Paul’s Epistle to the Romans – An Introduction and Outline

An Introduction and Outline to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

Preface

This Introduction and overview to Romans have come from an interest I have had for many years in the study of the book. I was blessed, in the providence of God at an early stage of my spiritual pilgrimage, to have studied this book at length. For a period of about two years, I read and studied the entire epistle, using the well-known commentary on it by Charles Hodge. I’m greatly indebted to God for the labors of this man, not only in that particular commentary, but in all of his life long work for the church of Jesus Christ. Hodges commentary combines several elements of study on Romans. It is both technical and devotional. It is doctrinal and practical. And it is exegetical as well as expositional. As I read through Romans, using Hodges commentary, I composed an entire volume of notes on every passage that struck a particular chord with me. I remember that I was especially interested in those passages of Scripture that was concerned with practice in the Christian life.

Over the years, I have been blessed to sit under preaching and teaching on several occasions, that covered either, the entire book of Romans, or, large sections of it. This epistle has been my chief book of the Bible on theology. And naturally so, because it is the premier book of the Bible in that department. Of course, every book of the Bible presents doctrine to us, and some in a more didactic way than others. But the book of Romans is unique, in that it presents a systematic approach to all the main issues of salvation. All other books of the Bible, with all the other aspects of theology they provide, tie into Romans, and it ties them together as a single expression of thought from God. The book of Romans is like a springboard that takes us everywhere else in Scripture. From every text Paul provides us in this wonderful letter, taken as a starting point, we can bounce to any place in the Bible. Through inspiration, Paul brings Scripture together for us in such a way, that God is known and appreciated to the fullest this side of heaven, concerning His Son Jesus Christ and the gospel.

Aside from the many opportunities I’ve had to sit under preaching and teaching on this book either, in church, or, in a less formal circumstance, I have had opportunity to listen to many audio sermons on various texts from it too. One of my favorites is Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who preached through the entire book, up to the middle of chapter fourteen when he was taken ill and had to retire from the ministry. I have been blessed to own his written commentaries on these sermons for many years. Other commentaries I have been blessed with, in my study of Romans, include that of John Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, and Robert Haldane. There are several particular studies on certain sections of Romans that have been especially helpful to me too, that are worth mentioning here as well. This would be John Owen’s treatise on the mortification of sin, taken from 7:14, Herman Hoeksema’s series of sermons on Romans chapters’ nine through eleven. And, a series of sermons preached by Dr. Sam Waldron on the Christian and civil government, taken from 13:1-7.

Over the years I have added many notes and outlines on texts throughout Romans, in addition to those I first compiled in my early years. I have often thought about developing this material into something of a commentary on the book. Whether this is a realistic undertaking for me to try or not is entirely another thing. So what I’ve decided to do is this. I have prepared an introduction and an outline on the entire book, as at least something I’m able to accomplish toward this desire. Once having done this, it puts forth a foundation for something more to follow. I can then prepare and publish an exposition, or a commentary on a particular text under it as supplemental to it at any time, once having done this first. Whether this, will actually happen in the providence of God remains to be seen. However, I will have at least provided an overview of my thought and study in this marvelous book for anyone else to use. By doing it in this particular way, I’m not endeavoring to take on some monumental task that I will never be able to finish. Whatever is added to this introduction and outline, if anything, will always be considered something that is finished.

I-Introduction to the Epistle

The city of Rome was founded on the Italian peninsula in the eighth century BC. The Roman calender is fixed to this date as the beginning of the city, counting upwards from it. From its humble beginnings until the time of Christ, Rome rose to world prominence as a city. The city of Rome was the main city of which a mighty empire arose of the same name. Its status as an empire came about through the acquisition of foreign territories that coincided with the rise of a class of imperial dictators, known as Caesars. The Roman Emperors claimed godlike status for themselves, and demanded the people give them such reverence. The Emperor claimed to be a direct intermediary between the gods and the people. So he acted as a sort of representative deity here on earth for them. It was through this means of the imperial institution that the pagan religion of Rome was maintained. But it was also the particular place and circumstance that God chose, to plant the church which bears the name of Paul’s epistle.

A. Origin of the church

No one knows the exact date or origin of the beginning of the church at Rome. That is to say, exactly when it was planted and by whom. There is no mention of this anywhere in the New Testament. This is a curious thing. Imagine, the most important city in the world, having no mention made by God in His inspired word of the circumstances surrounding the planting of Rome’s first Christian church. Certainly, there would be no such mention of this made in secular history by the Roman’s themselves. But the fact there is no mention of it in Scripture is certainly interesting. Rome’s importance then as a city, concerning its prominence within the broader New Testament church, is far less than what later men have claimed. We refer of course, to the Roman Catholic bishops, especially that main one who claims to be the vicar of Christ on earth, the Pope.

What we do know from Scripture is, there were “visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,” who were present at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached his famous sermon recorded in the second chapter of Acts by Luke (2:10). This was an amazing event which took place. Peter as an apostle, preached the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time in public, to all who were assembled there, from all different places within the Roman empire (Acts 2:5-12). Luke records the amazing miracle of tongues that was displayed by the Holy Spirit in Peter’s preaching, in fulfillment of what Jesus had told His disciples before would happen (Acts 1:8). As the people heard Peter preach, each one heard what he said in their own language (Acts 2:4,7,8). This miracle of tongues was also the fulfillment of what was spoken of before by the Prophet Isaiah, twice in his book, seven hundred years before (Is. 28:11, 33:19).

At that time in history, Hebrew was the only language in which covenant redemption was communicated. Isaiah foretold a day in which this would change. While the nation of Israel was the primary focus of God’s dealing in the world, only those within it that spoke Hebrew would be able to understand covenant language. To the Jew, every other language spoken in the world, was nothing but a “stammering tongue.” Isaiah prophesied of a future day when difference of language would be no more a hindrance to participation in the covenant redemption of God. This day in Jerusalem was that very day Isaiah spoke about. Here were “both Jews and proselytes” present that heard and understood the words of Peter concerning the gospel of Christ in their own language. This supernatural gift of tongues continued in the church, until the New Testament church was sufficiently planted throughout the empire.

Now these folk who heard Peter and repented, believing on Jesus Christ for salvation, returned to their own cities prepared to share their faith with others (Acts 2:37-39). Those from Rome who heard the message of the gospel and were converted by it, no doubt did the same thing. This was how the gospel was introduced to Rome, and most likely, how the first church was planted there. No mention is made in Scripture of whom those were spoken of in Acts chapter two. Perhaps some of them were those whom Paul mentioned at the end of his letter, where he asks the messenger who wrote it for him, to greet a number of saints there by name (Rom. 16:3-15, 21-23). At any rate, the planting of the church at Rome was accomplished by the Holy Spirit, whom Christ had sent for this very purpose. And this is true of every true church of Jesus Christ, for the work men boast of as theirs, is never the work of God.

We know from what Paul said in his letter, the church at Rome was there long before he was (Rom. 1:8, 16:23). Not only was it there long before Paul arrived, but it was a thriving church as well. It was well known and well reported of throughout the world. It is not hard to guess how it was known. Certainly, many people throughout the empire found occasion to travel to Rome at some time or another, for some reason or another. In the case of Christians who visited Rome from other places, there is no doubt they would avail themselves of the ministry and fellowship of that church. Certainly, a report of that would go back to those places. In other cases, perhaps people visiting Rome, might be converted through the witness of the believers there to them. And no doubt, there were many traveling merchants who came and went to Rome on a regular basis. So the testimony of the faith of the Roman Christians was well known.

It is interesting to note, the prominence of the church of Rome had nothing to do with any connection it might have had to any of the apostles. We refer of course, to the apostle Peter. There is no mention in Scripture of Peter having ever been there. Secular history does record both Paul and Peter being martyred in Rome. And we do have Scriptural evidence that Paul eventually arrived in Rome for his trial, but there is nothing about Peter mentioned at all. The absence of any Scriptural support for this, flies in the face of the Roman Catholic claim, that he was the first bishop of the church. Certainly, if there was any truth to that claim, there would have been mention of it in Paul’s letter. And Paul himself, as perhaps the greatest of the apostles, never made any claim to the papacy whatsoever.

A clue is given to us in Paul’s letter, on the composition of the Roman church at that time, at least in a broad sense. Paul addresses his letter to the Gentile believers there (Rom. 1:13). Now this was not intended by Paul to be any slight to the Jewish brethren, who also dwelt in Rome, and to whom he had much to say in the letter as well (Rom. 2:17). It is rather an indication of the demographic makeup of the church. One would expect there to be more Gentile representation in the church of a Gentile city, just like there were more Jews in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15). But the Jews represented only a small segment of the Christian world in the second half of the first century when this letter was written. This happened within only a few short years after Pentecost. The Jews were first in converting to the Christian faith, but Gentile converts gradually increased in terms of their numbers until they were representatively larger in size. Therefore, it is not surprising there would be such a large portion of the Roman church that was non Jewish. And Paul’s further remarks regarding this in his letter, also reveal to us the nature of his ministry, it was primarily to them he was sent (Rom. 15:15,16).

Also, it is clear from Paul’s remarks in the last chapter of his letter that the church at Rome actually met in several locations throughout the city. Paul mentioned there were churches that met in private homes (Rom. 16:5,14,15). This fact makes it much more difficult to determine the exact origin of the Roman church, since they met in homes, rather than in one place. Presumably, these house churches were divided along ethnic lines as well, which would explain a certain remark made in chapter sixteen (Rom. 16:3-5). Paul speaks of “Priscilla and Aquila” who were Jews, and “the church that was in their house,” while mentioning “the churches of the Gentiles” in Rome in the same breath. Nevertheless, Paul viewed the church at Rome as a single entity, rather than a number of individual churches. Therefore, he directed his letter to its members accordingly in such terms as “all who are in Rome,” and “the whole church” (Rom. 1:7, 16:23).

B. Circumstance of the letter

The fact there was a disproportionate number of Gentiles to Jews in the Roman church, may bear directly on the very reason Paul wrote the letter. The letter to the Romans was written in order to correct certain false opinion’s Jews and Gentiles had toward each other there. This was helped in no small part by the expulsion from Rome of the Jews, by edict of the Emperor Claudius, which began in 49 and ended at his death in 54 AD. This is the event recorded by Luke in Acts (Acts 18:2). This expulsion followed a number of disturbances by Jews against Christians throughout the Roman empire (Acts 13:50, 14:2-5,19, 17:5,8). The Romans were becoming increasingly annoyed by these tumults from the Jews. Political zealotry by the Jews had always been a constant irritant to the Roman authorities. Added to this, were the contentions of the Jews against the gospel everywhere it was preached, that led to a disruption of the peace. The Romans were unable at first to distinguish the difference between Judaism and Christianity, which they viewed as a sect of the Jews. In spite of this, the Jewish Christians in Rome found themselves subject to the expulsion, and had to leave the city.

Before this event, the church was comprised primarily of Jewish converts to the Christian faith. But when they were allowed to return, they found the church full of Gentile converts. This changed the complexion of the church completely. Instead of Gentile believers being forced to conform to Jewish culture and tradition, now the situation was quite different. This was an especially unnerving situation for the Jews, for they viewed the church as a further development of God’s purpose and promise for them as Israel, even if it included Gentiles. The difference in worldview between them cannot be overstated. And allusions to this contrast are often seen throughout the entire letter, proving the point being made here. In fact, this is what is behind Paul’s oft repeated phrase, the Jew and the Greek in this epistle (Rom. 1:16, 2:9,10, 3:9, 10:12). Paul is not referring to ethnicity in these statements, for he never used the contrast of Jews and Romans in this letter. Paul is referring to a difference in world view when he uses this phrase. In other words, Greek culture was the dominant Gentile world view, as opposed to a Jewish, monotheistic world view.

The problem with the Jews was they felt privileged as a class of people within the church. This was a serious problem for the New Testament church, and explains Pauls interest in teaching unity in terms of God’s covenant relationship within the Christian church (Eph. 2:11-22). The Jews claimed peculiar privilege based on several historic facts. First, they believed a connection to Abraham by natural descent gave them this special place in God’s kingdom. Second, they gloried in their bond to the covenant promise to Abraham, through the rite of circumcision. And third, in conjunction with these other two things, they had the privilege of having the law as their possession, for it was unto them alone the oracles of God had been given (Rom. 3:1,2, 9:4). This was sufficient ground for the Jew to think this way about their standing in the church. The Jews expected Gentiles in the Roman church to conform to their views, their preferences, and to adopt their traditions.

For starters, Jews first believed the gospel at Pentecost. Gentiles came later on, into a Jewish dominated church. Everything about the new Christian church begun at Pentecost was Jewish. Second of all, the Christian church was founded on the testimony of the Old Testament law and prophets. Furthermore, Peter specifically preached to them on that day, the promise of salvation was given to them first, even though it was also for others whom the Lord would call (Acts 2:36-39). In keeping with Jewish thinking, they viewed the Gentiles as proselytes to the faith, converted, not born into the kingdom as they were. Since conversion to the Christian faith did not make someone Jewish by birth, the Gentiles were viewed as almost second class people. Such bias as this was certainly in the apostles mind as he wrote the letter to the Roman church. He mentions Jewish boasting several times in reference to this very attitude of superiority (Rom. 2:17,23, 3:27, 4:2).

The consternation Jews felt over matters in Rome is understandable. They were the ones, not the Gentiles who were forced to leave their homes for these many years, simply because they were Jewish. Also, at this stage of the church’s development, the Jews still imagined there was a great deal about the Messianic kingdom that pertained to them in the future as the natural descendants of Abraham. Coming back to a much larger, Gentile dominated church must have caused them to wonder about some things. Jesus had ascended to heaven without fully consummating the eschatological kingdom He came to save. Instead, He left them with the promise of His return (Acts 1:4-11). Conflicts with their Gentile brethren over long held Jewish tradition must have certainly been unsettling to them. Paul devotes an entire section of his book (chs 9-11) in explaining God’s purpose for them in the kingdom, in part to lay the foundation in another section (chs 13-15) to settle the disputes.

But the Gentiles were not above their own high mindedness in certain matters. They felt no personal bondage to Jewish tradition concerning dietary practices or circumcision. Christianity was a new religion to the Gentiles. While the Jew struggled to understand the differences between the Old and the New Covenant Christ’s blood had brought to them as a people, the Gentiles had no such struggle. These were people previously steeped in idolatry and immoral sexual practices. Jesus Christ had brought them into the light of His marvelous kingdom, freeing them from the darkness and perversity of paganism. They now understood “that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.” (I Cor. 8:4b). They also understood that spiritual liberty is not a license to sin as they had previously done. But to them, the law of God was not seen as covenant tradition, but rather as that which was opposite to grace. So supposing themselves to be free in regard to Jewish customs, many Gentiles were wholly insensitive to their Jewish brethren in the practice of their liberties.

The issue surrounding the expulsion of the Jews from Rome, along with other Jewish conflicts between the Zealots and the Roman authorities, created a division of opinion in the church. This had to do with how Christians are to view themselves as citizens of the kingdom of God, while at the same time being citizens of an earthly nation. This is an incredibly practical matter, for all Christians in every age have found themselves in this situation. And the Bible does not present us with the ideology of any particular political party. But it does lay down God’s revealed will in the form of certain propositions, which should govern our thoughts and opinions concerning this. So here were the Jewish and Gentile Christians, all living under one roof, so to speak, but with different opinions about the Government and its policies. It should be remembered as well, that though Jewish Christians found themselves to be outcasts from the larger Jewish community, they still had family and friends within it they hoped to see converted.

The insensitivity of Gentile Christians toward this matter may certainly have been in view, while Paul wrote his words in chapter thirteen (verses 1-7) on civil government. The church at Rome, now physically united with the return of the Jews, still needed unity of mind among all the brethren to occur, if the gospel were to go forward and God’s people were to be edified. It shows us too, the pastoral disposition of the apostle Paul toward Christ’s people. It is not enough for the Christian to enjoy organizational unity based on a commonly agreed principle, in this case, the gospel. But spiritual unity is necessary for fellowship and cooperation to occur. So we see this displayed in Pauls approach to the problem confronting the church at Rome in his letter. First, he lays down the doctrines of the gospel in chapters’ 1-11. Next, Paul lays down the principles of kingdom living in chapters’ 12-16. Doctrine and duty, in that order is the approach Paul took in dealing with these circumstances of conflict within the church.

II-The place and time the epistle was written

Even though the origin of the Roman church is left to us as something unrevealed in Scripture, the origin of Paul’s letter is not left entirely to speculation. There are certain clues given in the New Testament as to the time and place the epistle to the Romans was written. For starters, we know from the letter itself, that Paul had not been to Rome before he wrote it, though he certainly had desired to do so beforehand (Rom. 1:13). His statements in verse 13 provide a starting point, and some basis at least, for an investigation into the time, and even the place it may have been written. One such clue given in this verse, is an allusion to the providential hindrance Paul encountered, in his desire to visit them before the letter was written. We can also see that Paul’s desire to see them had been planned for some time, though hindered by these circumstances. So Paul’s burden for them had been committed unto to the Lord in prayer.

The epistle to the Romans was written at Corinth. The first clue that leads to this location is found in the sixteenth chapter of the epistle. There, toward the end of the chapter, we find several greetings from Paul’s friends he was with at the time he wrote the epistle. Paul writes to them these words. “Timothy, my fellow worker, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my countrymen, greet you. I, Tertius, who wrote this epistle, greet you in the Lord. Gaius, my host and the host of the whole church, greets you. Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you, and Quartus, a brother.” (Rom. 16:21-23). Erastus was mentioned as one of those who sent his greetings to the Romans. We know that he was counted a fellow worker of Paul’s, along with Timothy, who is mentioned here with him, as well as in one other place as told by Luke (Acts 19:22). Erastus is mentioned here in this chapter as “the treasurer of the city” he was at when it was written. We know that Paul went to Greece after the account given by Luke of the three together, Acts 20:2,3. Also, Paul mentioned in his letter to Timothy, he had left Erastus in Corinth, II Tim. 4:20.

Next, we point our attention to Gaius, as one who sent his greeting to the Roman church through Paul. This Gaius is recorded elsewhere as another travel companion of Paul’s (Acts 19:29, 20:4). Gaius is mentioned here by Paul as “my host and the host of the whole church” at Corinth while he was there. This is supported further by Paul’s statements to the church at Corinth about Gaius in his letter to that church (I Cor. 1:14). And finally, Paul earlier on in the chapter commended Phoebe, who was a deaconess of a church in Cenchrea, which was a port village of Corinth (Rom. 16:1). Phoebe was sent as the bearer of this letter from Paul to the Romans, from that location. From this text in chapter sixteen, a fairly good case is made for Corinth being the place in which Paul wrote the letter to the church at Rome.

From the opening of the epistle as previously mentioned, Paul had not yet been to Rome, when he wrote the letter to them (Rom. 1:13). Paul had planned to visit Rome, right after he journeyed one more time to Jerusalem, in order to bring a collection from the saints in Macedonia and Achaia, he had gathered for the poor (Rom. 15:22-29; II Cor. 8:1-3). The epistle to the Romans was written, just as the apostle Paul was about to set out on the journey. This journey to Jerusalem was the one in which the first church council took place, as recorded by Luke in his book (Acts 15:2-4).). From Luke we learn that Paul spent the last three months of his journey to Achaia in Corinth (Acts 20:2,3). From there, he then returned to Syria between Passover and Pentecost (Acts 20:6,16). This was Paul’s fifth and last journey to Jerusalem, where he had been apprehended and sent to Felix in Caesarea (Acts 23:10, 24:10,11). Two more years went by before he was to appear before Festus (Acts 24:27). This would date the epistle as having been written somewhere between 58 and 59 AD.

III-The epistle was written by Paul the apostle

There has never been a dispute in the church as to the authenticity of Paul’s authorship of Romans. The letter itself opens with these words “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). From the first century on, this letter has been considered by virtually all church fathers, as Paul’s letter to the Romans. There is certainly, no evidence available to prove otherwise. There are in fact, a number of things about it that support the contention that it was written by Paul. Besides opening the epistle with his name, it speaks in his name throughout the entire epistle (Rom. 1:8-16, 3:5, 6:19, 7:9-11,13,15-25, 8:18, 9:1-3, 10:2,18,19, 11:1,11,13,14,25, 12:1,3, 15:8,14-18,19,20,22-25,28-32,16:1,17,19,22). The epistle is obviously written by a Jew, one who was well schooled in the law and prophets (Rom. 2:17-3:3,27-4:22, 9:1-11:32, 15:7-12). It was written by one who was familiar both with the Hebrew Old Testament, and with the Greek Septuagint translation. Paul was certainly such a Jew, and that according to his own words in another one of his epistles (Phil. 3:3-6).

The content of the epistle shows the author had a learned familiarity with the circumstances in which a New Testament Christian church, made up of both Jew and Gentile encountered (Chaps. 3,4,9-11,14). The issues both doctrinal and practical that the Roman epistle deals with reflect a deep understanding of those very circumstances. The issue of works or grace-based righteousness, and their relationship to one another according to the law, is seen in chapter three. The difference between the exercise of faith, and the use of Mosaic ordinances is taken up in chapter four. The question of God’s covenant promise of redemption to Israel, in light of the influx of Gentiles into the church, with the exclusion of most Jews, is handled thoroughly in chapters nine through eleven. And the cultural conflict which arose from this new gospel association between them in the church, regarding Christian liberty, is addressed in chapter fourteen. All of these circumstances and more, show a profound understanding, under inspiration, of the writers qualification in this epistle.

The style of writing found in Romans is extremely similar to that found in Paul’s other epistles. Besides the particular form of greeting at the beginning of each letter, and the benediction found at the end, there is a familiar division found in each one comprising two distinct categories, doctrine and duty (Chaps. 1-11, 12-16). None of his letters shows this more than in the epistle to the Roman church. The substance of the teaching in the Roman epistle, is evidence of its formal place in the canon of Scripture, as well as its obvious inspiration. This is consistent with the character of an apostolic writing, of whom Paul was considered by all, the most eminent (II Pet. 3:15,16). The Roman epistle shows forth the work of special wisdom that is not present in any other uninspired writer of the time. It interacts in perfect harmony with the entirety of the Scripture, both Old and New Testaments. There was no apostle more eminently qualified than the apostle Paul to write such an epistle as this (Acts 26:12-20).

Furthermore, there are many obvious comparisons to be made between Romans and other parts of the New Testament that support the contention that Paul is its author. Here is a sample comparison of cross referenced texts that support the assertion that Paul is the writer of the Roman epistle. Romans 15:25-31 with Acts 20:2, 3, 24:17, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-4, 9:2; Romans 16:21-23 with Acts 20:4; Romans 16:3, with Acts 18:2, 18-26, 1 Corinthians 16:19, and there are many more. (see The Truth of the Scripture History of St. Paul, by William Paley, as taken from Charles Hodge in his Introduction to Romans). There is on the other hand, not a single negative piece of evidence to be found, that would refute a Pauline authorship of the epistle to the Romans. We therefore, recommend this epistle, along with the following outline on the same, as an epistle of the greatest importance for any Christian to become familiar. For in so doing, not only will they enter into the mind of a brilliant, inspired apostle, but into the very mind of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

IV-Outline of the Epistle

The book of Romans is perhaps the single most important book of the New Testament. Of course, every book of the Bible has a specific purpose from God to fulfill in relation to the whole. Each book has a body of truth contained within its pages that fits perfectly in its place. But the book of Romans is special for this reason. It provides the church of Jesus Christ with a complete, systematic treatment of the doctrine of salvation. Virtually everything about salvation in Jesus Christ, with few exceptions, has been brought together in this letter written by the apostle Paul. The book of Romans is written in such a thorough and systematic way, that an entire apologetical approach to the doctrine of salvation is possible through it. Each point, as it is taken up in each chapter of the book, builds upon the previously established truth layed down by the inspired apostle. In it, the mind of God is laid out for all to see, in Paul’s thourough treatment of the doctrine of salvation in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Part One: The Righteousness of God Revealed, Chapters 1-8

This section spans the first eight chapters of Paul’s letter to the Roman church. It puts forth the entire doctrine of God’s righteousness as He has revealed it to mankind. There are three main issues in this section that Paul addresses, of which the righteousness of God is concerned. Everything that Paul introduces in these eight chapters falls under one of these main themes, in terms of what God has purposed to reveal to the world about the subject of righteousness. The apostle Paul puts forth first the righteousness of God as it is revealed to the world in nature. The second thing Paul puts forth is the righteousness of God as it is revealed to mankind through the written moral law. And the third thing is, Paul puts forth the righteousness of God as it is revealed to His people in particular redemption through the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ. Each one of these broad themes relates to the entire doctrine of God, and more specifically, as it concerns the righteousness of God.

The righteousness of God is made known in nature through Gods creative and sustaining work. This is evident to all who have eyes to see, and a mind to perceive the wonder and glory of it. Who cannot comprehend the beauty and power of God in the observation of nature? Clearly, there is a testimony of God to each man in nature that he cannot escape. This presupposes an inherent ability on the part of man to do so, according to what he is by creation. Exactly what does a man perceive in nature? Mankind has the perception there is a Being that creates from nothing, that is both omniscient and omnipotent. There is a Being who commands the very stars of heaven to operate in conjunction with the days and seasons of the earth, and is both wise and sovereign. And there is a Being, who empowers, regulates and provides for every living thing that is both all sufficient, and good. But above all these things, the Being that does these things can be none other than One who is absolutely righteous in all His ways.

But there is far more to the witness of God in nature than meets the human eye. What this is has to do with the demand that Gods righteousness has toward man, concerning his duty to his Creator. The voice of nature could not be heard apart from an innate knowledge of God within man. Because of this innate knowledge of his Creator, man is required as well as disposed to worship Him according to that knowledge he has within. Nature also testifies too, of mans innate understanding that there are certain moral absolutes affixed to creation which cannot be denied. The first moral concern that man has involves his relationship to the Creator. The second moral concern that man has involves his relationship with his fellow man on earth. Paul begins with this truth because of its inescapable reality in the world, while at the same time being its undeniable problem. Man knows God and His righteous judgements against him, but cannot establish a right relationship with Him based on it.

This is because mankind is estranged from his Creator through the presence of sin. Sin has affected that created ability that mankind once had to perceive God in nature. But natural revelation was never sufficient in and of itself, especially after the fall. So God has made known His righteousness to man more specifically, in the form of a written code of law. This law speaks of God in His righteousness, directly to man’s conscience, which operates according to the innate knowledge that he has within. Since man is sinful and separated from God, he cannot attain to God’s righteousness either, as it is contained in the moral law. Man innately knows the righteousness of God is contained in the law when he hears it. He knows it should be respected, as well as sought after by him. This knowledge exists by virtue of the fact that man was made in the image of his Creator. So the law is something feared by man because of his estrangement from God through sin. And even though man knows it is good, he hates it because he cannot keep it.

Paul’s purpose in the first eight chapters of Romans is to show forth not only the problem that sinful man faces concerning God’s righteousness, but also the only solution to that problem. The book of Romans teaches another form of righteousness. It is the righteousness of God apart from the law. This righteousness is one that God gives as a free gift of His grace to men. How does this gift of righteousness come to man? It comes in the form of good news, which declares the righteousness of God in and through the Person of Jesus Christ. The gospel declares Jesus has fulfilled the righteousness requirement of the law of God in His Person. This Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, is none other than the Son of God in human flesh. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the message of His coming, His suffering death on the cross for sinners, and his resurrection from the grave in victory over it. To those who are in Jesus Christ, there is satisfaction of sins debt, and reconciliation to God because of Him. The gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness in salvation.

Paul makes it known that the righteousness revealed in the gospel is one that is received through faith alone. Since no work can pay for the debt that law righteousness demands against a sinner, no work can be done either, to obtain the righteousness that God gives to a pardoned sinner. This is where the apostle Paul brings the matter of Gods righteousness in salvation. It is obtained by simply believing in Jesus Christ and in His righteousness. Having faith in the righteous work that Jesus did, in reconciling sinners to God, is what chapter one through eight of the book of Romans is designed to teach the church. These eight chapters accomplish this through the progressive development of closely reasoned argumentation, that someone of Paul’s intellectual stature brings to the subject. But it is not Paul’s intellect that is at work to construct the doctrine of salvation. It is the Spirit of God, revealing the righteousness of God, through the Son of God in the gospel.

Paul also tackles the thorny question of works, in relation to grace for the believer in this section of his letter. The Jews had great confidence in their legal ordinances, which Paul systematically disassembles before the imputed righteousness of God. But this begs the question, are works of no value in a believer’s life, is the law unimportant once a person is saved by grace? Grace is put forth in Romans as the motivation for progressive sanctification, not the excuse for sin. Holiness of life is just as much a work of grace as justification is, but it involves the determined effort of the saint to make progress in the faith, unto maturity. Therefore, provision for this positive, active aspect of Christian experience is made real in the gospel of God’s free grace. So the saint has confidence that his sincere, feeble effort to serve God, mixed with the element of his remaining sin, is no cause to doubt of his future glorification.

Paul ends this section with a declaration of God’s inseparable love to His children in undertaking everything necessary to this end, their eternal blessedness. No amount of tribulation, backsliding in sin, doubts of their own sincerity or level of progress in the faith can separate the child of God from Him. Even the creation itself awaits a renewal, that will be perfectly suited to accommodate the entire congregation of the redeemed some day. So while the gospel is a simple declarative message from God, so simple the simplest sinner can understand and receive it, Paul sets forth here in these eight chapters a thorough systematic explanation of it to the church. For it is by this method of systematic study, the Christian is taught, edified, encouraged and equipped for this life, as well as prepared for the life to come.

I. Paul’s Introduction, 1:1-17

A. Paul greets the Roman church, 1:1-7

B. Paul expresses his desire to visit the Roman church and preach to them, 1:8-15

C. Paul’s desire is based on the conviction, that the gospel is the only way revealed by God, by which all men equally can be saved, 1:16,17

II. Paul’s message that all men are under condemnation, and in need of God’s righteousness, chapters 1:18-3:20

A. God’s wrath is upon all unrighteousness, 1:18-32

1. The reason for universal guilt, verses 18-23

2. The result of universal guilt, verses 24-32

B. God’s judgement is righteous, 2:1-3:8

1. Judged according to truth, verses 1-5

2. Judged by works, verses 6-10

3. Judged with impartiality, verses 11-16

C. Jews do not keep the law, 2:17-29

1. The Jews judged guilty by the law, verses17-24

2. No righteousness in circumcision, verses 25-29

D. Paul defends God’s judgement against Jews, 3:1-8

E. Paul concludes the world is guilty before God, 3:9-20

III. Paul’s message that justification is through the imputation of God’s righteousness, Chapters 3:21-5:21

A. Righteousness described, 3:21-31

1. Justified by faith, verses 21-26

2. Apart from works, verses 27-31

B. Righteousness displayed, 4:1-25

1.Abraham was accounted righteous, verses 1-4

2. David was righteous by imputation, verse 5-8

3. Abraham justified before circumcized, verse 9-12

4. The promise of righteousness is not of works, verses 13-15

5. Abraham obtained the promise through faith, verses 16-25

C. The benefit of imputed righteousness, 5:1-11

1. Access to God, verses 1-5

2. Standing with God, verses 6-11

D. Imputation and federal headship, 5:12-21

IV. Paul’s message that sanctification is the demonstration of God’s righteousness, Chapters 6:1-8:39

A. Sin and sanctification in a Christian, 6:1-23

1. Sin is dead in principle, verses 1-14

2. Sin is dead in practice, verses 15-23

B. Sanctification and the law in Christian practice, 7:1-25

1. Free from the law, verses 1-6

2. The law powerless over sin, verses 7-12

3. The conflict with sin in Christian practice, verses 13-25

C. The Spirit and sanctification in a Christian, 8:1-39

1. Freedom from indwelling sin through the Spirit, verses 1-11

2. Sonship through the Spirit, verses 12-17

3. Assurance of future glory, verses 18-30

4. Assurance of final victory, verse 31-39

Part Two: The Righteousness of God Vindicated, Chapters 9-11

This present section is small in comparison to the other two sections of the Roman epistle, covering only three chapters. They serve a function as well, of bridging the gap between the first and third larger sections, in what they contain by way of subject matter. Therefore, the contents of these chapters form a vital and distinct body of teaching within the epistle. The substance of Paul’s discourse in this section, chapters’ nine through eleven, flows from the need to reconcile two important subjects which arise from the broader theme of God’s righteousness. These two subjects concern the vindication of God’s righteousness as it concerns the nation of Israel, and the vindication of God’s righteousness as it concerns the Gentile world. Both of these subjects, Israel and the world, come together in the question how is God righteous, and yet, particular at the same time of whom He saves?

As this question concerns Israel, it pertained to the matter of God’s covenant, and particularly, the covenant promise God made to them as a nation. Initially, the New Testament church was comprised primarily of Jewish converts. This is clearly evident from Luke’s testimony of the spiritual inauguration of the Christian church, which took place in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. After Jesus’ ascension, the church consisted of a small band of faithful Jewish followers in Jerusalem. Pentecost was part of a festal season which began with the Passover, in which many Jews scattered throughout the Roman empire would journey to Jerusalem for its observance. Our Lord was crucified on Passover, He rose again the third day, and showed Himself to the disciples during the forty-day intervening period between Passover and Pentecost. His ascension then coincided with the dramatic event which followed, that Luke records in chapter two of his Acts of the apostles.

Peter preached a sermon to the crowd of Jews assembled in Jerusalem, in which there was a great outpouring of the Spirit by God on the people. That day, three thousand Jews recognized and received Jesus as the crucified, risen Messiah they knew and expected from Scripture. Their previous rejection of Him, was revealed in the preaching to be the very means of their redemption, the Spirit of God brought this home to them. Later on, Luke records another sermon Peter preached to a large number of Jews, one in which two more thousand were converted, bringing the total number to five thousand in all. The Jewish converts to the Christian faith, then went back to their homes in various parts of the Roman empire, and proceeded to establish churches, like the one here in Rome, and to evangelize their neighbors.

So the Christian church in those places was Jewish for a good long while. In time however, and it was true here at Rome, that all changed. The apostles founded churches in many places that were predominantly Gentile, such as Corinth, Philippi, Thessalonika, and Ephesus. Here at Rome, the ethnic makeup of the church changed as a result of Jewish expulsion from Rome for a period of years. All Jews were required to leave the city, according to an empirical edict. During that period of time, Rome became completely a Gentile church. Jews were eventually allowed to return, but the church became a mix of both Jew and Gentile. The Roman church ceased to see large number of Jews converted afterward. The question that plagued them was, why aren’t more of their Jewish brethren converting to Christianity, had God somehow modified His promise to them? Of course, no true believer, whether Jew or Gentile can actually believe that God would ever fail them. But there was a philosophical problem here that needed an answer.

Simultaneously, another issue very much related to the Jewish question presented itself too, this time from the Gentiles. The question went like this, if God saves some by grace, but rejects others because of their unbelief, how does this accord with His righteousness? The message of the gospel is to go forth throughout the whole world, appealing to all who hear it of their need for God’s righteousness. Furthermore, the righteousness of God is offered freely in the gospel according to His redeeming grace, yet, there are many who reject it. If God is both sovereign and righteous, why does He reject them? This is especially relevant, considering the vast majority of people in the world, is already inclined to believe in some higher being or principle. Most people are seeking some sort of spiritual peace of mind and meaning in their life from whatever divinity they subscribe to. Yet, God saves some, but passes over others, without any regard to their universal need. This could not be more true nor evident, than in God’s rejection of the largest part of Israel.

The apostle Paul answers both questions in this section of the Roman epistle. He lays down a theological explanation that addresses every issue, not only of those raised in Rome, but those raised in every place throughout the church age. Paul provides us a thorough vindication of God’s righteousness, relative to His promises and their fulfillment, both to the Jew and to the Gentile. It is the sovereign prerogative of God to save whom He pleases and reject the rest. This answer that Paul gives here has always been a matter of controversy within the Christian church. The reason for this is, it does not satisfy the expectation of every party according to their own personal agenda. But it does however, satisfy the righteous judgement of God from a theological perspective. Paul’s treatment on the subject of God’s promises and their fulfillment, in light of both His righteousness and sovereignty, should serve to shut the mouth of proud, arrogant, self-sufficient men, while at the same time lifting up the humble believer to a full assurance of salvation.

Some people have over the centuries looked to chapters nine through eleven as a means to construct certain pet theories on end time events, especially as they relate to Jews. Others have taken the words of Paul in these chapters, and modified them to fit their preconceived notions of free will. Both of these schools have and do twist the Scriptures to their own destruction, in their attempt to do this. Paul’s teaching in these chapters on the other hand, sets forth a proper apologetical response concerning all of the questions raised. It is balanced, God glorifying, and displays the incredible wisdom contained in the weightier matters of the gospel and it’s application. In these chapters we see something of the mind of God revealed as it relates to both His eternal decree and His providence. Let no one say who reads these three chapters, that the truth of God’s sovereignty cannot be understood, or that the Scripture is little more than an analogy of what He actually thinks on these matters. Paul, through the inspiration of God, sets forth a clear unambiguous explanation of God’s sovereign purpose in salvation.

I. Paul’s message of God’s election to salvation, 9:1-29

A. Paul’s sorrow for Israel, 9:1-5

B. God’s sovereignty in election, 9:6-29

1. The purpose of God in election, verses 6-13

2. The justice of God in reprobation, verses 14-29

3. Israel has rejected God, verses 30-33

II. Paul’s message of God’s rejection of works righteousness, 10:1-21

A. Israel pursues righteousness by works, 10:1-13

B. Israel rejects the gospel, 10:14-21

III. Paul’s message of Israel’s restoration in the church, 11:1-36

A. God’s rejection of Israel is not total, 11:1-10

B. The final salvation of Israel, 11:11-32

1. The purpose of rejecting Israel, verses 11-24

2. The covenant promise to Israel, verses 25-32

C. The glory of God in redemption, 11:33-36

Part Three: The Righteousness of God Applied, Chapters 12-16

The last section of Paul’s epistle to the Romans, puts the entirety of the first eleven chapters into application. The first eleven chapters deal with what is commonly called the doctrines of grace. In them, Paul put forth the gospel in systematic form, showing every detail and intricacy associated with it. Another term for the doctrines of grace is the righteousness of God revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ. Every aspect of redemptive teaching comes together in this revelation. Everything needed for salvation has been disclosed in the gospel, and now opened up for examination by the apostle. But here in the last section that covers chapters twelve through fifteen, we have an application made of all that theology which precedes it. Once a Christian knows what he or she ought to believe, now, through Paul, they are shown how to apply it in their lives.

This is the standard approach which the apostle takes in all his writings. But here in Romans, it is displayed to the fullest extent of in reference to the gospel. In other epistles, there were many peculiar problems which plagued the Christian church. In each instance of each letter, Paul deals with those issues first in presenting the relevant doctrine it involves, and then second, in applying it in a practical manner to his readers. Here is no different. But if there is any difference to be seen at all between this one epistle and all the rest, it is this. The subject matter Paul covers here, bring together the theological thought that is to be found in the entirety of Scripture. Once having done this, he then fashions it in such a way so as to show the Christian their duty, what it means to practice the two tables of the law. This duty is enumerated by the words which define the law, love God and our neighbor as our self.

The Roman church had its problems too, just like every other church revealed in the New Testament. Oftentimes this fact is overlooked by reason of the loftiness of the doctrine put forth. The truth is, every epistle that appears in the New Testament was forged in the crucible of Christian experience, and the ever present reality of remaining sin. Each and every writer of the New Testament, was induced to write their epistles, in order to instruct believers in those areas of particular congregational need. There is no difference here in Romans. Each one of the themes Paul takes up in this discourse, advances some new insight into how we are to live together as Christians, in the church. In fact, the very health of the Christian church depends upon this being a reality. For how else will the world relate what is said in the gospel to real life, if it is not lived out in full by the church?

In the previous section we are brought into the highest levels of thought concerning the decree of God in salvation. But here, in this last section of the epistle, we are introduced to that which is purely practical. There is a reason for knowing and understanding both sides to theology. Truth is an objective thing. It stands outside of our weak, changeable, subjective experience. But what is truth if it is not practiced? There is no place in the Christian church for the dime store theologian, who sits in an ivory tower and pontificates upon interesting but irrelevant theories. Every member that confesses their faith in Christ must also live it to the glory of God. This explains why the Reformers compiled their church documents which define them into two different categories. First, they prepared a confessional statement which reflected a system of doctrine essential to the faith. Then second, they formed a system of catechetical instruction which teaches those doctrines in the confession, in a practical way. Where did they get such an excellent form of teaching? No doubt, it was from reading the inspired apostle here in Romans, as well as his other epistles.

So what is contained in this section which is so practical to the Christian? Well, it begins with the necessity of personal, daily consecration. For without this, no Christian will make the slightest progress in the Christian life. The Christian life consists in large part, of being weaned from this world, and prepared for future glory. So it starts with an individual walk of piety with God. Everything a Christian is given in salvation, is given for this purpose. But no one lives solely for themselves, the Christian life is no different. God brings each one of His children together in the society of the local church, it is here their gifts and graces are exercised. It is also here that the Christian is confronted with challenges to their faith. This is good, for it is the only way to grow. But growth is often painful, and that is true of Christian maturity. It is only as we rub shoulders with other sinners like us that we see those things in ourselves where we need work. The church is like a hospital for sinners in many respects. God brings his redeemed people into its fellowship to cure us of our spiritual maladies.

How does God do this, how does Paul show us the way? First, it is in serving, and second, it is in being served. The church is much like a marriage which Paul takes up in another epistle. There are both love and submission in the relationship. We are called on to do both to our brethren. In the process, if done according to Scripture, we too, receive the same from others. It is Christ working in us and through us to God’s glory. But ah, sin is always there to get in the way, to ruin peace and harmony in a church. So the church has problems too, just like the world. After all everyone is different and comes from their peculiar background. People disagree about many things, politics, economics, culture, even such things as what type of food ought to be eaten or not. We can easily relate this issue to our own circumstances today, things such as clothing and music. Oftentimes, disagreements that seem trivial are founded on sincerely held convictions, whether those convictions are sound or not. Paul teaches those principles which are needed, in order to have peace and fellowship in the church, in spite of sincerely held differences.

Two things always seem to come into view here in the apostles teaching, the principles of liberty and love. The Christian is free of many things that encumbered the Old Testament saint. Ours is a faith and worship built on a higher plane of spiritual knowledge than what those saints understood. In the Old Testament, the concept of holiness was often conveyed through rules and restrictions on life, it was much more legal than what we have now in this gospel era. But liberty is no license to sin. Nor is it an excuse to cause a brother to stumble, no matter who is standing on better ground concerning their particular convictions. Oftentimes, the Christian is more concerned about what they can do, than what they ought not to do, in terms of their relationship to other Christians. Paul is not in any way discounting truth here in the name of love. Nor is he exalting tolerance in the name of unity. What Paul does is present the principles of liberty and love in such a way, so as to magnify both the word and grace of God.

The peculiar issues the Roman church faced were due to its ethnic division between Jew and Gentile. Jewish believers came out of a rigorously disciplined religious system, shaped around many external rites. Though true Christian coverts from Judaism gave up any confidence in the Mosaic system to embrace the righteousness of God in the gospel, still, their long held traditions were hard to forsake. Many were not in themselves in conflict with the Christian faith, as long as they were not regarded as necessary to it. This lent itself to many difficulties when rubbing shoulders with Gentile converts who had no such scruples. This became fertile ground for controversy in the Roman church, as it would in any church. Luke recorded an instance where Peter was given a vision of certain food which was forbidden to be eaten under Mosaic dietary restrictions. Then in the vision, a voice from heaven bid him to eat. And why was this done? Peter was about to be sent to minister to a Roman proselyte named Cornelius, who would have no such conviction as he did.

Well, Peter was an apostle, and therefore, required to be all things to all people. But ordinary Christians from differing backgrounds and levels of maturity, are not in the same position as Peter, or Paul, or the other apostles. They as the spiritual fathers of the Christian church were tasked with the duty to impart God’s truth in the form of practical wisdom to the believers of each church, so that they might know how to relate to each other in peace. In this section of the epistle, Paul lays down these principles, which if followed, reveal the righteousness of God in the church. This is the noble calling given to the church of Jesus Christ. It is the visible witness of God’s kingdom here on earth. Great care must be taken therefore, in its management, instruction and discipline by the duly appointed ministers, if it is to accomplish this lofty goal. God has provided such instruction here in the epistle to the Romans, instruction that is suitable to the task which Christ has given His church on earth, till He returns. Amen.

I. Paul’s message that God’s righteousness is demonstrated in Christian duties, 12:1-21

A. Christian duty to God, 12:1,2

B. Christian duty to society, 12:3-21

1. Serve according to grace, verses 3-8

2. Self government, verses 9-21

II. Paul’s message that God ordains human government, 13:1-14

A. Christian duty to civil authority, 13:1-7

B. Christian duty to neighbors, 13:8-10

1. Personal consecration to Christ, verses 11-14

III. Paul’s message that God’s righteousness is demonstrated in Christian liberties, 14:1-15:13

A. The principle of Christian liberty, 14:1-23

1. Conscience, verses 1-13

2. Love, verses 14-23

B. The practice of Christian liberty, 15:1-13

1. Bearing with others, verses 1-6

2. Unity, verses 7-13

IV. Paul’s concluding remarks to the church, 15:14-16:27

A. Paul’s purpose in writing the epistle, 15:14-21

B. Paul’s plan to visit Rome, 15:22-33

C. Paul’s instructions, 16:1-27

1. A special commendation, verses 1,2

2. Greeting the Roman saints, verses 3-16

3. Admonition against troublemakers, verses 17-20

4. Greeting from friends to the church, verses 21-24

5. Paul’s benediction, verses 25-27

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