the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Grant's Commentary on the Bible Grant's Commentary
by L.M. Grant
This epistle was written from Corinth, where the apostle had seen the marvel of the grace of God working in the midst of lowest degradation and evil, saving souls out of the revolting state common enough in Greece but notorious in this particular city. Appropriately therefore, this letter to the Romans discovers the sin of all mankind, exposes it thoroughly, and discloses that there is righteousness with God, so that God's wrath is revealed from heaven, allowing no excuse or shadow of justification for sin! But the same righteousness is revealed in good tidings of grace toward the ungodly, - grace which magnifies righteousness in justifying the guilty by means of the full, unmitigated penalty being laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.
God is before us as the Sovereign Judge, exercising His absolute prerogatives of condemnation and of justification, - sparing no evil of whatever degree, but on the ground of the death and blood-shedding of Christ justifying the previously judged sinner who believes in Jesus.
The absolute condemnation of sin is required for the maintenance of God's throne, and when a soul has known the blessedness of deliverance from the bondage of sin, he delights in the contemplation of that righteousness and truth, as in every other attribute of God. But in Romans, God graciously orders the presentation of the truth so as to meet the sinner where he is at the outset, and lead him experimentally through soul exercise out of bondage and darkness into liberty and light, establishing the feet in paths of truth according to His righteousness.
As the righteousness is "of God," so the Gospel is "of God"; He is before us as the source of all truth and all blessing; His sovereignty and counsels indelibly and brilliantly portrayed for those who have eyes to see. If He makes known our sins in all their awful repulsiveness, He also shows that He is greater than our sins: indeed, whatever objection may be raised (and even these are shown in their strongest and fullest character), God is proven far greater, triumphing gloriously over them all, - and this triumph not as over men, but on behalf of them, - that is, on behalf of all who believe in Jesus. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31). God has taken no place of enmity against men: by the gospel He shows in deepest reality that He is for man. Blessed grace indeed! Beautiful answer to the enmity of our own hearts toward Him!
It is suggested that the reader should keep the text of Scripture before him in considering these verse by verse comments, for they are intended simply as a help in personal study and understanding of the infinitely precious Word of God. In those cases where the authorized version is differed from, quotations are generally from the "New Translation," by J. N. Darby.
The epistle to the Romans declares that the gospel of God is "the power of God unto salvation." A good knowledge of the truth of this book will make strong believers - those in whom the power of God is working in living reality. There are far too many believers who have settled down in the comfortable knowledge that they are saved from the judgment of God. Yet they are weak as water when it comes to taking a faithful devoted stand for the Lord Jesus. They have neglected the solid, strengthening truth of the book of Romans.
This book presents God as Judge, absolute in truth and righteousness, who cannot ignore the guilt of mankind. Why? Because His very nature must expose it thoroughly and judge it. The perfection of His righteousness demands that His great power must be totally against sin. Therefore the first three chapters of this book utterly expose sin. People of every culture are summoned for judgment before the bar of God and declared guilty before Him.
But chapter 3:21-31 expresses the power of God in another way. God's righteousness has been magnified by the marvellous gift of His own Son. This blessed One has given Himself a sacrifice for the sins of guilty men by bearing God's unmitigated judgment against sin in His death at Calvary. By this sacrifice, justification is offered freely to all who believe. Not only is God loving and kind in forgiving our sins, but He is perfectly righteous, for every sin has been atoned for in that matchless work of the Lord Jesus.
Therefore, we who believe are no longer guilty, but absolutely justified before God and credited with a righteousness we could never have known before. Through this wonderful work of grace, God's power establishes us in a position of righteousness, and therefore of strength. This is in total contrast to our former guilt and weakness.
This question of our sins, however, is not all that must be considered. Although we can rejoice in the wonderful blessings which result from being justified (See ch.5: 1 - 11), yet we find that in practice we are still encumbered with a sinful nature that is determined to express itself in sinful acts. How does the power of God meet this serious problem? While we must surely believe that God's power is equal to whatever need we may have, He does not meet that need in the way we would naturally desire.
First, beginning with chapter 5:12, God refers us back to Adam as the original father of a fallen race. He then shows us that our fallen nature is just the same as his, and thus the same as every other child of Adam. We cannot change this nature. It is so corrupt that nothing from it can please God. Its end is death. On the other hand He reveals to us a Man who does please Him. Jesus Christ stands in wonderful contrast to Adam, and those who believe become identified with Him and shall eventually reign in life with Him.
Chapter 6 therefore insists that sin is no longer the master of the believer. Adam had allowed sin to reign "unto death." But Christ has died to put an end to sin, that horrible enemy of our souls. By believing, we become linked with Him in the value of His wondrous death. Therefore we are seen by God as "dead to sin." In realizing this, we take a stand full with God against ourselves, just as at the time of conversion we took a stand with God against our sins.
This does not remove our sinful nature, for God intends that it remain within us until the rapture to humble us and make us feel our dependence upon Him. However, as we see ourselves as crucified with Christ and reckon ourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, we are lifted above the evil of that sinful nature. We begin to realize something of the new life that has been communicated to us in Christ Jesus.
Chapter 7 is added to show that the law is no longer to be seen as the measure of our responsibility. Whether it be the law of God as given by Moses, or laws and regulations that are largely self-conceived, these are not to be the standard of a believer's life. Many struggle hard because they misunderstand this. They make themselves miserable because of their inability to fulfil what they conceive to be the proper responsibilities of a Christian.
We must understand that the power of God is not seen in the law. It is seen in Christ who is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24 KJV). We need to turn our eyes totally away from self and find in Christ that which satisfies and delights the heart. This is in fact the work of the Spirit of God in our hearts - to direct us to the blessed Son of God. Chapter 5:5 states, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
However, we often fail to pay attention to the work of the Spirit within us, especially if we are self-occupied as in chapter 7. The beautiful answer to this problem is found in chapter 8:2: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made us free from the law of sin and death." The sweet governing principle of the Spirit of God within us delivers us fully from the unbearable governing principle of Moses' law. The first principle is one of life in Christ Jesus; the second is only "unto death."
In this lies the power given to us as believers in a living precious way. It does not take sin out of us, but lifts us above the sin within us. It occupies us with the perfection that is in Christ so that the new life within us will be free to express itself in sweet liberty. What the law could not do for us, God has done in the work of His own Son. The result is that the law's righteous requirement is fulfilled in those who walk not after the Spirit. Precious liberty of grace.
The rest of chapter 8 gives careful instruction as to the real work of the Spirit of God, and ends with a lovely note of triumph that overcomes all the obstacles of unbelief. Here again is testimony to the power of God resting upon those redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.
Chapters 9-11 form a parenthesis in this book. It answers questions that may have been raised by its teaching, such as:
· If God shows His power so remarkably in the many redeemed by His grace today, what has happened to His ability to bless the nation of Israel?
· What of His promise of great blessing to those whom He took out of Egypt so long ago?
· Since it has not yet come, has He forgotten them?
This section answers those questions. His power will eventually be seen as never before in the nation of Israel. Meanwhile, because of their refusal of His best mercies towards them and their refusal of their promised Messiah, partial blindness has happened to them during this present period, during which God is bringing many Gentiles (and some Jews) to Himself.
But His promise does not fail, though Israel has so badly failed. They will yet find themselves objects of mercy, just as Gentiles are during the present time. This will require a great work of God, but we are told, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psalms 110:3). His great power will accomplish such marvellous results in that coming day that the apostle ends chapter 11 with a burst of praise ascribing adoration to the God who is so infinitely great in wisdom, in power, in righteousness, in love and in mercy.
Chapters 12-15 describe what happens when God's people live out the wonderful truth of this epistle. The section begins with the gentle and effective language of grace that beseeches us to present our bodies a living sacrifice to God. If He has power to accomplish great things for us, then certainly He has power to enable us to do His blessed will. Our part is only to willingly submit to Him. When this happens, the power of God takes over to work in us that which will glorify His name for eternity.
The effect will be seen in every sphere of our lives:
· among believers (ch.12:16);
· among enemies (ch.12:17-21);
· towards government authorities (ch.13:1-7);
· towards the world in general (ch.13:8-14);
· with weak believers (ch.14:1-15:7); or
· in connection with the Lord's work. (ch.15:14-33).
In all these areas the power of God is to be proven in our experience.
Chapter 16 ends this magnificent book by commending many people. What a lovely encouragement for all who desire to honour the Lord in a world that is contrary to His very nature! This chapter also gives warnings, which faith fully admits are necessary if we are to be preserved in devotedness to the Lord Jesus.
Every true child of God gladly agrees with Paul's last words in this book: "To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."