Romans, Epistle to the

Romans; Romans 1; Romans 2; Romans 3; Romans 4; Romans 5; Romans 6; Romans 7; Romans 8; Romans 9‑11; Romans 11; Romans 12‑15; Acts 20:1‑3  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 11
This may justly be called the fundamental epistle of Christian doctrine. Its value and importance are seen in that its doctrine lays in the soul a moral foundation by the presentation of God in qualities or attributes which the state of things existing in the world appears to call in question. Thus God is justified in the eyes of the believer, and this being the case, the purposes of His love are made known to him.
In looking at all that is around us in the world, everything appears to be out of order: the presence and domination of sin, a broken law, and the corrupt and violent will in man, all call in question the righteousness of God; while the scattering of God’s people Israel raises the question of His faithfulness to His promises.
Now in Christ all this finds its full and complete answer. The Son of God, by whom all were created, has Himself come in the likeness of sinful flesh, and, by offering Himself a sacrifice for sin, has completely vindicated God’s righteousness, while revealing His love. At the same time the man, or order of man, that has sinned against God has been judicially removed by His death from before the eye of God, so that God can present Himself to man in grace.
The moral perfection of the offerer of necessity brought in resurrection, in which all the pleasure of God’s grace in regard to man is set forth in righteousness; and Christ risen is the deliverer who is to come forth from Zion to turn away ungodliness from Jacob. Thus God’s faithfulness to His covenant is established in Zion. God is proved to be faithful and righteous: we have here the first elements of the knowledge of God.
But it may be desirable to open up the epistle a little in detail. After the introduction, in which the fact may be noticed that the glad tidings are said to be concerning God’s Son, a picture is given us of the moral condition of man in the world, whether heathen, philosopher, or Jew. In the heathen we see the unchecked development of sin (Rom. 1); in the philosopher the fact that light in itself does not control evil (Rom. 2); and in the Jew that law is proved to be powerless to bring about subjection to God, or to secure righteousness for man. The conclusion is that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God—all are proved to be justly under the sentence and judgment of death which God had imposed at the outset (Rom. 3).
In the latter part of Romans 3 we have the declaration of God’s righteousness, in regard of man’s state, in the blood of Christ, who on the cross took vicariously the place of man, and suffered what was due to man: God’s righteousness is thus witnessed to, both in respect of past forbearance and present grace; and His consequent attitude towards all men, without difference, is seen; while Romans 4 shows that the principle of justifying man, or accounting him righteous apart from works, had been conspicuous in regard to the men to whom in time past God had made promises, namely, Abraham and David. This was and is the pleasure of God, as now set forth in our Lord Jesus, who has been delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. While God had Himself been glorified in Christ’s death, His pleasure as to man is set forth in Christ’s resurrection.
Romans 5 brings fully into view the dominion of grace established through our Lord Jesus Christ, and unfolds in detail the terms on which God is with those who have been justified in His grace, beginning with peace and going on to reconciliation, the love of God being shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost. The subject is brought to a conclusion at the close of the chapter by the unfolding of the position of Christ as the last Adam; and of the effects of His moral perfectness in not only removing all that had come in by the sin of the first man Adam, but, in bringing in the justification of life. The bearing of this is that, for God, but one typical Man subsists, and that what attaches to Him as such belongs to those who are morally of His line or order. This principle was true in Adam, and is now true in Christ. In Christ the question of good and evil has been solved; death has been annulled, and the blessing of eternal life brought into view.
The righteousness of God having been vindicated, and the truth brought out of what His mind is towards believers, the three following chapters take up the question of the state of the believer, and develop the divinely established way of deliverance for him from principles to which man’s soul is naturally in bondage; that thus he may be responsive to the love in which it has pleased God to make Himself known, and may be brought into the sense of being the object of God’s purpose.
There are three principles to which man is in bondage, namely, sin, the law, and the flesh; and a way has been opened by which the believer may be free from the control of each of these principles. As to sin, the dominating principle in the world (Rom. 6), the way of deliverance is indicated in baptism, in identification with the death of Christ; and freedom is found in realizing the truth of that which is set forth in baptism, that is, in reckoning ourselves dead indeed to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. The knowledge which the soul has acquired of God in grace enables it to take this ground.
As regards law (Rom. 7), the bond, where it existed, has been dissolved in the death of Christ, so that Christ who is risen from the dead should be law to the believer; hence he lives by the faith of the Son of God who loved him and gave Himself for him.
As regards flesh, which is found to be hopelessly perverse, deliverance is in the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8). This is the power within the believer, and the consequences of it are momentous. It involves, in the consciousness of the believer’s soul, the transfer from one stock to another. He is not only transplanted, but grafted into Christ, so that he acquires all the nourishment and vigor of the new stock. Thus he is led into the consciousness of all that is involved in the Spirit that dwells within him; and is able more distinctly to accept the position of death to sin, and to appreciate the truth of Christ being law to him—and in the enjoyment of deliverance he has the consciousness by the Spirit of that to which God has called him, namely, to be conformed to the image of His Son, and the persuasion that nothing can separate him from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We now arrive at another section of the epistle, which includes Romans 9-11, the object of which would appear to be to vindicate the faithfulness of God as to His promises to the fathers, in face of the fact of Israel having been set aside to make way for the church. It is shown that the principle of sovereignty lay underneath the whole of God’s dealings in regard to Israel, and was expressed in the way of election, and of rejection at critical points in their history, and that the position of Israel had been formed on this. A crucial test had come in by the presentation of Christ, and Israel had stumbled at the stumbling stone; and, while saving a remnant, God had in His sovereignty also called an election from the Gentiles, who had submitted to the righteousness of God which Israel had refused. In this connection the apostle vindicates his worldwide gospel.
God had not, however, given up finally His thought in regard to Israel, for even in the gospel to the Gentiles He had them ultimately in view. The nations had now by the gospel their opportunity, and if they failed to continue in the goodness of God, their defection would make the way for the resumption of God’s ways with Israel; and both Gentiles and Jews would manifestly come in on the ground of mercy. Thus God would be everything, and man nothing. This result calls forth the doxology at the close of Romans 11.
Thus we have in the epistle a full vindication of God, both as to righteousness and faithfulness.
The hortatory part of the epistle follows in Romans 12-15. The compassions of God are urged as an incentive to the believer to be here for the will of God. Transformed by the renewing of his mind, he is to be here in anticipation of another age. This is to be seen both in his service and, morally, in his character. His obligation is then shown in respect of the powers allowed of God in the world, and of man generally; and then in respect of the kingdom of God, by the influence of which he is to be ruled in his conduct toward those weak in the faith.
The apostle closes by a reference to the distinctiveness of his own service, carrying out his special mission to the Gentiles—and the expression of his purpose in due course to reach Rome.
The salutations at the close of the epistle are remarkable for the number of persons mentioned by name, and for the touches by which they are individually identified.
The epistle was written by Paul when at Corinth, about A.D. 58 (compare Acts 20:1-31And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. 2And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, 3And there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. (Acts 20:1‑3)). It is an exhaustive dissertation, and evinces the energy and wisdom of the Spirit of God in each point discussed. It is apposite that such an epistle should have been addressed to the saints at the then metropolis of the civilized world, not, however, that that metropolis should be in any way a center of the church of God. Paul had not introduced the gospel there, and there is no evidence that Peter did so. It may have been carried to that city by some who were converted at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.