THE Roman epistle has been recognized by many leading scholars as one of the profoundest documents that has ever been written. This judgment is certainly correct. Humanly speaking, it is one of the masterpieces of logic and clear thinking. Of course, the Apostle Paul was inspired by the Spirit of God when he wrote it and all of his works, but the Lord used his master mind in giving this marvelous revelation of His will.
In this epistle, as in no other, is God's redemptive scheme set forth so very fully. Knowing this fact, I have put as the subheading of the title of this chart "Salvation from Start to Finish."
PAUL was probably at Corinth on his third missionary tour when he composed this letter in the Spring of 58 A.D. It is quite likely that he also wrote Galatians at the same time. If so, he sent one letter east and the other west.
The Galatian letter was sent for the primary purpose of correcting mistakes in doctrine. When he wrote these letters, he had never been to Rome but hoped to go. He had planned on former occasions to visit it, but each time Satan had hindered. The immediate occasion of his writing was to set before the church the gospel which he was preaching. His reason for so doing was to correct the misrepresentations regarding his teachings, put out by the Judaizers, who were preaching a gospel different, from his, and whose formula for salvation was Christ plus the observance of the law.
The text of the Roman epistle is found in 1:16, which is, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God: unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." Here Paul declares that he was not ashamed of the gospel for it is God's power unto salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Since this is the text of the letter, we must understand it properly in order to see things in their proper perspective.
The gospel was first preached at Jerusalem, next in Judaea, then in Samaria; and finally, it went forth to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8). The apostolic preachers in every community went always to the Jews first; having preached to them, they then turned to the Gentiles. This is seen from Paul's practice recorded in Acts. Though the Jews in one locality rejected the truth, and he turned to the Gentiles of the given vicinity; when he visited another city or community, he went to his brethren, the Jews, first and then, to the Gentiles. This was his unvarying custom. We may believe that all the apostles followed this same principle, since Paul specifically states that the gospel is to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The apostle would not make a general statement regarding the gospel, which was contrary to the practice of the inspired ministers of the Word.
The gospel, which, beginning in Jerusalem, was to go forth to all nations (Acts 1:8), had, by the time of the writing of the Roman epistle, been preached to the entire world (Rom. 10:18). About five years later, in the Colossian letter, Paul declared that it had been preached in all creation under heaven and was bearing fruit in all the world (Col. 1:6,23). When we allow these statements to give their message, one concludes that the gospel was actually preached in all creation under heaven during the first three decades of the existence of the church. Each generation since then should have given it to the entire world, preaching it first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Believers through the centuries have made a fatal mistake in not carrying out our Lord's command.
After the gospel had been given to the entire Jewish nation of that generation, Paul in this epistle (1:14,15) was looking toward the future and stated that, since he was a debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, he was ready to preach the gospel to those at Rome also, because it is God's power unto salvation to all who believe--but to the Jew first. Since, therefore, the nation had already been evangelized when he made this statement, and since he was looking toward the future, the expression, "to the Jew first," can mean only one thing; namely, that the gospel is to be given first to the Jew of every generation and then to the Gentiles--because it is God's power to save. Men can be saved by no other means. (See Acts 4:12.) In it the righteousness of God has been revealed--a righteousness offered to Jew and Gentile alike, which they must accept by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the section, 1:8-3:20, we have a description of the lost world. In 1:18-32 appears a dark picture of the depths to which human nature sinks. Anyone who has visited Pompeii and has seen the type of civilization which God buried by ashes from Mount Vesuvius can understand what Paul had in mind when he penned this picture. In chapter 2 he shows that the Jewish world was in the same predicament in which the Gentiles were, in that they had not kept the Law which was entrusted to them. Finally, in 3:1-20 he draws the conclusion that both Jews and Gentiles are under condemnation: The Jews for not keeping the Law which they accepted at Sinai and the Gentiles for not having followed the light of conscience. He proves his contention by quotations from various Scriptures.
IN 3:21-5:11 we find one of the finest discussions on the subject of "salvation of grace by faith through the blood" of Christ, that appears in the Scriptures. Salvation is a matter of God's sovereign grace. Before times eternal grace was given us in Christ Jesus. Christ was as a Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Eternal life was given us at that time. We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. (See such passages as 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:1,2; Romans 16:25-27; Ephesians 1:3,4; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Revelation 13:8.
One takes hold of the salvation and the eternal life which were given us before the foundation of the world by trusting Him--accepting the all-sufficient atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is not predicated upon works but upon trusting Christ as one's Saviour and Redeemer, since it was purchased by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot accept Him as a good man, as a wonderful teacher, and, at the same time denying His deity and lordship, expect to enjoy the salvation which He, the God-man, purchased by shedding His blood on Calvary's cross for us. God is reconciling all things unto himself by the blood of the cross of Christ (Col. 1:19, 20).
When one accepts the Lord, trusting Him absolutely and surrendering to Him, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to that one. Christ took the sinners place upon the cross. The stroke that was due to fall upon us fell upon Him. He became our substitute. He did the will of God in every particular. (See Psalm 40:6-8; Heb. 10:1-18.) Christ's having done the will of God is that by which we have been sanctified through the offering of the blood of Jesus Christ once for all. One of the greatest statements relative to the righteousness of Christ and its being imputed to the one who believes in the Lord Jesus is set forth in Romans 3:21-30. Every Christian should study this passage and ponder it well, for here is set forth, in the most cogent manner and in the most powerful words, the doctrine of the atonement of Christ.
In Romans 4 appears a clear discussion of salvation by faith. Paul shows that salvation cannot be by faith and at the same time by works. It must be by one or the other. But he shows conclusively that it is a matter of pure faith, of one's trusting the blood of Jesus Christ. It is impossible for one to read into Paul's exposition in this passage the doctrine of salvation by works.
Some have seen a contradiction between Romans 4 and James 2. The latter passage is emphasizing the works of the Christian. The Apostle shows that those who claim to have faith and at the same time do nothing are deceiving themselves. Faith always manifests itself in action. I have my serious doubts about, the salvation of anyone whose faith does not assert itself in doing the will of God as set forth in the New Testament.
Romans 4 is based upon Genesis 15:6 and the experience of Abraham there recorded. This historical narrative is speaking of his being justified originally by faith. If one will examine this chapter, he will see that Abraham simply believed God, and his faith was counted to him for righteousness. He was not commanded to do anything. He believed unflinchingly what God said and by that faith was justified. Paul said that this is the way God saves people today--not by works, but by trusting the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, James was not talking about one's being justified or becoming a child of God. He was speaking to children of God and was urging them to show their faith by their obedience. In order to enforce this lesson he referred to an experience in Abraham's life which was about a quarter of a century after he had been justified (Gen. 22). Abraham, a justified man, was told by the Lord to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. He obeyed--until the Lord stopped him. Thus the faith by which he had previously been justified was perfected. The faith which one has when he accepts Christ grows, increases, and is perfected by one's walk and service in the Master's cause. Hence there is perfect harmony between the statements of these two apostles.
TO BE saved is wonderful; but we must not be satisfied with simply being saved. We have been translated out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God's love (Col. 1:13). Being thus transplanted into the sphere of grace, we are to grow therein and increase in the knowledge of God. The Lord has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. The one who has accepted Christ and is regenerated receives the Holy Spirit, who comes into his life in order to strengthen and enable him to bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22,23). Thus in Romans 5:12-8:39 the apostle discusses the doctrine of sanctification by faith through the Spirit.
Christ's death more than counteracted the evil results of Adam's sin. Where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. We who have died to sin, how shall we continue any longer therein? It is inconsistent for the child of God to continue in sin and rebellion against God. Christ died to make us free. We are therefore to yield our members as instruments of righteousness unto God in order that we might thereby glorify Him. Unfortunately, many who are redeemed and regenerated do not realize the blessings which are ours in Christ. In Romans 7 Paul shows that it is sin in the flesh which produces sins in the life. Man's nature was corrupted by the fall. Even though a person is regenerated, he still has his fleshly nature; but he is not a debtor to the flesh to live after the flesh. The Spirit of God comes into the heart of the believer, strengthens him in the inward man, and enables him to live on a high and holy plane. If anyone is constantly doing the things which he should not and at the same time is failing to do those things which he ought, it is no longer he who does it but sin that dwelleth in him (Rom. 7:17).
Though Paul uses the personal pronouns, I, me, and my, in this chapter, he is not giving his own personal experience. The reason for this assertion is that he, according to his statement (Rom. 7:9-11), was alive before the Law came. It came, sin revived, and he died. Paul was not sixteen hundred years old. Being a prophet, he was in a figure transferring a universal experience to himself. Let no one, therefore, claim that Paul constantly sinned and thus attempt to justify himself in an evil course. The experience of Romans 7 is that of the man who has not availed himself of the deliverance which comes from Christ through the Spirit.
Romans 8 presents a picture of the true plane upon which we, as Christians, are called to move and live and have our being. It is possible for one, by yielding himself to Christ and to the Spirit, to live as set forth in Romans 8. In my saying this let no one think that the old nature can be eradicated as long as we are in the flesh, for such is not true. But by the Spirit the deeds of the body may be put down. The message and the experience of Romans 8 are what all Christians need.
CHAPTERS 9-11 give a discussion of the Jewish question-- past, present, and future. God has not cast aside His people whom He foreknew. They were on the main line of His plan and purpose until they came up to the cross. Not knowing the Scriptures, they rejected Christ and had Him executed. By their ignorance and their self-will, they, to speak in railroad terminology, took the siding and left the main line of the divine purpose. But, as we see in chapter 11, they will yet by faith come back upon the main line and be used of God in bringing a blessing to the world.
FOLLOWING his argumentation, Paul in 12:1-15:33 gives instructions regarding living. We have the theory and the doctrine of the Christian religion. We must have practical instructions. Here are found some of the loftiest ethical teachings and spiritual truths in Romans.
THE epistle concludes with personal matters and salutations (chapter 16).