by Peggi Klubnik
The significance of Romans and the doctrine of justification by faith is confirmed by Augustine, who considered the book to be “the most basic, most comprehensive statement of true Christianity.” Martin Luther described Romans as the “chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel.” The acceptance of this great book as Pauline is rarely disputed, due externally to its testimony by the Apostolic Fathers and its inclusion in early listings of New Testament books. So convinced is Cranfield that he merely lists the internal evidence as linguistic, stylistic, literary, historical and theological without need of further explanation. When Paul’s epistles are compared with the letter genre of papyri found in Egypt, the format and scholarly appeal of Romans, as well as the reference to specific problems of his recipients, were consistent with Paul’s communications intended for the Christian community.
Although a free-born Roman citizen, being born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 22:26-28; 23:3), Paul had not been to Rome. God had called him to be a pioneer evangelist, preaching the gospel where Christ was not yet named, rather than building upon the foundation of another. So Paul sought to preach the gospel where people had not yet heard, which excluded the city of Rome. As Paul spent the winter in the home of Gais in Corinth during his third missionary journey in 57 A.D., he eagerly anticipated his upcoming visit to Rome on his way to Spain. For many years, Paul had longed to visit the believers in this city and now it appeared that his desire would be fulfilled. While in Corinth, Paul dictated to the secretary Tertius a letter to be sent to the Christians in Rome. In addition to informing them of his proposed visit, Paul writes a lengthy dissertation on the righteousness of God. However, he must first go to Jerusalem to deliver money, which he had collected from Gentile converts in Macedonia and Achaia, which would be given to those among the saints who were poor (15:22-29). Paul intended to stop in Rome on his way to Spain for time of refreshing as he came to them in the “fullness of the blessing of Christ” (15:29). He expected that it would be a time of mutual encouragement.
Romans is a powerful theological discourse, which is a succinct, efficient presentation of Pauline doctrine. Paul’s purposes in writing the book include: 1) addressing a heretical view of the gospel, 2) asserting his apostolic authority, and 3) resolving doctrinal differences between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
AN ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS
MESSAGE STATEMENT: The Apostle Paul, called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, defines the gospel as the power of God for salvation and the revealer of the righteousness of God whereby men are declared sinful, both Jew and Greek are justified by faith and declared righteous, the believer is sanctified through identification with Christ, Israel is sovereignly set aside for a time to allow Gentiles to be saved, and believers are enabled to live a righteous life of service in the church, the community, and the state in order to glorify God.
OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
I. The Revealer of Righteousness—the Gospel. Paul confirms his calling as an apostle, identifies and prays for the recipients of the letter, and states his obligation to preach the gospel (the power of God unto salvation) and identifies the theme of the book 1:1-17
A. The Greeting: Paul identifies himself as an Apostle, states the purpose of his calling is the salvation of the Gentiles, and addresses his letter to the Romans 1:1-7
1. The Calling: Paul, by choice a bond-servant and by calling an apostle, declares that he has been separated unto the gospel of God, foretold in the OT by the prophets concerning Jesus Christ our Lord of the lineage of David 1:1-4
2. The Purpose: Through Jesus Christ and for His name’s sake, Paul received grace and apostleship in order that the salvation of the Gentiles might be accomplished 1:5
3. The Recipients: Paul is writing to the beloved saints in Rome who are the called of Jesus Christ among the Gentiles, for whom Paul desires grace and peace from both God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ 1:6-7
B. The Prayer: Paul prays for the Roman believers, seeking God’s will in visiting them 1:8-12
1. Paul expresses His thankfulness to God for the reputation of the Romans’ faith, for whom he faithfully prays for God’s will to visit them 1:8-10
2. Paul longed to see the Romans, even though his previous efforts has been thwarted, in order to impart a spiritual gift, receive fruit, and be mutually encouraged 1:11-12
C. The Obligation: Paul states his obligation to preach the gospel to all people and his eagerness to preach the gospel in Rome 1:14-15
D. The Theme: Righteousness by faith is revealed in the gospel 1:16-17
1. Because it is God’s power for the salvation of Jews and Greeks, Paul is unashamed of the gospel 1:16
2. The gospel reveals the righteousness of God from the beginning of faith to its conclusion because those who are righteous live by faith 1:17
II. The Rejection of Righteousness—Unbelief: Paul contrasts the suppression of truth of the unrighteous, the stubbornness of the self-righteous, the unbelief of the Jew, and the sinfulness of all 1:18-3:20
A. The unrighteous: God abandons the unrighteous to their own lusts because they reject revealed truth 1:18-32
1. God’s wrath is made known against those who are ungodly and unrighteous because they conceal the truth of God which is manifest within them 1:18-19
2. Since creation, God’s essence has been visible so all are without excuse for not honoring or thanking God, becoming futile in their imaginations, with darkened hearts 1:20
3. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, trading God’s glory for idols 1:21-23
4. God allowed the lust of their hearts to become impure and their bodies to be dishonored because they rejected God’s truth and chose a lie 1:24-25
5. God permitted them to have the degrading passions of unnatural and indecent lust, harming themselves 1:26-27
6. God let their minds become depraved, doing improper and evil things. Knowing that such people desire death, they continue to practice and condone such things 1:28-32.
B. The Impartial Judge: Although the unrighteous judge one another, God is impartial, the only One with the right to judge 2:1-16
1. Those accusing others condemn themselves. Only God has a right to judge. No one will escape 2:1-3
2. God’s riches and kindness lead to repentance 2:4
3. Lack of repentance incurs God’s wrath and tribulation. Those persisting in righteous deeds seek immortality and are promised glory, honor and peace because God is not partial to either Jews or Greeks 2:5-11
4. The Jews will judged by the Law, but the conscience becomes a law and source of judgment for the Gentiles 2:12:16
C. The Pride of the Jew: The self-confidence of the circumcised Jew blasphemes the name of God among the Gentiles 2:17-29
1. The Jew who relies on the Law and boasts in God uses the instructions of the Law to judge others 2:17-20
2. Paul exhorts them to examine themselves because when they break the Law they dishonor God and cause His name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles 2:21-24
3. Circumcision is worthless unless the Law is practiced. Keeping the law is of higher worth than circumcision 2:25-28
4. A Jew is defined as one whose heart is circumcised by the Spirit and receives God’s praise rather than one who keeps the letter of the Law 2:29
D. The oracles of God: The OT prophecies remain in effect despite the unbelief of the Jews confirming the righteousness of God 3:1-8
1. The Jews were entrusted with the prophecies of God. Their lack of faith does not change God’s faithfulness 3:1-3
2. God is justified in His words and prevails when examined 3:4
3. Unbelief validates the righteousness of God. Inflicting wrath is not inconsistent with His righteousness 3:5-6
4. If God is glorified even in unrighteousness, why is the sinner judged? Those who condemn the pursuit of evil to achieve good are correct 3:7-8
E. The guilt of mankind: No one, neither Jew nor Greek, is righteous before God 3:9-20
1. No one understands or seeks God. None is righteous. All are useless 3:9-12
2. All are deceitful and evil, choosing destruction and misery rather than peace and the fear of God 3:13-18
3. By the law all become accountable to God. The law reveals sin but justifies no one 3:19-20
III. The Imputation of Righteousness—Justification: God’s righteousness is satisfied by the death of Christ which permits Him to justify all by faith, thereby declaring them righteous 3:21-5:21
A. The Demonstration of Righteousness: The death of Christ authenticated God’s righteousness 3:12-31
1. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the Law, making no distinction 3:21-22
2. The redemption in Christ Jesus justifies sinners as a gift by His grace 3:23-25a
3. God publicly displayed Jesus Christ as a propitiation in His blood through faith to manifest God’s righteousness by justifying the one with faith in Jesus 3:25b-26
4. Justification is by faith alone for both Jew and Gentile, which establishes the Law 3:27-31
B. The Example of Righteousness: Because of Abraham’s faith, not his works, God considered him to be righteous because faith is not limited by the law that grace might prevail 4:1-25
1. God’s declared Abraham righteous not because he earned it but because he believed God 4:1-4
2. David tells of the man who was blessed because God forgave his sins because of his faith, in the absence of any work 4:5-8
3. Abraham was circumcised as a sign of his righteousness and not the means of attaining it, and therefore becomes the father of all who follow his example of faith 4:9-12
4. Faith and promise must come apart from the Law and so righteousness by faith extends beyond the Law to all nations 4:16-18
5. All are condemned by one transgression and justification of life for all results from one righteous act that grace might prevail through righteousness 4:19-21
6. As righteousness was reckoned to Abraham, so it will be to those who believe in God who raised Jesus our Lord, who was crucified for our sins and raised for our justification 4:22-25
C. Result of Righteousness – reconciliation: Because we have been declared righteous we have been reconciled to God and are at peace with Him so we can rejoice both in hope and in tribulations 5:1-11
1. Because we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have begun a relationship of grace, rejoicing in hope of the glory of God 5:1-2
2. We also rejoice in our trials because we realize testing results in persistence, proven character, and hope, which is not disappointing because God’s love is in our hears through the Holy Spirit who indwells us 5:3-5
3. Although as unbelievers we were helpless, at God’s appointed time Christ died for sinners as a demonstration of God’s love because it is rare for someone to die even for a righteous or good person 5:6-8
4. And even more than that we shall be saved from God’s wrath because we have been justified by the blood of Jesus Christ 5:9
5. Since we as God’s enemies were reconciled to Him through Christ’s death even more we shall be saved by His life and so we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ because our reconciliation came through Him 5:10-11
D. The Action of Righteousness – justification: Because of Adam’s sin all were condemned, but because of Christ’s act of righteousness justification resulted.
1. Sin entered the world through Adam and spread to everyone 5:12
2. Although sin had not yet been imputed, death reigned from Adam to Moses in the likeness of Adam’s offense because He is a type of Christ 5:13-14
3. Although many died because of Adam’s transgression, God’s grace and the gift of Jesus Christ more greatly abounded to the many 5:15
4. The judgment from Adam’s sin resulted in condemnation but the free gift of Christ from many sins resulted in justification 5:16
5. Death reigned because of the sin of Adam but those who receive grace and righteousness will reign in life through Jesus Christ 5:17
6. One sinful, disobedient act made people sinners and brought condemnation but one righteous act of obedience results in justification and righteousness 5:18-19
7. Through the law sin increased and reigned in death but grace more so in order to reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord 5:20-21
IV. The Reign of Righteousness—Sanctification: Identification with Christ frees us from the Law and slavery to sin so we can be led by the Spirit of God and thereby fulfill the Law because God has called us and we will never be separated from Christ 6:1-8:39
A. Freed from Sin: The mastery of sin over our lives has been broken by the death and resurrection of Christ 6:1-4
1. Grace is manifest by ceasing to live in sin. We walk in newness of life as we identify with Christ’s death and resurrection 6:1-5
2. Positionally, the crucifixion of our old self frees us from slavery to sin and enables us to live for God because by His resurrection Christ gained mastery over sin 6:5-11
3. We must stop permitting sin to reign and stop yielding ourselves to it as agents of unrighteousness. We must present ourselves to God as living vessels of righteousness. We are under grace, not the law, therefore sin is no longer master of our lives 6:12-14
4. But grace does not give us freedom to sin because that would make us slaves to sin, which results in death. But we thank God that by faith in His Word, we are now slaves of righteousness 6:15-18
5. The weakness of our flesh enslaves us to impurity and lawlessness, which results in death. So we need to be willing become slaves of righteousness, and then we will be sanctified and inherit eternal life. The reward of sin is death but eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord is a free gift of God 6:19-23
B. God’s Holy Law: Living in the Spirit frees us from the Law, which revealed that death was a result of sin 7:1-14
1. The law is in effect as long as a person lives, but death releases us 7:1-3
2. As we died to the law in Christ, so we are united to the resurrected Christ in order to bear fruit for God. As unbelievers we produced fruit for death, but now we are no longer subject to the law and so we live in the Spirit 7:4-6
3. The law, although not sinful, reveals sin and declares a person to be sinful and spiritually dead, proving the law to be holy and righteous 7:7-12
4. Death was caused not by the law, which is spiritual, but by the bondage of sin 7:13-14
C. The Two Laws: Paul experienced a conflict within himself between the sin and the good which indwelt him serving either the flesh or the law of God 7:15-25
1. Paul did not understand his own personal conflict between desire and practice, but concluded that the evil which he practiced was done by the sin dwelling with him since he wanted to do good 7:15-21
2. Although he acknowledged the law of God within him, he also recognized that the law of sin fought against the law of his mind, imprisoning him 7:22-23
3. Paul is thankful to God that through Jesus Christ our Lord he will be set free from the body of this death. With his mind he serves the law of God, but with his flesh the law of sin is served 7:24-25
D. Sanctification by the Spirit: The law is fulfilled in believers who walk according to the Spirit and makes them righteous. The indwelling Spirit is proof of salvation and a promise of resurrection 8:1-11
1. Because we are in Christ Jesus, the law cannot condemn us and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus frees us from the law of sin and of death 8:1-2
2. The Law could not condemn sin but God did, sending Christ to die for sin so the Law would be fulfilled in those who walk in the Spirit 8:3-4
3. The result of a fleshly mindset is death, but those who are spiritual have life and peace, because the one yielding to the flesh is against God and is unwilling and unable to subject himself to God’s law, which is unpleasing to God 8:5-8
4. Those in whom the Spirit of God dwells are in the Spirit which is proof that they belong to Christ. Because of sin, the body of those in Christ is dead but their spirit is alive because they are righteous 8:9-10
5. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will give resurrection life to whose in whom he lives 8:11
E. Children of God: The Spirit which we have received puts to death fleshly deeds, leads us, and testifies of our adoption as joint heirs with Christ, prays for us, and will bring about our glorification 8:12-27
1. Living in the flesh results in death, but we will live if, through the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the flesh, proving that we are God’s sons 8:12-14
2. The spirit of adoption which we have received does not lead us again into bondage but enables us to call God our Father, and testifies that we are God’s children, heirs, and joint heirs with Christ in suffering and glorification 8:15-17
3. Our future glory, which creation awaits, is of incomparable value when compared to our sufferings. The enslavement of creation to corruption will end with the glorification of the children of God 8:18-21
4. All of creation and the first fruits of the Spirit painfully groans and anxiously anticipate the redemption of our body, which is our unseen hope. Likewise the Spirit intercedes for us in prayer with incomprehensible groanings according to God’s knowledge 8:22-27
F. Elect of God: God’s purpose works out in the lives of those whom he calls. Those whom God justifies, though persecuted, will never be separated from His love 8:28-39
1. To the ones called according to His purpose, who love God, the outcome of everything is good because he predestined those he foreknew to be conformed to the image of His son (the firstborn). God also called, justified, and glorified them 8:28-30
2. No one can oppose us because God gave Christ for us and will continue to give all things 8:31-32
3. No one can condemn the one God justifies—Christ is our intercessor 8:33-34
4. No trials can separate us from Christ’s love. Persecution is a daily event 8:35-36
5. He enables us to conquer all things, assured that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord 8:37-39
V. The Source of Righteousness—Sovereignty: Because God is sovereign, He has the right to call a people from among the Gentiles because of Israel’s unbelief and then restore Israel again because of the believing remnant 9:1-11:36
A. Israel’s unbelief: Paul grieves over Israel’s lack of faith but declares God to be just and His Word to be true 9:1-18
1. Paul’s sorrows over Israel to the point of being willing to be separated from Christ for them because to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the service, and the promises, the patriarchs and from whom the Messiah has come in the flesh 9:1-5
2. But God’s Word has not failed. The true descendants of Abraham are the children of promise—that Sarah would have a son 9:6-9
3. Before the birth of Rebekah and Isaac’s twins, God called younger Jacob, stating that he would be served by his brother for the purpose of God 9:10-13
4. God’s justice is manifest by his sovereignty bestowing mercy and compassion apart from the will of man 9:4-17
5. God chose to harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate His power so His name would be proclaimed throughout the world 9:17-18
B. The Calling of the Gentiles: God sovereignly called a people from among the Gentiles because of Israel’s self-righteousness 9:19-33
1. We are like clay in the hands of a potter, creations of God. In some, His wrath is demonstrated; in others He prepared in advance as vessels of mercy to make know the riches of His glory 9:19-23
2. God also called some Gentiles that those who were not His people would be called sons of the living God 9:24-26
3. God’s Word will be executed through the remnant of Israel, not the nation 9:27-29
4. Righteousness is attained by faith, not by the works of the law, which is a stumbling block to Israel 9:30-33
C. Salvation of Israel: Self-righteous Israel must believe in Christ through the word which they had and is now being preached because all who call on the Lord will be saved 10:21
1. Israel’s zeal for God is without knowledge, seeking their own righteousness rather than being subject to the righteousness of God 10:1-3
2. Christ is the end of the law of righteousness for those who believe 10:4-7
3. The word of faith is being preached. Righteousness is a result of faith in the resurrected Jesus as Lord 10:8-10
4. There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved 10:11-13
5. A preacher is the messenger of the glad tidings 10:14-15
6. But faith is a response to God’s Word. Paul demonstrates Israel has always had the word, as illustrated by Moses and Isaiah, but Israel has been disobedient and obstinate 10:16-21
D. Salvation of the Gentiles: God has accepted the believing remnant of Israel, caused a heardening of those who believed not, and provided salvation to the Gentiles 11:1-14
1. God has not rejected Israel as evidenced by God’s declaration to Elijah of his remnant 11:1-4
2. By grace, not works, God has a chosen remnant, others were hardened by a stumbling block 11:5-10
3. Because of Israel’s sin, salvation has come to Gentiles to make Israel jealous. How much better if they were saved. 11:11-12
4. Paul desires that his ministry to the Gentiles will cause Israel to be jealous that they might then be saved 11:13-14
5. The believing remnant of Israel is holy as are believing Gentiles who are joined with them as to an olive tree 11:15-17
6. Israel is broken off through unbelief to permit Gentiles to be grafted in by faith. The graft remains only by God’s kindness. Likewise Israel by belief will be grafted in against to their own tree. 11:18-24
7. Gentiles should not be proud but understand the mystery of Israel’s partial, yet temporary, hardening until all Israel is saved when Christ comes 11:25-27
8. God’s call of Israel is irrevocable and God’s mercy is shown to those who were formerly disobedient, both Jews and Gentiles 11:28-32
9. The wisdom and knowledge of God are beyond comprehension 11:33-36
VI. The Evidence Of Righteousness—Service: Righteous believers commit themselves to God, serve one another, obey authority, love their neighbor, and depend upon Christ 12:1-15:13
A. God and One Another: Service to one another begins with a commitment to God 12:1-21
1. In light of God’s mercies, believers prove that His will is perfect by presenting their bodies to Him as a holy sacrifice of worship. Paul admonishes them to stop conforming to the world, but be transformed by renewing their minds 12:1-2
2. Paul advises against pride but encourages an honest evaluation of oneself as one of many who have various functions yet are one body 12:3-4
3. Each gift has its own function and its fulfillment lies within that function 13:6-8
4. Paul exhorts believers to reject evil and do what is good in their relations to both those within and outside the church 12:9-21
B. Governmental Authorities: God’s establishment of authority is the basis of our subjection 13:1-7
1. Since authorities are of God, those who resist oppose the ordinance of God and condemn themselves 12:1-2
2. Those who do good have no reason to fear authority because it is God’s minister to avenge evil 12:3-4
3. Subjection to the servants of God is also for conscience’s sake 12:5-7
C. Neighborly Love: The fulfillment of the law is in loving our neighbor 12:8-10
1. If we love our neighbor, we will not commit adultery, murder, steal or covet 12:8-9
2. The law is fulfilled when we love our neighbor because we will do them no wrong 12:10
D. Paul stresses an urgency righteous living 13:11-14
1. Paul admonishes believers to be aware that the return of the Lord is approaching 13:11
2. Paul speaks metaphorically of night as the present age and uses day to mean the coming of the Lord. Likewise, he speaks of darkness as evil, light in reference to good 13:12-13
3. Paul compares putting on the Lord Jesus Christ to the armor of light which results in a dependence upon Him rather than upon the flesh 13:14
E. The Work of God: God’s acceptance of all believers should preclude judging or offending one another 14:1-23
1. Accept those who are weak in their understanding of righteousness by faith 14:1
2. Believers have no right to judge the actions of conscience of other believers because they are accepted by God 14:2-4
3. Believers must be fully persuaded by their consciences. No one lives or dies for himself, all are the Lord’s 14:5-8
4. Christ is Lord of the dead and the living because He died and lived for this purpose and each will give account of himself at the judgment seat of God 14:9-12
5. Paul admonishes believers not to judge one another which becomes an obstacle in their way because the issue is one of faith not uncleanness 14:13-14
6. Walking in love results in a willingness to give up something that causes another believer, for whom Christ died, to stumble. Serving Christ in this way is acceptable to both God and men 14:15-18
7. Peace and exhortation are more important than food, which becomes evil for the one who offends others 14:19-20
8. Believers must be willing to stop doing that which is a cause for stumbling and let their conviction of freedom unto God 14:21-22
9. However, believers sin when they act in a manner which their belief condemns 14:23
F. One Accord: Pleasing others 15:1-13
1. Strong believers should seek to build up and act in a manner beneficial to their neighbor rather than behaving selfishly 15:1-3
2. Paul refers to Christ as the example of selflessness and the OT Scriptures as a source of instruction that believers might have hope 15:3-4
3. God is the One who grants believers to be of one mind and one accord and together to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ 15:5-6
4. Because Christ has accepted all believers, they ought to accept one another 15:7
5. Christ has become a servant to Israel to confirm God’s promises and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy 15:8-9
6. Paul quotes OT verses which prophesy of the Gentiles praising God and the root of Jesse as their hope 15:8-13
VII. Paul’s Ministry, Greetings, Admonition, And Benediction: Stating that God’s calling him to ministry among the Gentiles gives him boldness, he then gives his itinerary, greets fellow believers, warns against false teachers, and closes with a benediction 15:14-16:27
A. Ministry to the Gentiles: Paul encourages in ministry stating that he is bold because of the ministry to which God has called him in preaching to Gentiles who have not heard 15:14-22
1. Paul exhorts the Romans, because of their goodness and knowledge, to admonish one another 15:14
2. Paul has been very bold in his writing because of God’s grace which enabled him to be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles that his offering might be accepted, set apart by the Holy spirit 15:15-16
3. Paul glories in what Christ has done through him by both word and deed (from Jerusalem to Illyricum), where he preached the gospel in the power of miracles and the power of the Spirit, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles 15:17-19
4. Paul sought to minister where Christ was not known in order to preach the gospel to those who had not heard, which prevented him from going to Rome 20-22
B. Regional Ministry: With Paul’s ministry of pioneer evangelism completed, he plans to take a gift to Jerusalem, stop in Rome and then go to Spain. He asks them to pray for his safety and for God’s will, then pronounces a blessing 15:23-33
1. Paul has long desired to go to Rome and now, since there are no more unreached regions, he plans to stop in Rome on his way to Spain for their mutual encouragement 15:23-24
2. But first he must go to Jerusalem to deliver a contribution to the poor believers from the saints of Macedonia and Achaia 15:25-26
3. Because the Jerusalem believers shared in spiritual things with the other Gentiles, they are indebted to minister with material things 15:27
4. When the contribution is delivered by Paul, he will then leave for Spain, coming to Rome in the fullness of the blessing of Christ 15:28-29
5. Paul asks them to pray for him to be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea in regard to his service in Jerusalem and his visit to Rome might be in God’s will for a time of refreshing 15:30-32
6. Paul prays that the God of peace will be with all of the Roman believers 15:33
C. Friendly Greetings: Paul personally greets many believers by name, often mentioning something personal about them. He exhorts them to greet one another with a holy kiss and then extends greetings from all the churches of Christ 16:1-16
D. False Teachers: Paul warns against false teachers, encourages the believers in wisdom, and states that God will be victorious over them 16:17-20
1. Paul admonishes the believers to avoid those who are deceptive and greedy, causing divisions and obstacles because of inaccurate teaching 16:17-18
2. Paul rejoices because their obedience is well known, but he exhorts them to wisdom because God will soon defeat Satan. He then prays that the grace of our Lord Jesus would be with them 16:19-20
E. Closing Comments: Paul then relates greetings to them from Timothy and other believers and Tertius adds his own greeting 16:21-23
F. Benediction: Paul closes with a benediction referring to the gospel and the mystery now made known to all nations leading to salvation. He then gives glory to God through Jesus Christ 16:25-27
II. Justification (cont.)
B.1 Manifestation, or, the Universal Provision of Righteousness (3:21-26)
“There is nonerighteous, no, not one.”
“Butnowa righteousness from God … has been made known.”
Up to this point the message of the book has been bleak and discouraging. The whole world is by nature corrupt and degenerate. “But now” in verse 21 forms a great divide, introducing something totally new. The form is the intensive form of the adverb. It can be logical (“now as the argument stands”) or temporal (“now, in the present time”). This appears to be a case of designed ambiguity in Paul. He knew of the two meanings, and probably intended both of them to work here.
The glorious news is that God has intervened. In the gospel of salvation through his Son he has provided a faith-righteousness that avails in his sight. Paul adds that the Law and the Prophets attest to this provision of righteousness. The simple fact is that a righteousness is available, and this righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (v. 22).
Verses 23 and 24 provide the balance: all have sinned, and all are justified freely by His grace. The verbal expression “all have sinned” can be taken in one of two ways. One is to take the form as a constantive aorist, meaning “all have committed acts of sin” referring to personal sins. The other way is to take it in conjunction with Romans 5:12 referring to Adam’s sin, thinking more of the unity of the race. The former seems preferable here, in view of the consequence of the sin—”and are coming short” of the glory of God. The falling short need not be equally short for all people; that is not important. The point is that all have missed it, whether by a little or a lot—it is fatal.
But they are being justified2_ftn2 as they believe. Justification is not a process; it means that God declares to be righteous whoever believes in Christ. The act of grace by which God pardons all the believer’s sins and accepts the believer as righteous because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is credited to the believer’s account—this wonderful act is known as justification by faith. Believers do not become righteous through faith—they are declared righteous by God.
The stress of “freely by his grace” cannot be overlooked. Believers are justified “without a cause” or “for no reason”—it is a gift, or as Lenski says, “pure, abounding, astounding grace.” Our justification originates in the loving heart of God.
This justification is through theredemption that came by Jesus Christ. The noun here means a “ransoming away” with the idea of never again coming into the same bondage. The form of the word certainly harmonizes with other teachings on the certainty of salvation.3 The price that Jesus paid for redemption was his outpoured blood (see 1 Pet. 1:18,19)—he paid enough for the sins of the whole world so that faith-righteousness was secured forever.
The way this redemption worked, according to verse 25, is that God set Jesus forth as a propitiation. The term is hilasterion, a word that can function as a noun or an adjective. It is used in Hebrews 9:5 for the “mercy seat,”4 the covering for the ark of the covenant known as the propitiatory, or place of atonement (the place where the High Priest would sprinkle the blood on the day of atonement). There it has the article on it for stress—Jesus is the mercy seat. But the context in Romans sufficiently expresses the means of propitiation as the point (and this is the only place Paul uses the word). So the idea in Romans focuses on the act (but one can hardly ignore its connections to Israel’s mercy seat where the blood was applied). There is some debate about the meaning of the word; but it seems to include both ideas of expiation (the removal of sin) and propitiation (the averting of wrath). Although there was the wrath of God against sin, it was also God in His love who took the initative against it. So the Greek term captures both the idea of appeasement of God’s wrath, and the expiation of sin. By this death there is satisfaction of God’s justice and holiness. The holiness of God is preserved by the need for propitiation; the love of God is revealed by the provision.
According to the following verses God had several reasons for setting forth Jesus to be such a propitiation. (1) God wished to make known his righteousness. In the Old Testament age, that is before Christ died, sin was not finally or ultimately punished once and for all—it was only passed over. Old Testament believers were redeemed in the same way that we are—by grace through faith, based on the blood of Christ (who was slain before the foundation of the world). What they did not know was who was eventually going to pay for these sins, because the sacrifices of animals were repeated. But they knew they were forgiven because God told them they were (Lev. 4:10; 2 Sam. 12:13; Psalms 32, 130, et al). Yet for the payment for these sins God passed over them until they could all be nailed to the cross in the death of the Messiah, the Son of God, once and for all. In Christ the justice of God is completely satisfied. (2) God also wished to make known his justice for us at the present time. And (3) God wished to harmonize his attribute (righteous) and his action (justifying). The only way that God could remain righteous and at the same time declare sinners righteous was for God to come in the flesh and die for the sins of the whole human race. Thus, the demands have been met; the sins have been are paid for; the way is open for grace to be bestowed on all who believe.
C. Harmonization, or, Justification and the Purpose of the Law (3:27-31)
Where then is boasting? It is excluded, shut out. Conduct and achievements cannot procure righteousness, for people are justified without the deeds of the Law. This is a blow to human pride. Nothing that a mere mortal can do will win for him or for her the righteousness needed to cover sin. The only way of appropriating it is through faith in the shed blood of Jesus. This is not a vague hoping against hope; and it is not a superstitious compliance with ritual. It is a specific believing in the person and work of God incarnate, Jesus Christ, relating especially to his atoning work upon the cross. Faith in his blood is what counts, the blood shed for the remission of sin (see Heb. 9:22). The believer is pronounced righteous, received as righteous “by his blood” (Rom. 5:9).
Does this nullify the Law? On the contrary, Paul will show that he is establishing the Law (in its right use of revealing sin). Moreover, he will show that faith upholds the Law. If the Law is properly understood, believed, and obeyed, then the appeal for faith in a sacrificial atonement for sins exposed by the Law would be seen as the heart of the Law. What is new is that the Son of God himself becomes the propitiation. Therefore, anyone who lived under the Law and had faith in the LORD would transfer that faith to Jesus and his blood.
D. Illustration, or, Justification and the Old Testament (4:1-25)
In this chapter Paul looks back to the Old Testament to show that it substantiated the concept that a person could be accepted by God apart from the Law. Recall how Paul affirmed that this truth was “testified to by the Law and the Prophets” in 3:21. Well, this chapter is an explanation of these. The point will be clear that it is faith in the LORD that brings this imputed (credited) righteousness that is available. Just as Israel’s sacrifices were of no benefit to participants who had no faith, so the death of Jesus will be of no benefit to an unbeliever. The theme of believing, of faith, will now be illustrated from the Old Testament.
1. Abraham’s example (4:1-4)
The passage begins with the conversion of Abraham, recorded in Genesis 15:6. This experience of Abraham, of course, was prior to the Law of Moses by about 600 years. “Abraham believed in Yahweh, and he reckoned it to him, namely righteousness.” That is the way I would translate the Hebrew of the passage citeds here by Paul. The text has the dual emphasis of faith and grace, as Paul says elsewhere, “by grace you are saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Abraham believed the LORD, and went to do what the LORD had told him to do; and for this act of faith, God credited him—gave him—righteousness.
2. David’s Writings (4:6-8)
The point that Paul makes is that when someone works the wages are not a gift but an obligation; but for the one who trusts in the LORD who justifies the wicked faith is credited as righteousness.
But then Paul adds that David says the “same thing.” David’s point in the cited psalm is much in agreement, but the method of joining the Scriptural citations is a clever rabbinical hermeneutic method known as gezerahshawah—they find passages where a key word is used and show the relation between the passages. The term “reckoned” is used in Genesis 15:6 as well as in Psalm 32:1, 2. In the first case it says that God reckoned righteousness to Abraham who believed; in the latter passage the psalm says that God doesnotreckon sin against the one who is forgiven. By taking two passages that use the same word, Paul can weave the full argument about justification by faith. The doctrine of justification by faith goes beyond the mere accounting the sinner to be righteous. It includes the idea of forgiveness of sin, or the non-imputation (non reckoning) of sin. Sin involves both omission and commission; therefore, justification signifies that it is as if the person never sinned, and did everything right.
Please pardon a rather simple but I think useful illustration. The Hebrew word to “reckon” has been brought over into modern Hebrew for “computer,” which is no surprise given the obvious link between “reckon, account, credit” and “computer.” We could say, then, that it is as if God calls up our file on the heavenly computer, deletes all the sins that were registered against us, and enters into our account “the righteousness of Christ.”
3. Faith alone justifies (4:9-12)
But the Jew might respond that Abraham was circumcised (Gen. 17); so do ritual acts come into the picture? Paul answers, “Genesis 15 comes before Genesis 17”—a smashing blow against ritualists. In other words, Abraham’s obedience in circumcision was not the ground of his justification. The patriarch was pronounced righteous before he was circumcised—on the basis of faith. True, the genuineness of his faith was seen in the fact that he followed the call of God and left Ur and went where God directed him. His subsequent circumcision was also an outward seal upon his inward, justifying faith. Faith obeys! But it is the faith that brings justification, not the obedient acts. Outward religious forms and observances, though absolutely necessary as the evidence of saving faith, are nonetheless secondary.
Circumcision was the seal of Abraham’s faith. The expression “seal of circumcision” in verse 11 probably means the “seal which is circumcision.” Circumcision was the sign of the covenant God made with Abraham. A “seal” authenticates and confirms what the covenant claims; and this seal also was symbolic, representing a repudiation of the flesh as it dramatically displayed. Over the generations from Abraham, the seal of circumcision marked out the people in their covenantal relationship, identifying the descendants of Abraham (ideally) as members of a covenant community.5 The aim of circumcision for Abraham’s covenant was not only to identify him as the father of all who were born into the family, but also as the spiritual father of all who believed in the LORD as he did. From that point on the descendants of Abraham were to be known as the “seed of Abraham”; but this expression came to mean three different things: (1) physical descendants, or Israelites who do trace their line back to Abraham; (2) physical descendents or Israelites who also believed in the LORD as Abraham did—so these are the true or full seed of Abraham (see Gal. 3), and (3) true believers who are not physical descendants—Gentiles—for if they believe in the LORD they share the faith of Abraham.
The Abrahamic Covenant with its sign of circumcision, then, pertained to believing Jews who followed the rite because they shared the faith; it did not pertain to unbelievers who simply performed the rite. The rite (of circumcision) without faith is dead ritual; faith without the rite brings salvation, just as faith with the rite does. Abraham is the spiritual father of those who believe, Gentiles who have not circumcised, and Jews who have. But the deciding factor is faith. Jews cannot assume because they are descended from Abraham, or because they were circumcised, that that is sufficient. Neither can Gentiles who have become members of the Church and who have been baptized consider that sufficient to salvation. There must be genuine faith, or there is no salvation at all.
Today, believing Jews are part of the New Covenant, just as believing Gentiles are. And the name for the present body of believers, Jew and Gentile, is the “Church.” But the apostle still makes a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, for there is still a benefit for the Jews who are the natural and spiritual descendants of Abraham (as we shall see later in the book).
4. The promise comes by faith (4:13-25)
The promises of God are contingent on faith and not dependent on obedience to the Law. Who could attain them by doing the Law? The great promise for Abraham was that he and his descendents would be “heirs of the world”—meaning all the families, the nations of the world. After all, he was the father of nations, and the one through whom blessings would come to all the families of the earth. But for this promise to be valid it must be a promise from God, by grace; it is not an earned estate.
The simple contrast is between the human view of things and God’s view:
Human view (true): faith (means) + grace (basis) = surepromise
Human view (false): works (means) + law (basis) > [wrath]
ends up here unexpectedly
Divine View: surepromise < (based on) grace (alone) + (through) faith
God made the promise to Abraham before the Law was given, the promise that there would be blessing for all the families of the earth. God desired to assure that the promise was on the basis of grace, and the only way that this could work is that the means be by faith and not works. Here is another tremendous support for the doctrine of eternal security if you think it through. The promise precedes the Law; grace precedes faith. Our security begins and ends with God, and is not based upon works.
Abraham believed in the LORD. Or, as verse 18 says, “contrary to hope (in man), in hope (in God) he believed.” All that Abraham did was believe a promise from God—and we know he believed the promise because he went to the land God told him to enter to receive it.6 In the Old Testament faith was in the Word of the LORD, what God had said. But in essence the faith of Abraham is the same as the faith we have today—we just have more content. Abraham’s faith was a resurrection-type faith—he believed the promises of a God who could infuse life into a dead body, a God who calls things that are not as though they are.7 The promise to Abraham of a seed like the stars of the heavens has in the New Testament been first fulfilled8_ftn8 in Jesus—the promised Seed, an unexpected birth, life out of death through resurrection. It is essentially the same faith.
And so Paul finishes the chapter by noting how the words of imputed righteousness were written for us too—who like Abraham believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. This is the kind of faith that brings imputed righteousness, a faith that does not stagger over the power of God to bring life out of death, to fulfill the promises. It is a faith that believes that with God all things are possible, especially our eternal salvation, because it is based on the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Yes, like Abraham, we may struggle at times with understanding it, living up to it, demonstrating it in a consistent life of faith—but we will follow no other way.
The death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ brings us salvation, not works, and not ritual like circumcision, or in our churches, baptism or the Lord’s Supper. These are not to be minimized; but they themselves do not bring salvation. The death of Christ does. And so on this point verse 25 calls for a closer look. The text says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” The preposition dia, translated “for” in the above translation, is open to several interpretations. (l) The first view is that it is used two ways here: he was delivered because of [retrospectively] … and raised with a view to [prospectively]. The point in this interpretation would be that the result of his resurrection is our justification (as in the hymn, “rising he justified”). The difficulty is that one would expect the same preposition in parallel clauses to have the same meaning and not to be translated differently.
(2) And so a second view is to take them both prospectively (following Denney): he was delivered over “with a view to” making atonement for sins. This is satisfactory as far as the grammar goes, but misses the theological point that justification is an accomplished fact.
(3) The better view is to take them both retrospectively; they would normally be translated “on account of” or “because of.” The verse would then say that Jesus was delivered over to death because of our sins, and was raised because of our justification. The point then is clear: the fact of our justification made necessary the resurrection. Justification is accomplished in the death of Jesus Christ; resurrection is the necessary issue of an accomplished atonement. The resurrection is God’s receipt—it is the Father’s, “Amen,” to Jesus’, “It is finished.” It is heaven’s acceptance of the death of Christ. Without the resurrection from the dead, there is no indication that the death was atoning and justifying. But with the resurrection from the dead, everything that Christ claimed to be doing in His death—including justify sinners who believe—has been accomplished.
Things to Consider
1. How would you explain these significant terms: justification, redemption, propitiation, expiation?
2. What do you think Abraham actually believed when the text says he believed in the LORD? Describe the content of his faith. What exactly does someone today have to believe to be saved (now that we have more revelation)?
3. What is imputed righteousness?
4. What is the relationship between the reality of the covenant relationship and the sign of the covenant? How did this work out in history when people received the sign before the reality?
5. How does the Father in heaven confirm that Jesus’ death was indeed efficacious—i.e., that it did redeem people from their sins?
1Note: Section “A” was the last lesson; this is not section “B” under the main heading that began the last lesson.
2The present is durative or iterative in force, the actions, complete in themselves, continue.
3Some folks do not like to talk about “eternal security” because it smacks of easy believism. But the fact of Scripture is that those who truly believe in the Lord are secure eternally because of the work of Christ. Our salvation is not made secure because we are able to hold on to it, but because he is able to hold us by his grace.
4The translation “mercy seat” goes back at least to Wycliffe. In the Old Testament it is called “a place of propitiation” and refers to the lid on the box, the ark of the covenant. The ark is described in the Old Testament as God’s “footstool” (Ps. 132), so he sits enthroned above it, not on it (according to the imagery of the sanctuary).
5The sign was, of course, for men; but in those patriarchal days such a sign for men was a sign for the whole tribe because it was at the heart of procreation.
6Be careful with the modern rhetoric that is often added to the call for faith. Abram did not “yield himself to the LORD 100%”; he believed in the LORD. If we had to yield 100% in order to be saved, none of us would make it.
7He and Sarah knew that her body was dead as far as having children was concerned, but he brought life out of that womb--Isaac. And Abraham knew that if he sacrificed Isaac to God (Gen. 22), God was able to fulfill the promises through Isaac anyway.
8This means it finds its fullest meaning in the birth of the special seed. The basic meaning is that there will be innumerable descendents; but for the blessing to extend to the whole world that seed had to be significant--and Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham, the Son of God--he was and is most significant.