Notes on Romans: Introduction

Romans  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The following little work is composed of notes taken down from lectures, which had an entirely practical object. They have been corrected, as such notes generally need to be; but I have thought, as the aim was entirely practical, a short analysis of the structure of the epistle might help the reader in understanding it.
There are two great subjects in scripture, when the truth is fully brought out as in the New Testament: the responsibility of the first Adam and his children; and the purposes of God in the last Adam. The work of Christ accomplished in His infinite love meets both for those that believe. He has met their responsibility in dying for them, and bearing their sins; and, glorifying God in that death, laid the ground of the accomplishment of those purposes in their favor. Of this latter part, the epistle to Romans only just leads us to the edge in Romans 8, and the very last verses of the epistle. The epistle to the Ephesians unfolds it fully. Hence the epistle to the Romans considers men as walking in sins—the Ephesians as dead in them, and establishes the truth of a new creation, not the justifying of a sinner, though sealing that truth. Colossians is between both. This I cannot go farther into here. These truths are incidentally mentioned in other parts of the New Testament. But the structure of the epistle to the Romans is very important as to the truth it contains, and this I will now endeavor to point out.
The first 17 verses of Romans 1 are a kind of preface, in which, in the first instance, the person of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, is put forward as the primary subject of the gospel: seed of David according to the flesh, and so fulfillment of the promise, and proved Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, in which, while His life was according to that power, resurrection was the proof of it, so that power was witnessed as well as promise fulfilled, and that in the place of man’s weakness and Satan’s power, and even where man in life was tempted.
At the close of this passage he declares he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it was God’s power to salvation to every one that believed, Jew first and then Greek. Because God’s righteousness was revealed in it on the principle of faith, and so to faith wherever that faith was found. He was a willing debtor in grace to all, according to this gospel. He then shows why God’s righteousness must be revealed, the only ground for man to stand on. Because the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness where the truth was held in unrighteousness; not governmental judgments, as in the Old Testament, in Israel, and even in the flood, but the necessary rejection and judgment of all sin by the very nature of God. He then proceeds to show the state of sinfulness which called for this wrath, and made this righteousness necessary.
All are under sin. This reaches from Romans 1:1919Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. (Romans 1:19) to Romans 3:2020Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20), when he returns to the righteousness of God again. Gentiles are proved guilty, Romans 1:1919Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. (Romans 1:19) to the end; moralists, Romans 2:1-46, where responsibility and the place of conscience are dealt with; the Jews, Romans 2:1717Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, (Romans 2:17) to 3:20 (in the last section, verses 1-20, admitting their claim of the law as theirs, and addressed to them, and showing what it said of them). Then, from verse 21, the righteousness of God is treated of, and declared in propitiation through Christ’s blood for Old Testament past sins of believers, and present revelation of it, so that God was just, and justified believers. This only confirmed law in its requirements.
In Romans 4 the resurrection of Christ is applied as the seal of this work, but it does not carry righteousness farther than forgiveness, and all applies to sins and offenses—things done when each individual has his own place.
From verse 12 of Romans 5, the apostle treats not of sins, where all must be individual, but of sin, and so heads all up in Adam and Christ, the disobedient man and the obedient man, and distinguishes the law as that which came in by the bye to make the offense abound; but what were really in question, were sin and grace—grace reigning through righteousness by the obedience of Christ. The question here is not of sins, but of sin; one man’s disobedience, not each man’s offenses, though the obedient man had to meet these too. But if one man’s obedience made us righteous, might we live on in sin? This leads to the truth that the profession of Christianity was the profession of having a part in death, hence not of living on. Christ died to sin once and lives to God; we are to reckon ourselves dead and alive to God in Him. Thus the old man is counted dead: how shall we live in it? This sets us free—free to live to God.
Romans 7 applies this to law, because law has power over a man only as long as he lives. We are dead to it by the body of Christ; and are married to another, Christ risen. The end of the chapter gives the salutary experience of the state of the renewed mind under the law, which leaves a man captive under the law of sin in his members. In Christ all is changed, the man is delivered, though the flesh, as such, would serve the law of sin; but (chapter 8) there is no condemnation in Christ, the power of life in Him has set us free, and sin in the flesh has been condemned when He died a sacrifice for sin. Then comes the Holy Spirit in us; first as the power of life and the new man, and deliverance into resurrection (vss. 9-11), then His presence in us, a person dwelling in us. Being sons, He gives witness with our spirit that we are so, shows us the glory in hope, and helps us in our infirmities on the way, gives a voice in our hearts to the sorrows of a creation subject to vanity, of which we are a part as to our body.
From verse 28 we have the security and portion in every respect derived from God’s being for us, from His own foreknowledge, to glory itself.
Romans 5:1-111Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:1‑11) gives what God is for sinners in grace and its fruit; Romans 8, the state of the delivered soul before Him. What leads up to the former being our sins met in grace, in Christ’s propitiation—to the latter, our sin from which we are delivered by our having died with Christ, and so being freed from it, and alive in Him. In the former case the sins are forgiven, in the latter the sin has been condemned, but in a sacrifice for sin, and we, having died with Christ, are delivered. This finishes the doctrine of the epistle—the way in which God in grace has met the sins, and the sinful nature of man, his whole condition in Adam, through Christ.
The place of Romans 9 to 11, as reconciling the obliteration of Jew and Gentile in Christ with the special promises to the Jews, is sufficiently indicated in the notes themselves. On the hortatory part which follows no notes were furnished me. I give here a general idea of the contents: the details must be learned from the chapters themselves.
It begins with the principle of all practice connected with the doctrine of the epistle, which supposes man a sinful creature, and dealt with in grace. The Ephesians takes higher ground, as the Christian is there simply a new creation, and so associated with God; and as dear children, God’s own ways and dealings are the principle and pattern of the Christian’s walk. His works are foreordained, as is his place. See Romans 4 and 5, where God, as love and light, gives the measure of our ways. In Romans we have sinful man dealt with in mercy, the death of the old man being alone the means of walking aright. In both Ephesians and Romans Christ is the pattern in absolute giving up of self. “I beseech you,” says the apostle, “by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:11I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)). The two hinges of all Christian service—the mercies of God, and our presenting ourselves, made free by grace, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. The unity of the body is then assumed, which is no part of the doctrine of the epistle; any more than our resurrection with Christ, which involves it; on this are grounded our duties within amongst the saints, and as such.
Romans 13 gives our duties to those around, with a double motive: love to the neighbor fulfills the law, and the night far spent, the day at hand, full deliverance drawing near. Then in Romans 14 is our relation to Christ, and consequently to all who belong to Him, that we should not put stumblingblocks before the feet of those with whom we are alike subject and responsible to Him, and for whom He died. This part goes down to the end of verse 7 of Romans 15. Then he sums up what he had been teaching concerning Jew and Gentile, to whom reference had been made in what precedes concerning the weak in faith.
The whole closes with the statement of his thoughts and plans, and his salutations, which are more numerous than usual, as forming a link between him and the saints at Rome, whom he had never seen. The last verses of all are a statement of what the work was that was going on by his means according to eternal counsels, and now made known for the obedience of faith by prophetic scriptures.