"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « A Good Response | Main | To Cut off the Sinner from All Hope in Himself »

    THE CHRIST OF ROMANS: A Devotional Overview of Paul's Letter to the Romans- Rev. Charles R. Biggs


    Have you ever read a story with your family or with others and you begin to think and act within the story as one of the characters? You have this place in the story where you find your identity and understand yourself better as part of the story.

    You should remind yourself that you are part of a real story of grace and redemption. Your relationship with Jesus Christ by faith is part of a grand story and narrative that God has been telling to the whole world since the foundation of the earth.

    This amazing story of God’s redemption in Christ is exactly where the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the Christians at Rome. Paul understands himself and wants all Christians to understand themselves in the grand story of redemption. So Paul begins with the gospel of God that was told all through the Old Covenant and has now climaxed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ!

    “Paul…called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ…”

    Paul writes the Book of Romans to explain this story better and to teach how both Jews and Gentiles (all the nations) are part of this grand and amazing story by faith of God’s salvation in Christ!

    Romans Chapter One
    In chapter one, Paul wants us to understand that this redemption that has come in Christ is for the “obedience of faith” (v. 5). That is, this story is to inform and teach us as families how to live obediently by faith in God’s gospel achieved for us in Christ. That is why in Romans 1:16-17, Paul tells of a righteousness that is received by faith outside of us, apart from us, in the Person and work of Christ.

    Even in chapter 1:3-4, Paul explains the indicative reality of what God has accomplished in His Son for us so that we never boast, but that we continuously grateful for this redemption that he has provided!

    Jesus Christ “descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus our Lord…” Jesus’ Lordship and gospel accomplishment for us in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension is the indicative reality on which Paul tells his story of who we are in Christ.

    Paul was writing to teach Jews and Gentiles that they were part of this grand story, and the inspired letter still teaches us this today. This is why in Romans 1:18-32 Paul teaches that Gentiles have not lived in God’s world as they ought to have lived as creatures obedient to their Creator (1:22-25). Rather than looking in general revelation and seeing the face of Christ and God’s great power and attributes, they suppress the truth and exchange the glory of God with a lie! They worship and serve the created rather than Creator!

    Romans Chapter Two
    But Jews, even though they had the Law and special signs like circumcision, and the very “oracles of God”, have abused special revelation! As the Gentiles abused and refused to worship God with general revelation, the Jews abused and refused to worship God with special revelation (Rom. 2:1-3:8). So Paul teaches the Jews that they are in the same position before God’s holy Law: they are lawbreakers like the Gentiles! Both Jews and Gentiles are in need of the magnificent and merciful grace of God in Christ!

    We too as Christians today are to be reminded of Paul’s argument in Romans 2 and heed what he tells the Jews. He tells them that if you say you have the Law, that you are a guide to the blind, a teacher to the uninstructed Gentile “sinner”- - do you do the Law: “Do you who teach others teach yourself”? Paul is telling the Jews that as a people they have “blasphemed God’s name before the Gentiles” (2:24). Paul says that outward external circumcision pointed to a greater reality of God’s grace in the renewing and cleansing of the heart in order that the Law might be rightly kept by the power of the Holy Spirit (2:25-29; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

    The Apostle Paul teaches that “True Jews” are those who have believed the gospel and who lived according to the gospel the obedience that comes by faith and from faith (2:12-16). “True Jews” will manifest obedience in their lives by God’s power and grace rather than through disobedience and hypocrisy. This instructs us today that our relationship with Jesus Christ must continually be one of displaying the pattern of faith and repentance (2:1-4). As Christians, we ask God for help to live his story before the world in a way pleasing to him so that the world might know the hope found in the Lord Jesus.

    Romans Chapter Three
    Paul then goes back to the Old Covenant story, using the Psalms and the Prophet Isaiah, to reveal to both Jews and Gentiles that no one is righteous, no one seeks after God, and no one fully understands the revelation of God. In fact, all (both Jew and Gentile) have fallen short of the glory of God, or fallen short of being who they were created to be glorifying God and enjoying him forever (3:10-23; 1 Cor. 10:31).

    Paul tells us in Romans 3 that part of the conflict in God’s great story of which all men are a part by virtue of being created in God’s image and placed in his world, is the reality of dishonoring God and making oneself God living in his world autonomously! Yet again, the good news is that God in Christ has entered this story to undo the great problem of sin and disobedience. All creatures deserved judgment and God’s just wrath, but God has provided a Perfect Substitute in the Person of Jesus Christ:

    “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:23-26).

    God is righteous and just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus! This is part of our story as Christians. We must never depend on “how well we are doing” in the Christian life to determine whether we are righteous or not! We are righteous only because God has judged His own precious Son on our behalf and given to us by faith His righteousness! There is no righteousness inherent in anyone- -yet God clothes us in the gospel accomplishment of his Son so that we might live in his story knowing we are forgiven and loved.

    Do you feel loved based on the indicative truth and reality of what Christ has done for you? Or do you base your worth, significance and how much you are loved merely on what you are doing for God and others? God wants us to know that he is indeed the lover of our souls because we are clothed in the righteousness of His Son!

    Romans Chapter Four
    Paul goes on to explain this righteous declaration or justification by faith alone in chapter 4 of Romans. As Abraham the Father of the Jews by ethnic heritage was justified when he believed God, so all those who would call themselves “Abraham’s children” must believe God’s promises and be justified in the same way! There has always been one way of salvation: Believe in God’s promises!

    “But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Rom. 4:23-25).

    When we believe God’s promise of making us righteous in Christ, we are forever and eternally counted/reckoned righteous IN CHRIST. As we live in this indicative reality as Christians, we must understand that it is all of grace from God who delivered up his own Son for our trespasses and raised his son for our justification! The gospel of God was achieved outside of us and for us in real time and space, but it is to be believed each and every day of our lives.

    How much do you believe in God’s promises in Christ? It will be revealed each time you sin and fall short. Do you cling to what you can do for God, and try harder, or do look away from sin and self to the Lord Jesus Christ and his righteousness? We don’t merely believe God’s promises at the beginning of our Christian walk; we believe God’s promises every step of the way!

    Perhaps all Christians should return to the image of the pilgrim to better understand ourselves in God’s story of salvation. We are slowing moving from one age of sin and misery characterized by flesh to take part in the age to come of the New Heavens and the New Earth, where righteousness dwells and is characterized by the power of the Holy Spirit! We are already citizens of heaven now, but as pilgrims (exiles) in this world (1 Peter. 1:1-2), we live with Christ already seated with him in the heavenly places (Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:1-4).

    Romans Chapter Five
    Paul then teaches us the great news in Romans 5 of having now been reconciled (notice the past tense!) with God in Christ, we now are at peace with God. As we once lived “in Adam” in this age or world characterized by sin, misery and flesh, ruled by the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:1-3), we NOW live “in Christ” as part of the Age to come. We still live “here”- - but we are citizens of “there”!

    Paul teaches in Romans 5:12-21 that positionally we are born “in Adam” and condemned by God as sinners. Positionally we are conceived in sin “in Adam” (Psa. 51) and we are those characterized as “children of wrath” and separated from God by birth. Paul gives us all the good news that we have a new representative when we receive God’s abundant grace in Jesus Christ (5:17)! We are now positionally “in Christ” and in Christ we are part of a new world, a new creation!

    “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, Behold, a new creation; the new has come, the old has passed away!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

    Romans Chapter Six
    Since we are now represented by Christ because we are “in Christ”, we have peace with God because of being reconciled and we have died to our old selves (Rom. 6:1-6). Paul uses the sign of baptism to show visually to all Christians that because we have been united to Jesus Christ, we have been crucified with him, buried with him, and resurrected with him.

    Just as it is impossible for Christ to die again, so it is impossible for us to die again. Just as it is impossible for Christ to allow sin to be master over him leading to death, so it is impossible for us “in Christ” to be mastered by sin, leading us to death! Notice this great identification with Christ because we are “in Christ”!

    “We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:9-11).

    If we by faith as a family in Christ can find ourselves in this great gospel story in Christ, we will find ourselves growing more mature and in His sweet grace! Notice again the great truth of Romans 6:9-11: As Christ died, we died, and because we are in Christ we will never die again! As Christ lives to God, so we live to God.

    Then Paul uses the first imperative or command in the Book of Romans in Romans 6:11 to direct us in how we should live in light of this reality. He tells we who are part of God’s gospel story to see ourselves as those truly dead to sin and alive to God. This positional reality of being “in Christ” will cause us know that we are different and thus we will act and live different! Sin will not be our master!

    Romans Chapter Seven
    Paul personifies sin in Romans 6:12-7:25 in order to teach us of our great and powerful former master, and to remember that even though his reign has ended, there still remains indwelling sin of which we all need to be soberly and carefully aware. Think of your former sovereign and king who was “King Sin”. “King Sin” died on his throne when you were by faith positionally transferred from Adamic representation to Christic representation (those are cool terms, huh?!). Christ is now your Lord and King!

    However, even though “King Sin” is dead, we oftentimes still live as if he is alive and reigns over us. The remaining influence and fear of “King Sin” is still trying to stay alive within us, hiding sometimes, deceiving us, gnawing at us to live self-centeredly and opposed to God, as if we do not have Christ as our new King, and as though we have NOT been bought with a price and clothed with Christ’s righteousness.

    In fact, anyone who has lived as Christian for 10 minutes (alright 1 second), knows that sin still remains in them. In the Apostle Paul’s life-experience he found that what he wanted to do in fulfilling God’s will in obedience, he did not do. Rather, the evil sin he hated, he did! In fact, the experience of Paul and us with regard to our struggle with sin is so great that even though we know sin is dead, there is a sense in which we say: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). Paul is not contradicting himself form his teaching in Romans 6, he is merely pointing out to us that in experience it will seem at times that we are still “of the flesh” and “sold under sin” even though that is no longer the case (Rom. 6:11-14).

    Our hope at the beginning, middle and end of our Christian lives is always Jesus Christ - -the One who can deliver us from the reign of sin NOW, and ultimately from the remaining taint of sin and death in the resurrection!

    “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25).

    The Apostle Paul’s only hope for present and future full deliverance from sin is our only hope for present and future full deliverance from sin: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” A friend told me quite honestly and yet eloquently the other day: “I need the Lord Jesus as my Savior today just as much the first moment I trusted him!” (I think this is what Jesus meant about the importance of keeping one’s first love- -first (Rev. 2). Not only was my friend correct theologically, but he was correct experientially! Our experience should never teach us our theology, but our theological knowledge can be enhanced by our experiences in the Christian faith!

    Our story as Christians in this world is that we are struggling sinners, and oh! if we could only be candid and honest about this with other Christians. We all struggle not only with sin but with fellowshipping with other Christians. We not only feel sometimes far from God because of our struggle with sin (although His Spirit is within us), we ironically feel far from other believers who God has given to us to aid us in our battle and struggle!

    We know theologically, biblically, and experientially that we all struggle with sin (Romans 7:15-24), yet some fool themselves that they are better than others.

    If John Lennon can imagine some unrealistic utopia, I reckon I can imagine Christians who really would confess their sins to one another, to God, and to sympathize with each other in their struggle. The Apostle Paul tells us that there is not one temptation that is not common to all men (1 Cor. 10:13). Imagine if the next time you struggled with the “sin that so easily besets you, or trips you up” (Heb. 3:12), that you could actually talk to another Christian without feeling judged and ashamed!

    You can! We all can experience this kind of love and support if we will repent as a Christian community of our selfish and judgmental attitudes and learn to be meek, humble, forgiving, understanding, and merciful as Christ is merciful (and this is not an unrealistic utopia)!

    We should all remember that all of us have pasts. We often times fool ourselves into thinking some people’s past is more soiled than our own- -but this is lying to oneself and unbiblical! Some regard their past as somehow more “righteous” and “holy” than others who have actually sinned blatantly before all to see! But if those who think this way would truly consider “righteous” or “holy” then they don’t realize that this itself is their sinful past!

    What I mean is that if one’s past was truly honoring to God, the last thing we would think about ourselves would be that we were “righteous” and “holy”, because we would see our sins (both intentional and unintentional) in thought, word and deed as utterly sinful! In fact, it seems to me if the Apostle Paul can be sanctified in Christ, author of Holy Scripture, an Apostle called of God, AND THE CHIEF OF SINNERS (1 Tim. 1:15), then we shouldn’t think of ourselves higher than we ought with regard to this reality! Paul says:

    The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. (1 Tim. 1:15)

    You want to know about your true past? Paul says we were born “in Adam” and therefore all of us have a sordid and soiled past- - we were children of disobedience and by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:1-3). What do we have today that we can boast about? What do we have by God’s grace today that was not received? (1 Cor. 4). NOTHING! (…and nothing is not a little something, my friends!)

    We all have pasts and I might add “presents” where we need each other to talk and pray with and to understand that we are all in this grand story together! We will all get to heaven the same way: together –that is why Christ doesn’t merely grow individuals, but a Church- -a Bride- - a Body (Eph. 4:11-17; 5:29; Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12).

    Romans Chapter Eight
    And so in chapter 8 of Romans we are reminded that we are no longer condemned (because condemnation is how many of us feel because of our struggle with sin that Paul describes in Romans 7:15-25)! In fact there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus! Even though the Law came in to the world to increase the trespass (Rom. 5:20; Gal. 3:19ff), so that people might look away from themselves to God for grace, some instead tried to live the Law on their own and ending up damning themselves (Rom. 6-7). Sin used the Law as an instrument to provoke and aggravate sin (Rom. 7:5-7).

    Yet what the Law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by our sinful flesh- - GOD DID- -in order that the righteous requirements of the Law might be met by faith in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:3-4). We now have the Holy Spirit who is the Author of the Law living within us, teaching us, and aiding us to uphold the Law that is holy, righteous, and good (Rom. 3:30; 7:11-12). We are not “under law” as a time period before Christ, a time period of being under a guardian (Gal. 3:20-26), but we are now under grace! This grace enables us to live the righteous requirements of the Law by obedience to God’s will (Rom. 6:17) and we long to fulfill it and live it because we love God and His Law in Christ!

    Paul then tells us the most striking and amazing truth in Romans 8:12-25! He tells us the good news that in our story we are now God’s children through adoption. God has taken children of another parent, another evil lord, and placed us in his family. God has not only declared us righteous as in a courtroom, he has invited us into his family.

    Think of this: God is not only the Holy Judge in the courtroom before whom we stand and hear “Not guilty” in Christ (because Christ was pronounced guilty for us!). The Holy Judge steps around from his bench, comes down to us, wraps us in his righteous cloak, and then takes us home to live in his family! What great news! It’s one thing for a judge to let a person leave the courtroom because he was found “not guilty”. It is quite another thing for the judge to now make himself the father of the one formerly guilty of crimes!

    And our crimes were again this Holy Judge! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:8-10)- -how much more shall we be saved by his life at the right hand of God. But this is not the end of the good news!

    God has not only given us His Holy Name in adoption, but he has given us the privilege of suffering along with His Son! We know in our lives that even when the story gets difficult and we are sad, feel alone, and see and experience the consequences of sin in our own lives and in the lives of others that we still have hope “in Christ”!

    Our hope is that we “suffer along with him” (Rom. 8:16-18). We go the “way of the cross” which is suffering and humiliation in this world, as well as the “way of resurrection” which is glory and exaltation in the next!

    Paul wants us to understand the story of our lives from the perspective of being in Christ even when we suffer and find circumstances difficult to bear- -when we most feel like quitting and giving up in the Christian life! Paul says that the tribulation has purpose (Rom. 5:3-5), and it has meaning in Christ, because we suffer in Christ as God’s children in this world of sin and misery.

    So don’t be moved by difficult circumstances, but look to Christ the exalted Lord! As God did not leave Jesus in the tomb, so he will not leave us or forsake us! Rather, he will raise our bodies and we will physically be resurrected to take part in a glorious body like Christ’s (Rom. 8:22-25; 1 Cor. 40-58).

    What a grand and gracious story that has meaning and makes sense of our lives! Whatever comes our way, however we groan with the creation in this present age (Rom. 8:22), we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus! Nothing spiritual or material, holy or demonic, can ever take away God’s love and purpose for us “in Christ”.

    If God be for us, who can indeed be against us?

    Romans Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven
    Paul then addresses some questions that the Jews have had at Rome in chapters 9-11. He finishes what he was explaining in chapter 2-3:8. Paul teaches the election of God, as difficult as this may be to understand for all, so that both Jews and Gentiles will know that salvation is all of grace.

    What is often misunderstood (if not outright rejected) about God’s sovereign election, particularly in Romans 9, is that Paul is teaching why all of Israel according to the flesh has not responded in faith. Some of Israel have responded by faith, such as Paul the Apostle and the other disciples of Jesus. Yet Paul wants all to know the difference between the Israel of faith (Gal. 6:16), and the Israel “according to the flesh”.

    When approaching Romans chapters 9-11 we need to make a distinction between the Israel “according to the flesh” (9:6), and the Israel of faith that Paul says includes Gentiles (11:25-26). We should also remember Paul’s clear teaching that there is no longer Jew or Gentile, and he means this! In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul clearly says that it is not whether you are an Israelite or Gentile “according to the flesh” any longer, what matters is that you are the one New Man created in Christ! Christ has made two men (Jew and Gentile), one New Man in Christ.

    What this means is that Paul is teaching the Jews at Rome that we are to think of ourselves now either “in Adam” or “in Christ”. What was difficult for the Israelites according to the flesh is that they always considered themselves “in Abraham”, not fully realizing that Abraham was “in Adam”- -guilty and condemned as a sinner and only saved by God’s grace and being declared righteous (Rom. 4).

    Israel by faith was, is, and will be saved only “in Christ”. Christ was the only faithful and True Israelite, the only Law-Keeper, and only Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3). In Romans 9, he teaches the mysterious and sovereign election of God in Christ. He explains that God as God has a right to choose and save whom he wants to choose and save (9:19-22).

    This may be a difficult reality in our story, but election is a biblical and true teaching. Paul does not tell us the mind of God in why he saves whom he saves and why he does not save and even hardens some (Rom. 11:5ff), but he does clearly tell us the attitude of faith we should have toward this challenging truth:

    “For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" (Rom. 9:15-20).

    One reason that God gives for election that is clear from the above passage is that all men will know that it is only by grace men are saved: “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” Given the doctrine of depravity in Romans 3, the doctrine of original sin, death and condemnation in Romans 5, it is clear that only if God chooses and elects some will people be saved!

    If no one seeks after God- - no one does good- -no one has anything but cursing, evil, murder, and blood on their lips- -then no one will confess Jesus Christ is Lord apart from the Lordship and choosing of God. As Paul says in Romans 10:13-17:

    “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.”

    The response of faith to the Word of God however, comes from God alone (John 6:37-44; Eph. 2:4-9; Rom. 9:15ff), and many in Israel had not confessed Messiah-Christ, but rejected their Messiah-Christ.

    That is the importance of the proclamation of the Word of God and believing it when it is read, preached, and sung! Remember Israel “according to the flesh” had the very oracles of God (3:1-5; 9:1-6)! Not only the Word of God, but Israel according to the flesh had the very adoption of being in the visible church covenant community, the prophets, the covenants, and the Law (Rom. 9:1-6). Yet many did not respond in faith! In fact, when John the Baptist came preaching repentance, the majority were unrepentant (Matthew 3:1-12).

    When Jesus came preaching and showing the Kingdom of God had come in himself, many of Israel according to the flesh did not believe him. In fact, he told many in Israel according to the flesh that they were the seed of the serpent, rather than the seed of Abraham (John 8:31-58). Why did he call them this? Because the Israel according to the flesh did not do what Abraham did- -believe in the promises of God held out in the Word of God.

    When Stephen preached to the Israelites (while the Apostle Paul was present), they rejected him and killed him as an ambassador of Jesus’ grace! They rejected and killed him as they had done to Jesus and the prophets before him, and he said to them:

    "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." (Acts 7:51-53).

    That is why in Romans 10, the Apostle Paul places such an emphasis and focus on the Word of God and believing it. Notice that even though Paul has a doctrine of election in Romans 9, he is still quick to teach the importance of a preacher of the Word so that many can hear it (Rom. 10:13-17):

    “How will they hear without a preacher?”

    It is important for all people in Christ’s visible church to be reminded about God’s mercy and grace and never to take advantage apathetically and through unbelief the fact that they have the Word of God, Sacraments, and prayer and are part of Christ’s visible Church.

    This is Paul’s point to the Gentiles “not to get a big head” about many of them believing, while many of the Israelites according to the flesh are responding in rejection and unbelief. Yet we can all rest in the promises of God’s sovereign election being fulfilled. We know that God will keep his promises and all of the elect, or the Israel of faith, or the Church, will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). All those whom God has set his love and affection on from the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:1-13) will be saved! As Paul says in Galatians 6:

    “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Gal. 6:15-16).

    And in Romans 2:28-29:

    For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

    After developing this great doctrine throughout the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul them exclaims and extols the majesty and mystery of God in Christ by declaring:

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" 35 "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?" 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36).

    This is a good way for us to respond to the story of God’s salvation in Christ as well. Sometimes it is alright to say to others: “This is what the Bible teaches concerning election and God’s sovereignty and who truly are “Jews” and who are not, yet I don’t fully understand it!” Even the Apostle Paul who had the mind of Christ and was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in the penning of this letter, did not have access to the full depths and wisdom of God’s Perfect, Holy, and Wondrous mind! Even the Apostle Paul who wanted all of his kinsmen according to the flesh to be saved (Rom. 9:1-5), still praised God for knowing best because he knows all things perfectly!

    “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

    Romans Chapter Twelve
    Then the Apostle Paul moves us into the second part of the story of who we are in Jesus Christ by focusing on the imperative. There have been imperatives before now in the letter (starting at Romans 6:11), but this section at the end of the letter (Romans 12-16) is specifically focused on imperative and commands.

    In other words, in many ways Paul has told the story of what God has done in Christ, and who we are in Christ by faith in chapters 1-11 (the indicative). Now he tells us more precisely how we ought to live in light of this reality (the imperative or command). We see this same style of writing in the letter to the Ephesians: chapters 1-3 is primarily concerned with the indicative and chapters 4-6 are focused on the imperative. Where the indicative tells us what has happened in our story so far and what is a reality in our lives because of Christ, the imperative teaches us how we can now live differently in Christ.

    In chapter 12, Paul starts by telling us that the life of learning about our new heritage and inheritance in the New Creation is a life of having our minds transformed by what is true, avoiding the real temptation of being molded into the thinking and living pattern of this present age. Paul says no longer be molded or shaped by this present age, dominated by sin, misery, reign of the devil, that which is “in Adam”, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you can mature in your wisdom, discernment and thinking in order that you will do God’s good and perfect will (Rom. 12:1-3).

    Our spiritual worship and sacrifice is to offer our selves to God in Christ as children. Then Paul goes on to explain how we ought to behave with one another in our congregations and in our families. Notice how he teaches that behavior which is many times so foreign to this present age and in this world. He teaches that because we are new creations in Christ, we are to be sober minded about ourselves, which begins by not thinking of ourselves higher than we ought!

    He teaches us that we are part of one Body of Christ and God has granted us all gifts in order to serve one another (Rom. 12:4-21). Don’t miss two important truths here: (1) We all have gifts, but they’re all unique gifts of God; (2) These unique gifts of God are meant to be used in service to one another. We are to love one another by using the gifts God has given us in order to build up his church!

    This challenges our selfish, competitive, self-centered, and individualistic way of looking at things as “mine” as we did “in Adam”, and makes us realize that whatever we have are gifts of God given for the good of his people “in Christ”. If one can preach, serve, show mercy, speak encouragement, or teach, they are to use these gifts to show love and serve.

    We are called to serve in the visible church, using our gifts in the particular congregation of Christ’s saints to which God has called us. We are not to “float around” to this congregation and then to the next! Rather, we are to find a call to a congregational family who is faithful in Christ, and seek to love and serve them, growing together- - even when the going gets tough (and it does at times!).

    Paul teaches us a truth that is a possibility in our families and congregations because we are “in Christ”: “Let love be genuine; outdo one another in showing honor!” Do you practice this as a Christian? If you are a Christian, then you can. That is the whole point of the indicative and imperative: because you are in Christ and dead to the old self and life (Rom. 6:6), you are freed to serve and love Christ and others as you were created to do!

    No competition or showing one’s greatness to others! We are never to be conceited (Rom. 12:16), but live with each other, sympathizing with each other, caring for one another, and helping one another in our battle with ongoing and indwelling sin (Rom. 12:17-21). Live at peace with all men as far as it is in our power to do so!

    Romans Chapter Thirteen
    In Romans 13:14, Paul teaches us that since we have put off the old self/old man (Rom. 6:6), now put on the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 4:17-25). Paul does not mean that we may be without the Lord Jesus Christ, but that we are to cloth ourselves or put on that which has already been put on us as those united to Jesus Christ by faith.

    Paul teaches Christians the importance of being good citizens of this present world, even though we are truly citizens of the world to come. He tells us that all authority is derived from God himself (Rom. 13:1ff) and therefore we are to show our obedience not only within the Church, but outside it as well, as we live with others in this world until the only government is God’s reign in the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev. 21:1-7). Paul teaches us that love is the fulfilling of the Law (13:10), which is what he has been implicitly teaching all through the letter!

    As soldiers of light in the darkness, we are to bear the armor of our Lord (Eph. 6:10-18) which shields us from the evil one and protects us as the Church Militant on the march to our destination in Heaven. During this march together, or this pilgrimage to change the metaphor, we are to encourage one another and seek ways to build each other up in the Lord (Rom. 14:19). We are to actively pursue peace and love and encouragement toward one another, because our battle is in this world, not with each other.

    Romans Chapter Fourteen
    Paul teaches in Romans 14 that time is short, our march and pilgrimage is not that lengthy, although it will seem so at times (Rom. 13:13ff). “The day is almost spent” and so we do not want to entangle ourselves with battles and struggles within our own army or family in Christ! His main point in Romans 14 is that you have lived for yourself long enough- - now live for others. If something is so important to you that you must do it, or live a certain way in front of a brother or sister, even if you know that it offends or cripples them in their faith, you are selfish and not thinking about love!

    Paul is saying that we no longer live for ourselves. He wants us to understand that there are others weaker in the faith and we do not want to unnecessarily offend them. However, he wants all to grow up in their faith and maturity and doesn’t want any Christian to stay “weak” but to grow strong (cf. 1 Cor. 8). In fact, Paul lists himself along with other “strong brothers”, yet reminds all that if they are weak, help them and do not offend them, for they are your family!

    Remarkably, and a bit ironically and paradoxically, what helps the “weaker” brother become the “stronger” more mature brother is the stronger brother’s love toward the weaker!

    For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Romans 14:7-9).

    Paul ends chapter 14 reminding us of a definition of sin: “Whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). This means that if you cannot do or say something in good conscience before the Lord, then to do it or say it (before the LORD or anyone else) is a sin. Let’s use a modern example of eating (since chapter 14 is about eating in the context of the 1st century). If you can thank God for the first serving of food, but cannot thank him sincerely for the second and third serving of food at one particular sitting, then you are not eating the food in faith, you are being a glutton; you are sinning.

    If we cannot watch certain films, or read certain books or news articles, knowing the LORD Jesus is present with us, we should not do it. For again, whatever is not of faith is sin. For things indifferent, or things that are not strictly forbidden by the Scriptures, we can neither bind the consciences of men making new laws over them, nor be foolish with regard to certain practices in each situation in which we find ourselves. A set list of rules is much easier than striving for wisdom and discernment, yet discernment and wisdom from God the Holy Spirit is the One to Whom we are to seek in order to avoid sinning! A good start is: “Whatever is not of faith is sin.”

    To give an example of this, young people I formerly taught would ask me with regards to relationships and dating: “How far can we go without sinning?” I would respond to them that you have already gone too far and sinned because you are asking. Then I would take them to Romans 14 and remind them that whatever is not of faith is sin. We know when something we do or say is not of faith, but God’s grace is greater and can teach us to be carefully discerning, wise, and loving in our walk before him!

    Romans Chapter Fifteen
    Paul begins the ending of his letter to the Romans and the story to us today in chapter 15. Again, he roots the amazing story of God’s grace upon the Old Covenant. From the beginning of Romans he has rooted the story of God’s salvation in Jesus in the Old Covenant (Rom. 1:3ff), and now he ends the letter in just the same way.

    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name." 10 And again it is said, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." 11 And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him." 12 And again Isaiah says,, "The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope." 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:4-13).

    We truly see the sovereignty of God in history here. Paul says to New Covenant Christians after the resurrection of Christ Jesus that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope!” He ends his letter showing the sovereign purposes of God in electing both those in Israel as well as the Gentiles- -and teaches us to rejoice together as a people in what God has done so graciously for us in Christ! This purpose and vision of Romans 15 was always God’s intent from the beginning of creation, even before the foundation of the earth!

    There is no struggle with thinking that perhaps we will not make it successfully in our Christian pilgrimage to the Promised Land, that we will not be holy enough, that what he counseled us all to do in chapters 12-14 might not be fulfilled in us!

    In fact, our confidence in sanctification and holiness and growing into Christ-likeness is in the same grace and promises of God that we believed when we first became children of God.

    As God’s children we can rest in his sovereignty and rule and love over and in our lives! Paul says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:12-13). We truly have hope that He who began a good work in us will complete it (Phil. 1:6).

    Paul ends his letter with some great benedictions, knowing God will complete the work he has begun in the Church at Rome, as well as in us today:

    “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God….May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” (Rom. 15:5-7, 33).
    Romans Chapter Sixteen
    Then, if this is not enough, Paul ends with chapter 16. His last words are words we want to remember as a congregation and family until Christ returns! These last words if you will are final words that we must take with us on our pilgrimage, keeping them close in our memories each day and remembering them by faith as a people. Paul says to the congregation that now lives in God’s story of salvation that they are never to forget that they are real characters in this story together:

    Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you. 17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you….

    Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith- 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen (Rom. 16:16-27).

    We are to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The serpent is “still in the garden” so to speak! As a family in Christ on our pilgrimage to the Promised Land, we need to constantly remember that although we have a foretaste of Eschatological-Edenic experience and joy in Christ’s Church (Rom. 5:5), the serpent is still deceiving!

    The Evil One is still trying to turn brothers and sisters in Christ against one another. We must remember this constant threat of this serpent, knowing he has been defeated by Christ’s cross (Col. 2:9-16), yet still has access to the church (cf. Rev. 2-3). Paul says focus on his defeat, the fact that God will actually crush the serpent’s head under the church’s feet! Don’t miss this! Even though Christ won the decisive victory in his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, God will use those “in Christ” to ultimately “crush his head”. Despite the division and disunity that appears in Christ’s Church, it is this singular Body and Bride who will as a unity crush the evil one!

    “The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet! (Rom. 16:20).

    Paul reminds us at the end of Romans, to greet each other in a loving, family-like manner (“with a holy kiss”), being on our guard not only against false doctrines and teachings, but those who are divisive. The evil one uses false doctrines and teachings, even carelessness with regard to Biblical teaching, in order to divide the Church of Jesus Christ.

    It is most important today to realize, in an age where theology and Biblical teaching is actually blamed for division because some want to hold to the truth as precisely as they can, that it is not the truth that causes division, but the lack of understanding the truth that causes division and problems in congregations! Don’t miss this important truth: A lack of understanding the truth is what is used to divide!

    “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Rom. 16:17-18).

    Our goal as the people of God is to strive to understand the Scriptures to the best of our ability “together with all the saints”, both living and dead (Eph. 3:18). This means that if we are to avoid teachings or doctrines contrary to what the Bible teaches, we need to understand a little bit of how the Bible has been misunderstood in the past. By God’s grace, we want to be sanctified by the Word, the truth of God, as Jesus prayed for his people in John 17:

    ‘Sanctify them by your truth; your Word is truth.”

    Let us as the people of God keep in mind and prayerfully seek to better understand the teaching and doctrine found in the Book of Romans, so that we might by faith grow in maturity and respond in obedience to what God has called us to as His people. Let us as the people of God seek to honor each other above ourselves and to know who we are in the story of Redemptive-History and how we can now live in this story by His grace!

    Remember: Christ is the Lord who has sought you and bought you with his own blood so as to make you like him and to live with him and see him as he is one day (1 John 3:1-3). Let us know the truth of who we are in Christ and to live that truth together by his grace as a people who love because God has first loved them!

    Rev. Charles R. Biggs
    Copyright © A Place for Truth 2007-2008
    For sermons from the Romans Series:

    Posted by Charles Biggs on February 2, 2007 08:52 AM

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