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The Epistle of St. Paul

to the

ROMANS

 

 

"This Epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel, and is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul.  It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes."[1]

"It is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man.  It is his heart.  It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died.  It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam."[2]

Indeed, the Book of Romans is one of the most profound books in existence; it is certainly one of the most valued parts of the Holy Scriptures.  It has been appropriately termed the Cathedral of the Christian faith.  Its profound theology and impressive style were reason enough for it to be assigned the first place among the Pauline epistles.

When Paul wrote this epistle to the church in Rome, that congregation must have already been in existence for a number of years, for Paul writes that he had desired to visit them "these many years" (15:23).  To him this church was strong enough to help him carry out further missionary activities.  They are not called recent converts; they are not treated as having been improperly instructed, but seem to have been an organized and well-grounded congregation (15:14, "filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another").  The epistle deals with no major error in the church; nor does it have to deal with organizational principles.  It was a church that was universally famous (1:8), and not merely because it was in Rome.

The Roman church was a group that had a large Jewish element, but was also filled with Gentile converts from paganism, both free as well as slaves.  How the church in Rome was started is unclear.  The Roman Catholic view is that Peter founded it; another view is that Roman Christians from Pentecost in Jerusalem made their way there. But it may simply be that several Christian families or groups from Pauline churches in the East settled in Rome and grew together.  According to the end of the book, there were several congregations meeting in the city.  At the outbreak of Neronian persecutions, Tacitus says that the Christians in Rome were "an immense multitude."

 

 

Introduction to the Book of Romans

 

The Place and Date of Romans

Based on the material from Acts and the Corinthian epistles, the Book of Romans clearly indicates that it was written from Corinth on Paul's third missionary journey.  Paul had never visited Rome; but after fulfilling his mission of mercy to Jerusalem, he hoped to go to Rome en route to Spain (Rom. 15:23-25).  At any rate, the date of the book is probably 60 A.D.

The chronological order of the Pauline epistles is about as follows: First and Second Thessalonians, Galatians, First and Second Corinthians, Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, Philemon, First Timothy, Titus, and Second Timothy.   Romans is placed first among Paul's letters in the New Testament not only because it is his longest work, but because it also furnishes a massive and basic theological frame-work for the whole collection of the apostle's writings.

 

The Theme of the Book of Romans

The theme of the book centers on the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16,17).  Paul is deeply concerned that his readers understand how a sinner may be received as righteous by a righteous God; and how a justified sinner should live daily to the glory of God.

Most commentators have said that verses sixteen and seventeen of chapter one are a concise summary of the content of the epistle.  But C. K. Barrett goes a step further to say that it is not wrong to see in them a summary of Paul's theology as a whole.[3]  Perhaps we can be very precise here.  Perhaps in the text of Habakkuk 2:4 as it is used in Romans (and elsewhere), we have a pithy expression of the essence of the doctrine of the Word of God--“the just shall live by faith.”  We will have to explain what all this means shortly.

 

 

The Structure of the Book of Romans

The book falls neatly into an introduction (1:1-17), a doctrinal section on justification (1:18--5:11), a doctrinal section on sanctification (5:12--8:39), a parenthetical section on Israel (9:1--11:36), a practical application section (12:1--15:13); and then a conclusion (15:14--16:27).  A simple outline of this structure looks like this:

 

I. Introduction: The Revelation of Righteousness  (1:1-17)

            A.     The Salutation (1:1-7)

            B.     Personal Items (1:8-13)

            C.     The Theme (1:14-17)

 

II. Justification, or the Imputation of Righteousness (1:18--5:11)

A.     Condemnation, or the Universal Need of Righteousness (1:18--3:20)

B.     Manifestation, or the Universal Provision of Righteousness (3:21-26)

C.     Harmonization, or Justification and the Purpose of the Law (3:27-31)

D.     Illustration, or Justification and the Old Testament (4:1-25)

E.     Exultation, or the Certainty of Salvation (5:1-11)

 

III.   Life in Christ, or Union With and Ultimate Conformation to the Righteous One (5:12--8:39)

A.     The Reign of Sin and the Reign of Grace (5:12-21)

B.     The New Relationship in Life (6:1-14) 

C.     The New Principle in Life (6:15-23)

D.     The New Freedom in Life (7:1-25)

E.     The New Power in Life (8:1-17)

F.     The New Hope in Life (8:18-39)

 

IV.  Vindication, or God's Righteousness in His Relationship with Israel (9:l--11:36)

A.    The Consideration of Israel's Rejection (9:l-29)

B.    The Explanation of Israel's Rejection (9:30--10:21)

C.   The Consolation of Israel's Rejection (11:1-36)

 

V.  Application, or God's Righteousness at Work (12:1--15:13)

A.   Application in the Assembly (12:1-21)

B.   Application in the State (13:1-14)

C.   Application in Doubtful Things (14:1--15:13)

 

VI.  Conclusion, or Purpose, Plans, and Praise in Connection with the Dissemination of Righteousness (15:14--16:27)

   

The Book of Romans and Old Testament Theology

Romans has often been described as an exposition of the Old Testament in view of the Gospel of Christ;  this is certainly an accurate description in view of the pattern that emerges.  The Gospel of Christ tells how sinful people can find access into the heavenlies through sacrificial atonement.  It is clear that this also was the focus of Israel's sacrificial system.  It is little wonder that the book draws upon the pattern of those ancient sacrifices.

There were three main types or groups of sacrifices in ancient Israel's worship: those that made Expiation or atonement (Sin Offering [Lev. 4], Trespass Offering [Lev. 5], and Whole Burnt Offering [Lev. 1]  as well as the great Day of Atonement [Lev. 16]), those that were for Celebration (Peace Offering [Lev. 3] as well as other variations, such as Passover [Exod. 12]), and those that were for Dedication (Meal Offering [Lev. 2] as well offering the first fruit, first born, paying vows, and making other types of dedicatory ritual).  But essentially there was the forgiveness and acceptance by God through atoning sacrifices, the celebration of being at peace with God in the fellowship or peace offering, and the dedication to worship and serve God through the dedication or meal offering.

The Book of Romans employs this basic theological pattern of Atonement by God, Peace with God, and Dedication to God, as it weaves a theological argument from the beginning of God's work until the end. The following overview will show how the argument of the book unfolds:

 

1. In chapter 1 after giving the introduction and purpose of the book, Paul surveys natural revelation via creation, noting that the creation rejected the Creator for the satisfaction of baser instincts.  This section is an exposition on the early part of Genesis.

2. In chapter 2 Paul announces the judgment of God according to truth, explaining that the judgment is by law and that circumcision alone avails nothing.  This section is a theological explanation of the law code.

3. The point is that all have sinned--there is none righteous (chapter 3).  No one is justified by works.  But instead, the righteousness of God comes through CHRIST'S ATONING SACRIFICE, the propitiation in His blood.  Here then is the fulfillment of the expiatory sacrifices.

4. But the sacrifice by itself was a ritual; there had to be faith operating or it was of no value.  So righteousness was reckoned for faith (3:28--4:25).

5. Once there is justification by faith in the atoning blood, there then follows the celebration of being at peace with God in a new life (chapter 5).  This chapter picks up on the idea of Israel's PEACE OFFERING, announcing that because the atonement has been made, we have peace with God.

6. We are so identified by faith with the sacrifice that we are actually dead in Him--as with Israel's ritual, the sacrifice that is slain is a substitute for the sinner.  And so we are actually dead to sin (chapter 6).  Just as a believing Israelite knew that blood of the animal should have been his or her blood that was spilt, that body on the ground his or her dead body, we also reckon the same, that because Christ is our substitute he died in our place.  Since we actually died in Christ, we now live in him, and become servants of righteousness.

7. But we are still sinful human creatures; we struggle constantly with sin (7:1-25).  Israel repeated her sacrifices, but we do not. Instead, we find emancipation from the law through God's provision, a provision which is better than repeating the sacrifice again and again.

8. That better provision made for us is the glorious Holy Spirit who leads us into righteousness and bears witness that we are the children of God (chapter 8).  If we are in Christ, we are dead to sin; but in the spiritual realities of life it is the Spirit who is alive, delivering us from sin and bondage, through suffering to glory.

9-11. If all this fulfillment in Christ is so much better than the old covenant, what then do we make of the old covenant?  In chapters 9, 10, and 11 Paul stops to recall the privileges Israel enjoyed, but how through disobedience she missed the fulfillment of the promises and the Lord turned to the Gentiles for the present time.  But Paul affirms that there is a glorious future for the covenant promises.

12. Now, in view of the fact that we have been grafted into the program, and have peace with God through faith in the atoning blood of Christ, we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices.  This brings forward Israel's DEDICATION OFFERING (see also Lev. 2, Ps. 40, and Deut. 26).

The rest of the book (chapters 12-16) lays out the application of our new covenant relationship through Christ--it is the law of love.  Chapter 12 discusses the application in the assembly through the spiritual gifts offered in love; chapter 13 broadens the application to submission in love; chapter 14 applies the law of love in doubtful things, focusing on having the mind of Christ.

So the argument of the book builds upon the age-old revelation through the ritual of Israel that provided the sinner with access to God.  But now Christ has come and he is the end[4] of the Law (Rom. 10:4).  In other words, the righteousness that the Law required and that the sacrifices pledged has now become a reality "in Christ," that is, it is available through faith in his atoning blood and worked out in life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

 

 Bibliography for the Book of Romans

 

Commentaries on the English Text.  There are several works that would provide helpful material for the study of the book in the English.  Among these I would list:  F. F. Bruce, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series; H. C. G. Moule, The Epistle to the Romans, in the Cambridge Bible for Schools (a preacher's reference work); William R. Newell, Romans, Verse by Verse (for good exposition); and James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans (a beautiful treatment of the book).

Commentaries on the Greek Text.  The following are helpful tools: James Denney, "St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans," in The Expositor's Greek Testament (a theological treatment); E. H. Griffith, "The Epistle to the Romans," in The Speaker's Commentary (a classic for tracing the argument); F. Godet, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 2 volumes (clear; traces Paul's thought; offers expository help);  Charles Hodge, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (theological study); Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8 in the Wycliffe Exegetical Commentary Series (good for the critical problems and technical matters); John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans in The New International Commentary Series; and certainly John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, 1947 Eerdmans reprint of the 1540 edition; C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ICC New Series (Edinburgh, 1975, 1979); and William Sanday and Arthur C. Headlam, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, ICC (Edinburgh, 1902).

These works, plus many more that could have been listed, can be acquired through book stores, or, if out of print, found through the internet (such as www.abebooks.com).  It would be most helpful--although certainly not necessary--to have at least one good commentary on the book, one that you can work with (i.e., if you do not know Greek you will not get everything out of a commentary based on the Greek).

Very importantly, however, Bible students should read through the Book of Romans several times in different English translations.  Use a couple that you are not used to, in addition to your favorite translation.  These will get you thinking when you see different wording in the text.

 

 

First Bible Class

 

 

I. The Revelation of Righteousness:

The Salutation, Introduction, and Theme of Romans (1:1-17)

 

  

A.  The Salutation (1:1-7)

 

1.       Paul's relationship to Jesus (1,2).  In the first few verses of the book Paul relates himself to his master, his gift, and his work.

 

His master.  In relating himself to Jesus as his master Paul uses the expression, "a servant of Jesus Christ."  This is the Hebrew Old Testament expression "servant of the LORD [Yahweh],"[5] the highest title that anyone could have.  Paul makes a powerful statement by substituting “Jesus” for “Yahweh.” This would be heresy to an unconverted Jew; but Paul has the deity and dignity of Jesus in mind.  The point is that everyone who has been redeemed belongs to him; they are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to him, their LORD and Master.

His gift.  Paul was an apostle, or as the term "called" shows, he was an apostle by calling, or, his gift originated in divine calling.[6] The term "apostle" refers to his spiritual gift more than an office--he was sent on a mission to represent the risen Christ.  This kind of term is not used in the New Testament for an "office" in the strict sense.  Verse 5 shows the concept behind the gift: there was never the idea of the right to stand above or over someone else, but rather the privilege of serving.  Nevertheless. The right to be called apostles in the New Testament leadership sense included seeing the risen Christ and being commissioned by him. 

His work.  Paul was "separated unto the Gospel."  On the road to Damascus God transformed him into a spiritual Pharisee. From then on he would proclaim the "good news."  The term we know as "gospel" is here called "the gospel of God--the Gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures."  The "gospel" is the Old Testament term for good news about the Messiah's coming, who, according to Isaiah 40:9, is both God and Messiah.  This good news had now become Paul's life.

The Gospel is about Jesus Christ.  But while it is good news, it is not completely new news, for it was promised before (Galatians says preached before).  Any such news not found rooted in the Old Testament is considered a false gospel.  What is new is the complete revelation of the gospel in Jesus of Nazareth, that is, exactly how the revelation of God in the Old Testament would work out in the New.

So then Paul's identification of himself is that of a servant under the authority of Christ, a messenger called to a new life work, and a devoted minister of the Gospel.  Clearly, the person of Jesus Christ was to Paul an unparalleled authority.

 

2.       The subject matter of Romans: the divine Son (3,4).  The subject matter of the book is expressed in the words, "concerning His Son."  This is what the Book of Romans is all about.  The full title is given at the end of verse 4: "Jesus Christ our Lord."

 

Two things are now said of this "Son": He was born the seed of David according to the flesh, but through the Spirit of holiness He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead.

The "Son" was born of the seed of David "in the sphere of" (a more precise translation than "according to") the flesh.  The Son of God moved in the realm of the flesh, i.e., among humanity, as a physical descendant of David.  There was a birth to be sure; but that birth in Bethlehem did not mark His beginning.  He entered the world through the family of David that He might be the promised Davidic King.

He was also "appointed" (a more specific translation than "declared") to be the Son of God by the resurrection out of the dead.  This was not in the sphere of the flesh, in weakness, but in power, in the realm of the spiritual, through the Spirit of holiness (or as some translate it, the Holy Spirit[7]). What this means is that Jesus' resurrection from the dead demonstrated that He was not just another physical descendant of David who passed off the scene.  He is the resurrected Lord.  With His exaltation in glory, Jesus for the first time  possessed a glorified, resurrected body, perfectly human and fully divine.  Peter in his sermon in Acts 2 announced that through the resurrection God made this Jesus both Lord and Christ.

To be appointed to be the Son of God refers to his assuming (or resuming) his sovereign and divine authority.  At the resurrection and exaltation Jesus is said to have been completely "begotten"--he was appointed to the position where He could carry out all that is involved with divine Sonship.  The Book of Hebrews draws on the imagery of the coronation Psalm 2 to stress this point: "You are my Son, this day have I begotten You."  This image of "the Son" certainly has to do with authority, and the idea of being begotten to rule refers to his coronation; but the description of Jesus as the "Son of God" takes the language beyond Davidic coronation liturgy and speaks of a nature shared with the Father.  John describes Jesus as the "only begotten Son" in the latter sense of a shared nature.  So these images of "son" reveal that Jesus has the same nature as the Father who is divine--the Son of God is equally eternal and divine.[8]  A son of David?--yes, to be sure, for the child was born of Mary.  The eternal Son of God?-- most certainly, because of the declaration of the resurrection. So Paul uses both descriptions of Jesus.  The prophet Isaiah had this same balance correct: "Unto us a child was born, unto us a Son was given (Isa. 9:6).  The child was born, according to the flesh, in Behtlehem; but the Son was not born, but given or sent to the world.  So the creed presents it simply but profoundly: "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father. Through him all things were made.  For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the virgin Mary, and was made man."  In short,  Jesus was very God and very Man. And now in glory there is a God-Man, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The two descriptions of the Son also reveal the two stages of the Lord's coming (in the historical process), the incarnation as the Son of David (humiliation) and the glorification as the Son of God (exaltation).

 

3.       The effects of the authority of the Son (5-7).  Paul has a ministry of the risen Christ ("through whom" links the section with Jesus in his risen stage); or, to put it another way, it is the ministry of the risen Christ that flows through Paul to the Romans.  The Book of Romans comes from the risen Christ.

The apostleship that Paul received from Jesus was to call people to the obedience of faith.  I think that "faith" is appositional to “obedience here”--the obedience which is faith (see 10:14-16,17).  Those who obeyed the Gospel are those who believed.  And those who believed were also called to belong to Jesus Christ--they were loved by God and called to be saints.[9]

Paul's salutation to the churches is "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." The Christian is a recipient of grace (holy love on the move) and is at peace with God.  This has all come about because the divine Son died for our sins and then rose again, showing that he has the authority to take away sins.  The salutation, "Grace to you and peace" is far more than a polite greeting or a good wish; it is drawn from the High Priestly benediction in the Old Testament.  After the High Priest had been into the Holy of Holies and made atonement through the sprinkling of blood, he would come out and announce this oracle: "Yahweh bless you and keep you; Yahweh make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; Yahweh lift up his face toward you and give you peace" (Num. 6:24-26).[10]  Because Jesus Christ, our High Priest, has made atonement for us through his blood, and has entered the heavenly sanctuary to intercede for us, Paul with confidence can declare that "grace and peace" belongs to us.  And so that became his salutation.

So in this little introduction we have words like "servant," "apostle," "grace," "obedience" "called" and "Lord," all stressing the authority of the risen Son of God.  The clear affirmation in verse 4 is that the message is about "Jesus Christ our Lord."  And verse 7 reiterates that grace and peace comes from  "the Lord Jesus Christ."  It should now be clear from Paul's introduction what it means to call Jesus "Lord."  William Barclay says it well:

“It is now plain to see what a man ought to mean when he calls Jesus ‘Lord,’ or when he speaks of the ‘Lord Jesus’ or of the ‘Lord Jesus Christ.’  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ I ought to mean that He is the absolute and undisputed owner and possessor of my life and that He is the Master whose servant and slave I must be all life long.  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ it ought to mean that I think of Him as the Head of that great family in heaven and earth of which God is the Father and of which I through Him have become a member.  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ it ought to mean that I think of Him as the help of the helpless and the guardian of those who have no other to protect them.  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ it ought to mean that I look on Him as having absolute authority over all my life, all my thoughts, all my actions.  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ it ought to mean that He is the King and Emperor to whom I owe and give my constant homage, allegiance, and loyalty.  When I call Jesus ‘Lord’ it ought to mean that for me He is the Divine One whom I must for ever worship and adore.”[11]

B.  Introduction: Personal Items (1:8-15)

 

1.       Paul thanks God for them (1:8). His gratitude for them is "through Jesus Christ," the one true Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).  The thanksgiving, in typical Hebrew fashion, was offered to God, on the basis of the sacrificial Lamb of God.  Paul is thankful not only that the Roman Christians have believed, but that their faith is being reported all over the world.  What a marvelous reputation--in contrast to what was being reported about the Corinthian Church all over the world.

 

2.       Paul remembers them in prayer (1:9).  Paul affirms, with God as his witness, that he has been constant in praying for them.  He may never have been there, and he may be across the sea in Corinth at the time, but his prayers have bound him closely to them.  Thus it always is with the prayers of the saints.

 

3.       Paul longs to visit them (1:10-13).  He hopes to visit them in Rome for the mutual benefit of all.  He had always planned to go there, but had always been providentially hindered from doing so.  He prays now that it will be God's will.  Note: Paul always puts God's will above his desires in prayer.

 

The purposes of his visit would be (1) for mutual encouragement of one another's faith, (2) that Paul might impart some spiritual gift to them, and (3) that Paul might have a harvest among them as with other Gentiles.

 

4.       Paul regarded himself as a debtor to the Romans (1:14,15).  Because he owed his salvation to the grace of Jesus Christ, Paul knew that as a privileged believer he owed it to a needy world to tell them about His wonderful Savior.  With all the ability he possessed, and at any cost or hazard, he was willing to embark for Rome to preach the Gospel--as he had to Jews and Gentiles for years.

 

C.  The Theme of Romans (1:16,17).

It has come as a surprise to many that the Book of Romans does not deal with many of the issues to be found in Rome.  It was a city filled with social problems, but Paul does not address those issues.  It was a city filled with slaves, but he does not mention that.  It was a city of lust and vice, but he does not direct his comments to avoiding these sins. It appears that Paul did not consider social reform in Rome an evangelical imperative, at least not at this occasion.  Rather, the gospel of the revelation of a righteousness acceptable to God and available to people graciously upon the condition of faith was Paul's primary imperative.

The theme of the book is the exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The apostle does not set out the details of the Gospel here; but we may gather from his other writings that the gospel is the good news of Christ's death, burial, resurrection, and appearances together with the apostolic explanation of the doctrinal significance of these great facts (1 Cor. 15:1-5).[12] The word for "gospel" or good news carried with it a note of excitement; it is the kind of message one would shout with enthusiasm.

Here we may notice the following: Paul's designation of the Gospel is "of Christ," for it centers in the person, ministry, and passion of the Savior; the description of it is the "power of God" (the intrinsic power of the whole Christ-event); the objective of it is "unto salvation" (meaning complete salvation, looking to the final tense of the doctrine of soteriology[13]); the universality of its presentation is unto "everyone" regardless of race or generation; the simplicity of its reception is "that believes"; and Paul's attitude toward it all is "I am not ashamed."[14]

The central idea of the Gospel, promised in the Old Testament and now revealed fully in Jesus Christ, is "the righteousness of God." This term "righteousness" does not here indicate only the attribute of the LORD, for in this case it is said to be by faith.  Here it is forensic: it is righteousness that is revealed in the Gospel, meaning, it is conferred on people;  it signifies being in the right relation to God.   

To be justified is to be declared righteous by God, not to be made righteous by God. To possess the righteousness of God, then, is to possess a righteousness which God provides (5:17) and thus approves (cf. 2:13).  If the righteousness that justifies is God's, and Paul's "It is God that justifies" (8:33) forever settles the matter, then it can only be our's by imputation; it is credited to us by God.  Therefore, the term "the righteousness of God" refers to an imputed righteousness.[15]

As Johnson summarizes it, "The righteousness of God, then, is the key to salvation.  They who have it know the power of God in personal salvation.  They who do not have it are lost.  They who have it know that they are right with God.  They who do not have it are not right before Him.  It is as simple as that.  Principal Cunningham used to say, `The righteousness of God is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.'  According to Paul the simplest believer in Jesus Christ is clothed in this required righteousness through the justifying work of the Last Adam (cf. Rom. 3:21-26)."[16]

This righteousness is "from faith to faith."  It is from faith, and it is designed for faith.  Or, faith is the source of the righteousness, but it is also the goal of righteousness.[17]  To support this point Paul cites Habakkuk 2:4, "The righteous shall live by faith."  The words in the context of the Old Testament prophet carry a certain ambiguity (double entente).  The text says that "the righteous shall live by his faithfulness," meaning a firm faith that is directed toward God.[18]  Habakkuk was drawing upon Genesis 15:6 to show that faith is belief in and firm reliance on the LORD.  Paul, quoting from Habakkuk, leaves out the pronoun "his" to stress this kind of faith: "The righteous shall live by faith."  So Habakkuk, in affirming that faith is the key to one's relationship with the Lord, was teaching that God's favor is secured by trust.  He was contrasting this with the proud Chaldeans who trust in themselves--the just, who trust in God, shall live.  Paul's use is analogical; in stressing the same point about faith, he is telling how one can attain right standing before God and live eternally.[19]  The key passage is Genesis 15:6 (which he will develop later; and Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 1:16-17 are offshoots of it.  So there is some ambiguity in the line of the prophet; but Paul's idea of "from faith to faith" stresses both points of faith as well: we have become righteous by faith, and by faith we shall live.  

Thus, the main point of the argument is very clear: good works could never deliver people from judgment.  Rather, it is the good news of Christ's sacrificial work received by faith that liberates from sin, for it alone is the power of God unto salvation.

 

 

Things to Consider

  

From this first section of the book there are many things that could be discussed for application, and several themes that could be stressed in developing lessons from the material.  But the following questions come immediately to mind as a result of this study.

1. What does it mean that Jesus is Lord?  Think in terms of the doctrinal implications about deity and sovereignty, but think also about the practical aspects--what difference will/should it make in my life that He is my Lord?  How will it affect my worship, my prayer life, my daily activities or life style?

Related to this are a couple of subordinate questions. What does the title "Son of God" signify?  If Jesus was appointed Son, how does that relate to his sovereign rulership?  And, how does the resurrection do that?

2. What is the Gospel?  Can you express its component parts succinctly and clearly--the facts of Christ's death, burial and resurrection, the response of faith, full salvation, and the righteousness of God?  This should be clearly understood and easily explained by anyone serving the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 


 

     [1]Martin Luther, "Preface to the Epistle to the Romans" (1522), in Works of Martin Luther (1932), Vol. VI, p. 447.

     [2]Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (1910), Vol. I, p. 766.

     [3]C. K. Barrett, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 27.

     [4] As we shall see, the word here (telos) will have more meaning than simply an “end”; it will indicate the intended end, or the goal.

     [5]I shall continue to use the traditional representation of the holy name in these notes: in the Old Testament LORD is the way the name Yahweh was signified in the English, as opposed to Lord when the term "lord, master" was meant.

     [6]The Greek term "called" is an adjective built on a verbal stem.  Most verbal adjectives are passives; they are timeless in force (no tense)--"called."

     [7]The text says "spirit of holiness"; this is not the regular way of saying "Holy Spirit" in the New Testament, but it is a way of saying it in Hebrew.  But only once does Paul use this phrase, so the variation indicates a slightly different idea--the phase of sovereign spiritual existence into which He entered with power at the resurrection.

     [8] A simple, surface reading of these and other verses would lead one to think the image and language of “son” refers to only one thing.  But in fact there are a couple of different ways it is used.  Throught the Old Testament every king could be called God’s son because that is what the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 says, and the coronation Psalm 2 puts into poetry.  Whe Psalm 2 is used of Jesus, it means he is a Davidic king, the Father’s vice-regent, as it were.  But John’s “only begotten Son” is more specifically referring to the nature of Jesus.  The term "beget" is more restrictive than "create" or "make." One can only beget a child with the same nature.  To describe Jesus as the "Son of God" or the "only begotten Son" stresses His nature. If the Father is eternal and divine, then so is Jesus the Son. And he is unique in this--we may be "begotten by God," i.e., by grace we are given a new nature in Christ; but there is only one God-man, Jesus the Christ.  When the expression “Son of God” is applied to Jesus, or when Jesus used it, it carried much more meaning than that he was another Davidic king (although the disciples at first did not realize that).  Gradually, and especially as Jesus forgave sins and proclaimed his message, the Jewish leaders knew that when he claimed to be the Son of God he was making himself equal with God.   

     [9]Those who have believed in Jesus as Lord have been sanctified, that is, set apart to Him.  This is the meaning of the word "saints" in the epistles.  It is perfectly legitimate to refer to believing members of the Church as "the saints."

     [10]The verbs may sound like wishes and greetings in English ("May the LORD bless you"), but the Hebrew forms (jussives) in this context are decrees or oracles, announcing what the blessing is on the basisof the atonement..  The passage says that when the priest says this the LORD will bless them.  This use of the verbal blessing  is like Isaac's blessing of Jacob in the place of Esau--he could not take the words back because they were an oracle and not merely best wishes.  This is very different than much modern teaching of people giving blessings to children or spouses.

     [11]From a sermon preached at the Round Church in Cambridge.

     [12]S. Lewis Johnson, "The Gospel that Paul Preached,"  BibliothecaSacra 128 (1971):330.

     [13]The Bible uses three tenses for salvation: the past tense (we have been saved from the penalty of sin: 2 Thess. 2:13; Phil. 1:28; Eph. 2:4,8), the present tense (we are being saved from the power of sin: Phil. 2:12; 2 Cor. 1:6; 7:10), and the future tense (we will be saved from the very presence of sin: Rom. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:8-9).  The Bible can use the language of salvation or sanctification for all three stages; but the theology is very precise--if the process has begun, it will be completed.  Technically, the past tense is covered by the doctrine of soteriology, the present tense by the doctrine of sanctification, and the future tense by glorification. If true believers pray for "salvation," it must be in the sense of the present tense (saved from the power of sin) or future (final glorification, the completion of the process), because saving faith in the Gospel has already placed them "in Christ" forever.   

     [14]Unfortunately, too many Christians--leaders especially--have become somewhat embarrassed by the Gospel.  To Paul there was no ministry without it or with any false or watered-down version of it; in fact, there is no salvation apart from it.

     [15]This phrase, "the righteousness of God," was the phrase that led Martin Luther into the light of truth that produced the Reformation.  He had always hated the expression, associating it with judgment; but through his study of the Psalms in 1514 he learned that the righteousness of God was related to deliverance and not condemnation.  This understanding was clarified and enlarged by his study of Romans, upon which he lectured at Wittenberg from November 3, 1515 to September 7, 1516.  It was during these years that he came to the realization that justification did not presuppose some inner change, but that it was done outside of man through the mediatorial work of Jesus.  The acceptance of this work by faith brought liberation, because a just God was now able to give freely to each believer the righteousness of God.

     [16]Johnson, p. 335.

     [17]James M. Stifler, The Epistle to the Romans, pp. 21,22.

     [18]The Septuagint adds a pronoun that serves as an objective genitive: "his faith in me."

     [19]Several commentators would translate the line: "the one who is righteous by faith shall live" (see Douglas Moo, Romans 1-8, p. 72).  The quotation, according to Cranfield, functions as the heading of chapters 1-8, "righteous by faith" summarizing chapters 1-4, and "shall live" summarizing chapters 5-8.  The latter grouping is less convincing.