Romans 1:1-7 Preamble To A Magnum Opus.
In keeping with all of Paul’s letters, he immediately identifies himself, and the one thing he wants to emphasize here is that he is Christ’s bondservant. A bondservant was a slave to their master. However, since a covenant is “a bond in blood sovereignly administered” (O. Palmer Robertson, ‘Christ Of The Covenants’), this is a designation which also carries covenantal significance. There is a transition, of sorts, in this title. All saints are bondservants of Jesus Christ, but Paul is further called to the ministry of servitude to the office and work of an apostle, a sent one (Cf. Acts 9:15). To this mission he was set apart, “separated to the gospel of God.” (v. 1 Cf. Acts 13:2)
This gospel, this covenantal good news, did not just dawn with the coming of Christ. Paul will expend a great deal of time and energy in all his letters to demonstrate that this gospel goes back to the very beginnings of redemption. He himself escaped, by God’s grace and Jesus direct call, from a life of a Judaizer who had perverted the message of the law and the prophets, of the patriarchs of old (Cf. Acts 26:6). The gospel he was separated to was the same gospel that was promised through the “prophets in the holy scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” (vv. 2-3a Cf. Acts 9:20; Gal. 3:8) Jesus was the son of David-as the Messiah was promised to be, but this was according to the flesh only (Cf. Gal. 4:4).
From the very introduction Paul is hinting at the twofold nature in one person that is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not only man-“born of the seed of David according to the flesh,” he is also “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (vv. 3b-4) From these beginning verses, it is not hard to understand why this letter is considered to be Paul’s theological magnum opus. Frankly it is hard to know where to start and where to end with the theological truths packed in these beginning verses, and in this letter as a whole. Paul also is highlighting how Jesus ministry progressed while He was on earth.
One key point he makes right at the outset is that a denial of the resurrection is a denial of Christ’s deity. It is through the resurrection that Christ’s deity is declared. Furthermore, this declaration is a Trinitarian declaration-Christ by His teaching and resurrection, accompanied by the Spirit’s and Father’s witness (Cf. vv. 4, 7; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 13:26-41). To this was added the apostolic witness, including Paul, an apostleship which they received from the Lord (v. 5). None of the apostles, including Paul, grasped for the office themselves. Central also to this witness, and what surely makes the gospel good news, is that the promise is ultimately a promise of grace for, “through Him we have received grace.” (v. 5)
Furthermore, Paul also lays the groundwork of sanctification here, for it is grace “for obedience to the faith.” A call to be a saint is a call to sanctification (Cf. I Cor. 1:2-3). The gospel is also good news because, more so than the covenantal administrations of the past, the new covenant administration of the one covenant of grace pushed forward the promise to the nations like it never was before. The Gentiles are among those who have received grace for obedience to the faith for His name, and to this work among the Gentiles Paul was uniquely called (vv. 5-6 Cf. Acts 9:15; Eph. 3:8). All who are thus called are saints (v. 7a). Furthermore, there is no peace without grace (v. 7b Cf. I Cor. 1:3).
Romans 1:8-15 Thanksgiving, Prayer, And Fulfilling A Debt.
One doesn’t want to miss a basic principle here-it is important to first give thanks to God. “First, I thank my God.” Like Paul, we do this “through Jesus Christ.” (v. 1) So, the Christian is first of all thankful. With respect to his readers in Rome, Paul was thankful “to God through Jesus Christ,” because their faith was being spoken of throughout the known world. Through Christ, grace had been received, and Paul had received his apostleship, “for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.” (v. 5) So, we are thankful because the spread of the faith is as a result of God’s grace. However, God also uses means to accomplish His ends, in this case the prayers of Paul (v. 9). For this reason also Paul gave thanks, for God was answering his prayers. There was no contradiction for Paul in this-prayer only makes sense if God is in control-he knew that his prayers were dependent on God’s will (v. 10).
Paul’s longing to see his readers was because of his overall purpose-their spiritual growth in the faith. It was not enough that their faith was well known and spoken of, Paul wanted them to grow in that faith and be established in it (v. 11). Furthermore, he was also looking forward to seeing them that they might also encourage him (v. 12). He wanted them to know that any delay in coming to them was not of his making-for he had planned for some time to come to them. However, in God’s providence, and through several means, he was hindered from visiting them. His purpose remained-to encourage them to bear fruit (v. 13). It was not that they owed him a debt, but rather, he was a debtor to them and all men for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ His master (v. 14 Cf. v. 1). He owed the Lord a debt to preach the gospel which had been entrusted to him (v. 15).
Romans 1:16-17 The Gospel Of Justification By Faith.
‘Justification by faith’ is such a common phrase that it is a danger to think that it is faith which justifies. However, what justifies is the righteousness which God provides and which the sinner places their faith in. In the gospel, which is this justification, “the righteousness of God is revealed.” (v. 17) Paul was not ashamed of this gospel both because of the content, but also because it is consistent with the prophetic witness of the past (v. 16). The gospel is the very same message which was received by the saints of old (v. 17 Cf. Hab. 2:4; Rom. 3:21-22). The righteousness proclaimed is a Messianic righteousness which has come by promise.
In Psalm 40 the Messiah comes with a righteousness that is by way of sacrifice of a life lived according to God’s will (vv. 6-8). This is the good news of righteousness, not our own but the perfect righteousness of the promised Seed proclaimed in the great assembly, the lovingkindness and truth of the covenant relationship (vv. 9-10 Cf. Gen. 3:15). The writer to the Hebrews will also look to this promised One (10:5-7). It is by the sacrifice of Himself, that the perfect righteousness of His life becomes the grounds of justification for all who have faith in Him, and His life a model to follow (Cf. Mt. 26:39; Jn. 4:34; 6:38; Ps. 37:31; Jer. 31:33).
The gospel is the power of God (v. 16 Cf. I Cor. 1:18, 24). ‘Dunamis’ is the same word from which we get the English ‘dynamite’. As one will know with the progress of this letter, power like dynamite is what is required to take one from a lost state of sin to the new life that is in Christ. “It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (v. 16) God exercises His power, not merely because it is an expression of who He is, but for the purpose of the salvation of His people. It is not that those who believe activate this power by their faith or belief rather, it is God’s power which becomes evident in the faith of those who believe.
“For the Jew first and also for the Greek,” was the method employed and historically followed. We see this in the first historical record of the apostolic work under Peter (Acts 3:26), and as a method which Paul himself followed (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 17; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8). It was an approach which he even highlights elsewhere in this letter (Cf. 3:11-12; 9:4-5). It was also the approach taken by the Lord (Mk. 1:38-39; 7:24-30), and when he sent out the twelve it was first “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt. 10:6), even though He would later proclaim that He also had sheep in another fold (Jn. 4:39-42; 10:16).
It also was not confined to, nor did it end with the Greeks, but they represented the Greek speaking world of the Gentile nations, of which Rome was one such place (1:15). The Judaizers and the Greek philosophers both thought that Paul should be ashamed of himself for believing in such a message. However, for Paul it was foolish for the Judaizers to pervert the gospel into a religion of works, and for the Greeks to think that they’re so called wisdom and knowledge could save them. The Jews looked for a sign, and the Greeks looked for wisdom, but they failed to see in the gospel the true power and wisdom of God revealed (Cf. I Cor. 1:18-25).
Romans 1:18-23 The Truth Is Suppressed.
The gospel is not the only thing revealed. It is important to remember that knowledge of God, man, and how we might become reconciled is all by way of revelation. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” (v. 18) Revelation gives us the heavenly Divine perspective, and for this it was necessary that God reveal this truth. The truth is not come to by men within themselves confining themselves to this world and their life in it. Paul’s point is very clear-men have the knowledge of the truth as it is in God, but they “suppress that truth in unrighteousness.” Ethics and epistemology are inseparable, and this is contingent on man’s spiritual condition.
“All ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” shows that ethics is also inseparable from theology. Unrighteousness finds its roots in ungodliness. For this suppression of the truth in unrighteousness, God’s wrath is justly the response, a wrath which is also revealed. “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” (v. 19) This is the main point here-God has revealed the truth, which includes His wrath, so that humanity is without an excuse (v. 20). God has never been unknown (Cf. Jn. 1:9; Acts 14:14-17; 17:22-31), rather, the knowledge He has revealed has been suppressed in unrighteousness (Cf. II Th. 2:10). The knowledge of the truth has always been manifest in creation and the law (Cf. Ps. 19).
The knowledge of the truth is and always has been perspicuous, that is, clearly seen, “even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (v. 20) That which is clearly seen is that which is invisible, for these attributes of God are seen in His works. This is an important principle-knowledge is no less true by being revealed through outward visible acts. The whole of creation, including man, and the whole of providence, including God’s wrath, reveal His character and purposes. Again, human beings know God, the problem is they suppress this truth in unrighteousness, and the first order of business is ungodliness, the failure to give glory to God as God-the only maker and sustainer of all that is.
Closely connected with the refusal to give God the glory due Him alone, is the refusal to be thankful. These two things are inseparable-who God is and what He has done and continues to do. It would be one thing for men to suppress the truth of who is the sole creator and sustainer of all that is, it is another thing to refuse to be thankful for all He has done and continues to do as a faithful creator (v. 21). There is an irony with men in this condition, when they profess to be wise, because their so called wisdom reveals themselves to be fools (v. 22). Only a fool would suppress the truth. Here we find an equally important truth-all such suppression of the truth has no other recourse but idolatry-there is no neutrality (v. 23).
Humans are inescapably religious creatures. If people do not accept the truth they must resort to idolatry. Suppression of the truth is an act of idolatry. Epistemology is not a neutral activity or field of study. Epistemology is inseparable from theology and ethics. Epistemology (the study of knowledge) is a religious exercise. God is incorruptible, but this knowledge is corrupted by corruptible human beings, who fashion their epistemologies, anthropologies, and theologies after their own image (Cf. Jer. 10:14). Fallen humanity has become futile in their thinking to the core, because the truth has been exchanged for the lie, serving the creature rather than the creator, with glory and thanksgiving (vv. 21-22).
Romans 1:24-32 The Heart, Conscience, And Behaviour Of Fallen Humanity.
‘The lie’ is idolatry-the exchanging of the truth of God, which He has sovereignly revealed, for what is not. The non-Christian is an idolater who worships the creature rather than the Creator (v. 25 Cf. I Th. 1:9). Furthermore, their theology and their ethics are inseparable-God having given them up to uncleanness (v. 24). God, the Creator, is blessed forever. Fallen humanity is cursed. There is no neutral ground. Homosexuality is evidence of this curse (vv. 26-27 Cf. Lev. 18:22). This all stems from the refusal to “retain God in their knowledge.” (v. 28) Notice, it is not in their inability to acquire this knowledge. They already have the knowledge-they simply refuse to retain it. The list of sins and vices is immense (vv. 29-31).
Not only do they have the knowledge of God, they also have the truth in all things, including morality and ethics, which is inseparable from their theology of idolatry. They also know the righteous judgment of God against both their theology and their practice. Fallen man has a conscience, but in seeking to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, they sear their consciences to God’s judgment (Cf. Jn. 8:9; I Tim. 4:2). People actually know, deep in the core of their beings-their hearts, that such beliefs and practices are deserving of death, yet they not only continue in them but approve of others to do the same (v. 32 Cf. Rom. 2:2; 6:21). A deceived and blind heart is humanity’s problem (Cf. Is. 44:20; Hos. 7:2; Eph. 4:18-19).
Romans 2 God’s Righteous Judgment Upon All, And The Human Heart.
The picture which Paul paints of humanity is grim indeed. Conscience testifies to all, that we fall short in the very same judgment we use of others (v. 1, 3 Cf. Mt. 7:1-5). Again, human beings have the revelation of the truth within and without, but this truth is suppressed in unrighteousness (1:18). “But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth.” (v. 2) God alone is the determiner of what is true-there is no standard which stands outside of Himself to which humanity could possibly turn to and sit in judgment on God. However, God in His “goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,” leads many to repentance, if they will acknowledge this judgment (v. 4 Cf. Eph. 1:7; 2:7-9).
Those who refuse to accept God’s “righteous judgment” and repent, are simply storing up wrath for the “day of wrath,” which is coming (vv. 5-6). The destiny for those who give continued evidence of being justified by faith (1:16-17), is eternal life. One should not forget the rest of the quote Paul makes from Psalm 62:12. “Also, to You, O LORD, belongs mercy” (Cf. Ex. 34:6; Is. 30:18). There is mercy with the covenant making and covenant keeping LORD. Working what is good is the fruit that must be evident for those who have truly been justified through the righteousness of God (v. 8), but the great divide is the human heart, and whether it remains impenitent (v. 5).
An impenitent heart is one which is self-seeking, and does not obey the truth, but instead obeys unrighteousness (v. 8). Tribulation and anguish awaits those who do evil (v. 9). No one will be able to say that they did not know the truth (1:18; 2:2 Cf. Pr. 24:12). Judgment will come to all men, but the great divide comes for “those who do not obey the gospel of God.” (I Pet. 4:17) On this, Peter and Paul are in clear agreement. As with the gospel, so with judgment, it is to the Jew and Gentile alike (v. 10). “For there is no partiality with God.” (v. 11) The judgment of God is not based on those who hear the law, but on a life lived (vv. 12-13).
Everyone, as Paul has stressed over and over again, has the truth, whether this truth is written down, as in the law, or it is the voice of conscience within (vv. 14-15). Paul has already made clear that justification comes by faith in the righteousness of God (Cf. 1:16-17), so this must be borne in mind when one looks at what Paul is saying here (Cf. 3:23-26). Paul is not contradicting himself here, suggesting that one can be justified by works, of a written law or conscience. What Paul is saying is, God’s judgment is based on actions and the state of the human heart, which shows itself in those actions, and his judgment is that all men are sinners.
Whether one hears or even teaches the law, the issue is whether one actually keeps the law, either the written code or one’s conscience, and on this point all are guilty of falling short (vv. 17-24). For this reason, even religious exercises and covenantal rites can become mere external formalities (vv. 25-26). One must not lose the point which Paul is making here about circumcision, and indeed of all external religious acts and rites. A physical act, even a religious rite, cannot override the condition of the heart, or the fruit in one’s life (vv. 27-28). The fact is, the outward physical act of circumcision was only ever intended to reflect what was to be the condition of the heart (v. 29 Cf. Dt. 30:6).
It is possible to have a form of godliness, but not the power (Cf. II Tim. 3:5). It is also possible to read or even speak or write, but not do (v. 21 Cf. Mt. 23:3). It is possible to receive many outward blessings, even those associated with the administration of the covenant of grace, but only by mere externals (Cf. 9:4; I Cor. 4:5; Phil. 3:3; I Pet. 3:4). If one thinks that keeping circumcision is enough, Paul spends a great deal of time to prove that looking upon it as a means of justification places one under the whole of the law, which no one can keep (Gal. 5:3). What matters is the creation of a new heart (Gal. 6:15).
Romans 3:1-20 God’s Word Is Justified.
So given what Paul has written concerning circumcision, and the issue of the external elements of the administration of the covenant of grace, it is natural to ask what are the benefits to such a special relationship (v. 1). To this end it is not surprising that the chief blessing which he notes is the committing to the covenant people “the oracles of God.” (v. 2) Simply having the word may not save a person, but it is certainly better to have this revelation of the will of the LORD, than it is not to have it. The fact that some did not believe does not nullify God’s faithfulness, which the giving of the oracles expresses (v. 3 Cf. Heb. 4:2). God remains true even if all men are liars (v. 4 Cf. Ps. 62:9; II Tim. 2:13). It is no coincidence that Paul quotes from Psalm 51 here. Rejection of God’s judgment is a self-condemning act. The acceptance of God’s judgment leads to justification by faith (v. 4). “He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true.” (Jn. 3:33)
The word is and always has been the first axiom of all thought and existence. The word is its own interpreter and justifier, for God is justified in His words. There is no judgment from humanity that can stand against it. This most fundamental truth has great philosophical and apologetical significance of course. There is no neutral ground of agreement in philosophy or apologetics. There is no so-called “evidence” in the world of humanity or nature which fallen humanity does not interpret apart from the truth which is found in the revelation of God. There will always be competing approaches to what is the truth, and what is the source of true knowledge. Those who would sit in judgment on the word are all liars, for God and His word will not be overcome when He is judged. Any word which sits in judgment on God’s word is by that very act posited as of greater authority, and a more sure standard of truth.
Therefore, scripture by its very nature, is it’s own interpreter-this is a basic axiom of Christian thought, apologetics, and hermeneutics. The imperfection of those who handle the word does not change the reality of what the word is in and of itself. The unrighteousness of men simply magnifies the righteousness of God. It also shows that epistemology (the study of knowledge) is inseparable from ethics. Humanity may construct many elaborate philosophical systems in opposition to the truth, but in the end it is an exercise of suppression of the truth they know through unrighteousness (1:18). It is easy to think that what Paul was referring to earlier was simply a certain lifestyle or acts, but philosophical constructs are acts, acts of construction built to oppose the testimony of the truth. Therefore God is not unjust in His wrath and judgment against this unrighteousness-for humanity is suppressing known truth (vv. 5-6 Cf. Gen. 18:25).
The lie of fallen humanity, which is that there is another god besides God, simply magnifies the truth (v. 7). Given what Paul has written concerning the fallen condition of humanity, and how justification is therefore only by faith in the righteousness of Christ, he evidently opened himself up to the charge of therefore justifying sin. It shows the fallen nature of the human imagination that the very idea of mercy and grace becomes the further occasion for some to go on sinning (v. 8 Cf. Rom. 5:20). Ironically for some this simply proves Paul’s point that God’s judgment is just for men condemn themselves. In seeking to justify themselves by condemning God’s judgment, they simply solidify their own condemnation (Cf. Job 40:40:8). The covenant people have always understood what a blessing it is to themselves and the world, to have both the oracles of God, and the very presence of the LORD Himself, in their midst (Cf. Dt. 4:5-8).
The unfaithfulness of those who simply enjoy the external benefits of this covenant relationship does not nullify the blessing of those who know the reality of it (v. 3 Cf. Heb. 4:2; II Tim. 2:13). The fact remains that both Jew and Gentiles “are all under sin.” (v. 9) Paul is not writing anything new here, he is simply affirming the testimony from the scriptures, and adding a second testimony to what he has just given (vv. 10-18 Cf. Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3 and v. 4 Cf. Ps. 51:4). This is a principle which Paul and all the new testament writers will follow, and in doing so will follow the Lord also-that at the mouth of two or three witness, truth matters of life and death are confirmed (Nu. 35:30; Dt. 17:6; 19:15; Mt. 18:16; Jn. 5:31-32; 8:17-18; II Cor. 13:1; I Tim. 5:19). “Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” (Heb. 10:28) This is also a basic hermeneutic for the church-to let scripture interpret and confirm scripture.
For reflections on Psalms 14 and 53 please see https://ministeriumverbidivini.com/2014/10/21/reflections-on-the-psalms-2/ The truth which Paul is conveying here rings throughout the scriptural testimony (Cf. Ps. 10:4; Eccl. 7:20). The words of fallen humanity as they stand on their own are but lies (vv. 13-14 Cf. Ps. 5:9-10; 10:7; 140:3). Actions also show the thoughts and fallen nature of humanity (v. 15 Cf. Pr. 1:16; Is. 59:7-8). This all stems from the fact that men choose not to fear God (v. 18 Cf. Ps. 36:1). For Paul, the whole world was subject to God’s law-not just the covenanted people, “that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may become guilty before God.” (v. 19) There is no justification by performance of deeds. One of the purposes of the law was to demonstrate this reality (v. 20 Cf. Gal. 2:16), and by law Paul also includes the poetic books and the prophets.
Romans 3:21-26 God’s Righteousness Through Faith.
“The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ,” is something that was promised in the Law and the prophets, and it is for all who believe (vv. 1-2). Old and new covenant, Jew and Gentile, all are saved the same way (Jn. 5:46; Acts 15:11; Col. 3:11, 22; I Pet. 1:10). This righteousness is “apart from the law,” in the sense that it is a righteousness that is based on faith or belief in the obedience of another, the righteousness of God in Christ. The gospel promise has now found full historical realization. Law and conscience convict all of sin (v. 23). The basis of justification is clear. “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (v. 24 Cf. 8:1, 33-34)
So justification cannot be earned or bought, it must come “freely by His grace,” for it is the righteousness of God and not our own, “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” So, not only can we not earn or purchase this justification, it must be redeemed for us. A propitiation is a satisfaction for the righteous wrath of a holy God against fallen human beings, which could only be met through the blood of Christ which is ours by faith (v. 25a Cf. Lev. 16:15; Acts 14:16; 17:30; Eph. 2:8-9; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:11-15). The saints of old looked ahead to this promise, as we look back (v. 25b). It was God’s forbearance that made the provision possible. This imputed righteousness is a gift (Cf. 5:17).
God is both just and “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” God is just because He did not overlook the need to appease His righteous wrath against sinful humanity. However, He is also able to be the justifier because Christ, in His active and passive obedience, that is, His life lived and sacrifice made, meet the demand for judgment. The efficacy of the sacrifice is precisely because it is based on the life of Christ lived in perfect obedience to God’s law-His was a truly spotless sacrifice and therefore only needed to be offered once for all. This is what the imperfect animal sacrifices continually pointed forward to (Cf. Heb. 10:1-4). This is why Paul will call the cross a demonstration of the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1:23-24).
Romans 3:27-31 Boasting Is Excluded-The Law Is Established.
Boasting is ‘exekleisthen’. Used also at Galatians 4:17 (‘ekklei’), this carries the idea of a door that boasting cannot enter-boasting is locked out of the room, out of the subject, out of the process entirely. The gospel, by its very nature, excludes boasting. The Judaizers wanted to shut out the Galatians if they did not submit to circumcision, (as well as the “days, months seasons, and years” 4:10) of the old covenant sacrificial and ceremonial system, in order to become Christians. However, the only exclusion that the Christian faith teaches, is the exclusion of boasting in self and humanity in relationship to God. Any suggestion that works of any kind done by the individual has any bearing on justification is a serious departure from the faith.
Paul also uses the word ‘nomou’ or ‘nomos’ in several different ways. It does not always refer to the ten commandments or the law of Moses etc. In this context, which is always a determinative factor, he is speaking of a regulative principle. So what is it that excludes boasting? Can it be works? Is it possible that one could perform works and these would somehow exclude boasting? No, the answer can only be by faith in another (v. 27). “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” (v. 28) This is important-this is not the beginning to some new philosophical/theological speculation that some might then modify and possibly add to-this was their conclusion.
On an issue that should be settled for the biblical historic reformed community, how can we ever accept that there can be, ‘Justification: Five Views’– Oct 18 2011 by James K. Beilby (Editor), Paul Rhodes Eddy (Editor), Steven E. Enderlein (Editor), for example. There is not five, four, three, or two views of justification, there is but one! Anything involving works in any way shape or form is not biblical justification, which is a declaration by God based on the imputed righteousness of Christ alone. When Paul then speaks of “the deeds of the law,” we can see that the context shows a change of reference, for a deed which he gives as his example, is circumcision (v. 29).
There were those who were making their boast in the law as though they were actually keeping it (2:17-24). God is the God of Jews and Gentiles, and it is not the moral or civil law which separates these two groups. There were laws unique to the ceremonial system with Israel under the old covenant that separated them from other people. There was a sense in which a gentile grafted in, as it were, had to become an Israelite to enter into the covenant community, but not so under the new covenant administration of the covenant of grace. All are justified by faith (v. 30). However, justification does not therefore make the law-the moral and civil code, void. Rather, just the opposite-the law is ‘established’.
It is only those who teach justification by faith that can argue that the law is established, because only Christ kept the law perfectly. Jesus, the Son of God, lived a life of perfect active obedience to all of the law, including the ceremonial, being circumcised as he was, and then suffered willingly through His “passive” acceptance of the cross, who then becomes the once for all sacrifice for sin. This obedience is the grounds for the fulfillment by supersession of the old covenant sacrificial system, and the basis for the Christians obedience to the law now written on the heart (Cf. Heb. 10:9 and 8:7ff.). Hebrews 10:9 is the only other occurrence of ‘histemi’ for ‘establish’ other than this verse and Romans 10:3.
At Romans 10:3 Paul contrasts this establishment of God’s righteousness, with those who were seeking to establish their own. It refers to the establishment of God’s righteousness in justification, of which Christ is the end (10:4). ‘histemi’ is also covenantal language. There was a covenantal relationship already in existence, based on mercy and grace, that the LORD ‘established’ with Noah (Gen. 6:18), that was further ‘established’ with Abraham (Gen. 17:7). “By works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Gal. 2:16) The promise comes to Jew and Gentile alike through the mediator that they looked ahead to (Gal. 3:30 (8)). Paul is about to launch into his long significant defence of justification by faith through Abraham to prove his point (4:1ff).
Romans 4:1-8 Abraham And David Blessed with Justification By Faith.
“Paul confirms his argument that justification is by grace through faith in Christ (3:22-25) by an appeal to the life of Abraham. As spiritual father of the Jews (v. 1), Abraham provides a test case for Paul’s doctrine. If he can show that Abraham was justified by faith, his earlier exposition becomes irrefutable in a Jewish context. Contrary to the view that Abraham was considered righteous and sustained in covenant with God on the basis of his obedience and faithfulness, Paul intends to demonstrate that the general statement in 3:27 is true of Abraham in particular. Abraham had nothing “to boast about,” for Gen. 15:6 proves that it was by faith, not by law-keeping, that he was counted righteous.” (NGSB, p. 1773 Cf. vv. 2-3)
So Abraham had nothing to boast about for the righteousness which he had was that which had been imputed or accounted to him by faith. For Paul this was completely an act of pure grace, for if Abraham or anyone can boast it means that justification is by works, and if by works it is no longer by grace or a matter of faith. Faith is not present where works are the grounds for justification. If it is by works then justification is not even required. If one works then God owes man a debt and it is God who has to justify Himself if he doesn’t pay up (v. 4 Cf. 11:6). The one they were looking to was Abraham who was called (Is. 51:2), and God is able to call others outside the Jewish community as well (Mt. 3:9).
It is not about wages earned, it is about faith in a righteousness imputed, an act of grace throughout. It is about God calling in grace to those who in faith receive the righteousness of another for their justification. As sons of Abraham they never considered themselves bound, but as free, but even Abraham himself acknowledged that he was bound by sin and thus had to look in faith to the promise of another (Cf. Gen. 15:6; Rom. 1:17; 3:20, 27; 4:9, 22; Jn. 8:33; Lk. 3:8; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23). God justifies the ungodly not the godly (v. 5 Cf. Josh. 24:2). So Paul also refers to David who wrote of the blessedness of this grace (vv. 6-8 Cf. Ps. 32:1-2). No one has ever been justified except by grace through faith in the promised Seed, the Christ (Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9).
Romans 4:9-25 Justified By Faith In The Covenantal Promise.
The blessedness of having one’s sins forgiven comes upon all-the circumcised and the uncircumcised (v. 17). The example of Abraham proves the point. Abraham actually received the sign of circumcision after he had faith in the promise. His was a righteousness not his own-a righteousness imputed by faith (vv. 9-12). The promise was that he would be heir of the world, a promise that came by faith (v. 13). If circumcision were a matter of fulfilling the law then the promise would not be a promise but rather an obligation to any who might fulfill it. But since none can, the promise would be null and void (vv. 14-15).
That some have faith in the promise is an evidence of grace (v. 16). In hope, Abraham believed the promise (v. 18). It was always a matter of faith (v. 19). Faith in the promise gives all the glory to God (v. 20). That faith, which is as a result of grace, in the promise given of the righteousness of another, is what was accounted to him (vv. 21-22). This is righteousness by imputation (v. 23). It is the same righteousness to all who will believe in the one “Who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (vv. 24-25 Cf. 8:11; Acts 2:22ff.; I Cor. 15:17; Is. 53:4-5)
The resurrection seals our justification. It is the Father’s declaration that the once and for all finished work of the Son has been accepted for His people. This is the centre and crux of Paul’s argument. This is the purpose of the death and resurrection of Christ. This is an ‘imputed’ righteousness-accounted to us of faith according to grace, making the promise sure (vv. 11, 16). It is a covenantal promise (Cf. Gen. 17:1-8; 22:15-18) Justification is a covenantal inheritance (Gal. 3:17-18). Therefore it is not by works (Rom. 3:20), rather it is redemption by grace (3:24), for all who believe (Gal. 3:22).
Romans 5:1-11 God Reconciled Us For Life.
So whenever we see a ‘therefore’, we ask what it is there for, and in this case it is Paul’s conclusion of the previous chapters-“having been justified by faith.” (v. 1) This is past tense. There is no future to this, least of all there is no future works of ours that are involved with justification-it is complete. Therefore, on the basis of this imputed righteousness “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 1) It is the righteousness of Christ. However, ‘therefore’ also looks forward, for through Christ we also “have access by faith into this grace.” (v. 2) So our Christian lives not only begin with faith and grace, but they also continue with faith and grace. Furthermore, it is by grace through faith that we stand secure-as saints we persevere steadfast to the end. By grace through faith we also “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (v. 2 Cf. I Cor. 15:1; Heb. 3:6)
However, we also glory in our tribulations, for it is these tribulations which the Lord in His sovereign will and purpose, uses to produce our perseverance, by grace through faith (vv. 3-4 Cf. Mt. 5:11-12; Js. 1:3, 12). When we thus persevere in this way, character is built and we have hope that what the Lord has begun he will continue to build. The Lord does not disappoint us, nor does he leave us at justification only-salvation involves the complete regeneration of life. This all stems from God’s covenant love for us in Christ. Furthermore, the work of redemption is a completely Trinitarian activity. “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” (vv. 5-6 Cf. Phil. 1:20; II Cor. 1:22)
This is completely an activity of sovereign grace, for we were not only without strength, but we were actually the Lord’s enemies, fighting against Him all the way. This is the point-“Christ died for the ungodly.” Christ did not die generically, to make salvation possibly possible-depending on whether some humans will choose to accept it. Instead, Paul wrote that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (v. 8 Cf. Jn. 3:16; 15:13) This involves us. Salvation is always personal and historical, it is never just an ethereal philosophical construct. All theology is personal. Someone may indeed dare to die for what they know as righteous and good, but Christ died for those who were His enemies (v. 7). Again, justification is past tense, therefore the saints have been saved from any future wrath and judgment (v. 9 I Th. 1:10).
It is Christ’s death that has become the basis of this reconciliation, and if this great reconciliation of arch enemies is so effected, how much more shall we not continue on with Him. Salvation involves all of life, to the very end, for it is life eternal (v. 10). “And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (v. 11 Cf. Rom. 8:32; Jn. 14:19). It was also the very ministry of reconciliation that Paul and his colleagues were engaged in, and we are also (II Cor. 5:18). True peace is what we have –with God and each other (Cf. Is. 31:17; Eph. 2:13-14). Christ has made access to the Father possible (Cf. Eph. 2:18; 3:12). This all results in rejoicing, because we have gone from wrath (1:18) to grace (3:21). Both our status and character are changed by grace through faith to the glory of God.
Romans 5:12-21 Condemnation Through Adam, Justification Through Christ.
Again we find a ‘therefore’, showing that Paul sees a connection between everything he has written up to this point, and connects it with what follows concerning the contrast and comparison between Adam and Christ. Sin and death entered the world through one man because he was the covenant head of humanity (vv. 12-14 Cf. Gen. 2:17; I Cor. 15:21-22). God’s law was broken, which continues to be the definition of sin (I Jn. 3:4). It was Adam’s one sin that becomes the downfall of all-this could only happen via covenant (Hos. 6:7). In Adam’s one act all are considered to have sinned with him. Death has reigned ever since.
So the offence came to all out of an obligation to keep God’s law. The contrast with Christ is that his acts are a gift of grace (v. 15). But there is another contrast-Adam’s one act was committed by all, whereas the free gift is to many (Cf. Is. 53:11). So some remain under the covenant with Adam only. The ultimate contrast is between being condemned or being justified. So Paul repeats his main point-justification is an act of God’s free grace (v. 16). It is the righteousness of Christ which is the gift (v. 17)! It is the active and passive obedience of the righteousness of Christ which is the grounds of the justification of many (vv. 18-19).
The saints are not made righteous because they can trace their physical lineage to Christ-His righteousness is appropriated by faith. In the same way, all men are sinners, not because we can trace our lineage back to Adam (which would include Christ Himself), rather we sinned with Adam when he acted on our behalf via the covenant relationship in which God regarded him as the sole head of humanity. In Adam humanity broke God’s law and has continued to break His law, including that law delivered at Sinai, which laws are meant to convict humanity of sin and point to Christ for eternal life (vv. 20-21).
Romans 6:1-14 Dead To Sin, Alive To God.
Grace does not “abound” with sin. In fact, to live in sin is to live contrary to grace. This passage is necessary because some were concluding the opposite from what Paul has said concerning justification by faith. Union with Christ is union with Him in His death and resurrection. In His death we die to sin, and we live with him in newness of life (vv. 1-4 Cf. Rom. 3:8; 6:15; Gal. 2:19; 3:27; 6:15; Col. 2:11-12; I Cor. 6:14). The body goes to the grave as a body of sin, and rises to a body alive to righteousness (vv. 5-8 Cf. Phil. 3:10; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14; I Pet. 4:1; II Tim. 2:11). This is what we are to “reckon” that we are now in Christ (vv. 9-11 Cf. Rev. 1:18; Heb. 9:27-28; Lk. 20:38). The word that Paul uses for “instruments” is a word used for the weapons of warfare. This is not a recreational activity, but sanctification is warfare (vv. 12-14 Cf. Ps. 19:13; Eph. 6; Col. 3:5; I Pet. 2:24; 4:2).
Romans 6:15-23 Slaves Of Something Or Somebody.
All people are slaves-for whom and too whom is really the question. As Dylan put it, “You gotta serve somebody.” Presentation to obedience is inescapable (vv. 15-16). Sin leads to death, and obedience to righteousness. Of course, as Paul has noted, the latter is only possible due to the abounding grace of God received by faith. By his grace the saints receive in the heart, the doctrine delivered by revelation from God (v. 17). This doctrine sets one free, but not to continue to sin, but rather to be a slave of righteousness through the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 18 Cf. II Tim. 1:13). Lawlessness gives way to holiness unto sanctification-true liberty (v. 19 Cf. Jn. 8:32-34; II Pet. 2:19). Freedom from righteousness is slavery to sin and shame, and the fruit of such a life is evident for it leads to death (vv. 20-21). Rather, the children of God have become slaves to righteousness, bearing the fruit of holiness to the Lord through the gift of life eternal in Jesus Christ alone. A life of wages is death, but a life of faith is true liberty (vv. 22-23).
Romans 7:1-12 The Law Is Holy.
“Or,” is Paul suggesting that they may have a different perspective in mind than the one he has just presented. No one likes to learn that they are a slave. And some may suggest that in talking about marriage he is continuing the theme. In effect, he is. People are bound to God or to sin-there is no free neutral territory. A couple are bound to each other as long as they live (vv. 1-2 Cf. I Cor. 7:39). To live contrary is to be guilty of adultery (v. 3 Cf. Mt. 5:32). In the same way the law died as our condemnatory witness “through the body of Christ,” and married to Him we now bear fruit to God (v. 4 Cf. Gal. 2:19). Married to Christ we then keep His law (Mt. 5:17-20), from the heart (Jer. 31-Heb. 8).
The law exposed the fruit of our rebellion, which we bore “to death.” (v. 5 Cf. Js. 1:15) The law can no longer hold us bound and condemned (v. 6 Cf. Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:14). The law is not sinful, we are, which the law reveals to us. The tenth commandment convicts one of all (v. 7 Cf. Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21; Rom. 3:20). The human heart, apart from grace, is in rebellion against God and His law (v. 8 Cf. Rom. 4:15; I Cor. 15:56). Those who seek to live by the works of the law will only be condemned by that very law to death (vv. 9-11 Cf. Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11-13, 21; Lk. 10:28; Rom. 10:5; II Cor. 3:7; Gal. 3:12). “Therefore, the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” (v. 12; Ps. 19:8)
Romans 7:13-25 Only Christ Can Give Us the Victory.
“Has then what is good become death to me. Certainly not!” (v. 13) One of the good purposes of the law is to reveal what sin is-for sin is lawlessness (Cf. I Jn. 3:4). In fact, “the law is spiritual.” (v. 14) So much for the dichotomy between the law and the Spirit. Sadly, some people don’t know these things. We sometimes do those things we actually hate but this is better than thinking we love what is good when we don’t (vv. 15-17). Loving the law which is good, leads us to hate what is contrary to it, especially in our own lives. To will the good is why we need grace, and to this end Christ came (vv. 18-25 Cf. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Ps. 1:2; II Cor. 4:16). As Paul wrote earlier, in baptism we die to sin through the death of Christ and are given new life in His resurrection (Rom. 6; I Cor. 15:57).
Romans 8:1-11 Being Spiritually Minded.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (v. 1a) Paul brings everything he has written thus far to its logical conclusion. Though the saints continue to struggle against sin, it is the absence of condemnation that gives us hope. There is a basic way of life that has come into force for the saints because the Spirit has been given. Through the Son, in the power of the Spirit “the righteous requirement of the law” is “fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (vv. 1-4 Cf. II Cor. 5:21) Walking according to the flesh, or being carnally minded, has given way to walking according to the Spirit, and to be “spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” (vv. 5-8)
Without the Spirit one is not a Christian. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is at work in us (vv. 9-11). To be spiritually minded is to be subject to the law of God in the power of the Spirit. This is what the person without the Spirit cannot do. Paul further describes this as a way of “life and peace.” It is important to keep in mind that this is how Paul is using the word ‘flesh’. It is not the body which is evil, it is living life without God that is in view, and the focus is on the mind, the core of one’s thinking. The spiritually minded are subject to God’s law, the carnally minded are subject to sin and at enmity with God (Cf. 6:18, 22; 7:24-25; I Cor. 2:14; Gal. 5:16-25). This life is a Trinitarian life. Those who are “in Christ” also have the Father and the Spirit. Union with Christ is a Trinitarian fellowship.
Romans 8:12-27 Adoption To Glory-Knowing We Belong.
All are debtors, the question is to what or to whom. If we live in our own strength we will gratify whatever our sinful nature will desire, but if we have the Spirit, it will be what the Spirit desires (Cf. Eph. 4:22). Only those led by the Spirit are the true children of God (vv. 12-14 Cf. Gal. 5:18). This sonship is, and only can be, by adoption. No one is born into the family by mere physical birth. Because of sin, we must be adopted. But this spirit is not one of fear, rather it is one that knows God as our dear Father. (v. 15 Cf. II Tim. 1:7; Heb. 2:15) ‘Abba’ was the actual Aramaic word used by Jesus for the Father (Cf. Mk. 14:36). He is our brother by adoption. This is one of the benefits that flows from union with Christ. Paul has dealt extensively with justification but it is not the whole story.
Adoption is not possible without justification, and flows logically as the first benefit from it. Without Christ dying and rising for us, and having our sin imputed to Him and His righteousness to us, adoption would not be possible. There is an order to redemption, or ordo salutis, which Paul is gradually building piece by piece. This order was spelled out most beautifully by John Murray in his ‘Redemption Accomplished and Applied’. So many things flow from regeneration and the continuing work of the Spirit. However, this is more than just a bare theological proposition. In actuality, all theology is more than bare intellectual discussion. Theology is personal, and this adoption is also personal. The Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God, and joint heirs with Christ (v. 16 Cf. Eph. 1:13; Gal. 4:6).
The entire ordo salutis is part of what we inherit as heirs of His manifold grace. As he moves on, Paul will deal with predestination, election, calling, regeneration, faith and repentance, and after adoption sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. It is sadly the case that we too often go straight from justification to sanctification skipping over adoption. Sanctification, which includes suffering together with Him, is not possible without adoption. Too often sanctification is presented as a cosmic shift, where justification might have been by faith, sanctification is all about us, on our own. In a fallen world, all will suffer. What sets the Christian apart from the rest of humanity is the reality that God is our Father, so that everything that comes our way is as a result of the fact that He is our Father and He cares for His children.
Sanctification comes to us by way of inheritance (Cf. Acts 26:18). God has a plan, and it won’t be complete until we are glorified together with Him (v. 17 Cf. Phil. 1:29). Sometimes this care is discipline (Cf. Heb. 12:3-11). Paul was convinced that any suffering paled by comparison to the coming glory (v. 18 Cf. II Cor. 4:17). But this salvation is marvellous not only in its length, but also in its breadth, as it were, for the whole of creation is destined for this future glory. Whatever Paul wrote about ‘flesh’ certainly was not to draw a dichotomy with the spiritual. The whole of this physical earth, including our own bodies, are included in this redemption (Cf. Lk. 20:35-36; II Cor. 5:1-5). The whole of creation awaits the full revelation of the sons of God with a new heavens and new earth (v. 19 Cf. Is. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1).
By way of subjection under it’s covenantal head, all of creation suffered for humanity’s transgression in Adam (Cf. Gen. 3:17-18). However, creation was subjected in hope, it was not subjected to total destruction (v. 20). The hope of the whole of creation is that there will be a new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell, “the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (v. 21 Cf. Mt. 19:28-29; Acts 3:21; II Cor. 3:17; II Pet. 3:13). We all know the present state of this created order (v. 22). We also groan, and the redemption of our bodies is part of the inheritance that flows from this adoption (v. 23 Cf. Eph. 1:14). Adoption flows from justification and precedes sanctification, which is part of our inheritance. “For we were saved in this hope.” (v. 24)
An understanding of salvation that ends with justification does not have justification either. Saved in hope is what it means to live by faith-“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) It is this hope that also inspires perseverance in us (v. 25). Adoption must precede sanctification, and perseverance must follow sanctification, if glorification is to be reached. Sanctification is inherited, it is not earned. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” (v. 14) Sanctification flows from adoption, not vice versa. We do not earn our sonship, and we do not work for our inheritance. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ…that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Gal. 3:26; 4:5) Sanctification is also not an end in itself-glorification is the ultimate goal!
The Spirit helps us all along the way, including with prayer (v. 26). Who is praying for us? If asked, many would list family, friends, a pastor, or other members of the church. How many of us remember that the Spirit intercedes for us, as does the Son (Cf. Heb. 7:25). We can be certain that they intercede according to the will of the Father (v. 27 Cf. Eph. 6:18; I Jn. 5:14). We cannot always be sure of this with ourselves or others (Cf. Mt. 20:22). Contrary to modern continuationists, Paul does not say that the Spirit gives us a prayer language here. There are simply some situations and times in our lives when we do not have words. It is the Spirit who tells us that we belong, and because we belong He prays for the Father’s will to be done in and for us.
Paul has taken great pains to remind us that there is no straight line that passes from justification to sanctification that does not pass through adoption. Again, sanctification is not earned, it is inherited. Furthermore, we are not children by being born, we are children by being born again. Any conception of justification that entertains the idea that we somehow are justified by works is a denial of our adoption. To conceive of sanctification as though it were somehow our works response to justification is to miss the whole scope of the redemption accomplished and applied. Furthermore all that flows on from there, namely perseverance and glorification, is a pipe dream and no sure hope at all. Remove the thread of adoption and the tapestry of redemption unravels.
Romans 8:28-30 Predestined.
It is important to know what we know, especially when it comes to our eternal salvation. All things, not just some things, work together for good. So it isn’t just the things we think should be there. But nothing happens in isolation. It is easy to focus on one or two things that are vexing, but nothing works on its own. There is an orchestra of God’s providence playing a wonderful symphony each day of our lives, and this for our good. God has a purpose, and to that purpose He has called us. We are called to an eternal purpose, a purpose to which everything in our life works toward for our good. This is the outlook of those who love God (v. 28).
We are, like all things, predestined. But at the same instant we are also foreknown, that is loved from all eternity. Predestination for the children of God is never to be understood apart from God’s loving foreknowledge. This foreknowledge is obviously more than the simple idea that God knows everything before hand, for this is true of everything. Rather, this is something unique to the saints (Cf. Gen. 4:1; Am. 3:2; Mal. 1:25). The purpose which all things work together for, is that we would be conformed to the image of His son. Through Christ we are adopted and share in this inheritance. There is a logical order of salvation that Paul gives.
Although it is not exhaustive in this verse, the rest of the letter will fill out the ordo salutis. Predestination-calling-justification-glorification do follow an obvious order, although they do not complete the picture, they show the purposeful direction that we are on. Foreknowledge accompanies predestination, and calling is according to His purpose and grace (Cf. II Tim. 1:9; 2:19; I Pet. 2:9). We are thus also predestined to justification, but also to adoption and our inheritance (Cf. Gal. 2:16; Eph. 1:5, 11). We are also predestined to glory (Cf. Jn. 17:22; II Cor. 3:18). Furthermore, just as this foreknowledge is unique, so is the calling, for it also has a predestined end.
From the perspective of predestination our calling is effectual, and all these things are already done. “These He also glorified.” To God we are already glorified. However, it all has a beginning in time, and it is made possible through the firstborn. It is of one who is also God and thus is worshipped (Heb. 1:6). Predicted in the scriptures (Cf. 8:29; Pss. 2:7; 89:27), it speaks to His entrance into the world to accomplish this great work of redemption, and to seal it by His resurrection from the dead (Cf. Col. 1:15, 18; Rev. 1:5). In Christ, as our brother, we gain the inheritance of the firstborn-all things, which work together for our good!
Romans 8:31-39 We Are Loved.
Paul delivered a grand rhetorical question-“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (v. 31) It is the Spirit that answers the ‘if’ here, “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs.” (8:16) Those included in the ‘us’, are the children of God, adopted into the family. The Father did not spare His firstborn, “but delivered Him up for us all.” (v. 32) Through the son we are heirs of “all things.” His question makes a progression and further clarifies what he means. “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect.” Again the ‘us’ is God’s elect, an election predestined before the foundation of the world. Those who may be against us may try to bring a charge against us, but as Paul has already demonstrated, Christ has been delivered up for us, He has paid the penalty for our sin. Paul answered this when He showed that, “It is God who justifies.” (v. 33 Cf. 4:25; Is. 50:8-9) Since we make no claim to self-justification, no charges can be laid.
Those who may be against us may choose to press the matter by trying to condemn us, but since condemnation is the opposite of justification, their cause will not stand (Cf. Jn. 3:18). The reason it will not stand is because, not only did Christ die and pay the penalty for our sin, but He also rose again receiving in the process the vindication of the Father that His is a propitiation that satisfies. Not only this, but He has ascended to the right hand of the Father to reign over His messianic kingdom, which continues till death is finally vanquished forevermore (v. 34 Cf. Ps. 110; Mk. 16:19; I Cor. 15:20-28). Again, The Son continues to pray for us, along with the Spirit, to the end that his kingdom will come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Cf. 8:26; Heb. 7:25; 9:24; I Jn. 2:1; Mt. 6:10). Justification, adoption, sanctification are all predestined with perseverance. We carry on as we began-by God’s sovereign love and grace.
The love of His foreknowledge is the same love that will hold us to the end. ‘Against’, ‘charge’, ‘condemn’, and now ‘separate’ are words that describe the desperate attempts of those who would have us forget whose we are and where we belong. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (v. 35) This is an interesting list that some would argue are exactly the signs that He does not love us. But Paul appeals to the scriptures. “As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’” (v. 36 Cf. Ps. 44:22) Well, we are sheep, and we may be accounted for slaughter by some, but in Christ we have a far different life to live and destiny to look forward to in hope. It is in the midst of all these things, which work together for our good, that we are in fact “more than conquerors.” (v. 37 Cf. 8:28; I Cor. 15:57)
One would think that to be a conqueror is the end of the line, but we are more than this. We are loved. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39 Cf. Eph. 1:21) Some might imagine that death could separate one from Christ’s love, but life? Sadly, it is life which does keep many separated, but there is nothing that we face in life that can. None of the invisible forces can separate us-for Christ rules from His throne over all. There is no place or condition beyond which His love does not reach. All things being created by Him, none of those things can separate us from Him, for they are all His and answer to His sovereign will. Paul was persuaded of this one compelling reality-nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 9:1-5 The Outward Blessings Of Covenantal Membership.
For Paul, conscience is an ethical and moral self-awareness, and a spiritual activity. He is convinced in himself that he is telling the truth, but he also believed that he had the witness of the Spirit confirming it. Paul always strove “to have a conscience without offence toward God and men.” (Acts 24:16 Cf. v.1) Conscience never works independently. As Paul noted earlier, even those without the written law have it in their hearts to which their consciences must respond. Conscience is not a blank pure slate-it is something which the believer needs to have cleansed (Heb. 9:14; 10:22), in order to have a good conscience (Cf. I Pet. 3:16). It usually takes years for human beings to learn the lessons of conscience (Cf. Jn. 8:9). Conscience is that private self-regulating aspect that all humans have, though for some their consciences may be seared (I Tim. 4:2). The Christian community must be guided by conscience, especially among her leaders (Cf. I Cor. 10:25; I Tim. 3:9).
Paul had sorrow and grief to the core for his fellow Israelites (v. 2 Cf. 10:1). Like Moses, he was willing to perish himself if it meant their salvation (v. 3 Cf. Ex. 32:30-32). Accursed is the idea of covenantal cursing-being cut off from the covenantal blessings and subject to its curses. This was the state of all those who had rejected Christ. It is argued by some that the idea of adoption was not present in the old covenant, but Paul would disagree. Even under the old covenant administration of the one covenant of grace, it was understood that adoption was necessary to be a true member of the covenantal family. To the Israelites there pertained “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” (v.4). Abraham was a pagan idol worshipper when God adopted him into the covenant. They knew something of the glory-cloud of the LORD’s presence, but also of it’s departure (Cf. Ex. 33:18; I Sam. 4:21).
From Adam onward, they had the covenants and the promises, beginning with the promised Seed (Cf. Gen. 3:15). It wasn’t just one covenant, but it was several administrations of the one covenant of grace, highlighting that it was the outward administration that Paul has in view here. The main promise was the good news of the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:39; 13:32).They received the law (Cf. Ps. 147:19), and had the services of the old covenant, first in order as it related to the new (Heb. 9:1, 6). Of course, the blessing first in order of priority was what he already highlighted-to them were given the very oracles of God (3:1). They were the recipients of the patriarchal history, and could trace that lineage to Christ Himself, “according to the flesh.” But Paul is quick to state that Christ is also God-a very succinct statement of the two natures in one person. Christ is sovereign “over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” (v. 5 Cf. Jn. 1:14)
Romans 9:6-33 The Word Has Taken Effect In The Remnant.
The greatest blessing of being an Israelite was that to them were entrusted the oracles of God (3:1). But Paul wants to answer the question of why all who are of Israel do not give evidence of the word taking effect in their lives. To that end Paul reiterates that it was never enough to simply be born an Israelite to be regarded a child of God. He highlighted the external benefits of membership in the covenant community (vv. 1-6). Only the children of promise are true children in the covenant (vv. 7-9). Whether it was Sarah and Isaac or Rebecca and Isaac, God made a decision between Jacob and Esau before they were even born, or had done anything good or bad, that one would be adopted and receive the promise of redemption, and Esau would not (vv. 10-13 Cf. Gen. 25:21-23; Mal. 1:2-3).
That there were some who were genuine proves that the word did take effect, and the fact that for some the word had no effect proves that God is sovereign in His dealings with humanity. Some may object that this is not right, but it is God’s mercy alone which saves any. It was never about human ability, but only God’s mercy. God is the potter and men are clay (vv. 14-21 Cf. Ex. 4:21; 9:16; 33:19). All men will glorify God, whether the vessels of wrath, or the vessels of mercy (vv. 22-23 Cf. 8:28-30). It also was never about ethnicity, for there are elect also among the gentiles (vv. 24-26). To this end Paul appeals to the remnant motif-the prophetic word made clear that it was the remnant that would be saved (vv. 27-29 Cf. Is. 10:22-23). The promise fulfilled is the righteousness that comes by faith-for Jew and Gentile both (vv. 30).
The fault of the Judaizers was in making the pursuit of the law into a religion of works instead of accepting that the righteousness of God was a promise to be received by faith (vv. 31-32a Cf. I cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:4). This righteousness is the righteousness of Christ. But for the Judaizers Christ was a stumbling stone, but even this was part of God’s sovereign predestinating will (vv. 32b-33). It is wise to keep in mind that Paul was the same man who wished that he himself were cut off if it meant that all Israel might be saved, but this was never God’s plan (9:3). But he also appeals to the books of Moses to prove his points. Not everyone believes, but those who do are not put to shame because Christ has secured the promises (Cf. Is. 28:16). This is the Zion of Christ’s kingdom (Ps. 125:1; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 14:1).
Romans 10:1-13 Believe And Confess.
It has always been the case that many have a religious zeal and this is regarded as the only necessary thing, but zeal without knowledge means nothing. Paul’s continued argument in this letter was against the idea that one could establish there own righteousness and this would be enough to justify them in the sight of God. However, since this is not the righteousness that God requires it is futile. Such a pursuit betrays an ignorance of that only righteousness that He will accept-the righteousness of Christ received by faith. This is what Paul means by Christ being the end of the law, not to put the law to an end, but rather the end as in the fulfillment of what it required. All the sinner can do, and this by God’s grace, is to believe or have faith in Christ and His finished work (vv. 1-4 Cf. 1:16-17; Phil. 3:9; Gal. 3:24).
Paul made clear his love for his fellow Israelites, wishing himself to be accursed if they might be saved (10:1; 9:1-3), much as Moses did (Ex. 32:32), but Moses also warned the people that anyone seeking to be justified by keeping the law must keep it perfectly, which no one other than Christ ever did or could do (v. 5 Cf. Lev. 18:5). No one can ask who will ascend or descend to provide this righteousness, for this is exactly what Christ has done, and this gospel word is near to all (vv. 6-8 Cf. Dt. 30:12-14). This word of faith is, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Paul did not say that with the heart one feels.
With the heart one believes-this is the core of one’s thinking. This core and one’s words must be in unison. To say one thing but have very different core beliefs is a problem for many. But for those who truly believe in their hearts the gospel message of justification by faith in Christ and His righteousness, there is no shame (Cf. 9:33; Is. 28:16). For such there are no distinctions or favouritism of ethnicity-Jew and Gentile alike can be saved, whoever calls on His name (vv. 11-12 Cf. 3:22, 29; Eph. 1:7; Joel 2:32). It is also important to note though, that confession must also be made. The Lord commands us to speak that which we believe (Cf. Lk. 12:8). Paul will go on to point to the importance of the confession made by the preacher sent (v. 14 ff.), but he also wants to stress that all who believe must also confess that faith.
Romans 10:14-21 Faith comes By Hearing The Word Preached.
God has purposed that people would hear the gospel through preachers sent. It is a beautiful thing (vv. 14-15 Cf. Is. 52:7; Nahum 1:15; Titus 1:3). The fact that some do not believe does not mean that God’s method has failed. Not everyone is granted faith, but for those who are it is through the hearing of the word (vv. 16-17 Cf. Is. 53:1). Israel in particular has heard, with Moses himself bearing witness (vv. 18-19 Cf. Ps. 19:4; Dt. 32:21). The message has reached the ends of the earth and continues to do so (Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15; Rom. 1:8), and bearing fruit by the grace of God (Col. 1:6, 23). The acceptance of the Gentiles will also move some among Israel to embrace Christ as Lord and Saviour (Rom. 11:11). However, many in Israel will still reject the gospel, though it spreads throughout the earth (vv. 20-21 Cf. Is. 65:1-2) That this is by sovereign grace is evident in the fact that they did not seek Him, but they were found (Cf. Rom. 9:30).
Romans 11:1-6 A Remnant According To The Election Of Grace.
The existence of the remnant, including Paul himself, was proof to him that God had not cast away his people. The children of the bondwoman had always experienced much of the external benefits of covenant membership, including circumcision, but to the remnant of faith alone were all the promises fulfilled (v. 1 Cf. Ps. 94:14-15; Jer. 46:28; I Sam. 12:22; II Cor. 11:22; Phil. 3:5-6). There are those whom He foreknew, that is, those whom He set is redemptive love upon before the world began (v. 2 Cf. 8:29). Elijah thought he was the only man of faith left, but God revealed to him that he had others just like him (vv. 3-4 Cf. I Kgs. 19:10, 14, 18). Isaiah, who so anticipated the coming of messiah, named his son Shear-Jashub, meaning “a remnant will return.” (7:3; 1:9; 6:13; 9:27; 10:20-22; 11:11-16).
“Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.” (v. 5 Cf. 9:27; II Kgs 19:4) Not all those who receive the external benefits of covenant membership are of the “remnant according to the election of grace.” God did not elect by a foreseen faith, it is an election based on His unmerited favour-grace. “And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (v. 6 Cf. 4:4) Paul is speaking of himself and others of the Judaizers who thought that it was all about works, and in so doing they had perverted the gospel message of the patriarchs and prophets. Election is no more of works, including having faith, than is justification, otherwise it is not of grace and work is not work. The wages of work are earned, grace is unmerited.
Romans 11:7-10 Covenantal Witness.
Paul carries on a basic principle which he routinely follows-he will quote 2 or 3 biblical references as witness to the point he is seeking to make. On matters of life and death two or three witnesses were required (Nu. 35:30; Dt. 17:6; 19:15). The writer to the Hebrews sees it applied for any who rejects the law of Moses (10:28). It was a principle the Lord appealed to for His own person and work (Jn. 5:31ff; 8:17). It was a principle laid down for resolving disputes (Mt. 18:16), which Paul appealed to for the church as well (I Tim. 5:19). Paul even used this principle to refer to his own work repeated (II Cor. 13:1). It is a principle which the biblical writers routinely follow to prove a point, which Paul also does here.
The elect according to grace obtained what those who were blinded thought they could earn. Paul appeals to Dt. 29:4, Is 29:10, and Ps. 69:22-23. Dt. 29:4 is significant because it comes in the context of covenant renewal after Moses has stipulated the blessings and curses of the covenant (27-28), and before the reminder of the blessings of returning to God, matters of life and death, and Moses’ own song of witness (30-32). The blindness was witnessed to by the law (Moses), the prophets (Isaiah), and the psalms (David). It is true that God could say something once and it would be no less true, but many witnesses are actually employed in a covenantal act of confirmation or prosecution (Is. 6:9; Mt. 13:13-14; Jn. 12:40; Acts 28:26-27).
Romans 11:11-36 Standing By Faith.
It was Paul’s hope that the salvation of the Gentiles might provoke some in Israel to be reconciled (vv. 11-15, 25; 10:19 Cf. Dt. 32:21; Acts 13:46; 28:28). He uses the analogy of an olive tree, and the distinction is made between the root and the branches. Some branches are simply not connected to the root (vv. 16-18 Cf. Jer. 11:16; Jn. 15:2; Eph. 2:12). Some, like Paul, were a kind of firstfruits of the new covenant administration (Lev. 23:10; Js. 1:18). For some there was an external connection only, because of their unbelief (Cf. Heb. 3:19). One is only connected to the root by faith (vv. 19-20, 23-24). Boasting in self is contrary to faith for both Jew and Gentile, so it should serve as a warning to all (vv. 20-21). Perseverance would be a sign that one was connected to the root, not from self boasting but because of God’s goodness (v. 22). Clearly the “all Israel” who will be saved are those, as Paul has already made clear, are of the election of grace (v. 5).
This is in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy (vv. 26-27; 59:20-21; 27:9), and the new covenant promise of Jeremiah 31 (v. 34). This is contrasted with the election of Israel as a nation and people (vv. 28-29 Cf. Dt. 7:8; 10:15). On a personal and individual level, all are disobedient. The belief of some is superficial, and therefore in vain (Cf. I Cor. 15:2). It is God’s mercy alone that grants to some repentance, faith and belief (vv. 30-32 Cf. Gal. 3:22; II Cor. 3:14-16). This is the mystery of the election according to grace, known to God alone (v. 33). Nothing has entered from without into His counsel, and He owes a debt to no one (vv. 34-35; Is. 40:13; Job 41:11 Cf. Jer. 23:18). There can be no doubt however, that Paul believed that the inclusion of Israelites would result in a great revival in the earth (v. 12). The word ‘remnant’ does not necessarily mean a small number every time, but perhaps a small number overall. The Lord is the beginning middle and end of this work, “to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (v. 36).
Romans 12:1-8 Minds Renewed And Lives Transformed.
The doxology of the previous passage and the beginning of this chapter note a turn in the letter from a more doctrinal to a more practical emphasis. Given everything Paul has just written about, it seemed reasonable to him that the reader should be thinking about dedicating their whole life to serving the Lord-body and mind. A life transformed to this purpose comes from a mind renewed by the word (vv. 1-2). We are to be engaged in bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (Cf. II Cor. 10:5; Eph. 4:23). “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” (I Th. 4:3a)
Sanctification is every bit as much a matter of grace as justification or adoption or any other aspect of redemption. Faith is a gift. Forgetting about grace is thinking too highly of oneself. Even Paul writes that he spoke by God’s grace (v. 3) The gifts that we have in the body of Christ are also as a result of grace (vv. 4-6 Cf. Jn. 3:27). Each member of the body has their own function and gifts, therefore all are necessary (Cf. I Cor. 12:12-14). Being members of each other means we also need each other (Cf. I Cor. 10:17). These functions and gifts are meant to benefit the body as a whole.
It may not be coincidental that Paul begins his list of gifts and functions with prophecy, for the word is the first axiom of all thought and existence (v. 6b). The prophets “exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words.” (Acts 15:32) What is interesting about this list which he gives is that there is a union of gift and function. The gifts given have a functional purpose in the body. One should utilize whatever gifts the Lord has given for their intended purpose. The overall purpose is edification and unity (Cf. Eph. 4:11-13).
However, Paul said more than just utilizing one’s gift(s). Paul is encouraging the members of the body to excel. When he says “he who gives,” he says more than simply “give,” instead it should be “with liberality” or generously and enthusiastically (Cf. II Cor. 9:7). Likewise “he who leads,” not to just lead, but to do so “with diligence,” and for those who show mercy to do so “with cheerfulness.” One can surmise that he has the same thought in mind with the other functional gifts he has given (Cf. Acts 20:28).
Romans 12:9-21 Having Empathy And Doing Good To All.
“Let love be without hypocrisy.” (v. 9a) Hypocrisy in classical Greek was like an actor wearing a mask playing a part. It is having the heart or core one place and words and acts simply play acting. So love must be sincere, but it is also not divorced from ethics or morality (Cf. I Tim. 1:5; 5:1-2). We should shake off anything that is evil, but cling to what is good. ‘kollao’ translated ‘cling’, has the idea of sticking too like glue. ‘apostugeho’ is also only used here and carries the idea of utterly detesting something. This love is also “kindly affection,” like which should exist in a family, “in honor giving preference to one another.” (v. 10 Cf. Phil. 2:3; Heb. 13:1).
In serving the Lord we should be “fervent in spirit” and not “lagging in diligence.” (v. 11) The KJV translates this as “not slothful in business,” but the NKJV is much closer to the Greek, for it encompasses the whole of the Christian’s life, especially in the body of Christ. This is a word of encouragement for the weary (Cf. Gal. 6:9; II Th. 3:13). We rejoice in hope, because with the Lord we have hope and a future, including having our names written in heaven (Cf. Jer. 29:11; Lk. 10:20). It is because we have this hope that we can be “patient in tribulation” (v. 12b Cf. Lk. 21:19).
It is precisely because God is in sovereign providential control of our futures that we have grounds to pray, for He predestines this means to accomplish His ends (Jer. 29:10-13). “Men ought always to pray and not lose heart.” (Lk. 18:1) Again, the focal point is the body, the church. Paul was not content to leave things at prayer alone. We should also be “distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” (v. 13 Cf. I Cor. 16:1) However, these are needs or necessities, not necessarily wants. We are to bless instead of curse, because by so doing we mirror God’s mercy to all men (v. 14 Cf. Mt. 5:43-48).
Our conceptions of wrongdoing can be tainted by our own sinful pride, but the Lord knows precisely what is due. Again, knowing that God is sovereign and in control of all things gives us motivation to do as He has commanded us. We are to have empathy with others. This means being mindful of what they are feeling and going through in their current circumstances. We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (v. 15). We rejoice and suffer together (Cf. I Cor. 12:26), therefore we should be of the same mind toward each other (Cf. Phil. 2:2). We should not discriminate but treat all equally (v. 16).
We should also not think too highly of ourselves. The truly wise give place for God to act. The world says that we should do unto others as they have done unto us, but the world does not believe in a sovereign God who acts in history on behalf of His people and for His own glory and goodness (Cf. Lk. 6:27-31). Having regard for good things means providing these to all men. God provides good things to all men, and therefore so should we. We are really just stewards of what He has given us anyway. We can’t control others, but we can influence those around us. So as much as this is possible and depends on us, we should seek to “live peaceably with all men.” (v. 18 Cf. Heb. 12:14).
Again, we must give way to God’s sovereign control and wrath where wrath is due. The Lord promises to exact vengeance where vengeance is due. To take matters in one’s own hands is unbelief, a fundamental lack of faith and trust in His word. This is not something new to the new testament. In fact, it is a belief that the law still applies in all its fullness into the new covenant era, for Paul appeals to the law itself with two scriptural witnesses (v. 19; Lev. 19:18; Dt. 32:35 Cf. Dt. 17:6). “O LORD God, to whom vengeance belongs-O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!” (Ps. 94:1 Cf. Heb. 10:30).
Some suggest, in keeping with doing good to others including one’s enemies, that the heaping of coals of fire on another’s head is giving them coals for cooking the food and boiling the water given (v. 20; Prov. 25:21-22). But this is not consistent with the syntax of the verse-there is a cause and effect. What we do is give food and water and the coals are a result. Some suggest that the coals of fire is the shame that they will feel for showing them good. However, this also does not fit with the overriding idea of vengeance. The idea seems to be that by doing good we are providing the Lord with further cause for the justification of vengeance on His part.
Burning coals on the head carries nothing but judgment wherever else it is used in the scriptures (Cf. Pss. 11:6; 18:7-8, 12-13; 140:9-11). The word Paul uses is ‘anthrax’ from which we get the English word for the same since the skin blisters and boils give the appearance of burning coals, as it were. Love and doing good to all is our motivation, but further grounds for judgment is also an inescapable result, “for in so doing.” (v. 20) To be motivated by vengeance is to be overcome by evil. Instead, we are to overcome evil with good (Cf. Mt. 5:43-48; Lk. 6:27). This is all about having our minds renewed and our lives transformed (12:1-2).
Romans 13 Fulfilling the Law.
We are to submit to the governing authorities for no other reason here but that they exist by God’s appointment (v. 1 Cf. Titus 3:1; ). The civil administration of governance is by God’s appointment or design (v. 2). Therefore to resist governmental rule outright is to rebel against what God has ordained. The usual focus of government is to oppose evil and promote what is good (vv. 3-4). Whereas most in the world are motivated by escaping punishment, the Christian is to be motivated by conscience (v. 5 Cf. Eccl 8:2; I Pet. 2:13-14). Taxes and respect are therefore justified for the work which God has ordained them for (vv. 6-7 Cf. Mt. 22:21).
In agreement with the Lord, who also included the prophets, Paul teaches that the law is fulfilled toward one’s neighbour in the summary given of loving one’s neighbour as one’s self (vv. 8-10 Cf. Ex. 20:13-17, Dt. 5: 17-21; Mt. 7:12; 22:37-40; Gal. 5:13-14). The law itself gave this as a summary for not taking the law into one’s own hands or vengeance (Lev. 19:18). The law is also our guide for our sanctification (vv. 11-14). The third use of the law, to convict sinners and lead them to Christ, has occupied Paul in this letter, but here he gives two other uses. It’s place in sanctification for the believer also occupies his time earlier in this letter and elsewhere.
Sanctification is a process (v. 11). We are not yet perfect but we have a guide of where God wants us to be headed. There is a lifestyle that may be deemed lawful by the state but which is not lawful for the Christian (Cf. I Cor. 15:34). The Christian is called to be light in the darkness (v. 12 Cf. Mt. 5:14-16; Eph. 5:11). Putting on Christ, so to speak, means putting off the world (vv. 13-14). To be clear, Paul does not espouse a pagan dichotomy between soul or spirit and the body. He is saying that the Christian is to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Lust is the issue here, seen in revelry and drunkenness, lewdness, strife and envy (Cf. I Cor. 6:9-10).
It should be a sobering thought that Paul includes envy and strife in his list. Envy is more than covetousness, it is the desire to take from another what one does not or cannot have for one’s self. More than simply wanting what is not one’s own, envy is the desire that the owner not enjoy what is there’s by right. This is ultimately where strife comes from-lust and envy (Cf. Js. 3:14). Paul taught and lived a pattern which they could follow (Cf. Phil. 4:8). This idea of putting off or putting away and putting on figures prominently elsewhere for Paul (Cf. Eph. 4:22-24, 31; Col. 3:8-14). One cannot be clothed with both at the same time. Fulfilling the law is what it means to walk in the spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:14-26).
Romans 14:1-13 Liberty Of Conscience And Judgment To Come.
There is some irony in Paul’s words here. There would be no disputes if people could agree on what is doubtful. The onus has always been placed on the strong to watch out for the weak (Cf. I Cor. 8:9). Then there are the weak who object to being called ‘weak’. A good modern equivalent of eating meat offered to idols is yoga exercises. Most believers would say there is no inherent evil in a particular stretching exercise or bodily position, but for those who wedded these with a particular religious or spiritual practice the two are viewed as inseparable. For both sides there is no doubt at all. At some point the strong are simply more inclined to give up on the weak who sit in obnoxious judgment on any and all who don’t agree with their scruples (Cf. vv. 10-12; Col. 2:16; Js. 4:11-12). In Paul’s day, as in any age, meat is just meat (vv. 1-3).
However, Paul does move things from the realm of mere debate to the issue of conscience and answering to the Lord. If the strong are urged not to go out of their way to disturb the weak, it is equally true that the weak are not to sit in judgment on the strong. Both will have to answer to the Lord for their actions. This is a matter of liberty of conscience, and no one can bind the conscience of another, for we will all stand before the Lord to give an account of the decisions we have made (v. 4). Paul, though strong, had the overriding objective of gospel proclamation in view (Cf. I Cor. 9:22). There is also the principle that nature determines outlook. “To the pure all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” (Titus 1:15) Some people will never have true “liberty of conscience” until they repent and believe (I Tim. 4:3).
As to days, many suggests that this only refers to days beyond the Sabbath day, whereas others would suggest that Sabbath observance is included in Paul’s words at Col. 2:16 (v. 5 Cf. Gal. 4:10). As noted above, it is not always agreed as to what matters are “doubtful”. Even those who hold to a weekly Sabbath observance or Lord’s Day, do not agree on what is permissible on that day. Paul’s fundamental principle that all can agree on is, whatever we do we must do it as to the Lord and not men. In other words, we should do what we do from our consciences informed, one would hope, by the word (vv. 6-7). “We are the Lord’s.” (v. 8 Cf. Gal. 2:20; II Cor. 5:14-15) “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” (v. 13 Cf. I Cor. 8:9) One should not miss that for Paul, Isaiah’s words in 45:23 (v. 11) apply to Christ (Cf. I Pet. 4:5)!
Romans 14:14-23 Purity, Love, A Clear Conscience, And Having Faith.
Paul was able to say that he was raised and lived his life, before Christ, as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5). “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.” (Phil. 3:4-6). It was Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ alone that convinced this Pharisee that “there is nothing unclean of itself.” (v. 14a) His position was one of faith based on the word of the Lord (v. 23).
“Of itself,” is the point. To use the yoga example again, there is not a particular body position or exercise that is “of itself” unclean. “But to him who considers anything unclean, to him it is unclean.” (v. 14b) This is the point. Some attach religious or spiritual significance to things which binds their consciences thereby, and for some they simply can’t separate the two. Meat in and of itself is not unclean (Cf. Acts 10:15). In fact, if someone offered it to an idol but then wanted to eat it, it was probably a prime grade ‘A’ cut. However, there is another point Paul is making, we need to walk in love. People, in particular, the family of God, are more important than food (v. 15, 20 Cf. I Cor. 8:9-13).
It is this possible impact on others that can cause what is good “of itself,” to be “spoken of as evil.” (v. 16 Cf. 12:17) The kingdom of God is what matters, and the kingdom is about people, and “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (v. 17 Cf. I Cor. 8:8) If one “serves Christ in these things,” everything else will take care of itself (v. 18 Cf. II Cor. 8:21). Seeking those things which edify is an expression of love for the body, including those things which make for peace (v. 19 Cf. 12:18; I Cor. 14:12). The goal of the strong should be that the weak not become weaker, but rather that the weak are made strong (v. 21). The strong should be happy before God with what He has given and spoken of as good (v. 22).
Paul’s position changed because the Lord spoke to Him and he had faith (Cf. 10:17; Gal. 3:2). Therefore if one is convinced in their conscience that something is contrary to the word, then for them it is sin, for “sin is lawlessness.” (I Jn. 3:4) Therefore, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” (v. 23) This goes to a person’s core-the heart (I Jn. 3:18-23). To go contrary to what one believes in their core and conscience is a clear teaching of scripture is a sin, and it is thus an act of self-condemnation. For the unbelieving their entire nature is bound in this condition (Titus 1:15), and why so many strive to sear their consciences to silence the noise (Cf. I Tim. 4:2).
Romans 15:7-13 Glorifying God Together.
Therefore, concerning receiving each other, seeking to edify each other and not sitting in judgment on each other on doubtful matters, Paul says to do so because “Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (v. 7 Cf. 5:2; 14:1, 3) Of course, Christ received us as sinners and reconciled us while His enemies, and forgave us (Cf. Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22). The glory of God in both cases is the goal-Jew and Gentile alike (vv. 8-9). Chronologically this was the order of His ministry (Mt. 15:24; Acts 3:25-26). Christ confirms the promises to the fathers. Christ did this via the new covenant (9:4-5 Cf. Mt. 26:26-30; Lk. 22:14-23). “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (II Cor. 1:20)
Christ also fulfills the promise to the Gentiles (v. 9 Cf. II Sam. 22:50; Ps. 18:49). The promises are to all the children of promise, the children of faith (4:16). As was Paul’s practice, he gives multiple witnesses for the inclusion of the Gentiles and the promise to all. His first quote goes to the last of the old covenantal administrations in David (v. 9). It can also be found in the law with Moses’ song of witness (v. 10; Dt. 32:43), and again from the Psalms (v. 11; 117:1), and the prophet Isaiah (v. 12; Is. 11:1, 10). When God thus fulfills His covenant promises to His people there is hope and “joy and peace in believing.” (v. 13 Cf. 12:12). This is by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a Trinitarian work.
Romans 15:14-21 Goodness, Knowledge, And Admonishing One another.
Part of the Christian life is that we admonish each other. However, it is interesting to see what Paul considers as prerequisites for that. He was able to admonish them to admonish each other because he was confident that they were filled with goodness and knowledge (v. 14). One can certainly understand the need for knowledge-it is hard to admonish if one is ignorant concerning what they are admonishing about. However, admonishment is more than the simple passing on of information. Admonishment carries the idea of the need for correction, that perhaps one is not following the teaching or practice of the Scriptures (Cf. II Tim. 3:16-17). This is a delicate business that requires that one also be filled with goodness.
The word translated as ‘goodness’ here (agathosune), is one Paul uses specifically to refer to the fruit of the Spirit (Cf. Gal. 5:22; Eph. 5:9), as a communicable attribute of God Himself (Cf. II Th. 1:11). One who is full of goodness has the virtue of being kind and charitable or beneficent. Knowledge with love is what edifies (Cf. I Cor. 8:1). In other words, it is using one’s knowledge in a kind and charitable way. Many have knowledge, but they use that knowledge in a matter of fact way, or worse yet, with malicious intent. On the other hand, having a kind and charitable intent will not be enough to admonish if one is not also knowledgeable. Goodness and knowledge must be wedded together to be able to truly admonish another.
Paul himself engaged in such admonishment with this letter, but he made clear he did so “because of the grace given to me by God.” (v. 15 Cf. 1:5). The goodness required, as a fruit of the spirit, and the knowledge, these come because of God’s grace. This humble acknowledgment is what is required. The reality is that without God’s grace this work is not possible. However, it is a necessary work, and Paul in particular had a specific mission to take the gospel, the good news of salvation, to the Gentiles (v. 16). It wasn’t just about justification, but admonishment was needful that they might be “sanctified by the Holy Spirit.” (v. 16) Progressive sanctification here, is based on the definitive work of Christ (Cf. I Cor. 1:2; 6:11; [Heb. 2:11 with 10:10]).
Their progress in the faith was a just cause for Paul to boast about, because it was the work God gifted and called him to do (v. 17 Cf. 12:3; Gal. 6:4; II Cor. 10:13-16). It is also important that one who admonishes also have experience of those things which Christ accomplishes in us, as Paul said, “in word and deed.” (v. 18) For Paul, the goal was that the Gentiles might be obedient. He also had a unique apostolic task to which God the Holy Spirit testified to “in mighty signs and wonders.” (v. 19 Cf. Acts 19:11; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:4) Paul “fully preached the gospel of Christ,” both in its content and in his reach (v. 20). This was as a result of the grace of God and the power of the Spirit.
Paul was used by God to fulfill this promise to the Gentiles (v. 21 [Is. 52:15] Cf. 11:13; Acts 9:15; II Cor. 3:5). In the same way God gifts and calls all of us to do a unique work, as unique as he has made each one of us. The antidote against sinful pride is to refrain from comparing ourselves to others, and being thankful and productive with what God has given us in gifts and opportunities (Cf. Gal. 6:4). Paul had goals, his aim was to take the gospel to where it had not been heard before, partly so he could construct his own work (v. 20). We need to also assess what are our gifts and make it our aim to make the most of the time and opportunities He gives us to help build His kingdom.
Romans 15:22-33 Gospel Fruit.
It was Paul’s desire to preach where the gospel had not been heard, which delayed his visit to the saints at Rome (vv. 19, 22-23 Cf. Acts 19:21). Therefore, he would fit in a visit on his way to Spain (v. 24), after he visited the saints at Jerusalem (v. 25), because the saints in Macedonia and Achaia had a gift for the saints there (v. 26). The Gentiles were happy that they could help, knowing how many spiritual benefits had accrued to them from their Jewish brethren (v. 27 Cf. 11:17; I Cor. 9:11). This was fruit bearing for the givers, something which Paul was eager to see among his spiritual children (v. 28 Cf. 1:13; I Cor. 16:1; Phil. 4:17). It was also Paul’s desire to impart to the saints in Rome “some spiritual gift,” so that they might be established in their mutual faith (1:11-12). This is “the fullness of the blessing of the gospel.” (v. 29)
For all these efforts Paul sought for prayer, through Christ, and “the love of the Spirit.” (v. 30) There would be those who did not believe who he would need deliverance from-the gospel and believers have their enemies in all ages (v. 31a Cf. II Tim. 3:11; 4:17). He also wanted his visit with the saints in Jerusalem to be a productive one (v. 31b). Paul wanted his visit with the saints in Rome to be filled with joy, and refreshing, for them both (v. 32; II Cor. 1:11; 16:18). Everything for Paul, including answers to prayer, had to be according to the will of God (Cf. 1:10; Acts 18:21). Paul wasn’t spoiling for a fight or looking to make enemies. He looked for blessing and peace (vv. 29, 33 Cf. I Cor. 14:33). “Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (v. 33 Cf. 16:20; II Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; I Th. 5:23; II Th. 3:16)
Romans 16 God Is able.
The church needs every member-including helpers like Phoebe (vv. 1-2). Such people inspire others to also help. Some like Priscilla and Aquila even risk their lives for the church (v. 3-5 Cf. Acts 18:2; I Cor. 16:19-20; Phil. 2:29-30). Epaenetus was a reminder to Paul of the beginnings in Achaia, Mary of those who labour, and Andronicus and Junia as his fellow prisoners (vv. 6-7). Others are of special note to Paul, including whole households in the faith (vv. 8-11). All were like family (vv. 12-16). However, there were “those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.” (v. 17 Cf. Acts 15:1; I Cor. 5:9) This was no mere generic judgment which people could make on a whim. There was a standard-the apostolic witness.
Besides teaching contrary to the word, these false teachers had deception as their goal, using “smooth words and flattering speech” to this end (v. 18 Cf. Col. 2:4). These were people who were only interested in satisfying their own needs (Cf. Phil. 3:19). This would be proof of his reader’s obedience, which was already well known. We are called “to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” (v. 19 Cf. 1:8; Mt. 10:16) The word ‘simple’ means innocent. It is through this consistent adherence to the word that the church will be victorious, and this by His grace (vv. 20-21, 24 Cf. I Cor. 16:23). Paul’s companions also sent their greetings, including Tertius who wrote for Paul (v. 22-23). Christ will establish His people in the apostolic witness, the mystery once hidden but now revealed Cf. Eph. 1:9; Col. 1:26; 2:2).
“By the prophetic Scriptures” the apostolic witness is “made known to all nations.” (v. 26) It is through this word that the church marches forward, crushing Satan and his work under our feet, in fulfillment of that beginning gospel promise (Cf. Gen. 3:15). The gates of hell shall not prevail as a defense against the churches onward march (Mt. 16:18). God is able to establish His church and His kingdom in the earth (Cf. Eph. 3:20). “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 25). This is the faith and approach that the church is to continue to have to the very end.