Lecture 13: Romans (part 2)
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Romans 4 tells us what kind of faith Abraham had that was saving faith. You are not saved by working for God, but by believing in God. Hope is confident, sure expectation. Paul’s main rhetorical question is, “Can the law transform us?” His implied answer is "no!" (43:03)
Flow assignment Philippians 2:5-11
C. Abraham as the father of Jews and Gentiles (Romans 4:1-25)
IV. Hope as a result of righteousness by faith (Romans 5:1-8:39)
A. Assurance of hope (Romans 5:1-11)
B. Hope in Christ's triumph over Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-21)
C. The triumph of grace over the power of sin (Romans 6:1-23)
D. The triumph of grace over the power of the law (Romans 7:1-8:17)
Lecture 13: Romans Part 2
This is the 13th lecture in the online series of lectures on New Testament Survey by Dr Thomas Schreiner. Recommended Reading includes: Article on Divorce and Remarriage – Craig Blomberg, Trinity Journal, 1990; The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris; Are there Two Will in God by John Piper; Two views on Women in Ministry by James Beck and Craig Blomberg; Word Bible Commentary: Pastoral Epistles, Volume 46, by William D. Mounce and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, by Wayne Gudem and John Piper (article by Vern Poythress entitled, ‘The Church as a Family’)
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I will do Philippians in one day when we come to it but I will do Philippians 2:5-11 today. This is perhaps the most important passage in the letter. This is one of those great Christological hymns starting in verse 5, ‘have this attitude in yourselves’, this is the main proposition and everything will support this and everything relates back to being in a ‘humble state’. ‘Because it was also in Christ Jesus,’ because he is your example; it’s possible that he is also saying (the Greek is ambiguous here), the attitude that you already have in Christ. This sits very well with the Pauline indicative and imperative pattern. This is already yours in Christ. If true, Paul would be calling on Christians to display an attitude that we already have by grace. It is already yours and so let it be worked out in your life. You can check the commentaries on that. ‘Who, although he existed in the form of God which means that he was God of God or the image of God; so when it says ‘form of God,’ this idea is not easy to grasp. Perhaps and better, he did not count equality with God something to be ‘exploited’. That is how I would understand this. Instead, he emptied himself and humbled himself. This is his point. This is a remarkable passage on the love of God in Christ. Therefore and thus because of this, ‘God also highly exalted him.’ He did this at the resurrection; God raised him from the dead and bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.’ Every knee means everyone that you could possible think of. The second point is, ‘and that every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ So God exalted him and bestowed upon him a name that is above every name. We have an action/purpose; so that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. The exaltation of Jesus brings glory to God. God is glorified in Jesus, but that is not his main thought in this paragraph. His main thought or idea was that he emptied himself by becoming a man and he humbled himself by dying on the Cross. This exaltation was done so that everyone could confess that Jesus was Lord. So, the imperative is having the attitude because that is the way Christ was, thus live this way because in doing so, you are imitating Christ. You will also be exalted; of course not as the Messiah.
Let’s look at the possibility of universalism in this text? (Universalism is a theological doctrine that all human beings will eventually be saved) Let’s look at Isaiah 45:20, ‘assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save.’ So those who worship idols have no knowledge. This is a typical Pauline statement but it is in Isaiah. Verse 21, ‘Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.’ This is a very strong emphasis on monotheism. There is only one God. Then we have a great missionary text, ‘look to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, there is no other.’ This is a great text to preach on for the Gospel to be preached everywhere. There is only one way of salvation and that is in God. Now back in Philippians, so every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath. One of the implications here, Paul is clearly teaching monotheism and Paul is applying it to Jesus! This is a very clear text on the deity of Christ. I would love to show anyone who is struggling with the deity of Christ, this text. Surely in the Lord, I have righteousness and strength, to him men shall come, but some will not accept him. Some will bow because they are compelled to bow and some will be shamed and humiliated and angry with God and they will be damned. This text is not teaching universalism. Verse 25, all the descendants of Israel will be vindicated by the Lord and will boast in him. We are included in ‘the all’ there, that is us. Those of us who belong to Christ are the Israel of God. We are the true circumcision, the family of Abraham. So some will bow gladly and there is a reference to justification. All who believe in Christ shall be justified in Him. But some will be compelled to bow.
We are in chapter 4 now. What does the last half of chapter 4 say? It tells us what kind of faith Abraham had that was saving faith. You are not saved by working for God but by believing in God. But what does it mean to believe? Before I was a Christian, if someone had asked me whether I believed that Jesus had died for my sins; Yeah, I guess I do; I believe that. Did it make any difference to me? No, not really; it really didn’t have anything to do with my life. But that is not saving faith. It is only mental acknowledgement. For Paul, saving faith is a whole hearted reliance on God. It is the kind of reliance Abraham had which made a difference in his life. So when God said at the end of Roman’s chapter 4, ‘you are going to have all these children,’ in speaking to Abraham and Sarah. It wasn’t just okay, I guess I believe that. He trusted and believed that God (verse 17) could give life to the dead, his dead body and Sarah’s dead womb. Paul makes that very clear. What’s dead in this situation? His body! They can’t produce children but he believed that God could do that. He believed that God could do the impossible and the miraculous. He believed that God could call into existence things that didn’t exist, like children. That God could do that miracle. He looked at his circumstances, his age and considered the obstacles. Faith doesn’t mean that you look at the situation and say, ‘I am going to deny the negative.’ Some people talk that way, ‘never think of the negative.’ Abraham faced the negative straight on, but he believed in God’s promise. Not everybody has this promise as some Christian struggle a lot in having children. This is a promise for Abraham; he believed that God could do it. Verse 20 says that he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.
Fundamental to Paul’s theology, faith is so important because it honors God. So here, Paul applies it to us; we too are saved as we trust God who raised Christ from the dead. The promise to Abraham ultimately pointed in the direction of Christ. That is what we believe in, his death and resurrection. So we are not surprised that Jesus was handed over because of our trust passes. Isaiah 53:12 says that ‘he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors; he poured out his soul to death.’ He was raised because of our justification; so his death and resurrection was the means by which we are right before God.
These chapters are about hope. We hope in God. At the moment, we are righteous by Faith. So what does that mean in our present lives? We are filled with hope, confident and sure expectation. This is what dominates chapters 5-8, the hope that is ours in Christ.
We can’t live without hope. It makes a difference in everything we do. He gives us examples for this. We have hope even in our trials and difficulties in life because it makes us more like Christ. It points us to the future promise that God has given to us. 5:9 for a while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. We are now justified. We look to that judgement day and wonder what will happen on that day. We know God will be angry with a lot of people because of their sins. But we will be saved; this is in the future, yet we are justified now in the present. This is our hope. We may be tortured to death or whatever. But no matter what happens in this life that will be temporary for we will be saved from the wrath of God which will be much worse.
Most of the time when we get into this discussion, we usually start arguing over original sin. Rightly so that we focus on that, but we need to put this passage into proper context; it needs to be put into the flow of the argument of Romans itself. What is this passage doing here? I believe that this passage is supporting the idea of hope. What happened when Adam came into the world? One big mess! Sin, and this spread to all of us because of one person! So this is the doctrine of original sin. We are all sinners because of Adam. We are the way we are because of our family; this has always been true. That is the way God made life. We shape the way our children grow up. So Adam brought this huge mess into the world, sin. Wow, what a mess! Just consider how quickly we can make a mess of things in our own lives. It doesn’t take long to make a mess of things, anything! We can wreak destruction so quickly. However, to clear messes up, takes an incredible amount of effort and time. And this is Paul’s main point here; Christ and for those who belong to him is cleaning up this mess. And this takes an incredible amount of grace and power. And that is what he is doing and therefore we have a great hope. Because if Christ can clean up such a mess as sin that is in us, we have a tremendous hope and I think this is Paul’s main point here. Verse 13 means, technically speaking, sin is not reckoned as transgression before there was the Law. He is not saying that sin isn’t punished before there was the Law. All who sin, though without the Law are still held accountable. There is a lot of debate on these verses.
Remember the Jew and Gentile issue; what do the Jews believe? Jews believe that you clean this mess up through the Law. You clean up the mess through the Torah and through commandments. That is how you help people to be better. There is a rabbinic sayings, ‘the more Torah, the more life.’ If you have more law, you have more life. You have more people living according to God’s will. That is what Paul believed before he became a Christian. That was the heart and soul of his belief. In verse 20, we have a stunning statement by Paul, ‘the Law came in to increase transgression and as sin increased, grace multiplied all the more.’ So the Law came in to increase sin. So the Law made things worse. What a shocking statement! So the answer is not more commands, but wait; there is no problem with the moral norms of the Law. However, the Law didn’t change people. It just doesn’t. This even stands to reason today; laws don’t change people. Laws themselves don’t transform. Laws lead to rebellion against a specified moral norm and perhaps it also increases the number as well.
In chapter 6, Paul responds to a Jewish objection. Before going on, you need to understand that Romans represent many of Paul’s debates he had with people over the years, the oral debates he had. One of the major Jewish objections which Paul had obviously debated with the Jews was that Christ and grace not being under the Law. They thought that this would lead to more sin and more mess. We need the Torah, they argued, to stop this mess! That is what it is for. But Paul responded, ‘are we to continue in sin so that grace will abound?’ Paul isn’t writing this to people who think this is good. I think Paul is responding to this objection by the Jews, because they are thinking the Gospel in not being under the Law will lead people to sin more; hence, it is not the Gospel. Any Gospel that leads to more sin isn’t a Gospel and not from God. Therefore, we know that you are wrong, they argued. Of course people can take this message and go in any direction they feel fit to. But these Jewish objectors are saying that this is a huge problem. So what was Paul’s answer? We have died to sin in Christ! We are baptized with Christ, dying to the power of sin! Christ died taking all of sins with him to the Cross. The power of sins and death was destroyed! Christ triumphed and conquered those powers. And we died with him.
So the power of sin has been fundamentally broken in a Christian’s life. Christians wrong sin more; they will not sin more. They have been changed; they have died to the power of sin. The power of sin has been broken. I don’t think Paul is saying that Christians can’t sin; you could read the metaphor this way. Look closely at what Paul is saying. He uses words like reign and rule and Lord. He uses the other idea of slavery in this chapter; before being Christians, we were slaves to sins. In other words, we sinned all the time. Everything we did was sinful. Before being a Christian, nothing we did was for the glory of God. Even the nice things that we did were to bring glory to ourselves. Becoming a Christian, the reign, rule and Lordship of sin has been broken in us. Paul is saying that his Gospel is better that the Jew’s gospel because their gospel doesn’t give people the desire to quick sinning. It is because we died with Christ and now when Christians sin, we hate it because the Holy Spirit brings misery into our lives. This is due to the change in us as Christians having the Holy Spirit. We don’t like to sin anymore because the power of sin is broken. It has no rule over us. But the law promotes sin, even though the law is good; even though it is holy and righteous and good.
Who is Paul talking about in this chapter when he says I? Verses 7-12 ask whether or not the Law is sin? Paul says no and that he would not have known sin if it wasn’t for the law. So is it Israel or is it Paul in using the pronoun I here. Could it be Adam? A case could be made for this. I think it may be Paul. He says, ‘I was once alive apart from the law, but with the coming of the commandment sin became alive.’ This fits Adam perfectly. The commandment came and sin arose and he died. This sounds like Adam and Eve in the garden. But it doesn’t matter which it is because it is true for all of us. It is true of Adam that is how sin happened. It is true of Israel; they were redeemed by God, they go into the wilderness and in receiving the commandments, they start sinning. This is true in our personal lives also. All we do is replicate the human story over and over again. Every one of us is Adam after all. So verses 7-12 represent the story of us all. The larger debate amongst evangelicals is verses 13-25 about Christian or non-Christians. Let’s say, ‘Christians’. Well, they delight in God’s law; is this only Christians? In verses 14 – 23 talks about being a slave to sin. The structure of the argument in 7:5 matches 7:7-20 who are non-Christians. 7:6 matches 8:1 and following are Christians. How can Paul say in Romans 6, you are not a slave to sin and then in Romans 8:2 we are set free from the law of death? Then in chapter 7, we are a slave to sin! This is been debated throughout church history and it is still debated today. Perhaps Paul is just thinking of the Law, itself. That is the issue in this chapter. Can the law transform us? That is his question? This is not his main question, Christians or non-Christians. The answer is no, it doesn’t work and non-Christians experience this totally. They are not transformed by the law. But we Christians do experience it as we are not perfect yet. So the main issue is the law, not whether we are talking about Christians vs non-Christians.
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