the true believers. We cannot evaluate the Gospel from what we see in the world around us. There were many Romans but not many Christians. No matter how bad things seem, the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation; for the results of the Gospel are just what God intends them to be. They are never an embarrassment. They are always excellent, for the gospel has power to transform the lives of God's people into faithful, courageous and loving people. The words "I am not ashamed of the Gospel" express the perspective of a believer who understands God's salvation plan and how He is working it out in history.
Next, we should look at the words "power of God unto salvation." Men have always been impressed with power: physical power to build, destroy, and move large objects; intellectual power to form ideas and control the environment; political power to shape society and the minds of men. Certainly God, as Creator, has supreme power over the physical universe. However, God's power in view in Romans 1:16 is the dynamite that results in salvation. So we come to the heart of the message of the Bible and the reason that the Bible was written in the first place - salvation, salvation from the wrath of God and salvation from the slavery to sin. Salvation is the big deal of the Bible. The message of salvation is the most important thing any man could ever hear. For that reason, it is absolutely essential that we understand what the Bible means by salvation.
One of the clearest statements of salvation is found in Romans 5:9. The key idea is that salvation is a rescue from the wrath of God. All men have sinned and the response of God is great wrath (Rom. 1:18), which is scheduled to descend upon men on the day of judgment (Rom. 2:5,8). One of the Bible's purposes is to declare that God is angry with men (Rom. 4:15). Terror and fear ought to grip men who have sinned against God (Heb. 10:31, 12:29). The salvation message begins with the fright of an angry God who relentlessly pursues men and the horror that awaits them beyond the grave. The wrath of God is uniquely the message of the Bible. It is the basic fact of the universe which men try to explain away by means of imaginative theories or from which men try to hide by immersing themselves in the affairs of this world.
The wonder of the Bible's message is that there is salvation from the peril of God's wrath. A man does not have to face an angry God. God has power to shield a man from the consequences of his sin. One of the purposes of the Bible is to reveal how God does that. The Bible shows how a man can know the tremendous relief of escape from the wrath of God.
Another idea comes out of the words "from faith to faith" found in verse 17. A more accurate rendering would be "out of faith into faith." The idea here is that there is a direct transfer of faith from one place to another. According to John 6:29, Galatians 2:16, Ephesians 2:8, and Philippians 1:29, saving faith is not an attribute natural to man. It is a gift bestowed by God. Therefore, the idea of Romans 1:17 is that the power of the Gospel is seen in the fact that believers live by means of the faith of God Himself. We can understand this, not only in the sense that God is faithful to His salvation promises and so believers can have eternal life, but also in the sense that the part of their character which causes them to trust in God is really the character of Jesus whose Spirit lives in them.
b) Romans 1:18 - 3:20
This whole passage can be understood as a transcript of the proceedings of a trial, in which God is the Judge, man is the defendant and the Law is the prosecutor. If we were to imagine what goes on in a courtroom, we could think of the verses as being organized in the following way.
Romans 1:18 describes the indictment and expected penalty for the offense.
In Romans 1:19-2:28, we hear the arguments for the prosecution. One accusation, found in Romans 1:19-25, is that man rejects the witness of God in creation. Another, presented in Romans 1:26-31, is that man rejects the witness of God in himself as the highest form of creation. By means of both his sinful thoughts and actions, man denies that he was created in the image of God. A third argument for the prosecution, is found in Romans 2:1-3. Inasmuch as man has a propensity to be critical and judgmental of others, he assents to the fact there are standards. Man sets and then falls into his own trap, for he is as much a sinner as those he condemns. Therefore, if a man agrees that others ought to be held accountable for their actions, then he, being a sinner, condemns himself. Fourthly, Romans 2:4,5 accuses man of rejecting the kindness of God.
Romans 2:7-13 explains that God is fair. The trial is not rigged in any way, nor is the Judged prejudiced in any way.
Romans 2:14-16 continues the arguments for the prosecution, focusing particularly upon the Gentiles who do not have the written Law of God, but who, nevertheless, have the Law written in their hearts, that is, their consciences. Romans 2:17-29 presents the sixth and last argument for the prosecution, focusing upon the Jews who have the true religion. The damaging evidence here is the record of the Jews' rebellion against the revealed will of God, the Bible. We ought to add that both of the last two arguments could really apply to the Jews as well as Gentiles.
We could take Romans 2:28 and 29 as another accusation. In that sense, the idea of the verses could be that this is what God has expected of all men. These verses, which talk about the heart rather than outward performance show how very far man, with his wicked heart, is in fulfilling the will of God.
Romans 3:1-8 presents the inadequate arguments for the defense. First, in verses 1 and 2, man faults institutions which God has set up, such as the church, for being weak and unable help him. The answer is that man should look, not to the church, but into the Word of God, of which the church is a steward.
Secondly, in Romans 3:2 and 3, man faults "the faith," that is, the faith that is found in the Word of God. Man accuses the Bible of being ineffective. The idea of the accusation is that if man is not good, then it is the Bible's fault because it is too weak to make men good. The answer is that there is nothing wrong with the Law of God. The Law is true and man is the sinner. Man is the one on trial, not the Word of God.
Thirdly, in Romans 3:5, man blames God Himself for overreacting to his sin, because it affords an opportunity for God to display His righteousness in contrast to his own sin. Also man complains that God is not right in His judgment, that He is not applying His Word fairly, that He ought to grade on a curve or expect a lower standard of behavior to accommodate men's ability and circumstances. The answer, in verse 6, is simply that God is the Judge and He must judge. If God's righteousness shines brightly next to man's sin, it is because man is sinful and so deserves judgment not pardon for highlighting God's holiness. Romans 3:7-8 shows man's foolishness by taking man's absurd logic to its ridiculous conclusion. If man would have his way, then good would be evil and evil would be good.
Romans 3:9 is the final statement of the prosecution. The Law rests its case with the Judge.
The verdict and Judge's comments are found in Romans 3:10-20.
First, let us look at the verdict. Notice the words "as it is written." The final verdict of men's guilt as a sinner rests upon what is written, that is, the Word of God. Guilt is not equivalent to a feeling of dread, nor is guilt equivalent to the destructive effects of sin in a man's life. Guilt is a declaration by God, a statement that, after a review of all the data, it is clear men have disobeyed the law, God's law.
One idea behind the words "as it is written" is that the verdict is permanent. It is as if we can always go back and read what it is. Tomorrow, the day after that, forever, the verdict is the same. Therefore, it is written or documented in order to verify that fact. The declaration of the fair Judge, God Himself, is absolutely true, absolutely final and absolutely enduring. The case is closed. Unlike the rules of jurisprudence that govern the trials of men, in God's legal system there is no appeal, no possibility of a verdict's reversal. There does not have to be a retrial because a review will find nothing amiss. Men are guilty sinners and that is that.
Next, let us look at some of the comments. From the words "none ... no, not one ... none ... all gone out ... together" found throughout Romans 3:10 to 18, we learn about the scope of the indictment and condemnation. Every last human being is a wicked, unrighteous, rebellious, hateful mean sinner, without any exception. Cute children, dignified old people, rich people, poor people, sophisticated intellectuals, common people, gifted artists, athletes, people limited by handicaps, people with a proud heritage, you and me, no matter who we care to name, all are evil. Without God's intervention, people continue to grow more and more wicked, bearing the bitter fruit of their wicked heart. People not only sin, but also according to these verses, people are sinners, right down to their very core.
In conclusion, these not only declare that are men found guilty as charged, they also describe the evil nature of the criminal who has been condemned. These verses not only declare the verdict of God's Word Man is not only condemned for the sins that he commits, but is also condemned for who he is, a sinner, whose heart is desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9).
c) Romans 1:18
The word "wrath" (orge) refers to the judgment of God. Strictly speaking, wrath in the sense of punishment can only descent upon a man after he has been tried and found guilty. Jesus already endured God's wrath for all of His people. Christians no longer must face the wrath of God. However, wrath will be God's judgment day response to the wickedness of all those who are not saved. The trial that determines guilt is a future event for unbelievers, which will take place on the last day.
Romans 1:18 teaches us that we must start the message of the Gospel, the "Good News," the way the Bible does. The Gospel is only good news because there is bad news first. God's wrath awaits sinners. He is angry with them because of their sin. What is there to do? The Gospel is the good news of relief that there is an escape, a rescue from the danger of God's eternal wrath. This is the point of salvation (Rom. 5:9, II Cor. 5:11).
We must always start with the Bible's concept of need. People often try to find the Christ or the theology to fit the perceived need. Some need an ethical example. For them, Christ is a teacher. Some need relief from physical oppression. For them, Christ is a social revolutionary. Some need relief from sickness. For them, Christ is a miraculous healer. However, we must start with the Biblical concept of need. The desperate need of man is protection from the wrath of God. Nothing else matters.
As an illustration of the spiritual situation of sinners, let us imagine a man clinging to a log in the middle of a rushing river which is heading towards a tremendously high and powerful waterfall. Imagine that the man is draped over the log and is unconscious. What is his peril? Is it not that he will be swept over the waterfall and crushed to death on the rocks below? Imagine further that another man stands on the shore as the condemned man floats by. If the man on the shore lassos the log and pulls the other man to shore and revives him, we can say that he has been saved. That is an accurate description of the word "saved." A great peril has been averted by means of the work of another.
Men's spiritual situation is similar to the illustration above. Men are in great danger. God's wrath is about to descend upon them. God's wrath is not therapeutic out of His love to show us how to obey, it is out of His anger in response to men's unwillingness and inability to obey. God's wrath is a just response to men's sin. Salvation is a rescue from that wrath, by grace.
We cannot use the wrath of men, with which we are so familiar, to help us understand the wrath of God. God is not angry as men are. Men's anger comes from impatience. But God is never in a hurry. He always waits for the right time and never rushes any of His actions. Men's anger comes from weakness and frustration. But God is Almighty and always fulfills His will. Men's anger comes from fear. But God is never intimidated. He is even willing to sacrificially risk the horror of Hell for the benefit of His people. Men's anger comes from a wounded ego. But God is never retaliatory or spiteful. He is holy and just, reacting to the insults of men in perfect justice.
The terror and horror of God's wrath is equal to the wickedness of men's sin. Men are as wickedly ungodly and unrighteous as the wrath of God implies.
The preposition "from" in the phrase, "from heaven" is a translation of the Greek word that means "away from." The point of the words "from Heaven" is that Heaven is the source of wrath. Wrath descends away from heaven toward sinners.
We may be inclined to wonder about the connection between wrath and heaven. Are wrath and Heaven compatible with each other? How could wrath come out of the perfect and beautiful dwelling place of God? The answer is that we must not think of heaven as a container and wrath as a substance. Heaven is first of all where God is. The trouble in the universe is a personal conflict between men and God Himself, and He responds in a personal way. Quite frankly, men do not like God nor do they want to do what He says. Therefore, God is angry with men as we would expect Him to be.
What comes out of Heaven is a reflection of His personality, namely a God who hates sin. Heaven is a source of sweetness and light for those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ but only because God is at peace with them. Heaven is a source of wrath for rebellious sinners because God is angry with men. If men do not find salvation that comes from Heaven, then they will not find it anywhere else. All they will find is wrath.
Now we shall make some observations on the phrase, "who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The word "hold" in the phrase "men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" is composed of a prefix meaning "down," and a root which means "to have" or "possess." The word "hold" could be rendered "to hold down." The idea of the word is of active suppression. Therefore, the wrath of God is revealed because men deliberately and actively oppose the truth, seeking to inhibit it from accusing them. They do it "in unrighteousness," which could mean that their suppressions of the truth is an unrighteous action or that their life is so unrighteous that they submerge any inward thought of the truth from their conscience as well as any external appeal from God's truth.
The idea in view is not that men seek to deny the existence of God altogether, even though many people certainly do that too. Rather the picture in Romans is that men seek to suppress the truth by distorting or replacing it with their own version of the truth. Some men use philosophy while other men use religion, but all men seek to modify God's truth as well as manufacture their own "truth" so that they can explain away the wrath of God and reconcile themselves to God on their own terms.
As an example of how men "hold the truth in unrighteousness" let us examine the idea of sin. The Bible says sin is disobedience to God's law (I John 3:4). However this is not just a behavioral definition of sin, for a person who sins is driven to it by his heart. We must not accept the premise that men are "basically good." Nor should we be surprised that "nice" people sometimes do some very wicked things. Rather, the evidence is that evil follows men where ever they go because all men's hearts are desperately wicked and that sin is an expression of who they are, as we read in Jeremiah 17:9. The law says "Do this but don't do that." Men say "Phooey! I'll do what I want to do." Sin is what men do or do not do based upon a wicked and self centered heart that says "Leave me alone and let me live my own life as I want to. I am the captain of my own life." It is for that insolence and personal rebellion that the wrath of God will come upon men.
This explanation of sin is unacceptable to men. It is a hateful reminder of their obligation to obey God as well as their accountability to God for their disobedience. Therefore, men suppress the truth about sin by inventing their own definition. Let us make sure that we understand what the Bible means by the word "sin." First let us put aside all the wrong views of sin. Some people think sin is a disease or sickness. Some people think sin is just the mistakes people make in life. Some people say sin is a hereditary defect. Some people think that sin is a weakness. Some people think that sin is the same as ignorance. Some people have claimed that sin is just a part of being human, with the excuse that they cannot be blamed for what is a natural way to behave. Finally, some people think of sin is an absence of good. But all of these ideas of sin are wrong. In contrast to all of those wrong idea of sin, the truth is that sin is willful, deliberate rebellion against God. The Bible says sin is disobedience to God's law.
Still we ask, "Why must God's wrath come against men? Why does God's reaction against sin seem so harsh?" One thing we know for sure. As severe as the indictment and penalty is, there is no doubt that it fits the crime because God is absolutely fair. God is holy, good and pure. The rebellion of sin is an affront to His person. Sin comes out of a heart attitude that says God is not all these things and so He need not be obeyed. Therefore wrath comes against men who do not like God and are against Him.
The wrath of God is an accurate measure of how great God is and how foolish, ugly, dirty, rotten, and hateful men are. That is why men so actively suppresses the truth. The revelation of God's truth is a slap to their pride and self respect. The revelation of God's truth is a reminder of the terror they wish to forget. For unsaved sinners, it would be far better if God did not exist. The bad news is that He does and He is angry with men. They are in trouble and it is all their fault. Every little bit.
Men can be saved from this wrath, but first they must face the truth. They must be honest about who they are, what they do, and what they deserve. They must be honest about their sin. They must be honest about who God is, what He does, and what He will do to sinners. They must cry unto God for mercy because He is the One who has been offended. They must cry unto God for mercy because He alone can forgive.
d) Romans 2:25
The word "Circumcision" refers to a ceremonial act which the Jews were required to do. It was required by the law of God. Circumcision is an act in which they had to cut part of their flesh away, which also meant that some of their blood was shed. It was part of their religious laws that pictured the true spiritual salvation in which sin is cut away. The blood that was shed was a picture of the promised Savior, Jesus Christ, who would shed His blood, that is, die to pay for the sins of His people so that their sins could be removed. Circumcision also identified them as a member of the nation of Israel.
The problem with the outward ceremony of physical circumcision was that the people who did it began to trust in the physical ceremony to protect them from the wrath to come, instead of the promised Savior, who alone could pay for sins. That is, the people trusted in their religion and its ceremonies rather than trusted in salvation which God provided through Jesus Christ. The Jews were comfortable and proud in their religion and despised other people who did not observed their religion as they did. They said, "The Gentiles sin and have to face God because of their bad behavior. But that's their problem. Let them face God with that sin. I'm covered by circumcision and they aren't." The answer to the Jews in Romans 2:25 is, "I have some bad news for you. You may cling tenaciously to your ceremony of circumcision, but the surprise is that if you trust in your religion, it is as if you are not really circumcised at all." The issue in Romans 2:25 is that men have a natural tendency to wrap themselves in their religion and think that their sins are covered and God will not see their sin, but God does see and is angry. Religious ceremonies are no help. Religious ceremonies do not make up the difference for disobedience to the law of God, and wrath will come to all who are not protected by a savior.
The words "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law" do not mean there is spiritual profit in keeping the law of circumcision, for that is only one particular law. We must keep in mind that the ceremony of circumcision is only one of the laws of God. There is profit only if a person keeps all of God's laws, which includes keeping the law of circumcision too. The profit is righteousness, but that only comes to a man who keeps the whole Law of God. In other words, in the phrase "if thou keep the law" we must be add the word "all" between "keep" and "the." A man cannot pick and choose what part of God's Word to obey. A man who keeps the law of circumcision to be right before God must keep the rest of the laws too. The only way a religious ceremony is any good is if the person who does it also obeys all of God's laws perfectly without any slip, ever.
With this in mind, we can say that if a man breaks one law, the ultimate result is the same as if he broke them all. That is, he will still go to hell and it will not matter what laws he broke or what laws he kept. As verse 25 puts it, his "circumcision is made uncircumcision." It is as if he were not circumcised, it is the same if did not perform any religious ceremonies at all, the reason is that as a sinner he is still going to hell. In fact, as an unbeliever, he does not really belong with the people of God and so his religious ceremony, whether circumcision or any other rite, which is a sign of his identification with God's people has no real meaning and is as if it did not exist, because he really is not part of God's people.
The message of verse 25 is that if a man keeps some of the Law, he is still accountable for his disobedience to that part he broke. Obedience in one part does not balance disobedience in another part. His religion, no matter how fervently observed, will not help him, and it is as if he did not observe any religious acts at all. That is what is meant by the phrase "but if thou be a breaker of the law, they circumcision is made uncircumcision." A man who is physically circumcised in obedience to the law is considered in God's eyes to have broken the law he obeyed because of his disobedience to other laws. We can express the idea of the verse in this way, "O.K., you want to keep part of the Law to please God. You can try to achieve your goal that way. But you better keep the whole Law, without even one little slip, otherwise you are cursed. If you skip even one law, it is as if you did not even keep the part of the Law you did strive to obey, because you will still go to hell."
Circumcision was meant to be a picture of the spiritual blessings of salvation through the shed blood of Christ and the cutting away of sin from His people's lives. Even in the Old Testament which insisted that circumcision be performed, the insistence was that the people must seek the spiritual reality to which the rite of circumcision pointed. An Old Testament Jew would not be cut off from the physical national congregation if he was properly circumcised, but if he was not saved through grace, he would be cut off from the spiritual congregation of God's true people, even though he was physically circumcised. That is the sense in which his "circumcision is made uncircumcision" as verse 25 warns. From God's point of view, any man who does not keep the Law perfectly is uncircumcised, Jew as well as Gentile.
e) Romans 3:10-18
These verses are a statement of the certain guilt of all people. Notice the words "as it is written." The final verdict of men's guilt as a sinner rests upon what is written, that is, the Word of God. Guilt is not equivalent to a feeling of dread, nor is guilt equivalent to the destructive effects of sin in a man's life. Guilt is a declaration by God, a statement that, after a review of all the data, it is clear men have disobeyed the law, God's law.
One idea behind the words "as it is written" is that the verdict is permanent. It is as if we can always go back and read what it is. Tomorrow, the day after that, forever, the verdict is the same. Therefore, it is written or documented in order to verify that fact. The declaration of the fair Judge, God Himself, is absolutely true, absolutely final and absolutely enduring. The case is closed. Unlike the rules of jurisprudence that govern the trials of men, in God's legal system there is no appeal, no possibility of a verdict's reversal. There does not have to be a retrial because a review will find nothing amiss. Men are guilty sinners and that is that.
From the words "none ... no, not one ... none ... all gone out ... together" found throughout Romans 3:10 to 18, we learn about the scope of the indictment and condemnation. Every last human being is a wicked, unrighteous, rebellious, hateful mean sinner, without any exception. Cute children, dignified old people, rich people, poor people, sophisticated intellectuals, common people, gifted artists, athletes, people limited by handicaps, people with a proud heritage, you and me, no matter who we care to name, all are evil. Without God's intervention, people continue to grow more and more wicked, bearing the bitter fruit of their wicked heart. People not only sin, but also according to these verses, people are sinners, right down to their very core.
From the words "They are all gone out of the way" we learn that men try to avoid continuing along the path of God's choosing. The picture is similar to a child who lays down along the side of the road and refuses to walk with its mother, stubbornly unwilling to budge. That is, God says, "Go!" In response, men say, "No!" The great problem of the universe is this conflict of wills. Men simply do want to do anything that will result in fulfillment of God's plan for their lives.
From the words "they are together become unprofitable" we learn that men are unable to supply what is needed to keep them from sin and the destruction that it merits. Among all the men of the human race, no one can be found who is capable of providing for the real needs of themselves or anyone else. Men are useless to each other because all are part of the sin problem.
The words "throat ... tongues ... lips ... mouth" are all parts of men's anatomy that form words. According to Matthew 15:18, the words that come out of the mouth of men are a reflection of their heart, the real person inside. Men are fundamentally and thoroughly evil, as their words show. In contradiction to a common belief, there is no spark of goodness in anyone. Men are as bad as we can imagine, worse than we can imagine, right to their core. And the verses in Romans 3:10 to 18 are really quotes of Old Testament passages that hammer that message home.
From the words "Their throat is an open sepulchre" we learn that unsaved people are dead, as dead as dead can be. They walk around upon this planet for a while and in time they become as physically as dead as they are spiritually dead. Men are spiritually a corpse in the sense that they do not have the ability to obey God as they live on the earth now and in the sense that they are dedicated to the second death later.
From such dead people comes words that show how dead they really are. Dead men's words spread death and decay. The deadly philosophies and false gospels of men infect the thinking and behavior of others, leading them away from the salvation of God.
In the phrase "the poison of asps is under their lips" the word "asp," which refers to a snake or serpent, is appropriate because unbelievers are spokesmen of their father the devil who is also pictured by a serpent. Some unsaved people seem so nice, nicer than some other people who claim to be believers. And what about beautiful unsaved children? Can this phrase refer to them too? God does not want us to underestimate the true nature of men, or be impressed with men's outward appearance or politeness. We must not make a mistake about our evaluation of men. Men are born snakes and grow up to be as deadly as any snake can be.
The words "their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness" and the words "shed blood: destruction and misery ... peace have they not known" highlight the aggressiveness of evil. Men have an innate, mindless, hateful vengeance against anyone who gets in their way. Evil men are restless under the wrath of God and strike out at anyone who reminds them of their condemnation and at anyone who frustrates their attempts to fulfill their own lustful ways. This aggression is, of course, ultimately directed against God Himself.
Incidentally, the fact that violence often prevails in the earth under the view of God does not indicate that He is weak or mean. Rather it is a chilling evidence that God has removed His restraint over men and that He is allowing their iniquity to become full in preparation for Judgment Day.
And still we wonder when we see the awful acts of men, "Why are men so violent?" Perhaps they cannot articulate the reason themselves. Men are just full of a deep and wild rage. They often kill and maim others without any thought about the suffering they inflict or the penalty they must pay to God for their actions. One certain source of the violent temperament and actions we see in the world is men's ego.
The wicked egotistical heart of men is revealed by their wicked deadly words and their wicked aggression. The violence of men is the clearest evidence of their true nature, and the destruction and misery they cause in the universe is their fault.
The more we think about the message of Romans 3:10 to 18, the more it becomes clearer that all people have gone their own way and departed more and more from the way of peace, which is Jesus Christ, who is the way back to God. It is as if men made a choice at a fork in the road, deciding to go their own way rather than go the way of God. They think the gospel of salvation in Jesus is foolish. They not only have no interest in learning about the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also have an aversion to anything related to it. They have gone so far down their own sinful path that they seem beyond the point of no return, immune to the danger signals along the way. That is, eventually the delusion of sin becomes complete. Men eventually do not fear condemnation, not just because they believe they are not sinful, but also because they think that they are able to successfully fool God. Unfortunately, without the fear of God, they will never find the wisdom they need to find an answer to the judgment to come. And all their religious acts will not help.
f) Romans 3:21,22
Notice that the Gospel does not promise that man will get a righteousness. Righteousness is not some quality which is bestowed upon a man by grace. Righteousness is a word that describes God's own character. What God says and does is right, not because it conforms to an independent, higher standard, but simply because He is God. Whatever God says and does is right because He says and does it. God is the kind of person who does what is right. Therefore, the Gospel promise is that a man will obtain God's own righteousness, for there is no other.
g) Romans 3:23
This verse is often misunderstood. Some people illustrate this verse with the picture of a man who has shot an arrow at a target and missed the mark. The implication of the illustration is that men try in their sinful way to do what God says, but just cannot do it and so come up short. This is a wrong way to think of Romans 3:23.
Man does indeed lack the glory of God, as this verse states. But if we use the same illustration, then a more correct picture would be of a man who deliberately turns around and faces the opposite way from the target. In fact, man in his perverseness breaks the bow and arrow, having no desire to even think of hitting the target. That is the message of Romans 3:10-18.
Romans 3:23 is not a comment on man's ineffective efforts to achieve the standard of God's glorious righteousness. Outside of Christ, man does not even want to obey God. It takes the grace of God to turn man around so that he faces God's righteousness and then seeks to reach to glory of God.
h) Romans 4:3-8
These verses teach, among other things, that what a man receives is related to the way or manner in which he receives it. Romans 4:3 tells us that believing, which is God's means for man, results in righteousness, which is God's end for man. It is not that God owes man righteousness based on his faith, but that it is God's plan that believing is the way that a man can obtain what God offers. This is in contrast to verse 4 in which we learn that a man may work instead of trusting in God's promise. However, what a man obtains from that method, even if his works were perfect before the Law, is not what God promises to those who trust.
The message of Romans is that there are two ways to live, one is to work perfectly, another is to trust in the works of God. However, they do not yield the same results. Again, the principle is that how a man receives something tells us what it is that he received. Trusting results in righteousness, because God promises that the man who trusts has all his sins forgiven. A spiritual way, faith, results in a spiritual end, salvation. Working results in no more than what a man can expect from his labors, the privilege to continue to live according to the Law without any promise that a future mistake will be forgiven. Of course, the fact is that no man has obeyed perfectly. Therefore, his works merit, not praise, but death (Rom. 6:23).
i) Romans 4:13
Analyzing this verse is good training in how to properly understand the promises in the Old Testament. Without the perspective of Romans 4, we might be inclined to think that the promises in the Old Testament are promises of physical blessing to the physical descendants of Abraham. With the help of Romans 4, we learn that the promises that are addressed to Abraham himself are really spiritual promises given to him because of his faith and intended for all those who trust God as he did, even though they are not physically related to him.
This verse refers to Genesis 13:15 and 17:8. The word "land" in the Genesis promises and the word "world" in Romans 4:13 refer to the new heaven and new earth and not to this sin cursed world. We know this not only because the Old Testament verses promised the land "everlastingly," which cannot be fulfilled in this world (II Peter 3:7,10), but also because Romans 4 tells us that the inheritance which Abraham did obtain from God was the one promised to all who believe. In other words, God did not promise to give Abraham physical land but the spiritual blessings of salvation which included the land of Heaven, a promise which is the common expectation of all believers.
Additionally, Romans 4:13 states that Abraham's "seed" will share in the blessings of the promise. From the perspective of Romans 4, the promises of Genesis are not limited to a single physical nation that can trace its biological heritage back to Abraham. Instead, the promises are given to those who have faith as Abraham did, no matter what their genealogy. From this perspective, too, the promises to Abraham in the Old Testament turn out to be spiritual, inasmuch as they are bestowed upon spiritual people, believers regardless of their national origin.
We have in Romans 4:13 an illustration of the principle explained in part j) above. That is, what a man receives from God matches the way in which he receives it. A man who seeks what God offers though the spiritual method of faith, obtains the spiritual blessings of salvation. Inasmuch as Abraham sought the promises of God by faith, the promises were necessarily spiritual. The Old Testament promises must refer, not to a physical inheritance, but to the blessings of salvation.
We must add that the word "seed" also refers to Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). With this in mind, the idea that Jesus is the true heir of salvation in as much as He also trusted in God (John 12:27), even as He fulfilled the law (Matt. 26:39, Heb. 10:7). Furthermore, all believers are joint heirs with Him (Rom. 8:17), benefiting from His sacrifice.
j) Romans 5:8
In great contrast to men's evil selfishness, described in Romans 3, Romans 5:8 describes God's gracious self-sacrifice. God is motivated to save sinners out of love. That is, He is not motivated because He sees any nobility or righteousness in the person for whom He sacrifices. Nor is He motivated to self-sacrifice out of personal greed.
It cannot be that God's great sacrifice is a reaction to something He sees in the object of His love, for all men stand the same before God, sinners. God knows that the people, for whom He has planned salvation, are at war with Him and deserve His wrath. That is one big difference between men and God. Men are not willing to sacrifice themselves for enemies who hate them. God is willing and does. That is a great display of God's love.
The death of Christ on the cross shows how far God would go to help sinners, undeserving and rebellious sinners. As a mature person who sees the need, who knows what must be done and does it without regard to personal cost because there is no other way to meet the need, God went all the way. More than that, God helped despite the resistance of those for whom He was working, knowing that sinners are spiritually dead and unable as well as unwilling to see their great spiritual need. God did a lot for people who are terrible and were terrible to Him. He knew what He had to do. He knew that only He could do it. And He did it in the face of great opposition.
Even though one of the purposes of the gospel is the glory of God, that does not mean He used men merely as a tool for personal gain. It is true that the result of salvation is that He is honored for the wisdom, beauty and majesty which He already possesses. However, as Roman 5:8 states, God rescued His people because of the great love He had for them. This love is displayed in the fact that their salvation cost Him dearly, namely the life of His Son Jesus Christ. We must never reduce the value of the price of salvation by saying that it was not so bad because Jesus eventually made it thorough Hell and after the resurrection went to be with the Father in heaven. The experience of Hell is so horrible that we cannot imagine it. Only those who endure Hell can understand its great cost.
k) Romans 5:9
The verb, "being justified" is in a past tense that refers to a one time event that has present effects. The idea is that sinners are now just before God because of Christ's one very big effort in the past which effectively paid for all of their transgressions of the law.
Romans also teaches that believers can be confident that God will keep His promise to protect them from the future wrath to come, just as He has kept His former promises. The basis for that confidence is that they are no longer condemned by the law, being righteous because of Jesus' payment for their sins.
The salvation provided by Jesus Christ by shedding His blood is complete, final and certain. However, the full drama of salvation has not yet been played out. Judgment Day, the day of God's wrath is coming. This verse is stating that present reconciliation to the law means future protection from wrath.
The value of Christ's death is seen, among other things, in its effects for the future. "Much more" than a present reconciliation to the law, the gospel guarantees that believers will face no future liability before the law as well as no future penalty that results from that guilt. In Romans 5:9 we learn that the self sacrifice of God provides a legal guarantee that believers will escape the wrath of God.
l) Romans 5:10
The word "enemies" helps to maintain a correct perspective upon men's problem and God's motivation to resolve that problem. Sinners are not victims of some villains. The salvation story is not like some drama in which sinners are the poor heroines captured and held for ransom, and who await their rescue by their handsome hero. Certainly men are sometimes victims of other's evil deeds, and certainly Satan holds all his people captive before they are captured by Jesus. However, all those who are saved were enemies who hated God and actively opposed Him. God was not motivated to die for people because of anything attractive He saw in them. Nor was he obligated to rescue them because of their pitiful condition. They were undeserving hateful enemies. It would be appropriate for God to show hatred to them rather than love.
It is true that God's wrath is reserved for His enemies. However, those sinners whom God wanted to save were reconciled to the law which condemned them when they were enemies because Jesus died to take the wrath demanded by the law for their sins. On the day of Judgment at the end of time all the unsaved will be judged. However, God's people shall be spared, or saved, from the day of wrath which is to come.
In verse, 10 we see that God's heart is in protecting His people from the wrath to come. According to verse 10, since being despicable sinners did not stop God from showing His sacrificial love to them, we can be confident that He will not show His wrath to them on Judgment Day, especially since they have been reconciled to the law. The logic is, "If God loved us at our worst, we can be sure that He will love us in all other situations too."
Let us think about the word "reconciled" in an other way. Salvation means, among other things, that sinners are reconciled to the law of God. However, it is also true that before they were saved, God's people were at war and needed to be reconciled to God in the sense that they needed to be at peace with Him. God and those for whom He died were at war with each other. There needed to be a change of attitude toward each other, peace replacing enmity. However, God did not change, His people did. God always loved His own, from before the foundation of the world. That love showed when Christ absorbed the threat of God's wrath on the cross. God also changes the hearts of those whom He saves. In Christ, sinners are new people and have a new, loving relationship with God. God's people now have a close relationship with God. The joy is that it is all of God's hand, and they can be secure in that reconciliation.
m) Romans 5:12
This verse presents a uniquely Biblical view of the universe. The preposition "into" can be pictured by an arrow that penetrates the perimeter of a circle and comes to rest in the inside of that circle. With this in mind, we can understand the verse to mean that sin is a foreign intrusion which came in through one man's rebellion, bringing death with it and binding itself firmly to the world and all of its inhabitants.
Unsaved men do not agree with this verse. They say that what we see in the universe is normal and that all the death and corruption of the universe is how things are supposed to be. In fact, they say that death is a necessary part of the universe. If God does enter into the conversation, He is blamed as an errant designer, or absent, out of control, or evil, or a myth. From their point of view, either fault and blame for a corrupt universe rests with the system, or fault and blame are meaningless. They conclude that it is not possible to find answers to man's misery and deep questions because such answers do not exist.
The joy and real hope of the Bible is that universe was created perfect, with a purpose. The Bible says that people are not accidents of nature. The good news is that sin, corruption, and death are not part of the basic design of God's universe. Something has gone wrong. It was not supposed to be this way. Sin "entered into" a perfect world. Sin is a problem to be solved rather than a tragedy with which to be resigned.
The two views of the universe can be illustrated by a broken clock. If we assume that the clock is supposed to be broken, that it is the way clocks are, then we will see no purpose in its construction, nor will we be inclined to repair it. However, if we realize that there is something wrong with the clock, we will be more eager to see it restored to its original working condition. Similarly, the Bible says that sin and death are problems, and that God deals with the problems of the universe in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:21-23).
n) Romans 5:14
This verses states that men do not sin in a similar way as Adam did. In other words, Adam's sin was different than those who came after him. What was the difference? The answer is that Adam was a figure of "him that was to come," namely, Jesus (I Cor. 15:45). What did Adam and Jesus have in common that was different from everyone else? Before Adam sinned, he, like Christ, was alive spiritually and had a free will to obey. Therefore, Adam sinned deliberately as an incorruptible man. Since then, all men are in bondage to sin and inherit a dead soul. Adam, like Christ was spiritually alive, but unlike Christ, he sinned. Since then, all men are spiritually dead and have no free will to do any spiritual good.
Men are not blamed for Adam's particular sin, but the facts are that men are descendants of Adam and inherit whatever he passes on, death and corruption. All men are accountable for the many sins they so evidently commit. Additionally, men are under the sentence of death, because they have corrupt, sinful natures. Kind begets kind, and death is a witness to the kind of people men are, people who are part of Adam's corrupt race.
At this point, we ought to make another comparison between Adam and Christ. A little thought will lead us to recall how different Adam and Christ really are. One obvious difference is that Adam's deed resulted in condemnation and Jesus' deed resulted in blessing. But, to use the words of this chapter, there is "much more" to Jesus' effort to save than there was to Adam's action of sin. Adam was given one life, his own, and he sinned in that one life. However, Jesus was given the lives of many, and He had to pay for the sins of each of the elect. Not only that, Adam started with a perfect world. Everything in Adam's environment was in harmony with God's will and supportive of him. Jesus Christ faced a ruined world. Everything in the environment was corrupt and hostile to God's will. The world was not Jesus' friend. In every way, the work of Jesus in reconciliation was a greater effort in both quality and degree than the work of Adam in sin.
o) Romans 6:1-11
These verses are commonly misunderstood and misapplied. In order to make sure that we are thinking correctly about them, we must keep two ideas in mind. One idea is that the focus of these verses is not upon the sacrament of water baptism. Instead, these verses are focusing upon a person's actual experience of spiritual salvation. They are talking about a person's actual spiritual death and spiritual resurrection, as we read in Colossians 2:12-14. The other idea is similar to the first. It is that these verses are not just focusing upon the death of Jesus Christ, but also upon the application of that death to men. Let us see how these ideas help us in our brief examination of Romans 6:1-11.
The point of this chapter is that believers are "dead to sin" (Rom. 6:2). Somehow they died. They did not die physically, or they would not be reading this letter; nor did they die in their souls, because they were already dead spiritually before they were saved (Eph. 2:1,5). The only death left is the eternal death reserved as payment for sin (Matt. 25:46, II Thes. 1:9). This chapter is saying that Judgment Day has come for believers already. It happened when they "died with Christ." This means that when Jesus went to the cross, all the believers were there, too, in the sense that their sins were judged in Christ. They experienced, in Christ, the wrath of God that their sins merited (Rom. 8:3, II Cor. 5:21, I Pet. 2:24).
All the words such as "baptized into his death" (Rom. 6:3), "buried with him" (Rom. 6:4), "planted together in the likeness of his death" (Rom. 6:5), "crucified with him" (Rom. 6:6), "dead with Christ" (Rom. 6:8), and "dead indeed unto sin" (Rom. 6:11), are repetitions of the same message. Believers have died in a spiritual and a very real way. When they are saved, they have, in Christ, experienced the eternal death that is the just payment for sin (Rom. 6:6) and which separates them from their former sinful life (Rom. 6:7).
The baptism in Romans 6 refers to the actual salvation which Jesus Christ procured on the cross and then applied to the life of a believer. It does not refer to the symbolic ritual of water baptism which pictures salvation. Baptism here is used as it is in Mark 10:38,39, which equates it with the word "cup." Baptism and the cup refer to the spiritual experience of death under the wrath of God which Jesus endured.
Similarly, the word "buried" does not refer to the symbolic rite of water baptism. The word "buried" refers to death. Men bury only dead things. Again, the focus is upon the death that is part of a believer's salvation experience.
The big message of Romans 6 is that believers have died in Christ. It may have been a spiritual experience, but it is very real and will have a real impact on their behavior as Chapter 6 goes on to explain.
p) Romans 6:16
Notice that the verse describes only two choices, service to sin or obedience to God's law. Grace does indeed make a sinner free. However, freedom does not make someone autonomous. Believers are not independent people, serving God because that makes the most sense and gives them the most profit. Rather, as we learn in this verse, they are willing slaves of Jesus Christ.
Believers are not free to do what their flesh wants, but free to do what they ought, for what they were originally designed and created. Believers are free to do that which gives them the greatest spiritual blessing rather than that which enslaved and sought to destroy them. In the words of this verse, obedience to sin leads to death while obedience to God leads to righteousness.
We ought to dispel a possible misunderstanding of the words "obedience unto righteousness." They certainly do not imply that works of obedience to the law result in righteousness, for the law requires perfect obedience, an impossible standard for anyone. Besides the verse is comparing unbelievers who serve sin and believers who serve God. Obedience unto righteousness either means that believers have obeyed the gospel call to believe and so have obtained God's righteousness, or means that believers, who are already saved, demonstrate the righteousness of God within themselves by their obedience to His will.
We also ought to correct some possible misunderstandings associated with the word "yield." This verse does not mean that the moment people sin they become a servant of sin or the moment they obey they become a servant of righteousness. People do not bounce back and forth between a saved and unsaved condition depending upon their most recent performance. Nor does the verse imply that salvation or condemnation is a result of yielding to righteousness or sin, as if it were a matter of what people do by their own efforts.
The word "yield" refers to more than an outward action. Linking this verse to the next we see that yielding is a matter of the heart. All people sin. Even believers who understand the will of God and have the power to resist the temptation to rebel will nevertheless sometimes disobey God. The difference between believers and unbelievers who sin is within, or a matter of the heart.
Having said that, we must recognize that a different heart results in a different average record of obedience. Continual sin in unbelievers' lives is evidence that they are yielded to it in their heart. Sin is business as usual for them because it is their master. Sin is an addiction which unbelievers cannot break and which they do not want to break. No other behavior is expected from them because they have no spiritual life which seeks and enables them to serve God instead.
The situation of believers is different. Believers' disobedience is a violation of the desires of their heart. Believers' sin grieves them because they understand the will of God and have the power to resist temptation. Believers' sin grieves them because it is as if they made a premeditative deliberate choice to make sin their master rather than Jesus. What a slap in the face of Him who has shown so much love to them! How can they play with something that identifies them with unbelievers and gives their Master a bad name? Believers' sin grieves them because they have new hearts. They do not want to sin. Therefore, there is tremendous inner motivation and power in believers' lives which will result in more and more obedience to God's will.
The word "yield' in this verse also refers to long term behavior. That is, what people are in their hearts will more clearly be seen over time. Unbelievers will eventually reveal themselves to be dead within and headed for the second death. In contrast, God's work of righteousness in His people and the new life which that work brings will result in a track record of obedience. Believers want to yield to righteousness and given the opportunity, will more and more demonstrate that desire, even though their flesh entices them to rebel.
q) Romans 6:17
God and God alone be thanked for salvation because He did it all. All men are servants of sin. Only God can release them from that bondage and give them a new life as servants of Himself. All men are imprisoned by the dictates of their sinful flesh and in no way participate in or contribute to their release.
From Romans 6:17 we learn that the goal which God has for His people is that they love Him with all of their heart. The promise that He makes is that He will give them the heart to love Him as they ought. Believers are bound to obey by a cord stronger than obligation. They are bound by the cord of love, God's love for them and their love for God. That is why sin, especially believers' own sin, hurts them in the worst way. Their own sin violates their new nature and causes internal distress. Their own sin is a hateful insult to their God, for whom they care so much. On the other hand, believers' love for God and their ability to express that love in service which glorifies and serves Him gives them the greatest joy. With this in mind, we can understand the phrase "that form of doctrine" to mean that Paul desired that the Romans obeyed, not only the outward commandment, but the essence of what he taught, or rather what God taught through him. If they obeyed from the heart, then they obeyed the form of doctrine taught in God's word, the Bible.
r) Romans 7:1-4
The main point of the opening verses of Romans 7 is that, as unbelievers, men are married to the Law of God. Men are obligated to do what the Law says, and, like a marriage, only death can separate men from the bonds of death. Again, like Chapter 6, the death in view cannot be physical death, because even after physical death, men are still answerable to the Law and will give an account at Judgment Day; nor can the death be the spiritual death of men's souls, for even though men are dead in their sins, they will be accused by the Law at the end of time. In fact, their spiritual death shows that they are under condemnation to the Law, rather than free from it. Therefore, the only death left, the only death which separates a man from the Law and the death which is in view in these verses is the eternal death of Hell under the wrath of God, that is the death that separates a man from the Law's condemnation after he has spent an eternity in Hell.
The first few verses of Romans 7 could be very confusing if we try to compare the different people in this illustration of a marriage with the different parts of salvation. In verse 2, it seems as though Romans associates "the woman" with men who are bound to the Law and the "husband" with the Law to which she is bound. In the analogy, it is the husband who dies, and after his death, she is free to marry again (Rom. 7:3). To be faithful to the details of the illustration in verses 2 and 3, we would have to insist that the Law died, and so believers are free to remarry Christ. Some people actually teach that the Law died and use Ephesians 2:14-15 and Colossians 2:13-17 for support, but the support is not there. Such logic leads to a doctrinal mess. The Bible does not teach that the Law dies in any sense at all. Besides, verse 4 clearly states that it is we who die and not the Law. Therefore, we must not press the details of the illustration too far. It is used to support a simple point in the drama of spiritual salvation, namely, that death is required before a man can be released from his obligation to the Law and before he can be bound to Jesus Christ.
The best way to understand these verses is to keep in mind the simple point that only death will separate two people who are married. Technically, if the wife dies she is also free from her husband and can marry again. But in the illustration, that would not make sense because dead people do not marry. Therefore, in the illustration, Paul says that it is the husband who dies, so that he can also make the point that the wife is free to marry another.
We must make two further points to help each student avoid misunderstandings about this chapter. First of all, the marriage referred to in verse 4 is between Christ and the church, comprised of true believers of all nations and times, not between Christ and the outward organized body of people called the church. The only marriage that the Bible portrays Christ as being a part of is that of the true believers (Eph. 5:32).
Secondly, some people object that Romans 7 is a discussion about salvation and not about marriage and divorce and so the illustration cannot be used to support the view that God does not allow divorce. However, this objection is not valid. If the illustration were not true, then the conclusions of Romans 7 which it supports would not be true. How can we say that the principles of Romans 7 are true, but the illustration is not true and is contrived in order to persuade the Roman readers? No, the illustration is true (Matt. 19:6, I Cor. 7:39) and is an appropriate support for the principle in verse 1.
s) Romans 7:14
Is Paul describing a former time when he was unsaved, when he was dead spiritually and subject to the sinful dictates of his carnal lusts? No, that cannot be the case because the word "am" is a present tense verb. Romans 7:14 expresses what Paul knew to be true about himself the moment he wrote it.
The word "carnal" is a term for the physical part of men, that is, their body. Men have a spiritual part and a physical part. It is not a sin to have a physical part. Jesus had a physical part and yet had no sin. Adam also was created with a perfect sinless carnal body as well as a sinless spiritual soul. There is not anything sinful or evil about the carnal part of men.
However, when Adam sinned, his spiritual part died. Adam's physical part became corrupt and would eventually die also. By means of his one sinful act, Adam exchanged his perfection for corruption and became the slave of his sinful flesh. The problem from then on is that corruption entered into the carnal part of men and bound itself inseparably to it. Only in that sense can we equate the word "carnal" with "sin." Adam passed that legacy of corruption and death on to all of his descendants. Therefore, since men are equipped with a dead spiritual nature and a physical or carnal part full of sin, they are dominated by the sinful desires of their flesh.
Is Paul describing himself in Romans 7:14 as an unbeliever, with a dead spiritual part, dominated by his carnal part? Or is he admitting that he has a serious sin problem that he cannot shake. No. In many ways Paul was a mature faithful believer.
Paul uses the word "carnal" to teach something about believers' struggle with sin. Paul certainly has a carnal part, a body, but that is not the end of the story. He also has a spiritual part that is alive. A true Christian has a perfect soul in which resides eternal life. If he were to die, he would go immediately to heaven without any further clean up of his soul. The consequence of having a spiritual part is that it is reasonable to expect believers to display God's work in their lives by means of their obedience to His will. That is, their spiritual part ought to dominate and prevail over their carnal part.
Nevertheless, a believer does sin. He sins when he listens to and obeys the dictates of his carnal part, which is still part of him. Even though he is different than an unbeliever, in as much as he has eternal life in his soul, the fact is that he still does sin. It is a serious self deception to think that once a person becomes a Christian he is immune from the appeal of the flesh and able to live a life without ever sinning.
It is true that although believers many times lose a battle in their struggle with sin, they do not lose the war, for believers more and more do obey the will of God as expressed in His word. That thought is developed in Romans chapter 8. However, the point of Romans 7, including this verse, verse 14, is that believers cannot achieve perfect behavior while they live on this earth.
Any notion that believers can achieve sinless perfection now is equal to a gospel of works. The reason is that present sinless perfection is not part of God's plan for believers and anyone who insists that they can and have achieved sinless perfection must necessarily boast in their own actions. Not only that, they must necessarily dismiss the Bible's clear declaration that all men sin, even believers.
We might wonder about God's methods which allow believers to continue to struggle with sin after they have been saved. What possible purpose could be served in allowing believers to endure the temptations of their flesh which contradict the desires of their heart? Why would God allow them to grieve over their many failures to obey? Many of the reasons that God does what He does is know only to Him. But a few purposes are clear.
One purpose is that struggles with sin are tests, tests to reveal whether a person has the heart and ability to serve God instead of his own flesh. Unbelievers do not resist the appeal of their flesh. If they ever do resist, they do not resist for the right reason. However, believers often are able to resist, and resist for the right reason.
Another purpose is that struggles with sin reveal growth in a Christians life. As believers grow in experience in their walk with their Lord, they more and more resist the sinful desires of their flesh.
A third purpose is that struggles with sin are an opportunity for believers to be a witness. Even though they fail at times, believers still are able to and do obey the law of God despite the appeals of their flesh. They show in their victories that God's work in their heart is real. They show in their victories that God is a very present help to them in times of need.
t) Romans 8:1
This verse begins with the word "therefore," so we must understand how Romans 8:1 is a conclusion to what is found in chapter 7. That is, even though Christians struggle with sins, as described in chapter 7, we can still make the conclusion that "therefore" Christians are not condemned. We must always keep in mind that the gospel is not a salvation plan based upon the works of men. Instead, it depends upon the work of God and nothing else. Men need to trust that Jesus' work is sufficient and complete to pay for all of a believer's sins.
We can only understand the phrase "in Christ Jesus" from a spiritual point of view. For one thing, the phrase highlights the Sovereignty of God in the program of salvation because He alone places them "in" Jesus before the world began, as we read in II Timothy 1:9. For another thing, the phrase pictures believers as being sheltered from the condemnation and wrath to come which they deserve. The idea is that Jesus is like a covering which protects believers from the fierce blasts of the wrath of God or the Jesus is like a ship which safely protects believers from rain of the terror of God wrath. The idea is that salvation means God has placed His people "in Jesus," where no evil may harm them. Additionally, the phrase can be thought of the location of the blessings of God. The thought in this case is that when we are "in Christ" we find those blessings. For example, since Jesus is life, as He says in John 14:6, we find eternal life when we are "in Him."
The words "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" do not mean that these are the steps people must take in order to secure release from condemnation. Instead, they are a description of what people are like who already have no condemnation. They are an encouraging testimony to believers that they are indeed in Him, as well as a warning to unbelievers that their present sinful life will lead to their destruction.
We ought to add that the words "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" do not mean that believers always obey the Spirit and never obey the flesh. Rather, the idea is that the heart's desire of every believer is to walk after the Spirit and that, even though they sometimes stumble, the normal pattern of their lives is that they do walk after the Spirit, or in accord with the Spirit's will.
Two extremely important thoughts come out of this phrase. One thought is that a person is either in Christ and therefore not condemned or is not in Christ and therefore still unsaved, subject to the coming wrath of God. That is, there is no middle ground, no such thing as being partially "in." Another companion thought is that those who are in Christ walk after the Spirit, while those who are not in Him walk after the flesh. That is, there is a clear distinction between the behavior of believers and unbelievers. The message of the first part of chapter 8 is that, a person is either in Christ and shows it by how he walks or he is not in Christ and also shows it by how he walks.
Some have compared Christianity to an airplane trip. The idea is that all the passengers are going to the same destination, but some Christians are very faithful and are like those who ride in first class, while others are not so faithful and are like those who ride in the lower classes, while still others are very unfaithful and are like those who ride with the baggage, barely there, but still ending up at the same place as all the other passengers.
This perspective of Christian experience is very wrong and in fact is quite harmful. Such an attitude supports the idea that a person can be quite unfaithful but not worry about his salvation, since he has joined the group of people who say that they are on their way to Heaven.
It is a terrible thing to teach that a person can continue to live as he pleases without facing the question of whether he is really saved. Certainly believers can and do sin, but to imply that a person can continue to live unfaithfully and still be saved because he previously made some kind of public profession and joined a local church is a deception that can lead such a person to think he is saved when he may not be saved at all. One principle of Christian life is that believers must not go merrily along in life without examining themselves to see if they really are saved or not. Self examination is not a one time event but continues throughout a Christian's whole life (II Cor. 13:5).
Romans 8:1 puts all these wrong ideas aside. A person either walks after the Spirit because He is in Christ, or he walks after the flesh because he is not in Christ. A person who is saved will find that he is able to do the will of God, not perfectly all the time, but more and more as he grows in grace. An unbeliever cannot please God. Therefore, someone who has little or no evidence in his life that he is a Christian should face the question, "Am I really saved, or am I just playing a game and kidding myself?"
Although Romans describes the sovereign work of God which resulted in no condemnation for believers, Romans 8 explains that there are certain patterns of behavior and certain promises that always attend the lives of believers who have escaped God's condemnation. That is, the message of Romans 8 is that although behavior is not part of the mechanism by which God saves men from the His wrath, behavior is still important. Behavior is important in the sense that it is a revelation of whether a particular person has been saved already. It is a witness to himself and to others that God has indeed saved him, and that God will care for him now and in the future in a new universe.
u) Romans 8:26
The idea of Romans 8:26 is not that we are not smart enough or that the troubles of our life are so great that we can not think of the right words to pray and so the Spirit makes up the difference. Rather, the verse says that "we know not what we should pray for" because we do not have that information. No matter how wise we are, there are things we can never pray for "as we ought" because we do not know all that God knows, and so it takes God to pray according to His own will. It is not just that we do not pray in the right way (although that is a problem), but that we do not know what only God knows.
According to verse 27 what God knows exclusively is His own will. However, it is not just God's will in general. God's will in light of the context of Romans 8 is the salvation of the elect (Rom. 8:28-29). Therefore, we can say that "the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" by men because men do not know what God knows concerning who will be saved and when they will be saved.
For example, a believer could pray and pray for the salvation of someone, and that person may never be saved. After all, someone is not saved because of the amount of prayers that have been offered to God on his behalf. Nor is someone lost because the prayers for his salvation were too few or not offered properly. Only God knows who the elect are, and although believers may not always know what God's will is in salvation, they do know that "all things work together" for the spiritual benefit of the elect (Rom. 8:28). The tremendous comfort of this verse is that God does know all things, and when His Spirit prays, His will always comes to pass. God knows what His will is in every situation. When the Spirit, who is God, prays for something, it is a certainty that it will be done because the Spirit knows all things, especially who will be saved. Therefore, Romans 8:26 emphasizes the sovereignty of God and His love for his elect.
v) Romans 8:33-36
The logic of verses 33 and 34 is straight forward. The idea is that the only one who has the authority to condemn the elect is God Himself. But God does not condemn them. He saves them. So if He, rather than condemn, justifies the elect, who is left to condemn them? The answer is "No one at all!" The judge of all men is Jesus Christ, as we read in Romans 2:16. Amazingly, the one who could judge the elect, died and rose again for them. In fact, He also makes intercession for them.
The gospel teaches believers to look past the disappointments and misery of this world to the promises that are as certain as Gods' word of grace. They know that there is no revenge in the heart of God, despite the awful rebellion that they practiced and still struggle with while they are in the flesh. It is God's character that leads Him out of love, not to despise sinners, but to save them. What a great motivation to love God in return!
How wonderful to be the objects of God's great love and be the beneficiary of His great effort. But the next question is, "Can these wonderful things be undone?" As we have seen, our sins cannot separate us from Christ, for He who alone can condemn us, redeems and forgives us instead. What about external circumstances, such as those listed in verse 35? These verses ask, "Is there anything situation or force that could keep us from serving God? If not actually separate us from God, can anything cause us to lose our heavenly focus and our confidence in His care over us?"
How do we understand the words "We are killed all the day long" (verse 36)? A man can only be killed once. After that, he is dead and cannot be killed again. Therefore the quote must refer to the continual persecution which believers experience at the hands of their enemies. The world treats believers as it would treat Christ. Believers and Jesus are persecuted "all the day long." And still believers are not separated from the love of God, for even if they die they go to be with the Lord in heaven, for II Corinthians 5:8 teaches believers that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord Jesus.
Even though believers' enemies seem to have free course to mock and persecute both them and the gospel they bring, believers not only are strengthen in their difficult walk with the Lord, but also their witness shines brighter in the darkness of sin around them. In fact, God uses the evil deeds of believers' enemies to further His gospel work in the world. What the unsaved people of the world mean for evil, as they persecute believers, God can mean for good, as He strengthens believers to react in a way that glorifies Himself and leads to the salvation of others.
We can summarize the encouraging message of Romans 8:33 through 36 in this way. From verses 34 and 35 we learn that believers' sins cannot separate them from the love of God. And from verses 35 and 36 we learn that believers' enemies cannot separate them from the love of God either.
w) Romans 9-11
These chapters are the center of so much dispute and misunderstanding that it would a good idea to see how they fit in the logical flow of the book of Romans. Chapter 8 ended with series of questions: "Who can be against us?" "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" "Who is he that condemneth?" "Who shall separate us from the love of God?" The answer was always a resounding and confident boast: "God ... be for us, ... freely give us all things, ... justifieth ... maketh intercession for us." Paul is persuaded that nothing can keep God's people from His love.
Are all these promises too good to be true? Are they all just slick public relations or catchy advertising? Have there been any disappointments or exceptions? Maybe there was someone whom God intended to bless who somehow missed out. This is the kind of challenge Chapters 9-11 face. If it is true that nothing will be able to separate God's people from His love (Rom. 8:39), why are most of the national Jews not saved? After all, weren't they God's chosen people?
Briefly, the three chapters approach the challenge this way: In Chapter 9, we learn that God never had national Israel in mind when He spoke of His salvation in the Old Testament. God's people were not tied to a physical nation, but to a spiritual promise. His people were promised people, elect, of His sovereign choice, some Jews and some Gentiles. The point is that God saves whom He wills and never fails. In Chapter 10, we learn that salvation is the same for all people. There is not one plan for the national Jews and another plan for the Gentiles. God's Gospel of grace in Jesus Christ goes out into the world and people are saved as they trust in that Gospel, elect Gentiles and, as Chapter 11 states, elect Israelites too. When it is all over, we see that God's will is fulfilled perfectly. Those whom He intends to save are saved and kept eternally.
x) Romans 9:7, 8
Isaac was only one of Abraham's physical descendants. Ishmael was Abraham's descendent too. The fact that someone could be physically descendent from Abraham and not be saved shows that salvation is not based upon physical criteria but is totally the decision and work of God. It is all of grace. This point is made even stronger by the example of Jacob and Esau who had the same parents and, in fact, were born at the same time. With identical physical situations, Jacob received mercy and Esau did not (Rom. 9:10-16).
According to Galatians 4:22-26, Ishmael represents the people of Israel who are under bondage to the Law. He represents anyone, Jew or Gentile, who attempts to achieve righteousness by works, while Isaac represents those who live by faith and obtain righteousness by God's grace. If Ishmael was the promised son instead of Isaac, it would mean that righteousness would be based upon man's work inasmuch as Ishmael was a product of Abraham and Sarah's own attempt to get a son through Hagar. God would then be a respecter of persons, blessing that child who had been the product of man's efforts. But salvation depends upon nothing - period. Salvation is based totally upon the sovereign prerogative and election of God.
Verse 8 explains exactly what the choice of Isaac means. He is called one of the "children of promise." God does not select and save people out of the mass of humanity who, in the course of history, are born into the human race and who live on the earth. God's way is very different. God has His people in mind even before they are born. They are promised ones. The idea of a promise means the following:
The origin of salvation begins with God. The plan of salvation and those who would be blessed by it was totally God's idea. God had the plan completely worked out first, then He told others, such as Abraham, what He had planned to do. The concept of promise means that God has exclusive knowledge, not because He is the only one who could see who would believe in Him, but because He created the plan of salvation and previously decided who would be blessed by it (Eph. 1:4,5, II Tim. 1:9).
The next thing to keep in mind is that God has the power to keep His promised Word. God will not forget. God will not change His mind or alter His plans because of unforeseen events. God will not be surprised by someone who unexpectedly sought salvation, nor will someone be missed whom He had planned to save. God always keeps His promise. God promised certain people to the Son and Jesus successfully saves them (John 10:29, 17:2,6).
Finally, we must recognize that God alone deserves the glory. His glory is revealed in the time element which is part of a promise. That is, a promise is a proclaimed word that is given before its fulfillment. That aspect of the promise reveals that salvation is God's plan and no one else's. That is one important reason why He gets all the credit (Isaiah 42:8,9).
y) Romans 9:13,14
Jacob and Esau were two brothers, twin sons of godly Isaac and his wife Rebecca. Jacob, in his later life, trusted and obeyed God and was blessed by God. However, Esau remained a rebellious sinner all his life. Romans 9:13 forces us to look at this family situation from God's point of view in order to show that salvation is totally a work of a sovereign God without the contribution from the works of men.
This is a very uncomfortable verse to read. It seems to express such an arbitrary and biased attitude. Is God really that unfair? Maybe God is reacting to the behavior of the two boys, loving Jacob who desire heavenly things and hating Esau who despised them. No, that could not be. God never reacts. He always acts. He always takes the initiative and is in control of Himself and of circumstances. In fact, Romans 9:11 teaches that God had settled their spiritual situation according to His election before they were born. Therefore, God is not reacting to anything He sees in the behavior of the two boys. If the behavior of the boys determined anything, then we would have to say that they were both sinners, deserving God's condemnation. The ultimate cause of the different spiritual situations of Jacob and Esau is found in God and not in the boys.
We cannot soften the word "hate" by saying that it means "to love less." The word hate is used to identify someone under the judgment of God. The Bible states that God hates those who will never be saved, as we read in Psalm 5:5. There is no grace for them, only God's wrath.
However, the focus in Romans 9:13 is not so much upon the fact that God hated Esau, but upon the fact that He loved Jacob according to His sovereign will. It is as if the verse could be written, "Properly I ought to hate both Jacob and Esau. However, in grace I love Jacob and hate Esau." Therefore, the proper view of verse 13 is that although all men deserve wrath, amazingly not all men will experience it, for God shows mercy according to His will. Again, the focus is more upon those who are saved rather than those who are not.
While the Bible clearly teaches that God predestinates people to salvation, we must avoid the notion that God predestinates people to condemnation, that is saying more than the Bible allows. One message of the Bible is that all men are condemned, because they inherit corruptness from their father Adam and because they lead sinful rebellious lives. Another message is that some of those people who ought to go to hell go to heaven instead because Jesus paid the penalty for their sins. God elected to save some sinners, even though they deserved His wrath, and left the rest of the sinners to face the righteous judgment for their rebellion and hatred toward Him. We do not know all the mysteries of the gospel, but we must remain faithful to what is revealed and avoid statements which are not supported by the Bible.
Now let us look at Romans 9:14. This verse is a complaint that God is unfair and unrighteous because, as we just read in Romans 9:13, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." However, that Jacob was chosen demonstrates the sovereign election of God and that His election is not based upon any consideration of physical factors because Jacob was elected to salvation before He was born. These are idea that are in the Bible and we are forced to face them. But these ideas are odious to men and ideas which lead them to complain.
The accusation against God is that He is "unrighteous," which means that He is accused of transgressing His own law, the same law which demands obedience from men. Did God violate the law when He saved Jacob without taking Jacob's deeds into account?
If we take men's deeds of the law into account, then we must say that God would be righteous to elect nobody to salvation because all men are sinners and deserve condemnation. That some people will not be condemned on Judgment Day is based upon the amazing fact that God made a promise to save some and that He is righteous to keep that promise. The promise was not that salvation was available like vegetables in a grocery store and that whoever happened to buy what was available in the store received the blessing. The gospel promise is not that some unnamed people, some time in history, will do what is necessary, such as trusting and obeying God, in order to be saved. After all, if we learn anything from the Bible, we ought to learn that no one has any interest in God or any power to seek Him even if they wanted to. Rather, the promise was that God would save specifically named people, such as Jacob, that God alone would do all that is necessary to save them, in as much as they could never do anything themselves to escape the wrath of God. The gospel message is that in His great way, God has found a plan to be just and still justify sinners such as Jacob without taking in to account Jacob's deeds.
What men do not want to do and cannot do for themselves, God does for His people. Amazingly, God saves some rebellious sinners. In a manner of speaking, God is more than fair. The gospel is a display of God's grace because, since no man can or wants to obey, God must show mercy.
Therefore, the proper way to view election is to look, not at the unsaved, but at the redeemed. We get the proper perspective of election when we look at the display of God's grace in the lives of those sinners who do not deserve it. Those who go to hell get what they deserve, for God is perfectly righteous. The wages of sin is death, without exception. Men who are condemned receive no more or no less than they deserve. But those who are rescued from hell also do not deserve anything better. We can say Jacob was not better than Esau.
That some people are saved is not "unrighteousness with God." That could not be because it is men who are unrighteous, not God. That some people believe and are saved is the effect of grace and not a display that they are better than anyone else. That some people believe and are saved shows that God is good, far kinder that He needs to be. That kindness is gloriously shown by the sacrifice of His Son which allows Him to be just and still justify some sinners, saving them from eternal death in hell.
Can we complain that God is unrighteous because His gospel includes grace and excludes the deeds of men? Not at all. It is a good thing that the formula for salvation does not require the good deeds of men, for there are no good deeds of men. Can we complain that God is unrighteous because it is His plan that only some are saved? Not at all. No one deserves or even wants grace. Grace is extra.
The complaint of Romans 9:14 is a sad waste of energy. It is better to seek the salvation found in the gospel, be totally preoccupied with begging God for it, than to be busy complaining about its design. Why would a man who is in a burning building criticize the design of the door through which he should escape? Wouldn't it be better to flee through the door to the street outside? The tragedy is that most people either do not believe that they are in any danger or that they pridefully want to save themselves, rejecting the idea that God alone can help them.
We should add that it is not our business to figure out if we are one of God's elect or if someone else is. According to Romans 9, we must keep in mind that God is the Sovereign God of the universe. This means that His secret will is His business. It is our concern that we call out to God for mercy and trust Him for salvation. It is our concern to faithfully bring the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ alone. We must trust that God will do what is right. Romans 9 explains enough of God's plan to show that He is in control and that He must get all the glory for anyone's salvation. God has shown us that we are sinners and has shown us that Jesus is the Savior for all who will trust in Him. We must not criticize God for what He does. The question before us is "Do we have the heart to obey God in all that He has told us and trust Him for all the things that we do not understand? Are we willing to give Him the glory He alone deserves?"
z) Romans 10:11-13
These verses highlight the fairness of God. The words "Whosoever believeth" in verse 11 and "whosoever shall call" in verse 13 can be understood by the words "there is no difference between the Jew and Greek, (or non-Jew)" in verse 12. The idea is that no one is excluded from salvation based upon the fact that they are a member of particular nation, for all men are equally sinful sons of Adam, without one person being better or worse than another. How wonderful that you and I are not excluded from God's grace simply because of our nationality, that "whosoever believeth of any nation" shall be saved. The reason that is true is that God is fair in His plan of salvation.
Romans 10:12 states that "There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek." People of all nations are the same in as much as "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Also, the Bible states that "there is no respect of persons with God," for God will judge both Jews who have the law and Greeks who do not have the law by means of the same standard. In short, the equality of the gospel begins with the fact that there is an equality of guilt.
According to these verses, the words "whosoever" and "all" refer to people of all nations, that is, some Jews as well as some Greeks, that is any other nation. God created all men and is Lord over all. Therefore, He can save whom He wills to save. The scope of the words "whosoever" and "all" includes the ones who are children of the promise, who display the purpose of God according to election out of every nation.
These verses emphasize the fairness of God, that is, His fairness to nations in His design and administration of the gospel. He is fair because it is His plan to include people of all nations. He is fair because it is His plan to gather them in a way in which people of all nations can participate. That way salvation is apart from the deeds of the law, of which only the Jews were stewards.
The equality that is expressed in these verses is founded upon the fact that there is only one kind of a man - a sinner. Therefore there is only one kind of need - salvation, and one kind of provision to meet that need - Christ's sacrifice. According to these verses, there is only one kind of method which God employs to apply the finished work of Jesus to the lives of people - calling upon God for mercy. For all these reasons, we can say that the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ is not a Jewish plan, it is not an American plan, it is not a French plan, it is not a Chinese plan, it is not a plan of any nation. It is a plan of God to rescue sinners of all nations from wrath, because they cannot rescue themselves. That is good news indeed.
The words "call upon the name of the Lord (Jesus)" mean much more than just a verbal call for the mercy of God. It means that a person sees himself from God's point of view, as a wicked sinner who deserves to go to Hell, that he agrees to God's assessment and abandons any self respect or effort to attain righteousness. It means that a person recognizes that he must call upon someone for help, in as much as he is unable to help himself. It means that he completely trusts God, expecting an answer to his call. He calls upon God for help, believing that God is as wise and able to provide for the needs of his soul, as He has said.
The fact that God designed the gospel so that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved does not mean that men are in control of the application of the gospel. God is not waiting in suspense for someone to call upon Him so that He can respond with salvation. Instead, the call of men is in the hands of God. Men will not naturally call upon the Lord. Men are sinful enemies of the Lord. They fear and hate Him. They want to flee from Him and suppress all knowledge of Him. Therefore, men will not naturally seek the gospel He designed for their benefit. They will not call upon His name unless He causes them to call. Remember, all men are sinners and do not want the salvation of God. But in amazing mercy God saves many out of all nations anyway. He causes people to call upon Him and then answers that call as we read in John 6:37.
aa) Romans 11:26, 27
Romans 9:8,24 explains that God promised that He would call certain elect people to be His children. That promised call would extend to both Jews and Gentiles. Romans 10:12,13 add that God planned that those Jews and Gentiles whom He would call would become His children in the same way, through the Gospel. Then, in Romans 11:26,27 we learn that God's plan has been and continues to be fulfilled exactly as He promised.
Two conclusions are made in Romans 11:26. First of all, this verse says something about the method God used to save His elect. One important word in the verse is the word "so." Some people turn that word into a time reference and replace it with the word "then." That is wrong. A more Biblical way to understand the words "and so" is to think of them as expressing the idea of "and so in this way" or "and so in this manner" or "and so in this wise." The word "so" is used in the Bible to refer to a procedure (Matt. 1:18, "on this wise"; 2:5, "thus"; 6:9, "after this manner"; 6:30, "so"; and Rom. 9:20, "thus"). Romans 11:26 is saying that God saves all Israel in the manner that the previous three chapters (and, for that matter, the whole preceding book of Romans) describe.
For example, we learn in Chapters 9 and 10 that God elected certain people and calls them through the Gospel. Also, we learn in Chapter 11 that the rebellion of the Jews did not frustrate God. What they meant for evil, God turned into good. Their rebellion resulted in the death of the Messiah, the very thing needed to pay for the salvation of God's children. This is the way in which God saved his people.
Secondly, Romans 11:26 says something about the objects of God's salvation. One way to think of Romans 11:26 is to rephrase it as, "This is the way all of those national Israelites whom God has elected will be saved." In other words, Romans 11:26 could be focusing upon the remnant of national Israel (Rom.11:5). From this point of view, the idea of the verse is that national Israel's hope is in the Gospel alone. The Gospel is the manner in which all of the remnant that God intends to save will be saved.
On the other hand, we could think of Romans 11:26 as saying, "This is the way all of true spiritual Israel whom God has elected will be saved." In other words, the verse could be focusing upon the fullness of the elect Israelites (Rom. 11:12) and the fullness of the elect Gentiles (Rom. 11;25). In this light, the idea is that all of the elect, Jews and Gentiles, are lumped together as "Israel" in a similar way as in Romans 2:28,29. The idea is that the hope of the elect, no matter what their nationality, is in the Gospel of salvation, again as the Old Testament quotations state.
In either case, whether the words "all Israel" include the elect Jews or the elect Jews and Gentiles, the point of the verse can be expressed as, "God's Gospel plan is the way in which God's people will be saved." God's Gospel is the only hope and the certain hope for all of God's people.
The Old Testament quotations in Romans 11:26 and 27 support the view that the Gospel is in view, for the Old Testament verse in Romans 11:27 is also quoted in Hebrews to support the fact that God's covenant is equivalent to the Gospel promise (Heb. 10:16-20).
bb) Romans 12:2: the will of God for a Christian.
The rest of the book of Romans, from chapters 12-16, is an appeal to those who have heard and believe what has been written before, to live in a way that will "prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God." These chapters challenge those people who call themselves Christians to learn and do the will of God as a form of gratitude and love to their Savior.
The book of Romans has declared many grand and majestic things about God's will for the ages. We have learned how God prepared His plan of salvation and worked it out in history in an amazingly sovereign way. We also learned that God does not save nations. He saves individuals, those Jews and Gentiles whom He has promised to save. Therefore, when we wonder about God's will, it must eventually must come down to the question "What is God's will for my individual life?" or "What does He want me to do?" These are questions for which all believers seek answers.
We shall divide God's will for individual believers into two parts. Although that division is a little artificial, it helps us answer the above questions. First of all, there is God's will for a Christian's character. God's will in this area is the same for all men. All men ought to be honest, faithful, kind, and so forth. However, when most Christians wonder about God's will for their life they normally mean, "What does God want me to do with my life?" There is also God's will for a Christian's service. This is not the same for everyone. God's plan for each Christian's service is tailored by the gifts God gives them as well as the circumstances that He arranges in their life.
More to the point, the questions many Christians have are, "How do I know that I am doing what God wants me to do? Of all the things I could be doing, of all the ways I could be serving, how can I know if I am making the right choice?" The interesting message of the book of Romans is that if a Christian diligently seeks God's will for his character, if he earnestly desires and takes steps to make sure that his heart is right before the Lord, then it does not matter what choice he makes for his service. If a Christian takes heed that his character conform to God's will, then he can never make a mistake regarding God's will for his service.
Christians have many questions, "Should I move to that city? Should I go to that school? Should I prepare for that career? Should I marry that person? Should I take advantage of that opportunity of ministry?" Romans 12, which talks about God's will, as all the Bible does, never supplies us with an answer to these specific questions. Instead, Romans 12 commands Christians to do those things that display a right character, that reveal a loving motivation. It is as if it does not matter to God what a Christian does in his service. This does not mean that Romans 12 is deficient because it seems to neglect important detailed advice concerning God's will for a Christian's service. It simply means that if a person's heart is right, his service will be right too.
God does care about the details of the service in which a Christian is engaged. However, there are several reasons that the Bible does not give specific advice for a Christian's service. The most important reason is that a Christian must trust that God is in control of his life. A Christian cannot see all the complex factors that control the events of this world. Even if he could know everything, he not have the wisdom to properly analyze all the data and decide what is the best choice. Instead, he can only carefully and prayerfully weigh those things he does know which effect his choice of service and rely upon the Lord to shape and guide the affairs of his life and lead him in to the right path of service. If a Christian cultivates and nurtures his walk with God and patiently develops whatever skills God has given him, he will find that the right opportunities for service will come automatically. Matthew 6:33 is very appropriate advice in this regard.
Secondly, if a Christian concentrates upon his character development, he will be a faithful witness, no matter what choice he makes for his service. Faithfulness is the true measure of how successfully a Christian is doing God's will. Essentially, if a Christian grows in his understanding of the Bible and his obedience to what he learns from it, and if a Christian rests contentedly in the life situation in which God has placed him, he will find that God will lead him into the service that is best for him (Prov. 3:5,6).
cc) Romans 13:1,2
The words "higher powers" refer to earthly governments, controlled by humans rulers, people who have political authority to make and enforce laws for earthly societies. According to this verse, the straight forward and clear will of God for all men is that every person must obey the governments within whose jurisdiction they live. There are no modifying phrases in this verse, for the command applies to all men, saved as well as unsaved.
The reason for this command is that "there is no power but of God." Despite the fact that men grasp earthly authority by means of armed might, deceitful manipulation or clever persuasion, they really do not achieve their position of authority because of their own efforts. All earthly rulers attain authority and remain in power only because God has ordained that they do. No matter how mighty nations might seem to us, their power is nothing before God. He ordains them all. Men rule only because God wills them to rule, as we read in Daniel 2:21, and what they do as rulers is ultimately in the hand of God, as we read in Proverbs 21:1.
Romans 13:1,2 helps us to see that obedience to earthly powers is not disloyalty to God. Despite the ambition and pride of the human rulers who have power on earth, there is no competition between their rulership and the rulership of God. God is really the only one with power, so obedience to earthly governments is the same thing as obedience to God, for governments obtain and maintain their authority by the ordination of God. Therefore, Christians can, in all things lawful, with an untroubled conscience be "subject to" earthly powers.
Anyone who has a quarrel with an earthly authority is picking a fight with God. That is a fight which every man will lose, a fight with terrible spiritual consequences. As Romans 13:2 states, it results in "damnation." Anyone who rebels against their government is liable to damnation, not just for their action of rebellion, but because their rebellion reveals that they are probably not saved. If they were saved, their heart would lead them to a humble willingness to submit to God's chain of command rather than a prideful demand to assert their own will.
It is true that many times earthly governments can be unfair and repressive, even making demands which are contrary to the expressed will of God. Is Romans 13 saying that Christians must obey their rulers even when they are asked to disobey the Bible? No, sometimes believers must disobey their earthly rulers, as we see in Daniel's life, when he prayed to God even when he was forbidden to.
Believers might have a reason to disobey their rulers when the laws of the land in which they live demand that they personally sin against God. However, people cannot use God's will as an excuse to disobey their rulers when they believe that the government is acting in a socially or politically evil way. Even if their assessment of their government is correct, they must always seek to obey all laws possible. The wickedness or negligence of their secular authorities does not give them the freedom to disobey laws which are directed to them personally and which do not cause them to violate God's laws.
God's will for Christians is to live obediently to their government and be a faithful witness in their society. They have a spiritual mandate, not to make all things socially or politically right in this sin cursed world, but to cultivate and nurture their own walk with God as well as to be a witness in word and deed. The proper Christian political attitude is to humbly submit. The proper Christian political action is to cheerfully serve. That is how Christians can pay the debt of love that they owe to all men, and prove God's will in an unbelieving world.
Christians should keep in mind that all things in God's universe, including the affairs of state, are in His hand. Christians understand that God knows all the details of the wicked things that earthly governments do and plan to do. Christians know that God could change the heart of a king if that was His will. They know that God uses those wicked rulers whose hearts He does not change and that He will judge all the nations for their sins, even though He uses them to accomplish His purposes. Christians trust God to correct all political and social wrongs in His great time and way and the trust that He makes sure that all things work out for the benefit of His people, as we read in Romans 8:28. Therefore, their government's power can never really be a threat to their heavenly hope and they should never feel the need to protect themselves by means of rebellion or revolution.
The message of the Bible is that believers develop their character and wait patiently for God to open the door of service for them. If there is great political opposition to their service, especially as they bring the gospel, they do not seek to take things into their own hands, for God will use governments as He sees fit to make sure that His will is done. Romans 13 explains that it is the job of Governments to punish evil doers and establish social order which is an assist in spreading the gospel. The question is, "Do we trust and submit to God or do we rely on our own wisdom and strength?"
dd) Romans 14: weak and strong Christians
Many times the words "weak in the faith" and "strong in the faith" are misapplied. Some people misuse Romans 14 to teach that the word "strong" refers to those who believe that they are at liberty to do a thing, while the word "weak" refers to those who abstain from the same thing. Based upon this definition, those people justify their sinful actions, saying that they are strong and in control while other people who are weak are unable to handle the same liberties. Those people who teach this way justify divorce and remarriage, drinking alcohol, all sorts of activities on Sunday and many other practices that they desire to do but to which others object. They dismiss the objections of others as the reaction of those who are weak.
It is true that in the illustration in Romans 14:2 the weak person abstains from meat, implying that the strong person eats meat. However, the issue is not in who abstains or who partakes. It is just as possible to think of an illustration in which a weak person is one who partakes and the strong person is one who abstains.
From Romans 4:19, we learn that weakness refers to weakness of faith in the truth of God. I Corinthians 8:10,11 puts weak in opposition to knowing. Therefore, a better definition of a strong person is someone who has knowledge. Knowledge of what? Knowledge of the word of God. A strong person knows what the Bible says and ought to know how to act accordingly. A weak person does not know the Word of God as well and is full of doubts.
A weak person is one who does not know the Bible well and who sometimes does things and sometimes refrains from doing things for the wrong reason. Sometimes a weak person will see nothing wrong about drinking alcohol, participating in a questionable entertainment, or doing his own pleasure on Sunday. The reason may be that it is what he sees the world do or it is what he has done in the past and is what he is used to. But always the fundamental reason is that a person who is weak in the faith does not have enough understanding of the Bible to change those things in his life. On the other hand, sometimes, as in the illustration of Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8 and 10, the weak person may refrain from something that is Biblically acceptable, like eating meat, because he does not understand the Bible enough to see that he may eat everything or his past habits interfere with his ability to do what the Bible says is all right to do.
A strong person knows the Bible much better and does things or refrains from doing things based on the right reason. A strong person knows that there are certain things he cannot do because the Bible forbids it. A strong person will not drink alcohol, treat Sunday like all the other days of the week, participate in questionable entertainment, and so forth because he compares that sort of behavior with the Bible. A strong person also knows that other things are not so essential to his Christian life, and he may partake or refrain depending upon the situation. For example, he may eat meat or not eat meat depending upon how it effects a weaker person who is bothered by what kind of meat it is.
The message of Romans 14 is that a person who is strong must not get into a sustained argument as he tries to change the mind of a person who is weak. A person who is strong must seek to edify those who are weak (Rom. 14:19) and not judge them (Rom. 14:4). One reason is that a strong believer must remember how patient God has been with him for years. Even a more mature believer has his sin weaknesses and yet God edifies and receives him ever so kindly, patiently correcting him over the years.
This does not mean that the weak person is to be abandoned to his misunderstanding of God's law. God knows that the weak person's wrong views of the law ought to be corrected and that his life ought to more and more conform to His will. However, God is the Lord of all and has His own plan to deal with the weak person. The message of this chapter is that all of the brethren ought to have the same objective for each other that God has and that all the brethren ought to submit to God's way of achieving that objective.
However, doing God's will is more than just personally knowing the law of God and doing it. The strong person must consider the salvation and the edification of the elect. The strong person must consider that other people, as they do, are struggling with their weaknesses and that God has a plan to help these weak people. The strong person must submit to that plan. He must humbly do what God wants him to do. He must forgive. He must be patient. He must be willing and ready to spiritually build up the weak person.
A strong person is patient with a weaker person. Because he knows the Bible better, he knows when he can be flexible, if it is necessary. The strong person knows the Biblical limits of accommodation, and he can cater, as much as possible, to the weaknesses of another person as he seeks to patiently teach the weaker person. A person who is strong understands what is spiritually important and what is not spiritually important. In fact, it could be that it is the strong person who refrains from doing something (I Cor. 8:8,13) which is exactly opposite to those who say a strong person can do more things than a weak one can.
The point of all of this discussion is that the Bible says that a strong man has a good understanding of God's Word and so behaves in a way that will help a weaker person, sometimes partaking and sometimes abstaining (I Cor. 10:23,28,31), but always doing that which accords with the Word of God. Therefore, a strong person can behave in a way that will help those weaker people who do not understand as much about the Bible as he does because the strong person operates out of a strong trust in God's word and a strong love for both God and His weaker brother. In that way, the strong person is truly doing the will of God and reflecting God's work of grace in his life.
ee) Romans 15:22-33: a conflict between two good choices.
This passage helps us to analyze the proper Christian attitude and action when there seems to be a conflict between two choices, both of which a Christian perceives to be the will of God. In Romans 1:10-13, we learn how much Paul desired to go to Rome. He had expected to journey to Rome right away, inasmuch as he had finished his work where he was (Rom. 15:23). That was a very godly desire and plan. However, it was not God's will that he go to Rome at that time, and we can learn much from Paul's reaction to God's plans for his life.
The words "I have been...hindered" in verse 22 can be translated "I wail" or "lament," for that is how the root (kopto) of the word "hindered" is used in the Bible (Matt. 11:17 ,"have lamented"; 24:30, "shall mourn"; Luke 8:52, "bewailed"). Paul was not rebelling or bitter because he was unable to go to Rome as he desired. The phrase in verse 22 is just stating that Paul is not a passive robot, doing God's will like a machine. Rather, he was a person who cared for those at Rome, and the conflict between his desire to see them and God's will that sent him elsewhere was a real conflict. His desire to go to Rome was not a sinful desire. It just was not what God willed at that moment.
From Romans 15:24, we learn that Paul had thought a lot about his trip to Rome and what he would do when he got there. As people often do, he built upon his plans. For example, Paul expected to have some of the Roman Christians accompany him for a while as he continued on to Spain after visiting Rome. However, God had another idea.
According to Romans 15:25-27, Paul was assigned to carry a contribution from the Gentile believers in Macedonia and Achaia to the poor saints in Jerusalem. Even though Paul had faithfully completed what was assigned to him where he was, he maturely accepted a delay to his own plans. He saw the deferment as the will of God expressed through the needs of others. Romans 15:28 is not a sigh of resignation, but a recognition of the fact that this is something that must be done and that he is happy to do it. His joy is result of the fact that Paul recognizes that God is working in the hearts of the Macedonians and the Achaians, and he wants to support that work of faith and thanksgiving in them.
Paul has no doubt that this extra or side journey is God's will, and he will not complain but support it. He submitted to this change of plans and authenticated it as a legitimate plan of God. More than that, from Romans 15:29, we read that Paul recognized that when he finally arrived in Rome, there would be a real blessing for him and other believers. The blessing would be more than just the fellowship he expected to have with them. Paul knew that if he did things God's way and at God's time, the spiritual goals God had in mind would be done. Whatever God intended would be the very best for everyone and Paul does not want to settle for anything less.
In the meantime, while Paul has these new matters to attend to before he can go to Rome, he has a word for the Romans. Paul reminds the Roman Christians in verse 30 that doing God's will is not a job like other human work. It requires prayer. Paul wants the Romans to agree with God that His way is best and help him in his new task with their prayer support. Not only that, Paul reminds them that doing God's will can lead to trouble from those who oppose God's will, and Paul needs prayer for that reason too. Finally, Paul desires their prayers so that the people in Jerusalem would receive his service to them (Rom. 15:31). Paul wants his new assignment to be the Roman Christian's concern too and so support God's will no matter what delays in might mean for their fellowship.
According to Romans 15:32, the results of recognizing and doing God's will is joy. Paul knows that as he accepts this assignment to go to Jerusalem, he is pleasing God and so he has an inner joy.
The whole discussion so far is based upon the truth of Romans 15:33. We can say that once a person is reconciled to God, he has real peace. He is content with whatever His will is for his life. Whatever God wants is O.K. with him. God can change a Christian's plans and he will still seek to faithfully carry out his assigned task. No matter what a Christian does, since he is always seeking the best for God and others, there is peace in knowing that he is in God's will. Christians are willing to submit to God's will because they love and trust Him.
ff) Romans 16:14,15
Romans ends with illustrations of many people who do "that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God." To the example of the life of Jesus (Rom. 15:8-12), Romans the adds the life of Paul (Rom. 15:13-33) and the lives of many people whom he knew (Rom. 16:1-27). The people who are briefly mentioned in Romans 16 provide both an example and an encouragement. Let us see this in Romans 16:14 and 15.
Notice that ten individuals are identified: "Asyncritus," "Phlegon," "Hermas," "Patrobas," "Hermes," "Philologus," "Julia," "Nereus," "his sister," and "Olympas." The number 10 signifies completeness, as in the parables of the 10 coins or the 100 sheep, in which the number 10 or 100 represents the complete number of God's people. These ten people are only names to us who read them. But the ten were known to Paul, to the Roman brethren and especially to God, for they helped to complete His church. Without them His church would be incomplete.
From this observation, we are reminded that God's gospel will is precise and specific. God knows exactly how many He wants to save. He knows who each of the saved are by name. And He will be sure to save them all, finishing His work of calling people to salvation only when the population of His Kingdom is complete.
God is not casual or sloppy in His salvation plan in the sense that He saves whomever is handy and happens to be conveniently available. God's salvation does not mean that if God seeks to save someone and yet something goes wrong and they are lost, He can always get someone else. Nor does salvation mean that as He seeks to fill up His Kingdom, He just gets as many in as He can. God does not just have a quota in His salvation plan, in the sense that the individuals who are included among the saved are interchangeable with those who are not and it is just the total amount who are saved that he cares about. It is true that He has prepared for the salvation of a remnant, which is a specific amount known to God alone. However, the people who are part of that remnant are known to God by name because He has chosen them from before the foundation of the world (John 10:3, Eph. 1:4). He loves and seeks certain specific sheep. He will not stop looking until He finds them and keeps them safe in His arms forever. As Romans 16:14 and 15 remind us, each believer is known and cared for individually by God.
The phrases "and the brethren which are with them" and "and all the saints which are with them" could refer to the people of house churches to which these individuals belonged. Spiritually, the idea of "with them" is more than "who are located in the same house." The idea is "who are with them in mind and heart, agreeing with the gospel preached by the faithful men who taught them." The complete number of people who populate God's Kingdom are of one mind and heart, glorifying God together.
We should also notice that not much biblical data is given for many of the people mentioned in these verses. And yet these verses are not incidental passing comments that have less value and authority than other parts of the Bible. All scripture is holy and given for our edification. The lack of historical information highlights the fact that we should look for the spiritual message, as we should in every passage we study.
One very important thought that comes out of the brief mention of these people is that, above everything else, doing God's will requires humbleness. Paul was a famous missionary, a traveler who was well know by all the churches, and these people were not as well known nor were they doing the kind of work that was noticed by as many people. And yet, they demonstrated, among other virtues, courage, generosity and a spiritual concern for others. It is not the particular job which a believer does for God that counts, but that he be faithful, which is a principle they illustrated in their lives.
The verses also illustrate that God's people work humbly, without a lot of personal credit. Humbleness is a lovely virtue. It is an appropriate attitude that fits all of God's children and is part of the character of all those who will dwell with the high and holy God forever. They are humble because they know that they are creatures, dependent and under the authority of the Lord of the universe. In fact, they are contrite because they know that they are sinners, deserving wrath but receiving grace instead. Beyond all of that, they are amazed that the high and holy God has allowed them to serve Him. What grace, what love that God gives His people the desire, ability and opportunity to do His will! It is God alone who deserves and must get the glory, as the last verse of Romans states.
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