Book of Romans Chapter 2

Chapter 2 part 2

Scripture taken from the NRSV translation

Paul has established two central truths……
1. All mankind did engage in and continues to engage in rebellion and depravity.
2. Gentiles are clearly guilty of disobeying the truth.
We need to remember that Paul’s key audience are the Jewish leaders of this church and they must begin to see themselves under the same condemnation of sin as the Gentiles.

Romans 2: 17-24
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God
18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law,
19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth,
21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?
22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples?
23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?
24 For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.’

We need to remember that not all members of this church were Jews, but there is still a Jewish factor in the church. Now Paul very carefully attacks that key factor of Jewish self-righteousness. We get a sense of what Paul’s dealing with here, we should look at the discussion between Jesus and Pharisees in John’s gospel. The Pharisees were unbelieving men, even though they thought of themselves to be very righteous men. They clung to their heritage as their basis for salvation, after all they would be saved just because they were Jew, descended from Abraham.

John 8: 31-44
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples;
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
33 They answered him, ‘We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, “You will be made free”?’

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever.
36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word.
38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’
39 They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did,
40 but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
41 You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’
42 Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.
44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Jesus is telling them that they are not who they think they are; they are not God’s children, but in fact, they are slaves of sin, and are condemned by their sin. Jesus calls them out repeatedly for their hypocrisy, even as they declare their innocence. The Pharisees are dismayed at Jesus accusation, since they see themselves as the height of righteousness after all they are born of Abraham, they bear the name Jew, as Paul says in Romans, and as such, they are saved and automatically going to heaven. Jesus clearly contradicts that logic, saying that their physical birth gives them no automatic place in heaven. And so Paul says that if you bear the name Jew, you better not rest on that alone. Have you noticed that we still do this today, but in a Christian version of the same error.

We already talked about the name Jew, those who relied on their birth heritage from Abraham. Now Paul moves through a list of assumed advantages of being a Jew, they rely upon law, they boast in God, they know His will, and approve the things that are essential. And with these advantages, the Jews secured a superior attitude. They were the ones leading the blind Gentile nation into the truth, and they can correct the foolish and disciple the immature concerning how to please God, and based on their having access to a form of God’s knowledge of truth. In these statements, Paul simply repeats the prevailing attitudes and beliefs common to the Jewish culture. Even though Paul gave careful argument for how all men are corrupt by nature and under condemnation, the Jews still didn’t get it.

Paul asked them to consider the various ways in which they fall short of the very rules and standards they claim are their advantage. As Jews, they claim to be an authority on righteousness for others. Paul ask them a list of questions, do Jews steal, do they commit adultery, do the take idols from temples for their own use? So the Jews are breaking the very Law that they brag about. How is this an honor to God? Then Paul quotes Isaiah 52:5 to them, through a Jewish prophet, God spoke to them saying that he behavior of the Jewish nation didn’t reflect righteousness. It shamed the name of God among the Gentile nations.

Romans 2: 25-29
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law.
28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical.
29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.

Paul now introduces the final, and perhaps the most personal symbol of righteousness within the Jewish culture – circumcision. Circumcision was an outward sign given to the Jewish of the Abraham Covenant. Paul says that if the sign was going to signify righteousness, it would only be because the person was completely obedient to the Law. But if someone has a label of uncircumcised, but they were to live according to the Law, so it’s the ones who are actually righteous who wear the label of righteousness.

That last verse does shed some insight on where Paul is headed in his letter. True circumcision was never meant to be an act in the flesh of the human body. God gave men the physical circumcision to observe a covenant and to point to a redeemer. But the Jews came to think that circumcision automatically gave them righteousness and eternal security. But Paul says that there is a kind of circumcision that does grant righteousness. There is circumcision of the heart, given by the Spirit.

Book of Romans Chapter 2

Chapter 2     Part 1
Scripture taken from the NRSV translation

So Paul finishes his introduction on unrighteousness, now he will add fuel to the fire. Does being a Gentile or being a Jew give either one an advantage in the question of who is righteous?

Romans 2: 1-4
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
2 You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’
3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?
4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Man has no excuse for their sin before God. And Paul says that we who pass judgment on others condemn ourselves, so when we point fingers at who deserves God’s punishment for the things that they have done, we are also pointing fingers at ourselves. What might a person say if someone tells them that they might face God’s wrath for their sin. Some would say, as Paul repeats verse 3, that somehow it won’t apply to me, that I have improved a lot plus I know people who are a lot worse than me. God will understand, He will see me for who I tried to be and He will overlook my failures. As Paul says, do you suppose that we will escape God’s judgment? Maybe we assume that everything will work out because we think “so far, so good.” Paul says that we are thinking lightly of God’s kindness, tolerance and patience. Are we taking something for granted? We have an opportunity to repent of our sin.

2 Peter 3: 8-10
8 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.
9 The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Peter repeats Paul’s words. As the world waits for God’s judgment to happen as promised it hasn’t minimized God’s plan to carry it through. Judgment day hasn’t arrived yet, plus we shouldn’t take some comfort in the fact the we haven’t faced our own personal reckoning, both are coming. You could say that God’s delay is his patience and kindness towards sinners.

Romans 2: 5-8
5 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.
6 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds:
7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.

The time God has given us to repent of our disobedience and rebellion actually becomes our opportunity to increase God’s wrath, His anger against us. God renders to each according to their deeds (Psalm 62:12). God doesn’t show favoritism, and He doesn’t change the rules, you could say we each will get what we deserve. For those who seek to do good and glory and honor, they will receive eternal life. For those who seek for themselves, those who obey unrighteousness will receive God’s wrath. This moment is described in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 20: 11-15
11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.
13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.
14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire;
15 and anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

On one hand in verse 8 Paul says all men are guilty and are under the same sentence of condemnation. But then Paul just said that God deals with people according to their deeds. Well the answer is found in those verses in Revelation. So in Revelation for those who were not found in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire, in other words eternal punishment, and all those who are in the book of life, survive. So Paul says God is fair to judge men according to their deeds, and so He does.

Now Paul is ready to deal with the issue of Gentile vs Jew.

Romans 2: 9-13
9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
11 For God shows no partiality.
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

Paul says that judgment falls equally for the Jews as to the Gentiles, God does not play favorites. We want to see this from a positive perspective of God being an equal opportunity savior. But Paul is speaking from a negative perspective of God being an equal opportunity punisher. Whether reward or punishment it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, Gentile or Jew.

Then Paul begins a comparison between what the Jews knew and received from God in terms of knowledge, as compared to the Gentiles and what they received and knew. For example, the Jews received instructions from God called the Law. But the Gentiles received no such instructions. Because of this Law does this make the Jews more guilty and the Gentiles less guilty? Or maybe it works the opposite way. Paul explores those possibilities and he begins with the Gentiles. Paul says that all who have sinned without the Law also perish without the Law, so those without the Law are Gentiles. Those under the Law, Jews, will find themselves judged by the Law, they will be held accountable for their inability to keep the Law. What about if the Gentiles play the “claim of ignorance” card?

Romans 2: 14-16
14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves.
15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them
16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.

Our conscience betrays us. As Gentiles, we still have a sense of right and wrong. Paul suggest that when the Gentile is doing the work of the Law, then they show evidence that God’s expectations have been revealed to them, and that the Gentile are showing obedience to God in their action. Paul’s saying that God reveals Himself to men apart from the Law given through Moses. So when the Gentiles feel a sense of guilt over their mistakes, they are bearing witness to the fact that they knew better.

To be continued

 

Book of Romans Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Scripture taken from the NRSV translation

Now we return to the beginning of Paul’s letter on righteousness, beginning with his theme statement
Romans 1: 16-17
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’

Paul was saying he was not ashamed to preach the gospel anywhere because it was the power of God for salvation. Then Paul gives his theme statement which is referred to in Habakkuk 2:4
4 Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.

The righteous live by faith, the righteousness of God. But what does Paul mean by this phrase? It’s meaning in the New Testament comes mostly from the Old Testament Hebrew understanding of the word:
1. It means being declared innocent in a law of court – justified
2. It describes an attribute of God
3. It means God’s faithfulness to His promise.
So salvation is found in the righteousness of God. So Paul says he preaches the gospel because it was the means of revealing God’s righteousness through the faith of men.

Are we a good person?
Luke 18: 18-19
18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
19 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

Here Paul is ready to give us his best explanation of men reaching for heaven, how the righteousness of God is revealed in them. Man is not always good and they are not 100% bad, only God alone is good. So Paul sets about proving that God’s righteousness is revealed through the gospel by pointing out our needs first.
Romans 1: 18-23
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth.
19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;
21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools;
23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

Paul is now talking about how wrath is revealed, rather than righteousness. Paul isn’t speaking to just one section of society but is speaking to all men, God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness in men. God’s wrath is revealed against them because mankind can generally understand God is evident yet nevertheless reject him. His invisible attributes are visible in the creation itself.
Psalm 19: 1-4
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

We can understand a lot about God by examining what has been made, Paul says in verse 20. A God of power, a God of order not chaos, a God of mercy, a God of purpose, and a God of wrath against rebellion. Not only did God reveal Himself in the creation but to certain men once knew God personally verse 21. That verse further tells us that they knew God, they didn’t honor Him as God or give-thanks, they rebelled, their hearts were darkened.

The second step in rebellion was idolatry.
Genesis 4:25-26
25 Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, because Cain killed him.’
26 To Seth also a son was born, and he named him Enosh. At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.

Genesis 6: 5-8
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of humankind was great in the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually.
6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made humankind on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
7 So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’
8 But Noah found favor in the sight of the Lord.

When Noah’s father was alive, Adam was still alive. In other words, the wickedness of earth was great, and yet the first man was still alive on earth. That’s why Paul can say that men knew God.

Now let’s look at what did God do?
Romans 1: 24-32
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,
27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done.
29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips,
30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Third and final stage of rebellion: impurity. God gave them over to their lust. Looking again at verse 17-18, God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel being received in faith. The negative is also true, God reveals His wrath for unrighteousness by giving men over to their lust. Verse 28, as they disapproved of God in their minds, so He also gave them over to depraved minds. Their minds led them to all manner of greed, envy, murder, strife, and malice. All the sin we see in the world today, all the bad things that mark our world is the result of disobedient men and women.

What conclusion can we make from Paul’s opening?
Romans 2: 1-2
1 Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.
2 You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’

All men are guilty and we are all under the same sentence of condemnation.

The Book of Romans Paul

The beginning
Romans 1: 1-7 (NRSV)
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, 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 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh
4 and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name,
6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,
7 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s salutation to the Romans is very similar to many other letters. Paul first identifies who he is, that he serves the Lord with joy and personal commitment. He also defends his authority to teach and that he was called to be an apostle and set apart to preach the Gospel. The Roman church, the Jewish believers probably remember turmoil that a man called Saul committed against the church in Jerusalem. Paul let them know that God took him off that path and set him on this new mission of life, a mission he felt obligated to pursue.

Then Paul describes what his mission was, and that is the gospel, through the prophets in the Scriptures concerning Jesus, the descendant of David by the flesh. And yet Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power over the resurrection of the dead by the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ the Lord. This is Paul’s mission to spread the good news. The beginning of Paul’s letter appeals to the Jewish believers.

In verse 5 Paul begins to make a path between the wounded pride of the Roman church and himself. Paul tells them that through Jesus, we have received grace and apostleship, meaning that the Jewish church shares a common mission of apostleship. And together they have received grace, the opportunity of sharing the gospel message to others, mainly the Gentiles. Paul suggest a common mission with the Jewish church, to bring about the obedience of faith to the Gentiles for Jesus sake.

Paul says to the Jewish church that he is writing to glorify the grace of God to them. In this salutation Paul knows that he needs to repair damage and he needs to win them over. Paul begins to appeal to their pride, at least for the moment, and he appeals to their sense of superiority as Jewish believers. Paul is carefully bring them to his side by describing to them as sharing in his mission. Paul plays to their pride, their feeling of superiority that they are above the rest of the church.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world.
9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers,
10 asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you.
11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you—
12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.
13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles.
14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish
15 — hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul continues the charm in verse 8, though his words are completely sincere and honest. Paul thanks the Lord for this church, because their faith is well known through out the Empire. The Jewish church was rich, it was wise and very knowledgeable group of believers, it was a large group and they were still growing; and yet they weren’t known for their money, knowledge or size. This church was known for there faith, their strong belief in the gospel. Paul let them know that he holds them up as an example to the other churches. That Paul thinks highly of them and their work for the sake of the gospel.

Paul says his prayers are to be able to grace them with his presence and offer a spiritual gift. This does not mean he’s giving gifts, but rather a spiritual benefit or gift to the church that they would be a source of help to him in establishing and maintaining other churches. Paul continues to place his ministry on equal terms with the Roman church. Paul in verse 13 saying, I really want you to know that I want to come bear spiritual fruit with you – even as I have within the Gentile church, but he has been prevented from coming. And what or whom would prevent Paul from coming to them? It’s been hinted at or pointed to the Holy Spirit, and why would God prevent Paul from going to the Roman church? Paul does say he has a commitment to Greek and barbarians, to the wise and foolish. Paul tells them he is under authority by the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to these people rather than them, the Roman church. Paul defends his absence by saying he wasn’t ashamed of the gospel and that he’s to bring the gospel to everyone, even the learned Jewish believers. The words of the gospel hold the power to save men. Unless we deliver the gospel of Christ, we do not bring the power of God to save. Paul says the message must go to the Jews first then the Gentiles.

Study Questions on Romans

Chapter 1

1. What does it mean to be a “servant” of Christ?
2. What is the doctrine of “election”? What bearing does 1:1 have on your concept of the doctrine? What bearing does 1:7 have?
3. Is there any evidence in Paul’s writings that he had knowledge of Jesus’ virgin birth?
4. What concept do we think of when we find the Scriptures called “holy”?

5. What “part” of the nature of Christ is spoken of when Paul uses the word “spirit of holiness”?
6. What evidence is adduced to prove that Jesus is the Son of God?
7. What is the significance of the plural word “dead” (1:4)?
8. Explain “obedience of faith.” Give at least two possibilities.
9. What evidence of the deity of Christ is found in chapter 1?
10. If the saints in Rome received what Paul wished for them as in verse 7, what would it mean to them? Just what is the “grace” that God and Christ were to give to them?
11. What is significant in the order “grace” and then “peace”? Can peace come before grace? Why?
12. What ideas about prayer life can we learn from chapter 1?
13. What is included in the “spiritual blessing” which Paul wished to impart to the Romans?
14. Compare and contrast the “Gospel” and the “Law.”
15. What is the “righteousness” of God?
16. List several interpretations of what is meant by the words “from faith unto faith” found in verse 17. Give the strong points and weaknesses of each interpretation. What can be said about Today’s English Version’s translation “faith alone”?
17. Beginning at 1:18, what is the point of Paul’s argument?
18. Where has the “wrath of God” been revealed? Not From where, but where? To say simply “from heaven” will not answer the whole question. If you wanted to show someone the revelation of God’s wrath, where would you look?
19. What is the difference between “ungodliness” and “unrighteousness”?
20. What is meant by “divinity” (v. 20)?
21. What ideas are included in the language “God gave them up”?
22. Where did men get a “true knowledge” of God? (1:28)
23. List the sins –in terminology you understand –that men do when they reject God. Then examine your own life prayerfully in the light of this list.
24. How did “men” know God’s “ordinance”? (1:32)
25. According to chapter 1, why had Paul become an apostle?