After Paul's salutation, he presents the Gospel which is about God's Son (not about the sinner) according to the Spirit of Holiness (totally opposed to the spirit of evil). Holiness required a sin-offering which could only be made by the Holy One. The same Spirit presents Him risen out from the dead without a trace of sin remaining! Paul received apostleship from Christ in glory. That resulted in obedience to the faith among all nations. The Rornan Christians had answered, and were saints by calling of God. Their fame was world-wide. His prayers were continuous. He longed to give them a personal impress of Christ, while His comfort would be due to the reciprocation of faith. Paul had been hindered in coming to them. Probably he did not forsee that he would ultimately reach them in bonds. He assured them that he would not preach a modified gospel to the grandees in Rome, because he was not ashamed of the pure gospel as the power of God (supremacy) to salvation of the believer whether Jew or Greek. Therein is righteousness of God revealed on the principle of faith to the individuals with faith! He adduced the 600 year old dictum of Habakkuk as evidence that faith was not a new thought. Even in the era of law-keeping, living was really on the principle of faith. The need for the gospel is set forth in what follows. It had been previously a secret. God's righteousness implied His character of consistency. His wrath is revealed against ungodliness wherever manifested. All are responsible to God for conduct. The untutored heathen should have been convinced of the invisible things of God by the evidence of his eyes as to what is presented in the visible creation. Yet he foolishly sought to fashion gods after the pattern of things he saw. Noah and his sons had been worshippers of God; their descendants had deliberately turned from the light to darkness. Could any wonder that corruption enveloped the chaos which had developed? They who despised God's providential goodness were relegated to their own evil desires. Sin ruined men's bodies, affections and minds. God gave the Gentiles up to uncleanness, vile affections and to a reprobate mind. Worst of all, man was pleased with the results. So there is no beauty in primitive paganism. What a catalogue of vices is unfolded in Romans 1:29-31.
But the philosophic Gentile was arraigned on the basis of his possessing an inner sense of right and wrong (conscience which is a great mercy of God); thus he was inexcusable. (Conscience came in as soon as evil appeared).
His contempt for the rude pagan condemned him since in spite of his inner light (the sense of violation of right) he acted wrongly in the same way as the other. God has no favouritism. He will judge in inexorable righteousness. He will render to everyone according to works in the day when He will judge men's secret things by Jesus Christ according to Paul's Gospel (his warning). Then the Jew relied on the Law and boasted of God, i.e., his position. The Jew prided himself on being a leader of the blind Gentile, instructor of the unthinking, and possessing in the Law the outline of real knowledge. Yet he violated the Law and thus dishonoured God. Visible circumcision is valueless, only that of heart (in spirit, not letter) avails. But the Jew had great advantages in being trustee of the Scriptures (oracles of God). With the history of preservation through God's faithfulness to His word in view who could question God's justice acting similarly in the future, although that might involve sinners in eternal loss? Man's unbelief does not alter what God has given to he believed (the faith). The Jewish claim to be exempted from the results of disobedience was really in line with the Jesuitical slander "do evil that good may come," imputed to the Apostle. Then followed God's verdict about man whose every member expressed the fruits of sin, so that there is none righteous! The law implied the knowledge of sin (not salvation) to all in its sphere of operation. The result is every mouth is closed and all (Jew and Gentile alike) demonstrated guilty before God
Romans 3:21, begins to unfold the doctrine of the fundamentals of the Gospel. God's righteousness is diametrilly opposed to man's sin. that is the first principle in the doctrine. (Holiness is in nature, righteousness in bearing. God is holy and abhors sin; but He acts in righteousness). In Romans 3, God makes Himself known in righteousness in His own way apart from man's agency or type (Abraham and David are not cited till Romans 4.). Although re the sacrifices, etc., God acted in grace to sinners which witnessed to God's righteousness apart from law. That righteousness by faith of Jesus Christ is unto all, but only upon (or of value to) those who believe, so that there is no difference in blessing, even as there is none in condemnation! All had sinned and fallen short of God's glory in its most elementary phase, that of righteousness. So justification is causeless by God's grace though the redemption in Christ Jesus (the risen one). God presents Him as a propitiation (mercy-seat in O.T.), the meeting-place between God and the sinner, through faith in His blood. Primarily, that declares God's righteousness (consistency with His character) in passing over the sins of O.T. believers. While Law dominated all, God bore with sinners but He could not disclose the reason until He produced the solution of the problem in the death of Christ. But further, His consistency is vindicated in justifying the believer in Jesus in this era as well. Hence all boasting is shut out by the principle of faith irrespective of law. God is of the Gentiles as of the Jews. Justification is for both through faith and the law is magnified thereby!
Romans 4 puts emphasis on our righteousness (i.e., being reckoned righteous) even as Romans 3 is mainly concerned with the declaration of God's righteousness in doing so. Thus God's grace is prominent in Romans 3 and our faith in Romans 4. The apostle cites two test cases from the O.T. (Abraham before the Law and David after). God justified both. Abraham's faith (not works) led to his being reckoned righteous. His works might be evidence to his neighbours, but not before God! David spoke of the blessedness of the one to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works, and does not reckon sin. Then the circumstances of Abraham's clearance emerges. He was uncircumcised, and before the Law so that neither could be an element in the favour bestowed. Circumcision was given as a seal of the righteousness which he already had by faith. If law-keeping had been an element it would have vitiated all prospect of God fulfilling His promise. As it was Abraham became the heir of the world (not in its present constitution, but as "the world to come.") The Law only brought wrath to light for until its institution there could be no transgression. But the blessing is out of faith so that grace could have free scope not only to the Jew but to all of the same faith as Abraham. (Whosoever will may take!) Then the favour is bestowed on the principle of faith to the ungodly and is not limited to race. Moreover, Abraham's testimony was that he believed God's promise in spite of its apparent unlikelihood. But his record is not preserved as mere history but is significant for us now if we believe on God who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. The sinner is justified in the same way now as then! This is the first citation of the Lord's resurrection. He was delivered unto death and judgment for our sins; but it is on account of His resurrection we know God has been satisfied with His sacrifice on our behalf. That is a consequent effect!
NOTES OF READINGS ON ROMANS. No. 2.
Romans 5 opens with the blessing in the new sphere established in the Lordship of Christ. He is also the administrator thereof. Justification by faith; peace with God; the same circle of favour as He, the Risen One, is in; and the certain prospect of the Glory of God form a terse summary of the main features of the results of God's grace. But since we are not in the Glory yet, there follows the experience of those who participate in grace. We are enabled to rejoice in tribulations or trials which lead to patient persistency and in turn that develops proof of the process and experience of His sympathetic mercy. Finally there is definite expectation which results in the Christian not being upset or disappointed, because the love of God is poured into our hearts (as from a wide-mouthed vessel) through the Holy Ghost given to us unstintedly. (This is the first mention of the Holy Ghost in the epistle). The Holy Spirit is the seal given of the value of the blood of Christ. Relative to the past, Christ died for ungodly sinners without strength and God commends His love to us in that Christ died for us in such a state. (Mephibosheth is the great O .T. illustration of this). In the present time, we are justified in the power of His blood, reconciled to God by the death of His Son. In the future, we shall be saved in the power of His life, in contrast to His death. Finally we are carried beyond circumstances to rejoice in God Himself through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom now we have received the reconciliation!
At this juncture the Apostle begins to look at the Christian's blessing from another point of view. He considers the question of our nature, transmitted from the first man after the fall, and God's method of delivering from the power of sin while here. That is a summary of the supremacy of Christ over judgment, which fell on all because of the one offence of Adam. Grace has acted towards the many who shall reign in life, because of the value of the righteous act of Christ. (Therein is the harmonising of the two issues set forth in the trees of responsibility and of life in Eden). The question of good and evil has been solved in Christ who bore the judgment and is the eternal life. Justification of life is simply that Christ in resurrection has become the new life, whereby the believer is entirely clear of every question of sin. The introduction of law could not make any righteous, but only showed the depravity and abundance of sin. But grace was superabundant, reigning through the accomplishment of righteousness with eternal life as the result by Jesus Christ our Lord. That eclipses sin with its resultant death. Death is not simply because of transgression of the Law, but of the wider principle of sin which reigned from Adam to Moses before Law was instituted!
In the Epistle, previous to Romans 6, the prominent aspect of the truth is objective, i.e., presented from God to man for the exercise of faith. In Romans 3, man is subjected to the righteousness of God. God has revealed Himself in the declaration of His righteousness. In Romans 4, His glory is manifest in the resurrection of Christ. In Romans 5, the administration of grace is through Jesus Christ our Lord. But in Romans 6-8, the aspect of truth is more subjective, i.e., the result of the Holy Spirit's work in believers, thus the direction of operation is reversed, i.e., from man to God. The leading principle of the first section of the epistle is "revelation," while in the second section it is "approach." As an illustration, the typical teaching of Exodus is on the former line, while Lev. and Numbers present mainly the latter line. So in the second section there is contemplated a man of a new racial character who can enjoy God in the light of His revelation. So there emerge the constituent elements of what is formed in the believer by the work of the Holy Spirit. Deliverance is contingent and proportional to that formative work in the soul. In Romans 6, it is deliverance from sin which is impressed. The first constituent is that we reckon ourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The first point in Romans 6, re. continuing in sin is that Christ has died, in consequence we reckon ourselves dead; that is the significance of baptism. The old man and his works are judged by our profession of Christ's name. That the body (or totality) of sin might be annulled or rendered inoperative. A dead man has neither evil desires nor self will! Hence obedience to the righteousness of God and not to the desires of the body is impressed. A person realises deliverance when there is submission to righteousness. The first result of obeying the doctrine is emancipation from the old obligations. Since being under Law left man in the realm of sin, grace sets free from bondage. Then the apostle refers to the weakness of the flesh. The active life is no longer to be slavery to uncleanness and lawlessness, but to righteousness with its result holiness or separation of heart to God. Therefore deliverance is not to do our own will which ends in death, but to have our fruit unto holiness. Death is the wages of sin (not sins), but God gives eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Romans 7 we are shown to be free from the Law on the same principle that we have been crucified with Christ. That is illustrated by the marriage bond which is valid so long as both live but the survivor is free when the other dies. Now we are united to a risen Christ! By God we are no longer viewed as in the flesh. Formerly when in that condition the activity of sins brought to light by the Law wrought in us fruit unto death. Law did not take away the desire nor did it introduce change of nature. Restraint on a stubborn child increases the desire to disobey. So the Law and Christ are incompatible! Our deliverance from Law is by having died sin so that we should serve in newness of spirit not in the obsolescence of the letter.
Then the second part of the chapter is introduced by the question "is the Law sin?" No! They are opposed to each other. Sin and desire were condemned by the Law. State, not act, is in view! Sin is detected by its evidence, lust or desire. So that the Law is holy, just and good. "Is the good Law the originator of death to me?" is the second question. No! But sin is. Its character became developed thereby. Then follows a singular distortion in which it is shown that the Law and the flesh are incongruent. The new nature is powerless apart from the Spirit. Three great lessons are learned in the conflict: (1) There is no good in my flesh, (2) sin in me frustrates good intentions, (3) I am powerless to find the solution. It is the judgment of a nature and not of the individual Christian state. In the latter, we can do all through Christ. The laws of sin and of God are in perpetual conflict. But man's extremity is God's opportunity! Immediately when the hopeless conclusion is reached, deliverance comes in and through the apprehension of Jesus Christ our Lord. The flesh can only serve sin. In Romans 8, it is weakness rather than conflict. Before God that is ended, and faith accepts the conclusion.
Romans 8 opens with no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. In that envelope there is no condemnation left into which we can come. The Spirit of Life therein has liberated me from the grip of the old principle. God has done what I could not do, by condemning sin in the flesh when His own Son came. He has ended the unmendable, so that now the righteous requirements of the Law having been fulfilled in Christ's death, and my death with Him I now live before God in a new life which walks not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
NOTES OF READINGS ON ROMANS. No. 3.
Romans 8:1, is said to be the text or summary of Romans 5 (displacement of the old nature in the new Head); Romans 8:2 of Romans 6 (dead to sin); Romans 8:3 of Romans 7 (dead to the Law); Romans 8:1, is a contrast to the Law which could only condemn.
There are two principles of walk after (a) the flesh, (b) the Spirit. The flesh is in the Christian, but he is not in the flesh in God's sight. There is no ground for walking after the flesh because the Spirit of Christ is in him! Our standing is in Christ; our state is in the Spirit. Romans 8 shows a third aspect of the death of Christ, viz., the brazen serpent. Thus we are formed in the new state, wherein are life and sonship. There is an unfolding of what the Christian has in the Spirit rather than what is the work of the Spirit in the Christian. The Christian has the life of Christ in the Spirit attaching him to Christ. The Spirit also is life because of righteousness and that is for practical righteousness. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead are three characteristics; all conforming to Christ, (sonship). The doctrine of sonship is not developed here,but the spirit and expectation of sonship are stated. The Spirit of God's Son cannot be connected with the thought of "children," but the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are such! Sonship identifies with Christ as firstborn and is in connection with the glory according to the purpose of God. The term "children" refers exclusively to what we are on earth, as sharing Christ's rejection and as such we suffer; but in that place we have the spirit of sonship connecting us with Christ in glory. As children we enjoy the Father's love. "Abba, Father" is an outburst from loving hearts! Creation earnestly expects the display of the sons of God. That will be the liberty of the glory of the children. We cannot conceive the condition of affairs in the Millennium when earth which has been oppressed for 6,000 years by man's evil-doing will be governed from heaven; when God will open His hand in blessing and will satisfy the desire of every living thing! Man's inhumanity to man is permitted by God, but it is not according to His plan of action. Because of God's love He must be sovereign in His purpose for His own satisfaction; hence foreknowledge and predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son. Predestination involves calling, justifying, glorifying in the chain of the purpose of God. That end being reached necessarily brings to an end the doctrine of Romans 8. The last section introduces a series of conclusions of practical import. If we have been apprehended and drawn to Christ no agency, visible or invisible, temporal or spatial, can dissociate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are His absolute property! If God be for us, as also His justification and Christ's intercession, what opposition of the enemy (wilderness or infernal) can be of consequence. We have an overwhelming victory through Christ Who loves us!
Romans 9-11 give dispensational teaching showing that God's ways with Israel are in harmony with His purpose re. the Church. Nevertheless, the Apostle had incessant grief for the perverse unbelief of his kinsmen; but their guilt had not resulted in God's abrogation of His promises. But these had not applied to all in natural descent from Abraham Ishmael, etc., had been set aside in favour of Isaac. Again Jacob was selected and Esau repudiated. Thirdly, subsequent to the Golden Calf incident, Israel's blessing depended entirely on God's sovereign mercy. The same principle is illustrated in Pharaoh. He refused mercy repeatedly. God bore with longsuffering the resisters until they adjusted themselves for ruin that He might evince the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy prepared for glory! Hosea and Isaiah illustrated the same principle. So the Gentiles in spite of their condition through faith had reached righteousness, while Israel had failed to do so. They had stumbled on the stone of stumbling, but whosoever believes in Him shall not be put to shame. In Romans 10, the Apostle expressed his intense desire for Israel's salvation, they had blindly sought to work out a righteousness, but Christ put an end to that for the believer. Christ's death and resurrection preclude man's effort upwards or downwards. Faith is in the heart unto righteousness before God, with the sequel of mouth confession leading unto salvation. Real faith always produces courage to confess Christ! All who call on the Lord shall be saved. O.T. scriptures are adduced to prove the need of Gospel preaching and the beauty before God of the path of the messengers. Faith is inculcated by hearing the Word of God. Romans 11 shows that Israel's disobedience had not forfeited the blessing permanently. The Apostle's case was evidence against that contention. Even in Elijah's time, God preserved a remnant. So that notwithstanding the nation's apostasy, blessing is ensured for some through faith. If their stumbling brings blessing to the Gentiles, their restoration through grace will ultimately bring blessing to the whole earth. Then the illustration of the olive tree and its branches is given. The Gentile must not presume! All Israel shall be saved and the Deliverer will appear in Zion. The gifts and calling of God are without retraction. It is inconceivable that He could go back on His word! God has closed the door on all in disobedience, that He might have mercy upon them. Well may we add our "Amen" to the profound doxology which ends the chapter!
NOTES OF READINGS ON ROMANS. No. 4.
Romans 12 deals with the practical consequences of the doctrine previously expounded. The Apostle exhorted by the mercies of God to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, (an intelligent service or deliberate self-dedication); not being conformed to the world fashion but growing in transfiguration through renewing of the mind, to discern the perfect will of God. We are to think soberly of ourselves according to the measure of faith received. Here alone in Romans is reference made to "members in one body" and that relative solely to harmonious performance of different functions according to the proportion of faith and without ulterior motive. (Here gift checks independency, as 1 Cor. 12 checks clerisy). There is to be unfeigned abhorrence of evil and appreciation of good. Everything is to be done with wholeheartedness as serving the Lord, thus joyful, patient, prayerful, openhanded are prime features. But to bless the persecutor is a step beyond the natural man! The christian is not to be haughty, but full of lowly sympathies, not opinionative nor provocative, quiet, honest, suffering wrong, leaving the recompense to the Lord, thus conquering evil with good.
Romans 13 upholds authority; since originally ordered by God. There is no room for Bolshevic tendencies, even against the rule of Nero! The christian is separate from lawlessness rendering honour, taxes and reverence where due; but avoiding debt, except that of love to all. Although not under the Law he fulfils its provisions. Love works no ill to his neighbour and thus displays the Law. The concluding part deals with christian duty in the light of the Lord's return. Being alive to the character of the moment, we walk honestly, eschewing the world's darkness, desires and discord, exhibiting the features of the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 14 enjoins respect for the consciences of others. A sensitive person has scruples about much which we may deem trivial, but it is the tribunal of Christ, not ours, with which he has to do. Hence in view of such a heart-searching prospect let us not be critical, but filled with love so that we may not trip up our friend, nor reduce his interest in the only things worth while. If a brother is upset with our conduct we are not walking in love and may thereby ruin the testimony of one for whom Christ died. (The Kingdom of God is not material but spiritual, comprising therein the three immutable elements, righteousness, peace and joy). Such service is pleasing to God and appears genuine to men; hence pursue peace and mutual edification Self-gratification should not be allowed to frustrate the work of God by stumbling a brother. Doubt is condemned, since not of faith. Anything otherwise is sin!
Romans 15 enjoins sympathetic attention and helping of neighbours so as to edify; for Christ did not please Himself. The O.T. scriptures were for our instruction that through patience and their encouragement we might have hope or clear prospect. The God of that patience and encouragement was invoked to grant them to be of one mind according to the example of Christ Jesus, that they might unanimously glorify God, thus real fellowship would be secured. Christ is minister of blessing to Israel to ratify the O.T. promises and that the nations on account of mercy should glorify God. Then followed a citation of O.T. scriptures as evidence. On the root of Jesse shall the nations rely in harmony with Israel There will be then no antisemitism! Then he wished that the God of that hope or prospect should fill them with all joy and peace in their believing. So that they might overflow in that hope through the Holy Spirit's power. But the Apostle was sure that apart from his advice the Roman christians were brimful of goodness (christian qualities) and knowledge, and so able to admonish each other. But he had written freely so as to remind them of their duty because of his commission as minister of Christ Jesus to the nations in His priestly service with the Gospel, that their offering might be acceptable and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. He only spoke of things which Christ had worked through him from Jerusalem to Illyricum (as the diameter of his circle of operations) with the gospel. He had endeavoured to preach not on the ground of others, but reached out to the regions beyond. He had longed to visit Rome on the way to Spain, but at the moment he was going to Jerusalem with the collection for the poor saints there. Since the nations had partaken of the spiritual things from that source, it was their duty to share the material things. He would come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel and he desired their prayers for the furtherance of his mission!
Romans 16 is an appendix of commendation and greetings. He commended Phoebe, the bearer of the epistle, as she had well-served the interests of a local company of Christians at Corinth and those of the Apostle too, that they might assist her in any way she required as she had been a real standby! Then they were to salute Priscilla and Aquila as co-workers in Christ Jesus, who had risked their lives for that of the Apostle, and so earned his lasting gratitude and that of the Gentile churches. Evidently they had made their house a focus of interest for the Christians in their neighbourhood who were also to be saluted. Then followed a list of nearly thirty Christians selected for honourable mention (representatives of little groups scattered over the metropolis). A parallel has been drawn of resemblance between them and the mighty men, faithful to David (2 Sam. 23). But the Apostle's list comprised one-third part women. A second appendix appeared for watchfulness against division-mongers, who served not the Lord but their own ends by specious pleas. But their safety lay in being wise as to good and untainted with evil. But the God of peace would crush Satan (the author of mischief) under their feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the universal solvent of difficulties, was invoked to be with them. Further greetings conclude the epistle!