Paul's Epistle to the Romans
Romans 1:20 “...the things that are made,”
One of the great blessings that is ours after we receive Christ is that of having our eyes opened to the created world. What a testimony to God’s great power! It amazes us that the unbeliever is so blind as to think it all just happened through the evolutionary process. The distance and magnitude of heavenly bodies, the varieties of species in the plant and animal kingdoms, the complexity of each organism, especially our human bodies, all cause us to be continually impressed at God’s masterful craftsmanship.
With all that surrounds him, the lost man or woman is for the most part unimpressed. That he is blind to it all is an understatement and it is well put by Paul when he said “their foolish heart was darkened”(v.21).
We are thought to be fools because we believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, absolutely authoritative in all matters of life and doctrine. We accept the Genesis record of creation and have no problem believing in a God who could speak the worlds into being (Heb.11:3). Their very existence is sufficient testimony to their Creator’s power and not to recognize His “eternal power and Godhead” is enough to declare them lost men & women, the absolute fools that they are. Sad it is to think that these who are wise, in their own eyes, will suddenly awake one day in eternity to live forever with the burning truth that “professing themselves to be wise they became fools” (v.22).
Romans 2 Guilty!
In these first three chapters Paul is laying the foundation for his first premise that “all have sinned” etc (3:23). It took me awhile to see the emphasis in the first part of this chapter even after years of reading through Romans. The word “things” mentioned in the first three verses along with the use of the same word in verses 28 and 32 of chapter one, together with the use of the word “therefore” in the first verse of our chapter today, clearly refers us back to the ugly list in chapter one (verse 29-31).
We all should know that these “things” will bring upon us the certain judgement of God. Of course, there might be the possibility of escaping that judgement if we do well or are good, (verses 7&10) as judgement is based on works (v.6)- but as Paul tells us in chapter three, there are none good (3:12). Speaking of goodness, we learn here that God’s goodness should lead us to repentance but we despise it (v.4).
Verse 12 covers everybody, the Jew under the law and the Gentile who is not.
Beginning with verse 17, Paul deals with the Jew, who in his hypocrisy, knows God’s will but, failing to do it consistently, is no better, though circumcised, than the Gentile who does better sometimes at keeping the law written on his heart than does the Jew. This condemnation of the Jew is carried over into chapter three where later, after expanding the analysis to include the Gentile, he declares “all the world” to be “guilty before God”.
Reader, forgive the more technical approach which hopefully will aid in understanding the passage and preparing one for the remainder of the book.
Romans 3:8 “......we be slanderously reported...”
To slander is to injure someone’s reputation by uttering falsehood or misrepresentation against them. How often we are victims, we do not know, but those in public office can scarcely escape. Human nature is against us and so is Satan who delights to slander the brethren, liar that he is.
Paul and company are said to be teaching, “let us do evil that good may come” (v.8). There is usually a germ of truth in most lies and that makes them the more insidious. Obviously, the greater the sin, the more gracious the forgiving of it. The worse the offense, the more magnanimous is the one who does not take it. Paul deals with this at the beginning of chapter six.
Getting back to the subject of slander, how easy it is for us to color what we say about another’s reputation, if only by the tone of voice we use or in the changing of a single word. When someone reports how we may have lovingly tried to correct them, they, by simply raising their voice where we did not, may completely cause others to misconstrue our motive. So much are we at the mercy of our friends, and we cannot imagine how our enemies might treat our best intentions.
If we are so easily misunderstood, it should make us extremely sensitive when reporting what others have said, that the truth we speak be not just in the words we say, but even in the way we say them. It certainly is better not to speak then to slander a brother or sister, or anyone for that matter.
Col. 4 :6 a “....seasoned with salt..”
Romans 4:16 “.......of faith....by grace..”
God’s grace is illustrated in this chapter. First we read that righteousness may be had by imputation rather than through keeping the law (v.6). This principle is completely foreign to us apart from revelation. It speaks of righteousness being placed upon us or put to our account totally apart from our merit. Grace is unmerited favor. The application here is particularly to the Jews who, of course, thought that righteousness (right standing before God) came by keeping the law. Paul says, no, it comes by faith quite apart from the law, and illustrates this by telling them that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised (v.10), therefore indicating that it was grace through faith that brought him into right standing with God.
We then read how Abraham was “quickened” even though (in effect) dead (v.19) and how
he believed God for the promise of a son. This is the “through faith” principle by which he laid hold upon the promise and “by grace” received it, in Isaac.
By the same process, we lay hold of the promise that we though dead (in sin), may receive life by being declared righteous through Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice.
Galations 3:6 “Even as Abraham believed God (faith) and it was accounted (imputed) unto him for righteousness” (by God’s grace).
Romans 5:14 Adam, a type of Christ
Why, we ask, would Adam typify our Lord Jesus Christ? The word “figure” is a transliteration of “tupos”, the Greek word meaning “die”, “sampler” or “model” and is the word from which our English word “type” derives.
Certainly in his disobedience Adam did not pre-figure Christ. In what way then? In his headship! Adam was, by grace, made the seminal head of the human race taking it with him into sin and death (v.12). This in order that the Second Man, Christ, could act on our behalf and by that action (His death) satisfy completely God’s required justice for all who believe.
We might contrast these two men by thinking of their “garden” experiences. In the garden of Eden, Adam was tested and put his own will above that of his Creator, whereas Christ, in the garden of Gethsemene, surrendered to the will of His Father, which led to the cross. In the action of Adam we died and in the action of Christ we are made alive and made righteous (v.18). Apparently God could not have included us in the latter transaction were we not included in the former. We had nothing to do with either, but on this basis, by faith we may pass from the state of death to the state of life (John 5:24).
Romans 6:2 “.......dead to sin..”
What Paul teaches in this chapter is, without doubt, the most important of all principles with regard to our living the Christian life. It has to do with victory over sin. (sinful acts).
A lady, I will call Flora, received Christ at the approximate age of thirty-five. All of her adult life she had smoked cigarettes. Two weeks after her conversion, she became greatly convicted about this habit and asked me what to do about it. We went to this chapter and I asked her if she believed, that for her, smoking was a sinful habit. She answered in the affirmative. I then showed her Paul’s words about our being dead to sin. “Are you dead to smoking” I asked? No! She said, feeling very much alive to it’s bondage. “But,” I said, “read what it says” and, asked her again the same question. Again she said “no.” “But, God says you are,” I emphasized. Her words were so clear, “then if He says I am, it must be so.”
I then proceeded to show her how, in the attitude of prayer, she should acknowledge her sin before God and count herself dead to it if she really did believe, from His word that it was so, following up by consciously accepting His resurrection power for victory over it, (vss.11-13)
One week later, Flora told me that, after a few days of praying as instructed, she had fallen sick and was so nauseated that she couldn’t smoke. When the nausea left her she never returned to the habit again!
What was a “birthday gift” for Flora can usually only be appropriated by those who are surrendered to Christ as Lord (12:1&2).
Romans 7:20 “....no more I....but sin....”
Never is the dichotomy between a believer’s old and new nature any more clearly expressed than in this passage. In the flesh there is nothing good. The “not I, but Christ” of Galations 2:20 and of the hymn by A.B.Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church is contrasted in the “no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me,” of verse 20.
The “law of my mind” is the delight of the “inward man” whereas in “my members” there is another law and these two laws are in conflict. The one is served by the “flesh” and the other by the “mind” (I Cor.2:16).
This conflict is not, as some suppose, the experience of the unbeliever, but rather of the child of God who is learning the secret of this spiritual warfare as he applies the reckoning * principle of Romans 6:11.
Having been made “free from sin” (6:7&8) positionally, we all know that in experience we still have a struggle with our old nature. Paul uses the term “flesh” in it’s bad sense, to delineate this side of our personhood. Victory, “through Jesus Christ our Lord” is achieved, when, with our mind, we lay hold on the fact that we are dead to it (6:2, 6,7&8).
*If this language is not and never has been important in our prayer life, something is wrong.
Romans 8:2 Free
The searcher in the mighty depths of the deep mine of Scripture will be richly rewarded for his labor in this chapter. How wonderful to know that by position, we are not “in the flesh” but “in the spirit”. We could chew on verse eleven for quite a while wondering if, contrary to most expositors, the quickening of the mortal body has to do with this life and has correspondence with 6:13. Somehow this doesn’t sound like what will take place at the resurrection. What do you think?
One thing, for certain, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death”(v.2). This latter law is found in Ezekiel 18:4 but goes back to the earliest dispensation (Gen.2:17).
To illustrate, let the law of gravity represent the law of sin and death and the law of aerodynamics, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. By virtue if our being in Christ, and His being in us, we are as dead to the former law as He is and we are possessed of a powerful engine, that of an “endless life”(Heb.7:16). Just as heavier than air vehicles may take off and fly, defying the law of gravity, so we are on our certain way heavenward by the power of our indwelling Savior. Hallelujah!
Romans 9:11 God’s purpose
It is hard to see how those who say they believe that election is based on God’s foreseeing the actions of a person and then choosing them on that basis, can get around this passage. Paul specifically says in order that God’s purpose might stand “not of works”, He said before the two were born, “the elder shall serve the younger”. Could He be accused of being “unrighteous” if His statement was indeed based on Jacob’s works? Someone has said, that the very raising of this question (v.14) implies that election is unconditional!
Paul goes on to give examples and statements to support the concept. God will have mercy on whom He chooses. Does that sound like He foresaw something deserving in them before He showed mercy? It is not according to someone’s will or the way one behaves (runneth) that determines God’s choice. He even hardens some purposely as in Pharoah’s case. As the Potter, cannot He do what He wants to with the clay?
It is okay for us to wonder at such passages, but surely it is not a matter of whether we are a Calvinist or an Arminian as to whether we bow in acceptance of this or not. It is in the same Bible as John 3:16 and we had better accept it if we know what’s good for us--right?
Romans 10:1 Not answered yet
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for --------is, that they might be saved. For nearly 2000 years Paul’s prayer has gone unanswered, but one day, it will be answered.
We wish we could have the same assurance that the loved one we put in the blank space would indeed be with us in heaven. But, let us not be weary in the “well-doing” of prayer just because the answer hasn’t come.
It is said of George Meuller that he prayed faithfully for 2 men, that they might be saved. One was saved at brother Meuller’s funeral and the other a little time after his (Meuller’s) death. You can imagine his joy at seeing them both in heaven though he left earth without knowing that he would.
Certainly we do not believe that any will be lost because we weren’t faithful in prayer, but if God has laid it on our hearts to pray, let us do it faithfully, leaving the results with Him. We expect that we will meet many “over yonder” that we have prayed for here.
Romans 11:36 Of Him, through Him and to Him...
Here again, we see the full scope of God’s eternal plan. It began in His mind before ever He moved in creative power to put in place earth’s foundations strong. Of all things He is the Source. He planned from the beginning to save Israel and He has not repented (v.29). He has chosen the members of the church before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4). He is God of history past.
As to the present, He is in full control working out His will in the nations, as even a heathen king was forced to acknowledge (Daniel 4:35). And certainly we who are His people today acknowledge that “through Him” we are cared for to the extent that every need is supplied.
As the river flows to the sea, so, in God’s plan, creation moves toward the climax when all things shall be subdued unto Him, “that God may be all in all” (I cor.15:28).
Praise God that this is our inheritance and to this we have been predestinated “according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsels of His own will”(Eph.1:11).
Revelation 1:8 “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty.”
Romans 12:10 One Another
There are about fifty references which have this or a similar expression, all translated from the Greek word pronounced al-lay-lone. It is found mostly in the epistles and as such begins here. There are, however, a few references elsewhere particularly in John 13 and 15. (There are others which don’t seem to apply). Use your Strong’s concordance and look up number 240. The fifty I refer to all speak of the important relationship of Christians to other members in the Body of Christ.
Here, the exhortation is not an easy one. Putting others first is not something we do naturally. We certainly need to pray for grace to do this--so pray!
I will try to point out these passages in future writings as they have a lot to do with the practical aspect of loving the brethren and provide us with a barometer to gauge our growth in grace.
We cannot successfully live this Christian life in our own strength so we must heed Paul’s admonition in 12:1&2 to present our bodies to the Lord, reckoning ourselves dead to sin (6:11). We need a mind change if we are going to prove out in our daily lives God’s perfect will . The Holy Spirit will do this for us as we yield ourselves “as those...alive from the dead”(6:13). It is His job (Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 4:23).
To be Lord at all, He must be Lord of all. Let us yield with words He wants to hear.
Romans 13:1 Subject to the Powers that Be
Even game wardens!
Walter and I were hunting together. He stationed himself (with a bit of help) in a huge gray ash tree. I tried to find as good a spot but unsuccessfully. After a long uncomfortable wait in an inhospitable tree I heard a shot and, after a little time, another.
When I came up to Walter, he was dressing out a deer that had frequented the well traveled game trail passing his chosen tree. “I shot at another one earlier but missed,” he said, as he fished in the cavity for the lungs.
Walter was a new believer and shooting deer for him was “old hat”. In fact he admitted that he had often broken the hunting laws of “one only” in his “ unconverted” days.
As we were dragging his deer through the woods to our vehicle, we came upon another dead deer. “I guess I didn’t miss after all, but it ran off as if I hadn’t touched it,” followed by, “what shall we do-you have a license, why don’t you tag this one?” It seemed logical, but involved a lie. I told him that there was only one thing to do, that was to go see Homer (the local warden) and explain exactly what happened. We did and he said, “you boys did exactly right.” Walter learned an important lesson and a testimony was given to the change that had taken place in his life, even though I think he sweated a bit walking up to the game warden’s door that night.
Romans 14:5 One Day Above Another
I liked the way my friend Otis looked at it. Hunting with him years ago I learned that because he was required by his job to work almost every Sunday, he had determined to take Saturdays as his day for the Lord. Come Saturday when we were up country deer hunting, he would say, “you go out, I’ll stay around camp today.”
It does seem right that even though we are not under the law, we should set apart one day in seven as God’s day. “The Sabbath was made for man” Jesus taught (Mk.2:27) and we must assume that the change of pace and the time for worship and reflection are quite important to our well-being. I have always believed that if a man doesn’t like Sunday work let him do something about it. He can do as Otis did and set aside another day, he can give all the money he makes on Sunday to the Lord’s work and he can pray that the Lord will find him another job.
This picture that I took one spring is inserted in memory of my good friend Otis Powers with whom I hunted and fished every spring and fall for nearly 20 years. My father and mother divorced when I was a small child and Otis was probably the nearest to being a father to me of any one else. The picture is taken on the East Branch of the Penobscot near the mouth of Big Sebois stream. Otis was a master of the canoe and was especially good at poling. You can see the pole by his right foot. As a Woods Cruiser he would often pole up the Penobscot and spend the whole winter living in a rude tent, counting trees to determine value for land owner’s tax purposes. He was a real woodsman, a deacon in our church and a real friend.
Romans 15:22 Disappointment or His Appointment.
On my way to teach a Bible study at the Maine Maritime Academy one evening, I hit a deer with my Volkswagen Beetle. It made me real late for my scheduled appointment and at first seemed a strange way for God to be treating me. Couldn’t He have kept the accident from happening?
Through an odd turn of events, about a dozen Roman Catholic middies were at the door of our meeting place when I arrived late. Invited in they heard a one hour lecture on the subject of salvation by grace through faith. Later I found that my insurance paid for the complete repair and painting of my car (there were other unrelated dents) and even later the game warden who came to make out the accident report got saved.
Paul had been hindered in going to Rome. He also planned to go to Spain but didn’t and he also was not delivered from those who did not believe in Judea (v.31). In fact, by not being delivered from them, he was, in effect, delivered by them to Rome where he wanted to go. There could be any number of reasons why God did it His way and in His time, not the least of which might have been the events in Acts 28. The soldiers on the ship received a witness, as did the people on Melita and Publius’ father among others was healed. Perhaps God was simply answering Publius’ prayer. Perhaps God wanted to give Paul a three month vacation before being imprisoned in Rome.
Our time are in His hands. Where better?
Romans 16:24 Amen
Striking in this chapter is this great list of people who were personally known by the apostle though he had never been in Rome prior to this time (1:10-13; 15:22-24). This shows, among other things, that the Roman roads and seas were frequented often by these early Christians. It is in the home of his good friends Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:2; 11 Tim.4:19) that the Roman church was held (v.5). Andronicus and Junia had somewhere been in prison with him and had been converted before he was (v.7). In a previous setting, Mary and Urbane had labored with him. Some of these brethren were probably traveling in ministry as he did. Others may have been names on his prayer list. One thing is obvious, Paul loved the brethren. Amen?
Not everyone, however, was on Paul’s list of favorites. There were some to be avoided. Verse 17 warns of heretics. I remember quoting this verse to an older and respected Pentecostal brother who had started attending one of our Bible study groups. I was certain that his motive was to take over. Many do not realize it, but Pentecostal doctrine is heretical and should be avoided. It has caused a lot of division where tolerated in a sound church. Study and compare before taking exception. We must not be classified among the “simple” of v. 18 who might be deceived.
Thank you Paul, for such a wonderful letter- I should read it again sometime.