These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!
I have been looking forward to going through Romans with you guys, this is such a powerful book to me.
Chapter 2 hit me again as it does every time I read it:
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)
When we accept what Jesus has done for us, “the law” ends up coming out of us. We bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Similar to Acts 26… Our good deeds (the law) do not save us, but good deeds naturally come out of us when the Holy Spirit is working through us.
I also love that Paul consistently defends the gentiles and shows everyone that religion is a distant second to the relationship we have with our creator.
I, too, am eager to look through Romans together! I believe this is the most thoroughly systematic treatment of the gospel in Scripture, and thus really helpful to carefully, and humbly, study, so we make sure we’re not running in vain (Gal. 2:2).
I think the argument runs like this in Rom 1-2:
- Creation tells you there is a God who we must answer to
- The Law shows his righteous standard (and that we all fall short)
- The conscience also shows his righteous standard (and that we all fall short), so even Gentiles (who don’t know the Law/Standards of Scripture) also don’t have an excuse. C.S. Lewis talked about this a bit. He said how everyone seems to know that lying is morally bad (you didn’t need to read it in the Bible to know that). But yet we all have probably lied in some capacity. So we know the good, but fail to do it.
- It’s not a matter of knowing his standard, but of actually obeying it.
- I think those last 2 bullet points are hit in Rom. 2:13-15.
I read this from the perspective of the law being less important than what the law is supposed to do, which is point us back to God (through the law we become conscious of sin).
The way I interpreted this passage was that the gospel is for everyone (Gentiles and Jews alike), and despite the fact that the gentiles did not follow all of the same religious requirements as the Jews (namely circumcision at the time), the way they lived after meeting Jesus showed that God was alive and working in them.
I think I was also reading this part of Romans 2 through the lens of the following verses:
“So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.”
I kind of read both of these passages in the same light, but I may be misguided here. Any thoughts?
I think we’re actually hitting at 2 different things here.
You are sharing that Gentiles can now be brought in to righteousness by faith in Christ, the result of this is that the Spirit indwells them and brings out fruit of Christ. It’s not external legalism, but repentance and faith in the gospel that leads to inward transformation. Right?
Whereas I am trying to draw out what I think is the main theme of Rom. 1:18-3:20: that Jew and Gentile both fall woefully short of God’s righteous standard (as revealed in the law).
So I think Paul is addressing this idea that comes from Jews who think they can (or have) attained to God’s righteous standard. They are teaching that they have arrived, and circumcision is part of that. So for others to be righteous, they need to follow the Law (all the way to circumcision).
In contrast to that thinking, Paul shows how ungodliness happens among all people. He explains that Jews aren’t especially righteous just because they have and teach the Bible. Even Gentiles can know God’s standards in their conscience. And what is MOST important is that you actually obey those standards (whether you formally know them or not).
But I think in Rom. 2 Paul is setting up the fact that not one person has obeyed the standards.
So in Rom. 2 it says: “There will be…glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (Rom. 2:10).
This sounds at first blush like Paul is saying you can do good on your own meriting God’s blessing. BUT…a couple paragraphs later, Paul says: “Both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,” (Rom. 3:9). Then he goes on to quote the Law itself, saying: “no one does good” (Rom. 3:12).
So Paul says in Rom 2 that, yes, if you can obey the Law (whether you have the Bible or not) you can merit God’s blessing. But then Rom. 3 makes clear that NO ONE has obeyed this law.
He’s hoping all will feel pretty hopeless at this point. And it is at this very point that he opens into Rom. 3:21-26 (which Luther called the heart of the gospel, and whole Bible). He shows that no one is obedient. Except 1. That all deserve God’s wrath and death. Except 1. And YET…Jesus (that 1 Exception), took on God’s wrath and death. Why? So that we who deserved wrath and death could have life and blessing after all.
^^ said another way: I think the larger discourse of Rom. 2-3 is meant to show that Jews and Greeks equally fall short of obedience to God’s Law (what I was getting at). But within that discourse, Paul tips his hat to something he will develop later in Romans: that righteousness has come to Gentiles who have God’s Spirit–not to them who have circumcised themselves (as stated above).
Jews as God’s chosen people; gentiles who are grafted in. ALL of us falling woefully short (Roman’s 3:21-26) and in need of God’s grace!
I am so encouraged by Paul’s message in Romans because it is sensible and so hopeful. There is a very special freedom that occurs when we accept the dismal fact that we will never follow the law perfectly, BUT Jesus did and then died for us so we can share in his glory. What a gift.
I think Romans 4:5 is a critical passage to know: “to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness”
This tells us that we in ourselves are “ungodly”.
Yet the “ungodly” can be considered righteous (i.e. “justified”).
All through their faith.
Paul’s emphasis on faith was really encouraging to me too. Verses 14-16 stood out to me:
“For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, 15 because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all…”
So much beautiful, practical advice on how to live out our faith!
Succinct way to sum up the whole law: love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Not quarreling or jealously. Not making room for the flesh and it’s desires (13/14). I’ve been guilty of all that.
Reminds me that we can have faith and hope but if we have not love we are a clanging cymbal.
great words brother!…
I would add this:
How does that neighbor-love happen? Or said another way, where does such a love come from?
We see it in Jesus, of course. He sacrificed all and died for his enemies (us) to live. That is a neighbor-love that puts even the Good Samaritan to shame. But yet that is the very love God is calling us to.
The key is that the Jesus who did that, is the same Jesus who lives in us through His Holy Spirit. ONLY Christians have access to this kind of love indwelling us.
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)
“The fruit of the Spirit is love…” (Gal. 5:22)
The rest of our life is learning to fix our eyes on the gospel. And subsequently learn how to abide and yield to the Spirit within us. In this way, the principles and goals of the Law (which is summed up in true love) is now written in our hearts through the Spirit within. No amount of striving by the flesh can attain to what the Spirit can do within us.
It seems that whenever I read Romans 4-8, I always have the same conundrum: it’s hard (at times) to tell where Paul is talking about justification (us being covered by Christ’s righteousness the moment we turn to Him in faith) versus sanctification (us being made more righteous through the Holy Spirit living within us). But I almost wonder if that is how it is meant to be. It’s kind of like what a mentor taught me about John 15, where Jesus talks about the vine and the branches: you can’t tell exactly where a vine becomes a branch. In the same way, perhaps, seeing that we are justified in Christ compels us to walk more holy, while walking by the Spirit is the sign we are justified completely in Christ. So they sort of inform and feed each other in a way that is not so easy to say THIS is justification and THAT is sanctification. Of course there is a difference. But they are both essential parts of our Christian life, and both are tied with each other in various ways.
Reminds me of Hebrews 10:14 – “By a single offering God has perfected for ALL TIME those who are being perfected/sanctified” Shows the truth of both. God declares us perfect in Christ the moment we believe. But as a result, we get His Spirit within, and live out a more and more perfect/holy life. Only those who have that evidence of a life change (being perfected by the Spirit within) are the ones who are ACTUALLY justified/totally forgiven in Christ. That sanctification is THE PROOF we have been justified.
Last thought on this: I love seeing this dual aspect in the Passover Feast. The 1 Lamb:
provided perfect blood that covers the house so they were spared from God’s wrath
was eaten (so dwelled inside them) as sustenance for them to actually walk out of Egypt
Jesus is that Passover Lamb:
His sacrifice spares us from God’s wrath.
His life is now within us, by his Spirit, for the lifelong journey of leaving our old life in Egypt and pressing on to the Promised Land
I appreciate that Romans 12 begins the section on practical Christian living with the following:
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God…” (Rom. 12:1)
Thus, in light of all that came beforehand concerning the gospel and the Lord’s mercy in election, etc…. in light of all that, we can now walk this faith out in practical ways. I see Rom. 1-11 as giving the root system, and Rom. 12-16 the fruit. Lots of people want to jump to Rom. 12, but how many people are truly rooted in the gospel spoken of in Rom 1-11 first?
Rom. 12:13 caught my attention: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”
- “of the saints” — God frequently tells us to generously support His church. Not to say the world is completely neglected, but there is a clear priority with God: “do good to all, especially to the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
- “to the needs” — I’m also struck that it focuses on providing for needs. I’m concerned that a lot of giving we do is not for “needs” but “wants”. That doesn’t have to be wrong, but when we are calling on the church to sacrificially give, I believe we need to prioritize needs over wants.
- “seek to show hospitality” — I appreciated that this doesn’t say “do hospitality” in a slavish way that forces everyone to do X, Y, Z. Instead, it says to be eager to show it in whatever way it’s needed. Always be ready and eager to do it.
In all this, I was challenged to look for ways to meet needs of saints around me and show hospitality to the church as well. May the world know us by our love for one another!
Seeking to be generous is such a powerful way to reorient ourselves in a culture that is constantly telling us that we need more.
Reading through Romans 8 is always refreshing to my soul. This chapter of the Bible is very special to me as it got me through a rough patch in my life.
About seven years ago when I was very new to the crane industry I made a mistake at work that could have easily killed me and another guy. It was an honest mistake, and thankfully no one got hurt, but I felt horrible about it, and I went through intense periods of anxiety, and I totally doubted myself and my abilities. I would give it time to subside but my doubts and anxieties would always come back and I was feeling very lost.
My friend Ben encouraged me to lean into what I was feeling and try to understand the root cause of my anxiety. I prayed about it a lot, and I kept returning to Romans 8 for comfort. I realized that Romans 8:1-17 was speaking so loudly to me because deep down I was still trying to earn my value through my actions and accomplishments, but my mistakes exposed the fact that I will never perfectly measure up. I was scared that I would mess up again. I was trying to live a “works based gospel” and trying to earn my salvation, and I was feeling undeserving of the grace that Jesus offers. I was a slave to fear (v15).
However, Romans 8 showed me that “there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (v1) and that ” a mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” (v6). A works based gospel is no gospel at all, and there is freedom in accepting the fact that I will never be good enough, but Jesus loves me so much that he was willing to die for me to justify me, and now the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is alive in me (v11). I simply had to accept it.
This was one of the first times I really experienced scripture as a “double edged sword,” as I memorized verses 1-17 and would use it to fight back by reciting them when I would feel the waves of dread come over me.
Thanks be to God, our father who makes us co-heirs with Christ! (v17)
“Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness.”
This kind of reminds me of how Jesus “came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Another counter-cultural charge for us here. This is so tough for me to do!
Romans 15:14-22 stood out to me:
- “competent to instruct one another” – this is God’s goal. I fear we look to often for 1 “professional” minister to do all the instructing. God wants us to all grow into that ability, instructing one another. Reminds me of Heb. 5:12 – “by this time you ought to be teachers” (note that this is written to non-leaders, see Heb. 13:24)
- “the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel” – we are all called to be priests on the basis of Christ’s work (see 1 Pet. 2:9). Our priestly duty includes proclaiming the gospel
- “an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” – the only way we can walk out this Christian life in a God-pleasing way is via the Holy Spirit
- “my service…what Christ has accomplished through me” – note that in v. 17 Paul calls it his service, but in v. 18 he says that this was, in reality, “Christ working through me”. Reminds me of 1 Cor. 15:10–“I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
- “leading the Gentiles to obey God” – it’s not just them trusting Jesus for salvation (though that is essential). But the goal is obedience unto God (again, only possible via the Holy Spirit)
- “…by what I have said and done–by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God.” 3 ways they came to faith: (1) by what Paul said, (2) by how Paul lived, (3) by the power of the Spirit. This corresponds directly with 1 Thes. 1:5 where the same 3 categories are listed as bringing the Thessalonians unto faith. Are we walking faithfully in all 3 of these to bring people to faith?
- “preach the gospel where Christ was not known” – there are still a lot of people around us who don’t know what the gospel is. May this be part of our strategy to seek them out. Oswald J. Smith – “No one has the right to hear the gospel twice, while there remains someone who has not heard it once.”