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Contending for the Faith Contending for the Faith
CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH
A Commentary On
THE BOOK OF ROMANS
By ALAN BONIFAY
Publisher Charles Allen Bailey
Executive Editor - Joe L. Norton, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2016
Contending for the Faith Publications
4216 Abigale Drive, Yukon, OK 73099
All Rights Reserved
All scripture quotations,
unless otherwise indicated, are taken from
The King James Version, KJV
To my parents, Wes and Charlene Bonifay, who brought me up in the Church of Christ; who taught me to respect authority—especially that of God and His word; who taught me to believe in Christ as the Son of God; and who have supported me financially and encouraged me in every way to preach the gospel of Christ.
To my loving wife, Tonya, who has always encouraged me to preach throughout the forty years of our marriage and the twenty-five years of the making of this commentary. Tonya has graciously sacrificed in untold ways to follow me to the ends of the earth to preach and to make our home and family a pleasant sanctuary from the cares of the world.
To my delightful children—Barry, Danae, Wes, and Darcy—and to their children—Sailor, Ruby, and Wren—who have been and continue to be among the greatest blessings and joys of my life.
Barbara Everett for typing and proofreading.
Martha Morris and her mother, Marjorie Crouch, for typing and proofreading as well as numerous helpful comments concerning content.
My mother, Charlene Bonifay, for proofreading and making helpful comments on the early chapters of Romans.
Joe Norton for patience, exhortations, and strong admonitions to finish this project as well as for his editorial expertise.
Don Kelly for his computer expertise in formatting the manuscript.
Bennie Cryer, Ron Courter, and George Battey for helpful advice and comments.
Mark Bailey for typing, research, and works cited.
My wife, Tonya, for her encouragement and support as well as her editorial skills.
My children for all their help through the years.
Finally, Allen Bailey for his continued support and encouragement through the years.
We welcome you to the latest volume of "Contending for the Faith Commentaries," the eleventh in the series of commentaries with four remaining volumes to be printed. Each writer of the series has a special love for the Lord and has provided a great "labor of love" in advancing the cause for Christ.
Brother Alan Bonifay, the writer of this volume and a special friend of mine, has prepared an especially scholarly work that demonstrates his research skills as well as his in-depth knowledge of God’s word. He is a well-read gospel preacher who is conversant on most Bible topics. This volume will speak for itself, but it should be a most useful tool for Bible students everywhere.
As with any commentary, readers will see ideas perhaps they have never thought of before. They will agree with most of what they read, but they may find points with which they differ along the way. This volume contains Alan’s conclusions on each verse, phrase, and word and is worthy of the attention of all serious Bible students. As it is when using any commentary, article, or sermon, the researcher using this source must "Search the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things are so (Acts 17:11 NKJV).
Alan was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, the only son of Wes and Charlene Bonifay. The family moved to San Antonio and lived during Alan’s teenage and young adult years. Having preached for 42 years, Alan trained as a young man under the direction of several older preachers: Wayne McKamie, Ron Courter, Lynwood Smith, Ronny Wade, Bill Davis, and Bennie Cryer. He has worked as an evangelist in West Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, and California, forging many fast friendships with preachers, church leaders, and brethren and their families. Alan worked closely with Richard Bunner while he lived in West Virginia. In California, he has worked closely with Greg Gay and Bennie Cryer. He has also lived and worked in several countries around the world: Zimbabwe (where he and his family lived and worked for five years), Zambia, Malawi, Russia, and the Philippines. Currently, Alan preaches and resides in Lodi, California, and he continues to return to Zimbabwe annually, to do evangelistic work. In addition, he has held gospel meetings in many states and has participated in many preachers’ studies. Through the years, Alan has helped to train and mentor several young preachers among whom have been George Battey, Greg Cardosa, and Nathan Battey. His commentary on Romans has been a labor of love that has been many years in the writing.
Alan and his wife Tonya recently celebrated 40 happy and adventure-filled years together. They have four wonderful children (Barry, Danae, Wesley, and Darcy) who are all grown and have established their own homes. Alan and Tonya enjoy being "Pops and Nonna" to three lovely young granddaughters: Sailor, Ruby, and Wren.
Romans, Paul’s greatest as described by some, is placed first among his epistles in the New Testament. While the four Gospels present the words and works of Jesus Christ, Romans explores the significance of His sacrificial death, using a question-and-answer format. Paul records the most systematic presentation of doctrine in the Bible. But Romans is more than a book of theology: it is also a book of practical exhortation. The Good News of Jesus Christ is more than facts to be believed: it is also a life to be lived.
This wonderful book explains clearly "salvation by faith" (Romans 5:1) and the concept of obedient faith (Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26). Throughout the book, Paul mentions faith several times and clearly states from the first chapter to the last that it is obedient faith under consideration. These truths should motivate us to yield to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with complete love and obedience (Luke 6:46).
Joe Norton, Don Kelly, and Martha Morris have continued to work together as an amazing team in providing a volume easy to read and understand. May God bless them in this life and in the life to come. Only God knows how much I honor and respect these fellow Christians for their work’s sake. I personally believe they are the best, absolutely the best, at their individual skills. As well, they are fellow members of the Kingdom of God and special friends who love the Lord and give Him their very best. My prayer for each of them is "I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as their soul prospers" (3 John 1:2)."
May the Lord bless you and the team that made this volume available.
To God give the Glory,
4216 Abigale Drive
Yukon, Oklahoma 73099
Placed first among the thirteen epistles written by the Apostle Paul, the book of Romans is the most systematic and comprehensive explanation of the doctrine of salvation found in God’s word. It seems appropriate that it is first, not only because of its profound content but also because of the importance, influence, and size of the great metropolis of Rome.
While the four gospels present the words and works of Jesus Christ, Romans explores the significance of Jesus’ sacrificial death. It is a book of profound theology. In fact, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the poet of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner fame, regarded Romans as the most profound book in existence (Hiebert 104). The French commentator Frederic Godet called it "the cathedral of the Christian faith," (1) and Martin Luther wrote: "The epistle is the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest gospel … It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes" (The New Open Bible NKJV 1319).
For a theology to be of any real value to the individual, it must have practical application in his everyday life. Paul accomplishes this need in the closing chapters of this book. These sections are filled with practical admonition and exhortation. The readers discover that the good news of Jesus Christ is more than simple facts to be believed; it is also a life to be lived, a life of righteousness befitting the person "justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (3:24).
Romans has had a profound influence on religious history. In fact, most reformatory movements began as a result of a more careful and detailed reexamination of the book.
The Author of Romans
All critical scholars agree on the Pauline authorship of Romans. The vocabulary, style, syntax, logic, and theological development are all consistent with Paul’s other epistles. D. Edmond Hiebert says, "The Pauline authorship of the epistle is beyond any doubt" (171). C.H. Dodd confirms this fact, saying, "The authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans is a closed question" (xiii). Paul dictates this letter to a secretary named Tertius who was allowed to insert his own greeting to the congregations in Rome (16:22).
The problem of authorship in Romans arises not from the identity of the author but rather from the unity of the epistle. In the extant ancient manuscripts, there are several variations with regard to the last two chapters of Romans. Hiebert succinctly states the traditional evidence:
It seems certain that Marcion did not have the last two chapters in his canon. It is known that his text did not contain the doxology (16:25-27—AWB). There is also evidence that the early Latin Version ended the epistle with chapter 14 and the doxology of 16:25-27….However, there is no extant Greek Manuscript which omits these chapters (15:1-16:24—AWB). There is, however, considerable variation in existing Manuscripts concerning the place of the final doxology (16:25-27). In most of the very oldest Manuscripts the doxology stands at the end of chapter 16 and there only. The Chester Beatty Papyrus stands alone in placing it after 15:33. Codex L and some two hundred cursives place the doxology at the close of chapter 14. A few Manuscripts insert it at the end of both chapter 14 and chapter 16. Codex G leaves a blank at the end of chapter 14 but has the last two chapters (172).
These variations have led some scholars to conclude that the last two chapters were not originally part of the epistle; however, most do recognize them as written by Paul. Some suggest Paul issued a second edition of the book that included the last two chapters. Most scholars recognize, however, that the content of the first part of chapter fifteen concludes Paul’s argument in chapter fourteen. The last part of chapter fifteen explains Paul’s main reason for writing the epistle in the first place; and, thus, all of chapter fifteen fits logically with the rest of the epistle.
There is more debate about chapter sixteen. Objections are raised over the fact that in chapter sixteen Paul greets by name twenty- six members of the Roman churches, and these are churches he has never visited (1:10-13). This fact has led some to postulate that chapter sixteen constitutes a separate letter. They suggest without adequate evidence that perhaps it was written to Ephesus where they believe it would be more likely that Paul would have known twenty-six brothers and sisters. This view is bolstered by the fact that in Romans 16:3-5, Aquila and Priscilla are mentioned; and, at the end of Acts 18, they are at Ephesus. Such a letter in the first century would be surprising to say the least— nothing but greetings.
More likely is the probability that during the two and a half years covered in Acts 19:8-10 Aquila and Priscilla have returned to Rome, their original home (Acts 18:2). They had left Rome only because of the decree of Claudius, issued in A.D. 52. By A.D. 54, Claudius had died, and Nero had succeeded him as Caesar. As yet, Nero was not insane nor unspeakably wicked, and the Jews returned to Rome in large numbers.
It is simpler to understand this extensive list of greetings in chapter sixteen as Paul’s effort as a stranger to the Roman congregations to list their mutual friends—Christians who can credibly vouch for Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles. It is most likely that Paul met these Christians on his various missionary journeys. The population of the first century was more mobile than we give them credit for.
Significantly, the only other letter of Paul that lists numerous individual greetings is the one addressed to Colossae, another church Paul had never visited.
Chapters fifteen and sixteen may have been omitted from a few Latin manuscripts because it was mistakenly thought to be irrelevant since the writer emphasizes his travel plans and sent individual greetings; however, when Paul’s purpose for writing this epistle becomes clear, it is seen that his travel plans in the second half of chapter fifteen and the list of greetings in chapter sixteen are critical to the overall message of the epistle, which actually functions as a kind of apostolic job resume.
Finally, it must be remembered that these problems occur only in a few Latin manuscripts and a few late cursives and in only one Chester Beatty Papyrus. In the oldest Greek manuscripts—in fact, in all of the Greek manuscripts ancient and later—the epistle ends just as it is printed in English Bibles. There is no serious problem here. This speculation is all a tempest in a teacup. The authenticity and unity of Romans are easily defended.
The Origin of the Congregations in Rome
It seems evident that the churches in Rome were not founded by any of the apostles—neither Peter nor Paul. It is possible that they were planted by Jews and proselytes returning to Rome from the feast of Pentecost where they had become followers of Christ (Acts 2:10; Acts 2:36-41). It is most likely that Christians from other congregations established by Paul in Asia, Macedonia, and Greece settled in Rome and led others to Christ.
It may come as a surprise to readers to realize there were numerous congregations in the city of Rome rather than just one. In Romans 16:3-5, Paul mentions a church meeting in the home of Aquila and Priscilla. Then in verse 10, he passes on greetings to "those who are of the household of Aristobulus." In verse 11, he greets a group meeting in the household of Narcissus. In verse 14, he names several men "and the brethren who are with them." In verse fifteen, he lists another group "and the saints who are
with them." It should not surprise us, however, that the city of Rome would have numerous congregations within its confines. Rome was a large metropolis for its day. Over a million people called it home. One inscription suggests it may have been as large as four million. The majority of people were slaves, but opulence and squalor coexisted in the Imperial City.
By the time this epistle was written, the churches meeting in Rome were well known (1:8), and they had been established for some time (15:14, 23). The Roman historian Tacitus refers to the Christians who were persecuted by Nero in A.D. 64 as "an immense multitude" (Hiebert 171). The rapid growth of the churches and large number of Christians present in the city is accounted for by the fact that many Romans were jaded by the empty claims of polytheistic paganism of Roman religions. Many were also weary of the silly superstitions of emperor worship. Christianity and the gospel of Christ filled the gap that was created, offering meaning and hope to thousands. Whether most of these churches were filled with Jews or Gentiles is a point of some debate; however, it seems clear that Gentiles were predominant (1:13; 11:13, 22-25, 28-31; 14:1-15:12; 15:15-16).
But there was a significant Jewish element as well (2:17-3:8; 3:21-4:1; 7:1-14; 14:1-15).
The Date of Romans
Paul writes this letter in the winter of A.D. 57/58 near the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23 to Acts 21:14). Most likely it is written during Paul’s three-month stay in Greece (Acts 20:3-6). More specifically, it is written from Corinth while Paul is staying with Gaius of Corinth (16:23; 1 Corinthians 1:14). Furthermore, Paul mentions "Erastus, the treasurer of the city" (16:23). A first century inscription has been discovered in Corinth, mentioning "Erastus, the commissioner of public works, laid this pavement at his own expense" (The Open Bible 1138).
Paul’s collection from the churches of Macedonia and Achaia for the needy saints in Jerusalem is complete (15:26), and he is ready to deliver it (15:25). He asks the Christians in Rome to pray for
him that he might be delivered safely from those in Judea who are unbelievers. He further asks that those who are believers might graciously accept the gifts donated by the Gentile churches to relieve their hunger and that he might be able to go to Rome with joy to be refreshed by them (15:30-32). Paul evidently gives this letter to Phoebe, a sister from the nearby congregation of Cenchrea, to deliver to the churches in Rome. Phoebe is generously acknowledged by Paul to be a diligent servant of the church in Cenchrea (16:1-2).
The Occasion for the Letter to the Romans
The occasion for the writing of this letter is the most important of all the standard introductory material about the epistle to Rome. Paul writes this letter for at least five discernible reasons, the last of which is the most critically important for the correct interpretation of the book:
1. According to chapter 15:22-29, Paul writes to reveal to the brethren his immediate travel plans. His destination is Rome, but first he must travel to Jerusalem to present to the leaders the money he has collected from the Gentile churches for the poor saints in Jerusalem (15:25-28; Galatians 2:9-10).
2. He also writes seeking the prayers of the brethren at Rome that he might be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea who hate him and might seek to foil his mission. He further requests them to pray that his service for the saints in Jerusalem might be accepted by them and that ultimately he might be able to come to Rome to "be refreshed together with you" (15:30-33).
3. After visiting for a time with the Christians in Rome, Paul hopes to have the congregations that assemble there to send him on to Spain (15:24, 28).
4. In addition, he has several other reasons for wanting to visit these congregations. He wants to impart spiritual gifts to brethren in Rome (1:11). Imparting such gifts is one function of the apostolic office (Acts 8:14-18). Even though some in Rome already had miraculous gifts (12:3-8), Paul wants to help to establish them in the faith by imparting more such gifts to them. He also desires to be encouraged together with the brethren in Rome (1:12), and he longs to see these believers and their Imperial City (1:13, 15:23).
5. Paul’s primary reason for writing this epistle, however, is that he is looking for a new base of operation in his efforts to preach the gospel. He has completely evangelized the area "from Jerusalem round about to Illyricum" (15:19). He does not want to interfere in any other man’s work or "build on another man’s foundation" (15:20), and he wants to take the gospel westward to the reaches of Spain (15:24, 28). To these ends, he has written to the churches in Rome to introduce himself and the gospel he has been preaching "everywhere in every church" (1 Corinthians 4:17). In other words, the Roman epistle in modern parlance should be considered a job resume. This view accounts for Paul’s use of the phrase "my gospel" (2:16, 16:25). Paul does not mean to distinguish "his" gospel from the gospel of Christ because he has already referred to the gospel as the "gospel of God" (1:1; 15:16), "the gospel of His Son" (1:9), and "the gospel of Christ" (1:16; 15:29). His point to the churches in Rome, then, is that this epistle contains the gospel as Paul preaches it. If the churches in Rome are going to become sponsors of Paul’s preaching and send him out to Spain or anywhere else, they have the right and responsibility to know first-hand what Paul preaches.
Another important implication of this point is that Paul does not write Romans to correct some problem among the Roman congregations. In other words, Romans is not Galatians done over. Galatians is written primarily to correct Judaizing teaching and to rebuke the Judaizers themselves. Romans is fundamentally a doctrinal essay presenting Paul’s understanding of the gospel. If Romans is interpreted as a correction of Judaizing teachers, then one’s view of what Paul is teaching will be skewed away from the truth. R.L. Whiteside makes this mistake; and, consequently, what would otherwise be an excellent commentary is somewhat flawed. Paul’s purpose in writing Romans is to present the gospel positively as he, by inspiration, preaches it.
Additional clarifications follow.
The Purpose of Romans
This point is slightly different from describing the things that occasioned Paul’s writing of this letter. The question here is, Why did Paul write what he did?
Generally, scholars follow one of two approaches. Some believe the letter is non-occasional. In other words, it is not written to correct or explain some situation or problem that was either brewing or ongoing. It is in the view of those who take this position simply a doctrinal exposition of what Paul believes and teaches. Others believe the letter is primarily situational rather than doctrinal. They believe it rose out of a particular situation rather than serving primarily as a doctrinal treatise.
It seems evident, however, that a man as intelligent, well- educated, and active as Paul might have several reasons for such a letter. Some of those reasons might call for a situational response, and others might call for a non-occasional straightforward doctrinal treatise. As we have already noticed at some length, Romans is fundamentally a doctrinal essay. No doubt, Paul first and foremost needs to present a job resume of what he has been preaching and what he will be preaching when he reaches Rome. And, in the event he does not make it to Rome, he wants to present this doctrinal essay explaining the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which he refers to as "my gospel."
In addition to this non-occasional purpose to present this doctrinal essay, Paul apparently has several situational purposes as well. There was a need for unity between Jews and Gentiles in the church, and his doctrinal treatise provides the basis for that unity. There is a need for Paul to continue exercising his apostolic functions. And there is a need to make "his" gospel clear to all— not only for the churches in Rome but also for posterity as he
knows what he is writing by inspiration is intended to be normative doctrine for the church throughout time (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Timothy 5:17).
Keys to Romans
The first key to understanding Romans is the meaning of the phrase "the righteousness of God" (1:17, 3:21, 22). The "righteousness of God" is not a reference to God’s own personal righteousness. Instead this "righteousness" is revealed for the first time in the New Testament (1:16-17). That God, Himself, is personally righteous was revealed long ago in Old Testament times (Ezra 9:15; Nehemiah 9:8; Daniel 9:14; Psalms 50:6; Psalms 97:6; Psalms 98:2). The "righteousness of God" (1:17, 3:21-22) is the system by which God declares sinners to be righteous while at the same time maintaining His own personal righteousness (3:26).
The theme of the book of Romans is discovered in Romans chapter one verses 16-17:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith.
Another set of key verses is found in chapter three, verses 21-26:
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
The citation from Habakkuk 2:4 in chapter one, verse 17, serves as a worthy outline of at least the first eight chapters of Romans: "The just shall live by faith."
Outline of Romans
1. Introduction (1:1-15)
1. Writer (1-6)
1. His position (1)
2. His message (2-4)
3. His apostleship (5-6)
2. Paul’s relations with the Romans (8-15)
4. Thanksgiving for them (8)
5. Prayer for them (9-10)
6. Desire to visit them (11-15)
2. Theme (1:16-17)
3. The Gospel: God’s power to save (16)
4. The righteousness of God revealed (17a)
5. The just shall live by faith (17b)
3. The just (1:18-4:25)
6. Under God’s wrath (1:18-3:20)
7. The Gentiles (1:18-32)
8. 2. The Jews (2:1-3:8)
9. No difference—none righteous (3:9-20)
7. The Righteousness of God
10. Revealed through Christ (3:21-31)
11. The faith that saves (4:1-25)
4. The just shall live by faith (5:1-8:39)
8. Free from wrath (5:1-21)
12. Free from wrath of God against personal sin (1-11)
13. Free from wrath of God as a result of Adam’s sin (12-21)
9. Free from sin (6:1-23)
14. Free from past sins (6:1-11)
15. Free from sin in practice (6:12-23)
10. Free from law (7:1-25)
16. Free from law—alive to God (7:1-6)
17. Delivered by Christ (7:7-25)
11. Free from death (8:1-39)
18. Free from spiritual death (8:1-17)
19. Free from physical death (8:18-34)
12. Doxology of victory (8:35-39)
5. The righteousness of faith does not violate God’s promise (9:1-11:36)
13. God’s promise reveals His sovereignty (9:1-29)
14. Israel is responsible for her rejection (9:30-10:21)
15. Israel’s rejection is not irredeemable (11:1-36)
6. The behavior of those declared righteous by faith (12:1-15:13)
16. Responsibilities to God (12:1-2)
17. Responsibilities to the church (12:3-18)
18. Responsibilities to civil government (12:19-13:7)
19. Responsibilities to neighbors (13:8-14)
20. Responsibilities in matters of liberty (14:1-15:13)
7. Concluding remarks (15:14-16:27)
21. Paul’s purpose for writing 15:14-21)
22. Paul’s travel plans (15:22-31)
23. Paul’s praise and greetings (16:1-16)
24. Final warning (16:17-20)
25. Final greetings sent to Rome (16:21-24)
26. Closing prayer (16:25-27)
Philip Schaff in his monumental History of the Christian Church says of this epistle:
It is the most remarkable production of the most remarkable man. It is his heart. It contains his theology, theoretical and practical, for which he lived and died. It gives the clearest and fullest exposition of the doctrines of sin and grace and the best possible solution of the universal dominion of sin and death in the universal redemption by the second Adam (Vol. I 766).
May the reader study the book of Romans to be wise; may he believe it to be safe; may he put it into practice to be saved. May the Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you study this great text.
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