Here are a few additional thoughts from a recent Bible class.
Introduction: Chapters 10-11 continue to take the reader deep into a discussion of how the sovereignty of God relates to the Jewish rejection of Jesus and Gentile inclusion in the church. These chapters contain some of the more difficult material in the letter, but also some of the most beautiful.
I. Paul’s Prayer for Israel (10:1-4)
A. Paul’s deep desire is to see Israel embrace the gospel of Jesus and be saved. His Jewish kinsmen are certainly zealous for God, but their enthusiasm is misguided (10:1-2).
B. They are ignorant of the way that God makes men righteous, and in trying to establish their own plan for righteousness, they rejected God’s way (10:3-4).
II. The Basis of Salvation is the Same for All (10:5-13)
A. If righteousness were ever to be attained by law-keeping alone, the requirement would be perfect obedience (10:5).
B. But righteousness that is based on faith does not require the impoosible, like bringing Jesus back to earth to finish any unfinished work. It simply trusts in what Jesus has already accomplished (10:6-10).
C. And this means of justification – faith, not merit – is the same for everyone. There is no distinction in this regard between Jew and Gentile (10:11-13).
III. Israel Has Squandered its Opportunities (10:14-21)
A. The gospel message has been made available through the sending of preachers, and the Jewish people have heard it, but they have not believed it (10:14-18).
B. Instead, the Gentiles have been the ones who have been more receptive, even though God’s benevolent hands remain open for the Jews (10:19-21).
IV. There is Still a Jewish Remnant (11:1-10)
A. Paul puts himself forward as “Exhibit A” that God has not completely abandoned the Jews. He is among the Jewish remnant who have embraced the gospel and justification by faith (11:1-6).
B. Israel, as a whole, “failed to obtain” the justification it was seeking (because they were seeking it through the law itself, not the one to whom the law pointed). Those who understood the gospel and didn’t stumble over Jesus obtained it (11:7-10).
V. The Grafting in of the Gentiles (11:11-32)
A. To illustrate the rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of the Gentiles, Paul uses a comparison that his readers would have been familiar with – the cutting off and grafting in of branches on an olive tree.
B. Paul’s hope in God’s inclusion of the Gentiles is that the Jews, in turn, would desire what the Gentiles had obtained in Christ, and eventually embrace the gospel, too (11:11-16).
C. Speaking to the Gentile Christians in Rome, Paul offers the following:
1. There were natural branches (Jews) who were broken off of the tree and wild branches (Gentiles) who were grafted in, or attached, to the tree (11:17).
2. But just because the Gentiles were grafted in, they should not show arrogance toward the Jews who had been cut off (11:18).
3. While it is true that the breaking off of the natural branches made it possible for the wild branches to be grafted in, that does not mean that the wild branches cannot be broken off, too (11:19-21).
4. God will cut off any branch that does not remain in his goodness and nourish any branch that does (11:22). The key is for each branch to keep living lives of faith.
5. What’s more, if the cut-off Jews cease their unbelief and place their trust in Jesus like the Gentiles did, they will be grafted back in (11:23-24).
6. In summary, Paul affirms many Jews hardened their hearts while many Gentiles opened theirs; but if the Jews want to be saved, it will be in the same manner that the Gentiles were saved – through “the deliverer” that came out of Zion, that is Jesus (11:25-27).
7. Though Jew and Gentile have, in a sense, switched places (from included to excluded), that doesn’t mean that it has to stay that way (11:28-32).
VI. Praise for God’s Wisdom (11:33-36)
A. After this lengthy and deep discussion of the sovereignty of God and how his plan to make men righteous has affected both Jew and Gentile, Paul erupts in words of praise for the God behind it all.
B. His wisdom and judgments are far beyond human ability to fully understand.
Introduction: Every sincere Christian knows exactly what Paul describes in Romans 7. Though he is describing his life under the Law of Moses, the general principles are the same for the Christian. There is a battle inside the minds and hearts of each person who is trying to live the way God wants him to live. There is one part of us that pulls in the direction of sin, and another part that pulls in the direction of righteousness. Our inability to be perfect, regardless of how hard we try, can be debilitating and discouraging.
I. Dead to the Law, Married to Christ (7:1-6)
A. Paul begins the chapter by introducing an example that will illustrate an important principle to understanding the means of justification. The law (any law) is only binding on a person while that person is alive (1).
B. A married woman, for example, is legally and lawfully bound to her husband as long as he is alive. If he dies, she is released from the law that had bound them together (2-3).
C. Paul applies that principle to the relationship of the Christian to the Law of Moses. The Christian (specifically, the Christian Jew) has become “dead” to the Law of Moses that he might be “married” to Christ (4; cf. Gal. 3:19-25).
D. Since this change has been made, and they are now free “from that which held [them] captive,” they can serve God in a completely new way (5-6).
II. The Civil War (7:7-25)
A. In this section, as he has done before, Paul raises possible objections or questions that some might have, and then he answers them.
B. “Is the Law sin?” (7)
1. In other words, if the Law of Moses has been cast aside because no one kept it perfectly, was the Law of Moses bad? Paul’s answer is, “By no means!”
2. The Law of Moses helped him to understand sin (7-8). But in pointing out the sinfulness of coveting, for example, Paul found himself tempted to covet. His desires found an opportunity through the law to entice him to violate it (cf. James 1:14-15).
3. There was a time when Paul was “alive apart from the law” (probably a reference to his infancy and childhood, before he became accountable). But when he became accountable, sin arose through his violations of the Law (9-11).
4. So the Law – in and of itself – is holy, righteous, and good. It is the weakness of the flesh that gets exploited by law (12).
C. “Did that which is good bring death to me?” (13)
1. No, sin brought death. But the existence of law is what offered the opportunity to sin. Therefore, through repeated violations of the Law of Moses, sin multiplied (13).
2. While the law itself is spiritual, we humans often give in to our carnal impulses and violate the law (14). This is what leads to the civil war in our minds and hearts.
3. Paul often found himself doing the things that he knew were wrong (because the Law said they were wrong) and not doing the things he knew were right (15-16).
4. It was as if sin had completely taken over his entire life. He had the desire to do what was right, but not the ability (17-20).
5. By way of summary, Paul states that even when he wants to do what’s right, evil is always close at hand (21). Though he loves God’s law and delights in obeying it, he is always fighting temptation and often loses those individual battles (22-23).
D. His conclusion: “Wretched man that I am!” (24). He knows that he cannot deliver himself from that wretched condition. So if he will be delivered at all, he will have to be delivered by someone stronger than himself. Who could that be? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (25).
Conclusion: When we base our justification on the perfect keeping of laws, we will consistently find ourselves exclaiming with Paul, “Wretched man that I am!” We will not keep God’s commands perfectly, no matter how hard we try. So if we will ever be justified, we must look for another way. Thankfully, God has supplied that way through Jesus. In the next chapter, Paul will write of the many blessings of being set free from the law of sin and death.
Introduction: In the previous chapter, Paul used Abraham as an illustration of how one can be justified by faith apart from meritorious works in general and the Law of Moses in particular. In this chapter, he will first mention some of the results and blessings of justification, then he will explain that what humanity lost through Adam it can regain through Jesus.
I. Blessings of Justification (5:1-11)
A. The chapter begins with “therefore,” which is a clear indication that what he is about to write relates directly to what he previously wrote.
B. From 3:21 – 4:25, Paul explained and illustrated what it means to be justified, not by works of merit, but by faith in Jesus. To paraphrase verse one, “Since, then, we have been justified by faith, here are some of the results and blessings of that justification.”
1. We have peace with God (1). Sin creates hostility with and separation from God (James 4:4; Isa. 59:1-2). But through faith in Jesus, fellowship is restored and God turns his back on our sins (Psa. 51:9).
2. We have access into God’s grace (2). Grace is not unconditionally given. We access all of the benefits of his grace when we stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting him (Eph. 2:4-9).
3. We have reason to rejoice in hope and in our sufferings (2-5). It is easy to rejoice in good times, but not so easy to rejoice in bad times. But when we consider the benefits of difficulties, we can improve our outlook (James 1:2-4).
4. We have the indwelling of God’s Spirit (5). The Spirit of God is given when one becomes a child of God (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Gal. 4:6). He serves as a “seal” and an “earnest” of future reward (Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Cor. 1:22), and helps us in our growth and sanctification (Gal. 5:22-23; Eph. 3:16; Rom. 8:13).
5. We have protection from the wrath of God (9-10). One of the intriguing lessons to consider from this text is that when Jesus saves us, he is saving us from God (Heb. 10:31; 12:29).
6. We have been reconciled (11). Sin caused separation. Through the death of Jesus we can be brought back into fellowship with God (Col. 1:21-22; 2 Cor. 5:18-20).
C. The above blessings were made possible because Jesus died for weak, ungodly, sinful enemies (6-8). It is a love that defies description and understanding (1 John 4:9-10)!
II. What We Lost in Adam, We Gain in Christ (5:12-21)
A. This section contains some of the more difficult statements in Romans. But its primary message is clear: while Adam’s disobedience opened the door for sin to be committed, Jesus’ obedience opened the door for salvation to be received.
B. First, let’s consider what Paul writes about Adam and his sin:
1. Sin entered the world through him (12).
2. Death (physical and spiritual) entered the world because of his sin (12).
3. Sin existed prior to the Law of Moses, and death reigned over all who sinned, even though their sins may not have been exactly like Adam’s sin (13-14).
4. Adam is a “type” of Christ (14). Wayne Jackson, in his helpful book, Biblical Figures of Speech, defines a “type” this way, “A type is a real, exalted happening in history that was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things he purposed to bring to fruition through Christ Jesus” (p. 126).
C. Second, consider what Paul writes about Jesus and his obedience. Regarding Adam and Jesus, the comparison is more in how they are different than in how they are alike (15-19).
1. Through Adam, many died; through Jesus, grace abounded (15).
2. Through Adam came condemnation; through Jesus, justification (16).
3. Through Adam, death reigned; through Jesus, life reigns (17).
4. Through Adam came sin and condemnation; through Jesus, justification and righteousness (18-19).
D. The Law of Moses was given “to increase the trespass” – that is, to shine a bright light on the sinfulness of man (20; cf. 7:7, 13). This was to increase man’s awareness of how much he needs God’s grace in Jesus (21).
Conclusion: A great summary statement for this section is the last part of Romans 5:20, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
Introduction: Having established that everyone – Jew and Gentile – stands in need of salvation due to personal sin, Paul now turns his attention to explaining the basis of the salvation offered in Christ. We are not justified by merit. God justifies us because we trust him to save us.
I. The Basis of Justification is Grace, Appropriated by Faith (3:21-31)
A. The “righteousness of God” (i.e., the justification that comes from God) is possible apart from works of law in general, and the works of the Law of Moses in particular (3:21).
B. The basis of justification is the same for all, the grace of God made possible by Jesus Christ, who is the propitiation for our sins (3:22-25a).
C. God’s amazing plan for the redemption of man allows God to be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (3:25b-26).
D. Because we are declared righteous apart from meritorious works, we have no basis to boast (3:27-28).
E. God has decreed that both Jew and Gentile can be saved in the same way–on the basis of trusting, not earning (3:29-30). But this principle does no damage to the law. Rather, it harmonizes with it (3:31).
II. Abraham: and Example of Justification by Grace Through Faith (4:1-25)
A. Paul will explain in this chapter that the greatest hero of the Jews, Abraham, found justification through his trust in God, not any meritorious system of law.
B. Had Abraham been justified by merit, he would have plenty of reasons to boast. But the Scriptures are clear that what was put on his account as “righteousness” was his faith (Gen. 15:6), not meritorious works (4:1-8).
1. Paul explains the difference between grace and merit. When one works for pay, his wages are not counted as a gift (4:4).
2. But the one who doesn’t attempt to earn justification, but trusts in the one who can justify the ungodly, “his faith is counted as righteousness” (4:5-6).
C. Pious Jews placed inordinate value on circumcision, to the point that it was viewed meritoriously–that is, they believed that circumcision, in and of itself, obtained God’s approval (cf. Acts 15:1-5; Gal. 2:1-21; 5:6).
D. In 4:9-12, Paul reminds the Jewish Christians in Rome that Abraham was justified by faith long before he was ever circumcised.
1. The blessing of justification is not reserved for the circumcised only, and Abraham’s justification prior to circumcision proves that (4:9-10).
2. The fact that Abraham was counted as righteous because of his faith, and not because of his circumcision, is proof that he is the father of all who trust God for salvation, Jew or Gentile (4:11-12).
E. The promises that God made to Abraham regarding the blessings that would come through his descendants were made long before the Law of Moses ever came to be (4:13-15).
F. If the blessings promised through Abraham required perfect law-keeping, no one would enjoy them. That’s why those blessings are obtained through trusting God for them (4:16-17).
G. Abraham’s strong faith (4:18-21) was placed on his spiritual account as righteousness, not just for his sake alone, but for ours, too. If we follow in his steps, we will be justified in the same way he was (4:22-25).
A. God blesses us, not because of who we are, but because of who he is (4:1-4; 1 John 4:19). God did not choose to bless Abraham because he owed Abraham.
B. There are four important terms used in this section that help us to understand our salvation:
1. Justification (3:24, 26, 28, 30) – a judicial term that denotes vindication, or receiving a favorable verdict. When we are justified, God drops the charges.
2. Redemption (3:24) – a financial term that denotes a payment of ransom. When we are redeemed, God pays for our release from captivity.
3. Propitiation (3:25) – a sacrificial term denoting the appeasement of righteous anger. Through the death of Jesus, the righteous demands of God’s nature are satisfied.
4. Accounting (4:11, 23-24) – another financial term that refers to a mathematical calculation that would be placed in a ledger. When we trust God for salvation, he places “righteousness” on our spiritual ledger.
Conclusion: Few Bible doctrines offer as much hope and peace as the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith. We would all be hopelessly doomed to eternal torment if our salvation were contingent on our personal perfection.
- Salvation is God’s gift to us (1:4; 2:16, 20; 3:8, 13-14, 26-29; 4:4-5; 5:1; 6:8).
- Doctrinal purity is non-negotiable (1:6-9; 2:4-5; 4:16; 5:7-9).
- It matters what we believe (1:6-9; 3:1-5; 5:7-9).
- We cannot serve God and man at the same time (1:10; 5:11).
- The Scriptures are inspired of God (1:11-12).
- God is no respecter of persons (2:6; 3:28).
- Christian fellowship is wonderful (2:9; 4:13-14; 6:2, 10).
- We should not be hypocrites (2:11-14).
- Sometimes sin must be rebuked publicly (2:11-14).
- Justification is by faith, not meritorious works (2:16-21; 3:1-14, 21-23; 4:1-5; 4:22-31).
- The gospel of Christ produces freedom from the bondage of law (3:10-14, 23; 4:1-7, 22-31; 5:1).
- The Law of Moses fulfilled its purpose (3:19-29).
- All Christians, regardless of race, are descendants of Abraham (3:29; 6:16).
- It is possible to fall from grace (5:4).
- Freedom in Christ is not license to sin (5:13-15).
- We should walk by the Spirit (5:16-18, 22-23, 25; 6:8).
- We should avoid the works of the flesh (5:16-17, 19-21, 24).
- We should restore the erring (6:1).
- We reap what we sow (6:7-8).
- Rewards belong to those who endure (6:9).
Introduction: Douglas Moo wrote, “Romans is one of the most interesting and engaging books in the Bible – precisely because it shapes the way we think about so much of the universe we inhabit” (16). I cannot argue with that assessment. In this letter, Paul discusses the sinful condition of all mankind, the consequences of that sinful condition, the lengths God has gone to justify us in spite of our sin, the faith response required of us to obtain that justification, and how the justified should live in view of that justification. Romans is deep, theologically challenging, and imminently practical. In this first section of the letter, Paul introduces the reader to the underlying theme – the good news of Jesus is God’s power to save because it reveals his plan to make men righteous.
I. Introduction and Greeting (1:1-7)
A. Paul identifies himself (1) as “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.”
1. Each of those terms emphasizes Paul’s understanding that his life was not really his own. He belonged to another.
2. Galatians 2:20; Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Romans 14:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:15
B. Paul identifies some key elements of the gospel (1b-4)
1. It originates with God, it was promised in the Old Testament scriptures, and Jesus is its subject (cf. Luke 24:44; Acts 26:22-23).
2. Regarding Jesus, Paul calls attention to his humanity, his deity, and his resurrection. These are key components of the gospel message (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
C. Paul explains his apostolic mission (5-6) – “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (cf. Rom. 16:26). The good news of Jesus is designed to produce obedient trust in him.
D. Paul identifies the recipients of the letter (6b-7) – they belong to Jesus, God loves them, and they were called to be saints.
II. Gratitude and Prayer (1:8-15)
A. Paul’s reasons for being thankful and his requests for them (8-10).
1. Paul is grateful for their faith, through which they had developed a widespread reputation (8).
2. Paul prays for them “without ceasing,” longing to be able to come to Rome and visit them (9-10).
B. Paul explains his desire to visit them personally (11-15)
1. His desire to visit them revolves around his desire to strengthen them through the imparting of “some spiritual gift” (11) that Paul believed would result in mutual encouragement and deeper faith in both him and the Roman church (12).
2. To reinforce how much he wanted to visit them, Paul further explains his motivation, sense of obligation, and eagerness to preach (13-15).
III. The Theme Statement of the Book (1:16-17)
A. The gospel of Christ is God’s power to save (16).
1. The gospel of Christ can be viewed from different angles: there are basic facts that must be believed (1 Cor. 15:1-4); there are commands that must be obeyed (2 Thess. 1:8; Rom. 6:17); there are promises that can be enjoyed (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 1:3-4).
2. This good news saves anyone who believes it – whether Jew or Gentile (cf. Rom. 2:9-11).
B. The gospel reveals God’s plan to make men righteous (17).
1. The “righteousness of God” in the book of Romans is not a reference to a characteristic of God’s nature; rather, it is a reference to the righteous status that God bestows on those who believe the gospel.
2. In other words, Romans 1:17 is affirming that God’s plan for making men righteous is revealed in the gospel. It is a plan that is both rooted in faith and leads to additional faith.
3. To supplement his point, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, which affirms that spiritual life is obtained by trusting in God.
Conclusion: When one stands before the book of Romans he stands on holy ground. To understand Romans is to understand the message of the entire Bible – the sinfulness of man, the grace of God, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the redemption of Jew and Gentile, the power of faith, and the necessity of showing our faith in submission to the authority of Christ. It should be a wonderful study!
Moo, Douglas J. Romans. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000. Print.