Salvation for the Gentiles, 1
|Romans 1:1-15, Greetings to and prayer for the church in Rome|
|Romans 1:16-17, The theme of the letter: God saves all who have faith|
SALVATION IS NOT BY LAW OR CIRCUMCISION
|Romans 1:18-32, God is justifiably angry with the pagans|
|Romans 2:1-11, God is also justifiably angry with the Jews, who commit all the same sins|
|Romans 2:12-24, The Law will not save you, because you don’t keep it!|
|Romans 2:25-29, Circumcision will not save you if you don’t keep the Law!|
|Romans 3:1-20, God’s anger is completely justified because we continually break the Law|
|Romans 3:21-31, Jews and pagans are in the same boat with regard to Law and faith|
More of Romans
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Last September I visited my sister in Texas. Pastor Rhonda was preaching from the lectionary, and she said that whenever she does that, as a spiritual discipline she always chooses the scripture reading that is most difficult for her. I sighed to myself and said, “Ok, I will go home and do a study on Romans.” (As an aside, the passage she chose is difficult and puzzling for everybody from babies in the pew to biblical scholars, but she did a great job with it.)
I know a lot of people who just love
Romans! I’m not especially interested in theology
, however, and Romans is practically all theology. I’m definitely not a mathematician, and Romans is written in the style of a mathematics proof
. You know by now that my style is flippancy, not stodginess, and Romans is Paul at his very
stodgiest. Finally, I just get exhausted reading the long sentences and arguments of Romans. (If your translation is easy to read, be assured that that’s the work of your translator, not of Paul!) Galatians I like a lot, but Romans is not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, as a spiritual discipline for me, we’re going to study Romans.
Romans 1:1-15, Greetings to and prayer for the church in Rome (1/16/17)
Paul’s other letters are to churches he founded or to individuals he converted. Romans is a letter written to a church he had not founded nor even visited. Greek letters start with the names of the sender and recipient and a greeting. Paul sandwiches his credentials, a reference to the scriptures (our Old Testament), some Gospel teaching, and an assurance of the salvation of the church members at Rome between his name and the name of the people he’s writing to, the saints in Rome. He assures the Romans that he prays for them continually and that he really wants to come for a visit.
What does your translation have in “Paul, a _____ of Christ Jesus”? The English Standard Version (ESV) has “servant,” but the Greek word doulos
is much closer to “slave” than to “servant.” Normally Paul calls himself an apostle of Christ, although this is not the only letter in which he calls himself the slave of Christ. Paul sees himself as being sent by
Christ, yes, but only as someone who belongs to
Romans 1:16-17, The theme of the letter: God saves all who have faith (1/17/17)
Paul summarizes the message of his letter right up front, in two verses. There are three main points. 1. The gospel brings salvation. 2. The power of salvation came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. 3. Righteousness and faith are a package deal.
Remember that I said Romans is similar to a mathematical proof? Paul uses scripture (our Old Testament) to prove, and sometimes to illustrate, what he is saying. Whenever I remember, I will include the scripture reference of quotations for you. Paul alludes to scripture without quoting so often that I probably won’t even try to put in references for that.
17 "The righteous shall live by faith." [Habakkuk 2:4]
SALVATION IS NOT BY LAW OR CIRCUMCISION
Romans 1:18-32, God is justifiably angry with the pagans (1/18/17)
Paul says that God is angry at the pagans, not only because they have committed all kinds of sins, but also because they should have known better! All you have to do to see the power and divine nature of God is look around at the orderly nature of God’s creation. You can also establish by observation that idols that look like human beings or birds or animals – as created items themselves – are powerless to affect creation. (In the words of the prophet Hosea, “A craftsman made it; it is not God.”) Calling them “debased,” Paul goes on to list some of the pagans’ sins. Note that vss. 28-31 are all one list in Greek, implying that all these sins are comparable.
Romans 2:1-11, God is also justifiably angry with the Jews, who commit all the same sins (1/19/17)
You know that I’m always harping at you to read everything in context – at least 10 verses before and after your passage of interest. Nowhere is context more important than in the book of Romans; the main difference is that sometimes the essential context is several chapters
, not verses. Paul makes extensive use of the Greek rhetorical form known as the “diatribe.” Don’t confuse this with modern, English diatribes, which are long, bad-tempered harangues. In a Greek diatribe, there is a conversation between at least two people, one of whom is a “fool” or “someone,” who says stupid and untrue things, so that the other one can counter the false statements. We might call the fool a “straight man,” although often the fool is more stupid than a straight man.
There are several clues that you might be somewhere inside a diatribe. One clue is the rhetorical question that obviously should be answered “no.” Paul is setting up a straw man so that he can knock it over. Look at vs. 3: “Do you suppose that you will escape the judgment of God?” No, we mumble uncomfortably. Paul answers, “Well, you certainly act
like you think you’ll escape! Look at all the sins you commit! They are exactly the same sins that are committed by the Gentiles! When I say, ‘Jews first, then Greeks,’ I’m talking about judgment as well as glory.”
Beware of anyone who quotes “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” all by itself. The context
of this verse starts back at least as far as Romans 1:18, which we read yesterday, and goes at least as far as Romans 2:11.
Romans 2:12-24, The Law will not save you, because you don’t keep it! (1/20/17)
It’s all very well and good, Paul says, to be God’s chosen people and the recipients of the Law. Unfortunately, having
the Law and doing
the Law are too often disconnected. Not doing the Law is made even worse when we criticize others for not doing it. But the worst thing of all is to boast about the Law and then dishonor God by breaking it.
I cringe every time I see a headline about some so-called Christian group that is acting out of hatred or violence. Is this loving God or loving their neighbor? Do they think they will convince anyone of God’s love by their behavior? Paul says, no, all they are doing is giving the unbelievers a reason to blaspheme God.
24 "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." [Isaiah 52:5]
Romans 2:25-29, Circumcision will not save you if you don’t keep the Law! (1/23/17)
Paul has been arguing that the Law won’t save us, because we don’t keep it. He now moves on to circumcision. Naturally, as a Jewish male, Paul was circumcised, but he points out that the mark in the flesh is of no value if we don’t keep the Law. Paul is hearkening back to Jeremiah 4:4 when he says that “circumcision is a matter of the heart.” It is the inward acknowledgement of our relationship to God, and not the outward sign, that is important. The uncircumcised pagan who obeys the Law is better off than the circumcised Jew who does not.
Romans 3:1-20, God’s anger is completely justified because we continually break the Law (1/24/17)
One clue that Paul is raising rhetorical questions or engaging in a diatribe is the Greek phrase meh genoito
, which is often translated God forbid!, Not at all!, By no means!, Of course not!
I might translate it as “Don’t even think about it!” I’ve marked it a couple of verses so that you can compare to your paper Bible and recognize it in other places. He asks a question or makes a false statement, says, “God forbid!” and then makes a true statement.
Another Pauline trick is to say something and add, “I speak as a human being” or sometimes “fool.” It’s important to read in context
! Sometimes Paul says things that are clearly not true, so that he can demonstrate what a foolish statement it is.
Finally, a good, modern translation with cross-references will show you when Paul is proving the truth of what he’s saying by quoting scripture. As a child, I learned Romans 3:10, “There is none that is righteous, no, not one.” Paul has been arguing for a couple of chapters that neither Jew nor Gentile is righteous before God, and now he is proving it by quoting Psalms 14:1. The next several verses are also taken from scripture to support his point.
Excerpts from the English Standard Version.
Romans 3:21-31, Jews and pagans are in the same boat with regard to Law and faith (1/25/17)
3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged." [Note: apparently this quotes the Septuagint somewhere; I couldn’t find it.]
5 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)
6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world?
10 as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; [Psalms 14:1]
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. [Psalms 14:2]
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." [Psalms 14:3]
13 "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." [Psalms 5:9]
"The venom of asps is under their lips." [Psalms 140:3]
14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." [Psalms 10:7]
15-17 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." [Isaiah 59:7-8]
18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes." [Psalms 36:1]
The old song says, “We’re in the same boat, brother,” and that’s what Paul is saying, too. He talks about one topic all the way from Romans 1:18 to 3:31, namely, salvation is not by law or circumcision, but by faith. How do we know this? Because,
- Jews and Gentiles alike are sinners;
- Jews and Gentiles alike know what God wants, because in one case they have the Law and in the other case they have the witness of the natural world; and
- Jews and Gentiles alike are saved by their faith in God, not by Law (which only tells you the difference between right and wrong) or by circumcision (which is only a symbol of faith).
Is his conclusion that this faith overthrows the Law? God forbid! Faith upholds the Law!
More of Romans
Introduction; Salvation is not by Law or Circumcision.
Romans – Salvation is by Faith.
Romans – The blessings of Salvation are for both Jews and Greeks.
Copyright 2017 by Regina L. Hunter. All rights reserved. This page has been prepared for the web site by RPB. The English Standard Version is Copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the
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