Expository Papers on Romans 1-3: Part 1

Romans 1-3
It is blessed to see in the Scriptures, how God first shows us what we are in all our badness, and then what He is in all His goodness towards us. "God is Light," and "God is Love." (1 John 1:5;4. 841. The " light " shows us all that we are by nature, as guilty, lost, and ruined sinners; and then we see tile "love" of God that, when He knew how bad we were, gave His own Son to save us. We find this beautifully brought out in the first eight chapters of the epistle to the Romans.
In chapter 1 to verse 20 of chapter 3, we find the "light" showing us the sad history of what man is, and what we all are by nature in the sight of God; and in chapter 5:8, we see God commending His "love," and giving Christ to die for us, when we were yet sinners.
Let us look at it a little as the Lord may enable us; and I would ask you, dear reader, to get your Bible and look at the passages yourself, as it is so important for us to get the truth from the Word itself; and thus we get a knowledge of the Scriptures, and are able to help others. Let us turn to chapter 1. The apostle, after saluting the Christians at Rome in the usual way, in the 7th verse, &c., says, in verse 16, that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is God's power to salvation to every one that believeth; and in verse 17, we have in a few words the truth brought out in the epistle, that man, having been proved to have no righteousness of his own, God in the gospel reveals His righteousness; that is, a righteousness outside man altogether. How beautiful this is, that God should say to us, "I am not going to require righteousness from you, because you have none, but I can now justify the believer on the ground of the death of Christ!" and this is what is revealed in the gospel.
How do we have, part in God's righteousness? By works? No; by faith, or on the principle of faith. And who gets the benefit of it? Those who have faith; i.e. those who believe. That is what is meant by the expression "from faith to faith," or, as it might be explained, "on the principle of faith to faith;" that is to say, that God's righteousness is revealed, not on the principle of works, but on the principle of faith, or "from faith;" and it is revealed " to faith;" that is to say, to those who believe., But if the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel, God's wrath is also revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men (v. 18), whether of Jews, or of Gentiles; and this unrighteousness and ungodliness is fully brought out by the Spirit of God from chapter 1: 19 to 3: 20. This is the part, as we have remarked, where God's "light" comes in and shows all that we are by nature; just as when you bring a light into a dark room, full of all manner of filth and corruption; when it is all dark you see nothing of what is inside, but when the light is brought in, it shows all the filth and dirt that' are there. From verse 19 to the end of chapter L we find the dreadful state of the heathen described; showing that they ought to have known God's eternal power and Godhead by the things that He created. Thus if a savage saw the sun, he must know that the sun did not make itself, but. that there must be a God who created it; and if he worshipped it instead of its Creator, he would be without excuse; for " the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard." (Ps. 19: 1-3) Then again, verses 21-25, "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God,... and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever." Then God gives them up, and they become utterly reprobate. Verses 29 to 32 give us in a few words the terrible state of the heathen without God. They gave God up, and God gave them up, even to dishonor their own bodies; and they are left without excuse. (v. 20) These verses answer the question so often put, On what ground does God deal with the heathen?
Chapter 2:1-16 takes up another class; some who, like the philosophers of old, condemned thee evil practices of the heathen, but were as bad themselves. And would "they who judged them that did such things escape the judgment of God"? (v. 3) No; for He "will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory, honor, immortality" (incorruptibility is the right word, same as in 1 Cor. 15:42,5442So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: (1 Corinthians 15:42)
54So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54)
), He will give "eternal life;" but "indignation and wrath upon every soul of man that doeth evil," and "glory, honor, and peace, to every man that worketh good." (vv. 8-10) These are general principles. It does not enter upon the question as to how a person can "work good," or can "patiently continue in well doing;" but we know now by the Scriptures, that a man, in order to "work good," must be born again; for " there is none that doeth good; no, not one."
(Chapter 3:12)
Verses 17 to end, take up the question of the Jews. A Jew would say, "But I am not like these heathen Gentiles; I rest in the law which God has given to us only: I know His will; I am one of a privileged people." Verse 21 answers him. " If you boast in your law, why do you do the very things that it forbids? You teach others that they should not steal, and you steal yourself. You teach a poor heathen that he should not worship idols, and it is the very thing that you have been guilty of." For the chief sin of Israel was idolatry, and the name of God was blasphemed amongst the Gentiles through the Jews; so that, in spite of all their boasting of their superiority to the Gentiles, they were just as bad themselves. But still (chap. 3: 1, 2) they had advantages; for " to them were committed the oracles of God;" and now, in chapter 3: 9, the Spirit of God sums up the whole with, "We have before proved, both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin" -the heathen, the philosophers who judged them, and the Jews, in the sight of God, one was as bad as the other; and some passages are adduced from the Old Testament to prove it-which a Jew must own applied to him. (vv. 10-19) But the principle applies to all, and in these verses we have a clear and unmistakable account of what man is by nature in the sight of God; the day of judgment will not bring it out clearer than it is brought out here. In that day, when the great white throne is set up, and the wicked dead stand to be judged, everything will be brought out-man in all his badness judged in the light of God's holy presence; but then there will be no grace, no blood, no salvation, to meet all the dreadful guilt that will then come out; and the wicked will have to suffer their fearful doom, an eternity in the lake of fire-eternal monuments of the holiness of God, and of His punishment of sin. But now, those whose eyes are opened to see from God's word, that they are lost, for them there is salvation, and pardon, and peace, through the blood of Christ; and when we are at peace with God, we can afford to see all the hideousness of ourselves by nature, and it only magnifies the grace of God that could love us when we were in such a state. And mark, dear reader, these verses do not show what one man thinks of another, or what a man thinks of himself, but how God sees every child of Adam, as we read in Psa. 53:2, 32God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. 3Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalm 53:2‑3), from which verses 11 and 12 are quoted. "God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." A man may form a very good opinion of himself, and think he is no worse than his neighbors, perhaps a little better; but, dear reader, you and I have to do with God, and to meet Him, and it matters little what we think of ourselves, and of one another. The thing is, What does God think of us? And as we examine these verses, let us not only say, "That is how God sees unconverted man," but, "This is a true picture of what I am by nature in His sight." First of all we read, in verse 10, "There is none righteous, no, not one." I suppose nearly every one would own that. Well, even that is enough to shut us out from heaven; for in 1 Cor. 6: 9 the apostle says, " Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?"
There is none that understandeth." (v. 11) The unconverted cannot understand the things of God, it seems all a mystery to them; and not only that, but " there is none that seeketh after God "-there is not the smallest desire after God, or the things of God.
How different the expression of a soul that is born again in Psa. 42:22My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:2), "My soul THIRSTETH FOR GOD!" So, if a soul is really seeking God, it is not death, but the first movement of life. "They are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one." (v. 12) What a sweeping statement, "None that doeth good!" How hard to be believed, and yet how solemn, that an unsaved person has never done a good thing in the sight of God! And if they have never 'done a good thing, it follows that all they have done must be sin in God's sight. Have you ever thought, dear fellow-believer, that, from the day of your birth till you were born again, you never did a single good action? And if any read these lines who are unsaved, 1 pray you think and Consider, that God says He not only sees you unrighteous, but that you have never done a single good thing in His sight, and that till you are born again you never can. Some might say, " But did not that man who gave £5 to an hospital do a good thing? It might be good in the sight of man; but this scripture is plain, " There is none that doeth good, no, not one." God looks at the heart. Was the motive for giving the £5 the glory of God, or from love to Him? In the case of the unsaved, the answer is simple. No; for he does not even seek God, much less love Him.
Then follows "their throat like an open sepulcher" (v. 13); "mouth full of cursing and bitterness" (v. 14); "feet swift to shed blood" (v. 15); "destruction and misery in their ways" (v. 16); "the way of peace they have not known" (v. 17). Some may say, "I am sure I am not as bad as that; my mouth is not full of cursing and bitterness; I have never shed blood." Perhaps not; but your nature is the same as those who do. It is only a question of the difference of the fruit produced on the same tree. Suppose two men, one is brought up in the worst way among thieves from, his birth, in the midst of every form of open sin and corruption. He flies into a passion with another, and commits murder, sheds his blood, and he is condemned to death, and people say he richly deserved it. The other has been brought up in the greatest refinement and worldly advantage. He would not, perhaps, do the same gross outward acts of sin; but the angry thought that led the one to commit murder might lead the other to do some spiteful action, which sprung from the same evil root in both men. Verse 17 says, "The way of peace they have not known." And is not that true of the most refined and even outwardly religious person, as of the openly wicked and profane? "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (v. 18) This is one of the most distinctive marks of the unconverted. There may be a fear of hell, or of death; but when there is true fear of God, the Scripture says it is "the beginning of wisdom." (Prov. 1:77The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)) I believe that when a soul is awakened for the first time to see that he has to meet God, and is responsible to Him for what He has done, the fear of God begins. The thief on the cross said to his fellow, "Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation; and we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds?"
(Luke 23:40, 4140But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. (Luke 23:40‑41)) as though be said, "Are you not afraid to meet God, you, who in a few hours must be in eternity, and are now receiving the just punishment for your crimes? are you not alive to the fact that you have to face a holy God, with all your sins upon you?" This showed a real fear of God before the eyes of the converted thief.
All these verses (10-18) have been quoted from the Old Testament, which a Jew would own; so that, whatever things the law said, it said to those who were under it. There was no question about the guilt of the Gentiles, and the very law the Jews boasted in condemned them. So what is the great result? What is the verdict formed by the Spirit of God upon every child of Adam? "Every mouth stopped, and all the world guilty before God;" or, as the margin reads, "become subject to the judgment of God." (v. 19) That is what God says of every unconverted soul. Not a word to say, and under judgment; like a prisoner who has been accused, his case looked into, and proved guilty. "So that by the deeds of the law no flesh shall be justified in His sight;" because the law only brought home the sin, and unveiled the sinner, and brought him in guilty before God.
F. K.