A Resume of the Epistle to the Romans
W. Fraser Naismith, Kilmarnock
AN INTRODUCTION TO BIBLE READINGS
The generally accepted divisions of this Epistle are as follows:
i. Chapters 1 to 8 - Doctrinal, ii. Chapters 9 to 11 - Dispensational. iii. Chapters 12 to 16 - Practical (Devotional). The spiritual contents of this letter are found in four "therefores", each one of the four commencing a chapter:
i. 1: The "therefore" of man's ruin and God's righteousness,
ii. 5. 1: The "therefore" of justification by faith for access into this grace wherein we stand,
iii. 8. 1: The "therefore" of sanctification by faith for life,
12. 1: The "therefore" of consecration by faith for service.
The Epistle to the Romans is a masterly treatise on righteousness and justification: yea, the greatest extant.
The Epistle opens with a court-room drama. God is the Judge on the bench; the Attorney is the apostle Paul; the Substitute is the Lord Jesus Christ; and the prisoners at the bar of justice are three - in chapter 1 the base and degraded Roman appears in the dock; in 2.1-11 the cultured philosopher from the ranks of the Greeks stands his trial. (It is worthy of note that the Holy Spirit differentiates between the Greeks and the Barbarians in 1.14; and the usage of the word "Greek" in 2. 9, io is important). From 2. 12 to 3. 20 the Hebrew ritualist appears before the Judge who examines him as He did the others with meticulous care. The summing up of the Judge is contained in 3. 21-23; His finding is - "there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God". We recall that when our Lord was crucified they wrote over His head in letters of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, "This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews". (The Hebrew appears in chapter 3; the Greek in chapter 2; and the Roman in chapter 1). No sooner has the verdict been given and man's ruin established, then there is One who operates toward the guilty prisoners in the dock.
The positive side of the truth of justification is explained in the closing verses of chapter 3 and the opening verses of chapter 5. It is justification by Grace - the Source - for the spring is in heaven, and is the work of the Father, 3.24. It is by Blood - the Means - shed on earth, and it is the work of the Son, 3. 25. It is by Faith - the Condition - this is effected within us - the work of the Holy Spirit, 3. 30; 5. 1. It is important to observe that the Triune God co-operates in this fundamental truth of justification.
The negative side of justification is emphasised in chapter 4. It is not secured by good deeds, vv. 1-8. It is not obtained by religious acts, vv. 9-12. It is not procured by law-keeping, vv. 13-25.
Chapter 5 introduces us to a New Head - not Adam, but Christ.
Chapter 6 reveals that we have a New Master - not Sin, but Christ.
Chapter 7 relates to a New Husband - not Law, but Christ.
Chapter 8 is the Victory chapter of the Epistle; but ere we can appreciate the triumph that is ours we have to learn that "in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing", 7. 18. Many will acknowledge that there is a lot of bad in them; but few, if any, are prepared to admit that there is no good in them at all. There are no short cuts to Romans chapter 8!
Chapters 9 to 11 are dispensational in character, with emphasis laid on the sovereignty of God. He set aside the Hebrew and brings in the Gentile. He declares "there is no difference" between Jew or Greek; not only as to the fact of them being sinners; but in the fact that divine grace can be enjoyed by both, 10. 12. He also assures us that Israel will one day be reinstated in the place of divine favour, and shall be the head of the nations and not the tail, Deut. 28. 13.
Chapters 12 to the end of 15 are practical in their import: they unfold the believer's responsibility toward himself, toward the assembly, toward society, toward authorities, toward things that are doubtful, yea, toward the world. The benediction of the apostle Paul is found in 15. 13. Chapter 16 has been wisely designated "the neglected chapter" and it is full of loving salutations.
This Epistle opens with "your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world", and it closes with "your obedience is come abroad unto all men"; in these two statements true Christianity is defined, Faith, 1. 8; Faithfulness, 16. 19.