Book 6 - PAUL'S LETTER TO THE ROMANS
With people, places, definitions, map ......
In 2 Parts
Writer: The apostle Paul
Date: c AD57 or 58 towards the end of his Third Missionary Journey
Where written: Corinth, during his 3 months stay in Greece
Readers: The Christian church already established in Rome. Paul hoped to visit them for the first time
Why: Probably the most important work ever written on the theory and practise of Christianity. It has had a profound impact on Christians throughout history. It describes our ever-present sinful condition, God's plan to save all mankind through "justification by faith" in his crucified and risen son, Jesus Christ, and our resulting "sanctification" through God's Holy Spirit. There is also a major section on Christian duties and relations with the world.
The Letter to the Romans says more about the reason God chose to send his Son to live and die in this world and to reveal his Gospel, than any other Letter.
To gain the most from these few chapters of unsurpassable spiritual and intellectual depth makes it difficult to avoid using words and phrases normally those of theologists studying the Bible, rather than men, women and children attempting to live by it. Some of the most significant words in general terms are:
JUSTIFICATION - The doctrine that men are made just, proved or shown to be just and right, vindicated, absolved, by faith in Jesus Christ, not by what they do;
FAITH - Trust or confidence, especially in God; belief in the truth of revealed religion
SALVATION - Preserved from evil; the saving of man from the power and penalty of sin; the granting of eternal happiness
SANCTIFICATION - Made, declared, regarded as, shown to be sacred or holy; free from sin or evil; set apart to sacred use
HOLY - Perfect in a moral sense; pure in heart
Map - Paul Writes to the Romans
Map Key: Letter sent from 1 to 2
Part 1 of 2, chapters 1-8
I - THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST AND "JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH"
PAUL'S EAGERNESS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH THE CHRISTIANS OF ROME
PAUL AN APOSTLE TO ALL GENTILES GREETS THE CHRISTIANS OF ROME
Romans 1:1-7 - This letter comes to you from Paul, servant of Jesus Christ, called as a messenger (an apostle) and appointed for the service of that Gospel of God which was long ago promised by the prophets in the holy scriptures.
The Gospel is centred in God's Son, a descendant of David by human genealogy (see Matthew and Luke's accounts) and patently marked out as the Son of God by the power of that Spirit of holiness which raised him to life again from the dead. He is our Lord, Jesus Christ, from whom we received grace and our commission in his name to forward obedience to the faith in all nations. And of this great number you at Rome are also called to belong to him.
To you all then, loved of God and called to be Christ's men and women, grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ.
PAUL THANKS GOD FOR THE CHURCH IN ROME AND LONGS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH THEM IN PERSON
Romans 1:8-15 - I must begin by telling you how I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all, since the news of your faith has become known everywhere. Before God, whom I serve with all my heart in the Gospel of his Son, I assure you that you are always in my prayers. I am longing to see you: I want to bring you some spiritual strength, and that will mean that I shall be strengthened by you, each of us helped by the other's faith.
Then I should like you to know, my brothers, that I have long intended to come to you (but something has always prevented me), for I should like to see some results among you, as I have among other Gentiles. I feel myself under a sort of universal obligation, I owe something to all men, from cultured Greek to ignorant savage. That is why I want, as far as my ability will carry me, to preach the Gospel to you who live in Rome as well.
THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL IS FOR EVERYONE'S SALVATION
Romans 1:16-17 - For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes it, both Jew and Greek. I see in it God's plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says:
'The just shall live by faith' (Habakkuk 2:4).
ALL MEN - JEW AND GENTILE, STAND CONDEMNED AND NEED THE SALVATION OF CHRIST'S GOSPEL
THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR MANKIND'S GODLESSNESS; THEY KNEW OF GOD'S EXISTENCE YET CHOSE IDOLATRY
Romans 1:18-23 - Now the holy anger of God is disclosed from Heaven against the godlessness and evil of those men who render truth dumb and inoperative by their wickedness. It is not that they do not know the truth about God; indeed he has made it quite plain to them. For since the beginning of the world the invisible attributes of God, e.g. his eternal power and divinity, have been plainly discernible through things which he has made and which are commonly seen and known, thus leaving these men without a rag of excuse. They knew all the time that there is a God, yet they refused to acknowledge him as such, or to thank him for what he is or does. Thus they became fatuous in their argumentations, and plunged their silly minds still further into the dark.
Behind a facade of "wisdom" they became just fools, fools who would exchange the glory of the eternal God for an imitation image of a mortal man, or of creatures that run or fly or crawl (... such false religious idols as statues of "gods", birds, animals and reptiles).
HE HAS ALLOWED THEM TO SINK INTO EVERY FORM OF SEXUAL DEPRAVITY AND HUMAN WICKEDNESS
- That a loving God can allow mankind to sink in such a way is hard to understand. There are many interpretations of God's reasons, but what cannot be escaped is the "fact". When men and women (and children) fail to follow the first commandment, and worship anything or anyone other than God, immorality inevitably follows - not just sexual immorality, but every other form, including the twenty-one Paul lists here:
Romans 1:24-32 - They gave up God: and therefore God gave them up - to be the playthings of their own foul desires in dishonouring their own bodies.
The fearful consequence of deliberate atheism
These men deliberately forfeited the truth of God and accepted a lie, paying homage and giving service to the creature instead of to the Creator, who alone is worthy to be worshipped for ever and ever, amen. God therefore handed them over to disgraceful passions. Their women exchanged the normal practices of sexual intercourse for something which is abnormal and unnatural. Similarly the men, turning from natural intercourse with women, were swept into lustful passions for one another. Men with men performed these shameful horrors, receiving, of course, in their own personalities the consequences of sexual perversity.
Moreover, since they considered themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become the slaves of their degenerate minds, and to perform unmentionable deeds. They became filled with ...
malice; their minds became steeped in ...
spite. They became ...
God-haters; they overflowed with ...
insolent pride and
boastfulness, and their minds teemed with ...
diabolical invention. They ...
scoffed at duty to parents, they ...
mocked at learning,
recognised no obligations of honour,
lost all natural affection, and
had no use for mercy. ...
More than this - being well aware of God's pronouncement that all who do these things deserve to die, they not only continued their own practices, but did not hesitate to give their thorough approval to others who did the same. (But ......)
WE ARE NO DIFFERENT, SO NONE OF US HAS ANY RIGHT TO JUDGE
Romans 2:1-4 - Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so. For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins. God's judgment, we know, is utterly impartial in its action against such evil-doers. What makes you think that you who so readily judge the sins of others, can consider yourself beyond the judgment of God? Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God's generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don't you realise that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
NONE OF US WILL ESCAPE judgment FOR OUR WICKEDNESS, NOR FORGO REWARD FOR ANY GOOD WE DO
Romans 2:5-11 - Or are you by your obstinate refusal to repent simply storing up for yourself an experience of the wrath of God in the day when, in his holy anger against evil, he shows his hand in righteous judgment?
There is no doubt at all that he will
'render to every man according to his works' (Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12),
and that means eternal life to those who, in patiently doing good, aim at the unseen (but real) glory and honour of the eternal world. It also means anger and wrath for those who rebel against God's plan of life, and refuse to obey his rules, and who, in so doing, make themselves the very servants of evil. Yes, it means bitter pain and a fearful undoing for every human soul who works on the side of evil, for the Jew first and then the Greek.
But let me repeat, there is glory and honour and peace for every worker on the side of good, for the Jew first and then the Greek. For there is no preferential treatment with God.
ONLY THOSE WHO OBEY GOD'S LAW, CONSCIOUSLY OR NOT WILL BE SAVED ON judgment DAY
Romans 2:12-16 - All who have sinned without knowledge of the Law will die without reference to the Law; and all who have sinned knowing the Law shall be judged according to the Law. It is not familiarity with the Law that justifies a man in the sight of God, but obedience to it.
When the Gentiles, who have no knowledge of the Law, act in accordance with it by the light of nature, they show that they have a law in themselves, for they demonstrate the effect of a law operating in their own hearts. Their own consciences endorse the existence of such a law, for there is something which condemns or commends their actions.
We may be sure that all this will be taken into account in the day of true judgment, when God will judge men's secret lives by Jesus Christ, as my Gospel plainly states.
IF THE JEWS PREACH GOD'S LAW, BUT DISOBEY IT, THEY DISHONOUR HIS NAME
Romans 2:17-24 - Now you, my reader, who bear the name of Jew, take your stand upon the Law, and are, so to speak, proud of your God. You know his plan, and are able through your knowledge of the Law truly to appreciate moral values. You can, therefore, confidently look upon yourself as a guide to those who do not know the way, and as a light to those who are groping in the dark. You can instruct those who have no spiritual wisdom: you can teach those who, spiritually speaking, are only just out of the cradle. You have a certain grasp of the basis of true knowledge. You have without doubt very great advantages. But, prepared as you are to instruct others, do you ever teach yourself anything? You preach against stealing, for example, but are you sure of your own honesty? You denounce the practice of adultery, but are you sure of your own purity? You loathe idolatry, but how honest are you towards the property of heathen temples? Everyone knows how proud you are of the Law, but that means a proportionate dishonour to God when men know that you break it! Don't you know that:
'the very name of God is cursed among the Gentiles because of the behaviour of Jews?' (Isaiah 52:5; Ezekiel 36:22)
There is, you know, a verse of scripture to that effect.
CIRCUMCISION HAS NO VALUE TO JEWS UNLESS THEY CHANGE INWARDLY
Romans 2:25-29 - That most intimate sign of belonging to God that we call circumcision does indeed mean something if you keep the Law. But if you (who are Jews) flout the Law you are to all intents and purposes uncircumcising yourself! Conversely, if an uncircumcised man (... a Gentile) keeps the Law's commandments, does he not thereby "circumcise" himself? Moreover, is it not plain to you that those who are physically uncircumcised, and yet keep the Law, are a continual judgment upon you who, for all your circumcision and knowledge of the Law, break it?
I have come to the conclusion that a true Jew is not the man who is merely a Jew outwardly, and a real circumcision is not just a matter of the body. The true Jew is one who belongs to God in heart, a man whose circumcision is not just an outward physical affair but is a God-made sign upon the heart and soul, and results in a life lived not for the approval of man, but for the approval of God.
THE JEWS, ALTHOUGH CHOSEN TO RECEIVE GOD'S LAW, ARE AS MUCH FAITHLESS SINNERS AS THE GENTILES
Romans 3:1-18 - Is there any advantage then in being one of the chosen people? Does circumcision mean anything? Yes, of course, a great deal in every way. You have only to think of one thing to begin with - it was the Jews to whom God's messages were entrusted. Some of them were undoubtedly faithless, but what then? Can you imagine that their faithlessness could disturb the faithfulness of God? Of course not! Let us think of God as true, even if every living man be proved a liar. Remember the scripture?
'That you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged' (Psalm 51:4).
But if our wickedness advertises the goodness of God, do we feel that God is being unfair to punish us in return? (I'm using a human tit-for-tat argument.) Not a bit of it! What sort of a person would God be then to judge the world? It is like saying that if my lying throws into sharp relief the truth of God and, so to speak, enhances his reputation, then why should he repay me by judging me a sinner? Similarly, why not do evil that good may be, by contrast all the the more conspicuous and valuable? (As a matter of fact, I am reported as urging this very thing, by some slanderously and others quite seriously! But, of course, such an argument is quite properly condemned.)
Are we Jews then a march ahead of other men? By no means. For I have shown above that all men from Jews to Greeks are under the condemnation of sin. The scriptures endorse this fact plainly enough.
'There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one' (Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20).
'Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit' (Psalm 5:9);
'the poison of asps is under their lips' (Psalm 140:3),
'whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness' (Psalm 10:7).
'Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known' (Isaiah 59:7,8).
'There is no fear of God before their eyes' (Psalm 36:1).
THE LAW IS IMPOSSIBLE TO MEET; IT CAN ONLY BE A MEASURE OF OUR SINFULNESS
Romans 3:19-20 - We know what the message of the Law is, to those who live under it - that every excuse may die on the lips of him who makes it and no living man may think himself beyond the judgment of God. No man can justify himself before God by a perfect performance of the Law's demands - indeed it is the straight-edge of the Law that shows us how crooked we are.
MANKIND CAN ONLY BE SAVED FROM GOD'S ANGER BY JUSTIFICATION - THAT IS BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST
ALL MANKIND HAS SINNED BUT GOD PROVIDES AN ESCAPE THROUGH THE SACRIFICE OF JESUS CHRIST
Romans 3:21-26 - But now we are seeing the righteousness of God declared quite apart from the Law (though amply testified to by both Law and Prophets) - it is a righteousness imparted to, and operating in, all who have faith in Jesus Christ. (For there is no distinction to be made anywhere: everyone has sinned, everyone falls short of the beauty of God's plan.) Under this divine system a man who has faith is now freely acquitted in the eyes of God by his generous dealing in the redemptive act of Jesus Christ. ...
... God has appointed him (Christ) as the means of
propitiation (or act of atonement - HIS sacrifice for OUR sins),
a propitiation accomplished by the shedding of his blood (on the cross),
to be received and made effective in ourselves by faith (or belief in Jesus Christ).
... God has done this to demonstrate his righteousness both by the wiping out of the sins of the past (the time when he withheld his hand), and by showing in the present time that he is a just God and that he justifies every man who has faith in Jesus Christ.
EVERYONE CAN BE RECONCILED WITH GOD, NOT BY OBSERVING THE LAW BUT THROUGH FAITH IN CHRIST
Romans 3:27-31 - What happens now to human pride of achievement? There is no more room for it. Why, because failure to keep the Law has killed it? Not at all, but because the whole matter is now on a different plane - believing (or having faith in Christ) instead of achieving (by observing the Law). We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God's appointed Saviour and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law.
And God is God of both Jews and Gentiles, let us be quite clear about that! The same God is ready to justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised by faith also.
Are we then undermining the Law by this insistence on faith? Not a bit of it! We put the Law in its proper place.
ABRAHAM AS AN EXAMPLE OF JUSTIFICATION
ABRAHAM WAS "JUSTIFIED" BY FAITH BEFORE CIRCUMCISION, NOT BY OBEYING THE LAW AFTERWARDS; GOD'S PROMISES ARE FOR BOTH GENTILE AND JEW
Romans 4:1-25 - Now how does all this affect the position of our ancestor Abraham? Well, if justification were by achievement he could quite fairly be proud of what he achieved - but not, I am sure, proud before God. For what does scripture say about him?
'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' (Genesis 15:6).
Now if a man works his wages are not counted as a gift but as a fair reward. But if a man, irrespective of his work, has faith as righteousness, then that man's faith is counted as righteousness, and that is the gift of God. This is the happy state of the man whom God accounts righteous, apart from his achievements, as David expresses it:
'Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin' (Psalm 32:1,2).
It is a matter of faith, not circumcision
Now the question, an important one, arises: is this happiness for the circumcised (Jew) only, or for the uncircumcised (Gentile) as well?
Note this carefully. We began by saying that Abraham's faith was counted unto him for righteousness. When this happened, was he a circumcised man? He was not, he was still uncircumcised. It was afterwards that the sign of circumcision was given to him, as a seal upon that righteousness which God was accounting to him as yet an uncircumcised man! God's purpose here is twofold. First, that Abraham might be the spiritual father of all who since that time, despite their circumcision, show the faith that is counted as righteousness. Then, secondly, that he might be the circumcised father of all those who are not only circumcised, but are living by the same sort of faith which he himself had before he was circumcised.
The promise, from the beginning, was made to faith
The ancient promise made to Abraham and his descendants, that they should eventually possess the world, was given not because of any achievements made through obedience to the Law, but because of the righteousness which had its root in faith. For if, after all, they who pin their faith to keeping the Law were to inherit God's world, it would make nonsense of faith in God himself, and destroy the whole point of the promise.
For we have already noted that the Law can produce no promise, only the threat of wrath to come. And, indeed if there were no Law the question of sin would not arise.
The whole thing, then, is a matter of faith on man's part and generosity on God's. He gives the security of his own promise to all men who can be called "children of Abraham", i.e. both those who have lived in faith by the Law, and those who have exhibited a faith like that of Abraham. To whichever group we belong, Abraham is in a real sense our father, as the scripture says:
'I have made you a father of many nations' (Genesis 17:5).
This faith is valid because of the existence of God himself, who can make the dead live, and speak his Word to those who are yet unborn.
Abraham was a shining example of faith
Abraham, when hope was dead within him, went on hoping in faith, believing that he would become "the father of many nations". He relied on the word of God which definitely referred to
'your descendants' (Genesis 15:5).
With undaunted faith he looked at the facts - his own impotence (he was practically a hundred years old at the time) and his wife Sarah's apparent barrenness. Yet he refused to allow any distrust of a definite pronouncement of God to make him waver. He drew strength from his faith, and while giving the glory to God, remained absolutely convinced that God was able to implement his own promise. This was the "faith" which
'was accounted to him for righteousness' (Genesis 15:6).
Now this counting of faith for righteousness was not recorded simply for Abraham's credit, but as a divine principle which should apply to us as well. Faith is to be reckoned as righteousness to us also, who believe in him who raised from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, who was delivered to death for our sins and raised again to secure our justification.
THE RESULT OF JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IS CHRISTIAN SALVATION - THAT IS SANCTIFICATION, PEACE, IMMORTALITY, THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
WITH FAITH IN CHRIST WE HAVE GOD'S PEACE AND CAN GROW IN SPIRITUAL MATURITY EVEN IN SUFFERING
Romans 5:1-5 - Since then it is by faith that we are justified, let us grasp the fact that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have confidently entered into this new relationship of grace, and here we take our stand, in happy certainty of the glorious things he has for us in the future.
This doesn't mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys (in heaven) - we can be full of joy here and now (on earth) even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us.
WE ARE SUCH POWERLESS SINNERS AND GOD LOVES US SO MUCH, HE SENT CHRIST TO DIE FOR US
Romans 5:6-8 - And we can see that it was while we were powerless to help ourselves that Christ died for sinful men. In human experience it is a rare thing for one man to give his life for another, even if the latter be a good man, though there have been a few who have had the courage to do it. Yet the proof of God's amazing love is this: that it was while we were sinners that Christ died for us.
WE ARE SAVED AND RECONCILED WITH GOD BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF CHRIST
Romans 5:9-11 - Moreover, if he did that for us while we were sinners, now that we are men justified by the shedding of his blood, what reason have we to fear the wrath of God? If, while we were his enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through his living in us. Nor, I am sure, is this a matter of bare salvation - we may hold our heads high in the light of God's love because of the reconciliation which Christ has made.
SIN AND DEATH CAME TO ALL MANKIND THROUGH THE DISOBEDIENCE OF ONE MAN - ADAM
Romans 5:12-14 - This, then, is what happened. Sin made its entry into the world through one man, and through sin, death. The entail of sin and death passed on to the whole human race, and no one could break it for no one was himself free from sin.
Sin, you see, was in the world long before the Law, though I suppose, technically speaking, it was not "sin" where there was no law to define it. Nevertheless death, the complement of sin, held sway over mankind from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was quite unlike Adam's.
Adam, the first man, corresponds in some degree to the man who has to come.
DEATH AND SIN ARE NOW CONQUERED THROUGH THE OBEDIENCE OF ONE MAN - JESUS CHRIST
Romans 5:15-19 - But the gift of God through Christ is a very different matter from the "account rendered" through the sin of Adam. For while as a result of one man's sin death by natural consequence became the common lot of men, it was by the generosity of God, the free giving of the grace of one man Jesus Christ, that the love of God overflowed for the benefit of all men.
Nor is the effect of God's gift the same as the effect of that one man's sin. For in the one case one man's sin brought its inevitable judgment, and the result was condemnation. But, in the other, countless men's sins are met with the free gift of grace, and the result is justification before God.
For if one man's offence meant that men should be slaves to death all their lives, it is a far greater thing that through another man, Jesus Christ, men by their acceptance of his more than sufficient grace and righteousness, should live all their lives like kings!
We see, then, that as one act of sin exposed the whole race of men to God's judgment and condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God. One man's disobedience placed all men under the threat of condemnation, but one man's obedience has the power to present all men righteous before God.
AS SIN BROUGHT DEATH, SO GOD'S GOODNESS BRINGS ETERNAL LIFE
Romans 5:20-21 - Now we find that the Law keeps slipping into the picture to point the vast extent of sin. Yet, though sin is shown to be wide and deep, thank God his grace (goodness) is wider and deeper still! The whole outlook changes - sin used to be the master of men and in the end handed them over to death: now grace is the ruling factor, with righteousness as its purpose and its end the bringing of men to the eternal life of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
THROUGH BAPTISM WE DIE WITH CHRIST; AS HE ROSE AGAIN, SO WE ARE BORN AGAIN; NOW WE LIVE WITH CHRIST, WE SHOULD BE DEAD TO SIN
Romans 6:1-14 - Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart's content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin - how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptised into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? We were dead and buried with him in baptism, so that just as he was raised from the dead by that splendid Revelation of the Father's power so we too might rise to life on a new plane altogether. If we have, as it were, shared his death, let us rise and live our new lives with him! Let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken - for a dead man can safely be said to be immune to the power of sin. And if we were dead men with him we can believe that we shall also be men newly alive with him. We can be sure that the risen Christ never dies again - death's power to touch him is finished. He died, because of sin, once: he lives for God for ever. In the same way look upon yourselves as dead to the appeal and power of sin but alive and sensitive to the call of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Do not, then, allow sin to establish any power over your mortal bodies in making you give way to your lusts. Nor hand over your organs to be, as it were, weapons of evil for the devil's purposes. But, like men rescued from certain death, put yourselves in God's hands as weapons of good for his own purposes. For sin is not meant to be your master - you are no longer living under the Law, but under grace.
BE SLAVES NOT TO SIN BUT TO GOD; SIN LEADS TO DEATH, GOD TO ETERNAL LIFE
Romans 6:15-23 - Now, what shall we do? Shall we go on sinning because we have no Law to condemn us any more, but are living under grace? Never! Just think what it would mean. You belong to the power which you choose to obey, whether you choose sin, whose reward is death, or God, obedience to whom means the reward of righteousness. Thank God that you, who were at one time the servants of sin, honestly responded to the impact of Christ's teaching when you came under its influence. Then, released from the service of sin, you entered the service of righteousness. (I use an everyday illustration because human nature grasps truth more readily that way.) In the past you voluntarily gave your bodies to the service of vice and wickedness - for the purpose of becoming wicked. So, now, give yourselves to the service of righteousness - for the purpose of becoming really good. For when you were employed by sin you owed no duty to righteousness. Yet what sort of harvest did you reap from those things that today you blush to remember? In the long run those things mean one thing only - death.
But now that you are employed by God, you owe no duty to sin, and you reap the fruit of being made righteous, while at the end of the road there is life for evermore.
Sin pays its servants: the wage is death. But God gives to those who serve him: his free gift is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
AN ILLUSTRATION; AS DEATH BREAKS THE VOWS OF MARRIAGE, SO CHRIST'S DEATH SETS US FREE FROM THE LAW
Romans 7:1-6 - You know very well, my brothers (for I am speaking to those well acquainted with the subject), that the Law can only exercise authority over a man so long as he is alive. A married woman, for example, is bound by law to her husband so long as he is alive. But if he dies, then his legal claim over her disappears. This means that, if she should give herself to another man while her husband is alive, she incurs the stigma of adultery. But if, after her husband's death, she does exactly the same thing, no one could call her an adulteress, for the legal hold over her has been dissolved by her husband's death.
There is, I think, a fair analogy here. The death of Christ on the cross had made you "dead" to the claims of the Law, and you are free to give yourselves in marriage, so to speak, to another, the one who was raised from the dead, that you may be productive for God.
While we were "in the flesh" the Law stimulated our sinful passions and so worked in our nature that we became productive - for death! But now that we stand clear of the Law, the claims which existed are dissolved by our "death", and we are free to serve God not in the old obedience to the letter of the Law, but in a new way, in the spirit.
THE LAW WAS STILL NEEDED; WITHOUT IT WE WOULD NOT HAVE RECOGNIZED SIN NOR ITS POWER OVER US
Romans 7:7-13 - It now begins to look as if sin and the Law were very much the same thing - can this be a fact? Of course it cannot. But it must in fairness be admitted that I should never have had sin brought home to me but for the Law. For example, I should never have felt guilty of the sin of coveting if I had not heard the Law saying
'You shall not covet' (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21).
But the sin in me, finding in the commandment an opportunity to express itself, stimulated all my covetous desires. For sin, in the absence of the Law, has no chance to function technically as "sin". As long, then, as I was without the Law I was, spiritually speaking, alive. But when the commandment arrived, sin sprang to life and I "died". The commandment, which was meant to be a direction to life, I found was a sentence to death. The commandment gave sin an opportunity, and without my realising what was happening, it "killed" me.
The Law is itself good
It can scarcely be doubted that in reality the Law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, fair and good. Can it be that something that is intrinsically good could mean death to me? No, what happened was this. Sin, at the touch of the Law, was forced to express itself as sin, and that meant death for me. The contact of the Law showed the sinful nature of sin.
WE ARE RULED BY SIN AND SPIRITUALLY UNABLE TO MEET THE DEMANDS OF THE LAW
Romans 7:14-20 - After all, the Law itself is really concerned with the spiritual - it is I who am carnal, and have sold my soul to sin. In practice, what happens? My own behaviour baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe. Yet surely if I do things that I really don't want to do, I am admitting that I really agree with the Law. But it cannot be said that "I" am doing them at all - it must be sin that has made its home in my nature. (And indeed, I know from experience that the carnal side of my being can scarcely be called the home of good!) I often find that I have the will to do good, but not the power. That is, I don't accomplish the good I set out to do, and the evil I don't really want to do I find I am always doing. Yet if I do things that I don't really want to do then it is not, I repeat, "I" who do them, but the sin which has made its home within me.
WE WANT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT BUT OUR SIN STOPS US; ONLY CHRIST CAN SAVE US FROM THIS FATAL DILEMMA
Romans 7:21-25 - When I come up against the Law I want to do good, but in practice I do evil. My conscious mind whole-heartedly endorses the Law, yet I observe an entirely different principle at work in my nature. This is in continual conflict with my conscious attitude, and makes me an unwilling prisoner to the law of sin and death. In my mind I am God's willing servant, but in my own nature I am bound fast, as I say, to the law of sin and death. It is an agonising situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my sinful nature? I thank God there is a way out through Jesus Christ our Lord.
BECAUSE OF CHRIST, WE ARE SAVED FROM THE LAW
Romans 8:1-4 - No condemnation now hangs over the head of those who are "in" Jesus Christ. For the new spiritual principle of life "in" Christ lifts me out of the old vicious circle of sin and death.
The Law never succeeded in producing righteousness - the failure was always the weakness of human nature. But God has met this by sending his own Son Jesus Christ to live in that human nature which causes the trouble. And, while Christ was actually taking upon himself the sins of men, God condemned that sinful nature. So that we are able to meet the Law's requirements, so long as we are living no longer by the dictates of our sinful nature, but in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.
THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT WE HAVE VICTORY ...
.... OVER SIN
Romans 8:5-8 - The carnal attitude (sinful nature) sees no further than natural things. But the spiritual attitude reaches out after the things of the spirit. The former attitude means, bluntly, death: the latter means life and inward peace. And this is only to be expected, for the carnal attitude is inevitably opposed to the purpose of God, and neither can nor will follow his laws for living. Men who hold this attitude cannot possibly please God.
.... OVER DEATH
Romans 8:9-11 - But you are not carnal but spiritual if the Spirit of God finds a home within you. You cannot, indeed, be a Christian at all unless you have something of his Spirit in you. Now if Christ does live within you his presence means that your sinful nature is dead, but your spirit becomes alive because of the righteousness he brings with him. I said that our nature is "dead" in the presence of Christ, and so it is, because of its sin. Nevertheless once the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives within you he will, by that same Spirit, bring to your whole being new strength and vitality.
.... FOR ALL ETERNITY
Romans 8:12-17 - So then, my brothers, you can see that we have no particular reason to feel grateful to our sensual nature, or to live life on the level of the instincts. Indeed that way of living leads to certain spiritual death. But if on the other hand you cut the nerve of your instinctive actions by obeying the Spirit, you are on the way to real living.
Christ is within - follow the lead of his Spirit
All who follow the leading of God's Spirit are God's own sons. Nor are you meant to relapse into the old slavish attitude of fear - you have been adopted into the very family circle of God and you can say with a full heart, "Father (or "Abba" in Aramaic), my Father". The Spirit himself endorses our inward conviction that we really are the children of God. Think what that means. If we are his children we share his treasures, and all that Christ claims as his will belong to all of us as well! Yes, if we share in his suffering we shall certainly share in his glory.
THIS VICTORY DOES NOT SAVE US FROM PRESENT SUFFERING OR EARTHLY FRUSTRATION
Romans 8:18-25 - In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God's purpose it has been so limited - yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!
It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven't yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience.
THE HOLY SPIRIT ACTUALLY SUPPORTS US AT THESE TIMES
Romans 8:26-27 - The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations. For example, we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God, but his Spirit within us is actually praying for us in those agonising longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart's secrets understands, of course, the Spirit's intention as he prays for those who love God.
GOD HAS ALWAYS KNOWN US AND ALWAYS CARRIES US
Romans 8:28-30 - Moreover we know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good. God, in his foreknowledge, chose them to bear the family likeness of his Son, that he might be the eldest of a family of many brothers. He chose them long ago; when the time came he called them, he made them righteous in his sight, and then lifted them to the splendour of life as his own sons.
WE CAN NEVER LOSE AND NOTHING CAN EVER SEPARATE US FROM CHRIST'S LOVE
Romans 8:31-39 - In face of all this, what is there left to say? If God is for us, who can be against us? He that did not hesitate to spare his own Son but gave him up for us all - can we not trust such a God to give us, with him, everything else that we can need?
Who would dare to accuse us, whom God has chosen? The judge himself has declared us free from sin. Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ, and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!
Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, pain or persecution? Can lack of clothes and food, danger to life and limb, the threat of force of arms? Indeed some of us know the truth of the ancient text:
'For your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter' (Psalm 44:22).
No, in all these things we win an overwhelming victory through him who has proved his love for us.
I have become absolutely convinced that neither death nor life, neither messenger of Heaven nor monarch of earth, neither what happens today nor what may happen tomorrow, neither a power from on high nor a power from below, nor anything else in God's whole world has any power to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord!
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