Lecture 12: Romans Part 1
Lecture 12: Romans Part 1
This is the 12th 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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Paul is critical of people who judge others and then practice the same things they judge. Obedience to the law is evidence of their salvation because of the change the Spirit has caused in their life, not something they do to merit it. The root of our sin is that we don’t fear God. The Old Testament scriptures point to the gospel message which is that we become right with God by faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham was saved because of his faith in God, just like we are.
‘Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’
Most people see this passage as a hymn. A key word here is ‘who’. I actually prefer the NRSV here that translates it something like, ‘who did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.’ In verse 7b, we have a participle, ‘emptied himself’ with the key word being ‘but’. We have another participle ‘by taking the form of a servant.’ Taking is the present participle and ‘being made is another participle which represent a participial construction with the ‘ing’ word and being made in the likeness of men. There is another participle construction in verse 8. Our main verb is ‘he humbled himself’ and then ‘by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ So we have the taking, being made, being found and by becoming; what is the significance of those particular constructions. In verse 9, we have ‘therefore’ which is a key word along with ‘and’. Verse 10, we have, ‘so that’ and must ask the significance of this. I have separated it 10b out for exegetical reasons. So we have ‘and’ and ‘that’ as key words. I separated this last proposition for theological reasons, ‘to the glory of God the Father.’
Man’s chief end in life is to glorify God and enjoy himself for ever. When people don’t do this, they are handled over to human sin. We just ended what the Scriptures say about homosexuality which is so controversial today. I just heard that this may be the cutting edge issue in our culture for some time to come. It is not surprising this is against Biblical faithfulness. Some people have argued incidentally that the issue is hetaeristic and that Paul doesn’t condemn all homosexuality but only that between a man and a boy. So some have tried to find a window for some homosexual relationships, but the text in verse 27 clearly says, men with men. Interesting how certain theories come up that try to say it is okay but it still goes against the wording in Scripture. Furthermore, it doesn’t account for verse 26 that speak of women and there are no incidents in the Greco-Roman world of older women having lesbian sexual relationships with young women in an abusive sort of way. Older men with young boys were common in Greek culture. One of their arguments is Psalm 39, ‘he made me that way in my mother’s womb.’ But we clearly have to take all scripture into account. You could use the same argument for adultery. You could say that God made me have a desire for lust. That is just how he made me. We also have to take into account the doctrine of original sin. Sin is wrong and their needs to be change. The church has been in line with the culture and now the culture is moving in a different direction. I believe the text is clear but there are people pressing against it constantly. Many Christians have even begun to capitulate on this issue. On the hand we are called to love sinners and on the other hand there could be persecution coming because of this.
B. The Unrighteousness of the Jews (Romans 2:1-29)
‘Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges another.’ When you judge another person, you have no excuse. Now some people argue that Paul is condemning people simply for judging others. But if that is the problem, Paul is sinning because he is judging people. He is railing against them. The problem isn’t judgement alone, is it? It isn’t the making of evaluations; it is the way. But passing judgement upon him, you condemn yourself because the judge is during the very same thing. Paul’s fundamental complaint here against the moral person and the Jew is not that they are judging but they are judging and doing the same thing. That is what he objects to; they are engaging in the very same behavior. They judge and they, themselves, are no better. You are condemned from your own judgment. In verse 4, if there is no repentance in our hearts and there is evil going on, we are presuming on God’s patience and love. God rewards good with eternal life but the focus is on the fact that all people sin without exception isn’t it? So the Jews have no advantage of processing the Law if they don’t keep the Law. The argument is that they don’t keep the Law. We see that again in verse 17. The Jews rely upon the Law and they boast about their relationship with God, but they don’t practice it themselves. Consistently, they teach others not to steal but they steal. They say you shouldn’t commit adultery, but they commit adultery. They say they hate idols but they go and take the rich things away from temples. Some people say that this argument is ridiculous. It isn’t true that all Jews commit adultery and steal and rob temples. This can’t be the case, so what is Paul saying here? Paul is stating a principle, isn’t he? The principle is that we all violate the law we cherish. He is not saying that all Jews are thieves, literally. Paul is saying that they are inconsistent.
‘For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.’ We can apply this to baptism. Is circumcision some kind of protection for you? It is the covenantal sign after all. It means that you are in the covenant. Once saved, always saved. Paul says that if you don’t keep the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. If you don’t keep the law, your covenantal status creates a lack of covenantal status. And he speaks of gentiles (verse 27), those who are uncircumcised keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code of circumcision. They condemn you on the last day. The true Jew is not the one outwardly and true circumcision is not something external, true Jewishness is an inward matter. True circumcision is an inward matter. This is one of the reasons that I am not a dispensational person if you know this theological argument. For dispensational people there is a distinction between Israel and the church. I think Paul is saying here that Christians are true Jews before God. True Jews and true circumcision is an internal thing and then he says that it is of the spirit and not the letter. It is the work of the Spirit in people’s hearts. On the one hand, he is saying that all people are sinners but suddenly he introduces into this argument gentiles who are true Jews who are the true circumcision. They are Christians. Suddenly these Christians are the ones who are obeying the law. But here, he says that it is the work of the Spirit. It is the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit. This is a New Covenant passage. So I think Paul is speaking of a New Covenant work of the spirit. This obedience to the law is evidence of their salvation. It is not a perfect keeping of the law but it is a change brought by the Spirit. Paul is doing this to challenge the Jews to consider the life changing way of the gentiles because of what the spirit has done in their lives. They are being transformed by God’s Spirit and you are not. Obviously, Christians don’t obey perfectly but he sees a transformed life in these believers.
C. The Unrighteousness of all People (Romans 3:9-20)
‘What then? Are we Jews any better off; no, not at all. For we have already charged that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; on one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is upon their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.’
Are we Jews any better off? So this Jew and Gentile issue is at the forefront. How do they relate to one another? The Jews are no better off because all are under sin as it is written. None are righteous; this includes all people without exception. No one understands God by themselves, not even one person. All have turned aside. It is only God’s grace that turns people around. Human sin manifests itself in our speech. So he uses these images, ‘their throat is an open grave,’ he says. So he is saying that our speech is like death. It deals death in other people’s lives, it injured and abuses, hurts other people. They use their tongues to deceive. Our speech is death dealing like venom from serpents of Asps. We have all receives this type of venom and we have all given it. There is a power of human sin in speech. We know how destructive it is. Verses 10-12 talks about sinners, 13 and 14 talks about our speech and starting in verse 15 are our actions. Their feet are swift to shed blood. In their paths are ruin and misery. As sinners, it is often what we do to other people. They don’t know the way of peace as there is no fear of God in their eyes. This is the root sin; there is no fear of God. All of this comes from a lack of fear of God. Verse 19 ends with the conclusion, the law shows that we all are sinners and the whole world will be held accountable to God. The works of the law shows that we all fall short. The works of the law refers to the whole law. When we think about the law, we have to think of it in a number of ways to comprehend what Paul is saying. So the law testifies to the Gospel but it also convicts us of our sin.
III. The Saving Righteousness of God (romans 3:21-4:25)
A. God’s Righteousness in the Death of Jesus (Romans 3:21-26)
‘But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it. It is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.’
Some people say that Romans is the most important book in the Bible and I think the most important paragraph in Romans is 3:21-26. This paragraph is really crucial. We have seen the emphasis on human sin; now we see the emphasis on what God has done for us in Christ. The commentators linger over this paragraph. There is a historical aspect to this manifestation of God’s righteousness. This righteousness is God’s saving righteousness. It is how we come to be in the right relationship with God. So his righteousness has been shown apart from the works of the law. This is apart from human obedience. The Law and the Prophets are witnesses to the Gospel. The Old Testament Scriptures testify to the Gospel. The Old Testament doesn’t have a different way of salvation. It points to the Gospel and testifies to it. The righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ. It comes through trusting in Jesus Christ. Some people would say through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. So some think that the emphasis is not so much on personal faith but Christ’s obedience, but I am not so sure this is correct theology here. It is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, through trusting in Jesus Christ. How do we become righteous before God? We become right with God by trusting in Jesus Christ. And that is for everybody, for Jew, for the gentile and for all who believe. There is no distinction; it’s for everybody, every race, every nation and every ethnic background. Why, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. So sin is universal, so is the opportunity for salvation as shown in verse 22. Chapter 3:23, ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ sums up 1:18-3:20!
In verse 24 justified means to be declared to be in the right, legally by God as the judge. That is not all to salvation but it is what justification is. God as the judge is declaring someone to be in the right. They are justified by his grace as a gift through their redemption which is in Christ Jesus. And the redemption signifies freedom from sin. We are released from slavery of sin. This is liberation by the Gospel through the work of Christ. Jesus was our mercy seat on the Ark. This has the idea of a propitiation which means it satisfies God’s wrath or it appeases God’s wrath. C.H. Dod doesn’t agree with this and says that it only means expiation which means to wipe away sin. Leon Morris showed in his book, The Apostles Preaching of the Cross that you cannot take away the idea of propitiation from this. God’s anger is satisfied at the Cross. God in his love sent Christ to satisfy his anger! God is really angry but Christ appeases him. The Biblical picture is that God’s sends Christ out of love to satisfy his own anger. God satisfies God. This is the mystery of the Cross. It shows the complexity and richness of who God is. There is his wrath that is satisfied at the Cross of Christ. Jesus satisfies this because he is perfect, therefore he is a perfect sacrifice and his righteousness can be imputed to us. This was to show God’s righteousness because of his divine forbearance he passed over former sins. Paul asks the question, how could he possibly pass over former sins? But we ask ourselves, how could he possibly punish sins? Why doesn’t God punish us immediately and fully the moment we sin? We ask the question how can God punish anyone and Paul asks the question, how can God forgive anyone. This is the very heart of the Gospel and a great check for us. If we really believe that we deserve to be punished, then we are thankful. But if we believe that we deserve to be saved then we say; of course. As kids, they just expect things and often we are like that. Then as Christians, if things don’t go right in our lives, not only do we believe that he should save us but he should make our lives comfortable. And if our life isn’t comfortable, we get mad at God. Paul tells us that it is a gift and we should be thankful.
Verse 26, ‘it was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.’ Because Christ is the God-Man. He had to be God to atone for our sins because all our sins had to be satisfied on the Cross. So God’s justice is satisfied on the Cross, but at the same time he saved us and justified us if we had faith in Jesus. This paragraph explains how he can uphold his justice and his mercy for they meet right at the Cross. They came together right at the Cross so God could not merely say, you are forgiven. God couldn’t do this because otherwise Christ would have died for nothing. There would have been no purpose for his death. This represents God’s character; it is who God is, his justice cannot be compromised. Because to be God, you must be just and holy and that must be satisfied and so Christ had to die on the Cross for us. This was in order for God to be God. Thus, by definition, he is the only way, only one sacrifice and only one way to be forgiven and that is the Cross of Christ. I think that is what Paul is arguing here and therefore we understand God’s justice and mercy in our lives. I think the Jews understood that God was just and demanded sacrifice, but I don’t think they fully grasped this until the Gospel came. In living on the other side of the Cross, there were things that you couldn’t understand at the same depth.
B. Righteousness by Faith for Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:27-31)
At the end of chapter 3, Paul says that this salvation is ours by faith, not by works but by believing. We are justified by faith alone. 3:28, ‘for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.’ Luther says this, ‘that it is by faith in Christ alone.’ In verses 29 and 30 ‘both Jews and gentiles together are justified the same way because there is only one God. He moved to the example of Abraham in Chapter 4.
C. Abraham as the Father of Jews and Gentiles (Romans 4:1-25)
Abraham is the founder of the Jewish nation. He is the progenitor, the fountain head of the Jewish people. Not Moses but it is Abraham. So how was Abraham righteous before God? That is the question he asks in verse 1. Was he right by working or by believing? Verse 2, ‘for if Abraham was justified by works, he was something to boast about, but not before God.’ If somebody keeps the law perfectly then they can boast that they have kept the law. But Abraham can’t boast before God, says Paul. Because Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Paul explains this in verses 4 and 5. If somebody works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due, but if you employer doesn’t pay you for the work that you do, you go to that person and tell him or her to pay you. I want my money. This is what Paul is saying. If our salvation is due to our works, we get the reward and the boasting, as a result of our works. Many people believe this who are unbelievers that this is what salvation is all about. But this isn’t the way it is, it is to the one who doesn’t work, but who believes on the one who justifies the ungodly. It is to the one who doesn’t work. This is a great text to show unbelievers. Salvation is to the one who doesn’t work but believes. This is not because Paul doesn’t believe in good works.
Fundamentally we come before God as ungodly people. Paul takes Abraham and puts him in the ungodly category. He was an ungodly person, an idolater. The reason he is saved is because he trusted God. He believed in God and belief gives God glory. David was in the same category in Psalm 32. David speaks of the lawless deeds being forgiveness. David was forgiven and trusted God. We are right before God by believing not by doing. Dan Fuller’s illustration, where we are the patient and God is the doctor and when the doctors says you are sick and prescribed something; you trust the doctor and take the medicine, but you don’t boast. You put all your confidence and faith in the doctor and when you do that you honor the doctor. This is true in every area of life. Paul says when we trust God, we honor him. Sin is rooted in unbelieve and thus says that God is not to be trusted. Abraham believed before he was circumcised, therefore circumcision cannot be fundamental to his salvation.