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SAVED BY HIS LIFE
THE STRUCTURE OF THE EPISTLE EXPLAINED
PAUL'S INTRODUCTION TO THE EPISTLE
THE CONDITION OF THE CONDEMNED
THE GENTILE CONDEMNED
THE JEW CONDEMNED
ALL THE WORLD CONDEMNED
THE SINNER'S RECONCILIATION
CHRIST'S BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS
THE LAW OF FAITH
ROMANS 3:27 - 5:9
THE MUCH MORE OF GRACE
ROMANS 3:27 - 5:9
THE BELIEVER'S FREEDOM
LOVE-SLAVES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
JOINED TO ANOTHER
THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE
JEW AND GENTILE FULFILLMENT
LORD OF ISRAEL
LORD OF ALL
THE CHURCH'S TESTIMONY
THE CHURCH AND THE INDIVIDUAL
THE CHURCH AND GOVERNMENT
THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD
ROMANS 14:1 - 16:27
*** *** ***
There is no lack of scholarly, edifying books on Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The question may well be asked, "Then why write another one?"
My answer is this: After a careful study of this letter to the Romans and after definite prayer and help from other outlines, I discovered an underlying structure which has done two things for me. First, as a teacher of Romans, this book has given me new confidence concerning the divine logic of its message; second, many of my students of Romans have been able to grasp the meaning of the whole more easily.
The purpose of this study, therefore, is not to present a verse-by-verse commentary of Romans, but rather to discover, at least in part, the main structure and incentive undergirding each chapter and verse. My hope is that others, too, may use this structure and exposition of Romans, either in their personal study or in classes.
The reader of this exposition may become aware that some sections are brief in their content, and others are more detailed. The author is conscious that much more could be said in some parts of the book, but these briefer sections serve as signposts, pointing the directions that the mind must take in understanding each new section.
Another fact has become apparent. In the letter, Paul presents God as the governor of the world. The central person of that government is the risen Christ. His work as Redeemer is not only to bring men out from under the government of sin and death but also to bring them under the government of grace and life. This is truly "the gospel of the kingdom."
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Understanding and obeying these great truths will release power to convert sinners and liberate believers. Praise God for the gospel of the risen Lord Jesus!
The gospel is the gracious intervention of the government of God into the realm of men through the God-Man, Christ Jesus. The gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is not a product of religious genius; it is not the invention of a chosen people; it is not a contribution originated by the Church; it is not a contribution originated by the Church; it was not conceived by man's mind, nor could it be. The gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is heaven's implantation, nurtured in God's love and holiness, exhibited by His Church, for the redemption of all who will believe it and partake of its fruits.
This gospel of Jesus Christ is different from all natural religions in two great ways. First, no other religion can claim the truth of the resurrection of its founder. The fountain of Christianity arises solely from this man who arose from the dead, even Jesus. Second, the way of salvation is not based on works-righteousness but is built on faith in the divine Saviour and Lord.
My purpose in writing this book on Paul's epistle to the Romans is to set forth the structure of God's method for saving us completely. Charles Wesley expresses the gospel's altogether different thought and way in these words:
Through earth I glory to proclaim
The love of my redeeming Lord,
Which could so strange a method find
To save our lost, apostate kind.
God has given us the gospel through Jesus Christ. It concerns His Son, who has been "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). The foundation of the structure of this epistle is the resurrection of Christ from the dead. This is the unifying theme of Paul's amazing letter to the Christians at Rome.
There are five definite movements of this theme, five main sections, for "God hath raised Christ from the dead" for five purposes. Christ was:
The following references from these five sections of the book of Romans plainly trace this wonderful theme of the ministry and power of Jesus Christ, the risen Son of God.
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ (2:16).
But for our sake also, unto whom it shall be reckoned, who believe on him that raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification (4:24).
Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1).
We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection (6:4,5).
Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4).
If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you (8:10,11).
The Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short (9:28).
The righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (that is to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (10:6-13).
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (12:1,2).
To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (14:9).
I will not dare to speak of any things save those which Christ wrought through me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ (15:18,19).
The gospel is both objective and subjective. In I Corinthians the objective gospel is described for us in these words: "Now I make known unto you the gospel which I preached unto you For I delivered unto you that which also I received; that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he appeared" (I Cor. 15:1-5). But in the book of Romans, the subjective gospel is presented-what Christ's death, burial, and resurrection mean in the heart and life of the believer. In Romans the gospel proves to be the power of God unto salvation in actual experience.
In religious circles the popular use of the word salvation is connected with the first assurance a person has that his sins are forgiven and some day he will go to heaven. But this use does not fulfill the whole meaning in the New Testament, for Hebrews 2:3 exhorts Christians not to neglect this so great salvation. Also we are told that Christ has become the Captain of our salvation to lead many sons unto glory (Heb. 2:10).
We prefer, therefore, to use this word salvation in the way that it is predominantly used in the New Testament. There, salvation carries the meaning of God's way through Christ of delivering man from the guilt and dominion of sin and of bringing him into a condition of righteousness and freedom.
The tenses of salvation are three:
It is this larger conception of the word salvation that we wish to use in our study of Romans. The gospel is the power of God unto this kind of salvation - a salvation that meets man in every need he knows and feels to be a part of his sin problem. Praise God, the gospel has a full message for every troubled heart.
Romans 1:1-7 could be used as a creed or confession. A whole assembly could say these words together and state the very heart of their faith in Christ.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God (vs. 1).
Which he promised afore through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures (vs. 2).
Concerning his son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh (vs. 3).
Who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord (vs. 4).
Through whom we received grace and apostleship, unto obedience of faith among all the nations, for his name's sake (vs. 5).
Among whom are ye also, called to be Jesus Christ's (vs. 6).
To all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 7).
Every important aspect of Christ's life is stated or referred to in this introduction:
Verse 7 shows how far this gospel had spread by the time Paul wrote the letter. The next verses (1:8-16) teach the spiritual issues in spreading the gospel and also God's mode of operation in spreading it.
Paul's spiritual service (vss. 8-10). Paul calls on God to be his witness concerning the nature of his service. Here Paul indicates that the source of his service is in his personal spirit. A man's human spirit is the holy of holies in his personality, the fountainhead of spiritual service. It is the dwelling place of God's spirit. As a Jew and a Pharisee, Paul thought he served God even before his conversion but it had been only in "the letter which killeth." Now he served God "in the spirit."
Paul testified to the Galatians that god revealed His Son in him as a spiritual reality so that he might preach Christ among the Gentiles (Gal. 1:16). His spiritual service, Paul says in Romans 1:10, was carried on by ceaseless prayer and continual stretching out after the whole will of God.
Paul's spiritual methods (vss. 11-13). Paul longed to visit the Christians in Rome personally. These verses indicate that no vehicle of the gospel-whether letter, book, radio, television, or anything else-can be substituted for the personal presence of the servant of God. Even though Paul wrote them this wonderful letter that they could read and study, Paul felt a spiritual desire to see the Romans personally "that he might impart unto them some spiritual gift"-likely the gift or the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of Paul's trip to Rome was to come to them in person that he might have fruit among them. Men are God's mode of operation in spreading the gospel. This does not mean that God's servants do not use pen and ink, but rather that the imparting of spiritual power and gifts will never be complete apart from man-to-man contact.
Paul's spiritual attitude (vss. 14-16). Paul's dynamic attitude toward the spreading of the gospel is described in three phrases:
With this attitude, Paul reached out to fulfill the great commission in every way. As a result, God could say the same of Paul as Jesus had said of t he woman who anointed Him: [He] hath done what [he] could."
Verses 16 and 17 introduce the main content of the book of Romans. These verses contain the important aspects of salvation: faith, life, and justification.
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. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, but the righteous shall live by faith (1:16,17).
Dr. Norman Harrison, in his book on Romans, presents a concise analysis of these two verses, finding in the gospel seven main features:
Note especially that the content of the gospel is the righteousness of God. Righteousness is the sister truth to the great unifying theme of Romans, which is: "God hath raised him from the dead." In Romans 10:9, 10, the theme of the epistle is seen to be related to the righteousness of God:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and Shalt Believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness.
It is the gospel that reveals the righteousness of God-implying that the righteousness of God described by the law does not produce true righteousness. Paul substantiates this claim by a verse from the prophet Habakkuk: "The righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). "The righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4). This verse bears a statement of testimony by both Habakkuk and Paul. It is quoted three times in the New Testament (Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).
Vain are the hopes the sons of men
On their own works have built;
Their hearts by nature are unclean,
And all their actions guilt.
Let Jew and Gentile stop their mouths
Without a murmuring word,
And the whole race of Adam stand
Guilty before the Lord.
In vain we ask God's righteous law
To justify us now;
Since to convince and to condemn
Is all the law can do.
Jesus, how glorious is Thy grace
When in Thy name we trust!
Our faith receives righteousness
That makes the sinner just.
After presenting his introductory remarks to the five main parts of the gospel (1:1-17), Paul next gives a declaration of God's first purpose in raising Jesus from the dead-to judge the world which was under the wrath of God (1:18-3:20). This passage is a complete picture of the condition of the condemned. Paul's purpose is to plow up the ground of the depraved human heart. He has put his hand to the plow of inspiration and fixed his eye on the definite object. It is very necessary for us to know what Paul's object is.
This object is stated in Romans 3:9, which explains why Paul speaks as he does. He wants to prove that both the Jew and the Gentile are depraved. First he asks a question: "Are we [Jews] better than they [Gentiles]?" Then he proceeds to answer his own question:
No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they re all under sin (3:9).
Paul's object in this section is to show that all men are under the rule of sin; all are serfs and slaves of sin and depravity.
Section I, then, pictures the supreme court of the universe. It could be thought of as God's authority-both governmental and judicial-over a rebellious humanity. Already God's kingdom is fully realized in heaven, but our oft-repeated prayer is: "Thy kingdom come in earth, as it is in heaven." This is a courageous and brave prayer, and it will be answered. Some day the power of Christ will eliminate every hindrance in God's government-moral, spiritual, and physical. Ultimately and visibly God will rule over angels and men.
Chapters 1 through 3 of Romans describe the elements of God's government.
1. There is a divine Governor and Ruler who is the present judge of a sinful and disobedient people.
Christ is the divine Governor of the universe. Isaiah prophesied that the government would be upon His shoulder (Isa. 9:6,7). As divine Ruler, He has infinite attributes; in fact some of His attributes are stated as being His essential nature. For instance, we read in John's first epistle: "God is light" (I John 1:5) and God is love" (4:8,16); that is, God's divine will is holiness (light) and love. The epistle to the Romans states:
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (1:18).
We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against them that practise such things (2:2).
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ (2:16).
All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (3:23).
The desire of created beings to transgress God's divine will has always brought trouble. Before man ever came on the scene, the angels who "kept not their own principality, but left their proper habitation, he hath kept in everlasting bonds under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). Here Judge reveals God as a God of order and judgment as well as a God of love. Likewise, God gave Adam and Eve their proper habitation and told them their privileges and obligations. But they too left their proper state and came under the judgment of sin and death.
2. God's kingdom has order. He governs by laws.
The work of the law written in their hearts, Their conscience [inner law] bearing witness (2:15).
Having in the law [the outer law] the form of knowledge and of the truth (2:20).
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it speaketh to them that are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God (3:19).
All government has laws and commands. Laws are meant not merely for man's prohibition but also for his safety and well-being. God gave commandment to Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This command helped the first pair to be truly moral beings. It was meant to insure them full access to t he garden of paradise and the tree of life. A holy God can do no less.
I remember in my college there were some fellow students who hardly knew rules existed because they were in such accord with them. On the other hand, others complained about the rules of the school. Only when we are irritated or led into some disposition contrary to rules do they become troublesome.
3. God has made a penalty for broken law.
After thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to man according to his works (2:5, 6).
Penalty must be not only stated but also enforced. The above-stated punishments-physical, spiritual, and eternal death-are God's method of enforcement. In the first place, God in His justice declares and passes the sentence of physical death. The actuality of death is evident to all men. Moreover, as long as men are yet physically alive, the Holy Spirit presses home to each sinner's conscience that while he remains in his sins, he is in the dangerous condition of spiritual death. He is dead while he lives, or, as the Apostle Paul says of the unregenerate person, "dead through your trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).
The day will come when Christ will announce the final penalty-the horrors of the second death-that is eternal separation from God. John the apostle announces the is fact in Revelation 21:8: "The fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death."
We have an up-to-date testimony of God's enforcement of the law of physical death every time a funeral service is conducted. Even though the music may be sweet and the surroundings beautiful, the fact of physical death as the divine penalty for sin cannot help but sober the minds of those gathered for the service.
Spiritual death is also a reality. Though he be an agnostic, a skeptic, or an atheist, every man knows that such things as death, turbulence, sickness, disorder, insanity are ominous and often inescapable. Though a man is dead in his trespasses and sins, he still realizes that the message of the gospel touches issues he cannot thoroughly eliminate from his mind. These issues are stubborn symptoms of a moral and spiritual disorder.
God is giving a time of reprieve (postponed penalty) for the guilty (the unpardoned).
Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (2:4).
The present condition of the sinner in its legal aspect is like the condition of Starkweather, the notorious murderer. Until the final execution in 1958, Starkweather lived on in his cell only on the basis of several reprieves-that is, on the basis of delays of punishment of actual execution. Death was inevitable, however. Not any judge on earth nor any human justification could release him.
It is the very same with fallen man. God in mercy is giving the guilty a time of delayed sentence. In a recent article, "The Missing Note in Present-day Preaching," L. R. Shelton says: "Fallen man is not on trial, not on probation, but under a reprieve. He is already tried, already condemned, and already sentenced to death by the supreme Judge of the universe, in the condemned cell behind the prison bars of sin. He is already held captive by Satan, a prisoner of hell, and with no possibility of appeal nor grounds for appeal. Because he is already found guilty, the sentence has already been passed. Therefore unless mercy intervenes, the only thing to look forward to is death and judgment."
God, therefore, has put all mankind under a state of reprieve, a postponed penalty. In the forbearance and love of God, the execution of the death penalty is delayed and not immediately enforced. John's Gospel states: "He that believth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18, A.V.). The condemnation has already been passed; the execution is pending.
When a condemned man is headed for his execution and his days are numbered, death is all around him and life continues only in the hope of mercy. The world's pleasures become a matter of indifference. Because he is a condemned man, his mind turns from the optional to the critical, to matter of life and death. Every rumor or suggestion that mercy might be found becomes more important to him than anything else this world could offer him.
When the sinner realizes that God's law has been violated, that the divine government has declared him guilty, and that he is in the condition of reprieve, then such a one must understand that he is cast on the mercy of God alone.
If such a man tries to meet God on the basis of his own merits and works (on the basis of the law), he must finally find that his mouth has been stopped and he stands before God in abject moral and spiritual guilt.
By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight (3:20).
What then is an awakened sinner's attitude towards the offer of pardon in Christ Jesus? All flippancy is gone. All coldness and indifference appears brazen and disgusting. Such a man does not bargain with God or "just put in a vote for Jesus."
How does a sinner who recognizes he is guilty receive his pardon? The rest of the epistle to the Romans explains the issues clearly. It will be sufficient to say here that the conditions of pardon are twofold. First, a sinner must turn absolutely and unconditionally from all sin. His intention to turn from his own way or self-gratification must be complete. He must decide that he will never offend his holy Creator intentionally from this moment on.
Second, if this is his intention, he must also be ready to come under the supervision of Jesus Christ, the One who obtained his pardon by His death. For the rest of his life, the pardoned one will no longer be in a condition of reprieve (delayed sentence) but of probation (released with pardon). Too fulfill his probationary period, he must continue in the same attitude and the same spirit he had when he obtained the pardon. Christ is to be in charge of the days of his probation.
The Holy Spirit draws very sharp distinctions. In Romans 8, the chapter where the highest blessing of grace is revealed, Paul gives this warning to those in Christ:
Brethren if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (8:12-14).
The Gospels present the fact that Jesus is to be not only the Saviour of the sinner but also his Lord. Men cannot be saved without submitting to the One who obtained their pardon. But when two things are settled-repentance from sin and submission to Christ-the receiving of the pardon is a very spontaneous act of faith. The convicted sinner does not need to try to believe; in the soil of repentance his faith grows naturally. To all those who thus understand that they have been kept alive only on the basis of a reprieve, the gospel message is truly good news-the news that Jesus offers full and free pardon.
Man's reprieve, therefore, is a period of time given him by God to find out that justification before God is not by law, but Christ is the propitiation for his sins. The w hole purpose of God's reprieve to a sinner is to give him an opportunity to discover God's love and mercy as God's way of justification and peace.
What then can the law do and what can it not do? The law can condemn sins-it cannot forgive them. The law can require freedom-it cannot grant freedom. The law can demand spiritually-it cannot produce it. The fact that Jesus can forgive and give freedom and produce spirituality in men who feel their need indicates the great importance of presenting the law of God in its full force. The law makes men know that condemnation awaits them, that sinful bondages bind them, and that they have no spiritual life. All this makes necessary the redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.
To a man who has broken the Ten Commandments, the law has no grace nor forgiveness to offer; but it is "the ministration of death." The more a man faces the law as a transgressor, the more necessary it is that someone or some power apart from or outside of the law brings that deliverance for which the heart cries. John the Apostle heralds out the message: "The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
The crowning function of the law is to make men turn to the Lord Jesus. The law is become "our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24). The honorable function of the law is to make men heartily feel and consciously acknowledge their need of Christ. When the law does such a blessed work as this, how can we so foolishly neglect it?
For mercy's sake God gives probation to all pardoned ones who believe in His blood.
God set forth [Jesus Christ] to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance [reprieve] of God (3:25).
After a sinner receives pardon for his sins and welcomes Christ as his Saviour, his relationship to God is founded on an entirely new basis. He has passed from the condition of reprieve to the condition of probation-from the certainty of death to the fresh possibilities of life and glory in Christ, his new Lord and Saviour.Reprieve and probation, therefore, are not the same. Reprieve is the condition of an unpardoned man awaiting his execution. Probation follows a pardon. A sinner lives in this world only on the basis of a reprieve, but a saint lives on the basis of a probation.
The desperateness of man's sinful revolt against God's government must dawn not on the sinner and the world only but also on the believer in the church. If believers are to be soul-winners, they must see and feel the need of the sinner. They must see that each man who rejects Christ and refuses to turn away from his own way is like a man sitting in his cell awaiting the execution of the sentence. There is no probation in that, for he is condemned already "because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God."
These then are the six strong elements by which God judges the world in order to bring them to seek His love and mercy. God, the divine Governor and Ruler, is the present judge of a sinful and disobedient people. He governs by laws, for which there is a penalty when broken. This penalty is enforced. To the unpardoned sinner, God gives a period of delayed sentence. To the pardoned who believe in Christ's blood, He gives probation for His mercy's sake.
Romans 1:18-32 states the condition of the Gentile world. Throughout these few verses the pronouns used to refer to the Gentiles are they and them. Verse 19 says, "is manifest in them unto them," and verse 20, "that they may be without excuse." But who are they and them? How far back into history does Paul trace the condition of the Gentiles?
Adam and Eve and the pre-flood world did not do everything described in these verses; therefore these verses do not trace the guilt of the Gentile world as far back as the Garden of Eden. They point to a time following the flood. They deal with Noah's posterity. The history given in the details of these verses can be traced back to the great rebellion at the tower of Babel, very likely to the day of Nimrod, "the mighty hunter before Jehovah" (Gen. 10:8,9).
According to one translation, Nimrod was "a mighty rebel against the Lord." Verses 18-32 describe a time before the advent of the law on Sinai but nonetheless a time of moral responsibility.
A very instructive quotation concerning the tower of Babel from the book The Origin of Heathendom will clarify the time element of Romans 1:18-32.
In Genesis 11 everything seemed to favor the idea that it was the time for the fruition of the Satanic purpose. But as we learn from later Scriptures, the 'times and seasons' are subject to the overruling of the Most High; and on this occasion the Most High intervened: `The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth; and they left off to build the city' (Gen. 11:5-8). To understand this passage, we must read it in connection with the parallel passage, Romans 1:18-28.
Most commentators, when dealing with these verses, explain them as referring to what they rather hazily describe as the heathen world. Nothing, in my judgment, could be farther from the truth.
Where did the heathen world come from?
The two passages quoted above describe not the heathen world, but the origin of the heathen world. Further, I submit that these two passages, when read in their proper connection (i.e. the Romans passage being understood as descriptive of the moral condition of the people under consideration in Genesis 11:1-9), give us an explanation of the origin of heathendom which is acceptable to the human understanding; a rational explanation as opposed to the popular orthodox explanation, which is, in fact, as silly as it is unsatisfactory.
The popular explanation is something like this: man has a religious instinct, a tendency to worship. But man is a primitive state is ignorant, and hence incapable of rightly directing his religious tendencies. In his ignorance he bows down to whatever appeals vividly and forcefully to his imagination and understanding-natural phenomena such as rain, wind, thunder, the heavenly bodies, and so on. But when these ignorant ones come under the enlightening influence of civilization, when their eyes are opened and they are more or less educated, they gradually perceive that their former ideas are absurd, and eventually they take the same attitude towards religion as their instructors.
If that view be correct, idolatry is certainly not blameworthy. It is a condition that is natural-one might even say necessary-to a being constituted as man is constituted, in a condition of ignorance and inexperience.
But a Christian man, especially if he is a man who knows something about Scripture and is accustomed to think for himself, will ask, 'Why, if that is the proper explanation, is idolatry so emphatically and unsparingly denounced in the Scriptures-denounced not as a mistake but as the very essence of iniquity? Why are such terrible penalties attached to it?'
If anything is to be explained aright, all the facts are essential. The weak point in the popular explanation of idolatry is that instead of dealing with facts, it deals with one fact only, and that one fact it does not explain. The expounder of the poplar theory, in proof of the correctness of his position, will point out how some savage tribe or nation has responded to outside influences and become more or less civilized and relinquished its old-time ways and superstitions. Now the tribe is a fact. But it is an unexplained fact. How did that particular company of people come to be established where they were? How did they get into their original condition of ignorance and degradation?
If the expounder is of a scientific turn of mind, he will probably suggest evolution as the explanation. If he is a religionist, he will assume that God made them like that and put them there. The religionist will then promptly turn his own quite gratuitous assumption into one of the pet problems of theology-the problem of the origin of heathendom. How can the existence of large numbers of men and women in varying conditions of savagery and debasement be reconciled with the omnipotence, the omniscience, and the love of God? How could a God whose nature (if the Scriptures are to be followed) is essentially love, deliberately bring such creatures into existence and then leave them indefinitely? How could He do it? Just so. How could He? But did He?
Most of my readers are aware that on one occasion certain Sadducees came to the Lord and asked Him a question connected with resurrection. He said, referring to their question, `Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.' Whenever I hear Christian people discussing the origin of heathendom from the above standpoint, I always feel inclined to quote and say, `Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.'
Problem! There is no problem about it. The explanation is as plain and complete as could be desired. It is contained in those verses in Genesis 11 and Romans 1, quoted above.
In Genesis 11 we have the human race as it then existed, gathered in the land of Shinar; and we learn from Romans 1:18-29 that although they knew God, they deliberately gave Him up in three definite connections. As a result of their threefold repudiation of God (vss. 21-23, 25, and 26-28) and of God's threefold rejection of them (vss. 24, 26 and 28), they came to be in the awful state of corruption set forth in Romans 1:18-32, and also occupied materially in the manner set forth in Genesis 11:1-9. Thereupon God scattered them abroad as stated in Genesis 10:25 and 11:7,8. The heathen world, then, according to the Scriptures, owes its origin to the apostasy of the race and their dispersion resulting from this.
We cannot read Genesis 11:1-9 and Romans 1:18-29 without being struck by the fact that the moral condition of these people, awful as it was, is ignored in the Genesis passage. Of course, as we see from Romans 1, it was not really ignored. It was dealt with in the most drastic fashion, dealt with on principles set forth in a later Scripture: `They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices' (Prov. 1:30-31).
In other words, God allowed what we call natural law to take its course. Hence we read: 'Wherefore God also gave them up to dishonour their own bodies receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet being filled with all unrighteousness' (Rom. 1:24, 27, 29). (The Origin of Heathendom, by Ben Adam, Copyright 1963, published by Bethany Fellowship, Inc., Mpls., MN. Pages 41-47).
At the tower of Babel before the law was given at Sinai, what made man morally responsible? There were three things: conscience, nature, and knowledge. First, man had a conscience. He had instinctive knowledge of God within him. Verse 19 states:
The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.
Thirdly, man had knowledge of God and His will. This knowledge was directly available and sufficient to Noah and his descendants, for Paul says,
Knowing God, they glorified him not as God (vs. 21).
They refused to have God in their knowledge (vs. 28).
Knowing the ordinance of God (vs. 32).
Men sinned against conscience, against nature, and against knowledge. By sinning against all three, they sinned against God.
These verses also indicate that man's sinfulness touches three areas of his personality: spirit, mind, and body. (These three overlap.) Every part of man's being was contaminated by sin's influence.
Two facts are clear: first, man entered into his condition of sin by his own choice; secondly, man consequently began to experience conditions that he did not choose. Unexpected depravities followed his rebellious choices. Man is therefore a moral criminal, suffering also a moral calamity. Man made choices that he should not have made and became involved in conditions he could not control. These verses stand in bold denial of an evolution of manhood. They bear testimony to the devolution of mankind. They grace the descent of man from godly nobility to godless iniquity.
When Paul has finished his description of the conditions of the Gentile world, he realizes that many moralists and pharisaical religious zealots will agree with the divine X ray of Gentile sinfulness.
At this juncture, the Holy Spirit moves Paul to direct the divine X ray at the heart of the man who claims a better morality than the heathen. Paul proclaims a daring sentence:
Thou art without excuse, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou Judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; For thou that judges dost practise the same things (2:11).
As the chapter progresses, this charge is made more specific. The Jew is named, the Jew who feels that his heritage and enlightenment are far above the gross darkness of the Gentile world.
Paul uses a twofold approach to prove Jewish guilt: first, God's principles of judgment (2:1-16); secondly, the reality of Jewish guilt (2:17-3:8).
God's principles of judgment must be clear. We see first that God's judgment is according to truth, that is, according to man's real condition (2:1-3). Next His judgment is according to a man's works (2:4-6). Third, His judgment has no respect of persons (2:7-11). And the final principle is that His judgment is according to the gospel of Jesus Christ (2:12-16). These four principles must be clear in order that every man who wrongly claims justification from sin by culture, by relationship to race or creed, or by law, may be seen in his true condition of guilt. All man's own methods of justification are useless because they all retain selfish independence, and this is the main problem of depravity.
In the light of these four principles of divine judgment, the Holy Spirit now points out the reality of Jewish guilt. He who bears the name of Jew has certain privileges and can make certain claims (vss. 19 and 29). But in the light of these privileges and claims, Paul puts the Jew and every religious professor under a spiritual third degree, so to speak, concerning his own practical righteousness. The Holy Spirit seeks only genuine righteousness in man.
Teachest thou not thyself? (vs. 21).
Dost thou steal? (vs. 21).
Doest thou commit adultery? (vs. 22).
Dost thou rob temples? (vs. 22).
Finally Paul says:
Thou who gloriest in the law, through thy transgression of the law Dishonorest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed Among the Gentiles because of you, even as it is written (vss. 23,24).
Paul's next argument (2:25-29) is simple. The last citadel of Jewish pride in Paul's day was circumcision. But circumcision, which is a fleshly sign, does not fulfill the divine requirement of the law. He is truly a Jew who is a Jew inwardly in his heart before he is a Jew outwardly in his flesh.
Next Paul answers the question,
What advantage then hath the Jew? or What is the profit circumcision? (3:1).
Israel was separated first and foremost to bring to the world God's written revelation, "the oracles of God." Yet Israel's lack of faith robbed them of the sense of this glorious privilege so that they were like a great house wired with electrical current but with the fuse missing and the switch unpulled. Lack of faith caused the darkness, but the faithfulness of God remained unchanged.
Romans 3:4-8 is man's last stand for self-justification-an attempt of a guilty sinner to cast a shadow on God's character. He questions God's faithfulness (3:3), His righteousness (3:5), His truth (3:7), and His justice (3:8). Why? Because he reasons that God gets a measure of advantage out of his sin. But can a criminal claim a right to leniency before his judge because a crime gives continued employment to policemen, lawyers and judges? When a sentence is passed on the guilty, can the law-enforcement officers be blamed for injustice? No. "Let God be true and every man a liar."
The conclusion of the whole matter concerning mankind's guilt is given in 3:9: "What then, Are we [Jews] better than they [Gentiles]? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin."
Man's sin is against God. For Him to override His own justice and release man from the penalty of sin would be to nullify His law and His government. As judge of the whole world, God must judge all sin.
The Holy Spirit makes tow staggering claims in Romans 3:9-20. First, all people are guilty before God. Secondly, man has no righteousness apart from God. No other Scriptures present these two facts so conclusively.
The Holy Spirit's first claim here is that all men are guilty. This truth is widely accepted. Paul underlines the fact of universal guilt in the language:
They are all under sin.
There is none righteous, no, not one.
There is none that seeketh after God.
They have all turned aside.
They are together become unprofitable.
There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one.
All the world may be brought under the Judgment of God.
No flesh [shall] be justified (vss. 9-20).
The second claim is that without God man has no righteousness. This truth is hard to accept, even when we understand the words Paul writes. To try to apply the claims of verses 10-18 does not seem to fit every unsaved person that we know-the unrighteous as well as those who seem to be righteous. What, then, is the meaning of these verses? They are a picture of a man who lacks not only God's regenerating power but also God's restraining power. This description fits any man whom God has "given up" to his own way. After all, a man's keeping the law does not change the basic fact of his inward capacity for moral failure. All men have sinned. All men are wholly defiled by sin. This sin is essentially moral depravity.
What is moral depravity? First, man is born without an inner relationship with God. Ephesians 2:12 says man is "without God in this world." He is without the Spirit. This means that man has no inward spiritual resources in God. He is cooped up, so to speak, within his own powers of mind, flesh, and will.
Second, man is born of the flesh and "that which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John 3:6). This means that a little baby's first inward resources are the sensibilities of the flesh. After that, a child's will and his reason are developed.
Third, at birth a child is influenced first of all by the automatic inclinations and appetites of the flesh rather than by the voluntary choices of his will and reason. This means he is influenced more quickly by fleshly desires than by the voice and consciousness of the Spirit.
Fourth, as a child's will consciously operates, he yields to the insistence of the fleshly desires which have already formed habits in his life. Self-gratification becomes the end for which he lives. This is the beginning of moral depravity. This produces in man the conception of sin and the spirit of disobedience.
The first section of this great epistle (1:18-3:20) declares that God's purpose in raising Jesus from the dead is to judge a world that is under the wrath of God. At the end of this section, which exposes the state of man's sinful conditions, we have Romans 3:20 as a summary verse.
Because by the works of the law shall no Flesh be justified in his sight; for through The law cometh the knowledge of sin.
Embedded in this verse we have a dual truth about the law: (1) what the law can do-probe the heart; (2) what the law cannot do-cure the heart. Here is the balance of truth that we need to understand and appreciate in preaching and experience. It is the gospel which is the cure.
In fundamental churches we have gone through an era in which we have preached the gospel cure but have neglected the law's probing diagnosis. Christians, in general, believe in the cure-the good news of the wonderful, saving power of Christ's life, death, burial, and resurrection for the remission of our sins. But we have acted as if we did not want any diagnosis. Men have been suspicious of any preaching of the Ten Commandments, which diagnose man's sinful condition. Yet the knowledge of sin is by the law (3:20). The experience of salvation of many men has often been pale and uncertain because sin has been more of an abstraction than a conviction.
Imagine a doctor who recommends a cure at random without any kind of diagnosis. Such a doctor would lose his reputation and finally his practice. That is exactly what the Church is faced with when it ceases to preach the law of God as the divine diagnosis of man's state. Only when man is under the searchlight and the X ray of God's divine law and when the Holy Spirit is working in his heart is the divine cure of the gospel greatly attractive to him. Only then does he search for a cure for himself.
On the day of Pentecost this working of the Spirit was experienced by the 3,000. Conviction gripped the people's hearts, and they knew they were sinners. It was not the apostles but these convicted people who gave the altar call, crying out, "What must we do to be saved?" To them peter declared the saving grace that is in Jesus Christ.
We must have both the law and the gospel-the law as a diagnosis and the gospel in contrast to the law as God's method of saving us, it seems as if we speak disparagingly of the law. Paul himself seems to imply this when he says in Romans 7 that in the death of Christ the believer already died to the law. Paul's argument in Romans 7 is that the law has no saving power. But in order to rescue the law from disrepute and defend it, Paul asks the question: "Is the law sin?" and answers that the law is not sin but that it is good (7:7)
This question arises then: In what way is the law defective? Why must we, as Scripture says, die to the law? (Rom. 7:4). The answer is that the law has not failed at all. It has fulfilled its function. But our attitude and relationship to the law is wrong. A man who seeks justification by the law is exercising the very center of his depraved condition-self. He is exercising independence of God. He is still bound by his wretched self-centeredness. Besides trying to run his life himself, he is trying to have righteousness by himself. In the sight of God, it is this self-righteousness, this independent righteousness, which is "filthy rags."
There should be no confusion between the law and the gospel. They are similar in one main issue: both of them insist on the necessity of righteousness in the life of man. However, even though they have similar and ultimate goals, they have two completely different functions. The law is a map pointing to a moral destination-righteousness. But you cannot get to your destination by seeing directions on the map. The law is light, revealing what God demands and what God can provide.
But the law is not the dynamic to bring us to righteousness any more than a map provides the dynamic to arrive at a destination. The law can do nothing but diagnose. The gospel is the power of God to bring us to righteousness.
The law, as we have already seen, has a divinely necessary work to do, but it has limits. As a preview to a more complete discussion, we now present three premises concerning the law's limitations.
The law is God's method of diagnosing man's problem, to show man his sin, and to reveal to man his selfishness. The law cannot cure. A doctor may say to the patient, "You have cancer," or "You have a disease." But knowledge of it only increases the patient's dilemma if the disease is incurable. His cry is for a moral and spiritual cure, found only in Jesus Christ.
The gospel is the glorious message introduced in Section II of Romans. This we have entitled "God hath raised Him from the dead to justify sinners."
Jesus, my Advocate above,
My Friend before the throne of love,
If now for me prevails Thy prayer,
If now I find Thee pleading there-
If Thou the secret wish convey
And sweetly prompt my heart to pray,
Hear, and my weak petition join,
Almighty Advocate, to Thine.
Jesus, my heart's desire obtain,
My earnest suit present and gain,
My fullness of corruption show,
The knowledge of myself bestow.
Save me from death; from hell set free;
Death, hell are but the want of Thee.
My Life, my only heaven Thou art;
Oh, let Thy presence fill my heart.
Some of the old Scottish divines used to ask young aspiring preachers to explain Romans 3:23-26. They called these four verses the "marrow of theology."
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul revealed God's wrath against the unrighteousness and sin of the world and the impossibility of justification by the law. The law could demand but could not produce righteousness in the heart. The next chapters show how man is freed. God raised up Jesus Christ to justify sinners by His blood and righteousness.
Apart from [outside] the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (3:21,22).
Justification is made available by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and His shed blood.
Three great facts about justification are explained in Section II:
It is important to notice that God's approach to man is a governmental approach. The government of man cannot adequately reveal every facet of the kingdom and government of God, yet the following analogy will at least help to understand God's actions toward sinfulness.
For the purpose of order and peace in society, all good government action is twofold-that is, its executive powers go in two main directions. One form of action of all good government is benevolent and defensive. It gives aid where aid is needed. It extends honor, mercy, protection, and improvement for the people under it. It works for the public as a friend! Many people who live and die under such a rule have no sense of governmental opposition.
The other form of action of good government is judicial and offensive. It authorizes police officers and penitentiaries to arrest, imprison, and punish lawbreakers. Because it demands public order within the realm of its governing power, it penalizes broken laws. It can also conscript an army and declare war on a foe that may threaten the security of the nation. Good government, therefore, has power to display wrath as well as benevolence.
Every phase of the government of God originates in His holy love. His government also has two actions toward man: the one is benevolent, the other judicial; the one is defensive, the other offensive. The only difference is this: all men have broken God's laws; all men are under the judgment of God; all men are under the law. God's verdict against all men is this:
That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God (3:19).
These two actions of God's government-the benevolent and the judicial-have never been outmoded. Today all men must decide whether they will live under God's benevolent action (grace) or under His judicial action (law). (See Romans 6:14). All men must decide what condition will exist in their hearts.
As we have noticed, it is important for us to see that God's approach to man is a governmental approach. He has policies and laws concerning His dealings with mankind. His laws never meant to take the place of the gospel; neither was the gospel meant to eradicate or annihilate the law. The law is not a substitute for grace but a discipline preparing us for grace. As Paul indicates in Galatians 3:24, "The law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ."
Law and grace each has its particular function. Each exists apart from the other. The law is God's present method of conviction to aid in the exposure of man's sin and rebellion. In it God is revealed as a God of judgment and order. On the other hand, the gospel is God's eternal and present method of acceptance and regeneration. In it God is revealed as the God of mercy.
Both law and grace aim at one result-the righteousness of God. The law presents the demand for righteousness, and the gospel presents the dynamic for righteousness. In this emphasis on righteousness they agree.
God's problem as a benevolent ruler was to deliver sinners from just condemnation for sin but at the same time to remain righteous. The righteousness of God is a central element in the New Testament. The epistle to the Romans is full of truth relative to His righteous government. Righteousness is to God's kingdom and government what good citizenship is to human society.
Because of man's commitment to self-gratification, he is not inclined to keep the law that condemns him. God, therefore, set forth His action of mercy and remission in His Son, Jesus Christ. In Him men discover that God's just government is a government not only of judgment but also of mercy and grace.
At this particular point in Romans, therefore, Paul is presenting the merciful and divine act of God's government. Paul is showing God's loving provision for sinful man's justification "apart from [outside] the law." God's purpose in raising up Jesus Christ from the dead was to justify sinners by Christ's blood and righteousness:
Justified freely by his grace through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus (3:24).
All men are either under law or under grace. Any person who defends his own attempts at justification is operating on the basis of works and is approaching God through the dispensation of law. He is meeting God in His holiness and justice. But any person who admits his sin, turns from the law of works, casts himself on the mercy of God, and depends solely on the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus is operating on the basis of the law of faith and is approaching God through grace. He meets the same God but discovers God's heart of mercy and love.
The foundation of God's throne is justice, righteousness, and holiness. These attributes are at the core of all God does, whether it be the giving of the law for the knowledge of our sins, or the giving of His Son as a propitiation for our sins. The only way to know the One who sits upon the throne and to understand his loving heart is to approach God in repentance and faith through Jesus' blood and righteousness.
Jesus, my Advocate above,
My Friend before the throne of love,
If now for me prevails Thy prayer,
If now I find thee pleading there-
If Thou the secret wish convey
And sweetly prompt my heart to pray,
Hear, and my weak petition join,
Almighty Advocate, to Thine
Jesus, my heart's desire obtain,
My earnest suit present and gain,
My fullness of corruption show,
The knowledge of myself bestow.
Save me from death; from hell set free;
Death, hell are but the want of Thee.
My Life, my only heaven Thou art;
Oh, let Thy presence fill my heart.
Here Paul speaks of the solution of the greatest problem that can ever confront God or man-the problem of man's sin versus God's holiness. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which settles this great problem which came as a result of man's fall. It is His death that is God's means for man to obtain the righteousness of God.
Much is included in the phrase "the righteousness of God." In 3:21-26 the righteousness of God stands in complete contrast to that which Paul calls "a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law" (Phil. 3:9). God's means of obtaining this righteousness in the heart of man is the blood of Jesus Christ.
Paul clearly declares justification by Christ's blood:
God set forth [Christ] to be propitiation [the blood-sprinkled mercy seat] for sin, through faith, in his blood (3:25).
Being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath of God through him (5:9).
The four great effects of the blood of Jesus Christ.
The blood of Jesus points Godward and manward. It obtained remission before the death of Jesus, and it is the source of grace and justification to those of us who have lived after His death. We will now treat these four great effects of the blood of Jesus in detail.
The Blood of Jesus Godward
God is absolutely holy in His rule. The divine abhorrence for sin cannot be settled by simply saying "God is love." Love does "find a way." But that does not eliminate the fact that the terror of the Lord against sin is revealed to us:
The wrath of God is revealed from heaven Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (1:18).
Concerning the impenitent we read:
After thy hardness and impenitent heart Treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works Unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek (2:5,6,8,9).
God's wrath is not a mere emotional response to man's sin. Propitiation is shown to be a person in the New Testament-and that person is Christ. He is our mercy seat, the place where all sin can be covered and forgiven. Propitiation is not man's act or attempt to appease an angry God. This is a heathen conception. The heathen believes he can appease God's wrath with gift or sacrifice. However, the Bible teaches that propitiation is God's act in order to provide a mercy seat for sinful man. This act is rooted in God's love. It is not meant to be an emergency release valve to alleviate the pressure of God's wrath. The Apostle John describes it as god's act and as a provision of love: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4:10).
God set forth Jesus to be a propitiation, Through faith, in his blood (3:25).
Stephen availed himself of this office of Jesus as the propitiation before the throne. While he was being martyred, his appeal was this: "Lord Jesus, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). Stephen knew well that the only way God could manifest His mercy for the crime of killing a saint was by an appeal to the son of man himself. It was the prayer of Stephen that made it possible for Jesus to meet Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus with the encounter of mercy.
The Blood of Jesus Manward
The blood of Jesus not only acts as a mercy seat for man, but it justifies man. For those who repent of their sins and come for the mercy provided for in Jesus Christ, there is a manward effect of the blood. God will not lay sin to the account of the repentant man but rather He will lay to his account the righteousness of Christ. By the blood of Jesus, God changes the standing of the penitent from that of guilty to that of "accepted in the beloved" (Eph. 1:6). Thus the condemnation of sin has been completely removed. God can now deal in divine favor and love with a repentant person.
The Blood of Jesus Typified Before He Came to Die
The cross points backward and forward-the period before Calvary and the period after Calvary.
First of all, the blood of Jesus obtained remission for Old Testament believers in God. It was always god's plan to send Hi Son to die for man's sin and thereby extend forbearance (reprieve) and remission for sins committed before redemption was accomplished at Calvary.
In the Old Testament God's open testimony to this fact of remission was revealed in the tabernacle in the wilderness. By means of its brazen altar where the blood of bulls, goats, and lambs were constantly slain, God indicated that He would manifestly deal with sin by means of the future sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. This sacrifice of Jesus would make possible God's passing over the sins done aforetime"-the exercising of forbearance to the Old Testament would, not only toward the Jews but toward the Gentiles.
If God had not fulfilled His promises in the sacrifice of His Son, Satan could have claimed the death penalty for all who believed in God before Calvary, for God could not justly have kept them alive. But Satan was kept from advantage over the Old Testament believers because god had sworn by himself that there would be an adequate sacrifice for the sins of men. Thus God kept back wrath from the Old Testament world and kept it in a state of reprieve.
The Old Testament relationship to Calvary's cross would be somewhat the same as that of a man condemned for a crime and yet released on bail. Because the courtroom scene has not yet been enacted, he lives in comparative freedom, even though he is worthy of death. Why? Because the sentence has not yet been decided. Calvary was God's great courtroom scene. There in the death of Christ on a cross, God made it possible to clear away all the past issues of guilt and condemnation from the Old Testament believers and thus to magnify before men, angels, and demons the purpose of His wonderful forbearance and longsuffering.
The Blood of Jesus Christ for the Present Age
The cross also pointed to the future-to those who would yet believe on Christ after Calvary. The blood of Jesus is a propitiation before the throne of God and it obtained justification for all men, both before and after Calvary. It brought remission to the believers of the Old Testament, and also to those who now come to Jesus Christ. This is the meaning of Romans 3:26:
For the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus
This is the glad message of the church. By the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ on the cross, every problem of fallen man has been potentially and graciously settled. Nothing can be added to this great sacrifice. It stands complete and perfect for all time. No wonder Charles Wesley wished to declare this message to all mankind:
Oh, for a trumpet voice
On all the world to call,
To bid their hearts rejoice
In Him who died for all;
For all, for all the Saviour died!
For all my Lord was crucified!
Paul continues to unfold the revelation of Christ "raised again for our justification." He shows that the channel through which we receive God's righteousness and justification is faith in Jesus.
Paul presents the primacy of faith in these three subjects:
The Principle or Law of Faith (3:27-31)
Since the time of the Reformation, we have spoken freely about justification by faith alone. Yet something has happened to the word faith. Often we lose the original meaning and content of Scriptural words; or even more dangerous than that, we tend to put other meanings into Scriptural words, meanings not found in the Bible. It is as though we put apple juice on the label but vinegar in the bottle. People sometimes become suspicious of labels. Thus we need to re-emphasize the true meaning of faith.
Scripture calls man's basic failure in obtaining the righteousness of God "the law of works." It calls man's basic success in obtaining righteousness "the law of faith." These two laws need to be considered carefully.
In Romans 3:27 Paul gives one of the main secrets of the difference between these two laws:
Where then is the glorying? It is excluded. By what manner of law? Of works? Nay: but by a law of faith (3:27).
The law of works promotes boasting; faith excludes it. The law of works fails to make men righteous; the law of faith succeeds in making them righteous. God insists o n faith rather than law for personal justification. The law of faith cancels pride in order to preserve God's glory. God says, "Not of works, that no man should glory."
When a man works to attain righteousness, he is thrown on his own resources, his own moral energy. Thus when he achieves a relative standard of righteousness which seems to be better than other men's, he glories; he is boastful; he is proud. The law of works makes man boast in his own achievements; the law of faith glories in God alone.
This is exactly the thought that Jesus taught in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. The Pharisee prayed thus with himself: "I thank thee; that I am not as the rest of men, or even as this publican" (Luke 18:11). The Pharisee was self-righteous. A man is self-centered if he is not God-centered, for all men have some motivation. Men who operate under the law of works have a morality, but it is self-centered. The main element in all depravity is selfishness. By the law of works the very self that Jesus said His disciples should deny is enthroned. Self-enthronement is an abomination in the sight of God. No wonder the prophet Isaiah said, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy garments."
Over this very issue of independence Satan began his deceptive career. His first temptation was to entice the human race to act independently. Eve acted independently of Adam, and Adam acted in dependently of God. They acted from their own souls, from their own selves. Thus depravity came in and contaminated the whole human race.
Self has no innate qualities of true holiness apart from God. Jesus gave one flat command concerning self: "Deny thyself." The most cultured ways of self are the ways of death. But the law of works propagates and preserves the spirit of independence. The law of works operates against God's whole plan in creating and redeeming mankind. Man certainly has the power to choose freely-but only that he might choose the way God has designed for him.
One common expression and attitude abroad in our day concerning the law is this: "No one can keep the law. Nobody is perfect!" Though this expression may be true of each man in his unrepentant state-because he is still committed to self-gratification-it seriously limits God's divine provision in Christ. Humanity has neither a righteousness of its own which could ever please God nor a perfection of its own. Scripture emphasizes the truth that all men are sinners, and God must visit wrath on all unrepentant sinners.
Again we say, from the divine side, that to deny the possibility of righteousness is to frustrate the very meaning of redemption through Christ and His cross. The church sometimes parrots statements about our inabilities to keep the law, and then these statements become a convenient smoke screen. To make practical steps of faith null and void. Isolated verses of Scripture may seem to convey the thought that unrighteousness must continue to remain in believers. But when such verses are studied in the light of their context, we see that God's revealed purpose for man is practical holiness and righteousness "in all manner of living."
For instance, the statement "All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God: is a fact which is true of man in his sinful state. But this statement cannot be applied to a man who has found the "much more" of the grace of Jesus or to the man who knows the power of Christ's blood and Christ's Spirit.
It is so good to k now that verses about man's sinfulness are meant to announce not an unalterable fate for man but rather a universal fact about fallen man. No fate hangs over mankind determining a permanent sinful state within him. Rather, in God's Word there is announcement of man's failure to be what he ought to be before a holy God.
The Bible never teaches that man's failure to attain righteousness is a life-long necessity. It points out, instead, that man's failure is due to a basic problem which when recognized and remedied can establish the law.
What are the characteristics of the law of faith? Faith in Jesus Christ is not self-centered, man-centered, or independent. Faith is God-centered. Faith leans. Faith glorifies God. Faith has everything to do with God's way but nothing to do with man's way. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning of a new righteousness which finds God in Christ Jesus at its very center.
The parables of Jesus teach man's dependence on God. Jesus illustrated this dependence when He said that He was the Vine and we are the branches. A branch has no life except in a vine. Without the vine a branch is dead. Even so, the law of faith grafts us into Jesus Christ; the law of works leaves us without the life of the true Vine.
Jesus also said He was the Good Shepherd and we are the sheep. A sheep has no guidance except through a guide, a shepherd. Without a shepherd, a sheep is lost. Without our Shepherd, we are lost. The law of faith keeps us close to Jesus Christ, our wonderful Shepherd, who laid down His life for us that we might be saved completely. But the law of works robs us of our Shepherd, leaving us in a cold wilderness of man's morality, and ending in death.
Why has God chosen faith as the channel for our justification? Faith is essentially a part of God's order in creation. In one sense faith was not chosen by God. Let me explain.
If God had a choice as to how men should be justified, only one of two ways could be taken: either by the law (principle) of works or by the law (principle) of faith. But by its very nature, the law of works strengthens man's depravity and independence and therefore is contrary to God's will. Works are man-cantered and make men boasters, for they throw man back on his own resources. The law of works is really a rejection of God's rule over man's life.
It is the law of faith which glorifies God, exalting His saving work and making God the center of man's salvation. We must therefore receive our justification as a gift from God. We cannot manufacture it ourselves. God's method of receiving faith follows the same rule that Paul laid down when he said, "What has thou that thou didst not receive? But if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?" (I Cor. 4:7).
This faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified has omnipotent powers to slay the rule of sin and to transform all of life. In the Bible this faith is not intellectual but rather it is the whole man resting his whole life on the perfect Redeemer and Lord. Thus the testimony of I John 5:4,5: "This is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith. And who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"
Moreover, this law of faith does not make its appeal to only a segment of mankind but is the way for God to be God of Gentile and Jew alike.
Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yea, of Gentiles also (3:29).
The History of Faith (4:1-16)
In these verses Paul presents two leaders, Abraham and David. No two Old Testament characters were so revered as Abraham, the father of the nation, and King David, the father of the established kingdom. Both Abraham and David testify to justification by grace through faith and not by circumcision and law.
Abraham was justified by faith before the advent of circumcision or law:
Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned Unto him for righteousness (4:3).
David was justified by grace after circumcision and law were deeply incorporated into the life of Israel:
David also pronounceth blessing upon the Man, unto whom God reckoneth righteousness Apart from works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not reckon sin (4:6-8).
How then is the reckoning of righteousness possible? By two radical acts: first, an objective occurrence-the vicarious death of Jesus Christ and His actual bearing of our guilt and sin. This occurred once for all at Calvary nearly two thousand years ago (II Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:5,6). Secondly, a subjective act-a change in each individual sinner through repentance and faith. Repentance is turning from sin, from self-vindication, and from self-trust. Faith is a turning unto Christ as the one source of forgiveness and righteousness.
The Dynamic of Faith (4:17-5:0)
The Apostle Paul next describes the power of Abraham's faith in God to fulfill God's promises to him that in his seed would all the nations of the earth be blessed. In Abraham's life the following issues are clear (4:17-22).
A father of many nations have I made thee, before whom he believed, even God, who giveth life to the dead, and calleth the things that are not, as though they were (4:17).
In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, To the end that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which has been spoken (4:18).
Without being weakened in faith he considered not his own body now as good as dead and the deadness of Sarah's womb (4:19).
Yet, looking unto the promise of God (4:20).
Waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God (4:20).
Fully assured that what he had promised, he was also able to perform (4:21)
Wherefore also it was reckoned unto him for righteousness (4:22).
We also receive this blessing in our lives (4:23-5:1) by faith in God's promise, just as Abraham had righteousness imputed to him by faith in God, who raised Jesus from the dead. Justification by faith can become a reality for all men.
In Romans 5:1-9 we have not the explanation of justification by faith as much as a record of the blessed results in the justified heart. First, the guilt of sin is removed. The believer begins to have fellowship with the redeeming Lord. A believer comes to have peace with God.
Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1).
Second, God gives a believer access in prayer to His very throne, access whereby he can obtain grace to live for Him.
Through whom also we have had our access by faith into this grace wherein we stand (5:2).
The same faith that justified gives access to the unmerited, enabling grace of God.
At the end of chapter 5, Paul explains the truth that grace, the mighty force of redemption, is stronger than all the power of sin and death. Because of this grace, we can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (5:2). This hope means that believers have expectation of full restoration through God's glorious redemption.
The next three verses introduce the fact that "through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom."
And not only so, but we also rejoice in our Tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh steadfastness; and steadfastness, approvedness; and approvedness, hope: and hope putteth not to shame; because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given Unto us (5:3-5).
Tribulation works patience in the saint; that is, it works steadfastness. Steadfastness exercises the Christian's devotion. It gives him experience. Difficulties and obstacles help to develop maturity of character, that is, "approved faith and tried integrity" (5:4, A.N.T.). Character of this kind produces a buoyant hope, a living expectancy that the love of God is for him and in him. A new power of good will is the crowning act of regeneration.
The love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us (5:5).
One of the first warnings that the apostles gave to the church was that the Christian life on the horizontal level would not be without tribulation, but that in the midst of it the Christian would make his boast in the Lord, knowing that tribulation is in the control of the love of God.
Next Paul gives a most penetrating analysis of divine love.
For while we were yet weak, in due season Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: for peradventure for the good man some one would even dare to die. But God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:6-8).
Love is described as God's activity meeting man in his most depraved state and redeeming him through the death of Jesus Christ. God's love is never tardy. With outstretched and nail-scarred hands, it meets every crisis.
Christ meets men when they are without strength, ungodly, sinners, and enemies. These are the conditions of the alienated heart of man. Man did not ascend to God, but rather the love of God in Christ Jesus descended to embrace man in his deepest need.
The apostles John and Paul said these same things through their two different personalities. John said, "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). Paul said,
God commendeth his own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (5:8).
We have next the highest expression of divine joy.
We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation (5:11).
Paul states plainly three abiding realities of justification in the Christian life: faith (vs. 1); hope (vs. 2); love (vs. 5). The truly justified man has all the necessary endowments of divine grace to begin to lay hold of the full inheritance of sanctification. According to Romans 5:1-9, then, the believer has peace and access to God and grace. He has hope of heaven and glory. He has a new patience in tribulation and a knowledge of the love of God, the love of God pervading the heart by the Holy Spirit. The truly justified is ready to "press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
Every true Christian deeply appreciates Paul's words:
Being therefore justified by faith, we have Peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (5:1).
With this message, Paul heralds throughout the Roman empire that which shook the church loose from the works-righteousness of the Pharisees.
In the first half of the eighth century, John of Damascus wrote the following lines exalting Jesus who was raised from the dead for his justification:
'Tis the spring of souls today,
Christ has burst His prison,
And from three days' sleep in death
As the Son has risen;
All the winter of our sins,
Long and dark, is flying
From His light, too whom we give
Land and praise undying.
In the sixteenth century the battle cry of the Reformation were to Martin Luther, and thousands through him, these lines:
Being therefore justified by faith,
we have peace with God.
Paul had already mentioned that justification is accomplished by Christ's blood and by faith. In Romans 5:1 he says that we are justified by faith, and in 5:9 that we are justified by Christ's blood. Now in 5:10-25 Paul exalts the grace of God as much more effective than any evident power of sin and death.
The illustration Paul uses is that of two kingdoms that assert their reign and influence; first, the reign of sin and death; secondly, the reign of righteousness and life. Note these two reigns in the words Paul uses:
1. The Reign of Sin and Death-Law
Death reigned from Adam until Moses (5:14).
Death reigned through the one (5:17).
Sin reigned in death (5:21).
2. The Reign of Righteousness and Life-Grace
They that receive he abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life (5:17).
Grace reigns [s] through righteousness (5:21).
The argument is this: Paul claims that in every way the kingdom of righteousness and life which came through Christ is stronger than and superior to the kingdom of sin and death which came through Adam. Paul proclaims the following contrasts:
1. The gift of grace is more dynamic than Adam's offense.
Much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many (5:15).
2. Justification has a larger capacity and effect than condemnation.
The judgment came of one unto condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses unto justification (5:16).
3. The recipients of grace are rulers, whereas the victims of sin are ruled over.
Much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ (5:17).
4. The justification of life is as universal and available as condemnation.
The free gift came unto all men (5:18).
5. Christ's obedience makes us righteous as certainly as Adam's disobedience makes us sinners.
Through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous (5:19).
6. In the very place that sin and death reign, grace can set up the reign of righteousness and life.
Where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly (5:20).
Verses 15 and 16 tend to be confusing because they combine a similarity with a difference. In the King James Version we read,
Not as the offence, so also is the free gift. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift (5:15, 16).
To read this passage with understanding, two facts concerning the manner of the reigns of death and of life must be kept in mind; first, these two reigns are alike as to their sphere of influence; secondly, they are unlike as to their manner of influence. Though the sphere of sin is the same as the sphere of grace, the manner of influence is utterly different. Adam's sin was a weak inclination; Jesus' redemption was a holy obligations. Those under the reign of death are passive subjects; those under the reign of life are active kings. The condemnation of Adam is the result of strict justice; the justification of the sinner is a result of abundant mercy.
The wonderful message of these verses is that of abundant, overwhelming grace and power in Christ. From the standpoint of God's provision, there is more reason for us to be righteous than sinful. Holy living and spiritual life are stronger than uncleanness and spiritual death.
Paul is comparing two opposite kingdoms: the kingdom of sin and death (through Adam), and the kingdom of grace and life (through Christ). A look at the chart on the federal headship of Adam and Christ (pages 84) will clarify the fact of the two kingdoms. Chart number five illustrates the relationship of man to sin, law and grace.
No man can have allegiance to both Adam and Christ at the same time. To have allegiance to Christ, one must repudiate his relationship to sin in the kingdom of Adam, receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness, and thus come under the kingdom of Christ. Into this picture comes the law of God to accentuate the danger of sin and to necessitate the abounding grace of God.
The following quotation from The Cross and Sanctification by T. A. Hegre, clarifies both the federal headship of Adam and Christ and the fact that grace is presented as a mighty dynamic for victorious righteousness.
Adam was more than just the first man on earth. He was head of the whole human race, so that 'in Adam' the whole race fell from a sinless level (where there was fellowship and communion with God) to a new level of sin (where there was a break in relationship with God). This new level to which Adam and the race fell is the sin and flesh level, where man lives for self. All men are born into the world on this level. Sin is inevitable there.
It is evident that God knew the Fall would occur. Long before the creation, He made provision for the Fall by `the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world' (Rev. 13:8, A.V.) For this provision to become actual history, the eternal Word of God had to leave heaven, come to earth, become flesh, and to be the first to walk on the sinless level (the same level on which Adam walked before the Fall). 'Christ Jesus existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped [clung to], but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men' (Phil. 2:5-7).
Jesus met every temptation and every trial that Adam should have met and that Adam would have met had he not fallen. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and yet God says He was without sin (Heb. 4:15). Jesus did not fail. Surely such a One, who himself hath suffered being tempted, is able to succor us who are tempted (Heb. 2:18).
Having fully finished His earthly testings, on the day of His death Jesus stepped down from the sinless level to the sin and flesh level. He was made to be sin on our behalf (II Cor. 5:21). As soon as He touched our sin and took sin upon himself, He died--`obedient' even unto death, yea, the death of the cross' (Phil. 2:8). That was Calvary!
Most of us have not had any difficulty understanding or believing that we were all involved in Adam's fall and were born not in the image of God but in the fallen image of Adam. This is depravity and is clearly manifested by our weakened bodies, our impaired minds, and our disturbed emotions. It is also manifested in that a child becomes committed to selfishness even before reason is developed. Thus the Bible categorically states that everyone chooses sin: 'All we like sheep have gone astray'-because of the depravity mentioned above and also because of the devil's temptations, the pull of the world, and the almost-universal example of selfishness.
We must bear in mind that we are born into an anti-Christ, pro-self world. The result of choosing self (selfness, selfishness) is moral depravity-depravity of the free will. Each man becomes a voluntary transgressor and is verily guilty.
Though Adam was the federal head of the human race, the representative man, he was but the 'figure of him that was to come' (Rom. 5:14). The real head is the last Adam, Christ. Yet if Adam, the figure, could take the whole human race into sin, surely Christ, the substance of that figure, could take the whole race back to God.
As Jesus Christ hung on the cross of Calvary, He died not only for us (as our substitute) but as us (as our representative). He was united with the human race and became our representative so that when He hung on the cross, we hung there with Him. When He died, we died. When He was buried, we were buried. As far as God is concerned, the sinful human race was crucified, dead, and buried at Calvary. 'We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death' (Rom. 6:4).
The varying attitudes of men and of God toward Christ's death is illuminating. Had Pilate cared to write an inscription on the stone at the door of the sepulcher, he would have written, 'Here lies Jesus, King of the Jews.' If the scribes and Pharisees had written the epitaph, they would have written, 'Here lies the imposter who claimed to be the Son of God.' Had Satan written the inscription, it would have read, 'Jesus of Nazareth, whom I have overcome.' But if God had written the inscription, it would have red, 'Here lies the sinful human race.'
This then is the deeper meaning of Christ's death. The Bible account declares that when Jesus himself was crucified, `with him were two others, malefactors, one on either side.' The truth is that far more than two others were crucified with Him, for He identified himself with the whole sinful race.' He bore us all to Calvary. In the person of Christ, we died.
There should be no difficulty in understanding this truth, for we all accept this fact of federal headship in the matter of the Fall. Adam acted for the whole human race, so that when he, the head of the race, chose sin rather than obedience, he plunged all of us to that sin and flesh level. Genesis 5:1, 3 clearly tells us that though Adam was created in the likeness of God, Adam's posterity was begotten in his own likeness. After the Fall this likeness was therefore a fallen likeness so that we are all born 'fallen,' which is really not our fault but our calamity.
We are not considered guilty simply because we are born in the image of fallen Adam; we are guilty because by sin of our own we endorse Adam's sin and fall. No one is condemned for being born in Adam's fallen image but, on the contrary, for rejecting Christ as man's Saviour from this heredity. Our condemnation is for persisting in going our own way, for endorsing Adam's sin by sinning. We have become sinners by practice and therefore are guilty before God.
It is exactly this same principle with regard to endorsing Christ's death on Calvary. Positionally we were all taken there. In the mind of God the whole human race died with Christ. But as we endorsed Adam's sin by sinning and thus became guilty sinners, so now we must endorse Christ's death by dying to sin and self. Only in this way do we renounce all that Adam entered into by his sin and fall. Jesus struck at the very heart of this fact when He said, "If any man would come after me let him deny himself' (Matt. 16:24). 'Whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot by my disciple' (Luke 14:33).
It is possible to know all these great truths and still be entirely without the benefits they confer. It is not enough to believe in our identification with Christ in His death in an abstract way. The truth of identification must be experiential.
Let us keep in mind again and again that we become guilty when we endorse Adam's sin by sinning. But we are forgiven and delivered when we endorse Christ's death and resurrection by dying and being raised with Him. Jesus says that denial of self (giving up of all personal rights, renouncing everything that belongs to the old life-in other words, a complete about-face) is a step we must take. Only then will the Holy Spirit make t his great truth real in our personal experience so that we will receive its full benefits-namely, ability to live unto God, as well as deliverance from the power of sin, the devil, and the world.
But if Adam, 'the figure of him that was to come,' could work such havoc with the race, taking us all down to sin, Christ, the substance of that figure, can do infinitely more. If Adam's fall is drastic and far-reaching, how much more is Christ's so-great redemption and deliverance when He not only took us to death and the grace but also raised us up with Him to the spiritual level? Remember that burial is not the end. The gospel delivered unto us is that Christ died and rose. 'We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that we also might walk in newness of life' (Rom. 6:4).
Many seem to think that Christ's power of full redemption is much less than the consequences of Adam's fall. But we are told five times that the power of Christ's redemption is much more than the consequences of the Fall (Rom. 5). There is superabundance of grace! There is enough grace for not only the forgiveness of sins and to get man somehow into heaven but enough grace for a victorious life, for a life that will fully please God. 'If, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, even Jesus Christ' (Rom. 5:17). Rejoice in all such promises.
Long before creation, man's redemption in the person of God's Son was planned. When the fullness of time came, it was executed and became history. On the basis of that redemption, God's power is now able to save and to restore us to the life which God planned for us."
He died that sin in us might die-
Condemned when Jesus breathed His last,
Sin in the flesh we now defy,
Its guilt and tyranny are past;
And dying of its mortal wound,
It soon shall be no longer found.
The righteousness Thy law requires
Shall then be all in us fulfilled,
Who now renounce our own desires,
And to Thy Spirit's motions yield;
And following our celestial Guide,
Go on till wholly sanctified.
In us t he full obedience true
Which Jesus for His people wrought
Shall be by Him performed anew-
As saints in deed and word and thought,
Filled with the triune God, we prove
The righteousness of perfect love.
The Believer's Freedom
Romans 5 began with the exaltation of the grace of God which brought complete justification, and then it concluded with those wonderful verses (see 5:9-21), in which the question arose: Does grace also include a dynamic for righteousness? Here Paul indicates that the grace of God h as much more power to bring us into righteousness than Adam's sin ever had to bring us into bondage and death.
In this new section (Rom. 6, 7, and 8), Paul declares another purpose of God in raising Christ from the dead-to sanctify believers.
In Romans 6 the same gospel that is for the justification of the sinner is the gospel for the sanctification of the believer.
Like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life (6:4).
Romans 7 and 8 carry the issue of holiness further yet, saying that this righteousness is not a legal attempt to be righteous, even by the strivings of redeemed man. Christians must die to the law as well as to sin. A new law, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, must pervade the life of the Christian.
An amazing pattern that Paul has used in preceding chapters comes to plain view at this point. If we had lived in Rome when Paul's letter arrived, this pattern would likely have been evident to us, because Paul presents the truths of deliverance from moral bondage not only as a series of doctrines but also as a series of very definite pictures. Here are Paul's six pictures of our deliverance from moral bondage (Rom. 2-8).
The First Picture-A Courtroom Scene (1:18-39)
Two truths are evident in the first three chapters of Romans: (1) the condemned sinner's guilt before his Judge; (2) the manner of justification for the guilty sinner-faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, the sinner's Advocate and Redeemer. Christ was raised from the dead to judge the world.
The Second Picture - The Kingdom of Death and the Kingdom of Life (5:10-21)
This picture presents two kingdoms: the kingdom of death, whose federal head is Adam, and the kingdom of life, whose federal head is Christ. In this picture, again two facts are presented:
1. Because of the sin of Adam, man came under the reign of death. The absence of the law from Adam to Moses did not deliver men from death's reign. Nor did the entrance of the law at the time of Moses until the time of Christ bring man any deliverance; on the contrary, sin abounded through the definition of law.
2. Man is rescued from the reign of death by only the grace and obedience of Jesus Christ.
As sin reigned in death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord (5:21).
This deliverance from death is accomplished by the gift of life and righteousness (5:7,10,17,18). It is by an experience of regeneration that sinners are delivered from death's reign. By regeneration they are freed from the kingdom of death and come into Christ's kingdom. Christ was raised from the dead on purpose to justify sinners. Praise God for this deliverance!
The Third Picture-Two Slave Houses (6:1-23)
This new section (Rom. 6,7,8) is concerned with the power of the risen Christ to sanctify the believer and deliver him from sin's power and dominion.
The picture is of two slave houses, one ruled by the slavemaster Sin; the other ruled by the slavemaster Righteousness. The slave house of sin operates on the principle of selfishness, but the slave house of righteousness operates on the principle of divine love. This is a very clear and vivid picture.
To bring t his truth to our attention, two facts are clearly delineated. In the first place, man is not only guilty before God because he has lived in sin, but he has also become a bondservant of sin. Paul points this out by the words,
His servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness (6:16).
In the next place, Paul describes the divine fact that we have been identified with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. The grace of God brings us not only forgiveness and regeneration but accomplishes an entire deliverance from the old manner of life so that we are able to serve in the household of righteousness and thus reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin and alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord (6:11).
The Fourth Picture-A Marriage (7:1-6)
These verses present the picture of deliverance from bondage to the law. Paul represents the law as a husband.
Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth? For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband (7:1, 2).
In previous chapters, Paul has indicated that a sinner is brought out from under guilt through the provision of justification (Rom. 5). Through the provision of regeneration he is also brought out from under the bondage of death (Rom. 5), and through the provision of sanctification from under the bondage to sin (Rom. 6). The believer must now be brought out from under the bondage to the law (Rom. 7).
The Holy Spirit unveils two things here in this seventh chapter of Romans:
1. Those who have been under the bondage of sin (which is a transgression of the law-I John 3:4) are automatically under the dominion of the law. The believer is to enjoy freedom from the heavy yoke of striving to get righteousness by the law. God never planned that righteousness should be an exterior idea connected with rules and laws but rather a blessed awareness of Christ within. "Christ Jesus, ... was made unto us ... righteousness" (I Cor. 1:30).
2. The method of deliverance is always through Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. Paul says,
Wherefore ... ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4).
The Fifth Picture-A Living Man Bound to a Corpse (7:7-8:4).
Here is a most personal and sordidly intimate picture of sin and its connection with mankind. The Romans' method of punishing a chronic transgressor of the law was to bind the living offender face to face with a dead man. The condemned man was bound to a corpse. He wanted to be free but he was unable to get free. He was not only guilty but wretched. Moreover, the penalty for anyone who tried to deliver the guilty from the corpse was the same fate as the wretched man had himself.
The old theologians called indwelling sin "the sinning sin" or "inbred sin." Paul declares here that the law of God discovers indwelling sin and the spirit of independence and lust in the believer. This spirit is contrary to God's law and to God himself. No wonder Paul cried out,
Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (7:24).
Paul's answer is this:
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:25).
Christ not only died but also rose again.To accomplish this divine and wonderful deliverance from the body of death, God sends His Holy Spirit upon us. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death (8:2). By His Spirit the risen Christ comes to indwell my mortal body that He may release me from all debtorship to sin. If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through is spirit that dwelleth in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live (8:11-13). The Sixth Picture-A Father and His Family (8:12-39) Last of all, Paul pictures the believer's relationship to God as the relationship of a child to a father. Of course this is more than a picture; it is a divine reality. God is truly our Father, and we are truly brethren. Paul so clearly presents this picture in Romans 8. The Holy Spirit, "the spirit of adoption," causes us to cry out, "Abba, Father." He it is who makes us know that we are the children of God. He makes us heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ and causes us to look forward to the full manifestation of our sonship (8:19). He makes us realize that God's great-predetermined decision is that we should be conformed to the image of the Son of God, manifesting His nature and sharing His inheritance. This is what Paul declares in verse 29: Whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren (8:29).
In 1838 the British government sent word to Jamaica that slavery should be abolished. For the memorial night of their emancipation, the slaves prepared a mahogany coffin and dug a grave. Then they filled the coffin with whips, torture irons, branding irons, fragments of the treadmill, handcuffs, and coarse frocks and shirts. When all these relics and remnants of their previous unhappy bondage were cast into the coffin, the slaves then screwed the lid down and at the stroke of midnight lowered it into the grave. Thus they celebrated their liberation and joyously sang their doxology.
This act is a vivid picture of the burial of a sinner's past. Just as the slaves' burial of their tokens of slavery represented their great external deliverance, so Christ's death on our behalf at Calvary represents our great spiritual release from the past tokens of our slavery to sin.
However, the message of Romans 6 goes a step further. At Calvary God put not merely the tokens of sin's slavery in the grave. In Christ He put the slave himself to death and then raised him up a "new creature." Thus Jesus Christ brought more than our sins to the cross; he also brought the old slave himself, called our "old man."
To teach the death of the old man, Paul takes an illustration from the practice of slavery, which was so common in the Roman world of Paul's day. Every Roman slave was expected to be obedient to his master. But the life of the slave was determined by the master's nature, whether he was a good man or evil, whether he was righteous or unrighteous.
In describing our deliverance from the old man, Paul presents two households: a household of sin and a household of righteousness. As head over the one household, he presents the old master by the words "unrighteousness" and "sin" (Rom. 6:13, 16). Over the new household he presents the new master by the words "righteousness" and "God" (Eph. 4:24).
The question that then presents itself is this: How does a believer transfer from one household to the other? How does the slave of sin in the household of sin break his entire connection with bondage to sin? In the household of righteousness, how does he begin to live unto righteousness?
In his message about Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, Paul gives the clue when he declares to the Roman Christians:
We, who died to sin, how shall we live any longer therein? (6:2).
The slave's death breaks the dominion of the old master, sin. Jesus Christ came into the household of sin and joined himself to "the old man," the servant of the old master. Because God's holy law sentenced the old man to death, Jesus accepted the death penalty for him. But since in His humanity Jesus was also joined to us, it was our old man which was crucified with Christ. Therefore Christ's death destroyed any necessary connection between our bodies and the dominion of sin. Through Christ, the master sin can no longer expect service from his dead slave, for he that is dead is freed from sin (Rom. 6:7).
To experience this transfer of households, this freedom from sin, we all instinctively feel that we must concur completely with the message of Romans 6.
Sometimes, however, the argument is given that we are not able to surrender to God wholly because we do not know the future and cannot predict our reactions to those things which will happen. This would be a reasonable conclusion if our fickle hearts and minds were the only factors involved in our surrender. But the Holy Spirit can lead in making a surrender. In Hebrews 9 we receive light about the Holy Spirit's part. Even Jesus, when He offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins, offered himself through the eternal Spirit. In His humanity Christ did not offer himself purely as a human act. He depended on the aid of the Holy Spirit who was with Him to make that act effective. Of course, we could never do the act that Jesus did on the cross, but the principle is the same.
In order to clarify our complete identification with Christ in His cross and resurrection, an illustration may be helpful. All men make various kinds of surrenders-surrenders that include all future issues-and millions have followed through on their surrenders. For instance, consider the marriage contract between two Christans, because in the world, marriage has come into sad straits; and often a contract, made under emotional strain, is selfishly broken). When two Christians enter into a marriage vow, they surrender their independent desires in exchange for a life together-"for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health." But they do not surrender in only the matters they know of. Also they surrender in the matters they do not know of, matters which will include all their years together. Nor does their surrender eliminate unexpected problems. Their vows include every single predicament that may follow.
Surrender in marriage illustrates the essential issue in a Christian's surrender to God. By the Holy Spirit it is possible for our surrender to God to be entire and everlasting. But that surrender must include more than we know. Christ died on Calvary's cross to pay for the whole man, and when we surrender our whole heart to Christ, the Holy spirit will bear witness to our surrender. Our initial surrender to God will be one great, comprehensive yes that will pave the way for all the specific yeses given to Him as the days go on in His service.
A very necessary question is this: "Why is it that a Christian should have to surrender fully? Didn't he surrender when he was saved?" The answer is yes. There is certainly no real conversion without surrender to Christ included in the act of repentance and faith. Yet at conversion this surrender was not the conscious issue. The sinner who came to Christ knew about Christ but did not heartily know Him. The drawing power was Christ's cross. Jesus himself said, "If I be lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men unto me."
Whenever a sinner, who sees that the blood of Jesus Christ can deliver from guilt and damnation, calls on the Lord, his sins are forgiven, and he receives Christ as his Lord and Saviour. The miracle of regeneration is this: he begins to know Christ (John 17:3). At conversion we surrender to Christ in order to know Him, but later we surrender to Christ because we have already begun to know Him.
This fact is brought out in the Old Testament in connection with the bondservant (Ex. 21:4,6). If the bondservant wished to go free after serving seven years, he could do so. During that initial service, he was fully a servant, but he did not yet bear the bondslave's marks, which were for a lifetime. If he decided on a final surrender, he went with his master to a door and had his ear pierced. This was a sign that he was given to his master unconditionally and for the remainder of his life.
Likewise, a servant of Jesus Christ surrenders completely to Him at the first in order to know Him. But after he has begun to know his Master, he makes an eternal surrender from which he never intends to seek release. At that time, knowledge of his Lord is his greatest possession.
Thus in surrender to Jesus Christ there are two elements. By an act of our free will, we give ourselves to Christ, completely and also eternally. Thus we die to an old life not just in theory but in actual experience and then rise in Christ's resurrection to become the bondservants of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesus made clear these demands for total commitment and surrender when He said: "Whosoever h e be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33). This word cannot is as strong and conclusive a word as the cannot in John 3:3: "Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God." We Christians all understand that regeneration is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. But total surrender is also absolutely necessary to be a disciple of Jesus (Luke 14:33). Jesus said, "Deny [thyself], and take up [thy] cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
Paul wrote to the Philippians, giving his own testimony of full surrender: "What things were gain to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:7,8).
To the Corinthians Paul also presented total surrender as a decisive issue. "they that live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto him who for their sakes died and rose again" (II Cor. 5:15).
These three Scriptures indicate that God is waiting for the surrender of everything to His Son Jesus Christ. Such a surrender makes possible an appropriation of death to sin, self, the world, and the law.
How is such a surrender made, and how does it bring us into resurrection power to walk in newness of life? Think of Jesus as He carried His own cross to Mount Calvary. No doubt He was exhausted after His trials in the roman and Jewish courts and His long journey down the way of sorrows, called the Via Dolorosa. He even stumbled and fell under the cross so that a man named Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for Him.
Our imagination will help us at this point. Two thieves were also carrying their crosses up that same hill. When all three had mounted Calvary, each was commanded to lie down on his cross in order to be fastened to it with nails or ropes. You can be sure that the thieves did not do this willingly. The soldiers had to force them to their crosses. But no soldier had to force Jesus onto His cross.
Scripture gives us an indication of how Jesus died. He himself said, "therefore doth the Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from my Father" (John 10:17,18). The testimony of Jesus was this: "I lay [my life] down of myself." There He lay as a freewill sacrifice for man's sin. The nails were driven in. The cross was reared up.
Jesus died as a representative sin offering for all mankind. God the Father, looking down on that cross on which Jesus laid down His life, saw not only His Son but us also. The Son had so identified himself with all mankind that the Father saw us on that cross. We, too, must see what the Father saw: "One died for all, therefore all died" (II Cor. 5:14).
Thus the secret of our surrender and commitment is in the death of Jesus. When we surrender totally and eternally, we simply identify ourselves with the laid-down life of Jesus. We lay down our lives. We consciously accept God's once-for-all verdict of death on our old manner of life. We acknowledge death as the penalty for the broken law. We say God's judicial sentence is just-that our old man should die. We agree with God's decision. By an act of our wills, enlightened and made willing by the Holy Spirit, we surrender not our sins only but our past, present, and future; spirit, soul, and body; our reputation and ambitions; our entire wills, our intellect, feelings, preferences, and rights. In other words, our total manner of life is committed to and identified with the death of the Lord Jesus.
When we have the witness of the Holy Spirit that this surrender is complete, then we can reckon by faith that
The result of total surrender is that a wonderful liberating knowledge comes to our hearts. We are able to know and realize
That our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin (6:6).
If our surrender is complete, faith follows easily. By faith we accept the Scripture's testimony concerning our death, our burial, and our resurrection with Jesus Christ. His death was our death (Rom. 6:3,11). His burial was our burial (Rom. 6:4,5). His resurrection was our resurrection (Rom. 6:5).
Many times Scripture testifies to this truth:
I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought (Gal. 2:19-21).
They that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk (Gal. 6:14).
If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with him be manifested in glory (Col. 3:1-4).
These great facts of our death and resurrection with Christ can become real in our experience. Christ is really our life. Christ's righteousness is really ours. We really serve a new Master. This is the heritage of the justified. Our part is to count on this wonderful fact. We are to reckon ourselves dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. Then, free from sin, we become love-slaves of righteousness. With more abandon than we ever yielded to the old master sin, we are to yield to our new Master by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Praise God for freedom to serve Christ!
The means of man's deliverance from death and sin is Jesus' death and resurrection. Romans 5 has pictured God's method of deliverance from death as a reigning king. Romans 6 has pictured His method of deliverance from sin as a slavemaster. Now we come to the study of Romans 7:1-6, which pictures God's method of deliverance from the law as a condemning husband.
After a man has been saved and understands deliverance from sin, he may still be seeking to maintain a righteous life by trying to live up to a standard called "the law." Hence the painful conflict of Romans 7. Because the dominion of sin is a defiling relationship, we must be free from sin. But because the dominion of the law is a defective relationship, we must be delivered from the law also.
How is the law defective? Not as to its origin but as a basis for righteousness. The law is spiritual (Rom. 7:14). By its very spirituality it is not able to justify the carnal man but rather enforces the sentence of death and condemnation. The law, moreover, is unable to impart spiritual life. The law is void of life and spirit.
Some time ago, the Sunday School Times used the following illustration concerning the Christian's emancipation from bondage to the law.
A woman was married to an austere, demanding husband. Each morning he gave detailed instructions concerning her duties for the day. When the day was over, he went over each point to see if she had fulfilled them. All love was quenched. Her heart was not in her duties. Any love that the wife might have felt toward her husband now turned into a cold, calculating attitude. To enforce his demands, her husband wrote and posted ten rules in their home so that she would never be free from them. Soon the wife was in a state of wretchedness, impotence, and transgression. Seemingly there was no way out.
Then one day the husband died, and the wife was released from the laws of her husband. Death broke the marriage contract. And then she married again and a new relationship began, one in which she served her new husband out of heartfelt love. Love reigned.
One day as she was going through a desk, the wife discovered the former husband's daily rules that had once so aggravated her. To her amazement, she found she was keeping every rule, not out of duty now but out of love.
This illustration does not explain every issue presented in Romans 7, but it does show us that living righteousness is not in the law. Righteousness must come through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In Romans 7:1-6 the husband (the law) does not literally die, but the wife (the believer) participates in death through the miracle of Christ's death and resurrection and is raised again to be joined to her new husband, Christ. The law can demand spirituality from the believer but cannot impart it. Impartation can be accomplished only by Jesus Christ through the life-giving Spirit. He is able to make "all things new" in each believer joined to Christ.
In the next verses (7-25) two problems confront us. The first is the problem of the independent self (independence); the second is the problem of indwelling sin ("sin that dwelleth in me").
The independent self is evident in chapter 7 through the constant use of the pronoun "I." As long as the "I" does not yield its independence, no matter how noble or morally ambitious it is, it is married to the law. Without Christ, even the renewed "I" can do nothing (John 15:5). This marriage contract with the law must end. But how? As Christ's death accomplished redemption from sin, so it accomplished redemption from the law. Christ was born "under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4,5). At Calvary we too
Were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that [we] should be joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God (7:4).
We also died with Him.
Paul next describes indwelling sin, the "motions" of sin, which the law discovers in man's members. After the blood has cleansed all external sins, the law "Thou shalt not covet" points into the depths of man's internal nature and motives and there discovers indwelling sin-"sin that dwells within" (Rom. 7:17,18,20,23). Paul calls this condition of indwelling sin by several names: no good thing, carnal, sold under sin, evil is present, another law, the law of sin, the body of this death.
Next Paul gives a key to a further understanding of indwelling sin when he gives the relationship of the tenth commandment to this inner conflict:
I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (7:7).
To covet means, "to desire earnestly, to lust for, to possess with an inordinate affection." It is right to covet God's glory, the conversion of sinners, spiritual gifts, and the fulfillment of the will of God. What God condemns is the inordinate desires in the soul-desires controlled by selfishness, hankerings for unlawful advantage, and cravings for that which another possesses.
There are several synonyms for the word covetousness: lust, envy, greed, rivalry, and jealousy. Solomon said, "Jealousy is as cruel as the grave." A graphic description of covetousness is the evil eye, the green-eyed monster. Covetousness is that within a man which inwardly hankers for its own way, even though it does not get it. Covetousness is the inward and often unrecognized cause of many depressions and unhappy feelings. These have been caused by frustrated, inordinate desires. Inner inordinate affection can exist in the heart for a long time without being discovered. At first this may seem small, but when it is full grown, it bringeth forth death."
The tenth commandment touches the very core of man's sin problem: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbor's" (Ex. 20:17). This commandment is very specific in its content, for it lists the objects of covetousness: the neighbor's house, the neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his ass, anything that belongs to the neighbor. In other words, covetousness is committed in the heart long before it is ever expressed in a robbery, of in bribery, or in a courtroom (where property rights or the will of a deceased person are contested).It is evident in the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife,"
that adultery is committed in the heart long before a man and woman commit adultery in the life or apply for a divorce in order to marry another person. It is also demanded of us in this tenth command not to covet another's manservant or maidservant. In other words, we are not to covet those who are employed by another employer. Last of all, this commandment condemns coveting another man's cattle-that is, his resources of labor, food, and transportation. Such standards as these men call idealism; God calls the breaking of these standards sin.
This word covetousness is closely related to the phrase "inordinate affection" (Col. 3:5). This phrase means that there are some affections in this soul which have an abnormal control of the thoughts and desires. Such a sinful desire is vividly illustrated for us in the story of Joseph and the temptation which came to him through Potiphar's wife. For many days she secretly enticed Joseph to yield to the sin of adultery. Because of Joseph's purity of heart and life, her sinful intentions were never accomplished. The act was never committed; but nevertheless, she still had this evil desire in her heart. The seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," puts a prohibition upon the inordinate affection which exists in the soul before an act is ever committed. Jesus points this out in the Sermon on the Mount: "I say unto you, that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).
This truth can be further illustrated by an experience I had as a young boy. Three of us entered a dime store to look around. One of the fellows stole a comb from the counter, slipped it into his pocket, and made an exit from the store. Why did the boy steal the comb? Simply because there had already been a covetous intention in his heart. His desire had become an inordinate desire because he wanted the comb so much that he was ready to get it without paying for it. To carry the illustration a step further, what if we had come to the store on a holiday and found that the door was locked? Stealing the comb would be impossible for the boy at that time, but the dominating desire in his heart would be to steal. The tenth commandment points its legal finger at this dominating desire and identifies it as sin.
Why, then, is covetousness called indwelling sin? We shall discover the issue involved if we go back and review each of the Ten Commandments. The second command is, "Thou shalt not make any graven image" (idols are external). The third is, "Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain" (we can profane God's name by our external living). The fourth is, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (we can labor externally on the Sabbath Day). Next, in the fifth commandment, we are taught that parents can be dishonored by the outward behavior of their children. In the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth commandments, stealing, adultery, murder, lying, all are sins of the external life.
But the tenth commandment identifies sin in the interior of man. The outward life may be legally controlled, and an inordinate lust may be kept down. Now in this tenth commandment, though this inner dominion of lust be ever so firmly controlled, it is condemned as sin. Suppression of these unwelcome feelings is not an adequate answer.
Covetousness is like the parasite called the nematode. This long cylindrical worm invades the farmlands of America each year, causing millions of dollars of damage to crops. One species, called the bad nematode, exudes a substance in which it lays its eggs. These soon hatch and join in an attack on the crops. But the bad nematode also produces eggs in its own body. In time this body becomes distorted and dies. Its skin then turns brown and forms an egg-filled cyst, which attaches itself to the roots of plants. Unseen by the human eye, these eggs may lie dormant for years. At length, when conditions become favorable for hatching, these parasites begin to manifest themselves. At times they have ruined an entire field.
This parasite well illustrates the nature of the sin of covetousness. Covetousness is secret. It can exist for a long time without being discovered. It may plague and corrode men and women who seem to be the very embodiments of righteousness and respect. It can exist in the hearts of men and women-unseen, unrecognized, and undealt with- after external moral blights have all been destroyed. Yet when conditions are favorable for hatching, it will make its attack. Covetousness is the nematode of the heart.
Many Christians are taught that there is no such thing as deliverance from this inner sin called "indwelling sin." Paul taught differently. There is a Deliverer. In Romans 7:23 Paul said he saw a law in his members,
Warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (7:23, 24).
The phrase "the body of this death" presents Paul's last picture concerning man's need of deliverance. It is the picture of a man condemned under Roman law to be bound face-to-face, hands to hands, and feet to feet to a dead body. At last the condemned man dies because of his wretched bondage to this body of death. Here, then, is a picture not only of iniquity, but also of impotence-a picture not only of wickedness, but also of wretchedness.
Yet sin's bondage can be broken inwardly as well as outwardly. Paul asks, Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? (7:24) and then declares,
I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord (7:25).
The only way a Roman who was bound to a corpse could be set free was by another man's accepting the body of death as his own. Likewise, we are delivered from the law by what Christ accomplished for us at Calvary.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (8:3, 4).
Great men in all ages have felt the power of the sin of covetousness but have finally obtained deliverance from it.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made. . . free from the law of sin and of death (8:2).
Covetousness was the basic sin that Nathan the prophet pointed out in the life of King David after his terrible sin. Nathan told David the parable of a rich man who had flocks and lands. When a wayfaring man came for dinner, the rich man coveted and took the little ewe lamb from the poor man for his dinner guest. After Nathan's visit, David's prayer was not for forgiveness alone, but for the inward sanctification of the heart.
In Psalm 51 David testifies concerning the way God dealt with him in his transgression when the full revelation of his sins came. He received the merciful forgiveness of the external sin; however, his main cry was this: "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom" (Ps. 51:6). It was this inward covetousness that he wanted to have removed. His cry was "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me" (Ps. 51:10).
The Apostle Paul also made an admission of this sin of covetousness. After he testified that the law was not sin, he stated:
Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (7:7).
Paul found himself helpless and wretched. A hidden bondage in him resisted his attempted "will to do good." He says,
To will is present with me, but to do that which is good is not. For the good which I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practise. But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me (7:18-20).
Yet Paul did not remain in this condition but found glorious liberty in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit.
God.. . condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled (8:3, 4).
Law cannot remove covetousness, for no sin can be removed by a commandment. The commandment rather intensifies the sense of bondage. But Jesus came to do what the law could not do. This was Paul's declaration of the gospel.
Christ came to deliver from indwelling sin, as well as from more apparent sins. If Christ could deliver from all other sins and not from indwelling sin, Calvary's provision would be incomplete. As surely as we can identify this inner selfishness, this covetousness, as sin, we can also just as surely confess that one reason for Jesus' coming was to grant us freedom from all sin.
There is no necessary break between Romans 7 and 8. Chapter 8 introduces the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit in His office of deliverer from the law of sin in us and as the fulfiller of the law of God in us.
Two great themes-life in Christ and abundant life in Christ-seem to move together in the Old and New Testaments. Let us look at these two themes first in the Garden of Eden. There Adam and Eve received from the Lord the breath of life and were made a part of the family of God. And then they were faced with a deeper relationship to God, typified by the tree of life. However, during the time of their temptation they partook of the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and thus failed to enter into an experience which could have been theirs by partaking of the tree of life.
Adam and Eve certainly had life. By a step of simple obedience and faith they could have entered into a more abundant life. But this they failed to do; and, instead, they lost the great possibilities of the paradise in which they lived.
Another great Old Testament character in the epoch of God's redemption was Abraham. Four hundred and thirty years before the giving of the law, God offered Abraham a very simple promise, one which He confirmed with an oath: "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 22: 18). Here again we meet two great facts of redemption. One is called "the seed"; the other is called "the blessing."
Galatians explains these two facts: first, "To Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). Secondly, "That upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14). The first fact concerns the seed, which is Christ. Abraham was told that in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. The second fact was called the blessing of Abraham and was to be available to all the nations. Stated simply, the seed is Christ and the blessing is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In these two Scriptures in Galatians, the twofold-ness of God's salvation is made plain. First, in our experience we must by faith receive the seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, as our personal Lord and Saviour. As the Abrahamic covenant indicates, the blessing was to come through the seed. But Galatians 3:14 tells us also that even as we receive Christ as Lord and Saviour by faith, the further blessing of the Holy Spirit must also be received by faith.
The life of Jesus Christ reveals these two facts also. He once said, "I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." Jesus lived His whole earthly life in order to perform two great acts for us: one, the act of redemption, the pouring out of His blood upon the cross of Calvary; two, the act of pouring out the gift of the Holy Spirit after His resurrection and ascension.
Christ's redemption is the first provision that we must receive. After we have become the children of God, the Holy Spirit bears witness of this to our spirits. The second provision we must receive is the Holy Spirit in order that we might be representatives of Jesus Christ. He did not pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon those who had not received Him as their Lord and Saviour.
Shortly before the crucifixion, Jesus made these matters very plain to the disciples in the upper room. He said: "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you" (John 14:16-18).
On the day of His ascension Christ's instructions to the disciples bring out to us again His concern that they understand what the Holy Spirit was to do in their lives. He sent this gift not for their salvation but that they might be empowered to bring the message of salvation to the whole world. The promise of Acts 1: 8 was a restatement of the words that God spoke to Abraham: "In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The blessing to come upon them through Christ Jesus was to be a blessing for the whole world. He said to them: "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1: 8).
Jesus was Lord of the disciples before they had this experience of Pentecost. Thomas had already cried out, "My Lord and my God." The disciples had believed that He had arisen from the dead, and they had confessed Him as their Lord. Paul says that this confession is salvation:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (10: 9,10).
But even though a believer accepts the resurrection and confesses Jesus as Lord, still he may not have obtained power from on high.
Many Christians testify freely and warmly of assurance in their hearts that they are saved and are the children of God. Yet they hesitate and are sometimes filled with doubt and questions concerning whether they possess the power of the Holy Spirit.
If we have assurance of salvation, should we not have assurance of this gift which Jesus Christ so freely offered the disciples? The Holy Spirit is the gift which lifts us out of a rather restricted personal consciousness of our own salvation. The Holy Spirit baptizes us with a concern for the salvation of the world. He baptizes us with power and blessing which make the burden of the Lord our burden and which inspire us to be a representative witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. He integrates all His power to one end-to make Jesus Christ known.
All that has been written in the book of Romans in chapters 1 through 7 leads us to the blessed ministry of the Holy Spirit and to the inner realization of God as our Father (Rom. 8). Christ desires to make us emancipated children of the Father, filled with His Spirit. But emancipation is not in the law. Emancipation is in the grace revealed through Jesus Christ.
We have already traced this emancipation from sin in Romans 6:
Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace (6:14).
Romans 7 continues this theme of emancipation from the law and from sin, but reveals another fact: Men are not only guilty and in bondage but also impotent and lacking in spirituality. This we read in Romans 7:14:
We know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
The law demands spirituality, but cannot impart it. It cannot give us the Holy Spirit. The law can make demands but has not one drop of spirituality and power to offer the impotent, weak, frustrated Christian who wants to rise in power and fruitfulness.
In Romans 8 the great work of the Holy Spirit is introduced. Paul says:
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. . . that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (8: 2, 4).
Romans 8, then, introduces to our attention the great and wonderful theme of the New Testament- the gift of the Holy Spirit. Many phrases are used to indicate this great gift: the promise of the Father, power from on high, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you, the baptism with the Spirit, anointing, sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, the earnest of our inheritance. All these phrases speak of the different aspects of the great gift of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.
The main emphasis through all the book of Romans is not on the historical act of Christ's redemption but rather on its effects on the believer. In Romans 1:16 we have already seen that Paul's desire was to show the Christians that in actual experience, the gospel is the power of God. It was not the objective gospel that Paul was explaining but the subjective effects of this grand redemption in every phase of life.
We make a point of this because when Paul describes the work of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8, his emphasis is the very same. He does not even mention historical Pentecost. Nor does he refer to the Christian's experience of the initial filling with the Spirit. Paul lays the emphasis upon the effects of the Holy Spirit's fullness. In the chapters before Romans 8, Paul has spoken of the Holy Spirit only once-Romans 5: 5, which says:
The love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us.
But now in Romans 8, in wonderful detail, Paul describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit as it affects every part of a Christian's life. Notice the following phrases here about the Holy Spirit:
The law of the Spirit of life (8:2).
Who walk.., after the Spirit (8: 4).
The Spirit of God dwelleth in you (8:9).
If by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body (8:13).
Led by the Spirit of God (8:14).
The spirit of adoption (8:15).
The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit (8:16).
The first-fruits of the Spirit (8: 23)
The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities (8:26).
The mind of the Spirit (8: 27).
God promises this gift of the Holy Spirit not to the world but to believers. The world does not receive the Spirit. Its first step is to believe in Christ and receive Him; then as a believer, he receives the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised on the day of His ascension: "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." First of all, Jesus makes believers disciples; then the Holy Spirit makes disciples witnesses unto the Lord Jesus.
The description of "life in the Spirit" in Romans 8 is a spiritual mountaintop in Scripture. This chapter presents almost every possible view of man's awful need and Christ's glorious redemption. It bids him look in every direction. It bids him look at his carnal state, as well as back to the cross of Calvary. It looks at the present with its possibilities of holiness and grace by the Holy Spirit. It looks to the future when the body will be redeemed and the inheritance fully realized.
Let us review the whole of Romans 8 in seven parts.
Verses 1-4. Here Paul says that what the law could not accomplish for a defeated, impotent Christian, the Spirit can accomplish. The cause of the conflict in Romans 7 was the law of sin (7:23). But through Calvary the cause of this bondage to the law of sin has been condemned. The child of God is "free indeed." The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made the believer free from the law of sin and of death. Calvary provided this freedom. The Holy Spirit now produces in the believer outer and inner righteousness.
Verses 6-11. Paul shows that the ministry of the Holy Spirit extends to man's entire nature. These few verses describe the effects of the fullness and baptism with the Holy Spirit, and also the condition of entire sanctification. There is divine life for every part of the believer-mind, spirit, and body:
God's calling for us is that we be sanctified wholly: "The God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it" (I Thess. 5:23, 24).
"Refining fire, go through my heart,
Illuminate my soul;
Scatter Thy life through every part,
And sanctify the whole."
Romans 8:10 says that the body is dead because of sin. Here is the divine view of the body. We do not feel the body to be dead but feel it to be quite alive. Yet since Christ died, and we died with Him, the death sentence has been already executed on the body. This death sentence has removed sin's penalty and curse from our mortal bodies so that God has not only the legal right to finally raise them to immortality but even more the right to quicken or strengthen our bodies whenever they have need of the divine life of the Spirit, who raised Jesus' body from the dead.
Verses 12-14. Although we are delivered from the entire bondage of sin, we still live in a body of flesh. Yet Paul indicates that we are under no obligation to the dictates of the flesh. We owe the flesh nothing. Its temptations have lost their hold upon us.
If by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live (8:13).
The body has involuntary doings or deeds: hunger, tiredness, sleepiness, sudden fears, nervous reactions, moods, and sexual urges. Sinfulness is not necessarily involved in these. Yet we do not mortify the deeds of the body by gritting our teeth but by the Holy Spirit himself. He is ready to energize us so that none of these hinder us from always walking in the Spirit. Again,
If by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live (8:13).
Spiritually we are on probation; we therefore must not return to a life ruled by the flesh. Such would be dangerous!
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (8:14).
Verses 15-17. These verses speak of the Father and His family-a predominant picture in Romans 8. Justification changes our standing before God; regeneration and sanctification change our condition. Just so, the Spirit of adoption changes our rank from that of a servant to a full position as a son of God. We Christians are recipients not of the spirit of bondage to fear but of
The spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father (8:15).
Moreover, the Holy Spirit bears witness with every regenerated spirit that his sonship is true, that he is a son of God. As sons we are also one with the Son of God and share His eternal inheritance.
If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ (8:17).
It is the Holy Spirit who assures us of this inheritance also.
Verses 18-25. This passage describes very definitely the effects of Christ's coming. When Paul talks about the ultimate and final phase of our redemption (the dead raised and the living saints caught up to meet the Lord in the air), he makes no direct statement of the coming of Christ but describes very definitely the effects of His coming.
Paul here speaks of our glorious hope in "the day of the Lord." Christ will deliver His saints from every thread of mortality and finally deliver the whole creation from corruption.
The sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the glory (8:18).
In the present we experience a portion in the sufferings of Christ; in the future, His incomparable glory. Paul calls the event when the believers arise (both the dead and the living) "the redemption of our body."
Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (8:23).
Verses 26-30. The Holy Spirit strengthens us where we feel our weakness most. He helps our infirmities (our feebleness of body and mind, our frailty, our impotence, and sometimes sickness). He gives us also the victory and assurance of our inheritance. He is the Helper in the saint's heart and the Intercessor at the Father's throne. He prays for us and enables us to pray "with groanings which cannot be uttered." He controls for good all our circumstances so that every child of God may be conformed to Christ's image. Those who are conformed in this way are the true brethren of Christ, predestined to share His glorious throne. In Genesis 37, the life of Joseph gives a minutely drawn account of this process of conformity to Christ.
Verses 31-39. These final verses of Romans 8 reveal how thoroughly the Holy Spirit interprets and glorifies Christ in the believer's life. Christ is the believer's all in all. Therefore, because of the love of God in Christ Jesus, the true believer can be fearless legally, socially, and universally.
1. The believer can be fearless legally.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (8:31-34).
2. The believer can be fearless socially.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (8: 35-37).3. The believer can be fearless universally.
I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (8:38,39).
No chapter in all Scripture so thoroughly describes the inner experience of the Holy Spirit's fullness as Romans 8. The whole reality of Christ's redemption is made vivid through the ministry of the ever-blessed Holy Spirit.
Gentiles by nature, we belong to the wild olive wood;
Grace takes us from the barren tree and grafts us in the good.
With the same blessings, grace endows the Gentile and the Jew;
If pure and holy he the root, such are the branches too.
Then let the children of the saints be dedicate to God;
Pour out Thy Spirit on them, Lord, and wash them in Thy blood.
Thus to the parents and their seeds shall Thy salvation come;
And numerous households meet at last in one eternal home.
Romans 9, 10, and 11 reveal a problem and then give the present and future answer to that problem. These chapters disclose how God will finish His purpose through the risen Lord Jesus Christ. To show this, Paul first defends God's ways, then declares them, and finally displays them.
Before we consider these three chapters in detail, we will briefly survey them.
God's Ways Defended (Rom. 9)
Paul's problem was concerning the obvious fact that Israel as a nation had not embraced the glorious gospel of Christ. Here Paul is dealing with the Jews as God's covenant people.
Who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen (9:4, 5).
The covenant was still in force, but many Israelites had forgotten either the basis on which the covenant was originally made or had misunderstood it. Paul therefore severs every falsely acquired Israelite claim on God. He clarifies the fact that if fleshly Israel fails to approach God on the basis of the original condition of grace and mercy, God can justly withhold the covenant blessings.
Paul indicates also that God can justly show the Gentiles His favor. He can claim the people who were not His people (the Gentiles) and call them beloved which were not beloved.
The only reason unbelieving Israel was in existence was the faithful remnant. They kept Israel from becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah. God had been keeping His covenant with Israel, but because of the lack of faith, Israel had not been keeping her covenant with God.
God is free-free to make His everlasting covenant with all men who come to Him in faith, whether they are Gentile or Jew. At the same time, God has not forgotten His covenant with Abraham and the nation Israel.
The controlling thought of Romans 9 is stated in these words:
The Lord will execute his word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short (9: 7).
God's Ways Declared (Rom. 10)
This chapter is indeed a wonderful declaration of God's saving ways. It describes first the righteousness which is of the law; next, the righteousness which is of faith; and then, how the righteousness of faith operates. Faith is produced in the heart by the preaching of the gospel, including the message of the lordship of Jesus Christ and His resurrection from the dead. When this gospel message is heard and believed, then there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek. Again we are reminded that it is the risen Lord Jesus Christ who is the One through whom these purposes are finished.
There is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord [Jesus, risen from the dead] is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him (10:12).
God's Ways Displayed (Rom. 11)
One main thought embraces the whole chapter: the fact that God has not cast away His people. Paul makes this plain by the very history of Israel- how God always reserved to himself a remnant according to grace. In Paul's day there was a remnant. Though it was the Gentiles who were then enjoying God's salvation and were (and are) the present bearers of this salvation to the world, God had not totally rejected the Hebrew nation.
Paul then looked into the future and saw a time when Israel would return to faith. Paul displays the future before our eyes:
If the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (11:15).
The words of the prophet will then be fulfilled:
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: and this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins (11:26, 27).
The study and interpretation of these three chapters has often left its reader with the sense of theological confusion. Paul, however, considered God greater than his or anyone's theology, and he ends the section with a confession not of confusion but of wonder:
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past tracing out! (11: 33).
Romans 9 begins with Paul's testimony:
I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh (9: 2, 3).
Why could Paul wish himself anathema or accursed? It was because of the love of Christ in his heart for his brothers.
Paul's problem was this: Since Israel had not received her Messiah, had the Word of God to Israel been cancelled? Paul's answer was that the promises to Israel were still in force. Yet many Israelites had forgotten the basis on which the covenant was made, or else they had misunderstood the promises.
God was the originator of Israel. But what was the manner in which Israel had been called into being?
It is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed (9: 8).
In Isaac shall thy seed be called (9: 7).
They are not all Israel, that are of Israel: neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children (9: 6, 7).
God's election (selection) of the nation of Israel had to come in one of two ways: either by human birth and works or by His calling. The word "calleth" in verse 11 means to bid or call forth. God chose Jacob by calling him. He was not bound to choose Esau even though he was the firstborn.
By calling Jacob in this way He taught the patriarchs that His abiding relationship with them and His continued acceptance of them was not because of merit or birth but because they responded to His call. This clarified His purpose and showed them what must be their continual and only relationship with Him. If the nation should again claim relationship to God by works (e.g., the Pharisees), they would make void their original calling in the grace of God.
The Israelites are not necessarily made heirs of the promise forever by virtue of their being in the lineage and natural seed of Abraham. The inheritance would have been by Abraham's human ability if God had chosen Ishmael and not Isaac. But since the child of promise, Isaac, was chosen, the inheritance must be by God's grace and calling. Yet God can even now temporarily withhold the covenant blessings from fleshly Israel if they fail to approach Him on the basis of the conditions of grace and mercy.
The entire ninth chapter of Romans is devoted to a contrast of two conditions found among men: those who are children of the flesh and those who are children of the promise. To reveal these two classes of humanity, Paul carefully uses Scripture references to Old Testament history. Let us note four contrasts:
As we have seen, in verses 7-9 the Holy Spirit shows God's strategy with Abraham and Isaac. These men reveal God's original mode of operation in dealing with Israel. In the case of Isaac, it was not Abraham's human ability but God's grace.
Likewise in verses 10-13 in the case of Isaac's two sons, Esau and Jacob, we see that if God had chosen Esau, he would have been included according to the natural rights of the firstborn. But God chose Jacob that the purpose of God according to election might stand (vs. 11). Even before the birth of Esau and Jacob, this calling was decided so that Israel should understand that God does not operate on the basis of human merit.
It is noteworthy that God's calling of Jacob and not Esau did not determine the final salvation of their souls; rather, it was the basis of Israel's national existence as a channel for God's blessing to the world.
This chapter does, however, clearly show that even personal salvation must be by grace and not works.
After pointing out that God had chosen Isaac instead of Ishmael and that even before Esau and Jacob were born, God had chosen Jacob, Paul asks a question:
What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? (9:14).
Paul finds his answer by bringing a third comparison into the picture-Moses and Pharaoh (vss. 15-18).
These two men are figureheads of two nations in conflict. Even in their conflicts God has the world in mind so that He may finish His purpose for the whole world. At the time God delivered Israel from Egypt, God showed mercy to Moses and hardened Pharaoh. Why did God harden Pharaoh? Because Pharaoh insisted on exerting self-effort and self-determination. Since he was in this condition, God hardened him and used him as His method of making all the earth know God's glory and power and of seeing a demonstration of God's justice as well as His mercy.
It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy (9:16).
After the first comparison, Paul asked and answered a question. Now after the comparison of Moses with Pharaoh, a second question is asked:
Why doth he [God] still find fault? For who withstandeth his will? (9:19).
Nay but, 0 man, who art thou that repliest against God?... Why didst thou make me thus? (9: 20).
Paul justifies God immediately as superior to man in judgment. In His divine prerogative, God can do things the natural man cannot understand and may even seriously question. Why is this so? Because a mere man cannot explain God and His ways. Man is not capable of running the universe. But God is able.
Paul concludes this amazing argument with this logical and yet surprising and staggering conclusion. The religious Jews considered themselves the seed of Abraham-the children of promise. They classed themselves with Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the vessels of honor. Furthermore, they considered the uncircumcised Gentiles unclean and in class with Esau, Pharaoh, and the vessels of dishonor.
But Jews, trusting in their works and in the fact that they are the children of Abraham, have thereby lost the principle of grace and are classed by God with Esau and Pharaoh and the vessels of dishonor. The Gentiles, on the other hand, who seek mercy by faith in Christ, are classed with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the vessels of honor and mercy.
God is looking for a divinely specified condition in mankind-the good soil of a contrite heart on which He can pour out His mercy and compassion.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness which is of faith: but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Where shall they be called sons of the living God (9:26).
The conviction that Paul is underlining is not an argument in order to keep the Jews out of the kingdom. Paul's conviction is an explanation why the Jews could not enter in. Later on in Romans 11, Paul gives the Gentiles the very same warning concerning God's ways. He quotes a Gentile, claiming to be a part of the Lord's olive tree, saying,
Branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in (11: 19).
Paul replies to this Gentile,
Well; by their unbelief they [the Jews] were broken off, and thou [Gentle] standest by thy faith. Be not highminded, but fear (11:20).
(No single verse can be isolated from this chapter and at the same time explain the comparison that Paul presents concerning God's dealings with Jew and Gentile.)
During Jesus' three years of earthly ministry, He stated to the Jews the very same truth of this chapter. He had seen the faith of a Roman centurion, a Gentile, and had healed his son. At that time He said, "Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the sons of the kingdom shall be cast forth into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11, 12).
In conclusion, notice the chart on page 154. This chart shows the structure of Romans 9. It contrasts two conditions among men-children of the flesh and children of the promise. As you look at the chart, you can see more plainly the contrast between these two. Paul faithfully records the condition of the children of the flesh-Ishmael, Esau, Pharaoh, and the vessels unto dishonor; and on the other hand the condition of the children of the promise-Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the vessels unto honor. At the bottom of the left-hand side of the chart, the shock of the chapter is found. Paul declares the self-righteous Jews to be among the children of the flesh and the believing Gentiles to be among the children of the promise. All true believers are the true children of Abraham.
These two classes of humanity are not like a caste system. We are not fatalistically placed in either group. In fact, a careful reading of Romans (and other Scriptures) reveals that there have been Jews and Gentiles in each group, according to their condition of heart and mind.
The one major thought of this chapter is this: Jews are not automatically children of promise; neither are Gentiles automatically children of the flesh.
There is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (10:12).
This fourth main section of Romans embraces three views of God's work on the earth: the historic past (Rom. 9); the dynamic present (Rom. 10); the prophetic future (Rom. 11). Romans 10, which we are now considering, declares God's present mode of operation. It answers the question concerning how God is working now.
Verses 1-5. Here Paul indicates his burden for the salvation of his brethren, the Israelites.
My heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved (10:1).
Again Paul describes their basic depravity:
Seeking to establish their own [righteousness], they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God (10:3).
Verses 6-13. This passage is a most wonderful description of "the righteousness which is of faith." Paul draws his argument from an Old Testament quotation from Moses, the very man who gave the law: "This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?... But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it" (Deut. 30:11, 12, 14). From this quotation, Paul shows that righteousness is not obtained by an attempt to get Christ to come down from heaven or by an attempt to bring Him up again from the dead. No. On the divine side, everything that needs to be done has already been done. Every provision of redemption has been finished. Righteousness exists entirely in the gospel message preached and received. Righteousness operates in the one who believes and receives the gospel message with the heart and confesses it with the mouth. By the gospel, Jesus became the Lord of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews.
Right here we again have the resurrection theme of Romans.
If thou. . . shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness (10:9, 10).
This section of Romans 10 is really an elaboration of the well-known verse,
The gospel ... is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth (1:16).
What, then, is God's present way of working? God's dynamic mode of operation is the preaching of the gospel to all men. Because faith in the gospel comes by hearing the Word of God, the gospel must be preached to all men. The rest of Romans 10 strengthens this argument.
In the matter of presenting scriptural salvation to a lost world, there are eight gospel facts that are basic issues; these cannot be eliminated without eliminating the ways of God. Most of these scriptural principles are developed clearly in Romans 10, and we ought to take them to heart.
They do not know God's righteousness, and all the time they are going about trying to prove their own righteousness they have the wrong attitude to receive his. For Christ means the end of the struggle for righteousness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes him (10:3, 4, Phillips' Trans.).
By way of illustrating the need for a hundred percent renunciation of the old independent life, suppose a man has stolen fifty dollars and decided to return $49.50 anonymously in a letter. No peace would come to such a person. He would be as bothered about the fifty cents as the fifty dollars.
Even in a person with high morality or with a high percentage of repentance, a merely awakened conscience finds no peace and cannot receive God's pardon. Isaiah said, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55: 7). Only when repentance is total and sincere will the confession of sin and self-righteousness be acceptable to the Lord Jesus Christ. Only then will God forgive and cleanse (I John 1:9).
The righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven?.., or, Who shall descend into the abyss?... But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach (10:6-8).
Our conviction must be that the Holy Spirit is near us and is universally at work. It is impossible to escape from God's presence. The Holy Spirit cannot be evaded. David knew the Spirit was everywhere present. He said, "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?" (Ps. 139:7). Today we know something David did not know. The ever-present Spirit of God carries the ever-present saving power of the blood of the Lord Jesus to all parts of the world at the same time. It is the Spirit who is our wonderful confidence in the matter of bringing souls to Jesus Christ for remission of sins through His blood.
All of us have seen a place of business change ownership. One day it is run by one manager, but on going to that store the next day, we see a sign in the window saying, "Under New Management."
Likewise, every man on earth begins by running his own life, influenced and motivated by the powers of darkness. To be converted, a man must renounce the old management and receive Jesus as the new manager of his life. He must completely and forever relinquish the right to run his own life and give it up into the hands of Jesus. Without this intention and purpose in his heart, his faith is unreasonable. Since Jesus Christ died and rose again to remove a man's sin and death penalty, what else should a believer do but submit completely to Jesus? This subjection to Jesus as Lord is what Paul says:
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (10:9).
The applied blood gave him not only safety but from that time on it also claimed his life. Jesus said, "Every one.., who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10: 32, 33). In the same way the faith of the heart must be the confession of our lips-"confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10).
Jesus revealed the authority of His words also in the parable that He used at the close of the Sermon on the Mount. He said, "Every one therefore that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon the rock" (Matt. 7:24). The contrast is plain: If one does not obey these sayings of Jesus Christ, he is a foolish man and is building his house upon the sands. Disaster is impending.
Jesus said that our preaching should always terminate in teaching men to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded us (Matt. 28:20). We should therefore make it plain to the new believer that Christ's words are to be his very spiritual life, his meat and drink. It is this word of Christ that will lead him into the blessing and walk of sanctification as well as into the fullness and fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
The gospel is a proclamation of God's unmerited favor. Yet God's grace does not exclude man's moral obligation to obey the message preached, the message of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel must be preached, says Paul, but there is also the necessity of the obedience of faith. Paul speaks about God's visitation of wrath upon those who would not obey the gospel (II Thess. 1:8).
There are, then, these seven or eight different phases of the salvation experience, and they cannot be neglected. If we do neglect them, troubles with far-reaching effects will arise in the church. A little fable will illuminate the necessity of not neglecting any aspect of the gospel.
Three small fish lived with their mother in some clear running water. From their mother they received counsel about the special depth of water in which they were to swim. Emphatically the mother fish told the three small fish that it was not safe for them to go far south or far north. They were to stay where the water was of medium depth.
But one of the little fish began to enjoy the warmth of the shallow water toward the south. Soon a great bird of prey came down and snatched it out of the water. This was the end of fish number one.
A second fish started to venture into the deep water at the north end. The wisdom of the mother's warning was soon apparent: the mouth of a great pike opened up and swallowed the little fish whole.
The third fish, obedient to the mother's instruction, remained safe.
In the church of Jesus Christ there is a safe habitat of doctrine. There one is anchored in the gospel of the risen Christ, who is able to meet every need of man.
Paul's concluding thought in declaring God's ways in this present dispensation is that all men must hear the gospel, even though all will not obey its message. The gospel invitation is for Jew and Gentile alike. The words of Christ are saving words. We who know and have experienced the power of the saving words of Christ are debtors to the entire world.
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things! But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. But I say, Did Israel not know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, with a nation void of understanding will I anger you. And Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me. But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people (10:14-21).
A discussion about God's ways would not be complete if something were not said concerning Israel's prophetic future. Romans 11 emphasizes Israel's future restoration, predicted by the prophets in scores of places in the Old Testament.
Paul begins with a question: "Did God cast off his people?" This he answers with an emphatic no. Then follow six proofs of Israel's restoration to favor.
1. Paul's Personal Testimony (11: 1)
One evident proof of the restoration of Israel is the unusual testimony of God's grace toward Paul himself.
I say then, Did God cast off his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin (11:1).
Paul said in his other epistles that he was separated unto the gospel even from his mother's womb and called by God's grace (Gal. 1:15). He says that Christ was seen of him also, as one born out of due time. He was chosen to be an apostle (I Cor. 15:8, 9). Jesus Christ saved Paul, the very chief of sinners. Paul's unusual experience gave him a personal confidence that God was not through with the Israelites.
2. The Present Remnant of Israel (11:2-7)
Another major argument that Paul brings out concerning God's eternal purpose for Israel is that God had a remnant "at this present time." Why was there this remnant? It was to preserve the nation Israel during its time of rejection.
Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had become as Sodom, and had been made like unto Gomorrah. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace (9:29; 11:5).
This remnant was made possible because of Abraham, the father of the nation. With him God made a covenant of continuance, adding an oath to it and swearing by himself that it would never fail (Gen. 22:16-18).
3. The Gentiles' Provocation of Israel (11:8-15)
In Paul's day it was the Gentiles who abundantly received the oracles and the fullness of salvation through Israel's Messiah. These verses reveal that this mercy shown to Gentiles would finally provoke Israel to jealousy. Through Gentiles God intends to stir Israel to repentance and restoration. Paul indicates that when the Israelites do return to God, there will be a greater evidence of revival and salvation than history has ever witnessed.
If the casting away of them is the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? (11:15).
4. A Parable (11: 16-24)
God's grace and favor is likened to an olive tree. Israel was the original branch. Israel was broken off because of unbelief, and the Gentiles were grafted in to receive the relationship of favor. But Israel, the original branch, can be restored to its place in the olive tree with much more abundant vitality. Here, then, is a logical proof of Israel's final restoration to favor as a regenerated nation.
[Israel] also, if they continue not in their unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wast cut out of that which is by nature a wild olive tree, and was grafted contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which are the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? (11:23, 24).
(This parable deserves a more detailed study than we can give it here.)
5. Israel's Partial Hardening and Blindness (11:2, 5, 7, 10)
Paul indicates that Israel, though blind, is not incurable. Theirs is a partial hardening and a partial blindness. "A veil lieth upon their heart. But whensoever it [their heart] shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (II Cor. 3:16).
6. Prophecy concerning Israel to be fulfilled (11:26-31).
These verses again speak of God's covenant with the nation Israel. Israel will yet be restored to grace as a living nation.
There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer [the risen Messiah]; he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: and this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins (11:26, 27).
Yet not every Israelite who ever existed will be saved. If they should all be saved, Paul would not need to carry the burden for them and even wish himself accursed (Rom. 9:1).
The final verses of Romans 11 (vss. 33-36) concerning Jew and Gentile fulfillment take the form of a doxology to God for His eternal wisdom.
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledgte of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his w2ays past tracingt out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? or who hath first given to himj, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen. (11:33-36).
Paul cries out, "O depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!" This section probes the course of God's dealings with Jew and Gentile. It reveals God's amazing wisdom and His knowledge of man's tendencies and needs--namely, man's tendencies toward selfishness and self-righteousness, his need of mercy and grace.
This passage also reveals God's unsearchable judgments. Man cannot always explain the why of God's measures with him. God's ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts above ours.
No one fully knows God's original thoughts or intents. No one has sat down with Him to tell Him how He should run His redemptive program. No one has ever given Him any assets so that God stands in any debt to mankind. But of him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen (11:36).
What victims doth our God demand?
Not thoughtless beasts, or bodies slain!
Ourselves before Thine altar stand -
The reasoning souls of living men -
Our bodies, too, through Christ Thy Son,
An holy sacrifice we give,
And serve and please our God alone,
And only for Thy glory live.
The last five chapters of Romans speak of the church's testimony as it shines in a dark, sin-bound world. These chapters give detailed instructions on the practical transformation that takes place in the believer as he lives his life in the church and before the world. This section dwells on the privileges and problems of maturity in Christ.
At the end of the previous section, Paul finished his treatise on Israel with these words:
Of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things. To him be the glory for ever. Amen (11:36).
Now he begins the new section with his well-known entreaty to the Christians at Rome, asking them to present to God a living sacrifice, a sacrifice that is not sinful but holy.
The Romans had already surrendered to God initially preceding their experience of cleansing and sanctification. Now, following their sanctification, there was also to be a final act of consecration of the body. This is what Paul was referring to in Romans 12:1. In absolute abandonment, the Roman Christians are asked to commit themselves to the complete will of God and thus be transformed by the renewing of their minds.
A brief survey of each of these five chapters will give us an indication of what the Spirit is seeking to teach. Romans 12 in its entirety is reminiscent of Jesus' teaching to His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, about His teachings concerning absolute purity, integrity, love for friends and love for enemies. In Romans 13 Paul admonishes,
Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law (13: 8).
In Romans 14 Paul admonishes the Christians to be considerate toward the conscience and sensitive attitudes of others. Romans 15 speaks of being filled with all joy and peace in believing. Here Paul also witnesses concerning the wholeness and the fullness that he himself possessed, saying,
I know that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ (15:29).
Chapter 16 is filled with wholehearted brotherhood, typical of the early Christians-a brotherhood which made the world say, "Behold, how they love one another."
These five chapters reveal that these Christians had actually obtained a dynamic to love the Lord their God with all their heart, and strength, and mind. But as there had once been an abandonment to sin, now there must be abandonment to righteousness. In other words, in the early church in Rome there was to be no neutrality or lukewarmness, for in the gospel of the risen Saviour there is no room for neutrality. The good news of salvation, truly experienced, banishes neutrality from a believer's heart.
Samuel Zwemer, that missionary statesman whose burden for the Moslem world is well known in our day, wrote in his book Dynamic Christianity in the World Today:
There is a dire necessity for an absolute Christianity in our modern world.... The Christian message in the non-Christian world would fail if it yielded to the perils of relativism.... There is no thinking in grey in any part of the New Testament.... To get energy, you must concentrate and compress.
Let us now show in some detail how loveless neutrality is at war with the whole meaning of the gospel.
Look back over three thousand years and think of the history of the newborn Israelite nation just after their exodus from Egypt under Moses. After they traveled through the Wilderness of Sin, they came into the region of Rephidim. There a savage nomadic tribe called the Amalekites attacked them. God sent forth one young man, Joshua, with his band of men to fight the enemy.
This was a spiritual as well as a physical battle. As the Amalekites fought with their whole energy, the man Moses with his hands raised toward heaven was looking down on Joshua and the young nation. God commanded Moses to intercede with hands uplifted to touch the throne of Jehovah. When his hands were raised, Israel prevailed. When his hands were down, Amalek prevailed. The real source of victory was in the intercessory ministry of Moses.
Moses had to be active, fighting against the fatigue in his own body, asserting his obedience to God, and calling upon Aaron and Hur to help in declaring his faith in God. Neutrality on Moses' part would have been defeat. Only spiritual aggressiveness, concern, and love were victorious. Again this great and serious lesson was learned: neutrality can never win the victory of God.
Think also of the story of the Good Samaritan. Before the Samaritan came on that lonely road and found the dying man mangled by the thieves, two other men, religious and legal, came from Jericho to Jerusalem. But these men were not ready to help the robbed man in his dire need. To be sure, they were not robbers. But neither were they lovers of mankind. They were neutral. There were legal and negative prohibitions in their lives. They did not have the positive thrust of love that identified them with the man in need. In the matter of a human need, their neutrality joined them with the forces of the thieves, the thugs, and the robbers.
Perhaps in all history there is no more pathetic picture of the neutral man than Pontius Pilate. His hand had the right to take hold of the Roman gavel, pound the desk in the praetorium court, and insist that Jesus go free. The howling mob cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" and Pilate washed his hands in the basin of neutrality at this most crucial trial in history. After that washing, his hands were more unclean than before. Evidently it was neutrality, as well as hypocrisy and animosity, that sent the Lord Jesus to the cross.
Christ is the greatest enemy of neutrality. He said to the wealthy Laodicean church concerning their spiritual convictions: "I would have thee hot or cold." If Christ were on earth in person today, He would have to condemn our use of the word tolerant as nauseating neutrality. Neutral men may believe they are walking a tolerant path, but the time will come when neutral men in politics, society, and religion will find themselves condemning righteousness and becoming the tools of God-haters and God-rejecters.
These last five chapters of- Romans reveal, then, the practical out-working of divine love. Divine love is the Holy-Spirit-motivated choice of good will toward God and man as an end in itself. This good will is the paramount qualification of discipleship, Jesus said on many occasions. Once a young lawyer tempted Him by saying, "Which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus answered, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy he...... And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments the whole law hangeth, and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40).
This kind of love is not the product of man's will power but must be shed abroad in man's heart by the Holy Ghost which is given him (Rom. 5:5). This divine love takes hold of a man's affections, his intellect, his imagination, his reason, and his total will. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another," Jesus told His disciples. He was the enemy of any neutral morality that was too nice to offend and too dainty to be soiled. He knew that He was to create by the Spirit disciples in His own image of divine love.
It may be quite difficult for us to understand what the Old Testament writers mean by the words hate and love. We understand these words today more in the realm of our sensibilities. We think of love and hate mainly as feelings-which, of course, they ultimately do become, for we do feel hate and we do feel love. But in the Scriptures, feelings are not the primary characteristics of love. For instance, Jesus gave a definition of hate and love. He said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other" (Matt. 6: 24). Here Jesus indicates that love holds to one of these masters; hate despises the other master and has nothing to do with him. In this case the main element of love is not feeling. The main thing that Jesus indicated was activity arising from one's disposition to love. Love, then, is the activity that identifies itself with the master it loves; hate is the activity that renounces any identification with the one it hates.
Jesus used the same word hate in a very remarkable context when He was teaching about discipleship. Listen to these disturbing words: "If any man cometh unto me, and hateth not his own father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). If we think of this word hate as being an emotion, this verse becomes an impossible condition for discipleship; in fact, it would be contrary to many other Scriptures that tell us to love wife, husband, parents, and children. But if we think of the word hate as being an activity, this verse is very clear.
In our love for Christ, we identify ourselves with Him. In Christ's call to discipleship, love is an activity that identifies the disciple with Him in His kingdom. Hate is an activity that no longer identifies itself with the opposing selfish interests which parents, or a wife, or a child, or a brother or sister might have. It does not identify itself even with its own interests. Why'? Because its preference is for the will of God and the good of all men. Disciples may still feel an affection and yearning for loved ones; but in this special sense, they hate both them and their own selves. Love and hate are activities arising out of obedience to Jesus Christ.
When we face the demands of the Ten Commandments, we face a diagnosis that reveals our lack of love. But these commandments do not present a cure. The law gives us a description of righteousness but not a dynamic for righteousness. This law can condemn sin but offers no forgiveness. The law requires moral freedom but cannot impart freedom. This law of God can demand spirituality (because the law is spiritual), but there is no spirituality that can be squeezed out of the two tables of the law. Spirituality must come from a different source.
This Source is Jesus Christ who cleanses from sin and fills with the Holy Spirit. Paul lays down the simple need in Romans 13: 8-10:
Owe no man anything, save to love one another: for he that loveth his neighbor hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet, and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this word, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfilment of the law.
In this last section of Romans we discover the call to sacrifice, to ardent love, to zeal, and to a wholehearted life based on faith and love. God raised Jesus Christ from the dead to transform His saints.
In the first eleven chapters of the book of Romans we have seen God working in the believer. Beginning with Romans 12 we now see how this salvation must be worked out. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and work, for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12, 13).
Romans 12:1, 2 is Paul's strong entreaty to the brethren to consecrate their redeemed personality to God.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God (12:1, 2).
The body is the earthen vessel containing Christ, the treasure. This body should reasonably and logically be given to God as a living sacrifice-that is, it should be committed to the doing of God's will no matter what the cost may be. Paul's phrase "a living sacrifice" is equivalent to Christ's word, "Take up thy cross, and follow me."
Paul is not speaking here about the original commitment to Christ which every sinner transacts when he is converted. This is an appeal to the cleansed man to be committed to Christ; this sacrifice is to be holy and acceptable. Never in any stage of our conformity to Christ does God force us. He makes us free so that out of our love for Him we may choose Him.
Paul goes on to say:
For I say, through the grace that was given me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but so to think as to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to each man a measure of faith. For even as we have many members in one body, and all the members have not the same office: so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and severally members one of another (12: 3-5).
At this point Paul is warning believers that they should not be high-minded but humble. The reason God had to reject the Jews was Jewish pride.
By their unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by thy faith. Be not high minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, neither will he spare thee (11:20).
In Matthew 11:28, when Jesus called men to find rest in Him, He declared that the main lesson they would learn from Him was to be meek and lowly in heart.
Humility is the humus, the soil, for the garden of divine grace. This attitude of soul, this lowliness and humbleness of heart and mind, welds fellow believers into the body of Christ and makes them one spirit with Him. "The fruit of the Spirit is meekness" (Gal. 5:22). We are the body of Christ, dependent on Him, receiving guidance and direction from our Head, Jesus Christ. As members of a body, we are also interdependent, receiving nourishment and encouragement from one another.
In Romans 12:3-8 the illustration of the human body is used to show that each person in the body of Christ has a God-given position to fill. We are members of the body of Christ, with differing gifts ''according to the grace that is given unto us.'' Paul then lists several expressions of Christ in the persons making up the church: prophecy, ministry, exhortation, giving, ruling, mercy. (He explains these more fully in his letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12-14.)
Paul goes on to say,
Having gifts differing according to the grace that was given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of our faith; or ministry, let us give ourselves to our ministry; or he that teacheth, to his teaching; or he that exhorteth, to his exhorting: he that giveth, let him do it with liberality; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that showeth mercy, with cheerfulness (12:6-8).
When love and humility are present in the body of Christ, the gifts of the Holy Spirit operate. These nine gifts are listed in I Corinthians 12: 7-11: "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal. For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit: to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another working of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits: and to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will." By these gracious endowments of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ can be built up and bear an effective testimony to the world.
Romans 12: 9-16 is a highly condensed guide for those who have chosen to live this life of love. (These verses would be a good portion of Scripture to memorize.) This passage reveals the apostolic response to the teachings of Christ and how the Christian experiences them.
Love, says Paul, reveals itself by its reaction.
Let us go back over these particular verses in Romans 12 and enter in detail into the blessing hidden in this portion of Scripture.
And love will "take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men" (vs. 17b). Love will not permit us to leave false impressions. No matter what people think about us, we will do God's will. Yet we will not disregard what people think about us. Love makes every provision to give the best impressions concerning our Christian testimony. The man who walks in love seeks to leave a testimony with all people in order that he might adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God: for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord (12:19).
The person who walks in love believes in the perfect justice of God. The final result of all things will make everything equal. All affronts and all attacks against the disciple are essentially against Christ within the disciple, and it can be repaid by only the divine Judge himself. The true disciple leaves room for God to act, as only He can act.
But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good (12:20, 21).
Again the Apostle Paul does not present a mere abstinence from evil, but a dynamic adventure in doing good, even to enemies. The kingdom of God does not operate on the same basis as the governments of men. Love is our watchword and the sign of our discipleship. We are to permit no moral or spiritual lapses. We are not to be overcome, but rather we are to be overcomers by faith and love. These are the principles and practices of the true citizen of the kingdom of God.
Christians do not need human law enforcements to make them law abiding. Human governments never need to put true Christians to death for breaking the moral law. They are motivated by the higher law of love to their neighbor.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: love therefore is the fulfillment of the law (13:10).
Paul says to the Spirit-filled believers concerning governments:
Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment (13:1, 2).
Notice that the following four Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments teach that God himself has instituted government in order to maintain moral and social order.
The question often arises concerning subjection to government: What if a government is wicked? Shall we be subject to a wicked government? There can be no question as to the kind of government that Paul says is ordained of God! Paul considers these to be the ones whose powers of government are not a terror to the good works. He said, "Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." A ruler is a minister of God for good, and "an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil" (Rom. 14:3, 4).
If a Christian ever suffers punishment under human government, it must be because that human government has passed laws that are contrary to God's law (Rom. 13:10). In such a case we must say with Peter, "We ought to obey God rather than man."
Spirit-filled Christians, as described in Romans 13, live by the law of love and faith. Therefore they will say things and do things that are often better than the society about them. But Christians will sometimes be misunderstood by society. When mankind is corrupt and rulers are biased toward selfishness, Christianity may also be persecuted. Herein the daily cross of the believer is realized. Man's perpetual debt of love to God and love to man is the only answer to this problem. The course of Christ's historical cross and of the believer's daily cross is this conflict between God's will and man's will.
Redemption was provided through Christ's blood. Through the power of that blood we are delivered from the power of sin and self. Christ and His blood are also our propitiation, our only right, before the throne of God.
It is not difficult to understand the implications of the cross of Christ in a believer's life when we realize that when Christ walked on earth amidst the governments of men, He represented another government. At the time of Jesus, one government (Israel) was very religious; one (Rome) was very military. Jesus, the Son of God, came into these conditions in the land of Israel preaching the kingdom of God. More than that, Jesus was the King of this heavenly kingdom. During His whole earthly ministry, He never compromised that fact; but, because His kingdom was in their midst, He called out to all men to repent.
Right here we want to ask a pointed question: What does it mean to carry a daily cross in and among the society and government of this present age?
Let us look at the life of Jesus in this connection. Jesus came from heaven to this earth, which is under the government of sin, Satan, and the world. He lived in perfect obedience to His Father. This obedience produced His cross. The reality of the cross increased every time the will of the Father and the will of men collided. It was a daily issue that never escaped Him. As He walked under the government and direction of His Father, the cross was inscribed into every decision He made and every place He went.
Notice the words of the Apostle Paul concerning Christ: "He being found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross" (Phil. 2: 8). Paul said about Christ, "Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that ye no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God" (I Pet. 4: I, 2).
Christ is our Lord as well as our Saviour. When we accept His government over our lives and choose to walk in His will, expressing by His grace the righteousness of Christ, at this very point we must take up our cross. The cross is discovered and produced in our lives by living as obedient citizens of heaven among the citizens of this world, among those who are not subject to God but to the flesh and the devil. Whenever we are truly conformed to the Lord and Saviour, the cross is evidenced in our lives.
The significance of the cross may be seen by the way it was understood when Jesus was on earth and by the impression it made on the common, ordinary Israelite and Roman. At that time (I) the cross was the emblem of rejection; (2) the cross meant loss of reputation and ambition; (3) the cross meant shame and exposure; (4) the cross meant separation; (5) the cross meant suffering and loss of physical life; (6) the cross meant bearing blame; (7) the cross meant conformity and fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order that we might have the power to walk this way, Christ died and rose again, ascended into heaven, and received the promise of the Father for us, the power of the Holy Ghost, that we might represent His government on earth. He declared the promise in Acts 1:8: "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
We begin a life that is always delivered unto death for Jesus' sake. Out of death comes life. The most powerful impact on men is always wrought by those who live in the full will of God. Our reasonable service to God is for us to be living sacrifices. God's will is then done on earth as it is in heaven and the power of redemption is released into the world. Men are faced with the Christian's abandonment to Christ. The Holy Spirit is able to convict men of the fact that they are rebels and sinners against the Lord of the universe, and they begin to call out, "What must we do?" The Spirit-filled, Christ-following disciple can lead such seekers into salvation and discipleship. The world is insensible to God until they see the evidences of heaven in the lives of Christians. The righteousness of God is thereby revealed.
The Christian who lives out this life of faith and love and cross-bearing will have no trouble fulfilling the human standards of morality and decency and legitimate governmental regulations. He will render to all their dues-whether it be in taxes or respect for officials. But the Christian will live in the daytime of grace, while the world still is in spiritual darkness and practices sins that are not judged by human law and order. The Christian will walk in the light, freed from the sins of the world.
Let us walk becomingly, as in the day; not in revelling and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (13:13, 14).
Romans 14-16 deals with those problems and obligations of faith and love that still persist even after one has been delivered from all sin and been filled with the Holy Spirit. In their outworking, faith and love are personal (Rom. 12), national (Rom. 13), and universal (Rom. 14-16).
The apostles Peter and Paul both taught and prayed for the Christian concerning sensitive issues of daily living. For instance, Paul wrote to the Philippians: "This I pray that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment till the day of Christ" (Phil. 1:9,10). Christians need knowledge and discernment to know how to express faith in Christ and love to saint and sinner in practical issues.
Faith and love exercise their power in seven spheres, in all of which Jesus Christ is risen from the dead to be Lord.
1. Love is to rule in matters of conscience (14:1-12).
Paul first points out the dangers of being a judge and an offense in the sensitive issues of conscience. The weak in faith are not to be judged in matters such as food and special days.
In the idolatrous Roman Empire, special meat offerings were presented to the pagan idols. Afterwards this meat was sold in the markets or shambles (I Cor. 10:25). Because it had associations in the past with idol worship, some of the new converts could not eat this meat without deep turmoil of mind. But because others thought the meat belonged essentially to God, they ate it without any compunction. After all, "the earth is the Lord's."
As the final answer, Paul lays down the law of love and says, "Don't make light of a weak brother, nor let one who is troubled become a critic of the other one's untroubled conscience. Do everything as unto God, who will be the judge of all men."
To this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living (14: 9).
2. Love does not act against a weak conscience (14:14-23).
For love's sake we must refrain not only from judging another person but also from tempting him to act against the assurance of faith. If we get a brother into condemnation by offending his weak conscience, we are breaking the law of love. Our greatest ambition should be to build up our brother in Christ by means of our walk in love, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
The Greek word kanon is not used in this section of Romans, but it is used five times in the New Testament. One meaning of kanon is a ruler, a measuring stick, that which measures as a rod. To measure values of life and behavior, Paul uses love as the measuring rod of the kingdom. Secular education and philosophy have crucified every absolute revelation of the Bible by neglect and by ridicule. But not so the Apostle Paul and every other Spirit-filled teacher. The measuring rod for every issue of eating or drinking or scruples of conscience is love. The measure is declared in these verses:
The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he that herein serveth Christ is well-pleasing to God, and approved of men. So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another (14:17-19).
3. Love goes beyond the call of duty (15:1-14).
In Romans 15 Paul tells believers that they are to learn to identify themselves with a weak brother by a Christ-like self-renunciation. The servant of God must go the way of Christ, who "pleased not himself." It is in this attitude of like-mindedness and self-giving love that the oneness of the church finds its roots. This joyous fellowship is the heritage of Gentiles and Jews alike.
That the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he said, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (15:9-13).
4. Love reaches out where Christ was not named (15:15-21).
Paul uncovers the love of Christ as the very heart of his own missionary ministry to the Gentiles. With this love he reached out to the whole Gentile world to make them obedient to Christ by words and deeds (vs. 18), by mighty signs and wonders (vs. 19), and by the power of the Spirit of God (vs. 19). Paul reached out not where Christ was named and not upon another man's foundation. He acted on the principle embodied in the Scripture:
Where the message had not been spoken, these shall hear and these shall understand (15:21).
5. Love has a sense of debtorship (15:22-29). Love reveals itself by a sense of debtorship. Christians are debtors to preach the gospel, and those who hear and receive it are immediately involved in a debt that touches a man's heart and also his pocketbook.
If the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, they owe it to them also to minister unto them in carnal things (15:27).
6. Love has a ministry of prayer (15:30-33).
The greatest expression of love is the ministry of prayer. Love finds its universal influence by prayer in the name of Christ. Paul asks the Romans to pray for the accomplishment of his ministry both in Jerusalem and in Rome.
I beseech you, brethren,.., that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me (15:30).
7. Love acknowledges kindnesses and sacrifices (16:1-27).
This closing chapter of Romans needs no commentary. It breathes Christian love-a love that acknowledges kindnesses received, sacrifices made, souls saved, and help offered. This love rebukes and also avoids deception and falsehood. Such love is not soft and spineless, but it is a shepherd that keeps the flock safe.
I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the divisions and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned: and turn away from them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent. For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I rejoice therefore over you: but I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil (16:17-19).
Love as a dynamic will crush Satan's power in the present situation and then finally worldwide. This divine love desires to make known to all nations the obedience of faith.
The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you (16:20).
To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever. Amen (16:27).
Ignorance and lack of clear information can have strange and disastrous results. One experience from the American Civil War makes this plain (Last Gun of the Confederacy by Charles E. Hinkson, Reader's Digest, April 1963).
The Shenandoah was a Confederate raider, out to plunder and destroy. On June 22, 1865, James J. Waddell, captain of the Shenandoah, broke out from the fog in the Bering Sea. In the distance he saw five whaling vessels. These were much-sought-after prizes of war. At once he called to his crew, "Clear for action."
One thing, however, was terribly wrong with the ship's mission that day. Although Waddell had no way of knowing it, the Civil War had been over for two months. Yet Waddell had come near one of the whalers and boldly claimed it as a prize of war.
Just then the alarmed captain of the whale boat rowed over to the Shenandoah, and standing on the cruiser's deck he shouted with rage, "But, sir - the war is over. San Francisco papers have reported Lee's surrender."
Waddell would not accept this information. Not until after several more of his acts of war did he receive the overwhelming evidence that the war had terminated. Two months later, on August 22, he gravely said to his crew, "Gentlemen, the war between the states is over. It has been over since April 24!"
About 2000 years ago at Calvary, another war- the war of all wars-was fought and finished. Thus a life of victory and peace was provided. Jesus' death and resurrection obtained deliverance and freedom from sin and the law for all believers.
Paul brings up an important matter in his explanation in Romans of the way we are set free in Christ from the bondage of sin and the law. Three different times in Romans the little phrase "know ye not" appears.
Are ye ignorant that...? (6:3).
Know ye not, that...? (6:16).
Are ye ignorant that...? (7:1).
Paul is appealing to the Christians at Rome for the knowledge of the truth. He realizes that ignorance will hinder both their hunger for deliverance and their experience of freedom, peace, and harmony.
Every Christian should enjoy freedom from the dominion of guilt, death, sin, and the law. The Spirit of holiness and harmony ought to dominate his life. But though many Christians may have received the good news of forgiveness, they are still fighting another battle that Jesus already won for them at Calvary. They are seeking victory and righteousness on the basis of self-effort. To all such (as well as of the Romans), Paul asks, "Are ye ignorant? Do ye not know that the battle with sin s dominion is over for the man who is truly in Christ? Know ye not?"
When some first hear this amazing news, they, like Waddell, may refuse to surrender to the truth. Others may hold to doctrines contrary to the truth. Still others may find the truth too wonderful to believe. Yet Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8: 32).
The reason sincere Christians today live far below their privileges of victory and power is their failure to believe and receive the truth. Paul told the Thessalonians of the need for exercising faith in the truth. "God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (II Thess. 2:13).)
The book of Romans declares the infinite value of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our union with Him in His complete victory. In this great, completely satisfying salvation, we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. May the Holy Spirit fill every believer and so lead each believer into all truth that the church may be radiant with the living Christ.
A VISION FOR WORSHIP ... ! In Spirit, In Truth | STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS - Learning From Those Who Preceded Us in Faith | SAVED BY HIS LIFE - A Guide to Understanding Romans | IF WE WILL OBEY ... ! God's Grace for Me through the Ilokano People |HOW SHALL WE HONOR? | SPIRITUAL WARFARE AND PRAYER IN MISSIONARY STRATEGY | DON'T WORRY! Easy to Say, But Can We Stop Doing It? | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR
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