The Righteousness of God – Review
The Book of Romans
It’s so important for us to know God’s Word. Somehow people think that if we just know the doctrines of God’s Word and understand the theology, then that’s what counts. Yes, that’s true but it’s the Word of God we should know that’s so important. It’s not just an end in-and-of itself. When you study the Bible and read through books of the Bible and you read through the epistles or letters of Paul, we need to recognize that these are given to us the way they’re given so we will take the time, make the time, and create the time in our own lives and in our own busy schedules to put our attention on God’s Word so we can internalize it. Then we can think through it.
As we internalize the Word and think through it, it teaches us how to handle reality. It fortifies us and strengthens our soul. As has been my custom for probably ten or twelve years now when I go through various books, especially lengthy books in the Bible, I like to take the time to stop and sort of pull back and give overviews of different sections at the beginning and the end of the book. We need to learn to think our way through these epistles. We spend a lot of time drilling down on lessons. This is approximately lesson 152, no? It’s 163? I was only off by ten or so. It’s been four years we’ve been in Romans. We’ve drilled down on a lot of important things that are taught in Romans and a lot of doctrines that are taught in Romans. It’s important for us to understand these things.
In doing so we often get away from just the basic understanding of the epistle itself. We have to be reminded that in the original context when Paul wrote this to the congregation in Rome, it was read at one sitting to the congregation there. It really wouldn’t take that long. It might take about 30 minutes or so to read through the entire sixteen chapters of Romans. This was done all at one time.
We come along and break it down and analyze it and study the minute components in it so we can grasp it. We’re somewhat removed from the original context, both in time, culture, and in background. We’ve learned a lot about it through various nuances that are given in Romans and the doctrines that are embedded there or just briefly summarized there in some sentences. It’s important for us to go through that but when we’re done we need to go back and have a flyover and think about the entirety of Romans. This helps to put it into our souls. It’s not a matter of just getting it into our notebooks but of getting it into our thinking so that when we face the challenges of life, hardships, difficulties, and opposition, we need to be able to pull up verses from the Scripture that we’ve memorized and that we’ve internalized. Also we need to remember the principles that we’ve come to understand that are in God’s Word so we need to constantly be thinking about it.
When we look at Romans we need to remember that this was written by the Apostle Paul. It was written on his third missionary journey on his way from Corinth. He wrote three epistles on his third missionary journey, 1 and 2 Corinthians while he was on his way to Corinth. Probably from Corinth he wrote this epistle to the Romans church. He’s writing this for a couple of different reasons. It’s very important for him to be writing it to the Romans because Rome is the capital of the Empire. Everything came to Rome and came out of Rome so Rome is the center of the government, the center of the Empire, the center of the Roman universe.
The church at Rome was particularly significant. It was a church that was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles and they were experiencing some conflict, some problems within their congregation simply because Jewish background believers in Jesus as the Messiah were coming to Christianity having to deal with the fact that the Law was no longer significant in the way it had been in the Torah, the time previous to the cross. They were having to think in a new way in relationship to the Old Testament. Paul quotes from the Old Testament quite a bit in this epistle.
The Gentiles have a pagan background and they have to learn how to handle certain situations, especially in relation to the Jews, and have to understand that the Jewish people are still a select, holy people of God. Even though God is doing something different with them in this dispensation, nevertheless God has a future plan for Israel. That’s covered in Romans 9–11. It also plays an important role in understanding Romans, chapters 14 and 15. This was important to lay out an extremely logical thought-out case for Christianity.
He lays out the foundation for the gospel, which he focuses on the terminology of justification by faith alone. That becomes a very important topic. Today we’re very loose about how we talk about our relationship to God and how a person gets eternal life. We often use that simple phrase, salvation, but in the book of Romans we discovered that the term salvation is a term that does not apply to that initial stage of justification. It was a term that Paul used to refer to the spiritual life, which is being saved from the power of sin, or to the culmination of all three phases of salvation in terms of glorification and being delivered or saved from the presence of sin. He never uses the SOZO or salvation word group in relation to justification. That causes a lot of problems and a lot of misunderstandings.
Paul writes Romans in order to give a very well-thought out logical development of the doctrines of salvation, in terms of justification and the doctrine of the spiritual life or sanctification, experiential sanctification, and of the impact that these doctrines and important truths should have on our day-to-day life. He begins by emphasizing the righteousness of God so my title for Romans is The Righteousness of God. Romans is all about developing our understanding of God’s righteousness.
It’s interesting that in both Hebrew and in Greek the words for righteousness and the words for justice are the same. In the Old Testament it’s the word group tsedeka and in the New Testament it’s from the word group DIKAOS and DIKAIOSUNE. DIKAOS has to do with justice and righteousness. DIKAIOSUNE emphasizes the quality of righteousness.
The context is going to determine how you understand these words. If it’s talking about God or the character of God or the attribute of God, it usually emphasizes His righteousness. It is saying that He is the absolute standard for the universe. When it’s talking about the expression of that attribute towards His creation then we would translate it justice. Justice is the application of God’s righteous standard to his creation. So these two attributes that we put in the essence box of God, His righteousness and his justice, are very closely related.
That forms the core teaching in Romans that Paul is developing. He talks about the righteousness of God revealed. We see this in the central verse for Romans, which is in that first chapter. You should have your Bible open as we run through this chapter-by-chapter. There are some verses that you should or have already underlined that are very significant verses to be aware of. In the first chapter that would be Romans 1:16-17 where Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”
A couple of observations there. It is the power of God unto a goal. That’s the way it’s expressed in the Greek. It indicates a goal and that goal is salvation. It’s not phase one, justification. It’s talking about the culmination of God’s plan, phase one, phase two, and phase three which is glorification. I think this is what a lot of people miss.
The term gospel has two meanings. In a narrow sense of the gospel, it answers what I must believe in order to secure an eternal destiny in heaven. It’s the good news related to what we call justification. Then there’s a broader sense, which is everything that flows from that. This verse gives us that orientation at the beginning of that epistle. Paul is talking about the power of God unto salvation and the whole book is talking about salvation and the gospel. Only the first five chapters talk about how we are justified. The remainder of the epistle talks about the results of that salvation in terms of our spiritual life.
So Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” He’s showing there’s still a priority to the Jew first because they’re still God’s chosen people. This isn’t some hangover he has from the previous dispensation. He understands that as long as the temple was still standing in Jerusalem there was still a priority message to the Jewish people. Whenever he went to a new place he always went to a synagogue first. Those who believed in Jesus as Messiah would eventually leave the synagogue or be asked to leave or be run out of the synagogue and they would start a congregation.
In Romans 1:17 Paul says, “For in it…” What is the “it” here? It is the righteousness of Christ. “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” This is talking about the faith that we have at justification to the faith that we have in our spiritual life. We not only believe in Christ when faith is the key to justification but we also walk by faith after salvation. So there is faith related to justification and faith related to our ongoing spiritual walk. This introduction helps us to understand that the focal point is going to be on understanding the righteousness of God. Paul is going to be developing and explaining the righteousness of God as it relates to God’s plan for mankind as he goes through Romans. So the first part of Romans, the first eleven chapters, is really focused on instruction about God’s righteousness.
We’re being taught about the righteousness of God as it relates to mankind. Now in the second part of Romans there is a personal application of that instruction to individual believers. The first part teaches us a lot about God’s righteousness in these areas and in the last part as is Paul’s style many times, he then makes some more specific applications related to what he taught in the first part of the epistle. So we have an instruction section in chapters 1–11 and then we have a more direct application section in chapters 12–16. The first seventeen verses of chapter one comprise the introduction where he brings into focus the righteousness of God and you should underline Romans 1:16-17.
In the next section he talks about justification by faith alone in Christ alone. This section is from Romans 1:18 down through Romans 5:21. That covers the doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Now when he does this he sets it up by looking at the need for justification from Romans 1:18 to Romans 3:20. This is when he talks about sin. He’s not talking about sin like some modern evangelists do where they’re saying you need to repent of your sin. Instead he’s pointing out that you need to recognize that you’re a sinner, that you’re spiritually dead, and that you have a need for righteousness.
There is a very specific reason and purpose for making sure someone understands that they’re a sinner. If you don’t know you’re drowning you’re not going to reach for the life preserver. It’s not that you’re berating the person for the fact that he’s drowning which is what some evangelistic approaches do. That’s just terrible. The issue at the gospel hearing is not what sins someone has committed. They’re already paid for at the cross. But the person has to understand that they’re spiritually dead and in desperate need of justification. They are unrighteous.
In these chapters Paul laid out a legal case why three distinct groups of human beings are under condemnation. The first group that he addresses is covered in Romans 1:18 down through the end of the chapter where he condemns the immoral man, the man who has rejected God, the one who has even rejected the existence of God and is living in rank immorality. But immoral unrighteousness is not the only problem. There’s also a problem with moral unrighteousness. The moral person is the one who is morally righteous but in terms of absolute righteousness he’s a failure.
That is the problem with the second man. This is presented in Romans 2:1-16. He has a relative righteousness. He’s moral but morality doesn’t get you anywhere with God. Just because you’re a moral person doesn’t mean you are right with God. The Pharisees were extremely moral. They were as obedient to the Mosaic Law as they could possibly be. People in the 1st century were surprised when Jesus confronted the Pharisees on the basis of their lack of righteousness. Everyone thought of them, from their perspective, as moral people. They were teaching the Torah, the Law of God.
Where Paul goes with this, he shows that the immoral man is under condemnation, and the moral man is under condemnation. This refers primarily to Gentiles in Romans 2:1-16, and then in Romans 2:17, he shows that the moral Jews, the religious Jews, the observant Jews of his day are also under condemnation. This is what we worked through in terms of our study. They are all under condemnation. Paul trots out the evidence to show they are all guilty and they fail to come up to the standards of God.
When we look at those sections there are several verses that should be underlined and in fact would not be difficult for you to memorize. Romans 1:18–21 are some of the most significant verses in the Scripture. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” I want you to note that there is a comma after men. A couple of us have had an on-going debate about when and when not to use commas. I always get confused over commas because I grew up in an era when there was a lot of shift going on in how commas were taught. I was taught to use a lot of commas at one time in junior high and by the time I was in college, I was taught not to use commas. You can look in several stylebooks and they reflect these various debates that go on. Depending on whether you’re following the Chicago Manual of Style or one of the others, some will have more commas and some will have fewer commas.
It’s important sometimes to look at where the commas are in Scripture because sometimes they reflect the translator’s theological perception. What we have here in this phrase “the unrighteousness of men” and then the next phrase which is a relative clause, “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. The issue is whether this is a condemnation of God’s wrath being revealed against the unrighteousness of men and whether that relative clause describes all mankind. Is every single human being characterized as a truth suppressor? Or is this related to a class of men who are truth suppressors?
Now that’s an important theological distinction. High Calvinism will say all men are truth suppressors and thus they are totally unable to even exercise positive volition towards the general revelation of God in the creation which is the focal point of Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead so that they are without excuse.” It’s very clear here that a fallen human being can look at creation and can discern that there is a creator from general revelation. He can then exercise positive volition at that point. It doesn’t mean he’s going to be saved. It doesn’t mean that when he gets to gospel hearing he’s going to exercise positive volition. When he gets to gospel hearing, he may exercise negative volition. At some point he may recognize that there is a God. There are others who at God-consciousness reject God and they are truth suppressors. They are the ones described in these verses.
Then in Romans 1:26 it says, “God gave them up again…” Then in Romans 1:28, “God gave them over…” You see that what God gives them up to are the sins of sexual immorality and sexual perversion. So sexual immorality and sexual perversion in a culture is not the cause of Divine discipline on that culture. It is divine discipline on that culture. So when we look at the rise of homosexual perversion in our culture we see that is a sign of judgment on a culture that has already rejected God and has already turned its back on God and no longer wants to submit to the authority of God.
In this section we focus on the unrighteous immoral pagan and then there’s a shift in chapter 2 to the moral person who, even though he doesn’t have the Law of Moses, he is obedient to the same principles which he has come to understand just from creation. Paul points out that even these moral men are still hypocrites. In Romans 2:8 they are self-seeking and they don’t obey the truth. They obey unrighteousness and to them will also come indignation and wrath. That is divine judgment. In Romans 2:9, “Tribulation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil to the Jew first and also to the Greek. In Romans 2:12 it says, “For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.” That would be a reference to the Jews.
By the time we get to Romans 2:17 Paul is focusing on the Jewish community who have been relying upon the Law. He points out that as much as the Jews are devoted to the Law they are still sinful. They have focused on ritual as a source of righteousness. They’ve emphasized circumcision. They believe that if they’re circumcised as descendants of Abraham, then because of their relationship to the Abrahamic covenant, they will automatically be saved. They emphasize being obedient to the Torah and this is unique to Jews. Paul disabuses them of that notion in Romans 2:25, “For circumcision is indeed profitable…” Ritual does have a reality if properly understood. He says that ritual is profitable if you keep the law but if you’re a breaker of the law, then circumcision might as well not be there. The point he’s making is that ritual doesn’t really have any value one way or the other. The real issue is whether you are obedient to the Law.
In Romans 2:26 he goes on, “Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision?” In other words, does the ritual really affect his righteousness? His conclusion then is that the real issue is what’s going on internally in the individual’s relationship to God. In chapter three he also develops the fact that not only have the Jews the recipients of the Abrahamic covenant and the blessings but they’re the recipients of the oracles of God and they have many blessings that God has given them. However, that does not mean that they are automatically righteous. They are still unrighteous and they will still come under condemnation.
This is where he drives in the conclusion of this section in Romans 3:9–18 in a series of Old Testament quotes where he points out that there’s none righteous. No, not one. He goes back to the psalms in Psalm 14 and various other psalms to point out that no one is righteous. No one measures up to the standard of God. No one is going to be justified simply because of their relationship to the law and their observance of ritual.
This answers the next question, which is: If we’re all unrighteous, if every person is born unrighteous and this is the doctrine of total depravity that every person is born unrighteous, then what can be done? This is not total inability. I want to point out the distinction there. In Calvinism, total inability means that a person cannot even exercise positive volition towards God. Everything is dependent upon God’s selective process in their doctrine of election.
What are called modern Calvinists believe in total depravity rather than total inability. Total depravity means that everyone is a sinner and everyone has a sin nature. We are all fallen creatures, all under condemnation. The sin nature is driven by lust patterns. At the very core of the sin nature, we have our own arrogance. We’re self-absorbed and we’re focused on just living our lives apart from God. We can produce relative righteousness. We can be the moral person but ultimately we still have sin in our lives, as Paul says in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We all also commit personal sins from our area of weakness. This may be sins of the tongue, mental attitude sins, or overt sins but we all commit personal sins. We have a trend to our sin nature. This is important to understand. Some people have a trend toward asceticism. That means they’re really moral. The Pharisees trended toward asceticism. The observant Jews, the Hasidim, the Haridim in Israel we see them praying and discussing the Torah all of the time. They’re meditating on the Torah all of the time. What the Bible says is that we’re all sinners. Isaiah 53 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” That’s everyone. We’re all corrupted by sin. That’s what total depravity means. It doesn’t mean we’re as depraved as we can be. It means that in the totality of our being, every aspect of our person has been corrupted by sin so we are desperately in need of salvation. If we’re all corrupted by sin then we can’t produce anything of righteousness. We can only produce relative righteousness. If we’re relying on that, that leads to moral degeneracy.
That was the problem with the Pharisees. There are other people who trend in the opposite direction and they are licentious or lascivious. They don’t really care about the Law of God. They’re always looking at a way to circumvent it. This also has an impact in terms of how they think, in terms of irrationalism and mysticism. A lot of that is what we see today. When you reject standards for thought, you just go into irrationalism. That dominates our culture, especially in post-modernism. This leads to a recognition we have that we are desperately in need of righteousness.
This is what Paul develops starting in Romans 3:21 where he says, “Now the righteousness of God apart from the Law is revealed being witnessed by the Law and the prophets.” God’s righteousness looks down on our lack of righteousness and we’re under condemnation. There’s nothing we can do to change our status as being spiritually dead and being unrighteous. God made a provision for us in terms of salvation. When the righteous Son of God, Jesus, the Messiah, was crucified on the cross; then we’re told in Isaiah 64:6 that “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” God had to solve that problem. He did so by making Christ to be our sin. He imputed our sin to Him on the Cross so that what happened is that our sin is imputed to Christ on the Cross and He is judged. Then when we trust in Christ as Savior, when we believe God’s promise, then we are declared righteous.
This is the illustration Paul develops from the Old Testament from Abraham in Romans 4. Notice he builds his whole theology out of the Old Testament. Paul isn’t inventing Christianity. This is one of the arguments you’ll hear in the Jewish community is that Jesus was not so bad but Paul re-invented Christianity. They say that what Paul taught wasn’t what Jesus taught. What Paul taught is exactly what Jesus taught. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except by Me.” Why? Because He’s the only one who could pay the penalty for sin. This is exactly what Paul is developing here. Just as Abraham believed God in the Old Testament, the verse reminds us that Abraham had already in some time past believed God and it was that faith in God that was accounted or imputed to him for righteousness.
The rest of Romans 4 talks about that. When our sin is imputed to Christ it is paid for. That’s true for every single human being. The sin is paid for at the cross. Paul says in Colossians 2:14 that sin wipes out that certificate of death against everyone. It’s wiped out at the Cross so that sin is no longer the issue. The problem is that this poor human being is still unrighteous and still spiritually dead so when he trusts in Christ as Savior at that instant God the Father imputes Christ’s perfect righteousness to the unbeliever. So from that point on God looks at the perfect righteousness of God that person possesses. That’s the basis for our justification and we are declared righteous.
That’s what Romans 3:20 to Romans 5:21 is emphasizing, that we’re righteous; not because of something we’ve done but because of what Christ did. At that instant we’re declared righteous and that is that wonderful doctrine called justification by faith alone. Today we don’t hear people talk about it a lot but this is the real issue, how to be just before God. How can an unrighteous person be made righteous? This is how it takes place.
Only then can God bless us, and He blesses us not because of what we’ve done but because we possess the righteousness of Christ. He’s blessing Christ’s righteousness, not us. We’re still sinners. We still have a sin nature. So the question then becomes what in the world are we going to do about this nasty little sin nature? That’s the next section that gets developed in Romans.
Romans 6 through 8 discusses how do we live this new life that we’re given at the instant of justification. We had just a great time going through Romans 6, 7, and 8. These three chapters are the key chapters, I think, related to the spiritual life. How we understand this is foundational to understanding the spiritual life. It’s a development and a refinement of what Paul covers in Galatians. Galatians has six chapters. Romans has sixteen chapters. Galatians, in many ways, is a microcosm of Romans. Galatians was Paul’s first epistles. He’s dealing with the same issues there.
One of the great passages on justification is in Galatians 2:16, “That a man is not justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Christ.” Paul clearly states that we know that a man cannot be justified by the works of the Law. Then in Galatians 3–5, Paul is developing the foundation for the spiritual life. Starting in Galatians 5:16 he then builds on the spiritual life. This really relates to understanding Romans 6–8 which is Paul’s best development.
It starts off talking about a very important doctrine which we describe as the baptism by the Holy Spirit. When you and I trusted in Christ, we were identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. I was six years old and though I didn’t know it at the time, I didn’t feel anything, what happened is that I became free from the tyranny of the sin nature. That had never happened before Christ. It didn’t happen to Noah. It didn’t happen to Abraham, David, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, or Zechariah or anyone in the Old Testament. It didn’t happen to John the Baptist. It didn’t happen to any Old Testament saint. They were still under the tyranny of their sin nature.
It wasn’t until the Day of Pentecost when God the Holy Spirit came that the Baptism by the Holy Spirit occurred. That’s the act of identifying the believer with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Paul says to the Romans, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized [identified] into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” We were buried with Him through baptism into His death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life.” That term “walk” is so important. That’s the Christian life. That’s your Christian life.
What Paul is saying here is personal. You can fill in the blank; you can put your name there. When you’re reading your Bible sometime and Paul uses these pronouns, it’s very helpful to substitute your name in these places because that helps you see the application. So there, [put your name in here} you were buried with Him through baptism into death just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the father, even so [your name] should also walk in newness of life. That’s the basis for this new life we have in Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to say that this is a reality even though we weren’t aware we were experiencing it as such. Now we have to live to God. For just as Christ died to sin once for all, the life He lives, He lives to God. So, too, we should live to God. In verse 11 he says we are to “Reckon ourselves [a present active imperative command] to be dead to sin but alive to Jesus Christ.” What happens to most believers is that they run around every day totally alive to their sin nature and dead to Christ. They let their sin nature just run rampant and then they say, “I’ll just confess it later.”
That’s missing the whole point of the Christian life. That’s missing the whole point of newness of life. The point of newness of life is that we’re so immersed in doctrine and doctrine so wraps around our soul that we understand this new identity that we have in Christ. We’re alive to Him so we’re supposed to be dead to sin. Death has that idea of separation. That doesn’t mean that if you sin you lose your salvation but it means that if you sin you have to recover from it. That’s why we have 1 John 1:9.
In verse 14 Paul says that “Sin should not have dominion over you because you’re not under the Law but under grace.” Sin is going to destroy your life as a believer if you don’t get a handle on this principle and live in a way that is separated from sin. So how do we do that? In Romans 7 Paul really talks about himself and all the problems that he had, that he couldn’t live the life he wanted to because he didn’t understand how to do that. He tried to do it on his own effort. He tried to do it with self-discipline or self-improvement or self-morality but it just didn’t work.
Finally he comes to Romans 8, which is where we have our emphasis on the Holy Spirit. At the very beginning he says, “There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” We aren’t under condemnation any more. We don’t need to worry about sin in that sense. We only worry about it because it takes us out of fellowship and we need to recover. Paul goes on to talk about this contrast between the Spirit of life versus sin. This is a struggle between the spirit and the flesh. He develops this and is parallel to what Paul says in Galatians 5:17-18 which is that the Spirit wars against the flesh and the flesh against the Spirit.
The issue is that we are to walk by means of the Spirit because the Spirit of God dwells inside each and every believer. Christ is in us but because of the Spirit we have life. So the Holy Spirit becomes the foundation for understanding how to live the spiritual life. We have to learn to walk by the Spirit. If you don’t learn to walk by the Spirit then you’re just going to be a failure in the Christian life. We all have periods of time like that where we fail to do it. But that’s the simple solution in the Scriptures, to walk by the Spirit.
What’s entailed in that? Whenever we fail to walk, we have to confess our sins but that’s not enough. That just gets us back in a place where we can then walk by the Spirit. We need to be involved in studying the Word of God so that it is internalized and is assimilated into our souls. That’s what Paul’s going to talk about when we get to Romans 12:1-2, that we need to not be conformed or pressed into the mold of the world but we need to have our thinking transformed by the Word of God so we learn to handle circumstances and situations by the Word of God and not by what our natural responses would be because that comes by our sin nature.
This is what is developed by Paul in Romans 8. He talks about the role of suffering. Everyone suffers. We live in a fallen world, a fallen creation. Romans 8:32, “The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now but we who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan.” We struggle because we live in this fallen world but we have a hope. We were saved in this hope but hope that is seen is not hope for why does one still hope for what he sees? In other words, we’re living in light of eternity. So we hope for what we do not see and we wait for it with endurance, and with perseverance. We have to hang in there through the trials and difficulties because that’s what God is using to conform us to the image of Christ.
Then as Paul closes out his discussion on the spiritual life he comes to a crescendo with a pair of verses which you should have underlined, Romans 8:38-39. You should also have them memorized. “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers or things present or things to come or any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have eternal security but our salvation is not dependent on what we’ve done at all. Anyone who thinks that they can lose their salvation by something they can do, somewhere they’re thinking they got salvation by something they did. They’ve got works somewhere hidden in the background and they don’t understand grace.
Grace means God the Father in His omniscience knew every sin we would ever commit and He didn’t drop one when He imputed them all to Christ on the Cross. And He was smart enough and wise enough and omniscient enough to impute every sin to Christ so that every sin was paid for. There’s no sin that Christ forgot about, no sin God the Father forgot about and there’s no sin that we can commit that’s too great for the grace of God.
As soon as Paul would say this someone would say, “Paul, you’re arguing that God is faithful but what about the Jews? It looks like He’s pretty much washing His hands of the Jews.” That brings Paul to the next section in Romans 9 where we’re going to look at the vindication of God’s righteousness in relationship to Israel. So what have we done so far? Let’s just think it through. We’ve got first of all that all people are under condemnation. The righteousness of God condemned everyone. The immoral, the moral, and the religious, all are under condemnation because we’re born with this defect. We’re born sinners. We are totally depraved. There’s nothing we can do to become righteous. No, not one. The only way we can have righteousness is if God gives it to us and the way He gives it to us is in a way that everyone can use which is through faith. Just as Abraham was justified by faith alone, so we’re justified by faith alone. Because of that, we now have a new life and in sanctification, because we’ve been justified and our sins paid for and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we’re now free from the sin nature.
Just as we have to rely on God to solve the problem of our unrighteousness at justification, we have to rely upon God the Holy Spirit to deal with our experiential unrighteousness of this life. We have to walk by the Spirit. That’s Romans 6, 7, and 8. The question that then comes up is what about God’s faithfulness to Israel? This is developed in Romans 9, 10, and 11. It indicates that God is not through with Israel and in one of the great passage in Scriptures where Paul says in verse 4, “The Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the giving of the Law, the service of God, and the promises.” This is in the present tense. These things still belong to the Jewish people. God still has a plan and a purpose.
Then he goes through the background for the calling of God’s people, that God still has a purpose, and it’s not based on their works. This is a call to corporate Israel, not on individual justification or condemnation but on God’s calling on the Jewish people. This is why He says, “For Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” This is a sign that Jacob is in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and they were corporately God’s chosen people, not for an individual destiny for individual salvation. Their destiny was as custodians of the Word of God and of the line of the Messiah.
God rejected Esau as part of this. He was not part of the corporate plan. This is not talking about the individual justification because I believe you can demonstrate that both Jacob and Esau were blessed by God. Jacob got the greater blessing but Esau was blessed by God, too. Both Jacob and Esau were believers. Esau was definitely a believer so it’s not talking about their individual destiny in terms of heaven.
Then in this section Paul develops the issue that even in the Old Testament God had a plan for the Gentiles, that they would be blessed by the Jewish people and then he goes on to develop this in chapter 10. He says that Israel would eventually be saved, that is delivered in Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s prayer and desire to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” He’s very pro-Israel. This isn’t a foundation for anti-Semitism but for the deliverance of Israel. That word saved isn’t talking about justification. It’s talking about their ultimate future deliverance as a people in terms of the plan God had for them as stated in the Old Testament. This is how we must understand then the verses that are often used for gospel presentations in a very wrong sense in Romans 10: 9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Saved doesn’t mean justified here. It’s deliverance.
There are two steps. One is believing with faith and the other is calling out to God, confessing with your mouth and this has to do with the deliverance of the Jewish people in the end times which is the context of the quote that’s given in Romans 10:13, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” This is from Joel 2:28-32. This is at the end of the Tribulation period. Then Paul goes on to develop this in Romans, chapter 11 to show that God has not permanently cast away His people, that is, in terms of covenant position and blessing in verse one. It states that God is eventually going to restore them to that position of blessing.
Again, it’s not talking about individual justification. It’s talking about being restored to the position of blessing with that illustration of the olive tree, the natural domestic olive tree where some of the branches are cut off and removed from the place of blessing. The wild olive branches, which are the Gentiles, are grafted in. It has to do with their relationship to the Abrahamic covenant. It doesn’t have to do with individual justification.
Now as Paul wraps up that particular passage, he’s brought to a great crescendo and a great benediction in Romans 11:33-36, focusing on the character of God. That God is wise. His knowledge is perfect and His judgments are unsearchable. When it’s all said and done we’re going to look back and see that God’s plan was perfect and righteous.
Then we come to the second part of the epistle where we talk about personal application of righteousness. Then, again, it’s pretty simple. In chapter 12 the focus is on how to exhibit experiential or personal righteousness within the body of Christ. The foundational verses are verses 1 and 2 and these should be underlined in your Bible. “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies [your whole life, everything] a living sacrifice to God.” We’ve forgotten a lot about what a sacrifice means and next Thursday night we’re going to have a very significant and special focus just on sacrifice. We’ve lost the understanding of what that means and we’ll be showing a little film with that as well. I’ll be teaching on sacrifice and hopefully we’ll walk out of here with a very different understanding of what sacrifice is than what we probably have in our minds. We’ve often sanitized this concept in modern civilization.
But our lives should be a living sacrifice, holy [set apart to God] and acceptable to Him. How do we do this? By not being conformed to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind. We have to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. We have to immerse ourselves in the teaching of the Word of God day-in-and-day-out, not just a little here and a little there but as much as we can. And it’s never enough. That’s what positive volition is. It’s not just showing up at church three times a week. It’s immersing ourselves in the Word of God. What we learn in Bible class should be a springboard to an even greater application of the Word of God. It should be driving us to a greater level of study on each individual’s part.
As Paul develops this he talks about the use of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ in the next few verses and he talks about how this relates to each other, emphasizing the principle of “loving one another” which is the hallmark for the believer. We should always respond no matter what the antagonism may be. We always have to respond with love that can come only from God. We are to love one another as Christ loved us.
This also impact others. It impacts us in terms of government and how we relate to those in authority over us, and those who surround us, at work, in our neighborhood, and in our family. There’s the discourse on government authority in Romans 13. Authority is so important to understand. That’s what the original sin was in the Fall of Satan. He violated God’s authority. He rejected God’s authority and so this is an issue.
Even when you think the person in authority is unworthy, none of us under that person have the right to make that judgment. We are to follow God’s command that every soul is to be subject to governing authorities because there’s “no authority except from God and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” We went through all of those details there related to the importance of the individual believer being a good citizen and being obedient to the law of the land and the governing authorities.
This also means we’re to love one another, including others within the state in Romans 13:8-10, “Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law.” Paul wraps this up by talking about the fact that we are to put on the character of the Lord Jesus Christ. “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh.” See this goes back to Romans 6. We’re to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin. We’re not to make any provision to give the sin nature any opportunity to fulfill its lusts.
Then in the last two chapters of the epistles he deals with the application of righteousness and love to the believer who is weak in the faith. He doesn’t understand issues related to food and drink. He thinks certain taboos apply and this is probably dealing with Jewish background believers who haven’t figured out how to deal with the Law of Kashrut, the law of unclean food so there was an attitude of bickering within the body at Rome. Paul is telling them not to make an issue out of it because there’s nothing particularly significant about meat or drink but it’s important not to create a situation which causes another believer to stumble.
I pointed out that there are a lot of carnal believers out there who are legalistic believers. They’re not stumbling because in order to stumble you have to be moving forward. This is dealing with people who have legitimate confusion over the issue and need to be helped to think through the issues Biblically. While they’re going through that process don’t create further confusion for them. Paul goes on to talk about our attitude toward these weak believers and then he wraps up with Romans 15:14, going down through the end of the epistle.
He again returns to some of the main themes related to the gospel, related to the fact we are to ministering the gospel to others as Paul says he’s a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering of the Gentiles might be acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Again it’s emphasizing our priestly role as church age believers. He wraps things together in the midst of giving some reports about his plans to shift his base of operations to Rome so that he can move into areas like Spain and Illyricum which is north and east of Italy and across the Adriatic. This is where he’s going. Then he gives various reports back to people he’s known who were now located in the church in Rome.
So what’s the main idea? The main idea of Romans is the righteousness of God revealed. That God’s righteousness is the issue in history and we get the great opportunity by grace to participate in that, first by expressing faith alone in Christ alone and receiving the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and then walking by the Spirit so we can have the righteousness of God develop in us as the fruit of the Spirit so that through our experiential righteousness we mirror the character of Christ to the world around us. We’re not going to be conformed to the world around us but we are going to be distinctive in how we live our lives, demonstrating the character, the grace, and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That wraps up our study of Romans. Due to the fact that we’ve got only two weeks and on December 25th there won’t be class and on January 1st I’m going to be in Kiev. We’re going to have a couple of great speakers while I’m gone covering Bible class, finishing up the DM2 material on the Life of Christ. Remember we went through Part 1 back in September. They didn’t finish everything. There’s a whole second part that will be finished by great speakers within the congregation that are going to take us through four more lessons there while I’m gone to Kiev. Then we’ll start with either 1 Samuel or 1 Peter. I haven’t decided yet. Hopefully we’ll finish Dispensations before I go to Kiev so we’ll have two new studies when I return.