Paul's letter to the Romans
ROMANS NOTESINTRODUCTION TO THE PAULINE CORPUS
Paul spent his life traveling throughout the Roman Empire establishing churches in the cities where he visited and proclaimed the Gospel. It was his custom to revisit the cities where he had established churches, and occasionally while he was away from the churches, he wrote letters to them. Paul’s epistles are neither detailed accounts of his ministry to the churches nor deliberate plans to put into permanent form Paul’s theology. The letters were all written to meet certain needs that arose in churches in connection with Paul’s missionary work. Some knowledge of how Paul conducted his ministry is helpful in understanding the letters he wrote.
Paul’s ministry was marked by a series of missionary journeys. Even before his first missionary journey, Paul was apparently involved in church planting and nurturing work in Damascus and then for several years in Cilicia, his home territory. He had gone there after his rejection in the churches of Judea. Barnabas called Paul from there to help him with the work in Antioch (Acts 11:25-26). From Antioch, the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Saul on the first missionary journey to Cyprus and South Galatia. Paul and Silas went through South Galatia to Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens and Corinth on the second journey. On the third missionary journey, Paul and Silas went to South Galatia and then to Ephesus, Macedonia, and Corinth.
During these journeys Paul and his party founded churches. They also appointed leaders for the churches and trained them. After Paul left the churches, he often returned for visits or sent one of his fellow workers to check on them and help with problems. In between visits, he wrote letters to the churches to deal with problems that arose.
We have thirteen letters of Paul in our New Testament, but it is likely that he wrote more than that to the churches. We know he wrote at least two others. He mentioned two more letters to Corinth (1 Cor. 5:9 and 2 Cor. 2:4) and he may have written even others. It seems unlikely Paul would have sent emissaries to churches (for instance 1 Th. 3:2) without sending along a letter. It is likely that Paul was a frequent letter writer and that many of his letters have not been preserved for us. However, of the ones that have been preserved, we have some valuable insights into his ministry and some valuable instruction for the church of the first century as well as the church throughout the ages.
The form of Paul's letters followed the pattern of many secular letters of his day, although he did not hesitate to alter the form to suit his purpose and to benefit the churches. The form generally included an introductory paragraph giving the name of the writer, the recipients, and a greeting. The middle portion of the letter contained the main message. The concluding paragraphs usually contained a farewell message and greetings to and from friends. In the majority of the letters Paul divided the main part into two sections: a statement of the doctrine that he wanted to teach to the church, and a section that dealt with the practical application of the doctrine taught.
Paul usually followed the custom of dictating his letters to an amanuensis or secretary. These secretaries made use of a system of Greek shorthand and then transcribed the letters into ordinary Greek script. After some confusion in Thessalonica, Paul started adding a personal note in his own hand as a special greeting and as a guarantee of authenticity. Paul's letters were carried by friends and co-workers to the churches addressed.
There is really no logical order to the way the letters of Paul are arranged in our New Testament today, except that the letters are generally arranged according to length. One helpful way to look at the letters of Paul would be to see them in chronological order. In this way, we would be able to learn something of the historical development of Paul's thinking and the development of his theology. While we can not be certain about the order of all of Paul's letters, there are some clues in the letters themselves and in what we learn about Paul's movement in the book of Acts. Putting all of that together, we can assume that Paul's letters fall into four general groups.
The first group of Paul's letters could be called the "eschatological epistles" or the “practical epistles.” Paul wrote the two letters to Thessalonica from Corinth on his second missionary journey (probably about A.D. 50-51). The occasion of those letters was uncertainty about the coming of the Lord and how believers should behave in the interim.
The second group of Paul's letters can be called the "soteriological letters" or the letters dealing with the general theme of salvation. These letters were likely written during his third missionary journey. Although some would place Galatians earlier in Paul's ministry, it seems likely to me that Galatians was written after Paul reached Ephesus on his third missionary journey. He wrote it to deal with some serious problems that were occurring in the churches of the southern Galatian region. It is a very intense letter, and Paul wrote it under emergency conditions, probably between 52 and 54. At about the same time, Paul heard of the problems in Corinth. He had a series of correspondences with the Corinthian church, but only two of his letters have survived for us. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus about 53 or 54 and 2 Corinthians from Macedonia about 55. He wrote Romans during his stay in Corinth during the winter of 55.
The third group of Paul’s letters is called the "prison epistles" because they were written while he was in prison in Rome. These letters likely were written during Paul's first Roman imprisonment. They are, in the order they were likely written: Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, and Philippians. The date on these letters would be between 60 and 62. Colossians, Ephesians, and Philippians deal primarily with the person and work of Christ; Philemon is a personal note from Paul to his friend Philemon.
The fourth group of Paul’s letters is called the "pastorals" because of the pastoral nature of the messages, mainly dealing with matters of church government and the duties of church leaders. It is likely that 1 Timothy and Titus were written between the first and second Roman imprisonments and 2 Timothy during the second imprisonment.
It is difficult to say when the Pauline corpus was collected in the form we have it today. Surely, this collection was made before the end of the first century, likely even by 80. There is evidence among the church fathers that the letters were circulating by that date and that they were considered authoritative by the church.
The letters Paul wrote are not a purposeful literary effort, nor are they a deliberate plan to put into permanent form his theological views. They are all occasional letters, that is, they were written to meet a particular need at the time of writing. Probably the closest thing we can see to an exception to the occasional nature of the letters would be in both Romans and Ephesians. Galatians and the Corinthian letters were written to deal with an emergency situation in an area of Asia Minor and in Corinth where Paul felt that the message of the Gospel was being threatened. It may be that after the settling of the problems in Galatia and those in Corinth, Paul sat down to write the Romans and took the opportunity to state his position on the Gospel message of salvation in a more studied manner than he had either in Galatians or in the Corinthian letters.
A similar situation may have existed during the time Paul was in prison in Rome. He wrote Colossians to deal with a Christological crisis in that city. He may have followed up on that letter by writing Ephesians as a similar letter to all of the churches in the area where he gave a more studied and an expanded discussion of the true role of Christ in the church.
Introduction to the Roman Letter
The city and the church
Rome -- capital and largest city of the Roman empire
Not certain how and when Christianity came to Rome
Not founded by Paul — obviously present in Corinth at time of his writing and he had not been to Rome before
Established before Peter since he was still in Jerusalem around the year 48 or 49. If Peter was there, unusual for Paul not to mention. Paul also states that he does not desire to build upon someone else’s foundation.
In 49, Claudius expelled the Jews form Rome. According to Suetonius, this expulsion was the result of “rioting at the instigation of Chrestus.” More likely that he was not a local troublemaker, but the argument centered around Christ. The occasion for the riots was the public proclamation of Christ in the synagogues.
Possible that the first converts were the result of Pentecost who took the message back to the capital city. Reminder that Rome was a major transportation city and the gospel could have come in a number of different ways.
After the expulsion of the Jews, the Gentile section of the church grew. The composition of the church appears to be mainly Gentiles with a strong Jewish minority. The result was that the church was of Jewish origin and Gentile growth.
Very few in the entire history of NT scholarship have doubted its Pauline authorship
Style is consistent with that of Galatians and 1 and 2 Corinthians — the other unquestioned letters
Time and place of writing
Romans 15:23-26 — Paul is about to depart for Jerusalem with the offering. (Offering is mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:1-4 and 2 Cor. 8-9).
End of 3rd missionary journey, Acts 20:1-3 states that the last thing Paul did before departing for Jerusalem was to stay in Greece for three months.
Likely a reference to Corinth
These were the winter months of 56
Between the rule of Gallio — 51-52 on second missionary journey and the ascension of Festus in 58 in Caesarea
Paul was preparing for his visit to Jerusalem for the purpose of delivering the offering. Perhaps the offering was an opportunity to ease the tensions between the Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Realization of Paul that there might be an assassination attempt upon his life provided an extra incentive for him to make the most comprehensive statement of his theology we have in his writings. He was at the height of his career and he was attempting to defend Christian freedom against the Judaizers.
Romans was possibly addressed specifically to the church at Rome, but it may have served also as a general letter for all the churches. He had not as yet visited Rome. Perhaps he recognized that the Roman church was destined to be the largest and most important church in Christendom due to its location.
He also realized how valuable the church could be in sponsoring his mission to Spain if he survived his visit to Jerusalem.
Paul was a controversial figure and many rumors had been circulating about him. In order to obtain the assistance of the Roman church, they would no doubt need an understanding of his belief. The statement of his doctrine is the epistle to the Romans and by submitting it to them he justified his cause.
The immediate purpose of the letter was to announce Paul’s intention to visit the church in Rome and enlist their support for his Spanish mission. (See Romans 1:10-15 and 15:14-33).
Less than a year before Romans was written, Aquilla and Priscilla were residents of Ephesus. Paul spoke of the church that is meeting at their house. See Acts 18:18-19 and 1 Cor. 16:19
Romans 16:5 mentions Epaenetus who was the 1st convert to Christ from Asia -- Ephesus being the capital of the Roman province of Asia.
The same chapter contains information that causes some to deny that it is written to Ephesus
Possibility that Aquila and Priscilla could have returned to their home in Rome.
Ampliatus, Urbanus, Narcissus, and Nereus are with either a greater or lesser degree of confidence associated with Roman Christianity.
Romans circulated in three different forms in the early church: 1-16, 1-15, 1-14.
In the form of 1-15: The oldest manuscript available (p46) places the doxology at the end of 15:33. In this same manuscript, chapter 16 is also present after the doxology.
In the form of 1-14, omitting 15-16
A number of lesser manuscripts place the doxology at the end of 14
Implies that the ancestors of these manuscripts had only 1-14, and the doxology was then placed by scribes
Prevailing view today is that 1-16 went to Rome. Any of the shorter recensions could be the result of the end of a papyrus roll being damaged.
Romans was originally a circular letter not meant for the church at Rome, but for churches generally. This view is favored by Romans’ comprehensiveness. Thus, “at Rome” was added to the Ephesian copy of the letter. However, 1:8-15 and 15:14-33 make it clear that Romans is not a general letter for some.
Chapters 1-15 were sent to Rome and 16 was an independent letter of introduction on behalf of Phoebe, who was going to Ephesus. This would have been a strange kind of letter consisting entirely of greetings to others. Today, most scholars doubt that chapter 16 existed independently.
T.W. Manson’s theory
· Paul wrote 1-15 specifically to Rome. This explains the recension of 1-15.
· In the second century, the heretic Marcion in Rome omitted 15 due to its OT quotes. This explains the rescension of 1-14.
· Also, some unknown culprit who held similar views to Marcion may have omitted “at Rome” due to the fact that Marcion was excommunicated by the Roman church.
· After Paul wrote the letter to Rome, he then thought it a good idea to get a copy to Ephesus also. Thus Paul added the greetings of chapter 16 because of his many friends. The letter was carried to Ephesus by Phoebe. Sixteen, then, was an addition meant only for Ephesus. This makes it possible that Paul was the one who omitted “at Rome” in his copy to Ephesus which caused later scribes to struggle over all these matters.
Theme: The righteousness of God and the faith walk of man
TEXT: SALUTATION 1:1-7
1:1: Paul identifies himself by name and then calls himself a servant. BOND SERVANT is literally a bond slave. Paul is identifying himself as a slave to Christ. This is one of the words Paul chose to describe the relationship of believers to Christ. He could have chosen other words to describe the master-servant relationship that would not have been nearly so harsh, but he chose this one. The concept of bond slave comes from the Hebrew background. A Hebrew man could sell himself in slavery for a number of reasons, but the one who bought him could not keep him in slavery past seven years. However, if the indentured man had married and had children while in slavery, the family remained as slaves. In order to remain with his family or for any other reason the slave could choose to remain with his master as a bond slave. When the slave had made this decision he was brought to the doorpost of the house and an awl was driven through the lobe of his ear. This marked him as a bond slave for life. (Deut. 15:17)
Three things are important in this metaphor for the believer's relationship with Christ. The bond slave belonged totally to his master. He had no will of his own because the master's will was his will. In addition the bond slave entered into a permanent relationship with his master. There was no end of the relationship until death. Thirdly, the bond slave entered the relationship with his master voluntarily. No one forced him to become a bond slave; he chose it for his own reasons.
In other places in this letter Paul will make it clear that all men are slaves to something or someone. We are free to choose our master, but we are not free to serve no master. Paul had been a slave to sin; now he was a slave to Christ. How can a man be free and a slave at the same time? The degree of freedom a slave has is granted according to the character of his master. We belong to Jesus because he created us and because he redeemed us. In him we are free.
Secondly, Paul says he is sent. He identifies himself as a called kind of apostle. The translation CALLED AS AN APOSTLE is the usual one, but we must note that the word called is an adjective, not a finite verb. The word describes the kind of apostle Paul considered himself to be: he is the called kind. Paul had no doubt about the origin of his call. He is not one who had been called or commissioned by man; he has not become an apostle of his own choosing; he has answered the call of God to do the work of an apostle.
The word apostle means “sent.” However, the concept of an apostle also includes the authority and the fidelity of the one sent. An apostle of Jesus Christ is sent in His name, in His authority, with His power, and is expected to be true to the one sending him.
Paul next says that he was SET APART FOR THE GOSPEL OF GOD. He was separated from his old way of life and toward the Gospel. The idea of the preposition here suggests motion toward. Paul was moved by God from his old way of life into the way of life that included the proclamation of the Gospel. This had always been God's purpose for him; now he was fulfilling that purpose.
The GOSPEL OF GOD is the good news that comes from God about Jesus Christ. In Romans Paul repeatedly says that salvation is provided by God through Jesus his Son.
1:2: Paul continues to speak about the Gospel in verse 2. It is that WHICH HE PROMISED BEFOREHAND. This is the first indication in Romans that the Gospel is eternal. God has been working to provide for our redemption from before the foundation of the world. The PROPHETS IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES had given a foretaste of the coming salvation in the promises they had made. Paul does not specify which prophets, but such promises can be found in several of the prophets as well as in the Psalms.
1:3: The Gospel is CONCERNING HIS SON. The content of the Gospel is Jesus who came into the world and who died for our sins. The life and death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets concerning the salvation that has been God's eternal purpose.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God became A DESCENDANT OF DAVID when he was born into the world. As John says, he was the eternal Christ essentially but he became a man in the incarnation (John 1:1; 14). He was not a man before his birth in the world, but he became one in his incarnation.
1:4: Jesus WAS DECLARED THE SON OF GOD WITH POWER BY THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. The word declared is literally marked out. Paul does not intend to say that the resurrection "made" Jesus the Son of God. He was the Son already before his birth. He became the seed of David through his birth. God demonstrated what Jesus was already through the resurrection. He was designated or marked out as the Son of God through the powerful act of God in the resurrection. Others had died; none had seen the power of God demonstrated in the victory over death as Jesus had experienced it in the resurrection.
The proclamation that Jesus was Son of God was made in power ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF HOLINESS. SPIRIT OF HOLINESS could refer to the Holy Spirit or to the holiness of God as it was demonstrated in the life of Jesus. There would be little difference either way.
Jesus is OUR LORD. This has been demonstrated by the powerful action of God in the resurrection. The fact of his lordship does not depend on our recognition of him as lord, He is Lord whether we recognize it or not.
1:5: It is through Jesus Christ our Lord that Paul had RECEIVED GRACE. Grace is more than unmerited favor. It is that, but that definition does not quite say enough about the origin of grace. It is true that grace is a gift and that we do not deserve it, but grace is grounded in the character of God. It is that which results from the disposition of God to reach out to a lost humanity offering redemption from sin and a life of eternal fellowship with him without regard to man's merit or dessert. God wants to rescue us from sin not to protect himself but because he loves us so much that he is willing to pay any price or do anything to rescue us from that which will ruin us.
Paul had also received his call to be an apostle from Jesus, the Lord. APOSTLESHIP was a calling and a sending. An apostle was one who was sent out from another with a task to do and the authority of the one sending him to do it. Paul's job was to be an apostle to the Gentiles as he states it here. He was to go among all the nations leading people to OBEDIENCE OF FAITH.
1:6: Paul makes it clear that he is not the only one who has been called. The Romans are also THE CALLED ones of Jesus Christ. As when he referred to his apostleship in 1:1 Paul used a verbal adjective here to describe the Romans (and all Christians) as "the called ones." It means that we are a called kind of people. We are Christians not because we sought him but because he called us. Does that mean that we are Christians against our will? The answer would be yes if you mean we are called against our will. No would be the answer if the question refers to our response to God. God has initiated our calling while we were not even interested in him, but he does not make us accept his call against our will.
The called ones OF JESUS CHRIST could mean those who are called by him or those called in him. The meaning would be the same. The call comes through the agency of Christ and he is the content of the good news that makes the calling possible. Those who have responded to him now belong to him because of his redeeming work on the cross.
1:7: After the lengthy statement above about Paul and the Romans' calling in Christ, Paul now addresses the letter to the BELOVED OF GOD IN ROME, CALLED AS SAINTS. The BELOVED are those who have received the love of God as it has been demonstrated in Christ Jesus. Those who have received that love are those who have responded in faith to Jesus.
SAINTS describes anyone who is a Christian, even those who do not act like it at times. This word never describes sinless perfection. In the wilderness when the tabernacle was built the people were asked to bring vessels and jewelry to be used in the construction of the tent. These items were set apart for this purpose or sanctified. The leaders went through an act of dedication whereby the ordinary was set apart to be used in God's service. Sanctification is God's act. He does the same in our lives as Christians, setting us apart for his service.
We become a SAINT not by Christian living, but by God's act setting us apart. However, as a result of that act we are becoming more Christ like. God gives us the holiness and morality. We live it out in response to him. He is saying to us, "You are now holy--now act like it." We can only become what we are. One cannot grow toward holiness in living if he has not been set apart by God's act. It is also interesting to note that the word SAINTS is always used in a plural sense in the NT, denoting the community of the believers.
The saints are the CALLED ONES of God in the same sense that Paul was a called kind of apostle. However, this does not mean that God does not invite to himself those who are not saints. He calls all men to salvation, but all who are called do not respond. God takes the initiative, but men must respond in faith in order to be included among the ones who are called kind of saints.
After Paul has addressed the letter to the Roman Christians, he wishes for them GRACE and PEACE. The common greeting for a letter in that day was "Rejoice," but Paul changes and expands that to use a similar word meaning grace. As we have already said, grace is that which God does for us based on his graciousness. Only he can give grace. Peace is from the Hebrew concept of shalom which means a desire for the best and highest good for the one to whom the greeting is given. This peace is with God, and then with fellow men as a result of the peace with God. It involves more than an absence of hostility; it is a positive peace that includes a relationship. Paul knew that there could be no peace without God's grace. The result is a peace that is not related to external circumstances.
The grace and peace come from God who is the source of it, and through Jesus Christ who is the instrument used by God in granting grace and peace. This concept is used often by Paul in this epistle.
PAUL'S DESIRE TO VISIT ROME: 1:8-15
1:8: FIRST is a favorite expression of Paul. It is not usually followed by a second or third. It probably means "foundationally" or "in the main." I THANK MY GOD is the way Paul often begins an expression of gratitude. Paul includes this expression of thanks in verses 8 and 9. He prays for them even though he has never met many of them and even though he is separated from them. The thanks is given THROUGH JESUS CHRIST because he is the common link for Paul and the Roman Christians. They share a fellowship in him even though they are not well known to each other.
The reason that Paul gives for his thanksgiving is that the Romans’ FAITH IS BEING PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE WORLD. They had a reputation among other Christians that they were sharers of their faith. Paul is thankful that they are that kind of people.
1:9: Since Paul does not know the Romans very well, since he has planned to come and see them but has been delayed, and since it would be difficult for anyone to believe that a man who is a stranger could pray as often and as earnestly for the Romans as Paul has, he takes God as his witness that his prayers have been made for the Romans. The word UNCEASINGLY carries the idea of something that is done repeatedly. Paul prays for the Romans whenever they come to his mind.
1:10: Paul talks about coming to the Romans in this verse because it has been his intention to go for some time. Surely the Romans had heard of Paul and looked forward to his visit, but Paul had not been able to go because of several hindrances. He realizes that he will have to go to Jerusalem before he makes it to Rome, and he wants the Romans to know that his plan is still to come to them.
1:11-12: Paul wants to go to see the Romans for two reasons. He wants to give them SOME SPIRITUAL GIFT and he wants to BE ENCOURAGED TOGETHER with them. Certainly because of Paul's great missionary zeal and because of his faithfulness to the proclamation of the Gospel he could make some contributions to the Romans. He also realizes that he can gain from their faith. Christian fellowship is a two-way street. Paul wanted to share in a mutual spiritual benefit. The emphasis here is on the mutuality, being encouraged by one another's faith.
1:13: I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE UNAWARE, BRETHREN is a favorite formula of Paul for introducing some important information. He is explaining why he has not been able to come to them yet in spite of former plans. He does not say what kind of hindrance he faced, nor does he in Chapter 15 when he returns to this subject. But in other places Paul speaks of being hindered by the Spirit. It may be that Paul has been hindered from coming to them because of the troubles in Corinth, or it may be the offering which he mentions in Chapter 15.
Paul gives his reason for wanting to come to the Romans when he says that he wants to OBTAIN SOME FRUIT AMONG YOU ALSO. It is clear that Paul did not want to build on the foundation of another, but he was not opposed to sharing in Christian fellowship and being helped on his way by fellow Christians.
1:14: OBLIGATION denotes a strong sense of debt that Paul felt. He was a debtor not because of what he had received from them, but because of what he had received from God. His debt was to the GREEKS AND THE BARBARIANS, or to those who were a part of the Hellenistic civilization of the world and to those who were not. His meaning here is that he has an obligation to God to preach the Gospel to all the Gentiles. This becomes even more meaningful when we see Paul's desire to go to Rome and use that city as a base from which he will be able to spread the Gospel to further parts of the world.
WISE AND FOOLISH is simply another way of saying that Paul's obligation is to all the Gentiles.
1:15: Paul himself had a great desire to preach to the people of Rome. Others had already preached, and Paul knew that they had received the Gospel, but he also had a desire to share with them. The reason he had not already preached was not that he did not desire it; he had not yet had the opportunity to do so. When the first opportunity presented itself he would be eager to do so.
The Power Of The Gospel
1:16: In verses 16 and 17 Paul gives the theme of the letter. It can be simply stated as "Man's only true righteousness is the righteousness of God imparted to him by faith. When Paul said I AM NOT ASHAMED he was saying more than that he was not ashamed to testify before people. He gloried in the Gospel. He knew that there was no need to fear that he would ever have to take anything back that he had said about the Gospel. The Gospel would never let him down even though it might seem foolish to some. Paul knew that the concept of the Gospel is that we die to live, and he knew that some looked on that concept as weakness. Even though it appears to be a weakness, Paul knew that it was in reality a power. The Gospel has the message to meet the needs of men.
THE POWER OF GOD refers to God's active involvement in the Christ event. There is a connection between power and righteousness. God is righteous and he is powerful (able) to make men righteous.
UNTO SALVATION describes the initial experience of faith of the believer, but it also includes the entire Christian experience including the future hope of the Christian. It also involves the salvation of all men in the world who will respond to Jesus in faith.
EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES means each one who accepts Jesus as savior. For Paul faith was radical. There was a big difference in religion and faith for him. Paul had experienced religion all his life; when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus he finally understood what a faith relationship was. People have faith in Jesus because there is power in the Gospel. Why is faith involved? Not because it is easy. I am powerless--unable to make myself righteous. Since this is so I must put myself in his hands, and he works to make me righteous. The reason God could count faithful Abraham righteous is that at the moment Abraham had faith and placed himself in God's hands, God made a new Abraham. God does not juggle the books; he remakes the man.
TO THE JEW FIRST does not mean that the Jews had a prior claim on God that preceded the Gentiles. No one has a claim on God. Paul is dealing with reality. The Jews are the prepared ones who had received the message of God throughout the ages. God also works through others, but in point of time the message went first to the Jews. They were his chosen people for the purpose of spreading the Gospel to the world. It was the Jews who opened the door to the GREEK or the Gentiles.
1:17: There are three concepts of righteousness in the Bible.
1. God is righteous
2. God demands righteousness
3. God makes righteous.
All three of these can be seen in the Roman letter.
Some interpreters refer here to "imputed" righteousness, but that seems to me to be inadequate. "To impute" is a bookkeeping term that means to make an entry on one's account. The resultant meaning is that God considers man to be righteousness because he has made an entry on his account. God's righteousness, however, is much more than this. God makes man righteous in Jesus by actually imparting (acting to do) righteousness in him. It is not a pretended or a supposed thing, God actually makes man righteous. Abraham is an example of this. When God counted him righteous he actually changed him. The Abraham who believed God was not the same creation as the man had been before because God worked in his life to make him a new creation. Just as a man in the process of physical birth gives of himself to his offspring, so does God in spiritual birth. Regeneration is transformation. Man is made into a new creation in Christ.
Paul knew firsthand what it meant to be self-righteous. He was not converted from no religion; he was converted from being a Pharisee, one who sought more than anyone else to make himself right with God. Paul went from being a Pharisee to being a slave to Christ. He was made into a new creation in Christ, who continued to work righteousness in him.
Paul said, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IS REVEALED, using the present tense meaning that it is happening now. God has always been active in making people right with himself, going back to creation. We were created to be in a right relationship with God, but not as puppets. FROM FAITH TO FAITH is literally out of faith into faith. Out of God's faithfulness into our faith is what Paul means. Not only was God faithful in providing salvation, Jesus was also faithful to the point of death on the cross so that we might have redemption. Nygren says, "God had faith that you would have faith." God is revealed because he is true to his plan to work in us and this leads us to trust in him.
Probably Paul means faith from beginning to end, that is, from the faithfulness of God in providing salvation to the faith of man responding to him. When man has been rightly related to God, he has always been rightly related to God through faith.
This is important. Faith suggests union. The one who lives in faith is the one who is in union with Christ.
BUT THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH is a quotation from Hab. 2:4. In this context Paul may be giving a slightly different meaning to the quotation. Habakkuk was answering the question, “How shall a righteous man go on living in this world of problems?" The answer is, "You live by faith." Paul was asking another question, "What kind of life achieves righteousness, a life of faith or a life of works?” The answer is, "The life lived by and through faith.” The righteous one out of faith shall live. Paul does not ignore the Christian life in Romans; in fact there is a great deal of emphasis on the demand of the Gospel, but Paul does say that salvation has its origin at the point of faith. That is not the end of the story because salvation is a process that begins with faith and proceeds until the point of glorification. One receives righteousness by faith, and one grows in righteousness--trusting every day.
The Problem of Sin
1:18 THE WRATH OF GOD is not an emotion, nor is it a capricious anger. It is the reaction against sin by a holy God who is able to see the destruction of sin in humans and is able to act to destroy its power and effect on them. God is angered by sin because of what sin does to us. The word here, ogre, means the abiding anger of God against sin. His anger is not like our anger. He is not affected by outward circumstances. He does not blow his top when things do not go his way. There is purpose even in his anger. He is making provision for the protection and redemption of his people, even in his anger.
Note the distinction God makes between sin and sinners. He hates sin, but he seeks men.
God’s wrath has been clearly revealed and demonstrated by the way he reacts to sin in the lives of those who choose to identify with it. He lets sin have its consequences in us. The worst punishment of sin is to be permitted to participate in its full expression. God stands ready to rescue us from sin, but if we choose to identify with sin we face the consequences. We make the choice. An example in the physical world would be the law of gravity, or the law that two solid objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If we defy the laws, we face the consequences.
That men SUPPRESS THE TRUTH about sin can be clearly seen. The normal response of man to sin is to deny its presence. However, the presence of sin makes itself known. Man's denial of sin is rebellion against God.
1:19-20 God has revealed himself to man in many ways. One of those ways is in nature. It is sure that the revelation of God in nature is not as complete as God's revelation of himself in his word or in Jesus, but there is enough revelation in nature that man can know about God. Therefore man has no excuse. The man who is ignorant of God is in deliberate ignorance.
1:21-23 In verses 21-32 Paul traces the downward path of sin. He uses two descending orders to show that man does not go on in sin, he goes down in sin, getting further and further away from God.
Men knew God because God had revealed himself to men in many ways. However, men did not HONOR HIM AS GOD. This statement reflects the basic sin to be seen in the action of Adam and Eve in the Garden. In that action the first two humans yielded to the temptation of Satan to remove God from his rightful place in their lives and substitute their own authority. That is self-centeredness, the core of what sin is.
It is FUTILE SPECULATIONS when men get the idea that they can take the place of God. This futility is the result of man's pride, which produces speculations that lead men into the foolish idea that they or some other thing can take God's place. Sadly, men who get into this position think of themselves as wise men, but in reality they are fools. They are even more foolish because they do not realize how foolish they are or what they are doing.
The GLORY OF THE INCORRUPTIBLE GOD is the manifest presence of God himself. He is God, and man owes God focus. This is where man started, worshiping one God. When man began to devise his own idea of religion he went down from the worship of the one true God to the worship of many gods, idols that he created for himself. When the false was substituted for the real, man began a downward trend, first to images like himself, then of birds, then of beasts, then of serpents and other crawling creatures. The worship of the many gods can be seen in the OT, and it could be seen in Paul's day in the many gods of the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians.
1:24-25 GOD GAVE THEM OVER is the first of three occurrences of this statement (24, 26, 28) that is literally translated "God handed them over.” Paul is further describing the downward trend of man in sin. Man moves from idolatry to immorality. After abandoning the true God for false gods, man moves further away from God in immorality.
For Paul to say that God handed men over to the LUSTS OF THEIR HEARTS means that God allows men to live in their own wicked will. The desire of God is that we live good moral lives. That is how he made us and how he wired us. When we rebel and pervert the God-given choice we have in our lives, God gives man the right to choose sin. Hobbs said, "There comes a time when with a rebellious people, as one would do with a rebellious horse, God removes the bridle to permit his violated moral laws to work out their own end.” C. S. Lewis said in The Problem of Pain, "The lost enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved."
God does not give man up to his own choice arbitrarily; rather, his desire is that man respond to him in faith, resulting in right living. However, God does not force his will on man. Man is free to choose, but he must be ready to bear the consequences for his wrong choice. The result of man's wrong choice is that his body is dishonored.
The reason that man makes wrong choices is that he has EXCHANGED THE TRUTH OF GOD FOR A LIE. By giving more attention to his own will than the will of God, man ends up abandoning God and following the leading of the devil. Man does not change God by rebelling against him; man does cause himself to be alienated from God. God is the same forever. Man beats himself to death in rebellion against the unchanging standard of God.
1:26-27 God gave (“handed over” again) rebellions men over to DEGRADING PASSIONS. Sin is basically a perversion of natural desires. When man is not satisfied with the provision of God, he starts looking for something of his own making. When God made man he gave him a desire for woman, and vice versa. When man becomes dissatisfied with what God has given, perversion occurs and man goes outside the bonds of marriage looking for his own pleasure. He finds some physical satisfaction for a while, but it does not last. One affair leads to another in the search for more satisfaction and in the attempt to find more excitement. When these multiple affairs cease to satisfy, man seeks satisfaction in other ways. Perverted heterosexuality becomes perverted homosexuality.
Man must one day realize the wisdom of God in the moral laws he has given. He must also realize the folly of trying to remake the moral laws to suit his own desires. We can see clearly today as they could in Paul's day that man has brought upon himself, in his own body, THE DUE PENALTY OF THEIR ERROR.
1:28 When man makes his deliberate decision to give God up, God gives man OVER (“handed over” again) TO A DEPRAVED MIND. Paul describes a mind that is incapable of making right judgment. Here is another step downward and away from God. Paul sees the ultimate punishment of sin as God leaving the sinner where he puts himself. God is always seeking to get the sinner to return to him, but he will never force the sinner to come to him. God's "giving up" does not denote a capricious act, but rather shows that God leaves man in his sin because of the decision of man to stay there.
Why does Paul use sexual sin? Because it is wrong, but also because it is a good example of the progressive nature of sin. Paul is showing that men do not go on in sin, they go down in sin.
1:29-32 The list of sins in 29-31 are all the result of being completely filled up with UNRIGHTEOUSNESS. The list of sins needs no explanation further than the one Paul gives because these are familiar sins and are clearly evident in the world today. The point that Paul makes is that those who have rebelled against God and have been left in their sin even move one step beyond the actual practice of those sins. In verse 32 Paul says that they not only PRACTICE these things, which is bad enough to deserve death, they also encourage others to do them because they give hearty approval to those who practice them.
THE RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT OF GOD: 2:1-16
2:1 Paul has painted a picture that would cause the Jews to see that the pagans were certainly sinners and worthy of death. However, the Jews would certainly have never agreed that they could fall into the category of those Paul described in Chapter 1. Paul turns to the Jews in Chapter 2 in order to show that neither the Gentiles nor the Jews are righteous before God.
Paul could probably see in his mind's eye the agreement that would come from the Jews about the sin of the pagan Gentiles. He could imagine that they had already drawn conclusions about the sinners who were outside of God's favor. Surely his conclusion about the Jews themselves was a surprise to them, but it demonstrates that all are under sin and that none are righteous before God.
Paul's conclusion was that the Jews were quick to condemn the other people of the world, but they did not realize that they were just as guilty. The Jews could be quick to condemn the Gentiles for idolatry, but they were using their own religion as an idolatrous crutch. Paul affirms that the Jews PRACTICE THE SAME THING. The Jews would have been quick to protest that they did not engage in idolatry, but Paul insists that they are capable of turning a God-given revelation into an attempt at self-righteousness. To attempt to make themselves righteous was replacing God with themselves. That is idolatry. They were capable of the same sin of which the Gentiles were guilty; all are sinners before God.
2:2-3 The Jews would have agreed with Paul that the JUDGMENT OF GOD RIGHTLY FALLS UPON THOSE WHO PRACTICE SUCH THINGS, but they would not have so quickly agreed that they themselves were guilty. Paul asserts that the Jews had no privileged position and therefore could not escape the judgment of God.
2:4 The Jew might reply, "But look how good and kind God has been to us. He has made us his chosen people. He has given us the law. How can you say that we are sinners like that if God has been so good?” Paul's answer was that the Jews should look on the kindness and favor of God not as a sign of special privilege, but as the work of God in their lives to lead them TO REPENTANCE. Repentance is changing one's mind and actions. It is going in a different direction.
2:5 Verse 5 literally is, "According to your hardness and unrepentant heart, you store up to yourself wrath in a day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” It is clear that Paul is talking about the final judgment here. He is saying that God's judgment is based on righteousness, that is, His own righteousness. The judgment will be announced in the day of the revelation of that righteousness. The Jews, continuing in rebellion against God, are reminded of their hardness and unrepentant heart. While they remain in that state they are storing up wrath. Wrath is the abiding anger of God that is demonstrated against sin. This wrath will be stored up until the final day when it will all be revealed. Hobbs says it is like a dam that holds back the water until it bursts and releases all of the water at once. The Jews may think that they are escaping with their sin, but the day of the revelation of the wrath of God is coming at a time when the entire story will be told.
2:6-10 God's righteous judgment is of EVERY MAN. The Jews thought of themselves as God's chosen people with special privileges, but they forgot that God had called them to a specific task. They had failed in the responsibility that they had, and that failure would stand upon every man. The language is clear here. Each single individual, Jew or Gentile, will be judged by God according to what he has done.
To be judged ACCORDING TO HIS WORKS does not mean that man's salvation depends on his works. Paul says in many ways that we are not saved by works, but he does make it clear that our purpose as ones who have been saved is to do good works as a result of our salvation. Judgment according to works does mean that Christians are responsible for the work that they do in demonstration of their salvation.
Verse seven speaks of the saved. PERSEVERANCE is a word that literally means to remain under. It carries the idea of not giving up even when the going is hard. Hobbs says that it pictures the soldier or athlete who can take everything his opponent throws at him and then come back with what it takes for victory. Paul confirms that the Christian life is a struggle, but he also confirms that there is ample reward for those who stand firm at their tasks.
ETERNAL LIFE indicates the length of life in Christ as endless, but there is also emphasis on the fact that it is a different quality of life from mere existence. That new quality of life is evident now and it also has the promise of the future. Paul is not saying that eternal life is gained by those who are able to stand under the load; he says that standing under the load is a characteristic of those who have eternal life through the grace of God in Christ Jesus.
Verse eight gives the contrasting picture of the unsaved. These are pictured as those who are self-seeking and disobedient. Again, these are characteristics of those who are not in a right relationship with God. Their minds are on themselves and they are following their own desires to do the works of unrighteousness in contrast to obeying God. The result of that kind of life is WRATH AND INDIGNATION.
WRATH is the abiding anger of God against sin. INDIGNATION is the burning judgment of God that consumes sin. The picture here is of the continuing opposition of God against sin, and finally the destruction of it.
The same contrast is presented in verses 10 and 11. God will not show partiality whatever a man's physical heritage is. Because one is a Jew does not mean that he can claim special privilege. God will judge sin in Jew and Gentile alike; he will reward righteousness in Jew and Gentile alike. It is not the race but the relationship that is important.
2:11 is a clear statement of that which has been demonstrated in the verses above. PARTIALITY is a word that literally means to behold the face. God does not focus on the face of a man. He does not look for facial features when he comes to judge; he looks for a spiritual relationship in Jesus Christ.
2:12 Those who are without the law are judged without the law; those who are under the law are judged under the law. God deals in judgment with people according to the law that they have. Bruce said, "Sin unchecked leads to perdition one way or another.” The law does not excuse the Gentiles nor protect the Jews. Sin leads to judgment anyway. The only thing that will count in the Day of Judgment is the relationship a man has in Jesus Christ.
What does this say about those who do not hear the Gospel? It does not say anything. That is not the question here. We can trust God to deal faithfully with all men. We do know that he told us to make disciples, and we know that people will respond to Jesus if we go with the Gospel, so our obligation is clear.
2:13 It is not the hearing of the law but the doing of the law that makes the difference in a man. Those who do the law are those who have responded in obedience to God. Can a man be made righteous by the perfect keeping of the law? Theoretically this may be possible, but Paul seems to say in Galatians that the law was never intended as the means of man's salvation. It is a moot question anyway, since all are sinners and therefore no one has kept the law perfectly except Jesus.
2:14-16 Can one obey the law without knowing what the law is? Paul says yes. The law of conscience is as much a law as the law of Moses. A man is not saved by ignorance of the law nor condemned by ignorance of the law. The basis for salvation and for judgment is Christ Jesus. The question is not how do you measure up to the law, but how do you measure up to Jesus.
THE JEWS AND THE LAW: 2:17-3:8
2:17 In this section Paul makes it clear that the Jews do not automatically stand in a right relationship with God. Paul has established that all men are lawbreakers before God and none are able to claim special privilege because of knowledge of the law. The Gentile cannot be blamed for his ignorance nor can he claim special privilege because of it. Paul now turns specifically to the Jews to point out that they have no special claim on God because of the law.
The name Jew is not a magical protection. It does not matter even if one could prove beyond doubt that he was a "true Jew" in the physical sense. Nor can the Jew RELY UPON THE LAW. RELY means to rest on or to lean on. Paul uses it here to describe the blind and mechanical reliance on the law that the Jews were guilty of. Because they felt that they had a magical quality in the name Jew and a reliance on the law the Jews also felt that they could BOAST IN GOD. This means that they felt that God had given them special privileges because of his special relationship to them. Paul wants the Jews to understand that they do not have special privileges before God but that they do have special responsibilities.
2:18-20 These verses contain a list of some of the special privileges the Jews felt that they had before God.
To KNOW HIS WILL is to know the will of God. The Jews certainly should have been in a position to know the will of God because of his dealings with them, but their pride had often hindered this. Knowing the will of God would have made them able to APPROVE THE THINGS THAT ARE ESSENTIAL, or judge the things that are good and excellent as opposed to things that do not matter. The Jews felt they had this ability because they had been INSTRUCTED OUT OF THE LAW. They were the ones who had the law, but they had perverted that law as Paul will make clear.
The pride of the Jews was also evident in that they considered themselves to be A GUIDE TO THE BLIND, A LIGHT TO THOSE WHO ARE IN DARKNESS. They were intended by God to be the guiding light for the Gentiles to come to salvation, but because of their arrogant pride they had failed to carry out this purpose of God.
The Jews also considered themselves to be A CORRECTOR OF THE FOOLISH, A TEACHER OF THE IMMATURE because they felt that they had IN THE LAW THE EMBODIMENT OF KNOWLEDGE AND OF THE TRUTH. The Jews did consider the Gentiles to be foolish, or worse. When the Gentiles came into the Jewish faith they were considered to be babes who needed instruction. Because the Jews had the law they should have been able to fulfill these functions, but in the next verse Paul makes it clear that they had failed in their purpose.
2:21 It is at this point that Paul begins to point out to the Jews where they have failed in what God expected of them. In spite of the fact that they had the law and a special relationship with God they had not followed through on his expectations for them. With a series of questions Paul brings the Jews to the reality that they have failed God. You who claim to be teachers of others, do you not learn from your own teaching? You proclaim what God says in the commandments about stealing, but do you not hear your own proclamation? The charges are serious, and they continue.
2:22 You know what the law teaches about committing adultery, do you violate the law yourself while you are teaching others not to do it? You consider one who worships an idol rather than the one true God to be the lowest sort of person, but are you not committing sacrilege yourself by setting yourself up as judge and therefore taking the place of God? The word translated ROB TEMPLES it literally commit sacrilege. The Jews who preached against idolatry were guilty of it.
2:23 The Jews boasted about their special relationship with God because they had been given the law, but they were guilty of breaking the law in the same manner that the Gentiles had. Their guilt was worse because they knew the law. The dishonor they brought to God was worse because of their special relationship.
2:24 The proof of their dishonor of God was to be seen in the Scripture itself according to the prophet Isaiah in 52:5. The greater the privilege the greater the abuse. The people who had been chosen by God and had been given the law had betrayed God by failing to keep the law. Their failure was the most grievous of all.
2:25 Up to this point Paul has dealt with the law in general. Now it is as though an objector brings up the point that the Jew has another advantage over the Gentile because the Jew has been given the sign of circumcision. Paul says that CIRCUMCISION IS OF VALUE IF YOU PRACTICE THE LAW. The same principle applies here as it applied in relation to the law. Circumcision is meaningless if one is not a keeper of the law because circumcision was the seal of the covenant. For Paul keeping the law was more than just keeping the specific points of law, it was fulfilling the things pointed to by the law in the relationship with God. If a man is not in a right relationship with God through faith, circumcision ceases to be a seal of the relationship and becomes something extraneous.
The Jews had boasted of circumcision as a visible badge of superiority and a certain means of salvation, but Paul is saying that circumcision is a sign of a relationship and not the relationship itself. When a man outwardly obeys the law by being circumcised, but inwardly breaks the law by failing to have the proper relationship with God, his circumcision becomes void.
2:26 The opposite could also be true. Even though a man is not circumcised in physical reality, if he has the faith relationship with God that circumcision points to, the outward sign becomes irrelevant; God treats that person as one of His people even though he is not born a Jew. God imparts son ship to that person in reality. He is made into a child of God because of the faith relationship and not because of the presence or absence of circumcision.
2:27 Paul makes an astounding assertion to the Jew who is depending on the physical act of circumcision rather than a faith relationship to be right with God. He says that the man who is physically uncircumcised but who has a faith relationship with God will judge the one who depends on the physical sign for salvation. The reason is that the one who depends on the physical sign is really a transgressor of the spirit of the law even though he may attempt to keep the letter of the law.
2:28-29 The reason Paul can make such an assertion is made clear in verses 28-29. A true Jew is one who is in a right relationship with God in a spiritual sense, that is, by faith. Judaism is not determined by anything physical, whether circumcision or the keeping of the letter of the law, but by the spiritual relationship that comes from faith in Jesus Christ.
This is not something new that God has established for the Jews. It has always been so. God has always desired a spiritual relationship with his people. It was the Jews who changed the terms, not God. The law was given to point the people of God to Him so that they might have a right relationship; circumcision was given as a sign of that relationship. The Jews made the law and circumcision ends within themselves. For them the law and circumcision became the relationship.
Man's relationship with God comes from his gracious act in receiving man and not from man's action in bringing himself to God. Man could not praise himself for achieving salvation; he must praise God for giving it to him.
The Jews had missed the purpose of circumcision and the law. They had been intended to be a sign of their faith and an incentive toward faithfulness. Circumcision must be spiritual rather than just physical. It had always been so. We could compare the Jewish attitude toward circumcision to the attitude of Christians toward baptism. Baptism has never constituted salvation. It is a sign of a faith relationship between God who has acted in grace and man who has responded in faith.
3:1 Paul had begun at 2:17 showing the Jews that they stood condemned before God just as the Gentiles stood condemned. There were three reasons for their condemnation. The first was that they did not practice what they preached. The second was that they had missed the purpose of circumcision. Now he gives the third reason for their condemnation beginning with 3:1 when he says that the Jews have not been faithful stewards of the privileges that God has given them.
Paul raises objections here as though they were being raised by some Jewish objector. He then answers the objections. The first objection is WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF CIRCUMCISION? If circumcision is of no advantage, why have the old covenant relationship with God that God initiated? This is the wrong question. It confuses rite with principle because it is saying that God is faithless if the old covenant is not of special worth. The answer is given in verse 2.
3:2 Circumcision as a sign of the sealing of the old covenant does indeed have advantages. The chief reason is that the Jews were given the words of God. God entrusted his message for all men to the Jews and they were to spread that word to all men. The requirement of obedience is implied in this advantage but the Jews failed at this very point.
3:3 Paul moves to a second objection. What if some men DID NOT BELIEVE? Does the unbelief of men cause the unfaithfulness of God? It is clear that the Jews did not believe God when he entrusted his very words to them to be spread to others, but does that unbelief cause God to be unfaithful in return? The obvious answer is an emphatic, "No!"
3:4 Paul uses his strongest expression of a negative idea when he says MAY IT NEVER BE. Even though men may be unbelieving and unfaithful to God, He will not be unfaithful ever. God is always true to his covenant promises because he is true in himself. The quotation that Paul uses to prove the truthfulness of God comes from Ps. 51 where David asserts the truth of God. God is true whatever man may be or however he may fail.
3:5 The third objection that Paul raises is if our unrighteousness demonstrates God's righteousness, how can God punish us for something that demonstrates his righteousness? Paul says that this is the way man thinks. Man thinks that God should be grateful for the demonstration of His righteousness and soften His judgment of the failure of the one who shows it. But God is not unjust because it is impossible for him to be.
3:6 Paul's answer to this objection is that God is just. He expresses this again with the strongest of negative statements. If God is going to judge the world, and he is going to, how can he do it if he is not just? Of course God is just. Paul did not try to establish God's qualifications as a just God because he knew that the people who read this would have no questions about them.
3:7 Paul raises one more objection. It is closely related to the previous one. Paul is saying in the terminology of men that the end justifies the means. If my sin serves God's glory, how can he condemn me for it? Why does God continue to regard me as a sinner and judge me?
3:8 The answer to this objection is in the form of another question. Why don't we just do evil so that good may come? Paul had been accused of that kind of teaching before. Here Paul does not explain himself or try to defend his teaching, he simply asserts that the condemnation of those who say such things is deserved.
THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS: 3:9-20
3:9 Although the subject has changed somewhat, Paul continues to raise the kind of objections that the Jews would raise. His purpose is to show that neither Jews nor Gentiles are guiltless before God but that all are sinners. This is made clear in the verses which follow. The objection here is that the Jews are better than the Gentiles because they have the advantage of having received the very words of God. Paul's answer is that such is not the case at all because there is no difference in the Jew and the Greek since all are under sin, which means that both are under the sway and the condemnation of sin. Both Jews and Gentiles have committed sinful acts, but more importantly for Paul's case here, both stand under the condemnation of the sin principle or the power of evil, which dominates men's lives.
3:10 The proof of the unrighteousness of all men, Jews and Gentiles, is to be found in the Scripture. This verse, like the two verses that follow immediately, probably comes from the first part of Psalm 14. Paul added the word righteous, which is not in either the Hebrew or LXX of the Psalm. This verse constitutes a general statement of the case that Paul is building from the Scripture, which says that all men are under sin. Paul's addition of the word righteous is understandable because of its importance to him. The presence of righteousness from God is the opposite of sin; sin is the result of the absence of God's righteousness in men. The point is that there is not even one who is righteous.
3:11 Psalm 14:2 reads, "The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Paul does not quote that here, but rather gives the implication that there were none. His conclusion is that there is no one who understands or who is trying to understand God.
3:12 This verse is a verbatim quotation of Psalm 14:3. It is reminiscent of 1:21 where Paul had said that even though men knew God they did not acknowledge him as such. His conclusion is that all men have become useless, that is, literally all have "gone bad," like rotten fruit. Then Paul, like the Psalmist, states the same thing in a negative sense: there is not even one who does good. Literally Paul says, "Not even until, or up to, one."
In these three verses Paul has made it clear from the Scriptures that all men are sinners. There is no possibility of exclusion for anyone from this conclusion, neither Gentile nor Greek. Paul goes further in the following verses.
3:13-14 In these two verses Paul indicates that all men are sinners in speech. The first two clauses of verse 13 come from Psalm 5:10 and the last clause from Psalm 139:4. Verse 14 comes from Psalm 10:7. All of these quotations refer to the organs of man's speech. When evil men open their mouths to speak it is obvious that their throats (literally larynx) give off the foul odor of a newly opened grave. Their tongues are oily, slick but deceitful by habit. That is, they keep on deceiving with their tongues. The asp referred to here is the Egyptian cobra which had its poison concealed in a bag under its lips. The idea is that while the men seem to speak good, the hidden meaning is poisonous and destructive. It is no surprise that the mouths of such men are FULL OF CURSINGS AND BITTERNESS.
3:15-18 In these verses Paul uses the OT quotations to demonstrate that wicked men are sinners in deed as well as in nature and in word. The feet of man is used here to demonstrate that. The quotation in verses 15-17 are from Isaiah 59:7-8. Certainly Paul could point to the history of man as recorded in God's Word to illustrate that the quotation from Isaiah was accurate. Men had walked in the way of war and destruction rather than peace, and bloodshed, destruction and misery were in the wake of man's destructive path. In addition man's action as well as his nature and his words had demonstrated that there was no fear of God in his life.
Barclay summarized Paul's description of the wickedness of man from the Scripture as
· A character whose characteristics are ignorance, indifference, crookedness and unprofitableness.
· A tongue whose notes are destructive, deceitful, malignant.
· A conduct whose marks are oppression, injuriousness, implacability.
These things are the result of disregard of God.
3:19-20 Paul now draws a conclusion from all these Scriptures. By "law" he means the Hebrew Scripture because none of the quotations come from the Torah, but from the prophets and the writings. He says WE KNOW, which means we have studied the evidence and come to a conclusion based on it. His conviction is that the law speaks to those who live in the sphere of the law, whatever the law is. The Jewish law speaks to the Jews, the laws of the Gentiles speak to them. Since the law has spoken to men to show them their sin, both Jews and Gentiles, no man can accuse God of arbitrariness. Every mouth has been closed by the law. The only thing the law, whether Mosaic or otherwise, can do is to reveal sin. No man can be justified by the law in the sight of God since its only purpose has always been to reveal sin, not forgive it.
· Man was in a mess. He is a sinner apart from God and unable to help himself.
· God has broken into the “age of wrath” with the “age of righteousness”
· Since man could not help himself, God has done so in Christ
3:21-31 GOD’S PROVISION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
3:21 NOW in 3:21 does not just mean to contrast the way things used to be in reference to time as opposed to the way they are now. Rather, the contrast is between man's attempt at righteousness and God's revelation of his own righteousness in Jesus. It refers to the contrast between man’s attempt at justification and his failure. It also refers to the new era marked by the work of Christ in providing God’s righteousness to man.
God’s new activity providing righteousness to man has been done APART FROM THE LAW. That means the law had nothing to do with it. It could not. The law was never intended to provide salvation. The new work has been MANIFESTED in Christ’s life and death and is being WITNESSED BY THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS. The law and prophets point to redemption in Christ. Has been manifested is perfect tense. It puts the focus back on the one event that provided man’s redemption and now provides God’s righteousness to man.
3:22 This new demonstration of the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD is available through the faithfulness of Jesus. Righteousness of God is the state of right standing that produces God’s righteousness in the believer. The words translated THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST can also be translated "through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ," and it seems to me that the latter would be the better translation. Jesus is consistently mentioned in Paul's writings as the agent of the imparted righteousness of God. If this translation is correct, Paul's meaning is that Jesus has been faithful in carrying out the work of God in the provision of salvation for believers. Karl Barth's translation of this phrase attributes the faithfulness to God. The resultant meaning is very near the same. The point that needs to be emphasized is that there is an agent actively and faithfully involved in the impartation of the righteousness of God to those who believe, and that the agent is Jesus Christ.
The study of the term "righteousness of God" is too extensive for a complete study here, but some things need to be said about it. In a general way God's righteousness can be described as the character God's saving activity confers on those who believe. It comes only from God and is a gift, which believers possess because of the activity of God in their lives.
I think it is important to translate the Greek word here as righteousness rather than justification. The word justification is a legal metaphor that emphasizes the announcement of acquittal for the one believing in Christ. That is a part of the work of Christ, but not the only part. God not only announces the acquittal, he also works to make the believer righteous. In addition, God continues to work His righteousness in the believer. The believer is put in a state wherein he is growing more like Jesus.
I think it is important to say that righteousness is imparted to man rather than saying it is imputed because of the difference in the concept involved in these two words. Impute is a bookkeeping term that can mean that God credits righteousness to man's account by simply announcing it. This is seen in the idea of some that God simply announces that man is not guilty. While it is true that God does so announce the removal of man's guilt, it is also true that the announcement can be made because of the actual activity of God in the life of the believer. Frank Stagg says that righteousness is the activity of God that actually brings about God's kind of righteousness in the believer. It is not "fixing the ticket," and it is never seen as apart from man's faith response, but it is God's work "from first to last."
The righteousness of God is available to ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE because it comes from God through Jesus Christ. Righteousness is a characteristic of God. He could not manifest righteousness if he did not possess it. However, the emphasis here is on more than the fact that God possesses righteousness, and on the fact that God imparts his characteristic of righteousness to those who believe. God is righteous and he imparts that characteristic to those who believe. This is the distinction Paul makes. Now God has revealed himself (his character, his righteousness) in Jesus Christ.
3:23 The last clause of 3:22, FOR THERE IS NO DISTINCTION, and 3:23 may be a parenthetical statement from Paul. The participle at the beginning of verse 24 makes better sense if it refers to "all the ones who believe" in 3:22. If this is a parenthetical statement, it is a very important one because it summarizes what Paul has said about the common guilt of all men. There is no distinction in man’s condition, in man’s need, or in man’s redemption. All have the same need; all are saved in the same way.
The tense Paul used to say ALL SINNED indicates that all men have sinned at a point in time. It is called a gnomic aorist because it states a general principle , a truth, or a norm. This is simply a true statement about man in general: all have sinned. Man, left to himself, invariably sins. He has no power to get out.
In addition to the fact that man has sinned at a point in time, he is also continually a mark misser. We do not look like God until Jesus changes us. The mark that he misses is the GLORY OF GOD. This word comes from the Hebrew word kabod, which originally meant weight or heavy. It came to mean something that is heavy or significant, and eventually to mean the revelation of the very presence of God as redeemer (Shekinah glory of the wilderness). The revelation of the character of God as redeemer reached its fullness in the cross and resurrection. Paul is saying that man naturally is in a state of being apart from Christ who is the ultimate revelation of the Glory of God. Man is a mark-misser, and he remains so until he is changed by the impartation of the righteousness of God. Man can only become what he is. A lost man can only become more like a lost man until Jesus comes into his life and establishes the nature of God in him. Then God works righteousness in him to mold and shape him to become what he wants the man to be.
Hobbs says that there are two ways to miss a mark. One is that a man may have a bad aim. This is true of the lost man because he is unable even to aim in the right direction. The other way to miss the mark is to aim in the right direction, but to fail to have the strength or the equipment to reach the target. This also is true of lost men. It is only in a faith response to Jesus that lost men can be changed and have the righteousness of God imparted to them.
3:24 Those who believe are BEING JUSTIFIED. Justified means the same thing as being made righteous. The same word is used for both translations. The emphasis is on the action of God who puts man in a right relationship with Himself (Newman and Nida). The word describes a continuing process that is going on in the lives of believers. It could mean that the process of making believers righteous is constantly going on since the death of Jesus on the cross, or it could mean that the process of being made righteous is continually going on in the life of each believer from the point of his or her faith response to God. Either idea would fit both the present context and the theology of Paul. Both are true.
The activity of being made righteous is done AS A GIFT BY HIS GRACE. Man contributes nothing; God contributes all. This describes the grace of God in his initiative of reaching out to man to provide salvation. It is a free gift of the Father in providing REDEMPTION WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS.
The basic meaning of the word REDEMPTION is to loose or release, and used in this context it refers to the state of being released from sin through the work of Christ Jesus. For some the idea of cost is foremost in this word, but that does not seem to me to be the basic idea. This is a slave-market word that describes the loosing of the slave who has been purchased. It seems to me that cost is involved (cost is a better word than price). God/Jesus assumed the cost to loose us. Newman and Nida note that the in the LXX the emphasis is never on the cost but on the accomplished result: loosing. The same seems to me to be true in Paul’s writing.
While cost is involved in the word, the emphasis cannot be on the fact that God paid a price to Satan to free the believers. Neither does it mean that Jesus paid a price to ransom men either from the wrath of the Father or from Satan. The idea of a tension between the Father and the Son wherein the Son played the role of the one who ransoms believers from the Father or as the ransom itself that the Father demanded for believers is widespread. In my opinion this idea is not compatible with the NT portrayal of the character of the Father or the Son. As Paul in 2 Cor. 5:19 said, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.” That is not a picture of tension between the Father and the Son. That is a picture of involvement by the Father and the Son in the loosing of believers from slavery to sin and to freedom in Christ.
Neither is the idea that the Father or Jesus paid a price to Satan to redeem believers from his grasp compatible with the NT concept. Even Renshaw said, "God in Christ dealt with the Adversary not by buying him off, but by destroying his power.” The Father, acting in the Son, and in full agreement with his purpose, liberated those who believe in the Son by assuming the cost of man's liberation in himself through the act of the death of Jesus on the cross. As a result of the cost assumed, believers are released into a state of being redeemed.
The phrase IN CHRIST JESUS specifies that it is in the sphere of Christ Jesus that the ones believing enjoy the release from sin. Certainly the event of the cross marks the point in time when the Father acted in and with the Son to provide redemption for those who believe, but it should also be said that the act to which REDEMPTION refers is the means of the ongoing process of making believers righteous which the Father is working in them. Stagg says correctly that REDEMPTION refers to both the present reality and the future promise. Hobbs spoke of redemption as regeneration, sanctification, and glorification, which says the same. It could be added that it also refers to a past reality in the believers’ life as well. Man was in sin and could not deliver himself. God in Christ provided both liberation from sin and ultimate redemption of the body through the resurrection.
3:25 WHOM refers to Christ Jesus. It was Jesus whom GOD DISPLAYED PUBLICLY at a time in the past. The word is proetheto. It is used in two other places in this form and in both other instances it means purpose (Eph 1.9; Rom 1.13). It could mean purpose here, and it seems to me that it likely does. It was God’s purpose that Jesus be the merciful means/place of forgiveness. Unquestionably this points back to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God set forth Jesus as a PROPITIATION. There are many translations and interpretations of this word. The meaning of the English word is “appeasement of an angry God.” Barrett says it is used in the LXX as a translation of kipper, a Hebrew word that means to conceal or cleanse. He translates it "his means of dealing with sin.” Newman and Nida say that in the LXX God is never the object of the appeasement, but is always the subject of it. T. C. G. Thornton says that if this word means propitiation it is God indirectly propitiating himself because he is the subject, and he says there is no Jewish parallel for this. Barth translates it as "a (covering of) propitiation.” Nygren prefers "mercy seat" which he says was supported by Origen and Luther. Kasemann translates it as "expiation" saying "means of forgiveness" is too weak. Cranfield translates it as "propitiatory sacrifice."
John Calvin's comments are likely the basis for many who hold the idea of propitiation. He says,
What Paul especially meant here is no doubt evident from his words; and it was this,--that God, without having regard to Christ, is always angry with us,--and that we are reconciled to him when we are accepted through his righteousness. God does not indeed hate us in his own workmanship, that is as we are formed men; but he hates our uncleanness, which has extinguished the light of his image. When the washing of Christ cleanses this away, he then loves us and embraces us as his own pure workmanship.
If this is true, then our condition as a sinner or saint determines whether God loves us. I do not think we determine in any way whether God loves us. He loves us because of who He is, not who we are.
Renshaw is not far from Calvin. He says,
For Paul, it certainly was no mere metaphor or linguistic expression. He sees man as under God's righteous judgment because of sin, and the righteousness which has imposed that judgment cannot reverse it by wishing to do so. The moral integrity of God is not to be compromised. In some sense a price must be paid, a sacrifice offered. This God himself has done in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In my opinion, this conclusion is a human attempt to express the unexpressible. The ideas of both Calvin and Renshaw are totally unacceptable. The idea of an angry Father demanding that his Son serve as a propitiation for his wrath is certainly not the concept that Paul sets forth here. Paul does not see hilasterion as a propitiation. God is the subject, not the object of the action of Jesus. A hilasterion is not something that makes the Father gracious, it rather presupposes the Father's grace.
Murray and Morris deal extensively with this issue. They may be trying to tie in the wrath of 1.18-3.20 with the action of God to provide deliverance from the wrath. Propitiation is a way out of wrath. Morris views salvation in three ways here:
· Justification (see especially footnotes 114-117 on p. 178)
· Redemption (see p. 179)
Propitiation means removal of wrath. Morris says wrath is directed toward sinners. However, wrath is directed toward sin, not sinners. Sin is removed from the sinner by redemption. Morris says, mistakenly, I think, that the meaning of hilasterion (see footnote 127) is propitiation. I think he is wrong on this because it overlooks the preponderance of usage in the LXX.
Is there a plausible solution to the problem? It would seem to me that the most natural meaning of the word is the best meaning. This word is used only here and in Hebrews 9:5 in the NT. In Hebrews 9:5 it obviously refers to the mercy seat in the tabernacle upon which the blood was sprinkled by the high priest on Yom Kippur, and it is usually translated in that place "mercy seat.” In Romans 3:25 it is usually translated either "propitiation" or "expiation.” In 1 John 2:2 hilasmos is used and it is also usually translated "propitiation" or "expiation.” Neither in Romans 3:25 nor in 1 John 2:2 do these words give an adequate translation.
"Propitiation" refers to the appeasement of an angry god, and this is clearly not the meaning in 1 John where the love of the Father is emphasized or in Romans 3:21-26 where the freely-given gift of God's grace is emphasized.
"Expiation," which denotes a sacrifice made for sin, is closer to the meaning in the context of 1 John and Romans 3, but there is more involved than a sacrifice in both contexts. In 1 John 2:2 the believer has "one called alongside" to help, and in Romans 3 the believer has one who by God's freely-given grace has released him from sin.
Because hilasterion in Hebrews 9:5 clearly means mercy seat (used twice in Exodus for the lid of the ark), and because the mercy seat in the tabernacle was the place where God met men to provide forgiveness for man's sins in the days of the tabernacle, it follows that hilasterion in Romans 3:25 could well mean "place or means of forgiveness.”
This translation is further substantiated by the use of hilastheti, a related word, in Luke 18:13 where it can only be understood as a plea for mercy in the context of the publican's cry for mercy to God. It seems clear therefore that hilasterion in Romans 3:25 and hilasmos in 1 John 2:2 should be understood in the sense of a merciful means of forgiveness rather than in the sense of an appeasement of an angry God or simply a sacrifice made for sin. The reference here seems to me to emphasize the action of God in Christ toward sinners rather than sinners’ action toward God.
We need to see the merciful, loving, voluntary action of God in purposing (from before the foundation of the world) that Jesus would become the merciful means/place of forgiveness for us. The issue is not whether God is mad, but that he is loving and forgiving--willing to assume the cost for our redemption!
With this understanding it becomes clear that Romans 3:25 further indicates that the Father, who set forth the Son as a means of forgiveness, is the source of righteousness and the Son is the means through whom the righteousness was provided. The Father has set forth the means of forgiveness THROUGH FAITH. If this faith refers to the faith on the part of the believer, it means the response of the believer to the gracious gift of forgiveness. If the phrase applies to God, it refers to the faithful consistency of God to provide his righteousness to men throughout the ages. In the light of 3:25b-26 it seems best to take the phrase to refer to God's faithfulness. But it is also true that the believer believes.
3:25b-26 The remainder of verse 25 and verse 26 present a parallel that demonstrates the consistent purpose of the Father in providing his righteousness to those of faith in the past and in the present. These verses also demonstrate the righteousness of God by showing the impossibility of simply passing over sin. Passed over could mean forgive, but it is not likely. It is more likely that Paul is referring to something he said elsewhere. (See 5.13; see also Acts 17.30). All of this points to deliberate and gracious action by God. That is especially true of the current situation: God’s revealed redemption. In all situations God reveals His righteousness.
Sin must not be passed over, it must be dealt with. Paul is demonstrating that God has dealt with sin in mercy in Christ Jesus.
The construction Paul used in verse 26 could indicate either purpose or result. The resultant meaning would be about the same whichever is taken. Neither the purpose nor the result of Jesus' being set forth as a means of merciful forgiveness is to make the Father JUST AND THE JUSTIFIER, because he has already been shown to be the one who makes men righteous as it is witnessed to "by the law and the prophets" in 3:21. Since DEMONSTRATE is used in both verses it seems best to understand that the purpose expressed in this clause is to demonstrate a fact about God which has already been known: he is righteous and the one who makes righteous the one who has faith in Jesus. William Barclay said,
It was God who sent Jesus Christ into this world. It is not that Jesus, as it were, said: `I will take the initiative and will go down into the world and make my sacrifice and lay down my life, if perchance it may pacify my Father's anger and free men from the wrath to come.' If we may put it so, it was that God laid upon Jesus the task of providing the way to salvation, which was already his own aim.
Jesus fulfilled the will of God in the cross.
3:27 Boasting is excluded. Boasting is self-congratulation based on what one can do. Since Jesus has provided our redemption and we cannot provide it, there is no room for congratulating ourselves. The word translated EXCLUDED means to be shut out once for all.
Paul then asks the question, BY WHAT KIND OF LAW? OF WORKS? The answer is emphatic. It is not the law of works that excludes boasting; boasting is excluded through A LAW OF FAITH. The law is not the means of man being made righteous. The righteousness of God comes to man through faith.
3:28 It is by faith (alone: Luther) that you or any man is made righteous. Justification by works is grounded in what a person is and does; being made righteous by faith is just the opposite. It is trust versus boasting. It is self-renunciation versus self-congratulation. Faith looks to God for deliverance; works looks to man.
3:29-30 God is one. This is the first article of the Jewish faith. Paul is using this strong Jewish argument to show that God cannot be divided in his dealings with man. Therefore, there can be no difference in his dealing with the Jews and the Gentiles to make them righteous.
When Paul says WILL JUSTIFY in verse 30 he is not referring to the final judgment. He is saying, "Every case of being made righteous that is done at any time will be done because of a faith response.”
There is a difference in the prepositions used with Jews and Gentiles in verse 30. The Jews will be justified OUT OF FAITH, denoting source; the Gentiles will be justified THROUGH FAITH, denoting agency or means. No distinction should be made since Paul is using Greek idioms to say exactly the same thing using different words.
3:31 This verse is the conclusion of Paul's argument. The law is not nullified. Paul uses the strong negative, MAY IT NEVER BE. He means that rather than being nullified the law is established to be understood in its real purpose. It was never intended to be a means of justification. What is nullified is the concept of justification by the law.
THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM: 4:1-12
4:1-2 Paul introduces the example of Abraham by asking what Abraham, who was the physical forefather of the Jews, HAS FOUND. He seems to be saying that if Abraham had found that he could be made righteous by works he would have room to boast. However, he has already established that boasting is excluded, and he reaffirms it here by saying that Abraham cannot boast before God.
4:3 The scriptural evidence cited here is from Genesis 15 and it is also quoted in Gal. 3:6. ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Logisthe is the basis for the concept for "imputed" righteousness, or being declared righteous, for some. It is a bookkeeping term that denotes an entry. However, we must note that the entry, or declaration of righteousness came at the point of belief. When Abraham believed God, that is when he responded in faith to the initiative of God in his life, he was then made righteous--changed.
The Jews understood faith as a definite activity on Abraham's part. They thought he was then regarded as measuring up to God's standard because of his action, and God responded by making him righteous. However, for Paul faith is a response to what God has revealed of himself, especially in Jesus. So faith is not an activity of man that earns salvation for him. It is the response of man to God who has made himself known in Jesus.
4:4 To the one doing the work, the reward for working is not regarded as a gift of grace but as a debt. If salvation is earned God is obligated to give it. However, for man to earn salvation he must be perfectly righteous, and Paul has shown this to be an impossibility (3:20).
4:5 Salvation is a gift from God, not a payment for services rendered. Anyone who would be a true son of Abraham must come to God the same way Abraham came. Abraham was not an immoral man; he was a good man. However, his goodness was not sufficient grounds for his redemption. He came to God apart from his works or his goodness and he was made righteous as a gift from God.
God also is able to make righteous those men who are not as good as Abraham. Any man who comes to God in faith finds himself being made righteous as a gift of God's grace.
This is not to say that God disregards sin. He does not. He forgives sin for sinners who come to him in faith. His grace does not operate in contradiction to his justice; there is no conflict. "He is faithful and righteous to forgive to us our sins.” God does not demand that sin be paid for to satisfy his righteousness. As a righteous God he forgives sinners and provides redemption for them. Sin must be dealt with if a man is to be reconciled to God; God had dealt with it in Jesus Christ. He did so on his own initiative and at his own cost, the cost of the death of his Son.
His righteousness would be violated if he allowed all to come regardless of their sin. Instead of a Kingdom of Righteousness His would be a kingdom of sin. Man is a sinner. God deals with his sin in Jesus. He forgives men and declares them righteous, but he also makes them righteous. Thus, Abraham, and we, and all others who have come to him in faith have been transformed by his grace.
4:6-8 Paul now used the example of David. David had sinned tragically and had been confronted by Nathan. He had repented and confessed his sin (Ps. 51) so he understood what it meant to be forgiven by a righteous God who acts in grace. This quotation from Ps. 32 is the expression of joy that David gave at the experience of forgiveness. David was no longer reckoned (bookkeeping term) as a sinner because he was no longer in bondage to sin. He had not delivered himself; he had been delivered by God who acted according to his own characteristic of grace.
Thus it is true for us. This is what Paul is leading up to in Chapter 6. We who have been made righteous are no longer considered to be in bondage to sin because we are not! We have been delivered through death: the death of Christ, which made possible our own death to sin.
4:9 Is it possible only for the circumcised to be made righteous? Abraham is an example that the Jews would use to show the justification of the circumcised, but Paul points out that he is the example that shows that righteousness came before circumcision. Faith was reckoned, that is, it was declared because it became a reality in Abraham's life. Faith, not circumcision, opened up Abraham's life to receive God's righteousness.
4:10 Paul is sure about his position on circumcision because he knows that Abraham was made righteous before he was given the sign of circumcision.
4:11 Circumcision is a sign or seal of the covenant relationship already based on grace/faith. The best example for us is baptism. As circumcision was a sign of fellowship with God for those who were physically Abraham's children, baptism is the sign of fellowship for those who are in the body of Christ.
4:11b-12 Abraham then is considered to be the father of all those who believe, both the circumcised and the uncircumcised. Note that it is because of faith and not because of circumcision that this is so.
THE PROMISE REALIZED THROUGH FAITH: 4:13-25
4:13-15 As the promise to Abraham is not through circumcision. Neither is it through the law of Moses because that had not been yet given either. Paul re-emphasizes that Abraham, like all other believers, was made righteous by God because of his faith response to God's grace. If righteousness were dependent on the law of Moses that would nullify faith and would mean that Abraham could not be made righteous because there was no law in Abraham's day.
Paul is not saying that the law has no place in God's dealings with men. It has a very definite place, but it has only a very specific place in making men righteous. The only thing that the law was intended to do was to show man his sin and point him to the one who could deal with his sin--God. It does this, but it cannot make men righteous.
Law results not in righteousness but in wrath (abiding anger of God against sin because of what it does to his people). When the law is taken into account, men end up as lawbreakers. WHERE THERE IS NO LAW, NEITHER IS THERE VIOLATION. Note that Paul does not say that there is no sin where there is no law. He has already said that all men are continually mark missers. Where there is no law there is no transgression (deliberate rebellion and breaking of a commandment). We are all mark missers and we add to our guilt by deliberately breaking the law. In that state we are not in need of the law or of good deeds; we are in need of the grace of God to which we respond by faith.
4:16-17 It is in this sense that Abraham is the father of us all. He responded to God's grace through faith. All who respond to God in the same way are children of Abraham. This is true of those who are under the law (Jews) and those who are not (Gentiles). All of this is so because it is from God that our righteousness comes. He has the right to set the conditions because he gives the righteousness. Because of his graciousness he has chosen to do it this way.
4:18 IN HOPE AGAINST HOPE is literally hope upon hope. It means constant hope, hoping continually. Abraham did not give up and the result was that he became father of many nations.
4:19-21 NASB is a good translation of the first part of this verse. It is literally "and not becoming weak in faith he considered his own body.” Abraham did consider his own body and that of Sarah, but he believed God's promise in spite of that consideration. This is real faith. It is not Abraham believing something about God, it is Abraham believing God, trusting Him, yielding himself to God.
Abraham did come to some times when he was discouraged, but when it came down to the promise of God, he did not waver to the point of taking himself away from God. His trust in God was well founded because God was able to perform what he had promised.
4:22-24 It was this kind of trust that made it possible for Abraham to be made righteous by God. He responded in faith to him. The same is true for all who will respond to God in the same way. Our advantage is that we have been able to see the ultimate fulfillment of the promise in Jesus. As we respond to that fulfillment we will be made righteous even as Abraham was.
4:25 It was the deliberate disobedience of men that necessitated the death of Jesus. It was the resurrection of Jesus that confirmed the work of God in providing our redemption at Calvary. Both the death and resurrection of Jesus are seen as one event.
THE RESULTS OF JUSTIFICATION: 5:1-11
THEREFORE, as it usually does for Paul, brings us to a conclusion based on the information that has been given before. Verse 1 is a summary statement covering chapters 1-4. Since we are made righteous by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have peace with God.
HAVING BEEN is literally BEING. The difference may be slight since the perfect tense would indicate that something completed in the past has continuing effects, but it seems to me that it is important to note that Paul considers justification to be a continuing process. We were justified when we responded in faith to Jesus; we are being justified now as God works righteousness in us; we will be justified when we stand before God in the consummation of our salvation.
WE HAVE PEACE WITH GOD could be translated like that or it could be LET US HAVE PEACE WITH GOD. The only difference would be that Paul is stating that we already have peace or he is exhorting the believers to have peace or to enjoy or experience the peace that already exists. Since it is true that the peace we have with God comes as a result of the work of Christ and not our own works, it is likely that Paul intends to affirm that peace with God is a reality for us. Believers do need to be reminded of the state of peace in which we live and the reason for it: Jesus.
The basic meaning of PEACE is to bind together that which has been separated. Our broken relationship with God has been bound up and healed as a result of the redeeming work of Christ. Peace is a possibility; it is also an actuality. This fact also suggests peace with men.
5:2 WE HAVE OBTAINED is in the perfect tense. It means that something has happened in the past that has continuing results. The death of Christ has made possible our relationship with God and this may be to what Paul refers. However, it is also possible that he is referring to the faith response that we made in the past to receive Jesus as our savior. hat we have obtained is OUR INTRODUCTION to his grace. This indicates access or entree before a king. We can be sure WE STAND in the presence of God. He is with us because he lives in us; therefore, we are always in his presence. We do not have to fear because his help is always at hand. This truth is emphasized by the use of the perfect tense for STAND. Because of his action at a time in the past we are made to stand as a result of the continuing effects of that action.
EXULT means to rejoice exceedingly. We rejoice exceedingly in the hope of his GLORY, which is the aura of his immediate presence. God has revealed something of himself as it relates to his character as redeemer. That revelation is in Jesus Christ. We constantly stand in his presence, so we can rejoice in the knowledge of God that we have as a result of his revelation.
5:3 As Paul often does, his thought about the redeeming work of Christ leads him to think of other benefits we have as a result of our relationship with him. WE ALSO EXULT IN OUR TRIBULATIONS. Tribulation suggests the idea of the wine press or the grinding stones used to grind corn. The pressure that is involved is great and often very harmful. Paul is not saying that we rejoice because we have tribulations, but he is saying that we can rejoice in the midst of them. Paul was joyful because his life was lived in the will of God. He could rejoice in the presence of tribulations because he experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life.
The presence of the Holy Spirit helps the believer to see that good can come out of something even as bad as tribulation. The good that comes from tribulation is PERSEVERANCE. Patience is not an adequate translation of this word. It comes from two words that mean “under” and “to stand”. The idea that is conveyed is the ability to stand under a load, even when standing there is difficult.
5:4 PROVEN CHARACTER is character that has been put to the test and has been proven to be of good quality. It is certainly true that one test of character is the ability of a person to stand under the load of life even when things are going badly. The result of proven character is HOPE. Paul started here. Hope for the Christian is a sure belief that what has been promised to him is going to come to pass. This promise is especially true of the hope of redemption. We have a sure hope as though it had already been realized because as believers we are already experiencing it.
5:5 DISAPPOINT means to put to shame or leave hanging. The believer will not be disappointed by the hope that we have in Christ. God's love HAS BEEN POURED OUT WITHIN OUR HEARTS. The suggestion is the abundance of God's love. There is plenty for our every need. It also is indicative of the fact that God does not withhold his blessings from believers.
The HOLY SPIRIT is the channel of the blessings God pours out on the believers. He has been GIVEN TO US already. The construction here indicates that the Spirit was given at a point in time. That point was the point at which we received Christ as savior because it was at that time that the Holy Spirit came to dwell within us.
5:6 This verse speaks of our spiritual condition before our salvation. We were weak in the sense that we were HELPLESS to do anything about our spiritual condition. Jesus died in the interest of all who were weak. When did he do so? AT THE RIGHT TIME. The result was not to pay back someone. Jesus did not owe the devil anything nor did he owe us anything. He died to give his life on behalf of those who could do nothing to help themselves.
Weust says that the preposition (huper) is a substitutionary preposition. The Greek preposition anti does carry the idea of substitution, but this one does not. It simply means "on behalf of.” It is proper to speak of the death of Christ for us as a substitutionary death. That is not the only way to speak of it, but it is the most descriptive way, especially in this context when Paul is saying that Christ died for us when we could do nothing to deliver ourselves from sin. This verse clearly speaks of substitution in the sense that Jesus came into a problem that was not his problem, a sin that was not his sin, and taking these things upon himself voluntarily, he died on our behalf.
5:7 Several suggestions have been made toward the interpretation of this verse. Barrett said that Paul is using repetition here, that both parts of the verse mean the same thing. Cranfield points out that would not be a good illustration because many have died for others in the past. Probably the meaning here is, "Scarcely for a righteous man would one die--well, in behalf of a really good man someone might even dare to die.” The point is that we do not go around laying down our lives for others. We would hardly do that for a good man or a good cause, but Jesus died for the ungodly!
5:8 This is the completion of the contrast from verse 7. Jesus died for us even while we were sinners. The love of God is his own love expressed to man. It is not that Jesus' love elicited love from the Father, but that the Father provided the love as it was demonstrated in the death of his Son. Emil Brunner said, "Christ and God are for Paul so much of a unity that for him the self-sacrifice of the son is simple proof of the Father's love.” Nygren also speaks interchangeably of the Father's love and the Son's love because they are the same. The death of Jesus on the cross is the most incomprehensible act of God's love. We cannot speak of the love of God without speaking of the cross, nor of the cross without speaking of the love of God.
5:9 In this verse HAVING NOW BEEN JUSTIFIED refers to the past action of God at the cross of Jesus. BY HIS BLOOD could also be translated "by means of his blood.” That means that the death of Jesus on the cross was the means by which we are made righteous. WE SHALL BE SAVED probably refers to the continuing work of God in the life of the believer, which began when the Father imparted righteousness to the believer. The believer is in the process of being saved and will be saved ultimately THROUGH HIM. Jesus is the agency through whom all of salvation is given to us. We are also saved FROM THE WRATH, or from God's abiding anger against sin because of what it does to his people.
5:10-11 Paul repeats what he has said, but there are two changes. One is the additional assertion that we are saved BY HIS LIFE. This could be "in the sphere of" his life, or it could be "by means of" his life. Both would be true. Hobbs says that it is not his life prior to Calvary that is meant here, but his resurrection life. [It also may refer to all of it. He says that the emphasis is on the continuing aspect of salvation rather than the beginning of salvation].
The other change here is the use of RECONCILED. This word means "to make otherwise," and in the form used here the thought of change predominates. In this context it is clear that God is the one who reconciles since he himself does not change. Reconciliation requires two things: provision and acceptance. God has provided; we must respond in faith for reconciliation to become effective. The agency of reconciliation is the Son. Stagg adds that the English word "reconcile" comes from the Latin concilliare which means "to bring together or unite.” Commenting on the concept of reconciliation, Stagg says that it "is first of all God's work in so overcoming man's sin as to restore man to his fellowship”. This God does through Jesus Christ and the place of reconciliation is the cross.
Men were enemies of God; now they are reconciled to him. But again it must be said that God is the actor and that the reconciliation has been accomplished through the death of his son.
Four main points must be remembered in Paul's use of the concept of reconciliation:
· God is always the subject--the one who does the reconciling.
· Man (or the world, or all things not God) is always the object of reconciliation, the one in need of it.
· The death of Christ is the means.
· The ministry of reconciliation is the result--man reaches out to others.
We can EXULT because of the work of reconciliation Christ has done. God and man can now be at peace when man has been changed from sinful rebel to righteous saint through God's grace. That is reason to rejoice exceedingly.
ADAM AND CHRIST: 5:12-21
There is a widespread view among believers and others of the origin of sin that is flatly unscriptural. Rather than being based on Scripture, the view is based on an interpretation by Augustine, a fifth century church leader. Augustine based his speculation on a mistranslation of Romans 5:12. He substituted the Latin in quo (in whom) for the Greek eph hoi (because, on account of). This has led to the Augustinian tradition that we all share in the original sin of Adam through the physical passing of sin from one generation to another through the male seed.
Two theories based on this tradition have done much damage. One is directly from Augustine and says that since we were all in the loins of Adam we all participated in his sin. Through procreation this sin is physically passed to all humans through the male seed. The other theory is the "federal" theory that says Adam was our representative and when he sinned we became involved in his sin because he is the federal head of the race.
In the light of this misinformation, how are we to approach what Paul says in Romans 5:12-21? It seems to me that an examination of what Paul actually said divorced from tradition might shed some light.
Mounce gives three positions on 12-14 (141f):
· In whom. Means that when Adam sinned, because he is the representative of the race, all sinned in him. Mounce notes that if Paul had intended to say that he could have used a “simpler and more obvious connection.” The construction is used in Lk 5.25 (that which or what); Acts 7.33 (upon which); 2 Cor 5.4 (that which or what); Phil 3.12 (that which), Phil 4.10 (indeed, that which). It does not mean “in whom” in those cases. This view was Augustine’s. He saw sin as passing physically in the seed of the male--thus the need not only for the virgin birth/immaculate conception of Jesus (scriptural) but also for the immaculate conception of Mary (unscriptural).
· As a causal conjunction meaning “because” (literally “upon which”). The problem is that there is no other evidence that the words are used as a causal conjunction.
· As a consecutive conjunction meaning “with the result that.” It would fit the literal meaning “upon which” and it would speak to the tendency of man to sin.
5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world and through sin, death, so also unto all men death passed, because all sinned.
· Paul said sin entered the world, not that sin passed on all men.
· Death is the consequence of sin.
· Death passed on all men, not because Adam's sin passed on all men, but because all sinned. (Because of the tendency of humans to sin.)
5:13 For until the law, sin was being in the world, but sin was not reckoned, there not being a law.
· Sin existed before the law.
· Sin was not reckoned as a violation since there was no law.
· Adam violated a direct command of God.
· From Adam to Moses there were no direct commandments.
· When the law came, violations came also.
5:14 But death reigned from Adam to Moses also upon the ones not sinning in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one coming.
· Men still missed the mark.
· Death was still the consequence of sin.
· Men did not transgress God's commandment because there was no commandment.
5:15 But the grace gift is not like the transgression. For if by the one transgression the many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by grace of the one man Jesus Christ unto the many abounded.
· The transgression and the grace gift are not alike.
· One transgression resulted in death.
· One death resulted in life for many.
· Those who follow the pattern of Jesus receive the gift of God's grace--God's grace far overflows man's sin. Grace is greater than our sin.
5:16 And not as through one sinning the gift, for on the one hand judgment out of one results in condemnation, but on the other hand grace gifts out of many transgressions result in righteousness.
· One transgression resulted in condemnation.
· Many transgressions were turned into righteousness through the grace gift.
· Those who follow Adam are guilty and condemned.
· God's grace exceeds the many sins of Adam and those who follow him, and this grace gift (Jesus) results in righteousness.
· Grace is greater than our sin.
5:17 For if by the transgression of the one man, death reigned through the one man, much more the ones the abundance of the grace and the gifts of righteousness receiving will reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
· One man's choice caused death to enter.
· One man's death caused life to enter.
· The grace gifts of righteousness made possible by the death of Jesus are more abundant than the effect of Adam's sin.
5:18 So then as through one transgression condemnation resulted to all men; thus, also by the one righteous act the righteousness of life results to all men.
· If sin is passed to all physically from Adam (without man's choice), so also is eternal life passed to all men from Jesus (without man's choice). This cannot be.
· Each individual chooses in both instances. What we inherit is the choice.
5:19 For just as through the disobedience of one man, the many were caused to be sinners; thus, also through the obedience of the one righteous one, the many will be made righteous.
· A restatement of v. 18. The same principle applies.
· If choice is involved in one, it is in both.
5:20 And the law came in order that the transgressions may abound, but where sin abounded, the grace super abounded.
· The law's purpose was to point men to their sin, which already existed.
· The purpose of Grace was to point men to God's available righteousness in Jesus.
· Grace super abounded.
5:21 In order that just as sin ruled in death; thus, also the grace may rule through righteousness unto life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord.
· Man made his choice to sin and was condemned.
· Jesus died for our sin and through this grace gift righteousness is available to all who respond in faith to him.
· Adam was created in a state of innocence, not perfection (check the text).
· He fell from innocence when he (Eve first) chose to sin.
· Every person is born in the same state of innocence. (This explains the innocence of infants and the mentally incompetent.)
· Man is born into a sinful world and with a tendency to sin, but man sins by his own deliberate choice. We inherit the choice.
· More importantly, man is born in the image of God, which means he is capable of responding to God.
Hobbs said, "The fact that Adam sinned did not in itself make all men personal sinners. The tendency toward sin in both resulted in personal sin for all. By the same token the fact that in Christ God offers his gift of grace does not mean that all receive it. It is offered to all but is actually received by those who accept it through faith in Christ. Thus God respects man's free will on both the debit and the credit sides of his ledger." Man, left to his own devices, invariably sins; God in his character as God provided redemption in Jesus.
In the final analysis it is a moot question. Whether man was born in sin in a physical sense or he decided to sin on his own, man is a sinner. There is no way around that conclusion.
DEAD TO SIN BUT ALIVE IN CHRIST: 6:1-14
6:1-3 The question is, “Do we remain in sin in order that grace may abound?” The answer is a strong negative. The reason is that "those very ones" who have died to sin cannot any longer live in it. Paul uses the example of the death of Christ. We are baptized into Christ, including his death. The Holy Spirit does this when we trust Jesus.
6:4 Baptism is the symbol of what has happened in our lives. A change has taken place; it is more than imputation. In the NT baptism follows the change that takes place in one's life. Here it is expressed as a death and resurrection like that of Jesus. The reason for it is (houtos kai) (just as, also) that just as Christ was raised, we also should walk (aorist subjunctive) in newness of life. The glory of the Father is the means of the resurrection of Jesus and us. Remember that the "glory" of God is his revealed character as redeemer.
6:5-6 If we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, also in the likeness of his resurrection we will be. This is a witness both to the resurrection of Jesus and of us. The key to living the resurrected life is to be united in the death of Christ. We know (experience) that the old man has been crucified in order that the body of sin may be done away with, thus we are no longer enslaved to sin. There is no unity with Christ without a death like his. It is for this reason that we can be secure in our salvation. The nature of the act is a permanent act, and the act is done by God working in our lives, not by something that we do on our own. All we can do is to come to Jesus and throw ourselves on his mercy. He puts the body of sin to death and raises us to newness of life. That is why baptism is such an excellent picture of that experience which God has worked in us. He is demonstrating in us that we have died to sin (actually been crucified by him) and are being raised to newness of life.
6:7 The one who has died has been made righteous from sin. Apo (from) carries the idea of separation. This is a clue from Paul that righteousness is not simply a legal declaration. We are delivered, separated from sin by the action of God in our lives to make us righteous. Paul will illustrate this in the first part of Chapter 7. He is saying the same thing he says when he speaks of our being made new creatures in Christ. This happened when we believed, but it is not yet complete.
6:8 If we died with Christ we believe that we shall also live with him. This is not just a reference to what will be at the last day, it is also a reference to what is happening now in the life of Christians. We are living with him--in union.
6:9 Knowing (perceiving) that Christ having been raised out of death no more will die, death does not control him any longer. He has won the victory already.
6:10-11 The death he died he died to sin once for all. The life he lives, he lives to God. Jesus died to sin before the death on the cross (see John 12) where he died for sin. As he died and as he lives, so do we because of our union in death and resurrection. This is what Paul says in verse 11, “Thus also reckon yourselves to be dead on the one hand to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
6:12-14 Therefore sin do not go on letting rule (Pres. imperative, continuing action) in your mortal bodies with the result that you obey the lusts of it. Neither present (present imperative--do not go on) your body members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your body members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin will not have control of you, for you are not under law, but under grace.
· You do not have to sin.
· Do not - You are free from sin, so act like it.
· Present your bodies as instruments in God's service.
To be under grace means more than that you are forgiven. It means you are free from sin in the sense that you do not have to sin anymore.
Romans 6:15-23: SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
6:15-16 The question now is: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know (perception) that to whom you present yourselves slaves unto obedience, slaves you are to whom you obey, either of sin unto death or obedience unto righteousness?
The antinomian attitude is ridiculous. We are slaves to whatever we present ourselves. A slave is one who belongs completely to his master. If we are slaves to sin (as we all once were), the result is death. If we are slaves to obedience, the result is the process of righteousness. The tense of the verb "shall we sin" indicates occasional sin. Paul is saying that we do not have to sin either habitually or occasionally. We learn from experience that Christians do sin occasionally, but it should not be because they plan to, and they do not have to.
6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.
Paul is not thanking God that they were slaves to sin, but that they have become obedient to this right teaching. The right teaching is embodied in Christ.
6:18-19 But having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms through the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to uncleanness and to lawlessness resulting in (more) lawlessness, thus now present your members as slaves to righteousness resulting in sanctification.
Being set free is in the sense of being released from the tyranny of sin. Paul almost apologizes for using the slavery analogy, but it is a good example of the change in relationship. Paul now encourages the Romans who have formerly been slaves of growing lawlessness to give themselves as slaves to righteousness that will result in a growing sanctification.
6:20-22 For when you were slaves to sin, you were then free from righteousness. Therefore, what fruit were you then having from those things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of that is death. But now you are having been freed from sin and having been made slaves to God, you have your fruit, resulting in sanctification, and the end is eternal life.
We are either slaves of sin or righteousness. There is a contrast in 20-22. We are slaves to something--either sin or obedience. The result is either death or the process of sanctification. Paul encourages our movement from slavery to sin to slavery to Christ. No one is absolutely free. We do have the choice to decide who the master will be, but not the choice to have no master.
6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Sin pays a wage; life is a gift. One who is in sin is paid off in death. One cannot get out of that predicament without dying. Every sinner must die, either in sin or to self. If one trusts Christ, Christ will bring about the man's death to self. To die in sin, one doesn't have to do anything--just stay as he is. To die to sin, one must trust Christ and receive the gift of eternal life.
ROMANS 7:1-6: AN ANALOGY FROM MARRIAGE
7:1-4 A New Unity
Do you not know brothers, (for I am speaking to those knowing the law) that the law rules a man as long as he lives? For the married woman stands bound (was bound and still is) to the living man, but if the man dies, she is released from the law of the man. Therefore, then, while the man is living, she shall be called an adulteress if she becomes married to another man. But if the man dies, she is loosed from the law; she shall not be an adulteress becoming married to another. Just so, my brothers, also you were made to die to the law through the body of Christ that you might be united to another, to the one having been raised from the dead in order that you may bear fruit to God.
· Paul is basing his illustration from marriage on the common legal fact that death breaks all contracts. He could have said several things that he did not say:
o He could have said, "We were married to sin; sin was slain by Christ, now we are free to marry God.” This may be what he started to say, but the Law entered the picture.
o He could have said, "We were married to the Law, but the Law was killed by the work of Christ and we are now free to marry God."
o Paul does not say either of these things. Rather he changes the picture. It is we who die to the Law. How?
· As pictured in baptism, we share the death and resurrection of Christ.
· Since we have died, we are no longer united to sin and are free to be united to Christ.
· Our allegiance to Christ is not based on the demand of Law, but the demand of love because of what Christ has done for us.
· The result is a useful life for God.
7:5-6 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.
Paul compares the two states of man. Before we knew Christ we tried to live by obedience to the law, but this was made more difficult by the work of the law to arouse our passions. When our human nature was unaided by God's indwelling presence, the law moved us to sin. The forbidden proved to be an enticement; prohibitions of the law awakened desires to break it.
Now that we are in Christ things are different. We have been released from the law because we have died to it. Life for us is not ruled by a code of law, but rather by allegiance to Christ. The way of service now is not self-effort based on a set of rules, it is living in the Spirit of Christ.
ROMANS 7:7-25: THE PROBLEM OF SIN
· How do we explain the extensive use of the personal pronouns?
· How do we explain the change of tenses from past to present? (v. 14)
· How do we explain the intensity of the language?
· How do we explain v. 25b?
· AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL--PRE-CHRISTIAN--C. H. Dodd
o "I": Paul's "I" passages describing religious experiences describe his own experience.
o Intensity: attests to personal experience which for Dodd culminated in the Damascus Road experience.
o Past and present tense: Paul feels the vividness of the past experiences, and overcome with emotion, he uses present.
o 25b: Moves it to the end of v. 23.
· AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL--NONCHRISTIAN AND CHRISTIAN--Mitton
o "I": more than a literary device. He is describing his own experience, but as a non-Christian
o Tense: He uses present tense because the problem potentially exists for the Christian
o 25b: Means, "I, on my own cannot attain."
· NOT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL--MAN UNDER LAW--Bultmann and Bornkhanm
o "I": represents man under law outside Christ. Helps man understand his experience without Christ.
o 25b: Exegetical gloss that summarizes 14-25.
· AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL--CHRISTIAN--Nygren: Romans 5-8 is a unit dealing with the significance of the Christian life. Christ has set us free from wrath (5), sin (6), law (7), and death (8).
o "I", tense, and intensity: Not a subjective confession, but it does deal with Paul's own life. Paul was characterizing the struggles of his life as a Christian. He speaks of the actual situation of a Christian in the midst of this age--caught in the tension of two ages. Paul could not have spoken so intensely of a past experience; he was speaking of an immediate experience. There is no doubt here, only duress. Paul is desperate, but he knows that help is available in Christ.
o 25b: There is no problem here because 25b simply rephrases v. 20.
· AGAINST CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
o The unsettling experience Paul explains here is typical of his past life, not the present.
o Paul was talking about an evil man, and he could not be classified as such considering what he was doing at the present time.
o Paul's conflict came as a result of his former attempt to use the law to gain righteousness.
o Man is not dichotomous.
o Paul's case should not be argued from modern day experience.
· ARGUMENTS FOR CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
o The use of "I" almost certainly refers to Paul's own experience when considered along with similar uses of "I" to describe his other religious experiences.
o The tense definitely changes (v.14) to suggest a contemporary and not a past experience.
o It is difficult to imagine someone creating the intensity involved here unless it was his own experience.
o It rings true to common Christian experience.
o Verse 25b makes more sense if the struggle of a Christian is acknowledged. Paul discusses that condition, coming to the conclusion that even though sin is still a problem, Jesus has already won the victory and the victory is ours
ROMANS 8:1-17: LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
8:1 Morris notes that chapter 8 is about the life in the Spirit and how the Spirit helps us to live our lives as believers. He notes (299) that there is not a single imperative here. There is no string of commandments exhorting us to live out a relationship. It is assumed that we are doing so in the context of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.
The emphasis of verse one is that there is not any condemnation at all to those who are in Christ. The word is literally "not even one.” While we do not yet experience all that salvation means, we do enjoy what “no condemnation” means (300).
The phrase "in Christ" refers to that mystical relationship between the believer and Christ that is brought about when the believer makes a faith response to Jesus. The clause "who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit is not in the best manuscripts and is probably an addition made to clarify Paul's statement. It does occur in 4b, and it belongs there, according to the textual evidence, but Paul's statement here emphasizes that the state of no condemnation is the result of the work of Christ and does not depend on the Christian's effort.
The word "condemnation" possibly refers to the "penal servitude" following sentencing (Bruce). It refers to the sentence and the execution. Neither exist for the believer. If this is so, and it could well be, Paul is saying that Christians do not have to go on in penal servitude to sin and legalism since they have been set free from them "through Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:25).
8:2 No longer is the believer in bondage to sin or to the law, for a superior law--the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus--has loosed the believer. Paul emphasizes this with the pronoun "you"--from the law of sin and death. There is still a struggle going on, but the Holy Spirit is in control and the victory has been won.
8:3 The law was powerless and failed because of the weakness of the flesh. The law itself was good, but as Peter testified in Acts 15, the Jews themselves were unable to bear the yoke because of the weakness of the flesh.
What the law could not do, God has done by sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Morris says “in the flesh” refers to Jesus in the flesh. If that is so, Paul is saying that Jesus condemned sin. If he refers to “flesh” as the location of sin, he means that Jesus condemned sin in men.
We need to be careful how we speak of the nature of Christ. Barrett says Jesus took “precisely the same fallen nature” but He overcame the tendency to sin. Two things we want to affirm: He became like us; He did not sin. Paul was careful here not to say more than he wanted to, but to say all he wanted to emphasize--that it is in flesh where sin reigns. If he had said Jesus came in sinful flesh, he would have succumbed to the idea of a sinful Jesus or to the Gnostic idea of the evil nature of flesh. Neither would be consistent with Paul's doctrine. Flesh of itself is not evil; it is a good work of God. Paul has also made it clear that there was no sin in Jesus. Therefore, he says Jesus came in the "likeness" of sinful flesh--yet without sin. The weakness of the flesh illustrates the inability of the law to deal with sin. Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh to win the victory over sin, which the Law could not win.
Not only did Christ come in the likeness of sinful flesh, he also came "concerning sin.” Bruce sees a connection to the sin offering of the OT here. We can also see the idea that Jesus came in the flesh, yet without sin, so that coming to where we are, He won the victory over sin on our plane. As a result we also are victorious because we have been set free. He has condemned sin, so that it no longer has a foothold in the flesh.
8:4 In this verse Paul continues his argument to give the result of the work of Christ. The righteousness of the Law may be fulfilled in the believers who habitually walk about under the leadership of the Spirit. Hobbs says that those who walk after the flesh "are the unredeemed who are enslaved to the flesh or a life devoid of God.” Paul's emphasis here is that the habitual action of a Christian should be to walk according to the Spirit. The requirements of the law were perfectly fulfilled in Christ. When we are in Him, the Spirit enables us to keep the law as a result of our relationship.
8:5-8 The difference in the fleshly and spiritual can be seen in the mind-set. Paul contrasts the two ways of life again, which is the same as he has presented throughout Romans. For the mind-set on the flesh--whether the perversion of the Gentiles or the self-righteousness of the Jews--the result is death. For the mind-set on the Spirit, the result is life (eternal) and peace (with God). It is impossible for the mind habitually following the flesh to please God, because that mind is hostile to God and is not obedient.
8:9-11 Paul is confident that the Roman believers are not habitual followers after the flesh because the Spirit of God dwells in them. In verse 9, “if indeed” is “since” (Morris 308). Lives is important. The Spirit is not an occasional visitor. This is the one sure mark of a Christian for Paul--the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God. For him the one having Christ also has the Spirit. Believers live this bodily life as all other people do, but they are not bound to it or characterized by it.
Verse 10 is a comment on the present state of the Christian. On the one hand, there is the body of death because of sin and on the other hand, there is the Spirit of life through righteousness. Age life is now being experienced. He has already made it clear that the righteousness is the righteousness of God imparted to man through faith.
In verse 11 Paul includes the clear promise that it is God through the Spirit who has raised Christ from the dead and will make alive our mortal bodies. He gives us real life while we exist here and the consummation of that life in eternity. At the consummation we will have the same kind of life in our bodies as we experience in the Spirit now--the resurrection life.
8:12-13 The debt of the Christian is not to the old manner of being in the flesh, but to the new way of life in Christ. But it is a debt just as real. The debt to the Spirit is understood. The result of the old way is death. The result of the new way in Christ is also death, but not the same kind. In the new way of life, the Christian is put to death to sin and self, so that he may put to death the deeds of the flesh. This results in real life.
8:14-17 Note the contrast in slavery and adoption in verse 15. It shows the contrast in deeds and relationship. Jesus is God's son essentially. We become God's sons by the faith response to Jesus. We have already become his sons because of what Jesus has done. We have been adopted. The word for adoption comes from two Greek words: one meaning "Son" and the other meaning "to stand;" thus, the meaning of adoption is to be caused to stand as a son. It is because of this relationship that we are able to call God Father. This word implies an intimate relationship. Morris (315) says, “The believer is admitted to the heavenly family, to which he has no rights of his own. But the adoption speaks of grace.
God's nature is loving, and he wants us reconciled. He did what was necessary to empower us to respond to the Father through Jesus.
ROMANS 8:18-25: THE GLORY THAT IS TO BE
8:18 Paul uses the bookkeeping term "to reckon.” He has figured out that the sufferings--because of the weakness of the flesh--of the present time cannot at all be compared to the future glory to be revealed to the Christian. It is as though God put our present sufferings on one side of the balance scales and the to-be-revealed glory on the other side. Paul is saying that God overbalances the scales. The glory is far greater.
8:19-21 Creation itself is eagerly, expectantly awaiting the revelation of the sons of God. Paul literally pictures creation eagerly waiting with outstretched hand. In Genesis 2 the Bible speaks of a curse placed on the creation because of man's disobedience. Since that time the creation has been under that curse, but it will be removed when the Son of God is revealed. Creation comes short of God's glory because of man's sin; it was not something nature did of its own will. It is God who made creation subject to futility. It was not a punishment for the creation, but punishment for man. Sin does extend in its consequence into man's environment. Paul's emphasis is on the expectation, which speaks of hope for redemption both for man and the creation because the destiny of the one is tied to the other.
8:22-23 "Whole" means the whole creation in its several parts--every part of creation suffers the pangs of waiting. Paul does not say how we "know," but the word "know" denotes a perception based on the evidence. Man also groans for redemption, but there is a difference. Man has the "first fruit" of the Spirit, which gives him assurance that relief is coming. The believer is eagerly awaiting the consummation of his adoption and the freeing of his body.
8:24-25 When the believer is saved, he does not see the fruition of all his salvation. The spiritual experience of receiving the Spirit is however the promise that the redemption of the body is coming. This will be seen as reality after his patient, but eager waiting time.
ROMANS 8:26-27: THE AID OF THE SPIRIT IN PRAYER
Just as the Spirit gives us hope of the consummation of our redemption, he also helps us in prayer. There are times when we do not always know how to pray, but the Spirit utters unexpressible groanings for us. We need to note especially that Paul is not saying the Holy Spirit is begging on our behalf. His intercession is according to God. Paul is saying the believer sometimes feels isolated. He needs to be reminded that the Spirit is available to give encouragement by giving fellowship. He is not working against what God wants to do--God is one. It is a matter of the Holy Spirit helping us communicate with God. He who searches the heart (and knows the heart) knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He is one with Him.
ROMANS 8:28-30: THE WORKING OF GOD'S LOVE
8:28 A literal translation: And we know (perception based on evidence) that to those loving God, all things he works together unto good, to those according to purpose called ones being.
Three things need to be noted here. First, Paul is not saying all things are good, for they clearly are not. Neither is he saying that all things will work out like we want them to. Secondly, he is saying that it is God (see text variant) who works things together for good, meaning that whatever we face, God is able to use it to produce good things, even out of bad things. Thirdly, the promise is limited to those who love him and are the called ones according to His purpose; in other words, His own children. This means that God is working in our behalf because of His love, but it also means that we are to be working too--accomplishing His purpose.
8:29-20 Note that Paul is speaking to those who are already saved. Note also that salvation is Christocentric not egocentric or anthropocentric. Five words are important here:
· Foreknew - means to know before, but it does not suggest that foreknowledge determines outcome.
· Predestined - literally to set up a boundary before hand. Means that those who of their own free choice respond in faith to Jesus have been marked out as the ones who are to make up the Kingdom to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
· Called - Reminds us of Jesus' words before the cross: "and I if I be lifted up . . .” Jesus is calling all men and all who will respond to respond to the call of God in Christ Jesus.
· Justified - or made righteous - speaks of the continuing work God has done in believers. He sets men right and continues to work in their lives to consummate his action.
· Glorified - It is to this consummation that believers look.
ROMANS 8:31-39: THE POWER OF GOD'S LOVE
Paul resumes the question/answer device. The first question is, "If God is for us, who is against us?” If God did not spare His own Son, but handed him over--the same word Jesus used when He said, "Father into thy hands I commit my Spirit," on our behalf, it is clear to Paul that God will give man all the things he needs. God gave His Son over on our behalf. This is the idea of substitutionary atonement. It is the assertion by Paul that Jesus identified with men and died on their behalf.
The second question: "Who shall accuse the chosen of God?” The answer is simple. “Since it is God who makes righteous, there is no one who can accuse.”
The third question: "Who is the one condemning?” It is certainly not Jesus--He is the one--the one dying, more, being raised, more, the one being exalted to God's right hand--who intercedes for us. Jesus is the only one who can accuse, and He is rather, interceding.
The fourth question: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer Paul makes is to survey many things man fears most, but also to show that Jesus has overcome them. These are things that have to do with life, death, spirits, angels, earthly power, height, depth, and in case anything is left out, Paul includes "any other created being.” Christians are "super conquerors" and there is nothing that can at any time separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God is supreme and His supremacy is show in His love.
CHAPTER 9: GOD IS SOVEREIGN
Chapters 9-11 of Romans could be called "God Is True to His Purpose, Period!” Cranfield (1979) indicates the purpose of 9-11 is to show the faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness of Israel. Paul wrestled with the phenomenon that in spite of all God had done for his chosen ones, they were still not saved. He sought to articulate an explanation for that. His conclusion can be seen in verses 6, 20, 27, and 32 of Chapter 9, which are keys to the section.
· God’s Word has not failed (6).
· Who are you to answer back to God? (20)
· It is the remnant who will be saved (27).
· They did not respond in faith, but tried works (32)
The three chapters--9-11--must be taken together. If not, it will be difficult to follow the development of Paul's argument. In Chapter 9 Paul is saying God is sovereign. In Chapter 10 he says God is not a tyrant, and he has been fair to all. In Chapter 11 he says God does not cast off his own.
In Chapter 9 Paul is not arguing that God raises people up to knock them down. Rather, the whole point of the chapter is that God wants man to be righteous. The only way man can be righteous is to respond in faith to Jesus to receive God's righteousness.
9:1-2 Paul is about to say something extremely serious. Verses one and two contain a three-fold affirmation of his grief for his people, which is expressed with honesty and sincerity. He even cites the role of the Holy Spirit in the affirmation. It is the truth without question.
9:3 Paul certainly felt a strong desire for his people--the Jews--to be saved. He had the same passion for the Gentiles also because of his call to be the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” but there was a special relationship to the Jews that gave his passion concerning them a particular emphasis. Some would seek to discount or soften Paul's opening remarks in Chapter 9, but the language will not allow it. Could wish is literally “I was praying.” His prayer is sincere. His constant offer was that he would be eternally separated from God (literally anathema) if it meant the salvation of his kin. Some suggest a textual problem that has substituted the word "accursed" for the word meaning "votive-offering.” However, the textual evidence does not support that. Paul is very serious in saying, "If I could be accursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren, I would do it.” His prayer is similar to the prayer of Moses for God to “blot me out from your book” in Exodus 32:32 regarding his desire for God to forgive the sins of the people of Israel. Whether Paul thought that was a possibility is a moot question that does not change the intent of his words. He would have sacrificed himself for others, giving up his own salvation, because of his great love in Christ for his people.
9:4-5 In verses 4 and 5 Paul gives a list of special advantages that Jews have had. God had called out the Jews for a special purpose. Note the advantages:
· They are Israelites.
· They have the adoption as sons through the calling to purpose.
· They have the glory (revealed presence of God).
· They have the covenants.
· They have the law.
· They have temple worship.
· They have the promises of both the Davidic and messianic kingdom.
· They have the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc).
· The Messiah comes through them.
· The reminder of the final privilege prompts Paul to go into a doxology praising the Messiah.
The question that must be faced in the light of the lostness of the Jews is, "How can God be a righteous God and the Jews, his selected and called out people be lost?" Paul points out that God has given the Jews many special advantages, so it is not God who has failed but Israel.
9:6-13 The Remnant had always been an important part of God's relationship with His people--even from Cain and Abel. The examples of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and the promises to Abraham illustrate the remnant. Being children of the flesh is not an assurance that one is a true descendant of Abraham. Only those who are children of the promise are true descendants. The reference clearly points back to the promise in Genesis 15 as it is cited in Romans 4 and other places in Paul’s writing. Therefore, God has made clear that physical birth is not a mark of being in God's family--it never has been. But that is what the Jews thought.
Paul illustrates this with Jacob and Esau. Why did God love Jacob and hate Esau? It is not possible to weaken the words to make them say something else. The only response we can make is to say that Paul is not saying that Jacob and Esau had nothing to do with their destiny. Neither is he saying that the works of Jacob and Esau determined their destiny. He goes back before their birth to demonstrate that God made the choice before their birth to use Jacob in the fulfillment of his purpose. Paul is not trying to build a case for predestination of the saved and lost. Rather, he is trying to show that God is sovereign and is working out his purpose from eternity to eternity. He knows the plan and what the response of man will be. Foreknowledge is not predestination. We cannot hold God to what we consider to be our contract. God in His foreknowledge knew the response (not merit) in Jacob that was not present in Esau, but the foreknowledge did not predetermine the response. From our perspective, we can see the evidence in the passing of history. However, the point here is not predestination or free choice. The point is that God made a choice according to his purpose to call Jacob. Paul presents God's action but does not give a reason for it. God does not have to be explained, only proclaimed. It is easy to see this from the perspective we enjoy. Jacob was responsive. Esau was not.
The failure of any to respond to God is not an illustration that God is unjust but that he is merciful. God's mercy does not depend on man because God is sovereign. God has shown mercy and he will also show wrath. There is no conflict here. God's wrath is redemptive, and as he expresses his wrath He also expresses His love.
9:14-18 Paul strongly states in 14 that God is not unjust. Rather he is sovereign. That does not mean God is looking around to see whom he will save and whom he will condemn. God loves man, but God’s focus is on his purpose. What Paul means here is God can do whatever he wants to do. His “want” is not arbitrary, however. His decision to have mercy and compassion is based not on man’s worth or effort but on God’s own purpose.
Let’s take a look at what Paul actually said in 9:14-18. First, he asked a question. “Can we say God is unjust because of his choice of Jacob and not Esau?” Paul’s answer is, “May it never be!” His response to the question is the strongest negative he could use. It means that the question is not even worthy of being asked. God is never unjust. Man may not always understand his action, but God is never unjust.
In verses 15 and 16 he cited God’s word to Moses in the context of Exodus 33:12-23. The specific citation is 33:19. Paul said it this way: “I will mercy whom I mercy.” God had given the commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai. When Moses discovered the sin of the people during his absence, he was anger with the people. After Moses initial anger against the people, he asked God to forgive them. God’s answer to Moses was that he would take his own action according to his purpose. Paul’s explanation of the passage is that the mercy of God is not dependent on what man wants or what man does. God gives mercy because he is merciful.
In verse seventeen Paul used the example of Pharaoh. What then about Pharaoh? Who was responsible for Pharaoh's hardening? The Old Testament says three things: 1) Pharaoh hardened his heart, 2) God hardened his heart, and 3) His heart was hardened.
God is always working out his purpose. He invites men to be involved in that purpose, but he does not force compliance. Man has the choice to resist being involved in God’s work. I think we can say that one who is hardened has resisted. The resistance causes the hardening. If man refuses to join in God’s purpose, he is hardened by the resistance. He comes to the point that the hardening turns into callousness. Like it used to be when I was on the farm chopping cotton. When we started the year, our hands were tender. But as we continued to hold the hoe and do the work, the friction caused by the movement of the hoe in our hands turned tender hands into calluses. Before long the feeling in our hands was dulled by the resistance to the movement of the hoe handle.
The heart is similar. Tender hearts are open to responses. Hardened hearts are calloused by the resistance. God makes the choice to work out his purpose. He calls on men to join him. Some do and some reject. The choice of man to reject the calling of God does not make God unjust. The choice only makes man callused, hard, and outside the purpose of God. God allows the choice to stand. He continues to show mercy on whom he will.
If we go back to Romans 1-2 to see Paul's description of sin among the Gentiles, we can understand what he says here. God in his sovereignty allows man to respond to Him as man sees fit. Only a sovereign God can do that. When man continues to resist, God allows him to go his own way and suffer the consequences. When God gives a man up, it is not the same as God turning his back. He never does that. All the time that a man is refusing God, his heart is being hardened by his refusal, but God is present, seeking repentance and response to Himself.
God is willing to show His power and to show the wrath that fits man's rejection of Him. The thing that is amazing is not that God shows His wrath in a fitting way on transgressors, but that He shows His mercy in patient endurance to men who have prepared their own destruction by rejecting God.
In verse eighteen, Paul repeats his statement that the sovereign God can show mercy on whom he will, but he adds the statement God “hardens whom he desires.” How or when does God harden? Paul does not say. He does go on to explain in the next section (9:19-26) that created man has no right to question or talk back to God. God is busy working out his purpose and demonstrating his power. Man may wonder why God would act as he does, but man has no right to question his action.
9:19-26 Paul uses two examples and one strong affirmation to explain the merciful work of God. He does not answer the hardening question directly, but his answer does make God’s purpose clear.
The first example is the illustration of the potter. The potter has the right to plan and design the vessels he will make. Neither the clay or the pot made has the right to question why the potter’s work turned out as it did. The second example is the illustration from Hosea. God told Hosea he would call, Those who were not his people, his people, and those not beloved, beloved. That could happen only in the context of the mercy of God. For God to make persons who did not know him righteous would call for the special act of mercy that Jesus demonstrated.
The affirmation Paul used is in verses 22-23. There he raised a “What if?” question and then clearly asserted that the condition could only be met as a result of the mercy of the sovereign God. He did it to reveal his glory, or his revealed presence that demonstrates his character. That character revealed is that he is working out his purpose using whatever men he will, whether Jew or Gentile. Those who respond to his call to be involved in his purpose are described in verses 27-33.
9:27-33 Paul closes out this section of his argument by using the words of Isaiah to describe the remnant. The key to the story of God’s people and their accomplishment of his purpose has always been the remnant. There was a remnant in the Old Testament. There was a remnant when Jesus came. There will always be a remnant because there will always be those who respond in obedience and those who reject God’s call--among Jews and Gentiles alike. Only the remnant--those who accept Jesus--will be saved. Israel is responsible for her own rejection because she had tried to attain righteousness through pursuing a Law of righteousness. The missing ingredient was a faith response to God. They stumbled over the cross. The promise has been provided; the response of man in faith is required. God provides salvation and a place in his purpose. However, his grace and mercy must be met with the faith response of those who will come to him.
CHAPTER 10: GOD IS NOT A TYRANT AND HAS BEEN FAIR TO ALL
Paul expressed a longing and prayer for Israel. He could see their mistake. They saw that God desired righteousness, but in their ignorance they tried to achieve righteousness on their own. They failed to see that God provided His own righteousness to them by faith. The Jews’ self-righteousness was not sufficient. God has set forth a way of salvation in His sovereignty. Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness. Those who ignore God and try to provide their own righteousness will have to life with it. That will be disastrous. You try to live on your own righteousness, you suffer the consequences.
In 10:6-7 Paul described the effort of those who seek to attain righteousness on their own by attempting to “bring Christ down” or by bringing him up from the dead. The effort of the Jews is as foolish as it would be to try to do that.
But what is God’s way? In 10:8-15 Paul makes it clear. The word of the Gospel message has been delivered. In fact, it has been incarnated and has come to live among you in Christ. He died for you to be your redeemer. God has delivered the word. The invitation to faith has been given. Those who hear and confess, or say the same thing about the situation that God says, and respond in faith will be saved. That is the way true righteousness comes to be.
God has not cast off anyone, but He has determined that those who are disobedient (not of faith) will be excluded. A better way to say it from our perspective is that all those who are obedient through faith will be included. There will be some Jews who hear and respond; some who hear and reject. The same is true of Gentiles. In Galatians Paul said that the true Israel is made up of those of faith. Here he has said it is the spiritual response to the promises and not fleshly heritage that determines the true Israel. The sons of Abraham are those who are in keeping with the purpose of God (Isaac-Ishmael). God has never rejected true Israel. He has always reached out--as He still does. God is going to save all who respond to His stretched-out hand--Jew and Gentile. He has predetermined that all who respond in faith to him--all true Israel-- will be saved. Therefore, God's righteousness and mercy have not failed.
This truth applies to all, Jew and Gentile. God has determined before hand a purpose. He has taken action to fulfill that purpose by providing redemption in Christ. He has called all men to a faith response. Those who respond in faith are saved and made righteous; those who do not respond in faith are not saved and are not made righteous. Those who respond in faith join him in the accomplishment of his purpose. Those who reject him fail to be a part of his purpose. God will continue to use whomever he chooses to fulfill his purpose because it is not about man but about the purpose of God.
Chapter 10 answers a major question by asking and answering some secondary questions. The major question is, "Why is Israel lost?" The first secondary question is, "Has God failed?" The answer is NO! (10:3-13) God has provided a way of righteousness in Jesus who has won the victory for all who will respond in faith to Him. This is already available freely to all men.
The second question is, "Have God's messengers failed?" Again the answer is NO! (10:14-15). Has there been a messenger? There definitely has, and he has preached the Good News.
The third question is, "Has God's Message failed?" Again, the answer is NO! (10:16-17). Righteousness results from hearing the message, which is in the Word of God, and receiving it by faith. The answer to "Why Israel is Lost" is "Israel has failed!" (10-19-21). They knew and did not respond. Even some who did not know responded, but Israel failed. Through all the special advantages to Israel, (9:3-4), Israel remained rejecters of Christ because they had refused to come to Him in faith. Their disobedience and stubbornness were to blame. In spite of their stubbornness and rejection, God still continually seeks them because he is a merciful God. Go back and read the prophets. See them not just as hell-fire and brimstone preachers, but as heavily burdened men who were declaring, You are not saying the same thing about your sin and failure God is saying. He loves you and wants you to walk with him and be his people. He wants you to join him in is purpose.” That is the message of Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah Amos Ezekiel, Malachi, Hosea, and the rest.
ROMANS 11: GOD DOES NOT CAST OFF HIS OWN
In 11:1 Paul could say, “I know God has not rejected all Israel because I am an Israelite.” There is always a remnant. No further proof is needed to show God has not pushed his people aside.
Paul in 11:2-5 used the example of Elijah. It may appear that God has rejected his people, but as in the case of Elijah, God has preserved a remnant. Elijah thought he was all alone, but God pointed to others who had been preserved because of their relationship to him. It is always by grace and it is always a remnant. It is never all because it is only those who respond in faith that are included.
The remnant exists, not because God prefers a remnant, but because it was always a remnant that responded in faith. God has elected to save men in Christ. Man decides to reject or respond. God has elected to bestow His grace on all men. The elect are those who receive that grace through a faith response and come to Christ.
IN 11:6 Paul reminds us that grace and works are mutually exclusive. It is never grace plus works or grace but works because the two cannot coexist. Grace results in works, but the relationship comes from the purpose and initiative of God that offers man redemption by his grace.
The spirit of stupor in verse seven is not a new or unusual idea. The Jews--at least some of them--have chosen to reject God's grace even as some Gentiles have, and God has allowed the choice to stand, as Paul noted in chapters one and two.
What does Paul mean in 11:7-10? Some were saved and some hardened. Why were they hardened? Because they resisted. Resistance causes callousness and hardening. The quotes from the Old Testament (Deut. 29:4; Is 29:10; Psalms 69, 35, and 38) seem to me to illustrate the same action of God Paul described in chapters one and two of Romans. These passages demonstrate the normal outcome of rejection. God does the electing. Man does the rejecting. Paul says, "God gave them up," three times in reference to the Gentiles. There are two ways to see God's hardening: (1) God permitted the hardening; (2) God has given all moral law. It is within the will of God to permit sin to harden men's hearts. However, the other side is that all the time man is sinning, God is present trying to get man to step out of the sin/hardening cycle through repentance and faith. God allows man to make his choices, but requires him to suffer the consequences of his choices. They were hardened because they resisted God.
Verses 11:11-24 say God was able to use the rejection of Israel to provide salvation to others. God can act redemptively in all things--even evil. For instance, even Hitler's concentration camps and all the evil evident there have been used by God to help his people understand the damage prejudice and arrogance can bring and to warn others against the same sin. It is true that God can get more honor out of a faith response, but He can work in all things.
Paul knew how the pattern of his ministry had gone. He had not given up on the Jews. He announced the good news God had given to them as he went about his ministry. He had gone to the Jews in one city; they had rejected the Gospel, and he had turned to the Gentiles. When he went to another city, he did the same thing. God wanted both Jews and Gentiles to be saved. The Jews and the Gentiles who responded in faith were saved. Those who rejected were given up to their rejection. Salvation has never been accepted by more than a remnant. It never will be.
Now, Paul says, "Don't get too cocky in your position.” Salvation for the Jews depended on God and not the Jews. Salvation for the Gentiles depended on God, not the Gentiles. He can save whom He will. He will save all who respond because all are called. God has no obligation to the Gentiles any more than He had an obligation to the Jews.
Note three things. First, in all things the source of redemption is God whether we speak of the Jews or the Gentiles. Second, no man, Jew or Gentile, can get conceited about his position with God because his position does not depend on what he can do but on what God has done. Third, the faith response of the person is the key whether we are speaking of the Jew or the Gentile. Paul always makes it clear that people are saved by the grace of God through a faith response. The Gentiles who respond in faith and the Jews who respond in faith are made into “one new man” as Paul said it in Ephesians.
What is the "mystery" of vv. 25-32? It is impossible to be dogmatic. It seems to me that it would be inconsistent with the teachings of the New Testament and these three chapters to say that God would bring in "all Israel" as a nation without their faith response. Some would say that all "true" Israel will be saved. That is the most logical sense, but still we cannot be dogmatic because the text clearly says "all Israel.” "All Israel" probably includes “true Israel,” all spiritual descendants of Abraham who have come to Jesus in faith.
Certainly, God did call the nation to be his missionary people in the central point of the ancient world. They were to be a blessing to all the nations by communicating the love of God to the people around them. However they failed. God continues to work his purpose as he always has. He uses those who will join him in it.
Paul has also made it clear that some of the Jews failed because they rejected God’s provision of righteousness in Jesus and tried to accomplish righteousness on their own. Will this change at some point in time? Will God re-write the rules? While God can do anything he wants to do, it does seem unlikely that he has revealed himself as one who acts inconsistently with his own character. It would certainly be a different situation than we find in the rest of the New Testament.
When you take 9-11 in the context of Paul’s concept of the “true Israel” and the remnant, it seems most likely to me that he is speaking consistently with his words in Ephesians. God is making “one new man” out of the believers among the Jews and the Gentiles. The church is the kingdom; the people of God are those who have received from him his righteousness as a result of his purpose and his gracious and redemptive activity as it has been revealed in Jesus. Those who respond in faith become a part of the people of God.
So what can we know here?
· We can know God has taken the initiative as he works out his purpose.
· We can know God will move on from those who refuse to be a part of his purpose and will use those who will join him.
· We know he has taken action in the incarnation and work of Christ at the cross.
· We know he has made himself known as a loving, merciful, gracious God who has provided his righteousness through Christ.
· We know the problem of the Jews was that they wanted to work out their own righteousness according to the Law.
· We know God has always wanted the Jews to be saved.
· We know some have responded in faith and others have rejected.
· We know that those who are saved—Jews and Gentiles--are saved by grace through faith and not by works.
· We know God does not save nations but individuals. (He did call the nation to fulfill his purpose).
· We know God still holds out an invitation by his grace for the Israelites (and the Gentiles) because of he is gracious.
At any rate, Paul is willing to trust it all to God as is revealed in the doxology and praise of 11:33-36. God knows what he is doing. We are not always able to discern what he is doing or why he acts, but we can rest assured he does know what he is doing. Now, look ahead to 12:1-2. Paul says it is our rational response to the mercies of God to live transformed lives, lives given over completely to him and surrendered to his righteousness/purpose.
ROMANS 12:1-8: THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
The theological sections of Romans end with Chapters 9-11. This does not mean there is no theology in Chapters 12-16, nor does it mean there is no practical application in 1-11, but the emphasis in the last five chapters is on the practical application of the principles covered in Chapters 1-11.
The therefore of 12:1 refers back to the theological principles of Chapters 1-11, especially the theme. God has made his righteousness available to believers in Christ as he works out his purpose. Paul now urges the Romans, on the basis of the righteousness God works in them through faith, to present your bodies a living sacrifice. Even this presentation by the believer is done through the agency of the mercies or compassions of God as He has been revealed in Christ because it is by “the mercies of God” that Paul exhorts the Romans. The old sacrificial system in the Old Testament was a type of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Now, it is fulfilled, but sacrifice is not ended. Paul is not calling on the believers to give their lives in death, although that has sometimes been necessary, but the living sacrifice Paul mentions here is the continuous giving of the believer in faithful, living service that goes on as long as the believer lives.
It is also a holy sacrifice in the sense that the believer has been separated for service. It is this kind of separated Christian living that pleases God.
Paul says this is your spiritual service. The literal translation carries the idea that this service is reasonable. We get our word “logical” from this Greek word. The emphasis is on the obligation of the believer to live a life of service that can be described as a continual worship. This service of worship is logical in the light of the mercies of God that have been demonstrated in Romans 1-9. There is far more to worship than listening to sermons or singing praises an hour or two on Sundays. That is important, but so is the living that goes on between Sundays. In fact, if the living worship is not real, there is doubt that the Sunday worship will be real.
In verse 2 Paul says, "Stop letting your outward presentation to the world be after the pattern of the world.” It is a difficult thing to live a different life. There is so much pressure from the world to compromise principle. The only way this can be achieved is to be transformed by the renewing of one's mind. This transformation means that one's outward presentation, the way the world sees him has been changed to reflect his inner spiritual condition. Paul is saying, "You have been changed on the inside by Jesus, now let your outward presentation reflect what has happened to you. This transformation (the verb is passive) is done by another--Christ. It is being done daily in the life of the believer. The result of this transformation will be the testing of God's will to find it meets all of the needs of the believer's life, and there is also the idea that the believer will give his cooperation and approval.
In vv. 3-8 Paul addresses the issue of living the New Life in Christ within the context of the body of Christ. This cannot be done in egotism. It is easy for us to get a distorted idea of our importance, and this is what Paul warns against here. God has given each of us abilities to perform--but our tasks are to be performed in the context of the church, which is the body of Christ.
In vv. 4-8 Paul uses the example of the body to show that all the members of the body are needed and none is to be overlooked or looked down on. Each believer should attend to his own response to God without judging others. We also need to remember that our identity as a member of the body is centered in the context of the body. A hand separated from the body is gruesome. So is any other body part. It is only in our role as a connected part of the body with its vital connection to the head that we find identity and meaning in our lives.
The members of the body are to function in the service of the purpose of God. This service is enabled by the various gifts God has given to the members. Paul lists several gifts. Prophecy is the forth-telling of the Word of God. Service refers to a servant ministry. Teaching could be applied to pulpit teaching and classroom teaching. Exhorting probably is encouragement since it comes from the same kind of word Jesus used for "Comforter" in John. Giving should be done with liberality (focus) and not for show. Leaders are ones who stand in front. They are to lead in earnestness--being involved but not necessarily dominating. One who shows mercy possibly is one who visits the sick, needy, and sorrowful. This kind of person should serve with cheerfulness, not gloom.
I really like the way Peterson translates this passage in the Message:
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them, or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face
ROMANS 12:9-21: RULES OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE
Note the nature of the commands relating to behavior for followers of Christ. See how they reach out from who we are in Christ to service. Note also they begin with love, without which none of us could grow to be like Christ.
· Love - Love here is agape which means love period, with no conditions. It is a selfless love. It should be without hypocrisy--which is play-acting or pretending (v.9). Peterson says, “Love from the center of who you are.”
· Abhor evil, cling to good - abhor is intense dislike. To cleave is to prefer and cling to. Good (agathon) is moral good or ethical goodness as opposed to the other word (kalon) which means likeable (v. 9b).
· Brotherly love is due to all. Brotherly love speaks of the family relationship. Put the interests of others before your own. (v.10).
· Don't be lazy in your business, but fervent in the Spirit. Fervent means "boiling.” Paul says elsewhere that we should remember that we serve the Lord in all we do (v.11).
· Rejoice because of the hope you have in Christ. The result of our hope is patient endurance (hupomone - stand under) in tribulation and a devotion to prayer (v.12).
· Share with the brotherhood. Contributing comes from the word that means fellowship (koinoneo) and so means sharing, (literally the needs of the Saints sharing v.13).
· Don't forget strangers - hospitality (v.13b).
· Speak well of persecutors and do not curse them (v.14).
· Share with others whatever their state. We probably render more help weeping with those who weep, but it takes much more Christian character to rejoice with the rejoicing (v.15).
· Don't play favorites and don't be haughty. Do not think you are too good for anyone or anything (v.16).
· Don't pay back evil for evil, but plan ahead to do right (v.17).
· Don't be an offender or the offended (v.18). If possible, be at peace. Make sure if you are not at peace with others it is not your fault because you have done all you can do to make relationships peaceful.
· Don't avenge yourself (v.19 - vengeance is mine says the Lord. Think about what that means. If it is his, it is not yours; leave it to him.
· (v. 20 Coals - Coals of fire may refer to making the enemy ashamed, but Dr. Ray Robbins has an interpretation that fits the context much better. He was in the Holy Land and was talking to a Bedouin who used that term. Dr. Robbins asked what it meant. The Bedouin said before they had matches, a traveler in the desert would carry a hopper of coals on a pole above his head to avoid the heat. If a rider found another camp, he would stay there for the night. The host would do all he could for him to make him comfortable. In the morning after he had done everything else he could, the last thing he would do would be to fill the hopper with coals and lift it up on the camel over the man's head. The meaning, therefore, is: As long as one is in your camp, do what you can to help him. Be good to him as long as he will let you. Don’t let his action determine your reaction.
· (v.21) Don't be defeated by evil; let the Spirit of Christ who lives in you enable you to overcome evil with good.
ROMANS 13:1-7: OBEDIENCE TO RULERS
These three chapters are filled with practical advice for believers. Paul is speaking to those who are in a relationship with Christ already. As a result of that relationship, they have some obligations to God. In chapter 13 Paul deals with the obligation in Christ for believers to obey their rulers, love their brothers, and to behave in such a way as if they were expecting the appearance of Christ. In chapter 14 Paul discusses the obligation of believers to refrain from judging and to avoid letting their own freedom in Christ become a stumbling block to the weak.
Authority has its source in God. There is no authority except from God. Paul speaks of a principle here--God has ordained that we should have a society governed by law, and we should respect it. We must note that Paul speaks from the perspective of the believer. He is not looking at the situation from the perspective of an unbeliever nor from the perspective of the ruler. Much like he did in the haustafelen of Ephesians and Colossians, Paul is making it clear that the reaction of the believer to the government under which he lives is based not on the worthiness of the government officials, but on the believers’ attitude in the context of his relationship with God.
Paul lived under the Roman law, and even when Nero was ruler, he was still urging believers to respect authority. If we resist authority, we oppose God and invite condemnation on ourselves. The purpose of rulers is not to cause fear, but to prohibit and control evil.
These are reasonable questions Paul asks: Do you want to have no fear of authority? If you behave, there is no reason for fear. If you break the law, look for the law enforcers to come. This is God's purpose for it. The truth here is evident whether it applies to the breaking of the law against murder or to breaking the speed limit.
Subjection (v. 5) describes a voluntary action on the part of the believer. No person can force another to submit. Obedience and oppression may be forced, but subjection is a voluntary action. In the context of Paul’s advice to the believer, submission comes out of the attitude of the believer in relationship to Christ.
Why should we be in subjection? Not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake. This teaching is consistent with Paul's words that all we do is to be done as to the Lord. Why do you obey the law? To keep from getting caught? That is not enough. Our ought comes from him who lives in us. He has transformed us; therefore, we find our motivation in him and we live like he made us.
Note that there is no authority except that which comes from God. (Remember Jesus and Pilate.) All human authority is delegated authority. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The authority for government officials to govern comes from God and is intended for the benefit of His people.
Paul says we pay taxes as a part of our responsibility for government. This is not a command to pay taxes, but there is one in verse 7. What Paul says there is similar to the teachings of Jesus when He was tested about the poll-tax.
Paul is clear that we owe our submission to the government. Are there ever any exceptions? What about “civil disobedience?” There are for sure. As long as the government is carrying out its God-given responsibilities, we have no right to disobey whether we like it or not. There are ways we can work to change laws when they are wrong, and we ought to do that, but disobedience is not the normal way for a Christian to do it. When the government steps out of its God-given role, it then becomes time for a Christian to disobey. An example of this is when the early church refused to say, “Caesar is Lord.” If the government seeks to usurp the place of God or refuses to act in obedience to him, the Christian should then disobey in those areas. If the government becomes the agent of mistreatment or harm to its citizens, the time to disobey has come. In the Prison Epistles, Paul urged the Christians to be willing to stand up and suffer for their faith, but not to be guilty of suffering because of a wrong deed done. This is the difference. When God has given a command, and the State a counter command, we must obey God rather than man.
ROMANS 13:8-10: BROTHERLY LOVE
Verse 8 does not mean that debts of any kind are wrong. Christians certainly should be responsible stewards of debt, but debts are sometimes necessary. What Paul does mean is that most debts can be paid off, but this one cannot. Christians are debtors, Paul has said. If you see someone hungry, you can feed him. Then that debt is paid. If you meet someone who is not a Christian, you can share Christ with him. Then that debt is paid. However, you can never diminish the debt of love because you never get through loving one another. After you have loved, you are just as obligated to love as you were before. Note also that this law of love applies to all men. Our love is to be acted out wherever there is the need for it.
To fulfill the law of love does not mean you can violate the law if you love. The lover recognizes the law and is careful not to violate it as a result of the love he has for others. Adultery is wrong because it is a misunderstanding of love. The adulterer is living selfishly, and that is the opposite of love. Adultery fails to recognize the damage it causes another.
This law of love is superior to the Law of Moses because its motivation is grounded in Christ's love. Jesus declared the Law to be fulfilled. This fulfillment does not relieve us; it increases our obligation. The law of love is an inward motivation coming from the transformed heart of the believer. Remember how Jesus explained the law in Matthew 5.
Jesus came saying, "Love one another and do for him what you want him to do for you.” Then He said, Love one another as you love yourself.” Finally, He said, "Love one another as I loved you. You can’t do that selfishly. You can’t do that when your focus in on your own needs rather than others.
ROMANS 13:11-14: THE PROGRESSIVE STATE OF SALVATION
Salvation is not complete until we are delivered out of this life and stand before God. Not only because we are facing the end time and the days are evil, but also because time is passing for each of us, we must be awake to every opportunity of service available to us.
In a moment we are passed from death to life in the conversion experience, but we are still growing in our experience of salvation. This should inspire us and motivate us to refuse to let any opportunity slip by. Stop living negatively. Start living what you are in Christ. Instead of the works of immorality and enmity, put on (as a garment--be enveloped in) the Lord Jesus and do not plan to sin. You do not have to.
13:11 The TIME that the believer knows is the opportune time from God's perspective. For Paul the believers are already living in the last days even though he did not know when Jesus would return. The believer is encouraged to live as though he were living in the last hour, because he is. The emphasis here is not on chronological time but on the time of the fulfillment of the believer's salvation.
The HOUR TO AWAKEN FROM SLEEP may be a military picture of the soldier answering reveille. Paul used it here as a call for the Christian to be alert to the opportunities for living the Christian life that are before him.
Paul did not concern himself with trying to figure out when Jesus would come again. The chronological time was not what was important. Paul certainly realized that each day he was closer to the consummation of his salvation than he had been the day before. That is true of all of us. We should live as though we understand that. Cranfield said that everything after the coming of Christ the first time must be treated as an epilogue. We should live each day as though the last day were here. It may be. We can be sure that Jesus is coming for each of us in our lifetimes.
13:12 DARKNESS symbolizes evil and LIGHT symbolizes good. Paul uses a metaphor that comes from the custom of people of that day. When a man would arise early in the morning, he would remove his night clothes and put on his clothes worn in the day time in order to be ready to do his work. The night clothes of the Christian are his old works of darkness; the day clothes are compared to armor used by the soldier to enable him to engage in battle.
13:13 To BEHAVE PROPERLY literally means to dress decently. The believer should be living each day as though it were the last; it may be. There are certain things that are not proper for a Christian. The believer should not have these things present in his life. The first two things that Paul says have to be put off from the Christian's life are CAROUSING AND DRUNKENNESS. Carousing originally referred to the celebration when the grapes were gathered or a game was won, but it came to mean street carousing with no restraint. Drunkenness was the result of intemperate drinking. The Greeks drank, but they looked on drunkenness as a shame.
The next two things that Paul said had to be put off from the life of a Christian were SEXUAL PROMISCUITY AND SENSUALITY. Sexual promiscuity came from the word that meant bed; it referred to sexual relations on a forbidden bed, and thus sexual relations outside of the marriage relationship whether before or during marriage. Sensuality was the abandonment of moral restraint. It described the kind of sinful action in public that others would do only in secret.
The final two things that Paul said had to be put off from the Christian life were STRIFE AND JEALOUSY. Strife describes an antisocial attitude, the refusal to take second place in anything. The result of that kind of attitude is argument and fighting. Jealousy originally could have meant no more than zeal. It was once a good word, but jealousy came to mean a "seething envy that grows out of strife." (Moody) It is clear that Paul has not provided a complete list of all of the works of darkness, but these are typical examples.
13:14 When the night clothes of the deeds of darkness have been put off, Paul says that the believer must PUT ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. Probably putting on Christ does not refer to the initial experience of receiving Christ but to the continual decision by the believer to respond in faith to him. It means living in such a way that Christ can be seen being lived out in the believer’s life. When the believer is constantly demonstrating Christ in his life there will be no opportunity given to the lusts of the flesh to get a toe hold in the believer's life.
Romans 14.1-12: DO NOT JUDGE YOUR BROTHER
In Chapter 14 Paul continues a description of how the believer who has been transformed by the mercies of God is to relate to his neighbor, especially the neighbor who is different from the believer. He was aware that people who follow Christ have differences. We can see that today as well. Paul also knew that believers, being human, tend to be defensive. That is what causes the problem. The weak defend their rules and regulations and the strong defend their liberty. Even in Paul’s day, believers apparently tended to shoot at anything that looked remotely like the enemy, even if it was a brother. Positions easily become personal. It is “us” versus “them.” The result, for both sides, becomes a personal, and spiritual, problem. Paul was trying to get the readers to stop looking at each other with suspicion and judgmentalism and begin evaluating themselves against God’s standard alone. He states four principles in 14:1-12 as he goes to the heart of the problem.
14.1 The first principle is, “Believers do not have equal strength.” There are some believers who are “weak in the faith.” It is unimportant whether the persons are from Jewish or pagan backgrounds; the principle is the same. Paul is not describing one who has “little faith in Christ” but one who does not have a mature understanding of the liberty faith implies for the believer. Believers come into a relationship with Christ with the baggage of their backgrounds. “Faith in Christ” does not mean one is born full-grown, but it does imply freedom to live toward the potential God has created in us. The reason believers are free is we have been set free in the context of our relationship with Christ. The motivation for our living is not a set of restrictive rules but a liberating relationship. We have been changed and are growing toward the likeness of Christ. However, the baggage of some hinders the kind of growth Jesus has made possible. Paul always put the burden of responsibility in relationships on the strong ones. It is the responsibility of the strong to live in such a way toward the weak that they are not caused to stumble, but are helped to grow. We are to accept (literally, “receive to ourselves”) the diversity in the fellowship. We are not to judge the “opinions” (theological and practical positions they hold as they deal with their baggage) of the weak.
14.2-6 The second principle is, “Believers are not to judge other believers.” Paul’s first example is the eating habits of believers. Everyone does not eat the same. The context is the culture of the Roman Empire. As the Romans moved outward to conquer the world, they encountered many cultures and religions. To a large extent these diverse cultures and religions were adopted by the people and amalgamated into their own. The result was an even more polytheistic religious culture than the Romans had originally. The worship of many of these diverse religions was associated with fellowship and eating. The adherents would bring a sacrifice and offer some small part of the animal to the gods, then participate in a feast with their friends with the rest. Some of this meat also made its way to the market. As a result, some of the believers refused to eat meat for fear they would be eating something that had been offered to idols.
Paul’s application of the example is believers are not to judge another by what he does or does not eat. Here is the “j” word again. The real Judge “accepted” (aorist) him. His “master” is the Lord. Note that Paul says this principle works both ways. The strong are not to judge the weak in their fear, and the weak are not to judge the strong in their liberty.
All are responsible to the Lord for whether they stand or fall. All must avoid interfering in the work of the Lord with His servants. Here is a significant statement: “And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Two things are important. First Paul is affirming that growth and strength are possible. Second, believers have the ability because of their relationship to God. He is able to make them stand. What is important is not what we think about the strength or weakness of others. What is important is that victory is possible. We do not have to put forth our effort to “improve” others. God is able to do that. Our opinions do not determine the other believer’s relationship to God.
The second example is in 14.5. All do not regard “days” the same. Paul’s reference is likely to the observance of the Sabbath and the observance of the feast days. He does not try to build a case for the validity of the observation of these days or how or when they are to be observed. Rather he goes to the inward attitude of the believers to note the motivation for their approach to “days.” His first note is that each person must be, “fully convinced in his own mind.” Paul had said in chapter 5 that we have peace with God as a result of being made righteous by him. As we walk with God in peace, we can have peace of mind about how we approach our responses to him in worship and eating. What is important is not convincing others how they ought to act but being settled in our own minds about our action in the context of our relationship with God. Coming to that position helps us deal with the arrogance of thinking we are better than others because of how we do things on the one hand and the insecurity of living in fear of doing something wrong on the other hand. In 14.6 Paul says the strong man does what he does in the context of his relationship to the Lord and is responsible to him. The weak man does what he does in the context of his relationship to the Lord and is responsible to him.
14.7-9 The third principle is, “Believers’ lives are in the Lord.” “Lives to himself” does not relate to living in the community, but to living in relationship to God. We do not live irresponsibly nor do we live responsible to another person. Whether we are weak or strong, we belong to the Lord and are responsible to him. The death and resurrection of Jesus has made that relationship and that responsibility a reality.
14.10-12 The fourth principle is, “Believers are accountable to God.” Paul gives a summary of the first nine verses and transitions to the exhortations in 14:13-15:4. The summary is we have no right to judge others for two reasons. First, God is the judge. Second, we who set ourselves up as judge over other are ourselves going to be judged in the same manner and before the same God as those we try to judge. Jesus even said the same standards we use in trying to judge others will be used by the real Judge against us. If we would stop trying to be the Judge and live in relationship with the one who will judge us all, we would come to know the peace and liberty for living that he gives us.
ROMANS 14:13-15:4: EXHORTATIONS
DO NOT MAKE YOUR BROTHER STUMBLE
In this section Paul comes to the conclusion of the practical application of the mercies of God. Based on the four principles of 14:1-12:
1. Believers do not have equal strength.
2. Believers are not to judge other believers.
3. Believers’ lives are in the Lord.
4. Believers are accountable to God
Paul gives three exhortations. These exhortations are directed to both the strong believer and the weak one. They speak to what our lives should be like as we relate to God and to each other.
14.13-15 The first exhortation is, “Judge yourself, not your brother.” The word “judge” is used again to remind believers to make sure they are not assuming the role that belongs only to God. Paul goes a step farther to warn against causing a brother to stumble. The word picture speaks of putting something in the way of a person that would cause him to trip and fall. The words Paul uses to describe the trap set for the brother are significant. “Stumbling block” is skandalon, and refers to the bait stick in a simple trap designed to lure birds or small animals inside a box in which bait has been placed. Its meaning is “to lure” in this setting. “Obstacle” is proskomma, which refers to an obstacle that causes one to stumble. Most likely skandalon refers to a lure or enticement to distract the brother, while the other word refers to something being placed in the way. The application is to an attitude of judgment that condemns the brother whose position is different from ours. Examples would be talking about how wrong it would be to eat meat offered to idols to the strong brother on the one hand, or flaunting the liberty we have in Christ to the weak brother.
In 14.14 Paul gives two important principles. The first is nothing is unclean of itself. Jesus declared all things clean (Mark 7:19) by saying it is not what goes in man that defiles him but what comes out of his mouth from his heart. Paul spoke of the issue of eating meat offered to idols in different ways. In 1 Corinthians 8 he said there is no such thing as a false god, therefore, eating meat offered to a nothing is insignificant. In I Corinthians 10 he said meat offered to idols is meat offered to demons and he does not want believers to participate in demons. However, in both cases he did say the responsibility of believers is to be a good steward of their actions and not offend others.
The second principle here is for one who thinks something is unclean it is harmful. It is harmful because of the insecurity of the weak brother. It is like my mother, who was a committed and mature Christian, but who had some hangups. For instance, there were two things we could never do on Sunday. One, we could not use a hammer in any form on Sunday. It was OK to milk cows and feed livestock. It was OK to clean the house and sweep the floor. But we could not use a hammer. Two, we could never read the funny paper before church on Sunday. Reading it after church was OK, but never before. I still feel a little guilty when I read the funny paper before church. The principle is if we think it is wrong, it is and will be because of our insecurity.
The point of the principles is we should not focus on the food or the day, but on the one who created the relationship and gave us the privilege of living in it. The goal of all believers should be to grow to the peace and liberty God gave us in Christ. Until we all do, all of us need to be tolerant of those who are not like us.
The most telling mark of a believer is love (15). If what we are doing is not marked by love, we are off-track. Love is our motive because it reflects who we are in Christ and it takes into account what he did for us. If his love reaches far enough to die for us, ours ought to reflect that. To fail to love our brother, even one who is different, denies the worth of the brother marked worthy by the death of Jesus. No food is worth that.
14:16-18 The second exhortation is, “Don’t let good be considered evil because of your poor stewardship.” Let us make sure we do not let something as good as our liberty in Christ be considered evil by the weak brother or other uninformed witnesses. Our responsibility is to make sure we are being good stewards of our liberty by treating our brother as we should. In our priorities, brothers are more important than food.
Verse 17 contains a self-evident description of what the Kingdom is not and what it is. The simple affirmation is that the kingdom cannot be described by food stuff but by qualities that come only from the Holy Spirit: righteousness, peace, and joy. Let’s allow our lives to be witnesses to Kingdom living. In verse 18 Paul gives us a picture of the way our lives should be. Jesus said, “Love God and love your neighbor.” That is reflected in the believer who has his priorities right and as a result is “acceptable to God and approved by men.”
14:19-23 The third exhortation is “Pursue peace and build up your brother.” Peace and edification do not negate personal convictions. Instead of negating them, these virtues demonstrate the greatest of Christian virtues, love. Christians do have rights. Individual believers have rights. Strong believers have the right to life in the liberty given to us by Christ. Paul said in Galatians 5.1, “It was in freedom Christ set us free.” However, the greatest right a believer has is the right to give up his rights for the sake of his brother because he loves him. That is what Paul is talking about here. Consider the needs of others first, and live your life in that direction.
15:1-4 Paul continued his thoughts on the novel idea of avoiding selfishness as a believer and seeking to please others first by considering their needs in love. He used the example of Christ. Certainly it is a strong reminder to all of us that Jesus was willing to give up everything, heaven, and even his life, to take on the needs of others. What was good enough for him is good enough for us. After all, we are to grow to be like him. That was the idea in the first place.
15:5-13 PAUL’S PRAYER
15:5-13 Paul begins a prayer in response to his thought about what Christ has done for us all in taking on our needs and meeting them at the cost of “obedience to the point of death, even death from a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) He is able to encourage us because he has gone before us to show us the way. He is an example of how to glorify God (demonstrate the revealed presence of God, which reveals his character) through acceptance of one another. He became a servant to both Jews and Gentiles in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy as is noted from the passages cited. Following his example, we must accept servanthood on the same terms. In 15:13 Paul broke into a concluding doxology.
15:14-33 A PERSONAL WORD TO THE ROMANS
Paul gave a personal word to the Romans, whom he hoped to visit soon. He told them several things about himself to explain why he wants to come to them. In the midst of it he continues to give the glory to God for his life and work. Paul expressed his reasons for writing to them about ministry as he has (14-16). He reminded them his boast is in the Lord, not in himself. His desire is to preach the Gospel where it has not been preached. That had been his pattern as he moved out from Antioch to Ephesus and all around Asia Minor and Greece (17-21). Now, he explained, his work is done there and he wants to move on to Rome, with the hope of going to Spain. In the meantime he must go to Jerusalem to take the love offering taken by those in Greece, and then he will come to Rome (22-29). He was aware of the danger of going to Jerusalem, and asked the Romans to pray for him for rescue and success of his mission (30-32). Paul then concluded with an obvious parting prayer for the Romans.
16:1-27 WHERE WAS CHAPTER 16 SENT?
While the prevailing view today is that Romans as a whole went to Rome, there are some manuscripts existing that are shorter. Any of the shorter recensions could be the result of the end of a papyrus roll being damaged, however there are other theories.
One theory is that Romans was originally a circular letter not meant only for the church at Rome, but for churches generally. This view is favored by the comprehensive nature of Romans. However, 1:8-15 and 15:14-33 make it clear that Rome was the original target for the letter. A better guess may be that after writing the letter to the Romans, consisting of chapters 1-15, Paul decided to send the letter to other places. It is obvious that the letter was available in other churches. In that sense we could say Romans was an occasional letter written for the church at Rome, but that it became a general letter for the church.
Chapter 16 does seem to be intended for an Ephesian audience, and it may be that it was added to the Roman letter by Paul as an introduction on behalf of Phoebe, who was going to Ephesus. Sixteen, then, was possibly an addition to the letter meant only for Ephesus.
The content of Chapter 16 consists of a commendation of Phoebe, from Cenchrea, a city near Corinth, and a lot of personal greetings from Paul and those who were in Corinth with him. There are some short personal messages of exhortation, and it ends with a long doxology in 16:25-27, but the chapter is mainly greetings.
A brief word should be said about Phoebe, the diakonon in the church at Cenchrea. Phoebe is clearly of the female gender, and the word we use for “deacon” is used of her. It is in the masculine form, but apparently there is no specific feminine form for diakonon. So was Pheobe a “deacon” or “deaconess?” I do not think Paul was discussing Southern Baptist deacons. We transliterate the word diakonon as “deacon,” but the word is use most often with the translation “minister” or “servant.” That is probably the sense in which it is used here. Paul referred to many more than those who held the office of deacon as “minister” or “servant.”