Tag Archives: Christian liberty

Romans (Part II)

Sanctification (Romans 6-8)  In this section Paul uses the word sin, which refers to man’s sinfulness, or sinful nature.  (“Flesh” is a figure of speech to refer to badness in both our body and mind; it does not mean that the body is basically sinful or even inferior to the soul.)  Here the Bible tells us that when a person becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person.  He is not the same old person, who keeps right on sinning, only now his sins are all forgiven.  No; he stops being a sinner.  The Bible says he is a saint.  This is the “second half” of salvation that many Christians overlook.  (See I John 3:5-10)

So, Chapter 6 says that we must be holy, stop sinning, or we simply have not been forgiven; we just are not Christians (6:2,11).

Chapter 7 (key verse 10) goes on to say that although God expects us to be holy (keep his law, do his will), and even though we may deep down want to, we cannot do it in our own efforts. (Notice the large number of times that the little word with the big problem, “I”, occurs in this chapter.)  Some Bible commentators feel that Paul  is talking about his pre-conversion days, when, as a self-righteous Pharisee he was trying to work out his own salvation by good works.  Others say he is talking about his (or any other Christian’s) forgetting that Christ is not only our justification, but that he is also our sanctification (I Cor. 1:30); that it is God who is at work within us, as Christians, both to will and to do.  (Contrast Roms 7:18 with Phil. 2:12; 4:13.)

Chapter 8  Here is the climax of this section; this is THE heart of Romans.  It is filled with great “golden-texts”. Learn some of them.  Here the word “I” hardly occurs anymore.  By contrast, the Holy Spirit, who has hardly been mentioned before, is referred to in this chapter repeatedly.

All this serves as foundation for chapters 12-16, which begins, “Therefore, I beseech you, brothers, to present yourselves as living sacrifice to God.  (Note how this would appeal to both Old Testament Jews and to idolatrous Gentiles.)  Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your (very) mind, that you may show (demonstrate) what is the good, and pleasing, and perfect will of God.”  Paul here says what Jesus (Mt. 5:48), Peter (I, 1:15,16), and John (I, 3:3-9; 5:18) says about holiness and perfection.  When we water down the word “holiness” to mean only “special, or set-aside”, and say that we can’t be perfect (or even don’t have to, just because nobody except Christ ever was), we are copping out, depreciating our salvation, and insulting the Lord Jesus by saying that He is unable to perform and be in us the very thing that He repeatedly commands and also promises He will do. (I Cor. 10:11-13; II Peter 1,3,9)

“Jewish” section (Chapters 9-11)  This is something of a parenthesis.  And yet Paul is not really “changing the subject”.  In these 3 chapters he talks about the Jews, especially the unconverted ones, and cries out that he wishes they all would understand what he has been saying.  In it he also answers the question as to whether God is “through” with the Jews, now that the Old Covenant or Testament is finished.  Paul says “No!”  For one thing, God is saving many of them (“I am one myself”, says Paul) all the time, and even in the Old Testament, when they were a special people, only a few (remnant) were really saved.  Second, the New Testament is really a new covenant with the Jews, in which the Gentiles have been included. (Paul says more about that in Gal.3&4.)  Jews wrote the New Testament.  The Early Church was primarily Jewish.  What is more, Paul seems to say that toward the end of history, masses of Jews will become Christian, as a proof of God’s faithfulness, patience, and endless love.

The failure of those who do not repent – Gentiles, as well as Jews – is not that they had no opportunity, or that God did not elect them, but that they simply refused to obey God’s command and accept his invitation.  (This is similar to what Paul said in Romans 1, 2 when he said there that people have no excuse for sinning, even if they have no “Bibles” or have never “heard” of God.  Here he says that no one has any excuse for being unsaved.  (10:9-11).  And when Paul says that faith comes by hearing, and how can people hear without preaching, he is scolding “Christians” who say that if people are elect they are going to be saved whether we bring them the Gospel or not! (It is worth mentioning here that nowhere in the long passage – 9-11 – about the future of the Jews, does Paul say anything about their return to Palestine.  Of course, they are actually doing that now, but whether the Bible predicts this is something else.  Most of the so-called “return” passages are in the Old Testament, and were fulfilled when the Jews returned from Babylon and elsewhere, and rebuilt the temple.)

Christian Living (Chapters 12-15)  I Cor. 12 is similar to chapter 12 in Romans.  The Church is like a human body, with different and all-essential parts.  Paul mentions various gifts (jobs, or offices) we all have.  I Cor. 12 mentions some others, and Eph. 4 has a third list.  (There are others besides these.)  “Fruits” of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) are the way in which we exercise our gifts.

Chapter 13 Political government.  A secular institution, alongside the Church which every one, including Christians, must respect.  And remember, wicked Rome was the government in those days!

Christian “Liberty”.  (Chapters 14-15:13)  This has to do with permission to do (or not do) those things which are not bad in themselves, but do not help build up other Christians, or might make unbelievers “stumble”.  Parallel passages are I Cor. 8-10.

Paul’s personal plans (Ch. 15:14).  His hope to visit the Christians in Rome came to pass (see Acts 28:14-30), but in a very unexpected way.  While there for 2 years, in “house-arrest”, he wrote the “Prison Epistles” – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon.  Apparently he was released, and visited Ephesus, Macedonia, Crete, Miletus, Troas, Corinth, Nicopolis.  He was re-arrested (II Timothy) where he wrote his last letter as a beautiful valedictory to a God-filled life.

Chapter 16, besides the long list of individuals, contains a caution against false Christians and teachers, a benediction (see also 15:33) and a Doxology.  (Paul often interrupted his letters to break out in a doxology, such as at the end of Part II, Romans 11:33).  This one refers to a “mystery” (some wonderful plan that God has revealed), which in this case seems to mean the marvelous scheme of “enlarging” the Jewish “family” to take in the whole world, as God promised to Shem and Abraham.  A good summary of the book and Paul’s purpose in writing it is 16:19, “I would like you to be wise as to what is good, and innocent as to evil.”