The New Testament book of Romans is critical reading for anyone who desires to know “at a glance” the core content of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and its implications for the present and the future.
After a brief introduction, Paul presents the fact of the Gospel (1:3) and declares his allegiance to it (1:16-17). He continues by building an airtight case for the lostness of mankind and the necessity for God’s intervention (1:18-3:20).
Then Paul presents the Good News – salvation is available to all, regardless of a person’s identity, sin, or heritage. We are saved by grace (unearned, undeserved favor from God), through faith (complete trust) in Christ and His finished work. Through Him we can stand before God justified, “not guilty” (3:21-5:21). With this foundation Paul moves directly into a discussion of the freedom that comes from being saved – freedom from the power of sin (6:1-23), freedom from the domination of the law (7:1-25), freedom to become like Christ and discover God’s limitless love (8:1-39).
Speaking directly to his Jewish brothers and sisters, Paul shares his concern for them and explains how they fit into God’s plan (9:1-11:12). God has made the way for Jews and Gentiles to be united in the Body of Christ – both groups can praise God for His wisdom and love (11:13-36).
Paul explains what it means to live in complete submission to Christ – using spiritual gifts to serve others (12:3-8), genuinely loving others (12:9-21), and being good citizens (13:1-14). Freedom must be guided by love as we build each other up in the faith, being sensitive and helpful to those who are weak (14:1-15: 4). Paul stresses unity, especially between Gentiles and Jews (15:5-13). He concludes by reviewing his reasons for writing, outlining his personal plans (15:22-33), greeting his friends, and giving a few final thoughts and greetings from his traveling companions (16:1-27).
The Layout of Romans
What to Believe:
This is concentrated in (1:1-11:36) … the sinfulness of mankind, the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, freedom from sin’s grasp, and Israel’s past, present, and future. Paul clearly sets forth the foundations of the Christian faith. All people are sinful; Christ died to forgive sin; we are made right with God through faith; this begins a new life with a new relationship with God. We are greatly aided in our faith by keeping close to these foundations. If the book of Romans is studied carefully, we will never be at a loss to know what to believe.
How to Behave:
This is concentrated in (12:1-16:27) … personal responsibility, and personal notes. Paul gives clear practical guidelines for the believers in Rome (and for believers everywhere to this day). The Christian life is not abstract theology unconnected with life, but it has practical implications that will affect how we choose to behave each day. It is not enough merely to know the Gospel; we must let it transform our lives and let God impact every aspect of our lives.
Themes: Explanation and Importance
Sin means refusing to do God’s will and failing to do all that God wants. Since Adam’s rebellion against God, our nature is to disobey Him. Our sin cuts us off from God. Sin causes us to want to live our own way rather than God’s way. Because God is morally perfect, just, and fair, He is right to condemn sin.
Each person has sinned, either by rebelling against God or by ignoring His will. No matter what our background or how hard we try to live good and moral lives, we cannot earn salvation or remove our sin. Only Christ can save us.
Our sin points out our need to be forgiven and cleansed. Although we don’t deserve it, God, in His kindness, reached out to love and forgive us. He provides the way for us to be saved. Christ’s death paid the penalty for our sin.
It is good news that God saves us from our sin. But we must believe in Jesus Christ and believe that He forgave our sin in order to enter into a wonderful new relationship with God.
By God’s power, believers are sanctified – made holy. This means we are set apart from sin, enabled to obey and become more like Christ. When we are growing in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit frees us from the demands of the law and from fear of judgment.
Because we are free from sin’s control, the law’s demands, and fear of God’s punishment, we can grow in our relationship with Christ. By trusting in the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to help us, we can overcome sin and temptation.
God oversees and cares about His people – past, present, and future. God’s ways of dealing with people are always fair. Because God is in charge of all creation, He can save whomever He wills.
Because of God’s mercy, both Jews and Gentiles can be saved. We all must respond to His mercy and accept His gracious offer of forgiveness. Because He is sovereign, let Him reign in your heart.
When our purpose is to give credit to God for His love, power, and perfection in all we do, we can serve Him properly. Serving Him unifies all believers and enables them to show love and sensitivity to others.
None of us can be fully Christ-like by ourselves – it takes the entire Body of Christ to fully express Christ. By actively and vigorously building up other believers, Christians can be a symphony of service to God.
A Closer Look… Ro. 1:1-16
Paul declares that the Old Testament anticipated the incarnation of Jesus Christ:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ro. 1:1-4)
Some of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus Christ are:
The Lord said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all people on earth will be blessed through you.” (Ge. 1:1-3)
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. (Ps. 16:9-10)
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come – it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” (Ps. 40:6-10)
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone. (Ps. 118:22)
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with His eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Isa. 11:1-5)
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him as a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away, and who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isa. 53:1-12)
Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. (Zec. 9:9-11)
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zec. 12:10)
“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Mal. 4:1-6)
Paul shows that the resurrection demonstrated Jesus’ deity:
and through who the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ro. 1:4)
and that a person’s regeneration (rebirth to a new life in Jesus Christ) cannot be separated from that person’s witness to Jesus Christ:
Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. (Ro. 1:5-6)
and also by:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Ro. 1:8)
Paul declares that justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is God’s “new way” of dealing with humankind:
For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Ro. 1:17)
What is it that angers God about humankind?
1) Our refusal to recognize and acknowledge Him as God:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Ro. 1:18-19)
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Ro. 1:21-23)
2) Our failure to see Him in creation:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Ro. 1:20)
3) Our rampant evil:
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Ro. 3:9-10)
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Ro. 3:23-24)
There is an extreme danger in one’s heart being so hardened that it cannot accept the free gift of grace that comes by God through faith in Jesus Christ who died for all of man’s sins; God will not be mocked:
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. (Heb. 6:4-6)
The Jews are the Chosen People of God.
What advantage then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Ro. 3:1-2)
Entrusted with the Word of God:
Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Ex. 19:3-6)
And God spoke all these words … The Ten Commandments:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lordyour God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not give false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Ex. 20:1-17)
And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today? (Dt. 4:8)
The race through whom the Messiah came to earth:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with His eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. the infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. (Isa. 11:1-10)
A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father or Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Ahbijah the father of Asa, Asa the father of Jehosophat, Jehosophat the father of Jehoram, Jehoram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, Amon the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jeconiah and his brothers at the time of the exile to Babylon. After the exile to Babylon: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ. (Mt. 1:1-17)
They were the beneficiaries of covenants with God Himself:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers. ” Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to youand your descendants after you, and I will be their God.” Then God said to Abraham, “as for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come, every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner – those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Ge. 17:1-17)
The Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Ex. 19:3-6)
These privileges identify the Jews as the Chosen People of God, and they are to be honored for having been so selected. However, as Paul invites our attention to, these same privileges do not make the Jews better before God than anyone else:
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Ro. 3:9-10)
A Closer Look… Ro. 3:21-4:25
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forebearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. (Ro. 3:21-31)
Righteousness is a concept used in various ways throughout the Bible. It refers to: 1) God’s character (Jn. 17:25), 2) to the gift that is given to everyone that receives Christ, and 3) to standards of right living (Ro. 6:18, 2 Ti. 2:22). The Old Testament Scriptures testify to God’s righteousness in places like Ge. 15:6, Ps. 7:8-13, and Isa. 53:11. Ro. 3:21 links the concept of justification to God’s righteous servant Jesus Christ.
The entire human race is associated with Adam’s sin. When it is said that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, this is in the present tense, indicating that this is a continuing action. Sin is defined in 1 Jn. 3:4 as lawlessness, and in Ro. 3:23 as a lack of conformity to the glory of God. These are certainly complementary ideas, since the law of God is an expression of His character.
With regard to the concept of justification, to justify in Biblical times was a legal term meaning to secure a favorable verdict, to acquit, to vindicate, to declare righteous (Dt. 25:1). To be justified freely means that the justification is a free gift, “without [any] reason” to be found in us, which is the same word as in Jn. 15:25. To be justified freely by his grace means it is by the unmerited favor of God. Grace given to us is an act of God alone (Ro. 8:33), who takes the initiative and provides the means through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. The sinner who believes in Christ receives God’s gift of righteousness (Ro. 5:17), which then enables God to pronounce him righteous. For more insight regarding redemption, see Eph. 1:7).
Regarding the sacrifice of atonement, or propitiation, this may mean the “place of atonement”; i.e., the Mercy Seat (Heb. 9:5). Christ is pictured as the Mercy Seat where God’s holy demands were satisfied (Lev. 16:14). The concept of faith in his blood means that faith in the death of Christ redeems us, places us in Christ, gives us the gift of righteousness (Ro. 5:17), thus enabling God to truthfully declare us righteous, because we are in Him. With regard to sins committed beforehand, the death of Christ also paid fully for those sins committed before He died.
With regard to being just, and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus, this means because of the death of Christ, God can remain just when declaring righteous the one who believes in Jesus and who is thus forgiven of his sins and made righteous in Christ (2 Co. 5:21).
When Christians uphold the law, it is understood that this means it is recognized that the law makes men conscious of sin: this is confirmed by everyone who acknowledges sin and turns to Christ in faith.
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Ro. 4:9-12)
Abraham’s acceptance by God on the basis of faith preceded his circumcision (as proof, the text of Ge. 15 comes before the text of Ge. 17); however, circumcision served as God’s seal to Abraham that he was indeed righteous. In the final verse of the above passage, Paul makes it clear that circumcision alone cannot save – only faith can save.
Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. (Ro. 4:16-17)
Paul tells us that the promise of salvation comes only by faith in God, and in His plan, so that it applies to everyone who believes as Abraham did, regardless of whether or not the believer is from the ancestral lineage of Abraham. Paul makes it clear to us that if anyone holds the faith that Abraham held, that person is among the ones whom Abraham is the father of; the promise made to Abraham is also made to the person who believes in faith as Abraham did. What a powerful testament this is: by our faith in God, He includes us in the promise made to Abraham, so that we might share in the glory of being God’s chosen people!
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righeousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Ro. 4:20-25)
Everyone needs to understand from what Paul wrote that justification is a free gift of grace from God, that circumcision does not justify (since Abraham was justifed before he was circumcised), and that the law does not justify (since Abraham lived centuries before the law was given). Saving faith is faith in the God who is the giver of miraculous life, such as that demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead as the first fruits of the dead. It must be believed that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was for our justification; it was proof that God accepted His Son’s sacrifice that was made for our redemption from our sin, and for our ultimate salvation.
A Closer Look… Ro. 5:1-6:23
The twin themes in these chapters are “sin and death” and “life and holiness”. In reading the chapters, you will readily see the parallels drawn between Adam (“sin and death”) and Jesus Christ (“life and holiness”)… they are the principal actors in the drama, and the consequences of what each one did are discussed. We who came after the time of Adam did not have any choice either as to what Adam did, or to the consequences upon us, but it is made apparent that we are being invited by a loving and merciful God to take advantage of what Jesus Christ did on our behalf when He willingly submitted Himself to death on the cross… we are offered reconciliation to our God through the only means by which it could have come: the perfect sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins, acceptable to God, made by His Son.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Ro. 5:1-2)
Notice that justification by faith is not a dry, abstract concept… it is mentioned that we have peace with God. Our having peace with God is a concept to be pondered seriously, because God cannot, by the nature of His absolute perfection, tolerate sin. The enormity of humankind’s rebellion against God, manifested in the disobedience of Adam, represents such a complete degree of corruption that we cannot make ourselves right before God through any actions of our own. Jesus Christ was the only sacrifice that was acceptable to God to make us right before Him; to allow God to forgive us for our rebellion against Him. Paul points out that all we can do is have faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished: we can do nothing on our own to earn any favor with God. As a result of our faith in Jesus Christ, we are given God’s grace, which is His favor, which is unmerited; unearned by ourselves, it was earned for us by Jesus Christ through His death on the cross when He was made one with our sins. Witness the words of Paul with regard to the depth of the love of God for us:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Ro. 5:8)
So profound is the love of God for us, as proven by the death of God’s own Son for us, because in us there is nothing that evokes this love!
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Ro. 5:9)
Paul proves here that the death of Jesus Christ was sacrificial: when Christ chose to die for us, in that death He turned the just, awful wrath of His Father against sin away from us. In His death, Jesus Christ took the penalty for our sins onto His blameless Self… He was made one with all of our sin, and He was temporarily separated from His Father in doing so for our sake.
Paul speaks of Adam and of Jesus Christ, and speaks further to the scope and meaning of the differences between what Adam did (the “trespass”) and what Jesus Christ did (the “gift”):
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Ro. 5:12-17)
Paul stresses that what Jesus Christ accomplished far exceeded what Adam accomplished, even given the catastrophic nature of what Adam did, which was to bring sin and death into the world for all men. After the Fall, sin came into the world, but what Jesus Christ accomplished was to offer reconcilation to His Father for us, even after the commission of sin upon sin: a condition of humankind that has persisted from the Fall to this day. So great is the grace that comes through Jesus Christ that no sin, or amount of sin, can overwhelm it’s effect on anyone who has faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who by His obedience and death overcame both sin and death.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (Ro. 5:18-19)
The high point of Chapter 5… through the faithful obedience and sacrificial death of His Son Jesus Christ, God has made it possible for sinful men to be made right before Him.To help us to understand how truly sinful we are, the Law was given to Moses:
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. (Ro. 5:20)
The Law documented specific transgressions, and defined the nature of sin. In effect, what the Law accomplished was to reveal our sins, and awaken within us the realization that faith in Jesus Christ as having paid the penalty for them is necessary for salvation, because the Law cannot be observed with perfection: this is impossible due to our sinful nature. If we cannot observe the Law with perfection, and we do not have faith in Jesus Christ as having already paid the penalty for that failure, we have no other alternative but to stand convicted before God.
In the same (extended) passage, Paul goes on to say something curious:
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might rein through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ro. 5:20-21)
This almost leads the reader to believe that in order to increase grace from God, it is good to sin more! Paul recognizes this, and refutes it:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Ro. 6:1-4)
One of the points Paul makes here is that grace cannot be exploited for evil purposes. A central point is that we have died to sin: because of our union with Christ we are dead to sin and are alive to God (v. 11). Our new moral life is based on (1) our union with Christ (vv. 1-14), (2) our being slaves to righteousness (vv. 15-23), and (3) the new marriage union we have with Christ (7:1-6). What baptism into the death of Jesus Christ accomplishes for the believer is to join him to Christ, separating him from his old life, and associating him with the new life. The believer is no longer “in Adam”, but is now “in Christ”: water baptism symbolizes this truth.
Paul talks about the “old self” vs. the “new self”:
If we have been united with him like this in his death,we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Ro. 6:5-10)
The “old self” is all that a person was before salvation; the presence of Christ in the life of the believer has created the “new self”. The new self is separated from the power of sin, but the continuing presence of sin demands that we do our best, with the power of Christ, to lay sin aside:
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:22-24)
Paul shows us the benefits of the new self, and exhorts us to understand the gift that we have been given:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Ro. 6:11-14)
Here Paul makes an important point, centered around the concept of slavery: we are no longer slaves to the power of sin, but are now slaves to righteousness. The concept of slavery may be repugnant to some, but the predication is thoroughly Biblical, as Paul explains:
Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Ro. 6:16-18)
This is one of the high points of Romans: How is it better for us, when we are in sin, to have sin as our master, which demands shameful living, and repays us with eternal death? Many people believe that a life without God enables us to do whatever we wish, and this makes us free. There is nothing that can be further from the truth. In Jesus Christ we are offered freedom: freedom which not only allows us to live without shame and deceit, doing that with our time and talents that is pleasing to God, but which rewards us with eternal life. Another way to put this is that “perfection is the goal, and progress is the standard”. Paul sums this up perfectly:
But now that you have been set free from sin and have becomes slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro. 6:22-23)
A Closer Look… Ro. 7:1-8:21
Paul uses three major illustrations to make his points:1) In 7:1-6, he uses the example of a marriage bond, and its binding nature.2) In 7:7-25, he uses the examples of the Law and of sin, and their effect upon us in terms of a war that rages within us against the good that we desire to do.3) In 8:1-21 (especially 8:11), he uses the example of the power that Jesus Christ gives to our lives.
Expanding upon the example of the marriage bond – that a woman is bound to her husband by the law only for so long as he should live, and then she is free from the constraints of the law without being subject to its penalties should she re-marry; i.e., she would not be an adulteress – Paul draws the same analogy with respect to our being bound by the Law, but having freedom through Jesus Christ:
So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. (Ro. 7:4-6)
What Paul means here is that one who has died with Christ (a believer baptized; sharing in the death of Christ) is released from the bondage of the law, hence also from bondage to sin, and is therefore free to experience the abundance of life in Christ. However, while Paul says that we have freedom from the bondage of the law, he in no way calls the law sinful:
What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. (Ro. 7:7-12)
What Paul says in the above passages is that what the law does is to bring into the open the power of sin… we realize for ourselves that we are sinners, and worthy only of death. The law convicts us unerringly in this regard, and Paul says that sin, through the devious ways of the Evil One, uses the law at every turn to condemn us because we know that as slaves to the sinful nature, we cannot keep the law: we are powerless to keep it, but we are convicted by it, and the sentence is death. Paul praises the law as inherently good: it is we who cannot keep the law. Paul states succinctly what the law does:
But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (Ro. 7:13)
Humankind is prone to whitewash the severity of sin, and the penalty for it as it is regarded by God. We had to be shown plainly the evil that is within us… hence the law, which does not whitewash anything. However, the standard of the law is so high that keeping it is impossible because we are slaves to the sinful nature.This is a conundrum: Paul recognizes that the law, if only it could be kept faithfully, would please God, but he also recognizes that since the law cannot be kept because of the sinful nature of man, the eventual (and only possible) outcome is death. Paul agonizes over this:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mindand making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Ro. 7:15-25)
Talk about a raging war! However, the war is won, the victory assured, as Paul goes on to say:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Ro. 8:1-4)
The conundrum is resolved by God, who sent his Son Jesus Christ to do for us what we could not do: obey the law in all its righteousness. Jesus was the one and the perfect sin offering, and hence was the end and the fulfillment of the law. Therefore, our obedience to the law is replaced by our living lives in accordance with the desires of the Spirit:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Ro. 8:5-8)
Obedience to the desires of the Spirit replaces obedience to the points of the law that we can never fulfill, but also fulfills the righteous requirements of the law in God’s eyes: this is what Jesus Christ accomplished when He took our sins and the penalty for them onto His blameless self.
Paul goes on to speak of the awesome power of God:
You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the deadwill also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Ro. 8:9-11)
Paul shows us just how much God has done for those led by the Spirit:
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Ro. 8:13-17)
What more can a loving God do for us? God has already given His only begotten Son to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins; on top of that He has also conferred upon us the Spirit of Sonship that has made us His heirs, equal in that respect with Jesus Christ Himself! He has given us the ability and the privilege to call Him Father, and the Spirit of God confirms for us that we are His children, beloved by Him.
Paul states the hope of Christians everywhere:
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Ro. 8:18-21)
Not only believers, but all of Creation itself, which fell with Adam, will be freed from decay and renewed in all its splendor when God and His Son Jesus Christ are revealed.
A Closer Look… Ro. 8:22-8:39
Paul uses the analogy of pregnancy to illustrate just how much all of God’s creation is longing for what God has promised:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Ro. 8:22-23)
In using the pregnancy analogy, we can relate it to: 1) the continuing development of holiness in our lives, 2) a look back at the long chain of historical events that finally led to the events that occurred at Calvary, and 3) the painful joy that we suffer in waiting for God’s eventual, complete triumph over sin and death.
Paul reveals a great truth regarding prayer in one of the high points of Romans:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Ro. 8:26-27)
The central lesson to be learned from this passage is – that the Holy Spirit inspires the prayers of the Christian. It is one of the greatest comforts that Christians can have, knowing that the Holy Spirit helps us to pray in the manner that we should – it pleases God when we turn to Him in prayer; He will not abandon us if we do not know what to ask for, or how to ask for it. Paul preferred to state simply what the Holy Spirit does for the one who turns to God in prayer, rather than emphsize the more traditional Wisdom themes that dictated necessary conditions for prayer:
“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 1:5-8)
“If you will return, O Israel, return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.” (Jer. 4:1-2)
and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (1 Jn. 3:22)
This is the confidence that we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 Jn. 5:14-15)
The Spirit of Christ is guaranteed within the Christian, enabling him to pray as a son to his father, as illustrated by verses 8:15 and 8:26-27, and also by the following:
Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. (Gal. 4:6)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen. (Gal. 6:18)
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. (Jude 20)
Consider how powerful prayer to God is because Jesus Christ Himself intercedes for us:
Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Ro. 8:34)
Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede through them. (Heb. 7:25)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 Jn 2:1)
Because of the intercession of Jesus Christ for us before the Father, the Father’s response to us is generous:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Eph. 3:10-12)
Because we call on the Name of Jesus Christ in prayer, we are Christians:
To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father. (Col. 1:2)
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call upon him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Ro. 10:9-13)
Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Ti. 2:22)
And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name. (Ac. 9:14)
All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” (Ac. 9:21)
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. (Ac. 22:16)
Paul speaks with authority regarding how God works for the good of those who love Him:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. (Ro. 8:28-30)
It is important to understand that God does this work for those who genuinely love Him. That is the choice we have: whether or not to embrace God and love Him with all of our heart. If we do that, all of our efforts are directed by God to the glory of His elect. It was for this glory that those who love God were called to the faith, and who were freely justified by the grace that came through Jesus Christ. The elect of God are already “clothed”, which means that they are conformed to Jesus Christ: this is the destiny of the elect. God is pleased to hear the prayers of those who have been drawn to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is within them because of their acceptance of the grace that came through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
The one who loves God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit can live exultantly. In another high point of Romans, Paul is overjoyed:
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (Ro. 8:31-33)
God our Father has declared us righteous, and so we will not be condemned. Not only that: God has held nothing back… His only Son Jesus Christ died, rose, and lives always for us, interceding at the right hand of His Father, so neither will He condemn us. Is this not enough to show us the depth to which our God loves us, and that His gifts are both pure and endless? Read the words of Paul as he shows us the infinite love of God as expressed through the hope of the world, His Son Jesus Christ, from which we can never be separated:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro. 8:35-39)
Never doubt the extent of the love of God for you, as He has expressed it through the willing death of His Son Jesus Christ on the cross for our sake. If you accept the free gift of grace that God offers (accepting this grace is a human act), we are chosen by God (we become His sons, and co-heirs of the promise with Christ) because we have not only honored His Son Jesus Christ, but God Himself who sent Him. In the gift of grace that we receive, we are assured that as God controls all things, so there is no power great enough that can separate us from God.
A Closer Look… Ro. 9
Some accuse God of being arbitrary and capricious, and some of them may point to Romans 9 to make that point. For those who have heard time and again that the Jews are the Chosen People of God, the opening words of Romans 9 seem to indicate that Paul is in agony because of that:
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ who is God over all, forever and praised! Amen. (Ro. 9:1-5)
Despite what Israel has done in rejecting the Gospel, God remains God… and Paul speaks to His sovereignty:
It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring. For this is how the promise was stated: “At the appointed time I will return, and Sarah will have a son.” Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Ro. 9:6-13)
Paul makes it clear that God makes it clear that not all physical Israelites are spiritual Israelites. It is the ‘children of the promise’ who are the children of Abraham, who will inherit all of the privileges and promises of the covenants made with the patriarchs. As certain as it was that the covenants were made by God, it is as certain that they will be fulfilled, but only to the children of the promise that God has shown mercy to. The proof of God’s sovereign selection is that He chose Isaac, not Ishmael, and Jacob, not Esau… God in His perfection has made the choice, and it is not to be questioned.
Indeed, some will call this arbitrary, capricious, and even cruel of God. This is, however, an opinion held without a valid basis. Paul goes on to say:
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Ro. 9:14-15)
If this sounds arbitrary, capricious, and cruel, understand that God in His perfection does this: His mercy cannot be shown to one person as opposed to another as the result of a mistake or a selfish causation; God cannot act in that manner. If God was not free in this way to show His mercy, no one would be blessed by it, and no one would be saved because of it, for no one deserves His grace, and it cannot be earned.
Paul explains that everything depends on God’s mercy:
It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharoah: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. (Ro. 9:16-18)
There are those who will contend that this leads to fatalism… God can do, and does, what He wishes: who can stand in the way? Why should God blame us? Paul goes on to say why:
One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Ro. 9:19-21)
The conclusion that mankind draws – that God blames us… who, after all, is resisting Him? – is preposterous. God is perfection, and has the right – by that perfection – to do with the material that lies ready to His hand as He sees fit to serve His purpose.
Paul explains further regarding the objects of God’s wrath and God’s mercy, using ‘what if’ scenarios:
What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (Ro. 9:22-24)
Note that Paul says that God can decide to bear with the uttermost patience those who have been prepared for destruction, so that His wrath and power might be revealed… for those who have been prepared for destruction, but not yet doomed to destruction. There is still a choice: those who have been prepared for destruction are ripe for destruction because of their own actions of rejecting the truth; they still have the option of turning away from their sin, and through it all, God bears their actions with patience! The same reaction is true for those to whom God shows His mercy and reveals the riches of His glory: He shows His mercy, and reveals His glory, to Jews and Gentiles alike who possess a genuine love for Him… and He delights in this.
Paul points backward into the Old Testament Scripture, paraphrasing both Hosea and Isaiah, as he recounts their prophecies regarding the turning of God to the Gentiles, and what will become of those Israelites who do not turn to God in faith through His Son Jesus Christ:
As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” (Ro. 9:25-26)
Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.” (Ro. 9:27-28)
It is just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah.” (Ro. 9:29)
In another high point of Romans, Paul explains with surgical precision what has happened to Israel:
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Ro. 9:30-33)
By the prophecy of Isaiah in chapter 8 verse 14, Israel is shown what has caused it to fail to attain righteousness. The stumbling stone is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who willingly gave His life on the cross so that humankind, in the belief of Him and of the One who sent Him, by having faith in Him as opposed to the Law, might be saved from destruction.
A Closer Look… Ro. 10
Paul has a great desire for the Israelites:
Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law, so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Ro. 10:1-4)
Paul makes it clear that the Law is terminated with, and because of, Jesus Christ. The Law could not provide righteousness based on merit, because sinful men could not keep the Law in its entirety, but Jesus Christ can provide righteousness based on God’s grace in response to faith. Paul sounds another high point of Romans, the central and core concept of faith in Jesus Christ and the righteousness that comes from God through Him:
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Ro. 10:9-13)
Anyone who confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord affirms His deity; “Lord” (or Yahweh) is the Old Testament name for God, thus tying together people from all ages who use the term. It is a simple and bold concept: in one’s belief in Jesus Christ as Lord, one is saved… it is not complex, it requires no twisted explanations or interpretations, it only requires faith in the One who willingly offered Himself for our sake, taking the just and awful wrath of God against our sins onto His blameless Self so that we might be redeemed before God.
Paul takes Israel to task over belief in the Good News:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Ro. 10:14-15)
But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Ro. 10:16-17)
Paul asks the question: wasn’t the message heard by the Israelites? Not only does he proclaim in Romans that the message was indeed heard, there are also multiple Scriptural references to that fact:
But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did: “Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.” Witness the Scriptural proof of this from Colossians and 1 Thessalonians :
The faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. (Col. 1:5-6)
The Lord’s message rang out to you not only in Macedonia and Achaia – your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anyhting about it. (1 Th:8)
Paul continues in this vein, and quotes both Moses (Dt. 32:21) and Isaiah (Isa. 65:1, Isa. 65:2):
Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says, “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” and Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” (Ro. 10:19-21)
Paul helps us to understand that even though God’s election of His people is of His own free choice and is not based on any human merit whatsoever, the elect (both Jew and Gentile) are not saved without believing the message that is preached by those who are sent:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isa. 52:7)
A Closer Look… Ro. 11
Paul discusses Israel’s future, its salvation, and its rejection by God, although that rejection is partial. Although Paul does not say so in an absolute economy of words, the Gentiles can be grateful for the turning away of Israel from God, for the transgressions of the Israelites have brought the Good News to them. Paul begins:
I ask then: did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah – how he appealed to God against Israel: “Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me”? And what was God’s answer to him? “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see, and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” (Ro. 11:1-10)
But there is a purpose for what happened: the extension of God’s saving grace to the Gentiles:
Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the part of the dough offered as first-fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. (Ro. 11:16)
Israel rejected Jesus Christ, and therefore lost her favored position before God. In so doing, the Good News was preached also to the Gentiles. Looking forward to vv. 26-27, Paul offers proof that the casting off of Israel by God is only temporary: when the Lord returns, the Jews will be regathered, judged, restored to favor, and redeemed… this will be for the Jews, as the previous verse says, life from the dead.
Paul admonishes the Gentiles for undue pride, however, in being co-heirs in the promises made to the patriarchs of the Jews, reminding them of what Israel has accomplished, and still is accomplishing, for them, and gives a stern warning:
If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. (Ro. 11:17-21)
The Jews are the seed that gave birth to Christianity: the Jews are the natural root that supports the Gentiles that have been grafted into the Body of Christ as branches; therefore they are to be revered, and the Gentiles must understand that God will punish not only those who are unfaithful, but also those who are prideful.
Paul speaks of the duration of the hardening that has partially affected Israel:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Ro. 11:25-29)
Israel’s hardening toward God serves a noble purpose: the Gentiles are coming to God because of the Good News preached to them, but because God has spoken to the patriarchs of the Jews, and called the Jews to be His holy people, the promises made cannot be broken, and so all of Israel will be saved.
In the closing of his arguments, Paul explains that “turn-about is fair play”:
Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. (Ro. 11:28-32)
In this vein (disobedience), all men are equal before God, and require His mercy. Paul enjoins Jew and Gentile alike to receive, together, mercy from God.
Paul finishes the chapter by waxing eloquent concerning the God he serves:
Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Ro. 11:33-36)
A Closer Look… Ro. 12
In the previous chapters of Romans, Paul has spoken volumes regarding the righteousness that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 12, Paul speaks to how this righteousness should be applied; the concept of it as it applies to ourselves and to others:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Ro. 12:1-2)
What Paul has in mind here is not only to live apart from the evil that is in the world, but a pattern of continual “process improvement”: the more that we live in accordance with the righteousness that has come to us through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the better able we are to ascertain with 100% accuracy what the will of God for us is in every aspect of our lives. This, like most things, cannot be done properly without training – the training that we undergo is to live according to the righteousness that we have been given. Moreover, we need to do this in a spiritual sense – not ritualistically, but in a way that, through love for God and service to His people, reflects how we have been, and are continuing to be, transformed by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to speak about working for God according to the measure of faith that has been given to each person (do not be surprised by this: YES… you do have a measure of faith that has been given to you!):
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Ro. 12:3-8)
Note that Paul makes room for all people: the gifts of God vary as widely as the people that He created. Also note that Paul echoes what the gift is, and how it should be used: do only that which you have been given by God: do not add to it or subtract from it; what God has given is in all ways sufficient for service to Him and to His people.
Paul gives an admirable summation of exercising the gifts of God in relation to the society of which we find ourselves a part; it is another high point of Romans:
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Ro. 12:9-21)
It is important to bless those who persecute you; if you do this, you are not only giving good for evil, but you are doing what Jesus Christ commanded (“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Lk. 6:2-28), and you are being conformed to Christ. When you do this, you are working for the Lord with untiring effort and great earnestness of spirit.
Also, the reason why we should not seek revenge is very important to understand: in addition to not seeing the beauty in someone that may be masked by emotion and passing anger, our judgment is not perfect. Due not only to prejudice, but to facts that we may not be aware of, we may judge incorrectly. Only when God is the judge does the punishment truly fit the crime.
Finally, in dealing with enemies, if you do something good for your enemy, without doing anything to overtly embarrass him, or expose his faults and weaknesses, you have made his hatred of you of no account: you have taken away any foundation for his hatred by being of service to him. Your enemy will feel shame because his anger cannot be sustained!
Paul has precisely summarized how those who love Jesus Christ sincerely must live. We must be consumed with the desire for service to others; this is perfect and pleasing to God. Be joyful, be patient, be prayerful, share… what beautiful words, so simply stated! Your enemies can be disarmed by treating them with sincere love: they will be ashamed of what they have done against you. Paul challenges us to overcome evil with good: this is what Jesus Christ did; we are called upon to do no less.
A Closer Look… Ro. 13
Paul speaks about submission to governing authorities, and how this is right with God:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, then be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an angent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Ro. 13:1-5)
The mandate is clear and simple to understand: based on the exhortation for all men to live at peace with one another, the duty of the Christian is to support and obey the governing bodies that have been duly constituted (unless they are immoral). God has established the rule of law through civil authority to allow His people to live orderly lives.
Paul speaks to the “ultimate rule”:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Ro. 13:8-10)
If only everyone could pause to be aware of the simplicity of what Paul says in the preceding words! There would be no need for the millions of laws that men have created for themselves, the vast complexity of which still do not accomplish their intended purpose, if people would only love each other as Christ commanded! So central is this concept to what Christ taught, that He included it as one of only two things that He said the entire Law and the prophets hung on: to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Paul exhorts us to right behavior:
The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Ro. 13:11-14)
Christ is near; nearer than we think He is. The Day of the Lord is coming, and we who believe in Him must be sensitive to sin and its effect upon our lives; the One who loves us and gave His life for us is watching. We need to honor Him, and the One who sent Him, by thinking of ways to serve as Christ served, and by not being concerned with and chasing after the things of this world.
A Closer Look… Ro. 14
In our relationships with others who believe in Jesus Christ, it is important not to judge one another. Using an example of believers who eat all food items as distinguished from believers who do not eat all food items, Paul puts forth the basic principle:
The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? (Ro. 14:3-4)
Paul explains why:
He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. (Ro. 14:6-7)
Paul states that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected to life so that He would be the Lord of both the dead and the living. In this capacity, He alone is judge, and no one has the right to judge or condemn another, for we will all stand before Jesus Christ and be judged by Him. Paul says:
It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Ro. 14:11-12)
Paul says that it is important not to do things that causes the faith of other believers to weaken or fail:
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men. (Ro. 14:13-18)
In this passage, Paul asks us to act out of love for one another, as Christ did. We are to assist each other in the business of right living, using our standards to uplift each other, so that we remain strong in our faith in Jesus Christ.
A Closer Look… Ro. 15
Paul speaks to what we should do, why we should do it, and what we gain from it:
Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Ro. 15:3-4)
and then gives a beautiful benediction:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ro. 15:5-6)
Paul sums up everything he has to say in this:
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Ro. 15:7)
So great is the love of God for us that He gave His only Son to be the servant of all, not only to confirm the promises that were made to the Jews as God’s chosen people, but to extend His mercy to the Gentiles:
For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.” Again, it says: “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again: “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.” And again, Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.” (Ro. 15:8-12)
God’s love and salvation through His Son Jesus Christ is available to everyone who turns to God through faith in His Son. Because of this, we have hope, as Paul goes on to say in a blessing:
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Ro. 15:13)
The book of Romans is a powerful testimony to the sovereignty of God, and the love for us that He expressed through the gift of His only Son Jesus Christ to the world. All praise, honor, and glory be to God and to His Son our Lord Jesus Christ!