Note: The exact date of Paul's letter to the Romans, as with all NT documents, is unknown, and unless a helpful archaeological discovery is made, it will remain that way. The only guidelines we have are these: it was written (1) after Paul was converted (a couple of years or so after the Spirit was given at pentecost, (2) after the Gentiles were taken into the church by God, (3) after the gospel spread among the Gentiles from Cornelius's house in Palestine to the city of Rome in Italy, and (4) after the church in Rome had time to gain a reputation for righteousness and faith which spread around the civilized world. Every specific date given for this letter by any scholar on earth is speculation. You need not necessarily be impressed. The only important thing is that we believe and obey what is written in this letter.
1:1 Paul's calling and ordination were of God (Acts 13:2). His doctrine was neither a philosophy nor was it of any human intelligence (Gal.1:11-12; 2Cor.12:1-5).
Paul was separated to God from his mother's womb (Gal.1:15), even though he spent much time in ignorance of that truth, doing things that were contrary to the gospel. He was God's from before the time that he was born. God could have said to Paul as He did to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer.1:5).
"I am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God," wrote Paul, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1Cor.15:9-10).
1:2 Some teach that the word prophecy refers only to "speaking forth the word", not foretelling the future. This verse, and hundreds of others like it, show that there is such a thing as foretelling, and that when referring to this miracle, prophecy is the Biblical word used.
1:3-4 The resurrection declared Jesus to be God's Son (Ps.2:7; Acts 13:33). Jesus did say, "They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage. Neither can they die any more; for they are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection" (Lk.20:36).
And on the basis of such verses, some have taught (Herbert Armstrong's World-wide Church of God, for example) that to be "born again" means to be resurrected from the grave. But consider this: Paul called Jesus the "first born from the dead", and John called him the "first begotten of the dead" (Col.1:18 and Rev.1:5), and exactly the same Greek phrase is used in both those Scriptures. Then, begotten is a synonym for born. Now, Jesus is referred to as having been begotten of God before his death and resurrection (Jn.3:16). The Corinthian believers also had been "begotten" by God while they still lived (1Cor.4:15), as well as Onesimus (Philemon 10), James and others (Jas.1:18), Peter and the churches of Asia Minor (1Pet.1:3), and the churches to whom John wrote (1Jn.5:1,18). So, there is both a being "born again" now, and there is also a kind of "birth" at the resurrection. But to teach that no one is born of the Spirit until the resurrection is wrong.
1:5-8 (13) These to whom Paul is writing are believing Gentiles, who possessed great faith.
1:11-12 A spiritual gift can establish a person in the faith!
1:13 Paul was prevented on other occasions from going places he intended to go (Acts 16:6; 1Thess.2:17-18).
1:17 Where there is no gospel with power, there is no righteousness of God revealed. When it is revealed, only by faith is it recognized (1Cor.2:14).
1:18-32 Those who "hold" the truth means those who suppress the truth. Paul is talking here of those who possessed the knowledge of the truth of God ("for God hath showed it to them"), yet refused to confess it. That is, Paul is speaking of God's own people, the Jews.
The wrath of God is revealed by the spiritual condition of the Jews, who rejected their Messiah and were glad of it. Without faith, though, it is impossible to perceive the wrath which befell the Jews (1Thess.2:14-16; Lam.3:64-66). This wrath was prophesied to come upon the Jews for their rejection of Christ (Isa.6:5-10), and it is prophesied to fall upon some of God's children for rejecting the truth of the gospel near the end of this age (2Thess.2:8-12).
Evidence that these verses (1:18-32) do refer to the Jews:
Satan deceived the Jews into believing that because they belonged to God it was acceptable for them (1) to sin and (2) to condemn Gentiles whether they transgressed the commandments of God or not. They justified themselves for who they were, not how they lived, and they condemned the Gentiles for who they were, not how they lived. According to their doctrine, a Jew who lived an immoral life was acceptable with God, while a Gentile who walked uprightly was not. In other words, many of the Jews believed the equivalent to the widespread Christian doctrine often called by the name "eternal security", which doctrine Paul deals with in Chapter Two.
2:1-3 Paul questions the integrity of Jewish teachers who excuse themselves for doing the very things which they condemn Gentiles for doing. Paul's position: If a deed is evil, then it is evil for anyone to do it. Disobedience to the will of God is reckoned as sin to anyone who is guilty, Jew or Gentile. Indeed, is it especially reckoned as sin to the Jews, to whom God gave the Law and the prophets. Paul asks, "Do you think that God is so pleased with your condemnation of Gentiles who sin that He grants you divine license to do the same thing?"
This foolish confidence was condemned by the OT prophets as well. "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, `Wherein have we wearied Him?" When ye say, `Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord.' or, `Where is the God of judgment?'" (Mal.2:17). Consider also Jeremiah 7:8-16.
2:4 Paul warns against misunderstanding God's patience and blessings (Ps.50:18-23). 2:5-16 God will judge every man according to his deeds in this life. Rather than think that being circumcised will justify them in spite of their deeds, the Jews should understand that they, being circumcised, will be condemned by the Law itself if they fail to obey it (Rom.2:12).
"Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities." (Amos 3:1-2).
"Not every one that sayeth unto me, `Lord, Lord', shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Jesus, in Mt.7:21)
2:17-24 The result of the "eternal security" teaching among the Jews was that the moral integrity of the nation was undermined to such an extent that the name of the God of the Jews was blasphemed among the Gentiles. The Gentiles felt contempt for God because the Jews lived lives that were "worse than the heathen" (2Chron.33:9). The audacious immorality of the Jews could even embarrass the heathen (Ezek.16:27b)!
2:25-27 The importance of circumcision can hardly be over-emphasized. Remember this: circumcision = Jews and uncircumcision = Gentiles.
Circumcision [conversion] is worthwhile only if the circumcised man obeys God. Otherwise, that man will receive the condemnation of an unbeliever (Lk.12:42-46). In fact, his punishment will be harsher than that of an unconverted man (2Pet.2:20-21).
2:28-29 These two verses reach the heart of Paul's new doctrine, for which he was persecuted and misunderstood by many fellow Jewish believers. After Christ completed his sacrificial work, outward circumstance (Jew/Gentile, rich/poor, slave/master, etc.) became irrelevant, as far as communion with God and one's hope of salvation is concerned. In God's sight now, (the only "sight" that counts), a Jew is one who is circumcised in the heart by the holy Ghost from all earthly entanglements, one whose heart is now bent by God's Spirit toward heavenly values and interests. "For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." (Phip.3:3).
3:1-4 If all men will be judged on the basis of their deeds, what's the point in repentance and becoming a part of God's family on earth? Paul's answer: the value lies in the preciousness of the calling of God and in the blessing of being entrusted with the riches and wisdom of the gospel. And those to whom heavenly riches are entrusted must be faithful (1Cor.4:1-2). How precious it is to be chosen by God! The evil doing of some who are called does not make God's blessing any less precious. Even by unfaithfulness of some saints God is proved to be righteous. Translation of verse 4: "That You might be proved righteous in Your sayings, and that You might prevail when You are judged (brought into question, or condemned)."
3:5-8 Some asked, "If our disobedience merely shows that God is all the more righteous, why then would He not bless us for disobedience?" Paul's answer: "That is a foolish question". By the way, there is such a thing as a foolish question (2Tim.2:23). 3:9 (Connected with the closing thought of verse 4) Old Covenant Scriptures prove that, in God's sight, Jews are sinners. Paul knows that there is no difference in the unsanctified Jewish spirit and the unsanctified Gentile spirit. All are in sin, and all are in need of the Savior.
3:10-18 OT Scriptures are quoted.
3:19 Paul's surprise ending: These verses were not written to the Gentiles nor were they written about Gentiles! Then concerning whom were these awful written?
3:20-22 If those preceding verses are true, then by the ceremonial works of the Law no one can be justified. The Law revealed the knowledge of sin to Israel; it did not change the carnal nature of man. Besides this, the law and the prophets spoke very clearly of a righteousness which was not of the Law of Moses, a righteousness of simple faith in Jesus.
"The Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." If Paul were the type to be led by the Bible, he would never dreamed of contradicting its words; but, Paul was being led by the Spirit of God, by the living word of God. Wasn't he the one who told us, "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2Cor.3:6)?
He knew that because in the days when Paul as a young man was being led by the Bible - as he understood it - he found himself fighting against the very God he was trying to serve. You cannot possibly ever come to the knowledge of God trying to be led by the Bible. It wasn't given to us for that reason. Jesus did not say, "I'm going to have a Bible written that will guide you into all truth." What he said was, "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (Jn.16:13). After that Spirit of Truth delivered Paul of his opinions of God, Paul began to teach that "As many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God" (Rom.8:14).
The Jews needed the Spirit of God, but they would never receive it unless they ceased being so proud of their knowledge of the Scriptures.
3:23 Paul's famous phrase, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" meant that both Jews (despite what they thought) and Gentiles were in need of deliverance from sin. It does not mean that we all are continually sinning. That is not true, and it is not Paul's point here, even if it were true.
3:24 The only righteousness which is exalted in God's sight is His own. Only He makes a man righteous. Works of the Law did not do it for them who performed them.
How did Paul know that those works of the Law failed to make one righteous? Because he knew he always observed those commandments and found himself helping to kill the saints of God! And since only God makes a man righteous, only He is to be feared or worshipped.
3:25-26 "Past sins" are those under the Law that were confessed and turned from, and for which the proper sacrifices had been made (Heb.9:15). Everything depended on Jesus. This is why, as Jesus said, Abraham rejoiced to see the day when Jesus came. Abraham knew that his sins, which he had mourned for, which he had repented of, which he had made sacrifice for, were finally going to be blotted out. There was no such thing as "washing away sins", or of "putting away sins" in the OT. There was forgiveness in the OT, there was pardon and mercy.
But every sin that was confessed and turned from was forgiven only on the condition that Jesus was coming, and that he would hang on the cross of Calvary, that he would rise again the third day and ascend to the Father to offer himself as sacrifice for our sins. Only the blood of Jesus provided for the blotting out of sins listed in God's book.
Ps.51:1-2: When David pleaded with God to "blot out
his transgressions" to wash me" to "cleanse me from sin", he was praying for Jesus to
Ps.51:10 When he besought God to "create a clean heart" within him, he was pleading for an experience which was not yet available because Jesus had not yet come to purchase it for us by his suffering and death.
In these verses David was prophesying even as he pleaded for help. He was demonstrating faith that God could somehow find a way to heal the desperately wicked heart of man, that God could change the nature of man so that holiness came natural to him instead of ungodliness. David hated sin. Moses hated sin. Joshua hated sin. Elijah hated sin. Jesus's disciples hated sin. But they were trapped by it, and they - and all who loved God - desperately wanted out! And God heard the cry of his people! Through Jeremiah (31:33) He promised, "I will put my laws in their inward parts, and will write it in their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Through Ezekiel (11:19) He comforted the hearts of those who loved Him by saying, "I will put a new Spirit within you. And I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and will give them an heart of flesh, that they will walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God."
What God was saying was, "Hold on. I'm coming to the rescue! I have what you want and Jesus is bringing it." No wonder Paul would say (Rom.8:9), after God had taken away his stony heart and given him a new one, after God had created a right spirit in him, after God had written in Paul's heart the Law he had tried so hard to keep in the flesh, that if any man did not have the holy Ghost, he didn't belong to God. He knew the futility and the vanity of trying to serve God without it.
3:27-28 Seeing that the best of the OT saints were desperate for deliverance from sin, what then did any Jew have to boast of, except it be what God has done for him? The only difference which ever did exist between Jews and Gentiles was what God did. In every other respect, Jews and Gentiles were and are alike (cp. Ezek.16:3). Jacob was described by God as a homeless, wandering Syrian (Dt.26:5). And God reminds Israel that he has done for other nations some of the same things he has done for them, such as removing them from one placeto another (Amos 9:7). As Paul in verse 29 will ask, "Is He the God of the Jews only? Is he not also the God of the Gentiles?"
By the time Jesus came, the Jews had been taught to have such contempt for Gentiles that when Jesus, in his first sermon, reminded them of stories from the OT wherein God blessed some Gentiles instead of Jews, they attempted to kill him (LK.4:25-30)! Jesus lived no more in Nazareth after this. From then on his residence was in the city of Capernaum.
Paul's whole message here is that obedience in faith toward God is what always distinguishes the righteous from the unrighteous, not the receiving of commandments from God, nor any other external condition. Paul wanted both the Gentile and Jewish believers in Rome to understand that it was not God's giving the Law to Israel which would save them from the wrath to come; it was obedience to that Law which He gave.
3:29-30 God is God over the whole earth and over every being in it, and He justifies all men by the same means: faith in Jesus Christ.
3:31 Faith in Christ does not negate the Law; it confirms it, because the Law, rightly understood, glorifies only the God who gave it, not those to whom it was given. The Law pointed the way to the Savior; therefore, those who come to the Savior by their actions affirm that the Law pointed the right way.
Note: The reader must understand that CIRCUMCISION was the distinguishing mark between Jew and Gentile. The circumcised (Jews) were required to perform the works of the Law and the uncircumcised (Gentiles) were not.
4:1 Paul refers to the Jews' boast of Abraham as their father "pertaining to the flesh", and asks, "If Abraham is so very important, then what is it that his story really teaches us?".
4:2-5 If Abraham had observed the works of the Law, he could have rightly gloried, or rejoiced, in the blessing of receiving the Law. The Law, after all, was a glorious thing (2Cor.3:7-11). But Paul asks the really important question. When was Abraham justified with God? Paul says that it was, at the latest, Genesis 15, when Abraham is plainly said to have been considered righteous before the Lord. This must prove that Abraham, "the father of the faithful", was justified with God by his obedient faith - centuries before the Law was given! (Gal.2:15-16).
4:6-8 Paul quotes David, as he sang of the man who is made clean before God. The importance of these verses to Paul's argument is the fact that in them David says nothing of ceremonial works playing a part in justification. Now, Paul knows that the observant reader will question his "reasoning from silence", and Paul hopes that the reader will do so. For he has a question of his own, which follows in verses 9-10.
4:9-12 Paul's question: If the man whom God forgives is blessed, as David said in his Psalm, is that blessing limited to those who are circumcised? In Genesis 15, Abraham was said to be righteous, and that was before he was circumcised (Gen.17). His circumcision was the seal of the righteous faith he demonstrated before he was given circumcision. He is the father of many nations, because he is the example to all men of true faith in God. With this, Paul touches on the flammable issue of spiritual fatherhood (Jn.8:30-44; Gal.3:1-14).
4:13-18 Beyond this, God's promise to Abraham of inheriting the world was given to him while he was uncircumcised. If only those who keep the ceremonial works of Law of Moses shall receive Abraham's promise, then Abraham himself is left out because he died long before Moses was born! But the promise is to all who have like faith with Abraham.
4:19-22 Paul then exhorts these Gentile believers to trust God to be able to do the impossible, as did their father Abraham. God is able to raise the dead. Only that kind of faith will prevail against the spiritual pressures of this life.
4:23-25 Abraham's story is written not to encourage Abraham, but his children, who believe the Word of God as Abraham did in his time. Abraham believed what God was saying then. Abraham's children believe what God is saying now.
5:1-2 There cannot be perfect peace where salvation is hoped for on the basis of performing ceremonial works, or being ritually correct. What if the bread has mildewed overnight? What if a flat tire prevents your attendance? What if you discover you have a disease which can be passed to another who drinks after you? What if you have a skin condition which is aggravated by water? What if you forget the words to the rosary? What if you've been immersed, and you discover in the final judgment that sprinkling was the only acceptable form of baptism (there are imminent scholars on both sides of the issue)? What if immersion is the right way of water baptism, but it has to be done by someone directly in "apostolic succession"?
There are literally millions of such questions which disturb the sincere conscience of men. Throughout salvation history, God has demonstrated that it is not He who is overbearing in such matters. Though insisting on obedience, He has proved Himself many times over to be patient, understanding, and merciful in matters of proper form.
In Acts 15:10, Peter acknowledges the impossibility of satisfying perfectly every prescribed detail of the Law all the time. And look at some of the many instances in which God allowed exceptions to His clear commandments: 2Chron.30:18-20 (Hezekiah's revival); Num.9:6-13 (defiled Israelites who wanted to observe the Passover).
In the midst of these examples, it must also be pointed out that God did not tolerate slackness or self-will. Examples: 2Chron.26:16-21 (Uzziah's sin); Lev.10:1-3 (Nadab and Abihu). We must not leave the impression that lack of zeal for holiness is acceptable with God.
The first point is, that when ceremonial rites are concerned, it will be physically impossible to keep them exactly as prescribed every time. And the second point is that it is virtually always the case, that because rituals are by their nature displays, they inspire competition among those who practice them. Who can have the most impressive (therefore the most "meaningful") communion supper, or baptismal sermon, wedding ceremony, or confirmation rite, or church dedication service, or appropriately dignified choir robes? It is for this reason that you have heard me say that it takes a lot of money to be a good Christian. Christianity is, as with every religion of man, a ceremonial religion. And to have the most impressive ceremony requires much money. Understood then that God did not permit self-willed disobedience, let's consider some situations in Jesus's life which demonstrated that man - not God - is the religious oppressor.
The Sabbath day rules: (Lk.13:11-17; 14:1-6; Mk.3:1-6; Jn.5:1-11; Jn.9:1-7, 14, 16) - (Note: This is not an indictment against Jews!) - Despite the impossibility of performing as directed all the ordinances of God all the time, it was still possible to please God. Consider Lk.1:6.
When, in Psalm 119:136, David wept because God's people did not keep His Law, David was lamenting their willful disobedience, not the frailness of humans in general. He did not lament that men could not obey the Law and please God, but that they were not making the efforts that the law prescribed. The Law was good because God is good.
Now, when God wanted us to know the love and pardon what was available to us by Jesus, when He wanted to impress us with His willingness to forgive, to wipe our records clean no matter what was on them, He determined to pick out somebody who was among the worst of sinners, somebody who was guilty of bloody crimes, who was full of pride and godless rage against the innocent. He did not have to look far. He found just such a man on the road to Damascus, with orders in his ungodly hand to arrest anyone whom God had cleansed.
Paul later wrote, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1Tim.1:16). God had mercy on young Saul of Tarsus so that we would understand that God really was willing to forgive any who would come to Him for forgiveness!
Paul said again that the mercy shown him was not shown him in vain, but he labored more abundantly than any apostle, testifying in every place to Jew and Gentile alike - that there is now in Christ Jesus a mercy available for men which has never been offered before: "Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:38-39).
The benefits of faith are that we have access to God by Christ Jesus alone, that ceremonial correctness- indeed ceremony altogether - is irrelevant, and that, as a result, we have peace with God, trusting in Christ as our sacrifice, our Passover, our high priest, our all.
5:3-6 This section should be read backwards to understand the order of importance. Of first importance is the fact that Jesus suffered and died for us when we were helpless to deal with our ruined spirits. As a result, the holy Ghost came, bringing into our hearts a love for the things of God that we could not otherwise have. And it is love for God which enables us to rejoice in hope and to glory in tribulations, knowing that as he suffered for us, so we may be privileged to suffer for his name's sake. Then, with the love of God suffering for his name's sake, we gain experience, and having experiences by which we see the results of obeying God and the results of not obeying God, we learn to place our hope in Christ. Experience itself teaches those who wait on God the value of waiting on Him.
Given time, the truth will prove itself. In this world of darkness, those who are winners with God may appear to be losers ("the offscouring of all things") , and those who are despised by God may be highly honored; but, there is coming a world in which the good are forever blessed and the evil are forever cursed - and there will be no excuses and no appeal to a higher court.
5:7-11 The best men may on occasion offer their lives for other men such as themselves. But the love of God is shown in that while we were very unlike Him, He gave His Son for us.
Justification may be experienced now, but salvation is a future event which is "MUCH MORE" than justification. (Jesus's death saved no one. His life saves.) Reconciliation may be experienced now, but salvation is a future event which is "MUCH MORE" than justification. Atonement is something we now receive, but salvation is a future event which is "MUCH MORE" than atonement. We rejoice in our justification; we rejoice in reconciliation; we rejoice in the atonement we have received; but if salvation is MUCH MORE than these, then what will our future joy be?
5:12, 18-21 v.12 Sin entered into the world through man, not Satan, though he was the original sinner. Question: If sin entered into the world through man, then through whom did death enter into the world? Answer: God (Gen.3:19). The situation on earth is not a matter of man's relationship with the devil, but of his relationship with God.
(vv.18-19). Just as by the actions of one man, Adam, the nature of sin and the curse of death came upon all, so by the actions of one man, Jesus, a righteous nature and the reward of eternal life is offered to all.
v.19 The Law was given to make sin appear in our eyes to be what it was to God from the beginning: evil.
v.20 Even though the Law came and revealed the sinful condition of men, God spared men as they walked in its light.
v.21 The grace that saves accomplishes its work through righteousness. Where no righteousness is, there is no grace that saves (Tit.2:11-12).
(5:13-17) The Law came to expose sin to be sin.
Death reigned over all men, until Moses came with the Law, regardless of their connection with God (a most unexpected thought from Paul). Death reigned during that time because sin had no impediment. There was no Law by which the wicked could be judged. Death also reigned because spiritual life had not been given. The glory of Moses's Law is shown in that its entrance ended the reign of death over men! Instead, men were, in prophetic ceremonial figures, given a sort of authority over death. They used dead things to prophesy the end of death itself - Jesus's victory over the grave! That victory over death, which was shared with men when the holy Spirit came (Acts 2; Rom.6:3), was prefigured in the ceremonies which Israel constantly performed. Paul's point is that Jesus is so holy and his victory over sin and death is so great and complete that even his Old Covenant shadow liberated men from the dominion of death, and that the works of the Law were therefore glorious, holy, and good. So holy was the Law that to fail to keep it was sin, and to be diligent in it would result in eternal life. But it was Jesus which made the Law holy. It was holy only because it spoke of him.
Now that he had appeared and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, continuation in the ceremonial Law of Moses was pointless and, in truth, continuation in those things was an implicit denial that Jesus alone is sufficient for our salvation.
Adam was a figure of Jesus (1Cor.15:45-47), but there were some ways in which Adam did not resemble him, mainly in that Jesus had no sin. So far as sin is concerned, it was the crime of one man involved that brought sin into the world. The offer of righteousness, though, was given through the sins of many: King Herod tried to kill the baby boy, people of his hometown attempted to throw him off the hill at Nazareth for telling the truth about God, Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, Caiaphas and Annas had him arrested and hired evil men to falsely accuse the Galilean prophet, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and others in high positions believed in him but did nothing to stop the elders' cruel abuse of power, Jesus's disciples forsook him and fled, the Jewish multitude cried out for the death of the one who had healed their diseases and brought light to their lives, Pilate knowingly condemned the innocent man, and the elders laughed at the struggling Savior hanging by nails to a cross.
Nobody but Jesus did what was right in the sight of God. He won the victory over sin and death by himself (Ps.69:16-21; Isa.63:5-6).
6:1-11 The Law revealed that sin abounded everywhere among men (5:20). However, God's grace abounded to those to whom the awful truth of man's wickedness was revealed by the Law. How? By allowing men with sinful natures to be involved in holy things. More grace was needed for sinful men (Jews) who were close to the holy things of the temple than was needed for sinful men of the Gentiles who were far away from those holy things.
Does the fact that grace abounded toward the Jews, after the revelation of man's depravity came, mean that we in this covenant of God's grace should do evil so that grace may abound all the more toward us? Paul's response: That is a wicked notion. No sin in the OT was forgiven if it was intentionally committed (Num.15:27-30; Ex.21:12-14).
By the mercy of God, our natures have been changed so that no more in mere figures but in practical reality, sin and death have no more dominion over us. We are, in Christ, dead to sin. Faith is not a license to sin, but a liberty from sin. Those who believe in Jesus live as he lives. Question: If we are "dead with Christ", to what are we dead?
While Jesus was here among us, those who loved him submitted to the Law as he did. They lived as he lived, and they worshipped as he worshipped. Now, Jesus has passed through the veil which was subject to those ceremonies, and those who love Jesus now live as he lives now and worship the Father as he does now, in the Spirit of truth. Jesus is always the example (Gal.2:20).
v.3 Baptism is the door into Christ Jesus (Gal.3:27). But the baptism which admits one into Christ is not any kind of fleshly ceremony, but a baptism of spirit (1Cor.12:13).
v.4 With consciences purged from sin and dead works we live "by the glory of the Father" (10:1-2; 9:14), just as Jesus was raised from the dead "by the glory of the Father". Both this new kind of life and Jesus's resurrection were impossible without the Father's glory.
v.6 "Crucified" does not necessarily mean killed. After being crucified, some lived, in agony, for days, while there were some who were actually taken down from the cross and survived! Crucifixion will always kill, but only if the crucified person is not rescued.
6:12-23 "Let not" is the only way in English to express the third-person commandment in Greek. Paul's phrase, "Let not sin reign in your mortal body" comes across pretty soft in English translation, but it is a forceful command.
v.13-15: To "yield" means to "make oneself available to". Compare 8:7. Paul is giving a commandment here that is impossible for anyone to keep unless he is living that new life, made possible by the glory of God. (Note verse 18: "Being made free. . . ye became servants.") In this new life, one has to rebel against his own new nature in order to sin. Sin no longer is the natural course of life in Christ. That is the true grace of God. To think that sin is excused because of God's grace is to misunderstand completely what God's grace is all about. Such a misunderstanding comes from the flesh's desire to be rescued from the cross. v.17 There is a doctrine which sets free from sin. It matters what you believe! Paul could not possibly have been more explicit in his meaning in this section of Chapter Six. His commandments are, "Do not yield your body parts to sin. If you do, you are not the servants of God, but of sin." Once again, the Scriptures challenge us to be practical in our faith. "Your master is whoever you obey. If you obey God, then He is your Master and your reward will be eternal life; but if sin, then sin is your master and your reward is eternal death." What could be more easily understood than that?
7:1 First, Paul makes it clear that he is speaking to those who "know the Law". "Knowing the Law" means "under the Law", that is, Jews. Paul calls them "brethren"; so, we know that he is speaking to Jewish brothers, reminding them of the truth that both he and they already know.
God promised through the prophet Isaiah that He would provide a gospel so simple that even a fool could obey it (Isa.35:8). Sometimes, in attempting to explain the truth, extremely obvious points must be made, such as this one: Moses gave the Law to those who were (1) circumcised and (2) alive. Paul's point being this, that if a man is dead, the Law does not apply to him, even if he was circumcised. Therefore, when we are made partakers of Christ's death by being baptized into it, the ceremonial Law no longer can apply to us (Rom.6:2-4; Col.3:3). Ceremonies and symbols, even those which came from God through Moses, become nothing more than dead works to us who are dead! What possible meaning could "doctrines and commandments of men" carry for those whose spirits are dead to this world with Christ Jesus? To get the point, try carrying a corpse into any religious ceremony: baptism, communion, marriage. Even the blind (Isaiah's "fools") would see the folly in that.
7:2-4 Now the reverse: The Law (the "husband") has "died", leaving believers (the "wife") free to remarry. Until Christ came, it was sin to worship God any way other than the way prescribed by the Law. Such apostasy was called "joining" idols as a man and woman are "joined" in marriage (Num.25:1-3; Hos.4:17; Mal.2:11).
If one who lived under the Law of Moses had determined to worship God "in spirit" only, rather than in the works of the Law before Jesus fulfilled the Law, that would have been sinful. That was, in a way, what the false prophets of Israel taught. "God is everywhere; we may worship Him everywhere." But at that time God had not ordained that particular liberty for men, and it was evil to claim that He had. To worship God in every place now is not sin; it is the will of God in Christ Jesus. In fact, even as the Old Covenant prophets foretold, it is sin now to carry on those fleshly, Old Covenant rites which God then told them to do, because doing so implies that Jesus alone is insufficient to save (Isa.66:1-3). As Solomon said, "God has made everything beautiful in His time" (Eccl.3:11).
7:5-6 "In the flesh" means worship in the flesh (ceremonies and symbolic ritual, Phip.3:4-7). Where there are ceremonies practiced, there the nature of the flesh is alive in confusion, envy, strife, and every evil. These evils were "by the Law" because the Law could not rid men of the nature of sin (Heb.7:18-19; 8:7; 10:1), and practitioners of the Law often became puffed up in their vain minds concerning their ceremonial correctness. The Law was fleshly, and worked with the flesh. "The oldness of the letter" refers to Old Covenant ceremonial forms.
7:7 The Law wasn't evil; rather, it revealed what evil was.
7:8-14 The incredible, evil cunning of sin is revealed. Sin even perverted the holy things of the Law, struggling to live among us. It uses holy things like God's Law, given to guide men to life, for its own self-willed purposes, killing men in the process (2Cor.3:6: "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life").
This can happen in the NT as well. We can eat and drink of the Spirit to our own shame and destruction (1Cor.11:17-34). Paul reveals sin to be an ignorant, self-serving attitude, not necessarily conscience of its ungodliness, not necessarily intending to do harm. But in these descriptions of sin, Paul shows us that sin thinks wrongly, and, so, acts wrongly. The "abomination that maketh desolate", spoken of by both Daniel and Jesus, thinks it is serving God (Jn.16:2) even as it corrupts the church and makes it desolate of the fruit and power of the Spirit. Even when the fruit is withered, and even when the power is gone, sin sees no harm done.
7:15-25 Now Paul describes the misery of the unwashed, unsanctified heart that truly desires to do right. cp.14:22b to this man's condition.
What that heart discovers, when it tries in earnest to walk with God, is that there is an unyielding, cruel dominion of sin inbred in man's nature. Sin is not so much "in" human nature as it is human nature itself; so much so that even the very strongest-willed man cannot stop it. It is the natural man's implacable master (6:16), and there is absolutely nothing good in it. Paul calls it a "law", meaning that even when a natural man desires to do good evil is there, very much in control. Sin is the law to the human body. That has never changed, nor will it ever change. This universe, including the flesh of the human body, is damned, and has been damned since the Garden of Eden was desecrated by Adam's transgression. Jesus did not change that. Jesus did not make a way for the flesh to escape the coming wrath of God; rather, he made a way for our souls to survive it. When the truth is preached, it is normal for a carnally-minded person to despair at the certainty of destruction at the hands of an angry, offended God. Jesus himself said, "With men, it is impossible" (Mk.10:27). But there is hope!
Paul himself had felt these things. He lamented, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
What Jesus did was to provide a Spirit for man, God's Spirit, that is powerful enough to subdue even the nature contained in our bodies, and thereby enable those who want to do good to do it, and to be no more under sin's dominion. An indescribably great victory! That done, such a man will be judged worthy to be saved, because he has obeyed God and is worthy to be saved.
8:1-4 "There is no condemnation . . . ". Why? Because there is a law of the Spirit which, if we keep, overcomes even the power of sin in our flesh. Peace is a law which rules the trusting heart (Col.3:15). The fruit of the holy Ghost accomplishes what the Law of Moses could not do. To wit, it brings to an end the cruel reign of sin over our lives, if we submit to the Spirit's guidance. Jesus proved that by living a sinless life (after his baptism. Before his baptism it is irrelevant whether he sinned or not.) Rather than suffer through a life of condemnation, he condemned sin itself by refusing to allow it into his life. He is our example! Every child of God has at least that much grace from God, enough to choose not to allow sin to be a part of your life.
Because they so easily condemn themselves for anything that is not perfect, children of God need to know what sin is. It is not sin to be confused. It is not sin to struggle. It is not sin to feel that you need something from God. Adultery is sin. Stealing is sin. Lying is sin. Finding out that something that you believe is not in fact true is not sin. Sin is rejection of the truth, not the mere ignorance of it. You don't know everything there is to know about God. That is not sin. God will feed you knowledge. Receive every bit of that knowledge when it comes and you have not sinned. Those who walk after the Spirit, whether they have received it yet or not, believe every word of God that is given them; they do not sin (Ps.119:2-3).
Satan strives to rule in the church by this means: placing his impossible standard of holiness in the minds of God's children. He knows that God's humble sweet children can be persuaded to slave constantly to fight off the condemnation for failing to "measure up" if he can do that. We are his prisoners so long as we judge ourselves by his standard. What are his standards? Just listen to Christian ministers; they will tell you. And they will also tell you not to worry about it, for God still loves you (so that they can maintain their disguise). But a sincere child of God will not be satisfied with ignoring feelings of condemnation, trusting in a vague hope of mercy. It is the saints' desire to know and to love and to please their heavenly Father, and when that is combined with an ignorance of God's truths, the result is imprisonment in an endless, frustrating pursuit of peace. If the children of God didn't care about pleasing God, they would be satisfied to wander in darkness, as very many in Christianity are.
"Walking after the Spirit" simply means submitting to the guidance of the Spirit. When troubles come, to "walk after the Spirit" means to trust what the Spirit makes you feel at that time. There is peace in the midst of trouble to those who have submitted themselves to the rule of the Spirit. When carnal men are excited about an event, or are caught up in high praise of a great man, to "walk after the Spirit" is to believe what the Spirit says about that event or that man. It is, really, to receive your feelings from the Spirit of God and be unmoved in your feelings by the attitudes and desires of this mad, raging world. It is not to be arrogant toward the world because of its attitudes and ways, but to be submissive to the One whose attitude is always right. The secret of God's rule in your heart is humility, not rebellion - not even rebellion against this wicked world (1Pet.2:13-18).
8:5-7 It is impossible for a spiritually-minded person to communicate its thoughts and feelings (note the similarity between communicate and communion) with the carnal mind. Remembering that will greatly reduce anxiety and fretfulness. You can do nothing to cause a carnally-minded person to understand your feelings and thoughts. It is impossible for a carnally-minded person to obey God, or even to desire to do so. If we have obeyed God, it is only because God set us free from our own carnal minds. In ourselves, the law of God - the feelings and thoughts of God - is absurd (1Cor.2:14; Ps.39:5b).
Note: "Carnal" does not mean "wicked" as most of us think of wickedness. "Carnal" simply means, in a worldly sense, "normal". A normal man or woman in this world is carnally minded.
8:8-9a Carnally-minded men cannot possibly please God, but YOU CAN! If you believe that, you are happy.
8:9b-11 This is basic, and Paul has explained fully why it is true. Without the Spirit of God, we cannot be saved. The "body is dead" so far as unchallenged control of your life is concerned, but even if your body were actually dead right now, so what? God will raise you up!
8:12-18 Since nothing of this creation has met our most critical and basic eternal needs, we are obligated to nothing and to no one in the flesh. A most radical doctrine Jesus preached was that his family consisted only of those people who hear and obey the Word of God (followed the Spirit). The person who fails to understand and live that truth sets himself up for many a heartache. "Live after the flesh" here includes feeling obligated to do the will of another's flesh who thinks you are indebted to him. Friends, be careful who you allow to do you a favor; the carnal mind does nothing without expecting a payback. Clinging to fleshly connections and worldly remedies for evil will lead to death. The only way into eternal life is to stay filled with the holy Spirit.
To the original readers of this letter, Paul's omission of circumcision here was so very encouraging. Just to walk after the Spirit! What a blessed thought! Why, anyone can do that, even a fool (Isa.35:8).
Paul's words are especially touching because of what they must have meant to the persecuted Gentile believers of ancient Rome. Pressured constantly by Jewish believers to add ceremony to the work of Christ in their lives, these powerful arguments of God's love for uncircumcised saints must have brought tears of pure joy to their eyes. What pressures could the disapproving opinions of men exert on those who are aware of how much God loves them?
What pressures could the disapproving opinions of men exert on those who rightly understood the work of Jesus? Such pressures are part of the sufferings which all who love the truth share with Christ Jesus. Paul's warning: Don't you dare allow carnal men to make you feel for a minute that God is doesn't love you and might not save you. Their little persecution is nothing to what you have been promised.
8:19-22 Even nature itself is in a strain to be delivered from this vain life. And it shall be delivered. There is no rest anywhere in this creation. It is all cursed with time (Eccl.1:1-8).
8:23-25 We who are not of this world do, like the world itself, long to be delivered; but, there is one big difference: hope. Our hope of salvation sets us apart from every other entity in this universe. The natural universe will be set free when it is destroyed and replaced with another. We will be set free at the same time, not by being destroyed with the wicked but by being saved.
8:26-27 And we do not have to be concerned about how God will be able to accomplish this salvation from such total destruction, if we abide "in His word". If He destroys everything in this universe, how shall we escape? "Heaven and earth shall pass away," said Jesus, "but my word shall not pass away." Then, we shall escape by "abiding in the word"; that is, not being fooled into moving away from trust in Christ alone for our salvation.
8:28-39 No matter what happens, you can know that God has your best interest in mind. He never forgets you, and never fails. From before the foundation of the world, He knew you (Rev.13:8; 17:8), loved you, wanted you, and chose you, not only to be washed from sin but also to be fed and blessed in this life and saved in the end.
What's the point of all this? That nothing - NOTHING - can ever separate you from God's love. He has proved that by giving for us the very best that He had - His Son Jesus. And if He has given us His best, then why would He not give us everything else He has promised? To the believers who first read this, the foolishness of certain Jewish believers was made clear, who considered Gentile believers second-class citizens in the kingdom of God because they were not circumcised in the flesh. If God cleanses you by His blessed Spirit, loves and cares for you constantly, and has promised to save you, what can any fleshly ceremony add, and what purpose in God's kingdom can it possibly serve?
9:1-5 Paul expresses his abiding love and his continual burden for his fellow Jews, whom God has so greatly blessed and yet who so foolishly rejected the greatest blessing of all: their Messiah.
9:6-13 The failure of most of the Jews to receive their Messiah was not a failure on God's part. He knew from the beginning who were His, and did not chose them on the basis of any fleshly circumstance. Even Isaac and Jacob were children of God's "promise", not merely children born according to the natural order of life. They symbolized those who, in this NT, are born by the Spirit, the "promise of God" (Acts 1:4; Gal.3:14). The children of God, says Paul, would be those born supernaturally, not naturally.
God's selection of those who are His are God's choice, who "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will". To show how uninfluenced He is by men, Paul reminds the reader of God's choice of Jacob over Esau before they were even born.
9:14-18 Some will say to this, "If God chooses some and not others, then how can those that He has not chosen to be blamed for sinning?" Paul's answer: God is not wrong about anything. If He chooses to harden a heart, it is His prerogative to do so. If He chooses to touch a heart and grant a person repentance unto life (e.g. Acts 11:), then that person ought to tremble, and thank God for His mercy every day he lives! As the prophet said, "Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling" (Ps.2:11).
9:19-24 One may question God's condemnation of those who sin, if He has not granted them repentance. Paul's response: Who is any one of us, that we should question God's actions? He is our judge. We are not His. He has granted repentance to some of the Jews and some of the Gentiles. Who is it who is able to question His work? Doesn't the Creator have the prerogative to do what He will with His own creation? As the owner of a vineyard said in one of Jesus's parables, "Is it not lawful to do what I will with what is mine?"
God has authority to take the same lump of clay and shape two manner of vessels. He can, and often does, take the "one lump" of a wife and husband and shape one after His mercy and harden the heart of the other. Likewise with the "one lump" of a brother and sister, or mother and child, etc. "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth?" asked Jesus. "I tell you, Nay!, but rather division. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the Father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law" (Lk.12:51-53).
Those whom God rejects are powerless to understand the behavior and feelings of those whom He chooses; and those whom He chooses are powerless to explain anything to those who are not chosen. In the calling of God, there is a "great gulf" fixed, and no man is able to pass over it to the other side.
9:25-29 God foretold through Israel's prophets that He would turn to the Gentiles with His mercy and exposed the Jews' (as well as the Gentiles') unworthiness of it. Thus, God's grace is, and always has been, the only hope of all men, whether Jew or Gentile. In verses 27-28, Paul quotes Isaiah's prophecy (10:22-23) of God's vengeance against His people Israel, saying that only a remnant (a tenth? Isa.6:13) would be granted to continue in His grace.
9:30-33 The Gentiles, who knew nothing of the Law, obtained the righteousness of Christ by believing the gospel about him, whereas those proud Jews (the vast majority, not the remnant) who relied upon ceremonial correctness for their righteousness stumbled at the simple faith revealed in Christ Jesus. This too, Israel's own prophets foretold.
10:1-4 It is not of any ill will that Paul proclaims God's grace to the Gentiles. Paul acknowledges the Jews' zeal for God, but laments that their zeal is so misguided, being so concerned with the distinctiveness of their ceremonial forms, and their unique traditions.
10:5-10 Quoting Moses, Paul shows that saving faith is a matter of the heart, not of ceremonial correctness. It is often overlooked that Moses is the source not only of the description of the "righteousness which is of the Law" (v.5) which Paul uses but also of the description of the "righteousness which is of faith" (vv.6-7) which Paul uses. In the quotations from Moses which Paul quotes, Moses was speaking to God's people who had been in covenant with God forty years (Dt.30); similarly, Paul is speaking to God's people whose faith was known "throughout the whole world" (1:8). In this section, Paul is not describing the way a sinner is converted; rather, he is describing the way to salvation for those who are already converted. They already know the way to salvation, being God's children for a long time now, just as Moses's audience already knew what God required of them.
Moses's original point in his final address to Israel, from which Paul is quoting, is that Israel should resist the temptation to look for any new thing; they had what they needed: God's Law. By now, they knew what God required and what they should do. All that remained was for them to do it. Paul's point is precisely the same; to wit, the church has Christ within. That is all that is needed. The Spirit will guide into all truth. There is no need to pursue any other way or knowledge. The saints in Rome already knew the truth (the word is "in your mouth and in your heart"). Paul's plea here is for them to be "content with godliness" and to resist the pressures of the world to try to "dress it up". The gospel is simple. Keep it that way.
Note that the injunction to "confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus" is impossible for a sinner to do. The sinner confesses sin; the saints confess Christ. That "confession is made unto salvation" is simply to say with Jesus that "He that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved." Then the last statement here is a repeat of the point: Whoever trusts in Jesus to save him will not be ashamed, or disappointed, on the Day of Judgment.
10:11-13 "Whosoever" meaneth "whosoever". "Calling on the name of the Lord" is a biblical phrase which refers to the communication between God and His children. Sinners do not call on the name of the Lord (Ps.14:4) because it is impossible for them to do so (Zeph.3:9). Acts 7:59; 1Cor.1:2; 2Tim.2:22; 1Pet.1:17. And salvation will be given only to those who, in the day when Jesus returns, are at that time, calling on the name of the Lord. Acts 2:20-21; Lk.18:8. 10:14-21 In order for saving faith to exist in a heart, there must come a messenger sent by God (as opposed to being ordained by default, i.e., ancestral lineage). The Jews heard the gospel preached by Jesus and then by those who followed him, but not all believed, even though they were forewarned to prepare. Most of God's people refused to learn of God through nature (as Chapter One declares), and they rejected God's word as delivered by the prophets, the Messiah, and apostles, believing instead the word of those not sent by God, just as the prophets, Jesus and the apostles said they would do (Jn.5:43).
This rejection of the truth, and God's turning to the Gentiles with it, occurred - despite God's plain warning that it would happen - and in some case was happening even as they spoke (Acts 28:24-29).
11:1-5 Although God has rejected the first covenant, God has not discarded His chosen people, the ones whom He foreknew before the foundation of the world. Some of these elect people are Jews, as Paul was. Not all Jews were cut off from God's grace, just the rebellious and disobedient.
11:6-10 What did the obedient and disobedient have in common? Works of the Law. In what way were they dissimilar? In the hearts' condition. But who made the difference? Whom should the obedient thank for the difference? Themselves? By no means! It was only by the mercy from God that they were chosen by God to survive. The others, as "vessels of dishonor", were turned over to "believe a lie and be damned" (2Thess.2:10-12).
If the righteous had the ceremonies in common with the wicked, then the ceremonies must not have been what saved them. Otherwise, those ceremonies would have saved the wicked, too. Nothing which the righteous had in common with the wicked saved them (e.g., breathing, eating, wearing clothes; laughing, talking, going to school, buying a house, etc.). Foolish people judge themselves by those carnal kinds of things, but the wise do not.
Carnal things, which were a part of the Law of Moses, entrapped the ungodly, for they became so proud of their ceremonial correctness that they rejected Jesus in order to maintain it.
11:11-16 God's plan includes stirring up love for Jesus in the Jews' heart by provoking them to jealousy. His turning to the Gentiles was intended to make them come to Christ and receive the promises which were theirs, made long ago to their forefathers. But with the rise of Roman Catholic Christianity, and its relentless hatred and abuse of Jews, the Jews historically have associated that abuse and that hatred with Jesus. What is there about Christianity which would provoke the Jews to jealousy? Just as the Gentiles blasphemed the name of God because of the behavior of many Jews, so the Jews have been provoked by Christianity to blaspheme the name of Jesus.
Paul spoke to the Gentiles because (1) God sent him and (2) because he hoped that the Jews, seeing the power of their God operating for the good of the Gentiles, might become jealous. Note that Paul does not say he wants to provoke them to envy. Envy is desiring what God has given to someone else. Jealousy concerns what belongs to you (as the things of the kingdom of God belonged originally to the Jews. cp. Rom.15.26-27). Paul doesn't even seem to mind if the first reaction of the Jews to his preaching is a fleshly one: emulation. If he could only get that much of a response out of them, he would have something with which to work.
Paul encourages the Gentiles to maintain a right attitude concerning God's relationship with both them and the Jews, saying that if the fall of the Jews has blessed the Gentiles, how much more blessed will the Gentiles be if Israel believes! This seems to be a little bit of strange reasoning from Paul, but he doesn't want the Gentiles here to worry about what will happen to them if the Jews turn to Christ. God will not forget His people of faith.
The turning of the Jews to Jesus is implicitly associated here with the first resurrection. "The receiving of them" by Christ will be "life from the dead." In fact, the future's time-line, recorded in Revelation, does show that the two events are very close together.
11:17-24 There is absolutely no reason at all for any believer to gloat over the fallen Jew. Should we begin to boast of our faith in Christ, as if it is not a gift from God, we too will fall into the same condemnation which ruined the Israelites' fellowship with God. And besides, if any of the Jews repent and turn to Jesus, God will bring them again into His covenant family.
11:25-29 In part, God blinded the Jews because of His love for Gentiles, for all who are of the faith of Abraham must be saved. When God has finished with His dealings with the Gentiles, Israel will be called again. Then, all who belong to the Israel of God, the "true" Israel, will be saved. That is one of God's promises. God still loves the Israelites, for Abraham's sake, and for Isaac, and Jacob. They are still a people who were called, even though they rejected their calling, because the call of God forever changes people - even if those people refuse their calling. God does not repent for calling; that is, the calling stands forever as having been made.
11:30-32 Paul pleads with the Gentile believers to show mercy to the Jews, so that the Jews may obtain eternal life. As the Jews once were able to help the Gentiles (but failed to do so through pride), the Gentiles now are in a position to help the Jews. A goal of the Gentile church should be to bring in the Jews.
11:33-36 God's wisdom cannot be discerned. He is inscrutably wise. Without revelation, we cannot know what He does or thinks, but when His ways are revealed, how great do they appear!
12:1 Paul's beginning phrase, "therefore", means he is building on what has come before. The message of the previous chapters, especially 9-11, is that a believing Gentile is as clean as any believing Jew, and is far better, that is in a far better position with God, than any unconverted Jew. Gentiles who are in Christ were chosen by God before the foundation of the world to belong to Christ. They are not simply fill-ins for those who really belonged. So, that truth having been thoroughly expounded upon, Paul moves on to the only right result of right teaching: issues related to responsibility and behavior.
Our "reasonable service" needs to be explained. The word reasonable denotes metaphysical as opposed to physical service, and service refers to duty toward God. RSV translates these words as, "which is your spiritual worship". The word translated reasonable here is used in 1Pet.2:2, with the meaning, "pure, spiritual milk".
12:2 Even those in Christ can be shaped by the pressures of this world into a lifestyle that is ungodly. "This world", of course, includes the kind of worship which carnal men practice and enjoy. Right doctrine aids the saints in their struggle against the pressures of the world, for if we understand what the situation really is, we have added strength to deal with it (Prov.8:14). Without understanding, we can hardly escape being deceived by what looks right and seems right, but is actually harmful to our souls (Prov.16:25).
To "prove" means to examine, or put to the test, and then to approve of what is true. It means to be able to tell right from wrong, and it is a wisdom that must be striven for (Heb.5:14). When one learns what God's will really is, the temptation to serve Him some other way is almost already overcome. Truly knowing the will of God is life (Jn.17:3), because in knowing Him, we know right from wrong.
12:3 The will of God is simply to stay balanced, not warped by vain imaginations.
12:4-8 Nobody but Jesus can be everything to the church. Then let us be content to do our part (to have a part is a precious gift).
Much is made of a supposed "nine gifts of the Spirit", because Paul mentions nine gifts in 1Cor.12. God has many more than nine gifts which by His Spirit He can bestow upon the church. Here, Paul mentions these:
In verse seven is mentioned the gift of "ministry". In addition to the normal meaning, Goodspeed renders it, "practical service". That is, having a special ability to help with natural things. It was one of the good things about the pastor in Thyatira, Rev.2:19. Some examples of "practical service" are:
The gift of exhortation is of great benefit to the church. Some people are enabled by this gift to avoid being discouraged and to encourage the church by their example to be joyful and have faith.
Some, through their gift of giving, have lifted many a burden for both believers and non-believers. With this gift, even very poor saints have ministered many blessings to others. This gift, in operation, does not depend upon earthly wealth. The Spirit finds a way for these people to give, and give effectively. To give with "simplicity" is to give "sincerely, single-heartedly, bountifully"; that is, without any ulterior motive.
With the gift for ruling, a member of the body feels when it is the right time to move and is able to see clearly to make decisions and judgments that are right. Since this section deals with specific gifts given to specific members of the church, we must acknowledge that "ruling" is a function of only a part of the body. Contrary to what some rebellious hearts would have us believe, it is a part of the kingdom of God for some saints to "rule", in a godly manner, over others (1Pet.5:1-3).
Those who are blessed with the gift of mercy are made by God more patience and kind than the rest of the church, as an example for them. As with other gifts, God's uses this one not only to encourage downcast sinners but sometimes to chasten the church, as the church sees this gift manifested. Seeing mercy shown that we did not feel toward a sinner humbles us, and reminds us of His mercy which was shown to us, and reminds us that His mercy is greater than we are able to be, without His strength.
12:9-21 A description of godly behavior, behavior which is always in the will of God.
13:1-5 Paul is referring to earthly governments when he uses the word power here. We are to submit to every legitimate earthly authority, without bitterness (1Pet.2:13-15). And we are able to do that from the heart because we know that our God is working all things together for our good, if we are trusting Him. Earthly authorities are our God's ministers, and any church member who is contemptuous of the government, is contemptuous of God; if he ridicules the government, ridicules God; if he resists the government, he resists the will of God; if he attempts to overthrow a government, he is attempting to overthrow God. While here, we are ambassadors for the kingdom of God (2Cor.5:20), representing a better place. We are strangers to the elements, to the nature, and to the standards of this world (Heb.11:13-16); and, as ambassadors to this world, and as strangers to it, we are not to become entangled in its affairs (2Tim.2:4).
13:6-7 Just as God has ordained that "those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (2Cor.9:14), so God has ordained that those who rule on the earth have authority to gain their living by their office. Tithes and offering are for the church; taxes, for the government.
13:8-10 If you walk in love, you will not owe the government, nor the church, anything. You will have rendered to Caesar all of what is Caesar's and to God all of what is God's. Secondly, if you walk in the love of God, there will be nothing about you that would prevent your neighbor from coming to Christ, if God calls him.
13:11-14 Walking in that love, we will be prepared for the coming of the Lord. Fear of God's judgment, as well as love for Him, will save us from falling into sinful patterns of thought and action. Always remember, with each passing day our salvation is nearer than the day before. Then, do not even provide the flesh with an opportunity to have its way. Stay filled with the Spirit of Christ.
14:1-9 Paul is addressing both Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Rome, encouraging them to receive one another as brothers without wrangling over their respective callings from God. The circumcised believers were bound by conscience before God to observe the Law in all its parts, while the uncircumcised believers were freed by the Son of God from the Law.
Paul does state that it is a weaker brother who cannot eat meats and who esteems one day above another; however, if God called the Jews in circumcision and made them responsible to Him to refrain from certain meats and to revere some days above others, then the Gentiles ought to be satisfied to have them as brothers with that calling. Likewise, the Jews should be content with their calling and, at the same time, happily receive the Gentiles believer as a beloved citizen of the kingdom of God with them, without bearing contempt for their eating of any meats and the non-observance of holy days and ceremonial rites.
Jesus has paid the price of ownership of all the souls of men, especially of those of faith. Therefore, all who are in Christ are of God, and anyone in Christ who feels that another in Christ is not of God is wrong.
So complete are we in Christ, so completely are we received by God, that we need not even quarrel about differences. God's love for us excludes it. The Gentile believer can love the Jewish believer unreservedly, having respect for his observance of "holy days" and his dietary restrictions. And the Jewish believer is free to rejoice with his Gentile brothers over their liberty from the ceremonies contained in the Law which God gave to Israel at Mt. Horeb.
There is no need either for strife or envy, nor yet pride, as though one calling is better than another. It is God who does the calling. And if He has baptized one, being uncircumcised, and another being circumcised, we are free to acknowledge His good work in both cases and to love one another, without trying to impose the will of God for us upon others. As Paul exhorted the church, "Is any man called being circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God" (1Cor.7:18-24).
14:10-13 In these verses, Paul speaks primarily to the Jewish brethren in Rome. Because of the way salvation history developed, the greater pressure was on the Jewish believers to despise the Gentile believer on account of his uncircumcised calling. Contrarily, it was only natural for those Gentiles who came to believe in the Messiah of Israel to look up to their Jewish brethren (at least for the reasons Paul mentioned in 3:2 and 10:4-5); but, Paul's underlying message is that all who were in Christ were in Christ as one (1Cor.10:17, and 12:14ff).
Then, Paul calls for an end to all quarrels concerning the Jew-Gentile matter. Each man will give an account of himself to God for the calling he has received, not for the calling of another. Therefore, it is clearly unwise to be overly concerned with another's work, or to criticize another concerning his calling; each will give account for his own deeds, and therefore should concentrate on being an edifying member of the body of Christ rather than an inspector of another's part (Jas.3:1).
14:14-23 In these verses, Paul speaks primarily to the Gentile brethren in Rome. Because the Gentiles are free from the works of the Law, their temptation is to despise the Jewish brethren for continuing to practice dead works. Paul warns them that because the greater liberty is theirs, the greater responsibility is theirs to demonstrate the love of God for the weaker brothers.
It is sinful to flaunt your liberty in the face of sincere children of God who do not know better than to live and worship the way they do. By doing so, you could provoke your brother to sin, and cause him to lose his crown. "Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died." It is good to have the knowledge of God that liberates from the dead works of the Law and the many false doctrines of men, but it is not good to exercise any liberty if a weaker brother is made to stumble by your doing so. The standard is charity, the love of God in action, not the amount of knowledge you possess. You are not excused for harming another's faith because you have the knowledge to do a certain deed. If by your knowledge you have offended a weaker brother, neither the love of God nor true faith was the motivation of your deed - and that is sin.
This is the true measure of your knowledge of God: true liberty is absolutely free; that is, free to eat or not to eat. Free to go or to stay. Free to do what you want to do and, if it is more beneficial to the church, free not to do what you want to do. A man who is made free by the Son of God is free to do the will of others or his own will - which ever is more edifying at the moment. That is liberty, and that is the righteousness of faith.
15:1-7 Paul concludes this topic by reminding the church in Rome that the life he is describing is the life Jesus lived, who chose to do his Father's will and suffer rather than to do his own. And he chose this path because it was the path along which God's love for people led him. He lived for others, not himself. Jesus was willing to suffer the hatred and scorn (the "reproaches") of those who secretly hated God in their hearts, if that was the necessary result of obeying his Father. Anyone who dares to walk in the Spirit and reflect the heart and mind of God on earth will expose in men the secret feelings which they harbor in their hearts for God. Those who truly love God in their heart will truly love the one who speaks the words of God and is an example of purity and faith; those who secretly despise God will openly despise anyone on earth who is a reflection of God's holiness.
Finally, Paul exhorts the saints in Rome, both Jew and Gentile, to "be likeminded" toward one another and to "receive one another as Christ also hath received us."
15:8-13 Paul points out that Jesus came for both the Jews and the Gentiles: (1) to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs and (2) to cause the Gentiles to rejoice in the mercy of God. So, Paul exhorts all in the church in Rome to rejoice in the Spirit, because, whether Jew or Gentile, all the family of God abound in hope "through the power of the holy Ghost."
15:14-22 Paul is confident that they already understand these things, and are enabled already by the love of God to receive from one another, but is simply reminding them of their blessing from God and rejoicing with them in it. Especially does Paul rejoice in his own calling: the ministry of the gospel among the Gentiles.
Paul did not travel through the Gentile world in order to persuade them to become worshipful people; they were already deeply worshipful, in their own pagan ways. His duty was to make their worship acceptable to the living God by having them sanctified by the holy Spirit. This would require their hearing of the gospel of Christ Jesus and their repenting of all ungodliness. Then, having their conscience purged from respect for dead works (Heb.9:14), they could worship God as He demands: in spirit and in truth.
It was for preaching among the Gentiles this gospel of liberty from dead works that Paul suffered much of his persecution (e.g. Col.4:3). In fact, he said that if he would only include dead ceremionial works in his message, which he said were nothing but "a fair show in the flesh", his persecutuions would end (Gal.5:11; 6:12). Here, Paul states that his preaching of the truth to the Gentiles has given rise to situations which have prevented any previous trips to Rome.
In these verses, Paul demonstrates the beauty of true liberty. He knows that it is against the doctrine of many Jewish leaders for Paul - or any other Jew - to go among the Gentiles (1Thess.2:16a). Peter, you will remember, was grilled by some of the church elders in Jerusalem for going to Cornelius's house, the holy and wonderful results notwithstanding (Acts 11:1-3). Though aware of the possible provocation of some of his Jewish brothers who believe, Paul boldly and joyful speaks of his travels among them. Was he flaunting his liberty, and hurting his brothers, causing them to fall? Absolutely not! He had fully explained his reasons, confessed his calling, and made it clear that what he does in Christ's service he does in submission to the calling of God, not in rebellion against the will of any man. Paul is concerned enough for the souls of his Jewish brethren that he would die for them; but at the same time, he sails ahead with full speed in his preaching to the farthest reaches of the lands around the Mediterranean Sea. Concern for the conscience of others doesn't make you a slave to it.
15:23-25 Paul expects, on his upcoming trip to Spain, to be financed by the church at Rome. What an opportunity he is giving them! He wouldn't take a penny from the Corinthians for himself (2Cor.11:7-10). It is a privilege to have your offering accepted by a man of God. Even Paul felt that it would be a blessing for him if the poor saints in Jerusalem to accept the money and/or goods that he was carrying to them.
15:26-27 The Gentiles were indebted to the Jews, if for no other reason, then for persevering in the Law long enough, alone among the nations of the world, for Jesus to have been born. The blessings of the Gentiles, Paul writes, are spiritual things which belonged to the Jews, who rejected their opportunity to possess them. And, as he does in other places, Paul sets forth the sound doctrine that those who receive spiritual food are duty-bound to render natural benefits to those who are responsible for feeding them.
15:28-33 Paul is excited about his upcoming visit with the church in Rome and reiterates his expectation that his planned trip to Spain will be financed by the saints there. Paul requests that they pray with him for two things, that when he arrives in Judea (1) he will be delivered from the Jews who do not believe and (2) that the gift which he would carry to the poor saints in Jerusalem would be accepted by them.
16:1-2 Paul's "Letter of Recommendation" for Phebe, the bearer of Paul's letter to Rome and a faithful servant of the church near Corinth.
16:3-16 Personal greetings... First, Paul greets his two fellow-laborers, Priscilla and Aquila, who have risked their lives for the gospel.
Note that Paul also sends greetings to "the church that is in their house". This must have been a common practice for Priscilla and Aquila to have meetings in their house wherever they lived, for Paul mentions a church in their house while they were with Paul in Asia (1Cor.16:19). This is the meeting place of the earliest church: the house of some faithful saints. Specifically mentioned are the churches in the house of Nymphas in Colosse (Col.4:15) and in Philemon's house (Philemon 2).
The followers of Jesus were in a house when the holy Ghost first fell (Acts 2:2). Afterwards, they broke the bread of life, teaching in the temple and from house to house (Acts 2:46; 5:42). And it was into houses that Saul of Tarsus went looking for the church (Acts 8:3). Ananias found the young Saul of Tarsus and laid hands on him in a house, and in that same house Paul received the holy Ghost and was healed (Acts 9:11,17). Cornelius saw an angel as he prayed in his house (Acts 10:30), and Peter came and preached to him in his house. Peter, having been loosed from his prison by God's angel, went to Mary's house, where they were deep in prayer for him (Acts 12:12). When Paul lived in Corinth, he taught "from house to house" (Acts 20:20). And John warned the church not to received into their house anyone teaching the apostolic doctrine (2Jn.1:10).
This is no small matter. There has been much confusion caused, and much evil done, by the commonly accepted practice which has evolved among Christians of calling a building a church. The church is not the place of meeting; it is the saints who meet there. To compromise that point is to confuse your own soul. The church is the dwelling place of God, "a spiritual house" for Him to inhabit (1Pet.2:5), for "the Most High dwelleth not in temples made by hands" (Acts 7:48), but He does dwell within those who have His Spirit (Jn.14:23). "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the holy Ghost, which is in you?" and "The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are" (1Cor.6:19; 3:17).
To have a building as the church, the house of God, is Satan's substitute for having a congregation of saints; but he has that, too, if the saints honor and attend worship services in that building that Christians call their church.
After greeting Priscilla and Aquila, Paul sends greetings to the man who first repented and received the word of God in the heartland of Greece, whom Paul knows well.
Afterward, Paul mentions a lady who helped him, and then some of his kinsmen, who have worked and suffered with Paul, and were in Christ before Paul himself entered into the kingdom of God.
Paul then lists a number of people to whom he sends greeting, among them another relative and an elderly woman to whom Paul refers as his mother.
16:17-20 A final exhortation to communion and watchfulness. Paul exhorts the saints to avoid those who teach unordained doctrines. After obeying that injunction, the saints there may expect to see God bruise Satan under their heels in short order. In modern terms, the commandment to avoid unordained ministers is tantamount to a call to come out of Christianity.
16:21-23 Greetings from others with Paul to the church in Rome, including Tertius, who actually penned the letter at Paul's dictation, and Gaius, with whom Paul was lodging at that time.
16:24-27 Paul's conclusion.
Paul's letter to the church in Rome is aimed at preventing discord between Jewish and non-Jewish believers. He strives to show that if anyone is in Christ, it is the choice of God that he be there, and that if God has baptized a man with His Spirit, He has granted a man admission into His kingdom, and that everyone else in God's family should then welcome him, for he is fully cleansed, fully accepted by God, and fully a partaker of the promises made to Abraham. There are no grandchildren in the family of God. All His children are His children, and He dearly loves them all. Understanding that rightly will enable us to avoid envy and strife so that we can love one another without fear, and be thankful for and rejoice in one another's calling.
Paul's concern for the Gentile believers is that they might yield their precious liberty and faith to the pressure of certain Jewish believers who felt very strongly that Gentiles should observe the ceremonial laws which Moses and David gave to Israel (and possibly that they should also observe traditions of the elders as well). He uses every means at his disposal to show these Gentile believers that they were from the beginning intended by God to be who they were, and that their own experience with the holy Ghost was proof positive that they belonged to God in Christ.
Paul's concern for the Jewish believers was that they might fall victim to pride because of fleshly matters; to wit, their cultural history, their circumcision, and their lineage. He challenges any of them to demonstrate how the Jews are superior to the Gentiles, except for the things that God did for them. Paul knew that if he could persuade them of that truth, they would not be puffed up against Gentiles who had received the grace of God.
The length of time Paul spends on this issue, not only here in Romans but also in other letters of his, especially Galatians, indicates how important this issue was to Paul. Paul considered the challenge to the Gentiles' liberty from the works of the Law to be tantamount to a challenge to God Himself. It should be observed that those who questioned the validity of these and any Gentile's faith were believing Jews, not unbelieving. The threat from unbelieving Jews was non-existent. The Gentile believers knew that unbelieving Jews were wrong in their assessment of their faith. But Paul rightly sees that the opinion of believing Jews would bear great weight in any argument with the Gentile church.
Paul's point: if God has accepted the Gentiles' faith, who then are the Jews - or anyone else - to despise them, or to burden them with demands (e.g. circumcision) which God no longer requires? Paul states clearly that the church in Rome already knows these things, which is yet another indication of how important a place in Paul's mind for the churches this issue must have held. Despite their knowing the truth already, Paul felt they needed a lengthy and strongly worded exhortation to abide in the truth of the gospel and not to yield to the enormous pressures against it.
Unfortunately, despite Paul's greatest efforts, Jewish and Gentile believers who held that ceremony ought to be incorporated into the worship of Christ eventually won the battle.
The enormity of the disaster which then befell the churches (even before Paul's death - 2Tim.1:15) is so great that the church has been in a spiritual state of "denial" since the time that it happened. The fact that Paul's gospel was replaced by adapted forms of Old Testament ceremony is virtually unnoticed by most believers today. Nevertheless, Christianity, the religion which for nearly twenty centuries has deceitfully attracted the world's attention as the offspring of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, carries in its bosom the telling vestiges of that false gospel.
The sprinkling of "holy water", the burning of incense, observance of "holy days", ministerial vestments, an elected hierarchy, forms of water baptism, special garments for worship, ceremonies for ordination and marriage, political entanglements, and the ability to "join" the religion, and a multitude of other symbols, doctrines, and forms, are merely variations of the works of the Law which Moses gave to Israel at Mount Sinai. They are "dead works", put to permanent rest by the sufficiency of Christ, yet taken up again from God's trash heap by the men considered by Christians to be the early "church fathers", men who rejected Paul's gospel even as they devised another, and who were not submissive to Jesus, whom they claimed to serve.
The cult which men now call "Christianity" is a form of worship which Paul spent his life exhorting the church to reject. To wit, faith in Jesus and in ceremony. The use of symbolic ceremonies, the propagation of false ideas about God, and the wretched history of Christianity's cruelty and violence against those who did not wish to join that religion, are undeniable evidences that Christianity is not now, nor has it ever been of God. The dissimilarities between the way of Christ Jesus revealed in the Bible and the ways of Christianity are so great that it is mind-boggling to consider how many people still believe that Christianity is of God.
It is a well-known fact, even acknowledged by many Christians, that one may be a member of Christianity without belonging to Christ at all. This can only be true because the way of the Spirit of God and the way of Christianity are two different and irreconcilable ways
. The faith of Christ Jesus is not, and never has been, the faith known as Christianity. The apostle Paul died in faith, knowing that the true church would suffer and be led astray by false apostles of Christ (the "fathers" of Christianity); but, the loss of that great battle for the saints will not be the winning of the war for Satan. In John's Revelation, we have revealed to us (1) the coming destruction of Christianity, to which religion John refers with the cryptic term, "Babylon", and (2) the ecstatic joy of victorious saints and the angels at Babylon's destruction. For this reason, the call of God for His children is being sounded, in ever clearer terms, "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Hearing this voice, one can only obey the man of God's exhortation, when he reminds us that Jesus suffered outside the gate of the holy city, being counted unworthy so much as to die near the temple of the Jews: "Let us go forth therefore unto him outside the camp", wrote this wise and humble servant, "bearing his reproach."
In-depth Bible study on these topics: How did the ceremonies of the Law of Moses foretell of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus? What does baptism have to do with salvation and what form of baptism is the "one baptism" which Paul preached? Must a man obey the commandments of God and do good works in order to be saved in the end? Does everyone who receives the Holy Ghost speak in tongues?
The worshipping of idols is not idolatry; it is merely a symptom of it. As the red spots of a child with measles are indications of the disease, and not the disease itself, so the worshipping of idols indicates the disease of idolatry is present. Unfortunately, we have assumed that, because idol-worship is no longer among us, we are free of the disease of idolatry. All Things exposes the mind-set of idolatry, the attitude which leads to idolatrous living, and reveals that idolatry is alive and well among men and, tragically, even in the church. Nothing has changed but the symptoms.
The stories of Joseph, Job, and the Lord Jesus are reviewed, showing how they overcame trials which were insurmountable except for their faith in God as He really is. They were not afflicted with the idolatrous notions about God which prevent so many of us from ever knowing true peace with the Creator. Therefore, they could overcome any suffering which earth had to offer.
The history of Israel as it is recorded in the Scriptures is told in detail, from the time of the Judges to the captivity of Judah, demonstrating clearly that God was in thorough control of the circumstances they faced, both the pleasant and the horrifying. The nation was destroyed because the people foolishly held other gods responsible for some of the things that befell them. In our day, this same idolatrous notion shows its ugly head every time someone holds Satan responsible for the circumstances of his life. Jesus is Lord of all. If we can understand that glorious, liberating truth, we can overcome the world!
Concerning earthly relationships, perhaps in no other way has more harm been done to the church by her own ministers than in matters concerning marriage and divorce. In most cases, remarriage is permitted by God, and the scriptures, rightly divided, clearly say so! The only case in which remarriage is forbidden is when two truly born-again people separate. In every other case remarriage is allowed.
"Ye Must Be Born Again"
What experience is the experience of new birth? When were the disciples born again, and how did they know it? By clear explanation of the Scriptures, Pastor Clark explains the truth about the new birth. If you have been taught that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was not essential for your salvation, you may want to rethink your position after hearing these 12 sermons on cassette, taken from the Pioneer Broadcast radio program.
"What Must I Do To Be Saved?"
The gimmick "get saved" religion which arose in the
20th Century and took the
church by storm is at last brought into question. Hundreds of Scriptures are employed in
this series of 12 sermons,
conclusively showing that salvation is the hope of the saints, not received by repeating a
few Scriptures, nor by
claiming it. It is received by obeying the voice of God until the end. Stubborn,
disobedient believers will not be
saved, but condemned by Christ Jesus in the judgment. Hear these convincing sermons
and be set free from the
burden of claiming something that has not yet been given!
All Things (Rom.8:28)
Companion to the book by the same title (see
this series of sermons puts
into words the same message contained in the book. The lives of the men and women of
greatest faith are
examined: Abraham, Job, Joseph, the Lord Jesus, Paul, the prophets.
The Law No ancient prophet in Israel ever spoke more perfectly of the coming Messiah than did the Law of Moses. The work of Jesus Christ is painted brilliantly in the ceremonies of the Law. The earliest Church preached Christ, with no scriptures but what we call the "Old Testament"!
The negative attitude of many toward the Law of Moses is shown to be from Satan, not from God. Jesus loved the Law which his Father gave to Moses. So did Paul and the apostles. We all need to know the real reason that the Church was taught by Paul not to continue to observe the Law's ritualistic ordinances.
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