THE GOSPEL DEFINED
Concise Notes on the Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle to the Romans is a masterly exposition of the doctrines relative to the gospel of God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul was guided to unfold those truths which it is necessary to know and believe in order to be reckoned right in the sight of God, and also to live a life which is righteous before God and before men.
Central to this gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by whom the work of redemption which is the foundation of the gospel was effected at Calvary. It was there that He died for the ungodly, and subsequently rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to intercede for those who believe on Him.
No preacher should venture to present the gospel to sinners without first gaining a working knowledge of at least the first eight chapters of this epistle. No believer should seek to testify in a personal way without such a knowledge, either. And certainly no unsaved person should dare to enter eternity without first becoming acquainted with the saving truths this epistle contains. Since the moment of departure from this world is unknown to us, it is important to gain this acquaintance as a matter of great urgency.
“Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke, then a great ransom cannot deliver thee,” Job 36:18.
Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures, the epistle to the Romans is structured and orderly. We would do well to consider the general scheme of the epistle by way of introduction, for it will help in understanding the truth contained therein.
The epistle as a whole may be divided into three parts, each beginning on a personal note from the apostle, and each ending with a note of praise:-
GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPUTED.
Personal note: “I am ready to preach the gospel”, 1:15
Key phrase: “Him that justifieth the ungodly”, 4:5.
Concluding praise: “For I am persuaded”, 8:38.
[Chapters 1-8 may be further divided into two major sections as follows:-
1:1 to 5:11 THE SINS OF THE PERSON
The remedy- the blood of Christ;
The result- redemption and righteousness.
5:12 to 8:39 THE PERSON WHO SINS
The remedy- death, burial and resurrection of Christ;
The result- identification and assurance.]
Personal note: “I have great heaviness”, 9:2.
Key phrase: “His ways past finding out”, 11:33.
Concluding praise: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”, 11:36.
Chapters 12-16. GOD’S SERVANTS INSTRUCTED.
Personal note: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren”, 12:1.
Key phrase: “Him that is of power to stablish”, 16:25.
Concluding praise: “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” 16:27.
ROMANS CHAPTERS ONE TO EIGHT MAY BE DIVIDED INTO FOURTEEN SECTIONS AS FOLLOWS:
SECTION 1 ROMANS 1:1-17
The Person of Christ is central to the gospel
SECTION 2 ROMANS 1:18-32
God’s wrath against men as their Creator
SECTION 3 ROMANS 2:1-16
God’s wrath against men as their Moral Governor
SECTION 4 ROMANS 2:17-3:20
God’s wrath against men as their legislator
SECTION 5 ROMANS 3:21-26
The work of Christ is central to the gospel
SECTION 6 ROMANS 3:27-4:25
God’s grace towards men as their justifier
SECTION 7 ROMANS 5:1-11
The glory of God is central to the gospel
SECTION 8 ROMANS 5:12-21
Christ and Adam compared and contrasted
SECTION 9 ROMANS 6:1-23
The believer’s past and present position
SECTION 10 ROMANS 7:1-6
Deliverance from the law
SECTION 11 ROMANS 7:7-25
Defence of the law and despair under the law
SECTION 12 ROMANS 8:1-17
Life in the flesh and life in the Spirit
SECTION 13 ROMANS 8:18-27
Present suffering and future glory
SECTION 14 ROMANS 8:28-39
Overwhelmed or overcoming
There is a great need in these days to recognise that the gospel is God-centred, and Christ-centred, and not sinner-centred. The apostles “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”, Acts 5:42. Having taught who He was, they were then in a position to preach that He should be believed in and relied upon. It would be a useful exercise to note the number of verses about sinners and the number of verses about Christ in the gospel addresses recorded in the book of Acts.
THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1 TO 17
1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
1:2 (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,)
1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.
1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;
1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.
1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
SECTION 1: ROMANS 1:1-17
THE PERSON OF CHRIST IS CENTRAL TO THE GOSPEL
STRUCTURE OF SECTION 1
The person of Christ in relation to:
1 (a) 1:1 Paul.
1 (b) 1:2 The prophets.
1 (c) 1:3 The people of Israel.
1 (d) 1:4 God.
1 (e) 1:5 People of all nations.
1 (f) 1:6,7 The people of God.
1 (g) 1:8-12 Paul’s ministry.
1 (h) 1:13-15 Paul’s motives.
1 (i) 1:16-17 Paul’s message.
Having introduced himself as the writer of the epistle, Paul goes straight into his theme, which is the gospel of God. He shows that this gospel was promised in Old Testament times as the prophets foretold the coming of Christ. He has now come, and is preached as being relevant to all men. Having assured the believers at Rome to whom he writes that he has a great desire for their blessing, Paul then asserts his strong belief in the ability of the gospel of Christ to save those who believe it.
1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ- as a servant-slave, Paul was captive to Christ’s will, ready to be told “what thou must do,” Acts 9:6. Called to be an apostle- appointed by Christ’s call, Galatians 1:1; an apostle is a “sent one,” sent out from the presence of his superior to do what he commands. Separated unto the gospel of God- commissioned for Christ’s service, and committed to it, Acts 22:21. Singled out, and single-minded.
1 (b) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PROPHETS
1:2 Which He had promised afore- since Christ is the subject of gospel, to promise Him, (as God did through the Old Testament prophets), is to promise the gospel. By His prophets- because they were His, they spoke for God with authority. “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled,” Acts 3:18. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself,” Luke 24:27. See also Luke 1:69,70. In the holy scriptures- the writings of Old Testament are holy, for they express God’s holy will, and are completely separate in character from all other writings, being utterly reliable and trustworthy; “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” 2 Timothy 3:15,16.
1 (c) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL
1:3 Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord- as God’s Son, the Lord Jesus shares the nature of God the Father, see on verse 4. Jesus is the name He was given when He came into manhood to save His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. As Christ, He is the Anointed One, the Messiah of Old Testament predictions, see 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25. As our Lord, He is the One whose will is sovereign, and to whom believers readily submit themselves, Romans 14:7-9. Which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh- was made means “having come”, the same word as Galatians 4:4, “made of a woman.” As One who is of the seed of David, the Lord Jesus is qualified to bring in a future righteous kingdom on earth, see Luke 1:30-33. But the three main principles of that kingdom will be “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, Romans 14:17, and these also sum up the blessings that come to those who believe the gospel. The apostle is careful not to alienate the Jewish element amongst his readers, so reminds them that the line of David clearly reaches to Christ, as Matthew chapter one shows. In fact, “according to the flesh” may include the idea that even a unbelieving man might consult the temple records and see this to be true. But he is also careful to point out that since Christ has become flesh, He is relevant to all men, not just Israel. He became real man, and as such is God’s Ideal Man.
1 (d) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO GOD
1:4 And declared to be the Son of God- note the change of verb; not made, but declared, for He is ever the Son of God, sharing the Father’s eternal, unchanging nature. The Lord Jesus indicated in John 10:30,36 that to be Son of God was to be one in essence and nature with the Father. If He had meant anything less than this, the Jews would not have tried to stone Him for blasphemy. With power, according to the Spirit of holiness- the declaration of Christ’s Deity is a powerful one, and is made in relation to the Spirit of holiness. Views differ as to whether this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, or to the spirit of the Lord Jesus. If the former, then the Holy Spirit empowers the declaration, but if the latter, then Christ’s own spirit, marked as it is by holiness, and by which He communed with His Father, is set in contrast to His being of the seed of David according to the flesh, by which means He associated with men on earth. Note the contrast with the unholiness of the men described in the second half of the chapter. By the resurrection of the dead- not resurrection from among the dead, but the resurrection of dead persons, Himself included. See for instance, John 11:4. Every time a dead person was raised by Christ, when He Himself was raised, and when the dead are raised at the resurrection, there is a powerful testimony to His Deity. See John 5:17-31.
1 (e) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS
1:5 By whom we have received grace- grace is unmerited favour, and believing sinners are shown this when they are saved from their sins; but there is a constant need for the believer to receive Divine favour, in order that the Christian life may be lived effectively. “without Me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. And apostleship- grace is the common portion of all the people of God, whereas apostleship was granted to only a few, who must have seen the Lord Jesus personally, 1 Corinthians 9:1. Divine favour was needed by apostles also for the discharge of their responsibilities. Note the incidental testimony to the Deity of Christ in that the grace which elsewhere is said to be the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:10, is here said to be from Christ Himself. For obedience to the faith- one object of the preaching of the gospel is to bring men to an obedient faith in Christ. The person of the Lord Jesus is presented to men that they may believe on Him and submit obediently to His Lordship. Among all nations- the epistle emphasises the universal need of man to hear and believe the gospel. See also verse 13. For His name means for the good of His name. The object of the apostle’s preaching was not just that sinners might be saved, but that the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord might be honoured.
1 (f) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD
1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ- the preaching of the gospel is the means by which Jesus Christ calls men and women to Himself, that they might enter into the blessings which He obtained at infinite cost when He died upon the cross at Calvary. The call is not only to Himself, but also away from self and the world.
1:7 To all that be in Rome- as is clear from the next statement, this means all the believers in Rome. Beloved of God- they were the object of Divine affections. Beloved is a title of the Lord Jesus, telling of the active love of the Father for Him; here it is used of believers. “Thou…hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me,” John 17:23. Called to be saints- this means that they were constituted saints or separated ones by the call of Christ, not that they were called to develop into saints, although it is true that believers are to perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1. All true believers are saints, or holy ones, as far as their standing before God is concerned, but their current state of holiness varies with the individual. Grace to you and peace- grace has been described as “the fount of all mercies,” and peace “the crown of all blessings.” Grace (“Charis”) was a Gentile greeting, whereas peace (“Shalom”) was a Jewish salutation. Here they are combined in the apostle’s greeting to all believers in Rome, whether Jew or Gentile. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28. From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ- a further testimony to the Deity of Christ in that Divine blessings come equally from the Father and the Lord Jesus.
1 (g) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MINISTRY
1:8 Verses 8-10 emphasise Paul’s attitude Godward, verses 11-15 his attitude towards believers. First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all- giving thanks through Jesus Christ for their energetic faith and testimony. Note that even a leading apostle needed the Lord Jesus as mediator between himself and His God. That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world- living as they did in the capital city of the Roman Empire, they were in a good position to spread the gospel, and this they had done diligently.
1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son- the preaching of the gospel is a spiritual activity, and nothing of man or self must be allowed to intrude into it. It is also a priestly activity, as the word for serve indicates, so the preaching must be with dignity and holiness, with God’s glory as the end in view. That without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers- it is just as important to pray for converts after they are saved as it is to preach to sinners so that they may be saved. Note the apostle prayed for these believers even though he did not know many of them personally. See 1 Samuel 12:23.
1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you- in the ordering of God he was prevented for many years from visiting them, see 15:23, with the result that we have the benefit of his epistle to them, in which he sets out what he would have said if he had come. Note he subjected his movements to the over-riding will of God.
1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift- the gifts he had were for the edifying of the believers, not the advancing of self, Ephesians 4:11,12. To the end ye may be established- sound doctrine is vitally necessary if believers are to be firmly grounded in the faith, Ephesians 4:13-16.
1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me- the apostle is at pains not to elevate himself above them. He would be comforted by evidences of their genuine faith, and so would they be comforted by evidences of his faith.
1 (h) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MOTIVES
1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto)- he had been let, or hindered, from coming to them by his desire to fully preach Christ elsewhere. He was concerned to preach Christ where others had not, Romans 15:20-24. Those at Rome had heard from others, see Acts 2:10. That I might have some fruit among you also- fruit means results for God’s glory from the making known of His truth. A tree does not produce fruit for itself, but for its owner, so Paul sought glory only for God in his service. He could only be fruitful through Christ- “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Even as among other Gentiles- Paul was commissioned to concentrate on preaching to Gentiles, Galatians 2:9, Acts 22:21.
1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians- it did not matter whether men were cultured or otherwise, Paul was concerned to discharge his debt of obligation to preach the gospel to them, for Christ had died for them all. Both to the wise, and to the unwise- those who sought God through philosophy, or those who were unthinking, all had a claim on his time and attention. “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16. Note that the gospel is for all sorts of men, of whatever nationality, culture, or natural ability.
1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also- as far as it depended on Paul, he stood ready to preach in Rome, for the message of the gospel is urgent, and is also of universal relevance.
1 (i) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MESSAGE
1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ- the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to men, 1 Corinthians 1:18, but those who have been saved know it is nothing to be embarrassed about. “and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed,” Romans 9:33. For it is the power of God unto salvation- the men of the world are perishing all the time they refuse the gospel, whereas believers not only know initial salvation from sin and judgement when they receive the gospel by faith, but are constantly saved from the pitfalls along the way by that same gospel. To everyone that believeth- this is the principle on which God acts in His dealings with men. To believe and to have faith mean the same, namely a firm persuasion based on hearing the word of God. See later passages in this epistle, such as 4:1-8; 10:8-13. To the Jew first- in the rich grace of God, the very nation which cast out the Son of God and crucified Him, is given the first opportunity to believe in Him. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke 24:47. And also to the Greek- by Greek the apostle here means non-Jew. Since the common language throughout the Roman Empire was Greek, the Gentiles were known as Greeks.
1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed- the expression “the righteousness of God” is used in two senses in this epistle. Here, the phrase means that Divine righteousness which is reckoned, or imputed, to those who believe, see 3:21,22; 4:3-5. Elsewhere, it means God’s attribute, that which He possesses intrinsically and eternally, see 3:25,26. Instead of God demanding that man become righteous by his own efforts, (a thing the apostle will show later in the epistle he cannot do), God is prepared, in grace, to reckon to be righteous those who receive the gospel. From faith to faith- literally “out from faith (on the principle of faith), to faith (with faith as the expected response).” God is prepared to reckon righteousness to a person, provided they come to Him on His terms. The sinner must abandon any idea that he can earn God’s favour, and rely totally on the person and work of the Lord Jesus, who died at Calvary so that his sins might be forgiven, and he might be made right in the sight of God. As it is written, “The just shall live by faith”- the truly just or righteous man is he who has spiritual life within on the principle of his faith in God, as is shown by the fact that he lives out that life by the same principle. The apostle had claimed at the beginning of this section that the gospel was promised through the prophets, and now he proves his point as he brings the section to a close by quoting Habakkuk 2:4. He thus disposes of any idea that he is teaching a new doctrine of his own devising.