In the first five chapters, Paul establishes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and emphasizes its principal features: (1) It is entirely of God’s grace—man cannot earn it; (2) since everyone, Jew and gentile alike, have violated God’s laws, they are all sinners and subject to the penalty from sinning--death; (3) there is only one way that they can be saved from the consequences of that sinfulness— belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died on the cross at Calvary to atone for our sin, and that God raised Him from the dead to show He accepted that atoning sacrifice.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER ONE
Paul opens his letter with a long, detailed statement of who he is: "a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which he promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ" (vv.1-6).
He then tells his Christian friends in Rome how he had longed for years to come to them, but only now was the Lord willing for him to do so. "So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" (vv.15-17).
Beginning in the 18th verse of this first chapter, Paul states that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them" (vv.18,19). Paul follows with a lengthy listing of all the various evils man has indulged in, including idolatry and sexual uncleanness. In spite of the obvious fact that nature itself reveals the righteousness of God, "that those who practice such things are deserving of death not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (v.32b).
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER TWO
In Chapter Two, Paul continues his charge against all mankind, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. "God 'will render to each one according to his deeds' (Prov. 24:12b): eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and anguish on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God" (vv.6-11).
To the Jews Paul says: "Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' (Isa.52:5b) as it is written" (vv. 17-24).
Paul concludes this chapter by pointing out that the uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law from his conscience is better that the circumcised Jew who breaks the law.
Into this bleak picture of sinning humanity, Paul suddenly introduces the Gospel: "But now, the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (vv. 21-23).
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumsised through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary we establish the law" (vv.27-31).
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER FOUR
In Chapter Four, Paul shows that Abraham, father of Jews and Arabs alike, was justified by faith, quoting Gen. 15:6: "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." David also stresses faith:"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
God's promise to Abraham to make him a mighty father of kings and nations came many years later, and only then did God command the rite of circumcision to be the sign of His chosen people. And Abraham believed God was able to give him a son by Sarah, "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about one hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness" (vv.19-22).
"Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (vv.23-25).
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER FIVE
In Chapter Five, Paul summarizes what Christ accomplished for us through His death on the cross. "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (vv. 1-5).
"Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned--" (v.12). "much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign through the One, Jesus Christ" (v.17b). "Morever the law enrered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (vv.20,21).
In Chapter 6, Paul emphasizes further two characteristics of the Gospel: (A) believers are dead to sin, and alive to Christ; and (B) believers have moved from being slaves to sin to becoming “slaves” to righteousness. In Chapter 7, Paul adds the evident fact, that although our spiritual nature does not sin, we still retain our carnal natures, which continue to sin. In Romans 8, Paul completes his doctrines of Christology, by explaining the blessings of being a child of God. The first half of the chapter concentrates on the differences between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh; while the second half emphasizes the main theme: the blessing of being a child of God. Chapter 8 closes with a paean of victory stating that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER SIX
Now in Chapter 6, Paul emphasizes further two characteristics of the Gospel: (A) believers are dead to sin, and alive to Christ; and (B) believers have moved from being slaves to sin to becoming “slaves” to righteousness. “What shall we say then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?” He then shows the analogy of baptism to this change in our status. We were buried with Christ, thus being freed from sin, and then were “resurrected” with Him to newness of eternal life. Furthermore, since we have been united with Christ in His death, we shall most certainly be united with Him in His resurrection. “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, He cannot die again—death no longer has mastery over Him.” (11) “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (14) “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
(15) “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means. (16) Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (20 “When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. But what benefit did you reap at that time from the things that you are now ashamed of?” (22) “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER SEVEN
In the first five chapters, Paul has established the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and emphasized its principal features: (1) It is entirely of God’s grace—man cannot earn it; (2) since everyone, Jew and gentile alike, have violated God’s laws, they are all sinners; (3) there is only one way that they can be saved from the consequences of that sinfulness— belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died on the cross at Calvary to atone for our sin, and God raised Him from the dead to show He accepted His atoning sacrifice. In Chapter 6, Paul emphasizes further two characteristics of the Gospel: (A) believers are dead to sin, and alive to Christ; and (B) believers have moved from being slaves to sin to becoming “slaves” to righteousness.
In the first part of Chapter Seven Paul continues to explain the relationship of the believer to the law, by pointing out that death dissolves the law’s authority over a person, using the example of marriage to show this. Then he brings up an entirely new series of thoughts, which at first sight seem to be contradictory to much he has previously been saying. How can it be that a believer who has been cleansed of sin can still continue to sin against the holy God who has pardoned him? While there have been several theories to explan this, the one held by Calvin, Luther, and other Reformers is that while God gives us a spiritual nature when He changes our hearts to love Him, He does not take away the sinful nature with which we were born. This He will do when we die from this life (as he illustrated in the first part of this chapter), but as long as we live in the flesh, He requires us to cope with our sinful natures, so we must participate in our sanctification (God is not going to do it all, as He does with salvation). Although God gives us the power to overcome our sinful natures, He does not do it for us. Thus for the remainder of our physical lives, we have to contend with the lifelong sinful habits we developed before our conversion.
In the last verses of the chapter Paul says: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (24, 25).
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 8:1-19
Now in Romans 8, Paul completes his doctrines of Christology, by explaining the blessings of being a child of God. This first half of the chapter concentrates on the differences between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh; between those who have been redeemed and born again with a spiritual nature, and those who have remained only in the carnal nature inherited from Adam. Beginning with the very first verse, Paul emphasizes that the gift of the spiritual nature is from God Himself, who is the ultimate judge of mankind, and thus will not judge the sins of the redeemed because God Himself placed that penalty on Jesus His Son. Since God is omnipotent, no one can thwart His purpose in the redeemed (vv. 1-5).
Paul then describes in detail the basic differences in lifestyle between those living in the Spirit and those living in the flesh. He makes the bold statement that those living in the flesh not only fail to obey and thus please God, but are unable to do so. Paul then begins his paean of the status of the redeemed as sons and daughters of God Himself! Not at all in the same sense as Jesus is the Son of God, since He was procreated in His human nature by God the Holy Spirit, but as adopted sons and daughters we enjoy many of the priveleges of Christ Himself. But to do so we must share in Jesus’ suffering if we wish to share in His glory.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS 8:20-39
In Romans 8, Paul completes his doctrines of Christology, by explaining the blessings of being a child of God. The first half of the chapter concentrates on the differences between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh; while the second half emphasizes the main theme: the blessing of being a child of God.
These future blessings are so great that our present suffering is of little consequence in comparison. Then Paul introduces a strange thought: That God cursed the physical universe when he cursed Adam, Eve, and the serpent (Genesis 3); that He subjected it to decay (v.21). Since the new heavens and the new earth (see Revelation 21:1-2) are to last forever, the universe will then no longer be subject to decay, and will “rejoice” with the redeemed when Jesus returns to implement this new creation.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (v.28). “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son . . . and those He predestined, he also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified” (vv.29-30). Although we are not glorified as yet — that will happen when Jesus returns again at the end of the age — it is so certain that Paul can put it in the past tense! “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (v.31). “In all things we are are more than conquerors!” (v.37). Conquerors usually rule by force, which God does not do with His redeemed ones. He will give us of His infinite power to overcome every possible obstacle; nothing “will be able to separate us from the love in God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (v.39b).
Chapters 9 through 11 address the probelem: Why did the Jews as a nation reject their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 9 explains why God choses some, but not others, to be saved, as a free gift from Him: ”I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Ex. 33:19). Since all have sinned, Jew and Gentile alike, we all deserve the wages of sin, which is death—eternal separation from God. He has no obligation to save anyone.
In Chapter 10 Paul explains why the Jews as a nation rejected Jesus. “…They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (v.3). The Jews try to earn their salvation by keeping the law, which they are unable to do, and hence are not saved. Any Gentiles who also try to earn their salvation are doomed to be lost. Is there any hope for such? Only as God so determines.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER NINE
Chapter 9 begins a new study of the theology of predestination – the choosing by God of some, and not others, to be saved, as a free gift from Him. This is foundational to Presbyterianism and it is in this chapter that we find this doctrine most fully developed. Why should God choose some and not others? Why, for instance, did the vast majority of the Jews, God’s chosen people, reject the Messiah God sent to them to save them? Paul is so concerned by this situation that he says: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren . . . who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises . . . and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came” (vv.3-5).
His first reason is “For they are not all
He concludes the chapter: “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did
not pursue righteousness, have obtained to righteousness, even the righteousness
of faith; but
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER TEN
In Chapter 10 Paul explains why the Jews rejected Jesus. “…They being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establlish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (v.3). We all, Jews and Gentiles alike, deserve death and eternal separation from God for our sins, but God has established the Gospel of Jesus Christ to accomplish our salvation: “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (vv.9,10). There is no other way to heaven (John 14:6).
God Himself has provided us with the righteousness (that of sinless Jesus of Nazareth) that He requires for admission to His Heaven. Since Jesus paid in full the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross, God offers us (Jews and Gentiles alike) free grace as a gift to pardon our sins and make us into the people He wants us to be. We cannot become such by our own efforts, as the Jews (and many Gentiles) still try to do. Paul quotes Isaiah to show that God had made it clear to the ancient Jews that God “was found by those that did not seek me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for me” (Isa. 65:1). But to Israel He says: “All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Isa. 65:2).
The Jews still try to earn their salvation by keeping the law, which they are unable to do, and hence are not saved. Any Gentiles who also try to earn their salvation are doomed to be lost. Is there any hope for such? Only as God so determines. As chapter 11 states, Paul believes God will find a way to save the Jews, but not apart from the Way He has already established—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
COMMENTARY ON ROMANS CHAPTER ELEVEN
As he tells us in Chapter 11, Paul believes God will find a way to save the Jews, but not apart from the Way He has already established—the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us that God had preserved seven thousand men who had not bowed to Baal, when Elijah thought there was no one else but him who obeyed God. So it was with the Jews of Paul’s day—some of them responded to the Gospel, but most Jews did not.
Paul then introduces the theme with which he concludes his discussion of the Jews—that the rejection of Christ by the Jews opened up an opportunity for gentiles to come into Christ’s Kingdom. When the Jews see the benefits the Gospel brings to the gentiles, they will be jealous and seek the Gospel for themselves. When this will occur, only God knows, but Christ’s people are to continue to witness to the Jews until it does. How God will bring the Jews back to Himself Paul does not know. But he does know that God will accomplish this in His own time.
He concludes this topic with a metaphor of cultivated olive branches (the Jews) and wild olive branches (the gentiles). At the present time the cultivated olive branches have been stripped from the vine (because of unbelief) and wild branches grafted in. If wild branches can be grafted in, how much more easily can cultivated branches be grafted back into the vine. Paul then reminds his readers that once God makes a promise He always keeps it. His promise to the Jews to be His chosen people will be kept in God’s own time. “For of Him (God) and through Him and to Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever. Amen” (v.36).