Jesus Christ is - The Wonderful One
To Him be the glory both now and forever.  Amen.

Romans Book Study

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God… Romans 1:1

Christ the Lord has come and is revealed to us in the four gospel accounts. What was veiled and prefigured in the Old Testament is revealed and realized in the New. After the gospel narratives, the book of Acts is introduced. It shows the development of the church from its infancy to the point where it was ready to replace Israel as a light to the nations during Israel’s second exile.

In the book of Acts, an immense amount of information and structure is given to show us how things transition from the early Jewish church to the predominantly gentile church which would carry the spiritual banner of the message of Jesus Christ for the next 2000 years. As incredible as it seems, this handing over the banner to the gentiles was prophesied in the blessing Noah pronounced upon his sons Shem and Japheth in Genesis 9:26, 27.

Acts begins in Jerusalem and Peter is the main focus of chapters 1-12. Acts ends in Rome and Paul is the main focus of chapters 13-28. Within these parallel divisions are underlying parallels which show the banner being passed and it is necessary to show them in order to understand the significance of what is coming in Paul’s epistles –


1. Peter’s work began by the Holy Spirit (2)

1. Paul’s work began by the Holy Spirit (13)

2. Peter was thought to be drunk and & then explains himself (2)

2. Paul was thought to be mad and then explains himself (26)

3. Peter’s first sermon begins new section of book (2)

3. Paul’s first sermon begins new section of book (13)

4. Peter has a time of work, preaching, and then persecution (2-11)

4. Paul has a time of work, preaching, and then persecution (13-19)

5. Peter has trouble after healing a man lame from birth (3)

5. Paul has trouble after healing a man lame from birth (14)

6. Peter says, “Silver and gold have I none” (3)

6. Paul says, “I have coveted no one’s silver or gold” (20)

7. Peter’s shadow heals (5)

7. Paul’s handkerchief heals (19)

8. Peter is arrested in the temple and taken to Sanhedrin (4, 5)

8. Paul is arrested in the temple and taken to Sanhedrin (21-23)

9. Peter confronts Simon the sorcerer (8)

9. Paul confronts Elymas the sorcerer (13)

10. Peter performs an exorcism (5)

10. Paul performs an exorcism (16)

11. Peter raises Tabitha from the dead (9)

11. Paul raises Eutychus from the dead (20)

12. Peter lays hands for reception of Spirit (8)

12. Paul lays hands for reception of Spirit (19)

13. Peter worshipped (10)

13. Paul worshipped (14)

14. Peter imprisoned with miraculous escape (12)

14. Paul imprisoned with miraculous escape (16)

15. Angel stood by Peter (12)

15. Angel stood by Paul (27)

16. Peter called by vision to preach in Caesarea (10)

16. Paul called by vision to preach in Macedonia (16)

17. Peter’s success brings Jewish jealousy (5)

17. Paul’s success brings Jewish jealousy (13)

18. Peter heals the bedridden Aeneas (9)

18. Paul heals the bedridden father of Publius (28)

19. Peter ordains deacons (6)

19. Paul ordains elders (14)

20. Peter is “filled with the Spirit” (4)

20. Paul is “filled with the Spirit” (13)

Along with these many parallels, Paul will state in his writings four times that he is the Apostle to the Gentiles and twice that Peter is the Apostle to the Jews. This then is the significance of these parallels. They are highlighted for our understanding of the immense importance of Paul’s 13 epistles – Romans to Philemon. He is the instructor of the church which has been led by the sons of Japheth since the exile of Israel in AD70.

To dismiss Paul and his writings then is to reject church doctrine and thus there is no cohesion to the Christian message. This has increasingly been the case in the past 150 years or so as the church has become more liberal and turned from Paul in an attempt to be more “tolerant” and less firm on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Acts ends in Rome, it is fitting that God established the order of the epistles beginning with Romans. This is the “constitution of Christianity” and it gives wonderfully valuable insights into the Person and work of Jesus Christ and it also gives important information concerning the times when Israel will again carry the spiritual banner of God’s message. To misunderstand Paul’s words in Chapters 9-11 leads to a “spiritualization” of much of the Old Testament. These unfulfilled Old Testament passages will be realized in Israel of the future, not the church.

The book of Romans has 433 verses and so it will take more than a year to complete. When we are finished, hopefully we will have a much fuller understanding of the glory of what God has done for us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Although this is a long introduction so far, we could actually go on for much, much longer and still not glean all that is necessary to understand what is coming. However, to get to verse 1, we must move on. Here in verse 1 Paul introduces himself using four terms – bondservant, called, apostle, and separated. Two of these terms describe his state before the Lord – bondservant and apostle. The other two are how that state came about – he was called and separated.

Paul’s original name was Saul, however, in the book of Acts we see the transition of his name from Saul to Paul. Paul means “small” and he is actually prefigured all the way back in the account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah when Lot fled to a town call Zoar. God selected Paul and placed hints of him in Genesis to show us what He would do through this wonderful and hardy soul.

As “‘a bondservant’ of Jesus Christ” he is a slave, belonging to Him entirely and he merits no payment for his duties. His calling by the Lord was as an apostle – a sent one; a chosen messenger. And finally he was “separated to the gospel of God.” He was consecrated to be a herald of this message and as the book of acts and his personal writings reveal, he conducted his duties in a manner which brought great honor to his Lord. He performed his duties well.

Heavenly Father, we have started on a great adventure and we ask that You be with us, guide us, and keep us from straying from the intent and purpose that You have desired for us as we consider this beautiful book, Romans. Thank You Lord for Your hand of instruction and your Spirit of wisdom upon us during our journey! Amen.

which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,… Romans 1:2

Paul builds upon yesterday’s verse and will continue to do so after this one and therefore we will continue a full quote to keep proper context –

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,…”

“Which He promised before” is speaking of the “gospel of God” and is therefore relating back to Paul’s status as “a bondservant of Christ” and his calling as an apostle. We have to remember as we read the New Testament, that there was no New Testament until it was written. Therefore, the promise came from the Old Testament. That which was given “before” is what Paul is speaking of and it came “through His prophets.”

Nowhere in the Bible will we find this thought contradicted and many times it will be supported. Two important verses to understand divine inspiration are –

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17

knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20, 21

Memorizing these verses is recommended, or at least memorizing their location. The Bible was received, in its entirety, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore God’s word to mankind and thus there can be no other truly “holy” books. Any other religious or philosophical texts may have value, but none are authoritative when speaking of the things of God. The gospel message, which was anticipated in the Old Testament, stands as God’s plan of salvation to the people of the world.

Lord Jesus, Your word speaks of You and Your glory. Help us to read it, study it, cherish it, and live by it all the days of our lives. Give us the strong will and desire to share it with others as well. May You favor our studies and bless us as we seek Your glorious face through it. To Your honor and glory we pray this. Amen.

concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,… Romans 1:3

Again, to ensure context, we quote the entire thought thus far –

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,…”

Paul is establishing his baseline for the entire epistle and he is doing it in a way that no one except a fool or someone who comes to the text with presuppositions could miss. Paul is a herald of the “gospel of God” of which all of the prophets and the Scriptures testify and which concerns “His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” If all of Scripture testifies to this One, then He is the focus of all that God is doing through redemptive history and therefore He is the Lord – Jesus is “Jehovah” of the Old Testament revealed in His fullness in the New.

Paul’s explanation of Jesus begins with the fact that He is God’s Son. This will be explained and clarified in the time ahead. Son-ship can come through procreation or adoption, but we get a hint at where Paul is leading with his next thought – Jesus “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” This then tells us, as the gospels, Acts, and surely the entire Bible tells us, that Jesus was born into the stream of humanity. “Of the seed of David” ensures that we understand He is the fulfillment of all of the Messianic promises. These include everything from Genesis 3:15, through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. David was the final peg in the line of promises and it is through His house that the realization of these promises would come about. We read of the Lord’s promise to David in 2 Samuel –

““When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”’” 2 Samuel 7:12-16

Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the Old Testament prophesies and promises just as Paul notes in this early verse. Noting this establishes the coming context of the epistle.

What an amazing and beautiful treasure Your word is, O God. It is woven together so beautifully and with such excellence that we can only look into its pages with awe and wonderment. Glory to You in the highest for the wonder revealed in its pages! Amen.

and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Romans 1:4

Paul completes the opening portion of his statement which comes prior to naming the addressees of his letter. To ensure context let us quote the entire thought –

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”

This final portion states that Jesus Christ is “declared to be the Son of God…by the resurrection of the dead.” This has wrongly led to the belief and occasional teaching that Jesus was only officially declared to be God’s Son because of the resurrection. This is not Paul’s intent here. Jesus is hinted as the Son of God even in the Old Testament and explicitly noted as such throughout the gospel accounts.

What this is stating is that the resurrection is the sure proof of the fact. His conception by the Holy Spirit in a virgin’s womb is all that is needed to assure us that Jesus is the God/Man. However, His resurrection proves it. Here are the necessary points and two syllogisms which work backward from the resurrection to demonstrate this –

Adam sinned and through him all have received his fallen state. The Bible treats this as an axiom. We are, as Jesus said in John 3:18 “condemned already.” Sin transfers through the man, but not through the woman (symbolized by the rite of circumcision – cutting away the sin nature). Thus there was a need for a man to born of a woman, but not of a man. This was hinted at in Genesis 3:15. This Man is Jesus.

Jesus was born of God and Mary and therefore He was born without inheriting Adam’s sin. And yet He is fully human. The resurrection is 100% conditional upon the virgin birth. No virgin birth equals no resurrection because inherited sin would disqualify that. This is why babies don’t resurrect even though they have never committed intentional sin.

However, the virgin birth doesn’t guarantee the resurrection. Nor does living a sinless life if one isn’t virgin born. Both the virgin birth and a sinless life are conditions for the resurrection. If Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, then He would have inherited Adam’s sin. But even if He was born of a virgin, He would still need to live perfectly sinless throughout His entire life.

1) The resurrection is conditional upon a sinless life.

A sinless life is conditional upon the virgin birth.

Therefore, the resurrection proves the virgin birth.

2) The resurrection proves the virgin birth.

The virgin birth proves Jesus was born of God and of Mary.

Therefore, Jesus is God’s Son – the God/Man.

The resurrection is the definitive declaration that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God with power.”

Within this verse is also the note that this is “according to the Spirit of holiness.” This is probably speaking of the fact that Jesus is both divine and human rather than of the Holy Spirit. His divine nature, perfectly demonstrated in His sinless humanity, resulted in the resurrection. Either way, because both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are fully God, the end result comes out the same. Within the Godhead, Jesus Christ is the second member of the Trinity. Therefore His Spirit is divine and the Holy Spirit testifies to this.

What a glorious mystery is revealed in the Person of Jesus, O God. How wonderful it is to contemplate and search out these mysteries in Your word and to come to an understanding of who You are and what You have done through Him! Great and awesome are You! Amen.

Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name… Romans 1:5

“Through Him” is speaking of Jesus – the One born of the seed of David as a human being and who is “the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It is through this God/Man that Paul has “received grace.” Grace is unmerited divine assistance which is given to us and which will carry us through every need and step of our spiritual life in Christ. It is a virtue which comes externally from God and without our assistance. It cannot be earned because it is unmerited. This is the heart of the gospel message. What we can’t do for ourselves, God did for us through His Son.

Paul also states he received “apostleship.” It must be understood that this letter is written from Paul as an apostle to those who are “the called of Jesus Christ” (v 6) and “saints” (v 7). He is not stating that we are all apostles. Apostleship is a commission and is designated for a certain group of people at a certain time in redemptive history; sometimes called the “apostolic age.”

Jesus founded His church and anointed a group of men to establish it and then to receive and retransmit His message, which is the Holy Bible. The apostolic age ended with the sealing of the book of Revelation, because the purpose of the age ended at that time. Far too often, people attempt to claim titles to which they have no right. Such is the case with the title of “apostle.”

Paul continues by stating that he and those so commissioned have received this grace and their apostleship “for obedience to the faith among all the nations for His name…” Obedience to the faith is the gospel message, not the works associated with it but the very basis for any works – belief.

The gospel is one of faith which comes by grace (Ephesians 2:8, 9). The calling comes first and it is united with faith. Only then is a title bestowed. In Paul’s case, he is an apostle. The designation came after salvation not before, and therefore his commitment to the gospel message preceded his commitment to carry out the task of proclaiming it.

This is the logical progression for each person who is called. The grace is given, the faith is exercised, the title is granted, and the carrying out of the task is conducted. Far too often, the logical progression is violated and therefore confusion or cunning takes over. How many carry out the task without the calling? How many claim the calling without the faith? How many claim the faith without having received the grace?

If we follow the logical and necessary steps of the faith, we will keep from straying and our doctrine will be pure. It is “obedience to the faith” which will bring honor to Christ. Let us not skip steps or run ahead without the proper foundation lest we bring reproach upon the glorious name of our Lord.

Lord Jesus, You have offered us Your grace. Now help us to accept it by faith and receive Son-ship in Christ. Then O Lord, spur us on to great deeds for Your name’s sake and for Your glory. Be with us each step of the way and help us to be faithful and enduring witnesses to Your glory and the truth of Your gospel message. Amen.

among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;… Romans 1:6

For context, we will cite the entire thought thus far – “Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;…”

As you can see now, Paul has drawn a distinction between his calling which was the same as the other apostles and those whom he is addressing in Rome. “Among all nations” includes the Roman addressees. Paul’s calling is one of an apostle to witness the work of Christ to others. Those others are counted among the “called of Jesus Christ.”

The word for “called” is kletoi and is a general term. Paul uses it for himself in verse 1 concerning his apostleship. Jesus uses the term in Matthew 20:16 when He said “…many are called, but few chosen.” In direct reference to today’s verse, Paul is saying that the recipients are the called. However, there were certainly many in Rome at the time who read the letter who weren’t Christians and there have been jillions since then who have read the book and are not saved believers.

The idea then is that the offer is given and anyone can accept it, but not all choose to. Those who do are “the called of Jesus Christ.” As Paul will show us later concerning those from Israel who don’t believe – “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’ So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:16, 17

Are you among the called? If you have heard the word, be sure to let it sink in and then respond to it. Eternity awaits.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the offer of salvation through Jesus! And thank You for offering it until we receive it. Not all accept it the first time they hear it and yet they later come to do so. And so, right now, I would like to pray for all those I know who have yet to make the commitment to this wonderful Lord. Please stir up their hearts unto salvation. Amen.

To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

With this verse we move into a new section of Paul’s letter. “To all who are in Rome” is speaking of the congregation specifically, not the city in general. As Paul says when speaking of his people Israel in Chapter 9, so can be said of the addressees in the letter – “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham.”

The same thought applies here – “Not all who are in Rome are of the ‘beloved of God’ nor are they all ‘called to be saints” because they live in Rome.”

The reason we note this is because the church is an exclusive called out group of people in the world and not all, despite the common usage of the term, are “God’s children.” When Paul says these believers are “beloved of God” he uses the term agapetois theo meaning literally “God’s love ones.” It is these who are “called to be saints.” The relationship – the calling – is offered by God and it is accepted by man. From that moment believers are set apart as holy and this is where the emphasis lies. Whereas we were once at enmity with God, there is now felicity and God sets His called ones apart from the world.

Next Paul gives what will become a standard greeting in his epistles, “Grace to you and peace to you.” Grace is unmerited favor which cannot be earned. This is a common greeting among the Greek people. Peace however is a common greeting among the Hebrew people. In their language, the word is shalom. This is more than a greeting for calm or quiet, but is a state of wholeness and completion in all ways. Paul unites the two terms just as the church is being united between Jew and Gentile during his time. Grace precedes peace because only after receiving the grace of God can a person experience the peace of God.

Paul extends this wonderful blessing on behalf of “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is a greeting from the eternal God – both the unseen Father and His Son who reveals the Father to us. Throughout Paul’s letters, as with the entire Bible, the deity of Jesus Christ is a concept and a precept which simply can’t be missed. It is the very heart of what God has done for the reconciliation of the people of the world.

In these seven opening verses enough theology has been presented to open the minds of the people of the world to the immensity of the work of God through Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of

1) The surety of the gospel as was revealed through the Old Testament prophets,

2) The inspiration of Scripture because of this surety,

3) The Son-ship of Jesus Christ,

4) The Lordship of Jesus Christ,

5) The humanity of Jesus Christ,

6) The deity of Jesus Christ,

7) The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,

8) The unmerited favor and placement of those who have called on Jesus Christ,

9) And an introduction into the nature of the Godhead by indicating the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.

In all, these seven opening verses are a storehouse of theological wealth for the saints of God to ponder.

Lord Jesus, not a word is wasted in the pages of Your Holy Bible. Every detail is given to lead us to an understanding of You and how You have revealed Yourself to us. Help us to never rush through its pages, but to ponder and cherish each word. Your word is more nourishing to us than the food we eat. Thank You for Your word. Amen.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. Romans 1:8

After his greeting, Paul begins the main portion of the epistle with the word “first.” There will be in Romans, as in all of Paul’s writings, a logical sequence of thought and an articulate presentation of his arguments. As he is writing under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, everything he will say is the absolute truth in how things are in relation to God. We may disagree, but we are only disagreeing with God. We may interpret doctrinal points differently, but in the end there is only one correct interpretation. Therefore, as with the entire Bible, a careful analysis is required.

Paul’s first thought is to “thank my God through Jesus Christ.” As intolerant as it may sound, there is only one path to God, and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and there is only one Mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). No prayer to God is acceptable which has not gone through Him. No thanks to or praise of God is effective unless it is directed through Him. And so Paul gives his thanks to God through Jesus on behalf of the believers in Rome. And it is a thanks grounded in the knowledge of their great faith, a faith “spoken of throughout the whole world.”

Although the reason for their faith being so widely disseminated isn’t directly stated, the content of the epistle certainly indicates some of the reasons. Paul will speak on immorality and it is probable that the believers were either mocked or held in esteem for holding a moral stand. He will also speak on God’s judgment, man’s fallen nature and unrighteousness, and etc. Any of these issues could be the basis for the recognition of their faith by the world’s people.

What Paul will do is logically defend our responsibilities and obligations towards God, both from His general revelation of Himself through nature as well as through His specific revelation of Himself through the Bible and through Jesus. As humans, particularly in our post-modern society, we may find Paul’s words out of touch, but God doesn’t. What is presented in this epistle reflects God’s standards and we ignore them or attempt to diminish them at our own peril.

Heavenly Father, give us hearts willing to accept Your precepts without diminishing them in any way. Help us then to stand firm on them even if we are mocked or receive physical harm for them. Your word is truth, therefore give us the moral rectitude to stand on it without wavering. To Your honor and glory this prayer is made. Amen.

For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,… Romans 1:9

Paul draws God in as his witness for his thoughts in the next two verses. What he is going to convey then is the absolute truth. His vow is before God “whom I serve with my spirit.” The word Paul uses for “spirit” is pneumati. As he writes throughout his epistles, he consistently and carefully makes a distinction, and even a contrast, between the “spirit” and the “soul.” To Paul, the demarcation is absolutely clear. The spirit of a person, the pneuma, is not the same as the soul which is the term psuche. To him it is the difference between the spiritual life of the person and the natural/physical life of the person.

It’s important to understand the nature of humanity as the Bible presents it though to fully understand and define what Paul is speaking of. Humans are a soul with a body. The two are united and are incomplete without the other. Paul assures us of this in 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 –

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.”

In these verses, he calls the soul without a body “naked.” This concept is known as anthropological hylomorphism – man is a soul/body unity. The natural man is a soul united with a body whether connected to God or not. This is similar to an animal. There is a body and a life force which propels that body but not necessarily a spiritual aspect. The “spirit” (pneuma) Paul is speaking of is the spiritual connection between God and man; it is that part of the man which is intimately connected to God.

Paul says that God, whom he serves with his spirit is “in the gospel of His Son.” The gospel is a spiritual force then. And of course this is so. In Ephesians 2:4, 5 Paul writes this –

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

As you can see, a living person (a soul/body unity) can still be “dead.” What is needed is the regeneration which comes through the gospel message. When this is received, the spirit is made alive. We are now reconnected to God through the gospel – our soul/body unity is as God intended for us. Got it? Good stuff.

It is in this quickened state that Paul “without ceasing” remembers those in Rome in his prayers. Does this mean that Paul didn’t eat, write letters, sleep, or do other activities which would keep him from praying for them? No. Rather, his life was lived in a constant state of prayer which occurred at any given moment. He could pray while doing any of these things or not pray while doing them and not be found a liar. He, like each of us, should live in such a way that we are always connected to God. If we are, then we will simply pray as things which need prayer come to mind.

A good example of this connection is explicitly stated by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-21 –

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

The verbs here indicate that these things should be done now, that they are crucial to our spiritual life, and that we are to be active in pursuing them. This is the state Paul tells us we should live in because it is the state he lived in and which he knew was pleasing to God.

Lord, I know that I was once blind but now I see. I know that I was once dead, but You quickened me to life. I know that through Your gospel I have all I need to live in the spirit and to be pleasing to You at all times. Help me to live the life that I should because of the gift I received through Jesus. Let me not squander my Christian life, but live it to the fullest! Amen.

making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you. Romans 1:10

The previous verse said “without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.” The prayers are what lead to Paul’s request in this verse - that he would be able to make a personal visit to those in Rome. “If by some means” indicates his tremendous desire to be there with them.

To Paul, it didn’t matter how it came about so much as that it would happen. In the book of Acts, it is seen that he did make it to Rome after being accused and imprisoned while in the land of Israel and then being taken on a long, disaster-fraught journey by ship to Italy and then up the peninsula to Rome. He prayed “if by some means” and the petition was eventually granted in a most remarkable and well documented way.

In his request, he also notes that if the trip to Rome is possible, that it be “in the will of God.” Paul could have simply gotten on a ship or taken one of the roads which led to Rome and been there in a short amount of time. But he understood that his was a ministry of obedience to his calling and that what he did needed to be within the will of God and not because of his own desires.

If and until the time selected by God arose, he was determined to continue with the ministry as the Lord directed. This is clearly seen in chapter 15 of Romans where he writes this –

“And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation, but as it is written: “To whom He was not announced, they shall see; And those who have not heard shall understand.” For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you.” Romans 15:20-23

Paul gave the reason he was hindered from going to Rome – “To preach the gospel, not where Christ was named…” However, his ministry and goals to that end were being realized and so he planned on going as far as Spain to proclaim the gospel there. On the way, it was his intent to visit his beloved brethren in Rome.

What should be noted above all in this desire of Paul is that his intent in Rome was to share in Christ, not sightsee. Rome was the center of the world as far as things were concerned. There was royalty, pomp, wealth, and a million things a visitor could do and see. And yet Paul’s desire was one of fellowship, teaching, and building up of the church, not taking in the splendor of the city.

Is this your heart’s desire? How many of us go on short-term missionary journeys in order to see the world or to visit an interesting location? Our intent and goal should be one of service, not self-satisfaction. Let us remember this and pray that our goals are in line with His good news.

Heavenly Father, give me a willing heart to share the good news of Jesus wherever I am and at anytime. And please also give me the heart and desire to fellowship with other believers as I go through this walk of life. I ask these things that You will be glorified through my life and conduct. Amen.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— Romans 1:11

Again we note that it is Paul’s desire to see the believers in Rome and not the city itself. He was far less interested in the splendor of the buildings, the pomp of those who govern, or the wealth of the commerce and trade and far more interested in the establishment of the faith of those who were called saints.

Of particular interest and purpose was that he would be there to “impart some spiritual gift” to the church. There are two main views on this statement –

1) The first is that this “spiritual gift” was an extraordinary apostolic gift such as speaking in tongues, healing, future prophecy, etc. Within this view we will note two sub-categories.

a) Once received the miraculous gift would be established and could then be passed on, such as charismatic churches believe is the case today.

b) This gift was given by Paul because he was an apostle and would be to validate his apostolic office and help solidify their faith in the gospel. Beyond Paul, the gift couldn’t be transferred because such gifts were given to and through the apostles only.

2) The second main view is that this “spiritual gift” wasn’t a miraculous gift at all.

The second option is certainly the correct analysis. To assume that Paul was going to give them a miraculous gift to establish or solidify their saving faith is contrary to the gospel message. It is also a forced, unnatural reading of the intent, which will be explained completely in the second half of the thought (verse 12.)

Paul uses the term ti metado charisma “some that I may impart gift” which is certainly a general gift of edification such as instruction. His intent is to give it just as he is doing with his letter, but in person. There is no other instance elsewhere in Paul’s writings where the words he uses in this verse denote the giving of a miraculous gift.

Paul was a builder of faith and an instructor in the gospel. He was given the gifts of an apostle, but he wasn’t one to wield them in a showy manner, nor use them as a point of impressing others (1 Corinthians 14:20). Paul’s ideas of spiritual gifts for the building up of the body in Rome are listed in chapter 12 and they fit the sound and established criteria of organizational development, not the unwieldy foundation of the sensational.

When we as believers put our trust in, or base our faith on, outward demonstrations of spiritual gifts we have an unsound foundation. The word of God, the Holy Bible, is what tells us of Jesus as spoken through the prophets and apostles. This is where the basis of strong faith should be realized.

Heavenly Father, give me strong and sound faith in the word which You have delivered to Your people in the pages of the Bible. Help me to understand it and think clearly about what is presented there so that I may be built up in my faith. I ask this that our relationship will be grounded and sure. Thank You for Your word which tells me of Jesus. Amen.

that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Romans 1:12

Here is Paul’s complete thought for reference – “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established— that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.”

As noted in the previous verse, the “spiritual gift” he desired to impart was most likely not a miraculous gift. Instead, he desired to impart a gift that they “may be established.” This is sure because these were already believers and therefore a miraculous sign wouldn’t get them any more “saved.” Therefore, the verse isn’t speaking of establishment in this sense, but rather grounding in the salvation they already possessed.

In 1 Corinthians 14:22, Paul tells us the purpose of miraculous signs – “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.” Paul is writing to believers in Rome.

To confirm that this wasn’t the imparting of such a gift, Paul completes the thought with verse 12 by stating first “that is.” This term is a conjunction tying verse 11 with verse 12. Paul is directly connecting “that you may be established” with “that I may be encouraged together with you.”

As and apostle, Paul didn’t need a miraculous sign to be encouraged and it would make no sense to attempt to be encouraged by a sign which he was bestowing. Instead, he is speaking of a spiritual gift of edification for the building up of their faith; a spoken epistle to compliment the written one.

Such a spoken message would accomplish exactly what he desired “by the mutual faith of both you and me.” He is quite clear that they have the faith already, just as he does and he is hoping to add to that faith so that they will be productive, competent followers of Jesus.

In his second letter, Peter describes exactly what believers should do after exercising their initial faith. It is surely this thought, not an outward demonstration of the miraculous, that Paul is speaking of –

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

Lord, I would pray that You so establish my faith that I would never attempt to rely on an outward sign, but rather on the inward knowledge and surety of Your word. Help me to think clearly concerning what You have given us there and to trust that it is fully sufficient for my growth in You. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles. Romans 1:13

Here Paul defends that it was his intention to come to Rome earlier and that he hasn’t simply ignored the believers there. We’ve already seen that he is fully aware of the faith of those in Rome (v. 8); that he is constantly in prayer for them (v. 9); that those prayers included a requested way for him to visit Rome (v. 10); and that his intent was to build them up and thus be encouraged together with them in their mutual faith (v. 11).

Because of this sequence of thought, he lets them know that his heart for joining with them is honest and that his plans have included a visit to them all along. However, he has been “hindered until now.” This is Paul’s way of telling them that he has been following a set course of action which simply wouldn’t allow him to venture to Rome. This was explained in our analysis of verse 10 which took us to Romans 15 to understand why.

The next thing Paul tells us is the reason for his desire to visit those in Rome – “that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.” Putting everything together, we see that the reason for him being hindered from joining them was because he desired to “bear fruit” for the sake of the Gospel. However, his greatest desire was to “preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation.” (15:20). Therefore, because Christ was already known in Rome, it would be contradictory to his modus operandi to go there.

Now however (as Romans 15 goes on to explain) this will no longer be a hindrance and therefore his ability will be joined to his desire. We can look at Paul’s example and learn from it. Often we put our desires above our set goals and those goals then suffer because of it. This lesson is particularly important in matters pertaining to the faith and therefore we need to determine at the outset that we will let nothing hinder the goals we set. By doing so, we show that the ministry and gospel of Jesus is more important than the temporary things our eyes alight upon.

Heavenly Father, You have given us the ultimate example of determination in our Lord Jesus. Along with Him we see many examples of how to exercise our priorities properly through your prophets and apostles. Help us to reflect on such things and to take them to heart. In the end, what we desire is far less important than what You proclaim. Help us to remember this lesson. Amen.

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. Romans 1:14

This verse is a tie between the previous verses which spoke of Paul’s desire to come to Rome and the following three verses which lay the foundation for an intense discourse on the nature of fallen man in relation to the holy God and Creator.

Paul says that he is a “debtor to Greeks and barbarians.” The term debtor speaks of one bound in the performance of their duties or by an obligation. The distinction between Greeks and barbarians is noted and would be similar to today’s thought of those in the “first world” and those in the “third world.” Greeks were the developers of a great and intellectual culture and therefore to them, everyone else was a lower class. The term “barbarians” is reflective of everyone who didn’t participate in the Greek culture and speak the language. It comes from the sounds of non-Greek speakers “bar bar” or gibberish.

Paul claimed to be a debtor to both the high class and the low class. To him, there was only the saved and the lost and he wanted to convert as many as possible. The second distinction – the “wise and the unwise” is similar in concept because the message of the gospel cuts through the most intellectual argument and crushes the most inane. A hint of this is to be seen in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 –

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

Paul clearly understood this, as we all should and he therefore proclaimed the gospel in any and every way to save as many as he could. He spoke the gospel to King Agrippa and he spoke the gospel to the slave Onesimus. He spoke it at the Areopagus to the intellectually elite, and he spoke it to tradesmen and prisoners. He spoke of Jesus to Jew and he spoke of Him to gentiles. In 1 Corinthians 9, he sums up his audience for us –

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (19-23)

Life application: Let each of us be willing to speak the gospel message to any and all people in the manner which they are comfortable. We should use simple words to the uneducated and to children, but we should be capable of adjusting our words up when speaking to those of higher education. We need to be ready and willing to communicate properly and effectively to people of all of life’s stations about the exceedingly rich glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, You have created me as I am. Some people are smarter than me and others are less intelligent. Help me to be wise in how I approach each person so that I make the best of each opportunity laid before me. Just as Paul spoke according to the understanding of his hearer, help me to do so as well. Amen.

So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. Romans 1:15

There are very few that truly mean what Paul states here, but when we see them, we can tell almost immediately what sort of person they are. “As much as is in me” means that with every fiber of his being and every calorie he has taken in... he will expend it all for the calling to which he’s been called to. This then reflects as much on the Lord as it does on Paul. Whatever the Lord gives to him, this is what he will return to the Lord. We know that Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7) which hindered him in some way.

This thorn may have been failing eyesight. In Acts, Paul speaks harshly to the high priest without knowing it was him even though they were standing in the same room (Acts 23:1-5). In the book of Galatians, he noted that at one time the congregation would have gladly plucked out their own eyes and given them to him (4:15). And his letters were very distinct because of the unusually large letters he used, an indication of poor eyesight (Galatians 6:11).

Whether this “thorn in the flesh” was his failing eyesight or something else entirely, it was a limitation placed on him to keep him reliant on the grace of the Lord and not to trust in himself. Therefore, his ability to proclaim the gospel was both by Jesus’ grace and in accord with his care of the opportunities and abilities that he had been given. This is the life of Paul and one to which we have been called, if we will only respond. Time truly is fleeting and each moment can only be used in one way before it is gone.

For Paul, he was always “ready to preach the gospel.” There is no other message which can bring salvation and there is no other path to God. Paul understood the immensity of this and therefore he used everything he was and every gift he possessed to spread the message. And his intent for the days ahead was to do so for those “who are in Rome also.”

He was a man on a determined course as the Bible bears witness. He was reviled for his preaching, he was stoned for his testimony, he was mocked and jeered for proclaiming the truth, he was imprisoned several times, and eventually history tells us that he was martyred for his Lord. Is this what we are also willing to face? Each of us will stand before the throne of Christ’s glory and give an accounting for our time and gifts and so let us be ready to face Him with a life that was full of love, faith, and service to His name.

Lord Jesus, I ask for the same heart which you instilled in Paul. Give me the desire, the ability, and the opportunity to serve you with so much as is in me that You will be honored and glorified through my actions. How I love You and wish to see you receive the praise You are due from the people of the world. Amen.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16

In the Greek, Paul begins with the word “not” – ou gar epaischunomai” – “Not for I am ashamed of…” In other words, what begins with a negative is the most positive statement of his life, belief, and actions. “For” refers to what he has just said about being ready “as much as is in me” to preach the gospel. He was willing to expend himself to the very end for the sake of this good news.

“I am not ashamed” is a theme throughout his writings and tells us that what he is proclaiming certainly seems ridiculous and even ignominious to the world or there would be no reason to be ashamed. People feel shame over making mistakes. We feel ashamed when we are caught doing something we shouldn’t do. We feel ashamed when we are found naked. We feel shame when we don’t measure up in one way or another. Shame is something that is tied to that which is regarded as disgraceful or dishonorable and Paul looked around him and saw that the world perceived his life and actions in this way. In 1 Corinthians 4:12, 13 he cites his perceptions of how he was seen –

“Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”

Despite this, he was completely unashamed of his life and conduct because they centered on “the gospel of Christ.” This is the good news. It is the message of salvation to a world of lost people who are destined for hell. Paul understood that without this message, there is only a moment of existence which ends in death and condemnation. There is no other way out of this and therefore this message is of paramount importance to the people of the world.

He then specifically explains this gospel message by telling us that “it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” The gospel of Jesus Christ contains the power to bring the dead to life, to quicken the spirit of man which died when Adam sinned. And being “the power of God” means that it is completely effectual in its ability to do so. God is the Creator and therefore there is no other power greater than He. If the gospel is the “power of God” for this purpose, then nothing can thwart it and its results will be complete in all ways. This is evidenced by Ephesians 1:13, 14 –

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Trust is placed in Jesus and the Holy Spirit then seals the believer as a “guarantee.” Therefore what God has determined cannot be thwarted again by man’s actions. It is an eternal and unchangeable decision lest God be found to have erred. This is the “power of God to salvation” that Paul writes about and of which he was completely unashamed. His lack of shame in this follows on the noted shame of what brought it about in the first place –

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

The cross was considered the most shameful method of execution possible. Any dignity a person possessed was taken away there. One was stripped naked and crucified – leaving no possibility of covering oneself. As the body struggled to stay alive, even the act of breathing was brought to humiliation – the lungs filled with fluid and the beautiful voice of the person would never be heard again. Instead it would be mixed with gurgling and anguish. The horrors and shame of the cross became Christ’s resounding cry of victory and Paul was unashamed to proclaim it. The exact reason is found detailed in Philippians chapter two. Paul notes that it was God himself who took on flesh and accomplished this deed for His creatures –

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

In the original Greek of this verse, there is no definite article before the word “cross.” Thus Paul highlighted the absolute shame of the cross death. This is what Jesus Christ endured and this is what Paul found the most honorable of all. It is also the message that is meant for everyone who believes. There is no person outside of the reach of God’s grace and it comes through one definitive act – belief. It is faith and faith alone which saves a person. Nothing can be added to it and nothing can take away the life which is granted when that trust is exercised.

The message is for all, “for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” What Paul is saying here is an order of time, not an order of priority. The Jew first received the gospel and it was then transmitted to the rest of the world. This is a confirming thought of what he had just written “for everyone who believes.” The world is divided in many ways, but the Bible’s preeminent distinction is that it is divided as Jew and Gentile. Despite the enormous distinction between the two, the gospel message is for and has the same effect on both Jew and Gentile.

Such is the power and glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet words cannot adequately describe it.

Life application – Are you timid in sharing your faith or stepping forward and telling others about the truth that there is but one way to be reconciled to God? Ask for strength and wisdom in this matter and bear in mind that the Lord of Creation hung naked and in agony for you. What can man do to you which would be worse than what He Himself bore? Now go forth and proclaim the good news.

O God, that You would accomplish the work of the cross for one such as me is more than I can imagine. Give me courage and strength to stand up for the truth of Your word and for the proclamation of Your wondrous gospel. This I pray that You will be glorified through the message I speak. Amen.

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

Today’s verse contains a statement which will define the entire structure of the epistle and, yes, even the Bible itself. To introduce it, Paul says “for” which is given to explain what he had just said. It cannot be missed though that the next verse also includes the word “for.” In other words, Verse 17 will explain what he has already said to the church in Rome (and thus to us) and then the discourse on the nature of God and our relationship to Him starting in verse 18 will explain what he says in this verse.

Paul is thinking clearly and presenting his argument in a logical order. Therefore, when he speaks about issues which are contrary to God’s nature and worthy of condemnation in his coming thoughts, there is a direct connection to today’s verse. The statement of such great weight and magnitude is “the righteousness of God.” There are many theories about what this is speaking of.

1) Is it speaking of His innate righteousness? “I Am Who I Am and therefore my traits such as righteousness define Me.”

2) Is it speaking of His goodness? The righteousness of God is defined by His benevolent nature.

3) Is it speaking of His mode and means of justifying fallen man? God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel which contains the path to justification and thus our own declaration of righteousness.

4) Etc.

The answer is that the “righteousness of God” Paul is speaking about is the gospel. God’s righteousness is an innate righteousness and one doesn’t need the Bible to understand this even though the Bible does proclaim it. God is benevolent and forgiving as is evidenced in nature, such as in rains falling on all people whether they are good or bad. His benevolent nature is also seen in the Bible such as in the giving of prophets to again and again call His people to repentance. But these don’t get at the heart of why Paul was willing to expend himself (verse 17). Rather, he explains that it is the gospel message to which his efforts were directed.

The “righteousness of God” is the act contained in the gospel – “For in it…is revealed.” And then he explains the very heart and core of that gospel – it is “from faith to faith.” The gospel is the way in which God’s innate righteousness is transferred to fallen man so that he stands justified and forgiven for any and all of his transgressions, both inherited through Adam and actively committed in the flesh. And this gospel is based solely on faith.

In order to set this thought into motion, he cites the Scriptures “for it is written.” Paul’s entire discourse explaining this righteousness will be based on a verse which comes from the time of the law and which was written by a prophet who lived under the law – “The just shall live by faith.” This quote comes from the prophet Habakkuk –

“Behold the proud,

His soul is not upright in him;

But the just shall live by his faith.”

Habakkuk 2:4

Habakkuk, under divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells the people under the law (the obedience to its precepts are not of faith, but of deeds) that those who are just shall live by faith. From this one verse, Paul will lay out the “righteousness of God” as has been displayed in and through Jesus Christ. But he won’t start there. Instead, he will start with God’s natural revelation of Himself and logically proceed from that springboard all the way through to his final thoughts.

He is doing this to show us that in any place and in any time and to any person – whether they have the law or not or whether they have heard the gospel or not, God is just in the decisions He renders. No one can say, “I didn’t know” and no one can say “God is unfair.” In the end, we don’t need Jesus to go to hell, we are heading there already. Rather, we need Jesus to be saved from hell. Paul will detail this very clearly as we continue through Romans.

Life application – Are you living by faith in what God has presented in the Bible about Jesus fulfilling the law on our behalf, or are you attempting to be justified by some act or acts which are prescribed in the law, such as not eating pork or not getting a tattoo? Have faith that Jesus can and will save you when you call on Him.

O God, surely You are righteous when You judge and I have no reason to accuse You of being unfair in Your decisions. You are the Creator and I am a part of Your creation. Therefore, O God, I ask that You lead me to a full and complete understanding of what You have done through Jesus and then give me the faith to stand on that alone as I seek Your favor. Amen.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18

Paul now introduces the “wrath of God.” The word wrath is from the Greek orge, which in turn comes from orago. This word means to “teem” or to “swell.” Hence, this isn’t just a rash or sudden breaking out of wrath, but God’s measured and righteous indignation at the state of man which Paul will describe in detail.

However, before going forward, one needs to look back. The connector “for” tells us that Paul is basing his statement on what he just said. In verse 16, he spoke of the gospel message which is God’s means of salvation and that it is based on belief. In verse 17, he says “for in it, the righteousness of God is revealed.” In other words, the gospel which necessitated the torturous death of the Lord Jesus reveals the righteousness of God.

Jesus’ death wasn’t an isolated event which only applies to a group known as Christians and no one else. It resulted because of “who” God is, His very nature, and thus it applies to every human on earth. The wrath of God will be executed in all people – either directly as a result of their own unrighteousness, or indirectly by substitution. The substitution still deals with the individual’s unrighteousness, but it was taken out in Jesus and it is “revealed from faith to faith.” Therefore, “The just shall live by faith.” The faith includes the fact that God has dealt with their sin in the body of Jesus Christ.

Now we can understand “the wrath of God” which Paul introduces in today’s verse. This wrath “is revealed from heaven” meaning that it comes directly from the throne of God and therefore it stems from His very character. There is nothing arbitrary or impetuous about it. Instead, when it is seen, it is because a violation against His nature has occurred. It is this measured and righteous response which comes against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”

The two words are translated from asebeia and adikia. The first is well translated as “ungodliness” because it reflects the opposite of godliness. What is demonstrated is the polar opposite of what is expected. An example of this would be homosexuality. Sex was designed by God to be between a man and a woman. This is the self-evident natural order of things. Therefore, sins such as this are committed against what God has naturally instilled in us and they are diametrically opposed to His very nature; it is ungodliness. The second word deals more with an absence of what is inwardly right in attitude and what is outwardly right in conduct. It is the intention behind the act leading to the act – “I don’t care what God says and instead I will do this.” This is “unrighteousness.”

God’s wrath is revealed in these things by those “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” What this is saying is tied into the two words just looked at. What is natural and correct is instilled in humanity by God and thus we have a conscience about our actions. But this conscience is suppressed in order for us to do those things which are contrary to the conscience. As Paul will show us, this leads to a spiral of depravity which goes from one sin to another – each more depraved than the next.

This unnatural course isn’t taken by individuals alone though. Instead it is the path of societies throughout history as well. Examples of such depravity are given from the earliest pages of the Bible and are seen to continue to its last pages. We need to be clear on what Paul is telling us because this is what necessitated the death of the Lord. Looking to His cross is the only way apart from God’s wrath being directly unleashed on us for the spiral to be stopped.

For an individual, accepting the gospel leads to salvation. In a nation, it leads to the restoration of morality and a right societal relationship with God. Unfortunately, as wickedness grows, the numbers of those who will accept the message dwindles until God’s wrath is revealed, not in Christ’s substitution, but in His measured response of destruction.

An important point to consider while reviewing Paul’s words in this verse is that a full explanation of the good news is coming. However, before the felicity and favor we must see the enmity and wrath. Only then can we understand the great love of God which is found in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Life application: One sin caused man to fall and all were condemned through that one sin. God has offered a cure: through one Man’s righteousness, we can be healed and saved. Are you willing to put aside your enmity with God and accept His kind offer of grace?

Lord God, when I realize that I am “condemned already” it makes me see sin for what it is – a violation of Your righteousness. How can I point fingers at others when Yours points at me already? Instead, I thank You for Your grace and mercy and I ask that You help me to be a light to others, intolerant of sin, but a light to the sinner. Amen.

because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. Romans 1:19

To ensure continuity, here is the entire thought – “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”

“Because” then is speaking of what was said in verse 18. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against these things…because what may be known of God is manifest in them.”

Paul is speaking about God’s general revelation of Himself to humanity. The creation displays the Creator, even if only in a general sense. And this display confirms His glory, His wisdom, and His divine attributes (as will be noted in verse 20). What we see about God is completely evident and absolutely unmistakable.

Many passages in the Bible confirm what Paul is saying here. David understood God’s manifestation through the created order when he penned the 19th Psalm –

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (vss. 1-3 NIV)

If a man born 2700 hundred years ago as a shepherd and who became a military leader can figure this out, then anyone else can too. David had no training in philosophy or theology and yet he opened his eyes and looked up and saw the wisdom and glory of God in what He has created.

With only with God’s general revelation of Himself man has deduced that there must have been a beginning to the creation and thus there must have been a Beginner. If nothing else condemns us, this thought alone would be sufficient. If there was nothing and then there was something, then everything that is came from the intelligence of God. And not only that, it must continue to be sustained by Him from moment to moment. Philosophers, Christian and non-Christian alike, have figured this out.

The Bible clearly speaks of these things, and it does so in detail. Therefore, even if it weren’t the word of God, it would still prove that these concepts can be deduced – because they are recorded in its pages. The human mind has the ability to grasp such ideas and to ponder them, but instead we shrug such hints about Him off and fill our time with the useless pursuits of life. And not only this, but we actively suppress the knowledge of Him because we want to work out our impulses which we know are contrary to the nature of this Creator.

This active suppression of the knowledge of God is reason enough for His wrath to be poured out. In the end when humanity stands before Him in judgment, there will be no excuses for our neglect of pursuing Him.

Life application: As Christians, we accept that the Bible is God’s revealed word and thus His special revelation of Himself. We also then implicitly acknowledge that He has made Himself manifest through His creation in a general way. Because we make this acknowledgment, then aren’t we doubly responsible for searching Him out and reflecting what we know to be true about Him? If the lost will be condemned for suppressing such truth merely from general revelation, then how much more should we be judged for not pursuing knowledge of Him through His word and through His creation? Let us be diligent in our pursuit of our God!

Lord God, surely You have done great and wondrous things through Your creation. And You have revealed Yourself even more fully through Your Son, our Lord and Savior. Give us the wisdom to pursue the knowledge of You all the days of our life. Ever seeking out Your glory and then sharing it with us. Amen.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,… Romans 1:20

For” gar in Greek is our connector to the previous verse which said that God’s wrath comes as a result of our thoughts and actions and in the suppression of the truth about who He is and our accountability to Him. He has shown it to us and yet we ignore Him. “For” since the creation of the world – meaning the moment that all things came into existence. The fact that anything exists at all confirms a Necessary Being; a Being that cannot not exist. We know this because the universe simply could not exist; it is contingent on something else to be and continue on being.

This is spoken of by Paul in Colossians 1:17 – “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” It is mentioned again in Hebrews 1:3 – “…and upholding all things by the word of His power…” As noted in the previous verse, even if the Bible weren’t the Word of God, it still proclaims these self-evident truths and thus it validates what Paul is saying about our relationship to Him.

And not only is simply being here proof of the existence of God, but what is here shows us who He is – “His invisible attributes are clearly seen.” The universe displays immense wisdom in its timed perfection. Therefore, whatever created this timed perfection must be even greater. The harmony of nature shows wisdom at every turn – the structure of DNA is more intricate than we can possibly imagine; a spider’s web is geometrically woven, immensely strong, highly flexible, and marvelous in its design; the galaxies stretch off beyond our range of sight – each immense and stupendous in complexity. And yet, all of the created order must be less glorious than the Creator who made it. Despite this, man in his desire to pursue unrighteousness ascribes all of this design to random chance.

Despite our denials though, the truth is “understood by the things that are made.” The 2nd Psalm shows us the wickedness of humanity and our desire to cast off the rule and authority of God –

Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us.” (vss. 1-3)

Man takes his stand. He writes books about the cosmos which theorize a universe without God in control and where man is supreme over his destiny. The governments of the world attempt to show there is no God by inventing “global cooling” and then 20 years later “global warming.” “Do you see…there is no God! We need to act!” But then their theory is shown false and so they further refine their cry against “climate change” which can mean anything and therefore it means nothing. It is man taking counsel together against their Creator.

But Paul goes on by stating that their folly is even an attack against “his eternal power and Godhead.” The truth of God is denied, but the truth of “gods” isn’t. By their words and actions, they admit forces beyond their understanding but which aren’t ultimate in nature; they aren’t the true God. However, the creation itself demonstrates that He is omnipotent and it even gives us the ability to perceive the Godhead. This word is theiotes and is speaking of his divine nature. We deny God and we deny that He is God, even though He proclaims Himself in every aspect of the created order. And His response to their folly is found in the 2nd Psalm as well –

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure: (vss. 4-5)

His wrath will come forth against them and when it does, Paul says “that they are without excuse.” He uses the Greek term anapologetus which is literally translated “no defense.” There will be no one to stand next to them to defend them because as rational, moral beings they are accountable to their Creator. There will be no philosophical or logical argument which will stand up against the Source of all wisdom and logic. And there will be no thing they can use in their defense, because God is the Creator of all things and therefore all things bear His mark of ownership. When Paul says, “they are without excuse” it means that they will stand completely and absolutely exposed before Him. There will be no hope.

Life application: As you look around you today, notice the wisdom and creativity of the Lord in all you see. Ponder it and give Him the credit He is due.

Lord Jesus, I have called on You and have accepted Your Lordship over me. And yet I am guilty before You each moment that passes for failing to recognize Your glory in everything I see and perceive. I can only praise You for allowing me to continue when what I deserve is Your hand of wrath. Your mercy to me is far greater than I deserve. Glory to You in the highest! Amen.

because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

In this one verse is a sequence of events which shows us the depraved state of man as he spirals downward and away from God.

1) Man knows God; it is undeniable and self-evident. Paul treats the words “although they knew God” as an axiom. There is no valid argument against His existence and yet the arguments come. The Bible says when they do it is the fool who presents them –

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. Psalm 14:1

2) Man fails to give God the glory that He is due. With his innate knowledge of God, man should turn and give Him glory. “I exist and it was because of the goodness of God that I am here…glory be to the One who created me and gave me life!” Instead though, we trudge through life in the pursuit of vanity, never stopping to simply thank Him or praise Him for life, beauty, food, joy, love, and blessing. Darkness covers the light that we should perceive –

The wise man’s eyes are in his head, But the fool walks in darkness. Ecclesiastes 2:14

This leads us to the next depraved step –

3) The natural result of failing to glorify God is a state of ingratitude. Paul says, “…nor were they thankful.” If you put someone on welfare because of a lost job, they will first think “I’m so thankful. I’ll be able to eat this week.” Very quickly though what was given as a temporary fix becomes expected and even demanded. If you don’t believe this, go do mission work for a short time. People, out of the goodness of their hearts, set up kitchens to feed the inner city poor. However, the recipient’s appreciation quickly fades and eventually the thought that they are entitled to a free meal sets in. Strict rules must be set in place or fighting and outbursts of immense selfishness arise. If we treat those we can see in this manner, how much more the God we can’t see and who we never gave a second thought to anyway. This ingratitude leads to the next step downward…

4) The result of ingratitude is futility in thinking. The word here is dialogismos, a word which indicates the inward contemplations and reasoning of man. In other words, this is a state of rationalism about who we are, why we are here, the nature or even the existence of God, etc. The ungrateful naturally rationalize away their ingratitude. They are self-absorbed and so they are inwardly motivated to create a god in their own mind. They know what they have is undeserved, but they also know that by acknowledging the true God, they are actually accountable to Him. And so they turn to any god that will suit their state at the moment. They begin to worship the creation rather than the Creator.

5) Because of this logical progression away from God, “their foolish hearts were darkened.” This is a state of complete spiritual blindness. However, man in his most depraved state will often appear to be the most enlightened. The “intellectual elite” and the greats of world religions are often the most depraved. Peter speaks of people who have reached this state of spiritual darkness. They deny what is spiritually correct while espousing utter falsities about God, the natural order, and right reason. He labels these types “brute beasts.” They are unreasoning animals who have lost all right sense and follow only the basest instincts –

But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. 2 Peter 2:12-14

The people Paul speaks of and who are described by Peter fill the halls of religions around the world, including Christianity. Denominations are ordaining homosexuals, mixing false religion with the truth, and are pursuing money and fame rather than righteousness. In the verses ahead, Paul will continue to explain these things, all of which are to remind us that God is just in His wrath and indignation.

Life application: We are either moving toward God in holiness or away from Him into a state of depravity and spiritual darkness. There is no static state in our relationship with God and therefore we need to continually strive to glorify Him and be thankful to Him.

Lord God, I once was blind, but now I see. Please continue to give me clarity of thought about who You are. Help me to be one who gives You the glory You are due. You have given me life, food, family, and friends. You have given me so much and yet I have returned so little. May my attitude towards You be corrected. Thank You for all good blessings. Amen.

Professing to be wise, they became fools… Romans 1:22

Paul is continuing to build on the thought of the previous verse. Those who innately know there is a God but who failed to glorify Him and give Him thanks then “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” In this spiritually darkened state, they profess themselves to “be wise.”

The word “wise” is translated from sophoi (from the same word as Sophia). It is wisdom that would be ascribed to the intellectually and culturally sophisticated people of the Greek civilization. These would then be the religious and intellectual cream of the crop. However, without directing their attention to the truth about God, which is as simple and easy to understand as looking up and knowing that the universe didn’t create itself, they then “became fools.”

The single word for “they became fools” here is emoranthesan and yes, the “fool” portion is the source of our modern word “moron.” It is almost comedic to think about these people, then and now, strut around professing either religious or intellectual superiority and yet God’s word calls them morons. But the stupidity of their arguments proves the title.

In Acts chapter 17, Paul speaks to these elite when he addresses the Aeropagus. It was an open air forum where “all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” (Acts 17:21) Paul walked into the center of this vast stadium and told them of the “New Thing” in his life which was from before the creation of the world. In his short discourse, he actually quoted two of their own philosophers – Erastus and Epimenides, using their own contemplations to demonstrate what he has thus far been saying in Romans – that we innately know certain things about God.

In both the Old Testament and the New (as is highlighted in Acts 17), man sets up idols which are a part of creation – wood, stone, gold, or whatever – bowing to them and giving them credit for the good stuff that happens in life. Paul says that these people have become foolish because of such things.

But there is also the foolishness of denying God exists. A modern “deep thinker” and atheist is Richard Dawkins. During one filmed interview he actually said that maybe aliens had seeded life on planet earth. This supposed wise thinker of the atheist community simply pushed the origins of life back one step, but he could give no ultimate answer for where the aliens then came from. In his futile attempt to deny the obvious, he made himself look like the moron he had become. His lack of religion is his religion and he is spreading the inane message to a world hungry for anything except the truth.

Life application: Here we are. Will we give the credit for our existence to the Creator or to a part of the creation? Will we acknowledge that we are wise by acknowledging His wisdom, or will we prove ourselves morons when we shut our hearts and minds to the truth? Be wise and stand on the obvious – “in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Act 17:28 as cited by Paul when quoting Epimenide’s Creatia).

Lord Jesus, I don’t profess to “know it all” but I know that You are God and that it is You who has given me life and happiness. I fully intend to search out Your wisdom for all eternity as You reveal Your unseen Father to us. How I cherish Your word and O! How I cherish You. Amen.

and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Romans 1:23

As Paul noted in the previous verse, which is a part of this sentence, “Professing to be wise they became fools…” The reason this happened is based on the logical sequence of events which preceded it. As man rejects God, the knowledge of Him must be replaced with something; all vacuums look to be filled. These people, wise in their own eyes, become fools and trade what is glorious for what is ignoble, what is of highest value for that which perishes, of what is holy for that which is profane.

Paul gives four categories of idolatry, each more base than the next. First man changes “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” Man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and so in ignoring God, he moves to the next visible part of the creation in worship; he worships himself. And in order to glorify himself, he makes an image of himself. If you see what is happening, God created man in order to bring Himself glory. By creating a sentient being who can appreciate the rest of His creation and also fellowship with Him, man was intended to glorify God through thanks and praise (see verse 21).

However, the thanks and praise weren’t forthcoming which led to where man is now – exalting himself through self-deification and making an idol in his own image; He is attempting to emulate the God of creation. By taking this action though he actually degrades his perception of the real God and thus the spiral continues down.

The next step is to make images of things that are even beneath him - “birds and four footed animals and creeping things.” Amazingly, not only is man now directing his worship toward creatures that are beneath him, he worships images of creatures. He has taken what is even below the lowliest creeping thing – inanimate objects such as wood, stone, or metal – and fashioned it with his own hands into something… and then he prays to the thing he has made which resembles something beneath his own category of life. His mind is completely lost in idolatry.

Isaiah writes about this attitude and the sheer folly it displays –

Those who make an image, all of them are useless,

And their precious things shall not profit;

They are their own witnesses;

They neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed.

Who would form a god or mold an image

That profits him nothing?

Surely all his companions would be ashamed;

And the workmen, they are mere men.

Let them all be gathered together,

Let them stand up; Yet they shall fear,

They shall be ashamed together.

The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals,

Fashions it with hammers,

And works it with the strength of his arms.

Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails;

He drinks no water and is faint.

The craftsman stretches out his rule,

He marks one out with chalk;

He fashions it with a plane,

He marks it out with the compass,

And makes it like the figure of a man,

According to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house.

He cuts down cedars for himself,

And takes the cypress and the oak;

He secures it for himself among the trees of the forest.

He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.

Then it shall be for a man to burn,

For he will take some of it and warm himself;

Yes, he kindles it and bakes bread;

Indeed he makes a god and worships it;

He makes it a carved image, and falls down to it.

He burns half of it in the fire;

With this half he eats meat;

He roasts a roast, and is satisfied.

He even warms himself and says,

“Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire.”

And the rest of it he makes into a god,

His carved image.

He falls down before it and worships it,

Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”

They do not know nor understand;

For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see,

And their hearts, so that they cannot understand.

And no one considers in his heart,

Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say,

“I have burned half of it in the fire,

Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals;

I have roasted meat and eaten it;

And shall I make the rest of it an abomination?

Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”

He feeds on ashes;

A deceived heart has turned him aside;

And he cannot deliver his soul,

Nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Isaiah 44:9-20

Idolatry isn’t an affliction of ages past. It is found in religions throughout the world today and it is found in every human heart at one time or another. Anything which replaces our devotion to God becomes and idol and therefore we must protect against falling into this trap. The Bible’s wonderful advice in Hebrews 12:2 will help us to keep from straying – “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”

Life application: Do you read daily horoscopes? Do you “knock on wood” in hopes of favor? When you break a mirror do you even in a kidding manner say “Oh that’s bad luck.”? Giving credit to any created thing for chance or destiny demonstrates a wrong attitude toward the Creator who has written our destiny. Stand firm on giving Him the praise, honor, and glory that He is due and let your actions and words reflect His value at all times.

Yes Lord God, give me a willing and obedient heart that will direct all of my thoughts and attention toward You alone. Keep me from the sins which so easily beset and which then move to take over my relationship with You. On my own, I know I will fail, and so I ask You to actively keep me from such things. To Your glory I pray this. Amen.

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,… Romans 1:24

“Therefore…” When you see this word in a passage, go back and see what it is there for. An argument has been submitted and now comes the conclusion. In this case, “therefore” is referring to verses 18-23. Because of these things that Paul has spoken of “God also gave them up to uncleanness.” They have turned from Him and now He gives them up. The 14th Psalm, speaking of the atheist, gives insights into this condition –

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. Psalm 14:1-3

It’s important to understand that this is not a universal condition as some theologians claim. Calvinism uses a portion of this psalm, quoted by Paul in chapter 3 of Romans, to make an all-encompassing claim on the state of man. However, when Paul cites a verse, its context must be taken into consideration. David was a man who sought after God and he wrote the Psalm. Therefore, it would be a pretext to claim a universal application to “none who does good” instead of applying it to those who deny the existence of God.

This is therefore speaking of those who turn from God as Paul describes, moving from one level of depravity to another as their foolish hearts are darkened. As they progress into a more and more depraved state, God gives “them up to uncleanness in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.”

In their rejection of God, they become mere sensual beings without rational thought. Remember though, some of those who appear most intelligent are those who are “professing to be wise” and yet they fall into this category. Their supposed wisdom is directed by the “lusts of their hearts.” The Greek word is epithumiais and indicates a desire of some sort. In Paul’s context the word “lust” is spot on. They are filled with an animal instinct which directs their thoughts and hearts, even to the point of dishonoring “their bodies among themselves.”

Life application: The more we turn to idolatry, intentionally or unintentionally, the more we separate ourselves from God. Not walking under a ladder is a smart way of not having a hammer fall on your head, but if your intent is to avoid bad luck then it is a step in the wrong direction. Each step of life takes you either forward or backward in your spiritual walk. Step carefully and with thoughtful consideration.

Heavenly Father, You called me out of darkness when I trusted in Jesus. Help me to continue on the right and proper path all my days, never going backward or straying from the right and true course. Thank You for being with me and directing my steps! Amen.

who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:25

Today’s thought shows the continued progression of the idolatrous heart as it continues down the spiral of depravity. God has given these people up because of their rejection of Him. And the way they did it is to exchange “the truth of God for the lie.” The particular structure of this phrase, reflecting the Hebrew mind of Paul, means “the true God.” When two nouns come together, one is used in the form of an adjective and thus qualifies the other. They have made an exchange – something of no value for that which is of infinite value. They have sold their birthright for a bowl of soup. They have accepted the lie and shunned the Truth. The word for “lie” is pseudei – it is a falsehood; a pseudo god and not the true God.

In so doing, they have now “worshiped and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” This is any form of bondage in sin. Perhaps it is addiction to alcohol, perhaps drugs, or perhaps it is something seemingly as innocuous as vegetarianism. What was supposed to bring freedom has now enslaved them. Once caught in this bondage, it seems to be the only right course of action. Vegetarianism is mentioned simply because it is contrary to God’s law. Man was given authority over the creatures of the earth. In Genesis 9:3, after the Flood of Noah, God said this to him, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”

At the time of Moses, certain dietary restrictions were introduced for a single group of people and for a specific purpose. This group was Israel and the purpose was the Law. Jesus fulfilled the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17) and therefore all men of Christian faith (including Jews) were told that there were no longer any dietary restrictions for those who have called on Him –

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.” Acts 15:28, 29

However, when incorrect thinking about who God is steps into the equation, animals are elevated above humans. Invariably, when questioned about whether human abortion is acceptable, PETA members will answer in the affirmative. And yet they will guard a nest of turtle eggs with their life. In their attempt to throw off God’s rule, they will have their agenda introduced into government legislation and thus bring others under their idolatrous practices. This is where Europe and America are both heading because of the far-left agenda. It is a two headed monster – a throwing off of God’s rule and then replacing it with a humanistic attempt to subordinate man to the creation.

But sin is sin and it will find its form in whatever means is comfortable for the individual. Some will bow to gods of stone or wood, some will bow to the opposite sex in reverence, and some will bow to their own sex in ungodly lust. Others will find their god in heroin or the pursuit of gold. The creature now is served “rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

What Paul means by introducing this phrase is that when all of these created things have perished, God will still remain – holy, unstained, and perfect. He is “blessed forever.” Thus, our temporary idolatry will be seen in the true light which it always was. He is the Fountain of all existence, all life, and all goodness and therefore instead of shunning Him we should all proclaim to Him “Amen. The truth of God endures and we give You our worship. So be it and Amen.”

Heavenly Father, You have shown us what is right and good in Your word. Please continue to open our eyes to the things we are allowed to do and give us the strength to reject those things which are forbidden. Please give us wisdom to discern these things and then the ability to continue in them all our days. Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Romans 1:26

Paul uses the term that God “gave them up” for a second time and this is the second instance where sexual sin is involved. When we reject God, a spiral of depravity results which leads inevitably to a state of sexual perversion – from one form to another, each building upon resentment for God and what He has ordained. Paul shows us that this inevitably leads to lesbianism and (as we will see tomorrow) homosexuality. Paul calls this particular sin “vile passions” because the “women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” In the Greek of this verse, Paul uses the term theleiai for “women,” or literally “females.” In Matthew 19:4, 5 Jesus says the following –

Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”

In these verses, he uses thely for “female” and switches to gyniaki for “wife.” She is a woman in right standing with the natural order in her union to the man. However, Paul doesn’t use this concept when speaking of the lesbian union in Romans 1:26. They are females exercising vile passions with females and are therefore working against the natural order.

He speaks of the women before speaking of the men. This is to highlight the immensity of the breakdown in what is right. Women are the bearer of the child in the womb and the home keepers as children are raised. Therefore, their degenerate attitude is noted first.

Paul’s words then ask us to realize that what he is speaking of is perversion. It is deemphasizes what is intellectually correct, what is spiritually noble, and what is emotionally pure. It emphasizes what is mentally twisted, spiritually ungodly, and emotionally obsessive and damaged. Paul will use similar wording in the next verse when speaking of such conduct between males.

Life application: Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18, 19 to, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” Be willing to stand on moral purity and reject what is sexually immoral. If you are struggling with this in your life, ask the Lord to strengthen you.

Heavenly Father, I struggle with the flesh in many ways and ask that You help me to stay away from that which is improper. Give me strength and keep me from falling into temptation. But should it come, help me to make the right decision and head for the exit before I succumb to it. Thank You for hearing my prayer which I make in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. Romans 1:27

Again as in 1:26, Paul uses a word for “men” which indicates “males.” What he will speak of concerns acts of debauchery and perversion in which “males” go against the natural order. What is normal and right with “man” is excluded in his thoughts here. “Likewise” is speaking about what he stated concerning the “females” in verse 26 and he will now apply that same logic to the “males.”

These “males” whose mental state has fallen to the basest form of depravity leave “the natural use of the woman.” Neither a rocket scientist nor a specialist in anatomy is needed to determine what the different sexual organs of the male and female are meant for. Like the knowledge of God, it is self-evident. It is the deviant who shuns this knowledge and goes about using their parts in an inappropriate manner.

Not only do they act out their abnormal thoughts, but they actually burn “in their lust for one another.” The verb translated as “burned” is the Greek word exekauthesin. This is the only time it is used in the Bible and it is in a way (aorist indicative passive) that indicates these people “were set ablaze” in their passions. What we have seen is the morally depraved downward spiral as men reject God. When He is completely turned away from, there is nothing left but a total consuming of the individual in a mental state which is acted out in that which is contrary to nature.

Paul describes this mental/physical state as “men with men.” Like the females in verse 26, these males have committed the ultimate act of what is shameful and yet because they have departed so far from normal and right thinking they continue on in their vile actions. Paul says that because of this they receive “in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” This penalty comes because “God gave them up” to their vile passions.” (v. 26) This is what one would term “judicial abandonment.” Instead of active prosecution of the sin, God in essence removes Himself from the equation and allows nature to take its course.

If what is natural and ordained by God leads to life, then what is unnatural and opposed to Him will lead to death. Diseases such as AIDS are the inevitable result of such perversion. Throughout history, when homosexuality becomes prevalent in a society, the incidents of plagues targeted at the offenders arise. Venereal diseases mutate as the unnatural habits spread and very quickly they take over the entire population. Along with these obvious signs are those which need to be seen from a wider angle – mental problems, shortened life spans, societal conflicts, etc all result from the entry and acceptance of homosexuality into a culture. These are “the penalty of the error which was due.”

The most egregious part of what occurs though is the purposeful blaming of God for their penalty – as if He was mean or capricious. Rather, they are getting what they deserve by acting in a manner contrary to normalcy. Thus even their concept of right and wrong about their judgment is convoluted.

Life application: How many times do we see people, even within the Christian community, who blame God for adversity? However, the opposite is usually not the case. Life, food, friends, income, etc. are looked as a deserved, and thanks aren’t forthcoming. Let us be quick to be thankful to God for every good blessing and slow to blame or show anger when adversity comes.

Heavenly Father, give me a grateful heart for the many blessings I enjoy each day. At the same time, help me to overcome thoughts which would accuse You for difficulties that occur in my life. I deserve far worse than I have ever received and with Jesus as my Lord, I know that eternity will be perfect. Help me to keep my eyes on that! Amen.

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;… Romans 1:28

In this verse, Paul shows that the responsibility for what has occurred lies solely with the wickedness of man and his rejection of God. “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge…” is referring back to man’s unwillingness to give God thanks or praise (verse 20-23). Because of this rejection, these things came about. The word “like” is the Greek edokimasan which means “to put to the test.” In their minds, they put God to the test of their own moral compass and found that they wanted to do things without Him. Because of this, “God gave them over to a debased mind.”

As a result of this, He then hands them over to their own wicked devices. The word for “debased” is the word adokimon – failing to pass the test. It is a different form of the same word mentioned above. They put God to the test and chose what they wanted rather than Him and so He gave them over to a failing of His test. Their moral perversion, which they willingly chose, has led to their mental perversion, which is the result of what they chose. The penalty they received for their ungodliness is a penal infliction of judgment necessitated by His holiness.

The debased mind they have brought upon themselves results in doing “those things which are not fitting.” As we have seen, this corrupt attitude leads to “the penalty of their error.” Nature, which God created, actively works to eliminate what is unnatural through disease and death. This shows the righteousness and judgment of God in and through creation. If what He creates works in this way, then how much more sure will be His hand of judgment when we as humans stand before Him?

Life application: Death entered the world through sin. Jesus came to take our place and grant us new life apart from sin. By faith in Him we are freed from its penalty forever. Though this isn’t yet realized, it is the glorious hope that we as believers have. Because of this hope, let us strive to live holy lives now, to His honor and glory.

Lord, certainly I pray for a mind which is directed toward You and away from the wickedness of this fallen world. Help me to be a light to others and give me the ability to explain why You are just in Your judgments and how they too can be free from sin’s penalty. Thank You for Your guiding instructions which will allow this. Amen.

being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, Romans 1:29

This verse is continuing on with those that God gave over to a debased mind that now “do those things which are not fitting.” Forthcoming from Paul’s hand is a list of 23 of these things and they fit people of every stratum of society and from the most backward of people groups to the most economic and socially elite in the world. Some people may be filled with many in the list and some with just a few or only one, but the depravity of the human heart finds its release somewhere in this list in fallen man.

Considering that man was made in God’s image and with the intent and purpose of bringing Him glory, this list is a scathing indictment on us. The first is “all unrighteousness.” This is a broad brushstroke of those who are in Adam and it speaks of every angle from which sin can attack – the thoughts, the words, the actions, the inactions, the motivations, etc. This thought covers these both outwardly toward others and inwardly toward self. The man who was created to be spiritually connected to God is carnal an unspiritual.

The next in the list has been covered in the preceding verses – “sexual immorality.” This is any sexual thought, action, or contact which occurs outside of the bonds of a marriage between a man and a woman. God presented Eve to Adam and thus the pattern was established at the beginning. The Law of Moses, the arrival of Jesus, and the introduction of the Church Age all confirm the original intent and pattern. Sexual sins are personal and intimate and therefore they require one to be in tune with God’s intent at all times lest they take over the unsuspecting or unprepared.

Next on the list is “wickedness.” This word speaks of intentional harm against others. A good word to understand this would be malice. John Calvin states, “It is that depravity and obliquity of mind which strives to produce injury on others.”

From wickedness we move to “covetousness.” Coveting is the last of the Ten Commandments and so is it isn’t perceived “as bad” as other sins. But this is the opposite of the truth. Coveting leads to the committing of the other sins. When one covets something else, they take their eyes off God and replace Him with that thing – thus breaking the first commandment. Coveting another man’s wife leads to adultery, thus breaking the seventh commandment, etc. We need to be thankful for what we do have and fix our eyes on Jesus, not on the things we don’t possess.

“Maliciousness” is next and indicates ill will which is fundamentally vicious in nature. One may consider a soul longing for revenge and filled with extreme bitterness in this category.

Another of the list is being “full of envy.” Webster describes it this way “Pain, uneasiness, mortification, or discontent, excited by another’s prosperity, accompanied with some degree of hatred or malignity, and often with a desire or an effort to depreciate the person, and with pleasure in seeing him depressed.” The soul filled with envy is bitter indeed and will go to great lengths to injure another simply because someone else has received something they feel they deserve and which the other didn’t deserve.

“Murder” is in the list and is also the sixth commandment. Murder does not include the lawful taking of a life for a capital crime; the taking of a life in self-defense; or the taking of life in legitimate battle. The Bible is perfectly clear on these issues. What is does speak of is the intentional taking of another human life apart from these exceptions. Man was created in God’s image and therefore to willfully take another life is an attack against God’s image bearer. This includes the crime of abortion. When a society devalues human life, either by authorizing the murder of others, including the unborn, or by withholding the execution of capital crimes, that society becomes implicitly guilty in the blood that was shed.

“Strife” can be summed as conflicting with others about words more than things. It is seeking glory and victory in speech and conflict rather than for the truth. This sin has become so commonplace since the introduction of the internet that it is everywhere at all times. Social media has given everyone the ability to attempt to seem authoritative on a matter whether they know what they are talking about or not. People strive for the sake of strife.

“Deceit” is engaging in deception. People engage in “philosophy and empty deceit” as Paul says in Colossians 2:8 and thus make boastful pretense to their own morality even though they are often the basest of beings.

The next on the list are those filled with “evil-mindedness.” This is the mental state of someone who is filled with Satan and not by God. They abound in wickedness. It is an insatiable mental state which consumes every thought and then is displayed in every action. Because of this the inevitable result is that “they are whisperers.” Gossip, whether of truthful things or untruthful things, has the main intent of conquering and dividing. The evil-minded don’t have felicity and peace on their mind, but rather conflict and hatred. They sow the seeds of these things with their whisperings.

The list will continue as Paul describes the state of the human soul who is at enmity with their Creator. Only through the new birth which comes by calling on Jesus can this state be terminated in a person. This doesn’t mean it will happen all at once, or even in this life, but that through His work we can be free of these things and thus work to please God until the day He glorifies us.

Life application: Take time to reread the list of today’s sins and think about where you can improve your own life and actions concerning any of them which still arise in you.

Lord, test me and search me out. Find any root of bitterness, envy, strife, lust, hatred, or any other attitude which causes me to act in a manner which is contrary to what You would wish for me. And then Lord, please give me the ability to overcome these things that I might be a pleasing vessel, ready for Your use. Amen.

backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,... Romans 1:30

The lengthy list which began in the previous verse continues on now. Paul includes “backbiters” as our first of verse 30. A backbiter is similar to the “whisperer” of the previous verse, but what the whisperer says silently, the backbiter says openly – yet not in the presence of the one they are defaming. This is the person who would openly walk up and hug someone but as soon as they leave the room they would find malevolent words with which to tear them up.

Next Paul lists “haters of God.” This is one of the most common sentiments found in the world and yet it is of the highest category of crime there is. The Bible says, the “fool says in his heart there is no God.” Such is the atheist. However, the person that says He hates God is a double fool because he openly acknowledges there is a God and yet he also shows contempt for Him. Nothing could be more astonishing and yet it happens all around the world all the time. The epitome of this hatred is directed by those at enmity with Jesus Christ. The reason for this is explained in John 15:24, 25 –

If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.” John 15:24-25

When someone claims to love God and yet hates Jesus, they surely have distorted thinking. Jesus is the One who reveals the unseen God to us. He is the second member of the Trinity and therefore to deny Him is to deny God; to hate Him is to hate God. And this inevitably leads to the consequences of this – “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) God’s people are hated because God’s Son is hated.

The next group Paul highlights are the “violent.” This word is translated differently by various translators. It comes from the Greek hyperephanous. The word phaino means to “shine forth” and hyper is “above” or “over.” Therefore, this is better translated “prideful” or “proud.” They believe they shine over and above anyone else. This is one of the chief sins noted in the Bible because when pride steps in, then the proud person has only contempt for everyone around him, including God. It is self-deification. The NKJV translates this “violent” and this is often an inevitable result of pride. When someone who is prideful gains power and authority, it can be brought out in the most violent of ways.

Next come “boasters” in our list. This is a good follow up to those who are prideful because along with pride comes great boastings of self. Those who are boastful will trump their achievement above those of everyone else and nothing will satisfy their lust for praise. When it comes, more boasting comes in hopes of more praise. This is the person with the “I” problem. He sees himself and nothing else… “I, I, I.”

From boasters we move to “inventors of evil things.” The word is kakon, meaning “evil.” This is speaking of those who simply invent new forms of evil. Their minds think up perverse things, wicked things, and innovative things – all which will satisfy a lust for accomplishing evil in new and exciting ways. The porn industry fits this well. As people become numb to one form of perversion something new is introduced to excite the audience. This cycle eventually leads to such horrors as “snuff films.” When the sex is no longer enough to satisfy, murder is included in the act. The horrifying level to which the depraved mind will sink to seems to have no end.

The final category in today’s verse is those who are “disobedient to parents.” The family is the nucleus of a well running society. When the family structure breaks down, the society naturally breaks down as well. And so discipline within the family must be maintained. So great is the necessity for this, that God when speaking the law to Israel included this –

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear.” Deuteronomy 21:18-21

Likewise, in Exodus 21:17, the Lord noted that anyone “who curses his father or his mother” shall be put to death. Unfortunately modern society has completely reversed the roles and television shows commonly portray children who are insolent to their parents and who tell them what to do rather than the other way around. This can only lead to chaos within a society because God’s order of what is right has been rejected.

Life application: Take a moment and reread the types of inappropriate behavior Paul mentions today and think about where you can improve the conduct of your own life. Stand firm on God’s word and know that He has not only shown us the proper way of conducting our lives, but He has shown us what displeases Him as well.

Lord God, I have failed in being the perfect and obedient child that You would have me be. As I continue in this list of wrong conduct, I see my own faults clearly highlighted. Please give me right reason and a sound mind to do what is right and to shun what is evil. Thank You for Jesus who has granted me forgiveness of my transgressions. Amen.

undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; Romans 1:31

Today we see five more areas where depraved man falls short of God’s glory and displays it in enmity against Him and His principles. The first concerns the “undiscerning.” The Greek word is asynetous. The “a” is a negative and is followed by synetos meaning “knowing” and thus it is speaking of people without discernment. There is morally right and there is morally wrong, but there are those who can’t tell the difference between the two. They are foolish in their decisions and confused in their thought processes.

All of this stems from an inability or a refusal to think clearly about the nature of God. When this occurs, everything else becomes muddled and confused as well. A perfect example of such mentally miniscule thinking concerns the issue of abortion. What is clearly wrong in the taking of a human life is rationalized away in order to justify the unjustifiable. At the same time, the protection of animals or capital criminals is elevated to the highest importance. This confused thinking permeates the social left in the world.

After this, Paul mentions the “untrustworthy.” The Greek word is asynthetous. As you can see it is an alliteration of the first word – asynetous / asynthetous. Like the first word “a” is a negative and the word syntithemoui describes the making of a covenant. This alliteration by Paul is a literary style known as a paronomasia. This is the use of a word in different senses or the use of words similar in sound to achieve a specific effect such as humor or a dual meaning.

In this use by Paul, he shows that there is not only a lack of discernment, but there is also a lack of trustworthiness. Because they can’t think clearly on moral issues, they also don’t act clearly concerning moral responsibilities. Again, we can turn to the social left to see this. Not only is their thinking completely opposed to what is godly, their decisions can’t be trusted. Very good examples in the world of “right now” are gun control and health care. The left seizes any and every opportunity it can to take away the very rights of those who could stop the initial reason for the calamity which has arisen. And in the process of doing so, they violate the initial promises that they made concerning the issue in the first place.

There is absolutely no trust in the words or promises of politicians on the left, from the lowest congressman to the US President. The same is true with liberal minded people in all countries and in all vocations. What they speak is of no value because their word is organic and changing. It is an infection of the mind which transfers to every action of the person.

Next to be listed are the “unloving.” The word here comes from the concept of a person who lacks natural affection. This again transfers through what is moral to what is political. It points directly to the morally lacking thought process. The “natural affection” Paul is referring to is the bond between a parent and a child. What should be the strongest bond of all is missing when the knowledge of God is rejected. The Bible is replete with passages where children were sacrificed to Molech and causing them to “pass through the fire” such as in 1 Kings 17:16, 17 –

“So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.”

The cultures Paul was exposed to left female children out to die, preferring male babies. Some buried the children alive. Albert Barnes notes that during an earlier period, “In most of the Grecian states, infanticide was not merely permitted, but actually enforced by law. The Spartan lawgiver expressly ordained that every child that was born should be examined by the ancient men of the tribe, and that if found weak or deformed, should be thrown into a deep cavern at the foot of Mount Taygetus.”

The modern parallel is of course abortion. The left is rabid in their defense of abortion and any attempt at restricting or eliminating this legalized murder is met with the strongest opposition possible. They have lost any true natural affection and have replaced it with immoral sensuality and licentiousness. This moral depravity fits naturally with the next on the list, those who are “unforgiving.”

The Greek word comes from the thought of “no libation.” Pouring out a libation to a god was a way of making peace with that god and thus forming a treaty. The idea then is a person who is completely unwilling to make peace; they are implacable. A quote from this week’s news says this about the current administration, “What he does is position his political opponents as the enemy. Everything he did today in the debt limit Q&A in his press conference, and even in the setup, was about the enemy.” This is the very thought process Paul is describing. “There is no agreement, there is no reconciliation, and there is no felicity. Instead, there is only ‘us and them’ and we will never cede an inch in our battle of depravity and moral perversity.”

The last of today’s list speaks of the “unmerciful.” In the lack of human affection which leads to a lack of working together through reconciliation, Paul saw the result was a society which was destitute of compassion. In the world around him, the old, the sick, and the infirm were cast out and left to fend for themselves, find a charitable source to maintain them, or to die. The inevitable result of turning away from godly thinking in a society is that compassion flees and only self-gratification and ruthlessness is left. Healthcare which breaks down because it is engineered improperly inevitably leads to rationing and a hierarchy of those who will receive care. It is already taking place in Europe and Canada and it is coming to the United States.

The liberal left is forcing its morally depraved values upon an unsuspecting society. What is heralded as right and compassionate will be seen for what is – immoral and uncaring. The Bible is always vindicated because its Author peers into the heart and soul of man and sees his utterly depraved state moving logically from one twisted state to another.

Life application: Think clearly about moral issues – not as society sees them, but as God sees them. Hold fast to His word and His guidance and flee from the wicked and depraved thinking of those who have lost any moral compass as they drift in the sea of ungodliness.

Lord God, I can see the logical progression of how individuals and societies move slowly and inexorably away from what is right to what is perverse. Help me to be a champion in speaking out against the moral decline in my own land and help me to stand firm on the unchanging and immutable values presented in Your word. Amen.

who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Romans 1:32

This is the last verse of chapter 1 and it sums up the discourse which began in verse 18. All that Paul has said since then shows that man is without excuse when God judges him. We can know enough about Him from the creation itself that we stand condemned when we go against what is right and obvious. We instinctively know about Him, and therefore we “know the righteous judgment” which will necessarily proceed from Him.

This judgment comes to those “who practice such things” as are described in verses 21-31 and which are “deserving of death.” This doesn’t mean that they will receive death, but that this is what is deserved. They are aware of it and thus it shows their guilt in continuing on in the face of the looming judgment. When His wrath is poured out, there will be no valid reason to speak against it. Every mouth will be stopped.

However, knowing this, they purposely fail in the things they should do and they intentionally act in the ways they shouldn’t. But Paul goes on to say that as if that wasn’t enough, they “not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” In other words, they applaud as others take their perverted course. Sinful man doesn’t want to act alone in his sin, but he wants to make a party of it. The common expression, “Come on, everybody does it” is what is being relayed here. Thus there is not only an expected hand of judgment, but it will be doubly just. They have looked for hell and have brought others along to join them.

All of this leads us back to what preceded this discourse on depravity. Paul’s words concerning the gospel can now be seen in a much clearer light –

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The spiral of depravity justly deserves God’s punishment and condemnation, but God – who is rich in mercy – has granted a pardon to the fallen sons of Adam. He has meted out the punishment we deserve in His own Son, Jesus. By faith in that, we can be cleansed from our past sins and stand justified before our Creator. The gospel of Christ is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” The choice is ours – stand condemned for the deeds committed in the flesh or to have them judged in God’s chosen Substitute. Heaven or hell waits for all people and there is only one way to heaven, through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

Life application: The old cliché “love the sinner, hate the sin” rings true. We have all fallen short of God’s standards and all people have stood condemned before Him. But in His mercy, He sent Jesus to take the wrath we justly deserve. Therefore, let us continue to pray for and be a light to others who have yet to receive His indescribable gift.

Lord God, over the past few verses, I have seen my own sin reflected again and again in the words Paul has written. As they were inspired by You, I feel the weight of them even more. I am so thankful for the rich mercy You have lavished upon me and the salvation that came at such a high cost. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. Romans 2:1

In what is a masterpiece of subtlety, Paul now begins to address the Jews though he doesn’t specifically state as much until verse 17. The reason for this is to build an argument to such an extent that by the time he actually names them, they have no way to turn back and claim innocence.

The natural revelation of God has been given to all men (Romans 1:18-32) and condemns all, how much more then the very stewards of God’s special revelation of Himself, the oracles of God, the temple, the glory? The Jews looked at the people around them as heathen and outside of the graces of God. This is perfectly evident from innumerable passages in the gospels. But Paul says that they are inexcusable when they judge because when they do, they merely condemn themselves. The very acts for which they find fault in others are found openly displayed in their own writings about themselves. These acts led to the Babylonian exile, further written condemnation after the exile, the crucifixion of Christ, and eventually the Roman dispersion.

To understand that this concept surely applies to all men, even the greatest and beloved of God, we will refer to 2 Samuel 12 and the pitiful story of David’s great sin –

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity. Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. 2 Samuel 12:1-9

The “man after God’s own heart” coveted, committed adultery, and committed murder, and yet he was willing to condemn someone else for something far less serious. Such is the nature of sin in the human heart. It affects all people and it blinds each of us in a way that what we perceive in others often seems more wicked than what we ourselves have done, even when our actions may be much more heinous.

John 8:1-12 gives a similar example for us to consider. Take time today to read that passage and reflect on why the account is given as well.

Life application: It is true; the Jewish people of Paul’s time were actually more accountable for their actions because they had the Law and the Prophets to tell them what God specifically expected from mankind. As this is so, how much more accountable to God are we now that the New Testament is also written? The word is near to us, it is in our homes, on our computers, and broadcast on radio and TV. How can we escape God’s wrath if we neglect so great a salvation as is offered through Jesus? Read your Bible daily and then live out your life in accord with its precepts.

Heavenly Father, reading today’s verse and thinking on what it is telling me makes me realize the magnitude of what You have done by sending Jesus. How far short of Your glory I fall and yet You have offered me peace and reconciliation through His cross. I stand amazed at the greatness of what You have done for Your rebellious creatures. Thank You, O God, Amen.

But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. Romans 2:2

“But we know” implies that it is perfectly understood by all. It is written on our minds as an undeniable truth. More so then is it understood by the Jews who had the written testimony of the history of the world and the repeated lessons which resulted from the disobedient heart of man. God’s word, maintained by them, holds one account after another of the judgment of God upon man’s disobedience.

This “judgment of God is according to truth.” This can be interpreted a couple ways. The first is that God’s judgment will truly come; it is inevitable based on our walking in a way contrary to His precepts. The second view, which is more likely correct, is that God’s judgment is based on the truth. In Him there is only holiness and perfection. There is no unrighteousness and there is also nothing capricious or vindictive. His judgment is based upon His perfection and not some type of personal vendetta or arbitrary whim. People who feel this way about Him have never taken the time to deduce what God is like. Instead, they simply accuse Him of being as a cosmic bully or an uncaring Creator who allows innocent children to die for no sound reason. They are awash in their own myopic vision, dispelling any notion of an infinitely wise Creator.

God’s judgment comes “according to truth against those who practice such things.” All judgment is a result of sin and it is directed against the perpetrators of that sin. The list Paul gives in the previous chapter defines these things. But what about those who seem to be caught in judgment but haven’t done anything wrong? There are two directions that must be considered. The first is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Sin came through Adam and all have inherited his fallen state. Therefore, no one can claim they are guilt-free. This is confirmed by Jesus’ words in John 3:18 –

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already,…”

Man is condemned already and therefore there is no valid argument against God’s judgment on any person. But secondly, some are taken away that are a part of the covenant community and have been cleansed of their past sins. Why has evil come upon them? The answer can be found in Isaiah 57:1 –

“The righteous perishes,
And no man takes it to heart;
Merciful men are taken away,
While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil.”

What we may perceive as some type of judgment may actually be God’s grace in saving them from something worse which may occur. We don’t have all the information and therefore we must trust that what we don’t see is still the right avenue and is based on His perfect knowledge.

Life application: When we look at the course of life, politics, world events, etc. we should attempt to see them in the larger scope of things and not have a myopic view of what is happening. When we relate everything that occurs around us to ourselves, we will never understand why things transpire and we will naturally take offense. But we… we are not the center of the universe. We are a small speck of God’s immense plan which is being worked out for our good and for His glory. Keep this in mind and trust that He truly is in control.

Heavenly Father, give me soundness of mind as I look at the world around me. Help me to understand that You are just in Your judgment and that You carry it out in absolute righteousness and against an ultimate standard of truth. With this assurance, I can be confident that all things will work out as they should. Amen.

And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Romans 2:3

This is a direct question from Paul to the Jews of his day. There is a definite train of thought since verse 1.

1) When a person condemns another it proves they have a sense that an offense was committed. If the one who condemns knows this and passes judgment but also commits the offense, then they have no excuse for their actions.

2) God’s judgment on those who commit transgressions is based on His nature – He is absolute truth and therefore His judgment is perfect and must be executed equally in all. As Habakkuk says so clearly –

You are of purer eyes than to behold evil,
And cannot look on wickedness. Habakkuk 1:13

3) Therefore, because the person who condemns does so when they know an action is wrong, and yet they commit the same type of actions, how can they expect to escape God’s judgment? It would be unthinkable based on the standard of truth which defines who He is.

The Jew standing in judgment of the gentile actually condemns himself in his decision! What brought about his accusation of them – God’s law, of which he was the steward – is what brings his own condemnation. The Jew is without excuse.

However a point that should not be missed is that as time has passed, the question now appropriately belongs to the Christian as well. When Israel was exiled for their disobedience and rejection of Christ, the gentile world became the stewards not only of God’s Old Testament law, but the Gospel of Christ as well. Now, the logic of verses 1-3 which Paul writes points a finger directly at the Church. How can we stand in judgment of others if we fail to first pronounce the gospel? If we keep it a secret and yet condemn others for being heathen or unconverted Jews, then aren’t we “doing the same?”

Later in Romans 11, we will come upon this passage which is speaking of the mystery of Jewish exile and the grafting in of the Church –

“For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (vss. 30-32)

We err if we point our fingers at the Jews and say how stupid they are for having rejected the Lord and His cross. Were that not to have happened, the church as we know it would never have come into existence. But God, in his infinite wisdom, blinded them in part so that salvation might come to the gentile people of the world. Let us not be so arrogant against our unbelieving Jewish brethren, but let us pray for them and pray for their eyes to be opened to the glorious gospel which saves all men.

Life application: The times are coming to their fulfillment and Jesus Christ’s return is closer each day. By Jesus’ own words He has promised to return to His people Israel and to their capital, Jerusalem. The Church Age will end and then will come the Tribulation period. At the end of that time, Jesus will return to set up His millennial kingdom from Jerusalem. Let your daily prayers reflect a desire for Israel’s eyes to be opened to their long-rejected Messiah, Jesus.

Heavenly Father, I hate the sin and wickedness in this world and I will continue to speak out against it, but please help me to remember that I once also walked in darkness and yet You had mercy on me. Help me to avoid the sins of the flesh and to help others to put them behind themselves as well. Thank You for Jesus who makes all these things possible. Amen.

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

An alternative to what was just presented is now given – “Or.” Paul has been speaking about those who condemn others and yet are guilty of practicing the very sins which they condemn in them. And so he asks, “Or do you despise…?” This is in the indicative mood and therefore it requires the answer, “Yes, in fact you do.”

The idea is that these people had been shown the unmerited favor of God and yet “despised” it by becoming ungrateful of it and even expecting that it should continue because they somehow deserved it. This is the sentiment of Luke 13:1-5 and which Jesus forcefully corrects –

“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”

Those who came to Him intimated that the Galileans must have been pretty big sinners to have Pilate mingle their blood with his sacrifices. Jesus turned around and brought their fallen state to mind. God had been abundant in His riches to them and they had trampled on this grace by expecting it to continue on ad infinitum regardless of their conduct.

America has had this attitude for far too long. Because we have been so richly blessed, when calamity falls (such as 911) we try to project it on the wickedness of others and not look at it as deserved judgment. Anyone who speaks out against our moral impurity is sure to get an earful from those who either dismiss the judgment of God or who only see their own perceived moral flawlessness and not a nation ripe for God’s punishing hand.

The “riches of” God Paul notes are His 1) “goodness” – this is His benign nature. He is a compassionate God who is in no way arbitrary or vindictive; 2) His “forbearance” – this reflects God’s restraint. When judgment would be expected under almost any conceivable circumstance, He still withholds His wrath, understanding that we are prone to sin from birth; and 3) because of His forbearance, He is also “long-suffering.” This concept shows that not only does He withhold His wrath, but He is also “slow to anger” as is noted in Exodus 34:6, 7 –

“And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

These are the riches which the people were despising. They looked at the world around them as fallen and ripe for judgment and yet they thought they had a free pass to act in the same manner with no expected repercussions. But Paul says that these riches of His goodness were meant not to promote license, but to lead them to repentance. He will take this concept and refine it in the chapters ahead. In chapter 6, we will read this –

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (vss. 1, 2) God’s grace is shown in the goodness of His riches, so why can’t we continue to sin in order for His grace to be seen in an even greater light? This is the perverse nature of man – looking for a way to excuse or even justify that which is contrary to normal order, right thinking, and holy living. Let us never presume upon the goodness of the Lord in this manner!

Life application: Do you look at yourself as of high value? Do you perceive others as sinful whereas you are guilt-free? What about the society in which you live. Has prosperity led you to believe that you are God’s favored and chosen and that you can therefore act in any way you wish? Let us never assume that we can flagrantly sin and be excused when we do.

Heavenly Father, surely You are great and glorious – abundant in mercy and kindness towards us. Help me to see the sin in my own life for what it is and to never assume that I am above Your hand of correction. Instead give me a willing and obedient heart in following the proper path which You would desire for me. Amen.

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,… Romans 2:5

Verses 1-4 have laid out the argument for deserved judgment for those who should know better based on the nature of God that was revealed in the previous chapter. Verse 4 then said, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Verse 5 now begins with “but.” This is to contrast an acceptance of the “goodness of God.”

“In accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart” shows that instead of softening one’s heart and their stand on sin, they take the alternate course. The heart is hard and unyielding even in the presence of the mercy God offers, the blessings He provides, and the election He made. The Jew had received all these things and yet they walked heavily upon the good graces that were granted. The Greek term for “impenitent heart” is used only in this verse in the New Testament and it reveals the height and epitome of unrepentant sin.

As noted in verse 2:3, this same logic must now apply to the Church. We have likewise been grafted in to the commonwealth and have received the same goodness. But how many in the church flagrantly tread heavily upon these graces? This despicable attitude, in Jew or gentile, can only have one logical outcome – we are “treasuring up” wrath for ourselves.

We treasure up things that we desire the most. We may treasure up family photos. If we love sports, we may treasure up memorabilia. If we love money, we may treasure up silver and gold. We put these things in store because they are precious to us and they have our heart buried with them. Paul is saying that those who fit this verse’s description are “treasuring up wrath.” Based on his argument thus far, we know – without a doubt – that wrath is due for our belligerence and uncaring attitude toward the sins we commit. But we continue down the same path, actually storing up more and more of God’s wrath, knowingly and willingly.

This will be poured out “in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” It is not a question of “if” but of “when.” The things that God abhors based on His unchanging nature of goodness, justice, righteousness, etc. must be judged and it will come out in a terrifying way when it does. The cross of Jesus Christ proves it. The horror which He suffered to remove our judgment is reflective of what all people deserve. Therefore, it can be meted out in Him as our Substitute or it will be meted out in each of us directly. No other option exists and the judgment is final.

For those who have trusted Christ, the punishment is past. Judgment for the believer will be based on their life after accepting Christ – for rewards or losses (see Romans 14:10 & 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). For all others, there is but one possibility – a finite crime against an infinite God requires an infinite punishment – the Lake of Fire. This will be executed in all remaining humanity as is noted in Revelation 20:11-15.

Life application: What treasures are you storing up? In the end, there is only one thing of eternal value, a relationship with your Creator. And this is only possible through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Treasure up for yourselves the knowledge of Him by reading your Bible each day, talking to Him each moment, and sharing Him with others always. This is true treasure; this is Jesus.

O God, You have shown us what is right and good and You have offered us peace and reconciliation to Yourself through Jesus. Help us to pursue You and to know You more and more. Thank You for Your word which allows us to know You, and thank You for Your Holy Spirit who illuminates our hearts and minds to its content. Amen.

who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: Romans 2:6

Care needs to be taken when looking at today’s verse and the verses that follow lest error come into our thinking about the nature of salvation or condemnation. If these verses are taken out of proper biblical context, one could make the case that “deeds” somehow affect our standing before God; that what we do brings about our justification. This is contrary to the entire tenor of Scripture and is not at all what Paul is speaking of. However, this has led to heresy within the church and in many denominations. Below will be listed several of the actual canons from the Council of Trent in 1546. These are antithetical to the intent of Scripture and are actually heretical, but yet they are primary theological tenets of the Roman Catholic Church.

Although you may not fully understand each of these, it is good to know what denominations teach. Does their instruction line up with the Bible or not? If not, is it merely error or is heresy involved? These are actually eternity-deciding principles concerning salvation if they involve heresy.

What Paul is saying is in today’s verse (in context with the surrounding verses and the rest of Scripture) is that we are either justified or condemned by God’s grace through faith (Ephesians 2:4) by calling on the name of the Lord for salvation (Romans 10:9 &13). When this occurs, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit which is a “deposit” or “guarantee” of our eternal state (Ephesians 1:13, 14). However, our “deeds” will determine our amount of rewards, or what loss we will suffer, if saved (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10), or they will determine our level of punishment when condemned (Luke 12:42-48).

The equation for each person to remember is:

Grace through faith = salvation

Works = judgment

The judgment of the believer is a judgment after salvation (which, once granted, is eternal) based on works. These works have no part in further justifying a person; justification comes by the work of Christ alone. The judgment of the non-believer comes based on the life they lived, having never been saved.

Life application: Take time to read the following canons which are still in force and effect today in the Roman Catholic Church and see if they are complimentary or contradictory to the teachings of Scripture. After doing so, ensure that you obtain, study, and comprehend the principle tenets of your own church or denomination. You may be surprised, or even appalled, at what your time, talent, and money is being directed towards. You alone are accountable for your actions and allegiances. It is far better for you to remove yourself from a body which promotes tenets contradictory to God’s will than it is to stay because of friendships, alliances, or convenience. These are either eternity-making decisions concerning your salvation if heresy is involved, or decisions which will affect your rewards and losses for all eternity if non-heretical doctrinal error is involved. Stand fast on Jesus Christ and His word.

Canon 10. If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.

Canon 11. If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema.

Canon 12. If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

Canon 23: "lf any one saith, that a man once justified can sin no more, nor lose grace, and that therefore he that falls and sins was never truly justified; or, on the other hand, that he is able, during his whole life, to avoid all sins, even those that are venial,- except by a special privilege from God, as the Church holds in regard of the Blessed Virgin; let him be anathema."

Canon 24:  "If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."

Canon 30:  "If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema."

Canon 33:  "If any one saith, that, by the Catholic doctrine touching Justification, by this holy Synod inset forth in this present decree, the glory of God, or the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ are in any way derogated from, and not rather that the truth of our faith, and the glory in fine of God and of Jesus Christ are rendered (more) illustrious; let him be anathema.

Lord God, please direct me to an understanding of what my particular church or denomination teaches and then help me to make a right decision about my affiliation with it based on the knowledge You have led me to. Keep me from error and help my doctrine to be perfect in Your sight. To Your glory alone I pray this. Amen.

eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; Romans 2:7

As noted in verse 6, care needs to be taken when evaluating this train of thought from Paul. If this verse, which is a part of a greater whole, is quoted as a stand-alone, then of course one would come to the conclusion that, “Aha, eternal life is based upon works.” This is contrary to the scope and reality of Scripture because after salvation, many have fallen – even such greats as Peter and Paul. Peter, in Galatians 2:11-16, was not “straightforward about the truth of the gospel.” In essence, he failed to endure. Paul admitted his failings as well –

“Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” (NIV)

We are bound by our human limitations even after salvation and therefore, if it were up to us to receive eternal life, then we would go through a terrible cycle of uncertainty as our relationship with God changed back and forth – saved, unsaved, saved, unsaved, saved, unsaved, saved….” What a neurotic bunch who call themselves Christians! And, how pitiful – woe to the one who happened to error prior to his final call home, “I knew you, and then I never knew you…!”

The great Bible scholar Albert Barnes erringly states this – “Nor has God ever promised eternal life to people unless they so persevere in a life of holiness as to show that this is their character…”

This is incorrect as is evidence by 2 Peter 1:1-9 and which culminates in verse 9. In verse 1, Peter states that those he is addressing have “obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” In other words, they are saved believers. He then explains what that can mean for the called soul in verse 3 and 4. However, in verses 5-8, he states what the individual should do and which is what Paul is referring to in todays verse in Romans 2:7. If one fails to carefully follow what is God’s intent and desire for His saved children, the result is verse 9 – “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.”

Yes, there are those who have been saved and yet they “have forgotten” that they were “cleansed from” their old sins! One cannot continue “in doing good” in the biblical sense if they have forgotten their salvation. Therefore, eternal life is granted exactly as the rest of the Bible proclaims, by grace through faith. Abraham was declared righteous by simple faith prior to the sign of that righteousness (circumcision). Jesus Himself says that it is belief that saves –

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Paul’s continued writing in Romans will bear this out as well. Understanding this, “those who by patient continuance in doing good” is speaking of rewards as was noted in verse 6; God will “render to each one according to his deeds.” These deeds are to result in:

1) Glory – This includes praise, high note, and what is renowned for that which is beautiful, majestic, splendid, etc. It is the highest point of exultation and could be considered as the greatest pomp and pageantry that God could bestow upon His creatures. This glory will be in a state which excludes anything which is lowly or base.

2) Honor – is the conferring of title and position in the heavenly realm for the deeds of righteousness. There will be varying degrees of honor just as there are varying degrees in the brightness of the stars. Each will be bestowed to commend the level of faithfulness exhibited. And yet, there will be no jealousy or contempt between conferrals. All will be rewarded with a filled cup, but the cup will be of varying size. No one will be dissatisfied with their overflowing container.

3) Immortality – This is the life which man was authorized to participate in at the beginning and which he lost. Never again will the redeemed face corruption, death, and returning to the earth. There will be no sickness or sadness in this state; only eternal felicity.

Life application: Rewards will come to all of God’s redeemed based on the level of progression they follow which is noted in 2 Peter 1. For those who forget their salvation in this earthly walk, God never will. They will be granted eternal life based on the faith they exercised which pleased God enough to call them His own, but the rewards will be fewer and of less magnitude. Let us each strive to please God with our lives now and not be “shortsighted, even to blindness.” May the Lord bestow upon you the fullness of His riches.

Lord, I know that even the greats of the faith, men personally selected by You, fell short of perfection. How much more do I! Help me to stand fast in my salvation and proceed willingly in my pursuit of Your kingdom. Use me to Your honor and Your glory O God. Amen.

but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,… Romans 2:8

This verse is in contrast to that of verse 7 as indicated by the word “but.” If you will note though, in verse 7 Paul begins with the positive benefit “eternal life” and then explains the “who” and the “how” next. It is obtained for those who “by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.” However, in verse 8, he gives the “who” and the “how” first – it is “to those who are self seeking and do not obey the truth, but unrighteousness.” Only then does he give the negative result – “indignation and wrath.”

In this structure, it seems that Paul wants to show that God truly wants to lavish His benefits upon those who are willing to accept them, however and in contrast, He is longsuffering with those who act contrary to His will, but there is an end to His patience.

Those who are “self-seeking” can also be rendered “contentious. The Greek translation of the Old Testament renders this same word as “rebellious” in Deuteronomy 21:20 –

And they shall say to the elders of his city, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.”

These people have a will directed toward themselves and which is at contention with God. They hate his divine will and exercise their thoughts, actions, and attitudes against Him. What God detests, such as abortion, sexual perversion, or disobedience to parents is what they pursue, simply because they want to cast off His rule and authority. They are unwilling to “obey the truth” and so they work out their own set of guidelines for living and conducting their affairs. Instead of pursuing the divine will, they “obey unrighteousness.” In this, they yield to sin and let it consume them.

This, of course, fits most people to some degree, but this is speaking of those who stubbornly knock on sin’s door and allow it lead their steps. Instead of light, they live by darkness. For those who pursue this path, there is but one end – “indignation and wrath.” This phrase comes from the Greek thumos kai orge. This is an expression of God’s actual hatred of sin which results in the outpouring of His anger as is displayed in divine judgment. The “indignation” indicates what we would perceive as internal – the thing which displeases God. The “wrath” then is the manifestation of that displeasure in His action.

Those who act contrary to God may think that they have the upper hand or free reign to snub Him, but as it says in Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” In the end, there will only be terror for those who fail to repent and bow the knee before the Creator.

Life application: God has shown us what leads to life and happiness and what leads to death and condemnation. He has done it through nature and He has further shown us in His word. Take time to meditate upon what you perceive as morally right and morally wrong and then compare it to His word. If there is a conflict between the two, then it is you who needs to adjust. God is clear, but we often misunderstand.

Lord God, thank You for Your tender mercies and thank You for showing us the right path to follow. When we stray, show us where and how and then help us to get back on track. Surely You are longsuffering towards us and we can only praise You for this. When we deserved judgment, You sent us Jesus! Thank You, O God! Amen.

tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; Romans 2:9

This verse continues the anticipated rewards for the deeds mentioned in the previous verse – “but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath.” The consequences of unrepentant sin are two-fold – suffering in this life and suffering in the next life.

Along with “indignation and wrath” comes “tribulation.” This is the word thlipsis and the verb carries the sense of pressing, such as when crushing grapes. This then is the pressure and despair which occurs after sin is committed – perhaps getting an incurable disease resulting from sexual immorality. This would be magnified if the sinner passed that on to loved ones. Another example may be receiving a death sentence for committing a crime. The pressure of what is coming becomes an overwhelming and crushing misery.

The word “anguish” comes from the Greek stenochoria. This is a word used exclusively by Paul and comes from two different words – stenos meaning “narrow” and chora meaning “space.” The thought here might be something like being buried alive in a coffin. There is no room to move and only complete anguish of the soul. Edgar Allen Poe, a master of understanding the terrors of the human mind, wrote these words in The Premature Burial

“And now, amid all my infinite miseries, came sweetly the cherub Hope -- for I thought of my precautions. I writhed, and made spasmodic exertions to force open the lid: it would not move. I felt my wrists for the bell-rope: it was not to be found. And now the Comforter fled for ever, and a still sterner Despair reigned triumphant; for I could not help perceiving the absence of the paddings which I had so carefully prepared -- and then, too, there came suddenly to my nostrils the strong peculiar odor of moist earth. The conclusion was irresistible. I was not within the vault. I had fallen into a trance while absent from home-while among strangers -- when, or how, I could not remember -- and it was they who had buried me as a dog -- nailed up in some common coffin -- and thrust deep, deep, and for ever, into some ordinary and nameless grave.

As this awful conviction forced itself, thus, into the innermost chambers of my soul, I once again struggled to cry aloud. And in this second endeavor I succeeded. A long, wild, and continuous shriek, or yell of agony, resounded through the realms of the subterranean Night.”

This anguish of eternal hopelessness is the just and due penalty for “every soul of man who does evil.” The opposite is reflected in the Bible as well. In David’s writings he uses the terminology several times to reflect what can be expected for those who trust in the Lord. Instead of a narrow confinement there will be ease of movement in spacious places –

I called on the Lord in distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me? Psalm 118: 5, 6

And yet, in what is the most ironic twist of all, Jesus tells us that to reach the broad spaces of salvation, there is only a narrow gate. Likewise, to be sentenced to the torturous confines of eternity apart from God, there is a wide and easy path one may tread –

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13, 14

In the end, the choice is up to each of us and it includes all people, “of the Jew first and also of the Gentile.”

Life application: Is eternal confinement and misery worth a moment of sin? It is by far better to confine oneself now in this life than to lack in our eternal home. And it is surely better to reject the broad and spacious life of sin in order to gain eternal release in a paradise of glory. As you walk through life today, consider that each choice bears eternal consequences. Even if you are saved, your rewards will be lessened by following the wrong path now. Stay in tune with the Spirit and allow Him to fill you and guide you.

Glorious Lord God Almighty! What an amazing thing You have done by offering us the choice to pursue You now in a narrow and restricted way in order to receive the eternally expansive glories of heaven. You look for those with the faith to perceive this and to thus choose Jesus. Help me to pick up my cross daily and follow where He leads. Amen.

but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 2:10

This verse, beginning with “but,” is set in contrast to verses 8 and 9. There are those who “are self-seeking and do not obey the truth.” They will receive “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” whereas those who work “what is good” will receive an abundance of blessing. Paul defines their rewards as “glory, honor, and peace.” This is a partial repetition of verse 7 which exchanges the word “immortality” with “peace.” The two concepts do meet in thought and support each other.

Immortality is “the life which man was authorized to participate in at the beginning and which he lost. Never again will the redeemed face corruption, death, and returning to the earth. There will be no sickness or sadness in this state; only eternal felicity.” This corresponds with the idea of peace quite well. Paul was a Hebrew. To them peace had a much fuller meaning than it does to the Greek and western mind. It is more than just a state of calm or quiet. Rather it signifies wholeness and completion in all ways. This was the original intent for man and it is fully realized in our acceptance of Jesus and moving from death to life.

This however brings up the need for clarification concerning works verses faith. This was explained in 2:6 but will be expanded on now. We are saved and receive these things by faith in Christ and His work alone. Our “works” then are only of value after savlvation and are used to determine our level of reward. Someone outside of Him, no matter how diligent in good works, can never receive these promises because they are a child of wrath by nature. Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:1-3 –

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”

Prior to Christ, man is at enmity with God and deeds – even supposedly “good” deeds only increase that wrath. The reason for this is that by trusting in one’s own deeds it becomes a form of self-idolatry, something which only increases guilt. Any non-Christian philanthropist will make a good example. They give money and effort to causes – AIDS for example – in order to make the world a better place, or to perhaps help their fellow man. This brings about personal satisfaction and, of course, applause from man. But it failed to address the sin problem which already existed. The favor rests not with God but with man, and in particular – self.

Man must come to Christ first in order to be justified before God. Only when the wrath at sin is dealt with (in the body of Jesus) can the works merit favor and reward. The result is the “peace” Paul announces in today’s verse. Reconciliation with God through Jesus should lead us to accomplish works of righteousness leading to glory, honor, and peace. Peter notes the time when this will be fully realized –

“…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” 1 Peter 5:4

Life application: Are you saved and just waiting on your glorification without living a full and abundant life of works for Christ? Or are you actively participating in doing those things which will bring Him glory now and that will bring you rewards when He appears? This life is our one chance to work for our eternal rewards. We save money in banks for the future, we go to college for the future, we buy insurance for the future… how much more should we add to our heavenly account then. Be wise with the time you have been given and determine to accomplish your works for that which will never perish.

Lord God, give me wisdom to effectively use the gifts You have blessed me with and not squander them for that which is only temporary. Help me to do what is right and good in Your eyes and which will bring everlasting rewards. Thank You for Your guiding hand upon me. Amen.

For there is no partiality with God. Romans 2:11

This verse begins with “for” and is being used as a confirmation of the previous thought which twice stated “first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” The anticipated wrath of God or favor of God comes equally upon all. There is no consideration of the outer appearance of the jar, but rather the favor lies with what is in it; God is not superficial in His judgments, but determines the value of the contents rather than the showiness of what is externally apparent.

This thought permeates the Bible and yet it is often misunderstood, by both the Jew because of his heritage and by the church member who has entered into some denomination, sect, or cult and thus believes he has been elevated to an especially favorable standing with God because of that affiliation.

In Deuteronomy 1:17, we find that God expects our judgments to be fair and without partiality and the reason for that is given –

“You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.”

All judgment is ultimately God’s, so when we pervert justice, we slander His name by our actions. God sets the standards and they are universal in scope and thus they should be in application as well. James clearly defines our responsibilities in this matter and how to carry them out –

“My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4

Having considered this, it must be noted that judgment and placement are not the same thing, but as the world is running towards ever more liberal thinking the two categories become confused. God does not show favoritism in His judgments of us, but as the sovereign Creator He has the right to place people in various locations and at any point in time. Therefore, they may be brought into the world in unequal status economically, socially, etc. These choices are at His discretion and do not imply partiality or favoritism. The founding fathers of America understood this when they penned these words –

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

The founders did not say that all have the “right” to happiness, but that all have the right to pursue it. Owning a house is to be a pursuit, not a judgment. Feeding oneself is a product of placement and opportunity, not a universal right which is the responsibility of others. In other words, if a person is in a place where food won’t grow, it is their responsibility to move and work with their hands to grow it or purchase it from a supply line based on money earned from another vocation. Confusing these lines actually moves us away from what God ordains.

Life application: God doesn’t show favoritism in His judgments and He asks us to act likewise. However, God places us according to His wisdom and expects us to live within that placement or pick up and move to action based on the abilities He has made us with. Take time today to think clearly on moral and social responsibilities and don’t let the lines of your thinking become confused, lest it lead you to find fault in God where no fault exists.

Lord Jesus, help me to think clearly on issues which often become confused in our society. Give me the wisdom to stand on what is morally right and to hold fast to that. But Lord, also help me to see Your sovereign hand in the workings of the world and the placement of the peoples – all which are leading to Your end goals for us. Amen.

For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law… Romans 2:12

Today’s verse begins an amazingly sobering thought concerning the nature of man, our relationship with God as fallen creatures, and our desperate need to “get the word out” to the people of the world.

The thought begins with “for.” This begins a confirmation of what has been previously stated. To understand the context, take a moment to review verses 1-11. “For as many as have sinned without law” is speaking about the entire scope of the people of the world who had not yet received God’s law as given to the nation of Israel. The words “without law” are translated from anomos, the a is negative and nomos is speaking of the law given through Moses to Israel.

This is the world at large and is speaking of all people since the beginning of the world. They “will also perish without law.” How can this be? If there is no law to instruct the people, then how can they be condemned? Where is the fairness in this? These are the often asked and obvious questions of the people of the world. “It’s not fair!” But this is making the assumption that there is no standard at all by which we can be judged. Paul showed in the previous chapter and will show in the coming verses that there is a universally understood “law” that is written on our conscience.

A major premise of the Bible is that man is fallen. In order to reconcile this, God has worked through several “dispensations” to show us that fallen state and our need for Jesus. Each of these dispensations leads us to a new understanding of our corrupt nature and our deserved condemnation before His glorious perfection. Jesus confirms this fallen state in John 3:18 –

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

As He notes, we are “condemned already.” Fallen man needs to do nothing to go to hell; he is already on that road. What He needs is an avenue of escape from that path. This is the plan of salvation as the Bible reveals and which ultimately takes us to Jesus and the cross of Calvary. Along that path, God introduced the law. This period is one of the dispensations God gave the world. It shows us His standards and what man can do to live by them. Paul explains though that no one can meet its standards perfectly (Romans 3:19, 20). Even the law itself shows us this by offering the Day of Atonement – a needed cup of grace found each year in the midst of an ocean of works. Without the Day of Atonement, the law merely condemns those under the law.

The second half of today’s verse shows us this – “…as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.” This is the fair and equitable standard to which the Jew (whom Paul has been addressing) could find no place to object. They were the recipients and bearers of God’s law and they lorded their position of favor over those who didn’t possess the law. And yet, the very law they felt favored them is actually what brought about stricter judgment and greater condemnation.

In essence, and as Paul will explain in his writings, the law was given to demonstrate two great lessons to the world –

1) To show us how utterly sinful sin is to God – “Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.” Romans 7:13

2) To show fallen man his desperate need for something better, something apart from the law, something without which there is no hope – “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Galatians 3:21-25

The law is a tutor which was meant to take us by the hand and lead us directly to our need for God’s unmerited favor, His grace, His mercy… His Son, our Lord Jesus.

Life application: Are you trusting in deeds of the flesh to obtain God’s favor? If so, turn away from this mindset and the futility it produces and come to God’s Fountain of grace – Jesus. Place your faith and trust in Him alone for your salvation and then accomplish works which will demonstrate the change that has taken place in you. And be sure to tell others about what God has done. All are under a sentence of condemnation and all need Jesus.

Lord God, when I contemplate the grace that You have poured out on me, I stand in awe. What You have done is so far above my comprehension that my mind cannot grasp it. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your mercy – all displayed in the giving of Your Son for me. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

(for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; Romans 2:13

We are continuing on with a series of verses which need to be looked at from a broad scope of Scripture and not as individual, stand-alone, thoughts. If we take these verses and cite them without proper context, a completely wrong conclusion of what Paul is actually trying to tell us will be derived. What he says here in verse 13 ought to be obvious in the plain sense. If you only hear the law and don’t do what the law says, the law is of no value at all.

To understand this, just think of a sign by the train tracks, “Stay off the tracks when a train is approaching.” The people who live in the area have this law, just as Israel had the law. But then one guy in town (a real smart fellow) decides to take his family for a stroll on Sunday… on the tracks. Obviously being one who has the law posted was of no value to him and his family, and yes, the funeral is Tuesday at 10am.

James writes similar words in his epistle as well – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” James 1:22-25

The law, which is only a portion of the word, has a particular part and purpose in God’s redemptive plan, but that purpose ended at the cross of Jesus. In Matthew 5:17, it notes that Jesus came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. And fulfill them He did. They are now set aside in Christ (Hebrews 10:9).

The point that needs to be more carefully evaluated is what the law itself says in Leviticus 18:5, “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” Paul quotes this verse twice, once in Romans 10:5 and then again in Galatians 3:11, 12. He states that “no one is justified by the law in the sight of God.” So what is he talking about in today’s verse? Is Paul confused? No. The reason is that the law, just like all of God’s dealings with man, is ultimately based on faith, not works.

The law itself requires works, but they are works which demonstrate to us our inability to meet the very law on which the works are based. As was noted in evaluating the previous verse, the law was given to show us the utterly sinful nature of sin and to lead us to seek out God’s mercy and forgiveness. The law itself shows us this in the book of Habakkuk –

“Behold the proud,

His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.” (vs. 2:4)

Therefore, what Paul is saying today is not that the law justifies a person or can justify a person, only that the “doers of the law will be justified.” And, none except Jesus are truly “doers of the law” unless they are living by faith.

So here we have the resolution: The law was given and no one can meet its standards perfectly. Therefore faith is required that despite not meeting it God will provide salvation to those who will trust in Him and not in themselves; self-reliance in meeting the deeds of the law is not trusting in God, but in self. Then Jesus came to fulfill the law we cannot fulfill. Now, by faith in His accomplishing the law and then becoming our sin-offering at the cross, we now stand justified before God. It is faith in God’s providence at all times and in all dispensations which reconcile us to God.

Life application: Are you living by faith in what Jesus did or are you tying to please God through your own deeds? Have faith in what God has done through Jesus and then you will be able to please God with your deeds, because they are based on faith and not on the act itself. Above all, God looks for faith in His faithless creatures.

Heavenly Father, what a precious treasure Your word is. To know that Abraham was declared righteous by mere faith gives me confidence that the same is true with me. May I live by faith, even when doing good deeds for others, knowing that what I am doing is less important than the faith behind my actions. May these deeds then bring glory and honor back to You. Amen.

for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, Romans 2:14

Paul now introduces a supporting argument for what he just said in verse 13 by starting with “for when” –

…(for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when…

To clarify, he has made a claim against the Jews who trust in merely being the stewards of the law while failing to meet the law. Now he will demonstrate that what he said is correct. For when Gentiles (all who are not Jews) who do not have the law (the written code entrusted to the Jewish people by God), by nature do the things in the law (they obey what the law prescribes, such as “do not murder”), although not having the law (because it was given only to the nation of Israel), are a law to themselves (they have become “doers of the law” and thus prove his claim of verse 13).

There is no culture which has ever existed that was devoid of a moral law. Although the laws are enacted in varying degrees of strictness and enforced in varying degrees of severity, there is found to be a universal standard of overall moral right and wrong which is written on our hearts and imprinted on our consciences. When these internal codes are violated, a sense of guilt is the result. In essence, the Gentiles are stewards of God’s law, even if not written and detailed in the form given to Israel.

It is important to note that the word translated “when” in no way implies that what Paul is arguing will take place. Instead, it is a conjecture which links the two thoughts. The reason this is important is because even though obedience to this internal law may exist, it doesn’t mean that it exists perfectly or that it will be executed flawlessly. Even more, the Bible consistently implies that it won’t – “all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

What this means then is that no person will be saved by the light he has received – for the Jew it was the Law of Moses, and for the gentile it is through the internal law of the heart and conscience. Instead, he will be judged by that light – greater judgment for the one with greater light. The light merely brings condemnation in varying degree. It is Christ who brings salvation in its fullness.

This concept of greater judgment for greater knowledge is hinted at in James 3:1. Although James is speaking to those who would presume to be teachers, the idea rings true with what Paul is telling us about in Romans –

“My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”

All will be judged fairly based upon the light they have received and none will be able to accuse God of unfairness. All mouths will be stopped before Him and every tongue will be silenced. In the end, all people deserve God’s hand of wrath and condemnation, but because of His great love with which He has loved us, we shall receive mercy if we come to the cross and the precious shed blood of Jesus.

Life application: Are you willing to gain greater light which will potentially increase your guilt before God? It is a scary thought, but the only acceptable answer for the follower of Jesus is, “Yes.” It is unthinkable that we would want to keep ourselves from knowing God in all His fullness just because we are scared of what we might learn about our own fallen state. Instead, when we learn more, we need to have our faith and actions coincide with our greater knowledge.

Lord God, Your word states “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” So Lord, give me the understanding of Your word and then give me the desire and the ability to take heed to it. I know that through You I can do all things and so let me not be timid in my pursuit of You. Amen.

who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)… Romans 2:15

Paul states it as an axiom that when people by nature do the things which are found in the law, even though they don’t have the law, they “show the work of the law written in their hearts.” It’s a validation that we know intuitively, although we exercise this in varying degrees of actual adherence, what God expects of us. The fact that we display these moral convictions shows that there must be an ultimate standard on which they are being compared. Though we may err in our reasoning about a moral issue, the moral standard exists.

Showing that this code is ingrained “in their hearts,” their conscience then works with or against their actions; it bears witness to what they actually do. The Bible gives us insights into man’s conscience in several ways –

In John 8:9 is says those who faced Jesus’ pronouncement about being the first to stone the adulterous woman were convicted in their conscience. It is a tool of conviction.

In Acts 23:1, Paul claimed before the Sanhedrin that he “lived in all good conscience before God.” It is a tool for right moral living.

In Romans 13:5, we are told to be subject to rulers, not only because of their wrath if we disobey, but merely for conscience' sake. It is a rule and guide within a societal framework because God ordains rulers of societies.

In 1 Corinthians 8:7-12, Paul notes that believers can have a weak conscience. This comes from a lack of knowledge about the truth of God’s word. It is a part of man which must be corrected and strengthened through prayer and study.

In 1 Timothy 3:9, Paul tells Timothy to have a pure conscience. This would be living fully and completely within the ordinances of God and according to the word he has given. Right conscience is an attainable asset.

In the following chapter, 1 Timothy 4:2 tells us that those who reject God’s truth can actually incur a seared conscience. It is something that can be completely twisted or even eradicated.

In Titus 1:15, Paul speaks of those who are corrupted and thus they have a defiled conscience. It is something that when misused can produce ungodliness and immorality.

These, and many other examples in Scripture, show us that the conscience is a powerful tool to be used in accordance with God’s word or which will work against it. When exercised without God’s word, the conscience of man, like his emotions, is one of the most uncertain faculties he possesses. If not reigned in, it will become seared as Paul describes and the person will move so far away from right morality that they become completely defiled. This is total depravity and complete enmity with God, striving against him on every moral issue.

Life application: Are you seeking to align your moral compass with God’s word? If so, then you must first know God’s word and then allow your conscience to lead you to right moral actions and convict you of incorrect ones. When this is properly effected, you will be living fully and completely within the ordinances of God.

Heavenly Father, help me to never snub my conscience when it speaks to align my actions with Your word. Keep me from willful disobedience which can only result in a weakening of my conscience, even to the point that it is seared. I do want to please You and I pray this for Your glory. Amen.

in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Romans 2:16

This verse ties directly back to verse 12. The intervening verses fill the thought out for us to comprehend the full extent of what the two surrounding verses state. Every person will be judged according to the amount of revealed light they have received. At Paul’s time, it was Jew and Gentile; the Holy Scriptures and natural law; order and conscience; deeds for self or deeds of faith; etc. These will be considered and judgment will be rendered.

It needs to be noted again that although there are two categories flowing from Paul’s pen – Jew and Gentile, there is now the church and the complete canon of Scripture. This is a sobering thought for us to consider. We now have a much fuller extent of God’s revelation and are therefore more accountable for what we know. Imagine the guilt of the professor of biblical theology in a modern university who has, and teaches, both testaments of the Bible and yet discounts what he teaches as “one of many paths to God” or “just another ancient text written by man.” Such an individual will be judged in the most severe way for diminishing the glory of which he was an especially important steward.

All of these things will be evaluated “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men.” The Bible in numerous verses reveals that God searches the hearts and minds of man. It also states again and again that God will judge all people. Tying the two thoughts together supports what Paul states here. Judgment isn’t only based on deed, but on thought and intent as well. Ecclesiastes 12:14 gives us one of many tastes of this –

For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

The ancient Greek writer Sophocles who lived almost 500 years before Christ, and outside of the covenant people Israel, wrote these words, confirming that there is a written code which men have in their hearts and that God is therefore just in judging these “secrets of men.”

“Not now, nor yesterday, but evermore

These laws have lived: nor know we whence they came.”

We are being observed, evaluated, and our deeds – hidden and open – are being noted for the day of God’s judgment. And the final portion of that process will be “by Jesus Christ.” The Bible reveals with no uncertainty (such as in Act 17:31) that He is the One to whom all judgment has been granted –

“…because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

God has every right to judge His creatures, but how much more when He participated in His creation. And then, how much more when His creatures have rejected His participation! Jesus Christ, the God/Man will stand in judgment because He too stood in judgment. If His own creatures sentenced Him while innocent, how much more just is His judgment over their guilt? All of this is ensured to us as Paul says, “according to my gospel.”

Paul is not claiming authority to the gospel, as if he is its author. Instead, he is claiming authority to it as the herald of the Author’s message. His commission stands directly from the words of Jesus in Acts 9:15. There Jesus states, “…he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” This then places Paul in opposition to any false gospel. His word is the authoritative word of God as transmitted through him, just as was the word of the prophets of old.

Life application: It is sobering to know that every thought we have and every thing we have done is known to God and that we are accountable to Him for these things. For this reason, we are told to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Let each of us both strive for this individually and also remind others of this when the need arises.

O glorious God, You are just when You judge and thus we are deserving of the pouring out of your wrath upon us. And yet, in Your great love You have lavished us with favor, mercy, and salvation according to the riches of Your glory. Thank you for our Lord Jesus and the promise of eternal life which proceeds from and through Him. Amen.

Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, Romans 2:17

Paul now names the people he's been directing his thoughts to since verse 2:1, the Jews. He has laid out his argument concisely concerning the nature of judgment for those with the law and those without the law. Now he gives three points which concern the Jew's attitude.

1) You are called a Jew. The term Jew is applied as a general name for the people of Israel. Abraham was a Hebrew and the name was applied to those of the line of promise even to Paul's time (Philippians 3:5). However, the people are also called "Israelites." This is the group and nation of the people. But even this was further refined to "Jew." The term comes from the tribe of Judah, of whom Jesus descends. Judah became the prominent tribe of the people of Israel and after the Babylonian exile, the term Jew became synonymous with any person from any of the tribes of Israel. Being called a Jew was considered an honor because they were the stewards of God's oracles and his chosen people.

2) You "rest on the law." Just as some people "rest on Catholicism" or "rest on their good works" or "rest on their blessings as evidence of God's favor" the Jews rested on having the law. It became an end in and of itself. "Not only are we God's chosen, but we have the law and thus are in right standing with God."

3) You "make your boast in God." The one true God revealed Himself through the promised line which eventually became the Jews. They had His law and His name rests on them - Israel means "He struggles with God." Not only did God place the name "El" on them, but He also revealed His other names - "I AM," "Jehovah," "El Shaddai," and etc. They could boast that this God, who has revealed Himself though their oracles and to their people, was surely on their side.

However, Paul has already shown that all men, both Jew and Gentile, need more than a name to be in favor with God. They also need more than the law to be in favor with God. And they need more than knowing God's name and character to be in His favor. James explains this quite well in his epistle. Note how he brings in all three points - Abraham being a Hebrew; works of faith rather than merely having knowledge; and having a correct knowledge of who God is and yet not being right with him -

"But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" James 2:18-22

Life application: Again and again we see in Scripture that what God desires is faith. Our family, our denomination, or our nation of birth is irrelevant to a right standing with Him. Having a Bible in our house and even being a teacher of that Bible means nothing without faith in what it states. And knowing all about God in our heads means nothing if we don't have a relationship with Him. Let us strive to put aside all externals and focus on what is inside - a heart and attitude which demonstrates our love for Him.

Lord Jesus, please keep my heart humble and my thoughts properly focused on You. All the knowledge in the world about who You are means nothing when I am disobedient to You. So Lord, help me to mix my knowledge with faith. And then help me to instruct others wisely based on that knowledge. All this I pray to Your glory. Amen.

...and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, Romans 2:18

There are two general meanings that the word "approve" could mean in this verse. The first would be "to approve of" and the other would be to "prove" or to "discern between." Either would make sense in the context of the verse and it should be noted that the former would merely be the result of exercising the latter. In the overall context and because one eventually results in the other, it would be logical that Paul is speaking of discernment.

This type of discernment is found in the testing of metals by fire. When they are heated they are proven pure, found to be mixed with lesser metals, or defiled by impurities. The fire reveals the purity, nature, and quality of the solid by breaking it down into liquid. Jesus uses this same term in Luke 12:56 in a manner revealing discernment -

"Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?" Luke 12:56

The people He was addressing could walk out from morning to morning and tell what the weather would be like by the color of the sky. But when the Light of the world came and revealed His glory, they were blinded and unable to make a right discernment about who He actually is.

In a like manner, Paul shows that the Jew, putting his trust in the law as an end in and of itself, boasts in God because they "know His will" from the law. This is done regardless of whether they actually have faith in God or not. They know what He expects from a mechanical sense and therefore can discern between what is good and what isn't. They obtain this because they are "being instructed out of the law."

The word "instructed" here is from the Greek word katechoumenos. It is where we obtain our word "catechumen" - one who is being instructed. From this comes the word catechism, or instruction.

The instruction they receive helps them to understand what is right, but he will show that it doesn't guarantee that the knowledge will be transferred to right action. As an example, a judge may know the law like the back of his hand, but this doesn't mean that he will actually obey the law that he knows. Time and time again we read of judges who are arrested for committing the very crimes that they judge others for. These judges -

1) Know the law (His will)

2) Agree with the law because they judge others using it (approve the things that are excellent)

3) Because they have been schooled in law (instructed out of the law)

All of this, however, is no guarantee of right living. We will see this as we continue.

Life application: What is your level of Bible knowledge? Have you read the word many times? Have you studied the original languages? Have you been schooled in proper theology? If yes - big deal... big deal if you don't align your life with what you know. Having the law; knowing the Bible; understanding the nature of God - none of that means diddly if you have no heart for the Lord. Each day, remember to return to child-like faith in your Lord. Then go back and apply the meat of His word to Your wholesome diet.

Lord Jesus, I confess that too often I trust in my knowledge and forget to put my faith in You. My knowledge actually causes me to stumble and act in a manner contrary to the beauty of living by faith alone in Your great work. Humble me, O Lord, and give me a heart that is soft and tender toward You alone. Amen.

...and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, Romans 2:19

This is a continuation of the previous verse and will carry on through the next verse. The Jews rested in the law, made their boast in God, and knew His will. They were able to discern what was right because of their instruction out of the law. Because of this, they were confident that they were a sufficient "guide to the blind" and were "a light to those who are in darkness." But the law is not an end in and of itself. It is only a means of understanding God's perfection and man's fallen state.

"Darkness" as used in the Bible often refers to a state of spiritual blindness and a life apart from God. When a person trusts that they can meet the demands of the law apart from a reliance on God's mercy, it only lead to self-blindness. This inevitably will result in leading others astray as well. Jesus shows time and again that this is exactly what happened to the leaders of Israel, such as is seen in Matthew 15:14 -

"Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."

The light which is found in Scripture is only suitable for someone who is willing to use that light for self-illumination first. As the Psalmist implored, so should each person who desires to be instructed from God's word -

"Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law." Psalm 119:18

The Jewish people had every assurance that they were the stewards of God's oracles and that through them would come all the riches of God's promises to the world, but this assurance merely led them to trust that they were somehow excused from God's wrath and judgment. The law to them became a manipulative tool which they used to lord their supposed superiority over the gentiles. However, because of their incorrect use and instruction of it, Jesus shows the opposite was the result -

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves." Matthew 23:15

The law never had the intent or purpose of making people perfect before God. As noted in a previous verse, the fact that the Day of Atonement was given as a part of the law proves this. What the law was meant to do was to lead the people to a humble walk before God in the eager expectation of the Messiah who would reveal the glory of God to the world. This was prophesied in the Old Testament and revealed in the New -

"The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death
Light has dawned." Matthew 4:16

Life application: When you read the Bible and see stories of people committing grievous sins, do you see yourself next to them or do you see them as more vile that you? Understand that erring in any part of the law breaks the entire law and therefore you are as guilty as they are. The judgment they received is the judgment you deserve. Take time today to thank God that your punishment was transferred to Jesus. It was a high cost paid for your sin.

Heavenly Father, I look to the cross and wonder how You could have done this for me. May I never presume that I somehow deserve salvation and eternal life, but that it is Your great grace and mercy which was poured out abundantly on me. Thank You for Jesus; thank You for His cross; thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit; and thank You for Your word. Amen. instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. Romans 2:20

This is the final portion of the idea which began in verse 17. Those who rested in the law, the Jews, made their boast in God because they knew his will from the law. Because they were the law's stewards, they could make value judgments about what is morally right. This resulted in a confidence that they could guide the blind and illuminate the darkness of those without the law. This allowed them to become "an instructor of the foolish" and "a teacher of babes." They believed they were so qualified because they had "the form of knowledge and truth in the law."

In Scripture, the word "foolish" is normally associated with one of two types of people - the first is one who is uneducated in a matter and the second is someone who is morally deficient or wicked. In this verse, Paul is speaking of the first - someone lacking the form of knowledge and truth in the law.

The term "a teacher of babes" is the literal meaning of the words, but it symbolically means someone who is as ignorant about a matter as a baby. To the Jew, everyone else who lived without the law would fall into this category - "We know as adults; your knowledge is that of an infant." Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3:1, 2 uses terminology which reflects this type of understanding -

"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal."

The same concept is expanded on by the author of Hebrews -

"For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hebrews 5:12-14

Having seen this in real applications, we now turn to 1 Peter 2:1, 2. There we see that although solid food, which adults eat and which represents development in wisdom, is important, it is not the entire picture. Peter shows that the Bible is actually something meant for all, but is considered "pure milk." This is something for babes as well as adults -

"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." 1 Peter 2:1, 2

What is being conveyed is that the Bible is pure spiritual milk - acceptable to all people of all ages. But increased knowledge of it moves one from being a spiritual infant to a fully developed person. The problem Paul is addressing in these verses, and which will be explained in the verses to come, is that having all of the Bible knowledge in the world doesn't necessarily lead one to maturity. Only when it is properly applied and acted on does this occur. The Jews Paul speaks of had the knowledge to impart to others, but they didn't apply it to themselves.

The Geneva Bible states the situation this way, "As though he said that the Jews under a pretence of an outward serving of God, attributed all to themselves, when in reality they did nothing less than observe the Law." Mere observation of the law accomplishes nothing without an internal change in the person. Therefore, like Peter stated, the Jews - as all of us - need to "desire the pure milk of the word." By searching the purity of the law, we will naturally be led to a close and personal relationship with the Lawgiver, our glorious Lord.

Life application: Head knowledge is great and we need to increase our knowledge of the word every day. As we do, we become spiritually mature. However, we need to continually search out the intent behind the knowledge - a personal walk with Jesus. Let our hearts be aligned with our actions so that we will be pleasing vessels, ready for the Lord's use.

O God, what a beautiful and perfect word you have given us. Please continually fill me with an understanding of what it says and also the desire to adhere to its precepts. But let me not merely do these things as a means of lifting myself up above others, but rather let me grow so that I may become closer to You. This I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? Romans 2:21

Based on his statement in verses 17-20 Paul now asks a series of questions in Verses 21-23. The questions however begin with "therefore" and thus imply an answer opposite to what would normally be expected. By using a question in this manner, it makes the answer all the more forceful and undeniable.

Beginning with the concept of an instructor passing on instruction, he asks, "You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?" The answer will be "no." The Jews who have the law have been shown to not live by the law which they possess.

To show this, his first indictment is concerning theft - "You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?" Obviously not every person reading his words are implicated in theft, but Paul is making a general observation based on the society in which he lived and which both rejected Christ and then nailed Him to the cross. The oral and possibly written testimony at that time by those who bore witness to Him showed this.

Jesus' accusation against the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:2, 3 is one instance we can verify it. These are the very people who possessed the law and instructed out of it, and yet Jesus showed that they did not live by the standards which they taught -

"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do."

On another occasion, Jesus explicitly called those who controlled the temple grounds thieves -

"And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’" Matthew 21:13

The exact things which the law forbade are the things they practiced, not just in secret, but out in the open. Their actions became a festering wound within the society because the actions of the leaders were seen by all. When this happens, even the commoners begin to act in the same manner.

A perfect example of this is our nation today. Theft in Washington is so open and brazen - transferring money from those who earn it to those who don't - that society sees this as normal and acceptable. The open wound cannot be healed with leaders who are no more than bully thugs.

Favors are bought and sold and exemptions are made for some but not for others. This leads to societal breakdown and "every man for himself." The same was true in Israel at Jesus' time as is evidenced by the gospel record. Again we turn to Matthew to see open theft by the instructors of the law -

"He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” Matthew 15:3-6

The practice of corban was a way of getting around taking care of one's own parents. By devoting assets or money to God, these things could no longer be used for anything else. By making something so devoted, the gift could not be used to help the parents and yet it wasn't actually bound to the temple treasury either. It was somewhat in a state of limbo - it could only be given to the temple or used by the giver. By agreeing to this precept, the leaders in Israel were committing theft against the people who needed it most, the parents who had raised the person and now needed the same care in their old age.

The moral responsibility of those who have the law increases. It doesn't decrease, nor is there an exemption because of the knowledge they possess. Knowledge in no way negates right action. Instead it calls for it and even demands it.

Life application: Here we are studying the Bible and looking deeply into its precepts. We are gaining knowledge and thus much more will be expected of us as we walk through life. The eyes of others are watching us and anticipate that we will set the example for right conduct. Today as you go about your business, reflect on the areas where you may need to correct your habits so that they align with the Name you bear - the Lord Jesus.

Lord, I love Your word and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to read it and learn it. Now Lord, help me to live out what I have learned and to act in a manner which is in accord with its precepts. May those who see my life and actions have nothing bad to say about the title of "Christian." Amen.

You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? Romans 2:22

This is the second of three verses asking those questions to which the Jews of his time had to answer, "Yes." The first today concerns adultery - "You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery?" The answer is "yes" and it is found in the gospels as were the previous questions. And not only is the answer affirmative to literal adultery, but spiritual adultery as well. In Matthew 12:39, it says this -

"But He answered and said to them, 'An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.'"

Jesus accused those who came to Him looking for a sign of the validation of His authority of being wicked and adulterous. The Ninevites, to whom Jonah was sent, repented at the preaching of Jonah without any miraculous sign. The people of Israel had been given the sign of Jonah in Jesus' preaching that judgment was coming, just as Jonah gave. And yet they failed to repent. They, the stewards of the oracles of God and the people from whom came the prophets saw the repentance of Nineveh based on the word from the God they served, but they were unwilling to do what even the pagans had done. They were attempting to excuse themselves from their obligation based on God's supposed favoritism of them, but instead they only incurred greater guilt.

Concerning literal adultery, the account in John 8:1-11 pointedly shows that the people were willing to judge a woman caught in adultery by bringing her to be stoned and yet excused the male who she was with, though both bore the guilt. Jesus then challenged them to cast the first stone if they were without sin; none did. The premise of the law is that if one commandment is broken, the entire law is broken (James 2:10). As none were without sin, then all had broken the entire law, including adultery. In both respects in this account they were proved to be adulterers.

Paul next makes an interesting comment, "You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" The people of the law had transgressed so far in the past that the land was literally full of idols. Because of this, and many other transgressions, God's judgment came upon them and they were exiled to Babylon for 70 years. The lesson concerning idolatry was well learned, but this only took care of the outward, blatant sin of having idols set up for worship. Despite the external change, it did nothing to inwardly change the people. Their hearts remained greedy and set on idolatry, even if it wasn't demonstrated in bowing to idols. Instead, they had set up idols in their hearts. Jesus shows us this in Matthew 21:12, 13 -

"Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,' but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’”

As we continue to see, the very things which the Jews found fault in others were found in them as well. They were trusting in their status as Jews and not in a personal, obedient relationship with God. Each of us needs to continually evaluate our own station to ensure we don't fall into this trap.

Life application: Though we may be born into a Christian home, we are not by default Christians. Though we may be members of our church, it doesn't mean we have a right-standing with God. The only thing we can trust in for God's favor is our faith, mixed with obedience. When these are properly exercised, God will surely turn His face toward us. Take time today to evaluate your walk with the Lord.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Jesus and all that He did for me. Help me not to trust in anything except His work and then help me to instruct others in a right relationship with You as well. It is so easy to have and we so often miss it because of our own pride. Be with me and keep reminding me that it is by Jesus alone that I am secure in You. Amen.

You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? Romans 2:23

This is Paul's final question of indictment against the Jews who rested in the law, but failed to adhere to the precepts they supposedly held in such high esteem. "You who make your boast in the law" implies that they have something worthy of boasting about. Nobody would boast in something of no value. Therefore, the implication is that law is good, the law is right, and the law is holy. Holding up the law as a vital part of their status implies its great value, because their status is derived from that law.

As an example, consider a Bible preacher. He stands in the pulpit and proclaims the glory and splendor of the word. He preaches its precepts. He condemns those who don't adhere to it. His livelihood is based on the Bible, his status is based on the Bible, and the people's trust of the Bible is based on his determined mindset about the Bible. All of who he is and what he has is because of the Bible; he boasts in the Bible. But Paul goes on...

Despite all the boasting Paul asks, "Do you dishonor God through breaking the law?" The very law the Jews stand on for their livelihood and status is dishonored when they break it. In essence, they have religion but they are not redeemed; they have appearance without reality; they profess, but they do not possess; they have orthodoxy, but they are lacking orthopraxy; they know every precept, but they have no proper practice. Quoting Isaiah, Jesus states these words to the religious leaders of His time -

"Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Matthew 15:7-9

How many times have we seen Bible preachers, bishops, pastors, cardinals, evangelists, etc. stand on the Christian message in precept, but fail to adhere to it in practice. Their words and their actions don't sync. This is what Paul has been and is addressing. Albert Barnes rightly states that, "It matters little what a man's speculative opinions may be; his practice may do far more to disgrace religion than his profession does to honor it. It is the life and conduct, and not merely the profession of the lips, that does real honor to the true religion."

A Christian by name only is not a Christian. There must be a moment in the person's life when true acknowledgment of one's own depraved state is realized. After that, it is incumbent on the saved soul to demonstrate it in outward workings of the internal change. To fail in this can only bring disrepute upon the perception of the Bible and upon the Person of Jesus by those who look in their sad direction.

Life application: Are you living out the precepts that you speak to others? If not, mixed signals are being sent which can only adversely affect your testimony and their faith. Take time to evaluate your actions and align them with your professions.

Lord Jesus, help me to have actions that align with my words in all aspects of my life, but especially in my conduct as a Christian. This is particularly important because other's perceptions of everything I do bears on who I am in You. So keep me on the straight and narrow path of right living, O Lord. Amen.

For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written. Romans 2:24

We often make our mental associations of things unseen by the things which we see. If we buy a car, a Ford perhaps, and it is a lemon then our perception of Ford the company will be negative. If our friends buy Fords too and they are all lemons, the name of Ford will be found in low esteem among those looking for a car.

The term for "blasphemed" is found in Romans 3:8 and is translated as "slanderously reported." Later, in Romans 14:16, it is translated as to "be spoken of as evil." When you buy a dud car, your inclination is to tell others not to buy one from "that crummy company." Or you may say something even worse. The people of Israel were selected by God as His special people and thus their actions reflect directly on other's perception of Him. Isaiah speaks of this perception -

Now therefore, what have I here,” says the Lord,
“That My people are taken away for nothing?
Those who rule over them
Make them wail,” says the Lord,
“And My name is blasphemed continually every day. Isaiah 52:5

The gentile world at large railed against Israel because of their conduct and, by default, they railed against the God of Israel. However, Israel's disobedience actually demonstrates God's greatness and His mercy even more. In Ezekiel 32, God explains why He was willing to restore Israel, even after a second instance of disobedience and the crucifixion of His Son. This restoration occurred, exactly as the Bible predicted, in the last century - first in 1948 with the land and then in 1967 with the city of Jerusalem -

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went." Ezekiel 36:22

God demonstrated mercy to Israel while showing the nations His holiness. His word is vindicated in and through His disobedient people.

An important point to consider here is that since Israel's exile and the establishment of the church, it is we who bear the name of God - in the name of Jesus. When our actions contain inappropriate conduct, the name of God is blasphemed among the unsaved. Who in their right mind would want the title "Christian" when they see people living unholy, disrespectful lives? Our actions have consequences.

Life application: Do you have a Christian symbol on your car? If so, do people see someone who is acting properly on the road? What about those you work with. If they know you are a Christian, then are your daily actions calling them to ask more about your faith, or are they making a mockery of the name of Jesus? As you go through your day, consider how the things you do affect others' perception about the Lord.

Lord, please be with me and guide me in my daily walk. Keep my thoughts on You and help me to never stray from right living. May my life be a testimony to Your greatness and may others seek You out because of me. This I pray to Your honor and glory. Amen.

For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Romans 2:25

Paul turns to the ancient rite of circumcision to justify the comments he has previously made. "For" tells us that what was stated leads to this conclusion. "For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law." The rite of circumcision was given to Abraham in Genesis 17. However, he was declared righteous by God in Genesis 15 many years earlier. The rite was a sign of the declaration, not the other way around. Therefore, if one keeps the law (which was later instituted through Moses, a member of the promised line who received the rite), then the circumcision has profit. If not, then it is entirely without merit.

In order to understand this, think of a person who was not of the covenant people. If he was circumcised, perhaps to be a spy against Israel, what good would his circumcision do in regards to the law? Nothing; it would mean nothing. The circumcision needs to be accompanied by a belief that what the law is proclaiming is also worth living out.

Paul then gives a validation of this by turning the premise around - "But if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision." If the law was given and circumcision is a sign attached to those who have received it, implying that it is binding upon them, then when the law is broken, the sign means nothing. Suppose you are the citizen of a nation and you are given an oath as a sign of that citizenship - "I promise to defend the constitution of..." As a validation of that, you are given a uniform with stripes and a flag of your nation on it. If you ship off to war and become a traitor, the uniform means nothing. "Your allegiance has become non-allegiance."

An outward sign must be accompanied by an inward compass or the sign means nothing. This is true within a family, within a work environment, or in any other group or organizational context. Without this inward conviction, the outward sign has no point or purpose. Moses realized this when he spoke to the nation after their 38 years of desert wanderings in Deuteronomy 10:16 -

"Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer."

In the very next sentence, verse 10:17, Moses says that the Lord "shows no partiality nor takes a bribe." "No partiality" is tied directly to "circumcision of the heart." It is an internal conviction, not an outward sign, which demonstrates a person is in right standing with the law. This is especially true because Paul (in fact the entire Old Testament as well) shows that none can meet the demands of the law perfectly. Therefore, all are guilty before the law and the sign of circumcision is of no value unless accompanied by faith in what the law provides when the law is broken - mercy and forgiveness through conviction and repentance (such as the Day of Atonement ritual).

The importance of "uncircumcision" is of such weight and moment to Paul that he will use the term 19 times in his letters. Only one other time is it used in the New Testament - in the book of Acts. Understanding this connection between the inward change and the rite clearly shows us that baptism is not a New Testament equivalent of circumcision. Infant baptism carries with it the same inherent flaw as what Paul speaks of. To understand the fault of tying infant baptism in with circumcision, you may wish to take time and watch this sermon where I discusses the issue in detail -

Life application: If you are relying on an external sign, rite, or affiliation in order to please God, you have made an error in your thinking. The holiness of God demands that all who enter His promised heaven must be perfect in all ways. Nothing can be added to an imperfect being to make him perfect. Instead, there must be a complete change in the person - moving from unrighteousness to righteousness. This can only come about by faith in what God can do, not man; this can only come about through Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus today.

Heavenly Father, may You continue to remind me that the external things of my life - my denomination, my church attendance, my giving, and my title of "Christian" can only have meaning if my heart is directed to You. And then Lord, give me the willing desire to pursue You and thus prove that the externals really reflect what is inside me. Amen.

Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? Romans 2:26

Another question which is actually an affirmative statement now comes from Paul. A man who hasn't been circumcised and yet keeps the law will be considered as one who was circumcised. As previously noted, Abraham believed God and was counted as righteous in Genesis 15. His circumcision, the sign of the covenant, didn't come until many years later in Genesis 17. The sign in no way added to his state of righteousness.

Paul is teaching through his words that God's approval of man does not in any way depend on the external appearance of the individual, but rather on the condition of one's heart and their actions which are aligned with a right heart condition. He finishes this verse with "will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision."

The term "be counted" is the Greek word logisthesetai (from the verb logizomai) which means to "consider" or to "reckon." This verb is used in Romans 4:3 where Paul quotes the account of Abraham from Genesis 15 - " For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'" God imputed righteousness to Abraham because of his faith. There were no deeds attached to the faith, but simply an acceptance of what God had said was true.

The word is also used in Luke 22:37 when Jesus was counted, or reckoned, as a transgressor even though He had done no wrong -

"For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: 'And He was numbered with the transgressors.'"

The idea of imputed righteousness permeates both testaments of the Bible and is realized in the work of Jesus. He was circumcised and He also met the strict demands of the law perfectly. Now, by faith in Him and in His actions we too can be counted righteous by mere faith, just as Abraham was. Our "uncircumcision" is counted as "circumcision" because He was circumcised as a Jew. Also, we can now meet the righteous demands of the law through Him as well. His work can be "counted as" accomplished for us.

Life application: As you read the Old Testament, particularly the 613 commandments of the law given through Moses, reflect on the precepts that you have failed to meet - there will be a lot. Then realize that meeting these perfectly is the standard God demands. But don't forget that despite your failure to meet them, Jesus prevailed. If you accept His work, it will be imputed to you. And the suffering He felt at the cross... that was your punishment being transferred to Him. Apply this to your life by demonstrating a grateful heart to the Lord.

When I think of all that You have done for me Lord, I am just overwhelmed by it all. You accomplished what I failed to do and instead of holding that over me in laughter, you laid it upon me in love. Who am I, Lord, that You would do such a thing for me? How I love You, O Lamb of God. Amen.

And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? Romans 2:27

Another question which demands a "Yes" answer is handed to the Jews of Paul's day. Those gentiles (the physically uncircumcised) who fulfill the law will judge those who have the written code and circumcision (the Jews who have the law and the sign of the law) because of their failure to meet the law, of which circumcision is a sign.

It is obvious in and of itself that having the law and having the sign of the law is pointless unless one obeys the law they have. And so Paul has laid out the precepts to show us this. They involve the following thoughts -

1) Having the sign of circumcision without fulfilling the law which mandates the sign is lawlessness.

2) Those who fulfill the law, regardless of whether they have the sign of the law or not, will receive God's praise. On the other hand, those who have the sign but who fail to fulfill the law may receive praise from man but not from God.

3)Those who do not have the sign but who keep the law are more pleasing to God than those who have the sign but don't keep it.

4) Those who keep the law, regardless of having the sign, will judge those who do not keep the law even if they have the sign.

As before, we can simply insert the word "judge" into "those who have the sign of the law" to help us make mental images of what these points make:

1) Being a judge without fulfilling the law which mandates what he judges is lawlessness.

2) Those who obey the law, regardless of whether they are judges or not, will be secure in what the laws of the nation requires. On the other hand, those who are judges but fail to fulfill the law may receive praise from men (because they are judges) but not from the nation who has given the law.

3) Those who aren't judges but keep the law are more pleasing to the nation who has given the law than those who are judges but don't keep it.

4) Those who keep the law, regardless of whether they are appointed judges, will judge those who don't keep the law even if they are appointed judges.

All this is telling us that being circumcised means nothing without obedience. What God asks for is that our heart is turned toward Him and that we are obedient to what He requires.

Life application: God has sent His Son into the world to fulfill the law which none of us can fulfill. Now, He asks us to accept what Jesus has done on our behalf thus allowing us to meet the impossible demands of the law through Him - vicariously. Let us apply this to our life by being grateful, from moment to moment, for the grace He has lavished upon us.

Lord God, I want to give You my praise today for the wonderful blessings You have bestowed upon me - food, family, friendships, and joy in my heart. But above all, I want to give You praise for the giving of Your Son to restore me to You. Thank You Lord for this wonderful, glorious blessing. Amen.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; Romans 2:28

The Hebrew people were given the rite of circumcision in Genesis 17. From Abraham came Isaac and from Isaac came Jacob who is Israel. From Israel came the 12 tribes of Israel, the fourth being Judah. Judah, became the preeminent tribe of the Israelites and the term Jew (being derived from Judah) became synonymous with all the people of Israel. To this line of people was given the rite of circumcision which was to be an outward mark of what should be an inward trait - a separation from the world and a dedication to, and service of, the true God.

In today's verse though, Paul removes the outward sign as the identifying mark of the Jewish people and thus strips them of their privileged status based on this sign alone. "For" is a conclusion resulting from the previous three verses. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly." The word for "outwardly" is phanero and it indicates what is visible. A beard (well normally...) identifies a man. It is an outward sign of being a male. The circumcision was supposed to be the same. The outward mark identifies what the person is. But Paul strips this notion. Just as a woman could be born with hypertricosis and have a beard, or she could have a false beard to make herself look like a man, she is nonetheless a female. The same is true with the Jew. The outward sign does not make the person.

Paul then explains this - "Nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh." The circumcision of the foreskin on the male was to be an external display of the true circumcision which is reflected in the inward man. Jeremiah tells us about this many generations before Paul wrote his epistle -

"Circumcise yourselves to the Lord,
And take away the foreskins of your hearts,
You men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem,
Lest My fury come forth like fire,
And burn so that no one can quench it,
Because of the evil of your doings." Jeremiah 4:4

The people's trust in the outward rite without the accompanying inward conviction would only result in harsh judgment. The true Jew is the one who lives in accord with the expectations of the outward sign, having the inward circumcision to accompany it.

Now that this has been discerned, one of the most vital distinctions of all must be made. Is a person a Jew if they are circumcised in the heart, but not of the line of Israel (the Jewish people?) The answer is a resounding "No." This is a fundamental error in theology which will be carefully treated in the next chapter and throughout the entire New Testament. However, there are those who claim that it is the case. RC Sproul of Ligonier Ministries stated this in his Tabletalk Magazine -

"We’re not dispensationalists here....We believe that the church is essentially Israel. We believe that the answer to, “What about the Jews?” is, “Here we are.” We deny that the church is God’s “plan B.” We deny that we are living in God’s redemptive parenthesis."

This type of error leads to confusion of what God is doing in and through history and it inevitably results in a denial that Israel, the land and the people of today, has a plan and purpose in God's dealings with the world in which we live. In essence, they are some sort of aberration. This is not the case at all. Extreme care needs to be given to the issue.

Life application: Regardless of whether we are Jews or not, we are to have the inward circumcision of the heart. If we don't live lives as Christians, then the name "Christian" has no meaning. Let us endeavor to carefully evaluate our internal person and have it align with our external appellation.

Heavenly Father, You are reminding us again in today's verse that we need to live in accordance with the title we bear. If we call ourselves "Christians" and don't live the life expected of the title, then are we really Christians? Help us to have the two mesh together so that we will be pleasing in Your sight and glorifying to You. Amen.

...but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. Romans 2:29

In our evaluation of verse 28, the question was asked, "Is a person a Jew if they are circumcised in the heart, but not of the line of Israel." The answer is "no." This will be explored in detail in the chapters ahead as well as in the other epistles, however, one could come to this conclusion if they were to take verses such as verse 29 out of context. Paul says that "he is a Jew who is one inwardly." Does this in any way imply that gentiles are included in this statement? No. It simply means that a person born of the line of Israel who only outwardly reflects his nature is not counted as a true Jew. He must have an inward reflection as well.

Next Paul says that "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter." What this means is that having the sign of circumcision in the flesh, but not having the heart for what this means to God is of no value. Circumcision in the Spirit means that the Jew is internally convicted of his state and doesn't live only by "the letter." This term, "not in the letter," is speaking of living by the precepts of the law without caring about the intent behind those precepts. Paul speaks of the Spirit and the letter in 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 -

"Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."

The "letter" is the law which actually condemns all people because they can never meet the demands of the law. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit who gives the inner testimony of God and which frees one from the condemnation of the law. This isn't just a New Testament concept. David, who failed to meet the demands of the law, demonstrated his understanding of the letter versus the Spirit -

"Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me." Psalm 51:11

David knew that without the Spirit, there was only separation from God's presence. It's good to note that since Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, a believer cannot lose the Holy Spirit. Christ fulfilled the law and therefore its demands are met in those who call on Him.

Having discerned these things, the same question needs to be asked for the second portion of today's verse. Paul says that "circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter." Does this in any way imply that gentiles are included in this statement? Again, the answer is "No." Just because a gentile may be circumcised in the heart and have the Spirit in no way implies that they are now Jews.

To understand this, let's use the concept of being a patriot. We could say, "Being a patriot is an inward allegiance to the nation and not merely being a citizen of the United States." There are many people who are citizens of the United States, but not all of them have an inward allegiance to the nation. In fact, many citizens have great animosity towards their country; they are not patriots. Therefore, being a patriot, like being a Jew, is not based on externals, but internals.

Now let's consider those who have a great allegiance to the United States, but they are not citizens. Are they patriots? No. Because they are not citizens, they are not considered patriots. There were many foreigners who came to the aid of the patriots during the revolutionary war, who believed in the cause of the war, and who even died in support of America, and yet they were not considered patriots. Likewise, gentiles are not Jews simply because they bear circumcision of the heart and have the Spirit.

This is an immensely important issue, because if one believes he is a Jew when he isn't, then his theology is garbled and confused. This confusion comes from misapplying verses such as today's and other verses such as Galatians 3:28 which says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Paul says "there is neither Jew nor Greek" which leads people to say that we are all the same; the Christians are now the Jews. But this is entirely wrong and is verifiable by the same verse. Paul says also that "there is neither male nor female." However, it's obvious that there are still males and there are still females. Nothing has changed. There very fact that Paul states "Jew" and "Greek" implies that there is, in fact, a difference just as by stating "male" and "female" implies there is a difference. Paul is speaking in a spiritual context - "We are all one in Christ." Not that we are not distinctive entities in Christ.

Finally in verse 29, Paul says, "whose praise is not from men but from God." The term "Jew" comes from the name "Judah" which mean's "praise." Therefore, Paul is making a pun on the term. He is saying that being a Jew is not something that comes from man (meaning ancestry) but it comes from God. In other words, not all Jews are truly Jews. Only those who live by God's Spirit are the true Jews. Again, as has been noted twice already, this in no way implies that a gentile who has received God's Spirit is now a Jew. It only negates those of the line of Israel who don't qualify.

Life application: Don't claim to be something you're not. If you are in Christ, then names and titles mean far less than knowing you're a child of the King.

Yes Lord! Thank You for accepting me as I am, a sinner saved by grace. Praise from man means nothing because I know I have received the gift of eternal life through Your shed blood. Be pleased O Lord to dwell in my praises. All glory belongs to You! Amen.

What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Romans 3:1

The obvious question which arises from Paul's words in the previous verses is, if all of this is true, then "what advantage has the Jew." If the Jew has the law and no one is able to fully meet the law thus making their circumcision as uncircumcision (2:25), then "what is the profit of circumcision?" This thinking is similar to several questions asked in Ecclesiastes, such as Ecclesiastes 6:8 -

For what more has the wise man than the fool?
What does the poor man have,
Who knows how to walk before the living?

If the wise man ends up in the same box six feet under the ground that the fool and the poor man go to, then what good is all the wise man's wisdom? There must be a reason for being wise beyond our temporary life or it would be better to live foolishly and carelessly. Likewise, there must be some value in being a Jew beyond the law or it would be better to not be a Jew at all.

Paul will give an immediate answer here in verse 3:2 and then he will treat the situation concerning the Jews in detail in chapters 9-11. It's important to note in today's question that it confirms the issue raised and answered in the last verses of the previous chapter - "Are those gentiles who are "circumcised in the heart" now Jews? If they were, Paul wouldn't even ask the question in verse 3:1, nor would he then answer it. The Bible reveals these truths concerning the state of God's people -

1) Anyone who is a faithful believer is a spiritual descendant of Abraham.

2) Israel comprises those faithful Jews who are obedient sons of Jacob; they are of his physical descent.

3) The church is anyone who has called on Jesus, whether from Israel or from outside of Israel.

4) The church did not replace Israel, although we are grafted into their spiritual heritage.

Life application: God's wisdom is displayed in how He is working out His plan of redemption. Our unfaithfulness in no way negates God's faithfulness and so we should remember the Jewish people in our daily prayers. God selected them for His reasons and He greatness is being demonstrated through them. Therefore, our prayers for them will reflect an understanding of this and a desire for Him to receive the glory He is due.

Lord, help me to clearly understand these often difficult issues and then to act in a way which will bring You honor in them - through prayer, through acknowledgment of Your sovereignty, and through seeking Your glory. Amen.

Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. Romans 3:2

In response to the question of 3:1 (What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?) Paul answers with an exclamatory sentence... "Much in every way!" In every way, in all respects, and from all sides, the benefits are evident. The first being "Chiefly..." that " them were committed the oracles of God." Paul's word translated "chiefly" can be thought of as "in principle advantage."

Every other aspect of being a Jew or bearing the sign of circumcision is to be found within this concept - that they are the stewards of God's word. If for no other reason than this, and outside of ushering in the Messiah Himself, it is the most important and greatest honor that could be bestowed upon a group of people. These oracles, meaning the entire canon of the Old Testament which were recorded prior to Paul's time, contain God's special revelation of Himself. They show His acts in creation; they show why the world is in the state it is in; they show His plan of righting every wrong and restoring rightness to a fallen world.

In the process of accomplishing these things, these oracles show that He chose a select group of people in which to display His very heart; His intolerance at sin; His grace, mercy, and forgiveness; His longsuffering; etc. They also show His wisdom in the selection because no other group of people has been so minutely diligent in the tender care and protection of these oracles. Even if some generations lost them (2 Kings 22:8), a previous generation had secured them in a place where they could be found. And this is not only the case within the Bible, but outside of it as well.

The Dead Sea scrolls, dating to approximately 250BC, were exactingly copied and stored in an environment where they would last an extremely long period. When they were discovered, they showed that the word had been maintained in an exceedingly careful manner throughout the ages. Any error or intentional manipulation since the time of Christ could now be compared and corrected if necessary, or if none, there would be a validation of the long-copied and carefully protected oracles.

As you can see, even the environment in which the Jew lived, the land granted to them by God, is a testimony to being a Jew. Why? Because the land has the right properties, such as humidity, temperature, isolation, etc, to protect the ancient scrolls. It also became mostly unsuitable for habitation during the exile of the people, thus preserving the archaeological record which can now substantiate the narratives found within the oracles. Being a Jew and a member of the group who has carefully kept circumcision as a right for many millennia is one of the most astonishing aspects of the wisdom of God and the validation of His word. The two are tied together and inseparable.

This leaves an important question to be answered, what about the New Testament? Although this couldn't be answered completely in 10 doctoral dissertations, what should be noted is that what occurs in New Testament times was anticipated in the Old Testament. Further, there are many Old Testament promises (as well as New) which are yet to be fulfilled for the Jewish people as they dwell in the Land of Israel. This, if no other concept, tells us that Israel was set aside, not cast away. God's plans and purposes for His covenant people will come to pass exactly as prophesied. Stand back and watch God's amazing plans unfold, quite possibly in your own lifetime and before your very eyes.

Life application: The immense wisdom of God is displayed in His word, in His people, and in His land for the protection and care of His plan for the people of the world. It is true that the Jew rejected Christ, but this was known by God before it occurred and therefore He set aside these people during the dispensation of grace; the Church Age. But this era is ending and the times of the fulfillment of God's plan in and through the people of Israel is coming. Pray for the people of Israel, support the people of Israel, and stand with the people of Israel. God's hand is upon them and ours should be as well.

Lord, help me to be a light to the Jews who have yet to call on Jesus. Send me opportunities to speak to them, care for them, and show them the truth of what has occurred in their history and ours and how it was all a part of a greater plan to bring "many sons to glory." Thank You for Your faithfulness to Your unfaithful people. Amen.

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Romans 3:3

This verse, following immediately after verse 2 should be looked at in conjunction with verse 2 in order to find proper context -

Paul, in verse 1, asked what was the value of being a Jew and having the sign of circumcision. After this, he stated what that value is. That "to them were committed the oracles of God."

As the stewards of God's oracles, they have a special part in God's dealings with the world and the implication is (and which is explicitly stated throughout the Bible) that God will deal with them in a way which will always preserve them as a people. If this is so, then what if "some" of them did not believe? Paul is being gracious here because the vast majority of the nation rejected Christ just as they rejected their Lord throughout their history, thus resulting in judgment and exile. What about this? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God null and void?

On the surface, this question seems clear and accuses God of being unfaithful. It is an argument which Paul had probably heard time and again. Those looking to find fault in God will propose such a thought in order to excuse their own unbelief. However, the question contains flawed human reasoning which Paul will clearly refute as he lays out his argument.

Throughout chapter 2, Paul showed that a believing gentile is in better standing with God than an unbelieving Jew. He also demonstrated that the sign of circumcision is pointless unless it is accompanied by living out what the sign is intended to convey - a relationship with God. Those who are uncircumcised and live in faith will have their uncircumcision counted as circumcision while those who are circumcised and don't live in faith will be as if they are uncircumcised. But if their circumcision, which is the sign of the covenant, doesn't save them then doesn't this nullify God's faithfulness? This is the argument and is what Paul will cover in the verses ahead.

Life application: One of the things lacking in the daily lives of people is clear thinking. It is something that requires training and must be developed through practice and study. Without clear thinking, arguments which are otherwise convoluted may seem right. It is hard to defend against such an argument unless the flaw can be pinpointed and shown as fallacious. Take time to study critical thinking, either through self-study on the internet or by enrolling in a college course which deals with the subject. You will be surprised how pertinent your studies will be to your daily life.

Heavenly Father, You created me to be a rational being. You have given me a brain which is meant for more than rote exercises and daily rituals, but which is for seeking wisdom in the many disciplines which I come in contact with from day to day. Help me to clearly and critically think through the important issues I face. Amen.

Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.” Romans 3:4

This verse is in response to 3:3 - "For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?" The answer rings forth clearly - "Certainly not!" Others translate this as "God forbid," "Of course not," "Not at all," "May it never be," "Absolutely not," "That would be unthinkable," "By no means," "No indeed," etc. It is an expression that translators seem to enjoy trying finding a new and exciting yet clear and acceptable translation just to be unique. The term in Greek is me genoito. Albert Barnes says it is telling us to "let not this by any means be supposed."

Instead of us supposing that God's faithfulness is tied to man's actions, we are to hold fast to the conviction that He is a perfect and unchanging Being and therefore that which is found in Him is absolute truth. As this is so, all that is true stems from Him and there is nothing untrue which can be attributed to Him. Because of this, even if every Israelite was unfaithful, it would have absolutely no bearing on whether He was faithful or not. In a judicial proceeding, His innocence would stand while the all others would receive a guilty verdict.

To substantiate this, Paul returns to Scripture - the law itself - and states, "As it is written." The Greek is gegraptai and it carries the weight of saying "this was written then and it still stands today." God's word is fixed, firm, and unchanging. What it states stands forever. What Paul cites is from the 51st Psalm -

For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,
And blameless when You judge. Psalm 51:3, 4

This amazingly emotional Psalm was written by David after he was confronted by God's prophet Nathan. David had committed adultery with a married woman and subsequently murdered her husband. He acknowledged that his faithlessness in no way compromised God's righteousness. And this is true even though he was not only an Israelite, but God's anointed King of Israel. The sin that David committed was against God and only God. Because of this, God is found both just and blameless in the presence of David's unrighteousness. If this is so with David, Israel's King, then it must be so with all people.

Returning to Albert Barnes, He sums up what we should learn from this - "How happy would it be, if all people would regard this as a fixed principle, a matter not to be questioned in their hearts, or debated about, that God is true to his word! How much doubt and anxiety would it save professing Christians; and how much error would it save among sinners! Amidst all the agitations of the world, all conflicts, debates, and trials, it would be a fixed position where every man might find rest, and which would do more than all other things to allay the tempests and smooth the agitated waves of human life."

Life application: God is absolute truth and therefore, when He judges it is done in a morally perfect way. When tragedy comes our way, we have absolutely no right to place the blame on God. Let us be careful to never question His goodness, truth, or wisdom in how He conducts the affairs of the world, but let us rest in the fact that He will bring all things again to a state of goodness and perfection for those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Lord God, it is in my nature to question why bad things occur and the wisdom of the judgments I see around me - earthquakes, famines, plagues, and the like. But in the end, these are not the result of vindictiveness. Rather, they occur because You are just and right in Your judgments. Help me always to remember this and to trust that You have it all under control. Amen.

But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Romans 3:5

Today's verse is going to take several more verses to fully comprehend. Paul says, "But if our unrighteousness..." This is the sin of man in general, and more to the point the Jew who he has been speaking about in detail. The Jew has been given the law and yet they have been unrighteous before the law in many ways. They have neglected it; they have used it as a point of pride when comparing themselves to other "sinners;" they have willfully disobeyed it; and they have missed its spiritual meaning and application because they rejected Jesus who is the fulfillment of it.

This "unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God" though. The law is his standard and it shows His very nature. In other words, this isn't just speaking of His righteousness toward man, but His innate righteousness. The first is the result of the latter, not the other way around. The sins we commit are a violation of His moral purity and they therefore demonstrate His perfect righteousness - He is the ultimate standard by which things are judged and His glory is seen more clearly when the sinner is compared to Him.

Imagine the purest diamond in the world. If there was nothing to compare the diamond to, then one wouldn't know how exquisite it truly was. However, when other stones of varying materials, quality, luster, etc. are placed next to it, the true majesty of this "stone of stones" is seen for what it is. The law which reflects God's righteousness is like the diamond and our transgression of the law is like the flawed stones.

So Paul now asks, because the greatness and majesty of God are seen more clearly because of our imperfections, then isn't "God unjust who inflicts wrath?" How can God judge us when He is shown more glorious through our sin. Doesn't our sin have a good purpose and doesn't our sin negate His right to judge us?

This is the question of the impenitent sinner. This is the question of the unreasoning animal. This is the question of the one who fails to contemplate the splendor of the Creator. Such a question reveals a lack of dignity for self and a lack of respect for God. As Paul says, "I speak as a man." His words are intended to reflect fallen Adam; the unspiritual, carnal man.

Life application: How do you perceive sin? If you believe that your sin, which demonstrates the righteousness of God, is excusable because God is shown holy through it then you have failed to take in the whole picture. Take a look today at the things you don't like in others, things that upset you. Then consider that you are comparing these things against... you. Now imagine your sin placed next to the Creator who is infinitely more pure than you. How should He respond?

Lord, though you are shown holy through my sin, may I never assume that my sin is somehow excusable because of it. Instead, let me see it for what it is, a violation of an ultimate standard and which therefore necessitates an ultimate punishment. I realize how great Your mercy is toward me when I think it through! Thank You for Jesus who took what I deserve. Amen.

Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? Romans 3:6

This verse is in response to the question Paul raised, "But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath?"

A resounding reply results - "Certainly not!" By no means could God be unjust. Paul doesn't even address "why" though. He takes it as an axiom that God will, in fact, judge the world. Sin doesn't determine God's righteousness. Rather how He deals with it does. Sin is a violation of His holiness. Therefore, dealing with the sin is something that must occur.

As the Creator, everything about God simply is. Because He created time, He is outside of time and thus there is no change in Him. As this is so, God is perfectly righteous - His righteousness is. Any violation of it must be judged – or He is not perfectly righteous. But He is and therefore His righteousness cannot be compromised.

Similarly, God is perfectly just. Because He is, the penalty for a violation of His righteousness must be perfect. The law demands that every violation be punished and “the wages of sin is death.” There is no way around this. We have earned death and we have earned condemnation. If we do not receive this, then God is not perfectly just, but He is.

God is also perfectly holy. Because we are made unclean from our transgressions against His perfectly holy nature, we must be eternally separated from Him – or He is not perfectly Holy, but He is. If a person only committed one moral transgression in his entire life, it is sufficient to eternally separate him from God. God cannot accept 1% unrighteousness. He does not weigh sins on a balance. Nothing but absolute righteousness and pure holiness can be accepted by God.

Adding to the problem is that God is absolutely truthful. He has spoken from His very nature what is and what is not acceptable for man. If God overlooks the words He spoke in absolute truth, then He is not truthful – an impossibility. However, God has promised to redeem His people. Because He has spoken, then it must be so, or He is not truthful – this is impossible.

On the other side of this is God’s mercy; He is absolutely merciful. However, if in His mercy, He overlooks our transgressions, then He violates His righteousness – it would be ridiculous to even consider. Further, God is perfectly gracious and longs to participate in fellowship with His people, bestowing infinite grace upon them. However, because He is perfectly Holy, this cannot occur with sinful man or He is not perfectly Holy; this is impossible.

And finally, God is also love. God loves each person perfectly, but He cannot fellowship with His beloved creatures because of their sins. If He were to do so, He would violate His just, righteous, and holy character. This is also impossible.

This leaves a tension between these characteristics of God and man who has sinned. More terrifying is that Adam sinned and his fallen nature is transferred to his descendants. We cannot go back in time before the sins we've committed, nor can we go back before Adam's sin. Time is moving forward and it is the medium in which we live and interact with God. The separation is complete; God's holiness has been violated; and there is nothing we can do - judgment must come. This is the certainty of the matter. Therefore, though our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, it in no way negates the judgment which must result.

Life Application: All sin must be judged. However, God in His wisdom and mercy has allowed the sin of man to be judged in a perfect Substitute. By judging sin in this way the tension between God’s eternal attributes ends. God’s perfect righteousness required a sacrifice for payment of our sins. His perfect holiness demanded that no iniquity could be found in that Substitute. His perfect justice says that no unrighteousness can come into His presence, but a perfect payment restores felicity when offered by Him and accepted by man. His perfect grace is demonstrated in the Gift which we don’t deserve. His perfect mercy is revealed in not condemning us as we deserve; His wrath was instead placed on His own precious Son. His perfect truthfulness is upheld in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, by which every promise in every covenant to man is fulfilled in Him. And His perfect love is demonstrated in the giving of His own Son on our behalf. Take time today to think through the enormity of what transpired at the cross of Calvary.

Lord God, what You have done in Jesus is simply beyond my comprehension. I fail to grasp the magnitude of the perfection of Christ. I know that for all eternity I will look to the cross of my Lord and stand in wonder at the immensity of what occurred there. Praises belong to You, O God. Amen.

For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? Romans 3:7

A third line of reasoning based on man's unclear thinking is given. "For" looks back to the previous two examples. Paul is making his case by citing arguments people either had or could give to justify both their sin and why God should overlook it.

"If the truth of God has increased through my lie..." God, throughout His word as well as through the moral compass he has placed within man, lets us know that sin will be punished. In punishing sin, God is shown to be the holy Being that He is. His punishment of our sin because of His holiness demonstrates that He is truthful in His judgments; He says He will punish and then He follows through with it. This validates the truth of God to us and thus brings Him glory.

As this is true and God is proven truthful and glorified through my lying, then how can He punish me? I have only increased His glory... see the great thing I have done! This is the faulty reasoning of the one attempting to justify his perverse actions.

There are several points which have to be considered in this. The first is that the lying is actually intended to do the opposite of what is claimed here. Lying, in and of itself, is intended to protect and elevate self, not God. When one lies, it is motivated by and promotes self-serving interests, not another's glory.

Secondly, if "the truth of God is increased through my lie to His glory" because He has promised to judge sin, then if He doesn't judge my sin, the result would be that the truth of God isn't increased through my lie at all! The question, "Why am I also still judged as a sinner" is invalidated by the faulty premise of the question in the first place.

Finally, God doesn't need man to be glorified. He is glorious in and of Himself. The "glory" which is reasoned by the one proposing the argument is the glory of God in the eyes of His creation, not God's innate glory. Likewise, the truth of God isn't "increased" in God - God is truth. Rather the increase is found in our realization of it. Again, God's character isn't dependent on man and He isn't dependent on what we think about Him. Our perceptions of Him don't change His truth or His glory.

The answer to, "Why am I still judged as a sinner?" is found in the fact that I am a sinner and I am deserving of punishment based on my sin. To attempt to justify sin by using faulty reasoning can only added to my judgment, not somehow fool God into throwing up His hands and overlooking my misdeeds.

Life application: There is no excuse for sin and all sin will be dealt with through punishment. As you go about your day, don't try to rationalize away your wrongdoings. Once you have accepted that sin necessitates a penalty, then take the time to give God praise for what He has done for you in Jesus. The cross of Calvary was a high price for the sins we so easily dismiss.

Heavenly Father, when I realize that You have no need for me in order for you to be glorified, then it makes it all the more incredible that You were willing to send Jesus to save me. I stand in utter amazement at the price that was paid for my willful disobedience committed in Your presence. Thank You, O God, for Jesus. Amen.

And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just. Romans 3:8

"And why not say" is Paul's conclusion to the previous concepts which he has laid before his readers. Is God's faithfulness nullified by the unfaithfulness of man? Does man's unrighteousness demonstrate the righteousness of God? Is the truth of God is increased through my lie to His glory? Each question and its answer has led Paul to say that if the answers are "yes" then we might as well say "let us do evil that good may come."

This line of argumentation is known as reductio ad absurdum or "reduction to absurdity." If God is somehow positively affected by whatever evil man does, then let us take the most evil course of all. The idea is that when we commit temporal evil the result will be the greater good of glorifying God. If so, then no matter what we do the outcome justifies the means.

Unfortunately, this means that stealing would not only be acceptable, but a good thing. Personal property would have no value. Murder would magnify God and therefore it would be the right course of action in any circumstance. Adultery would then be a noble thing. Getting married would simply be a step towards many partners - all to bring about a better purpose. For every sin we commit, the glory of God would shine forth all the more brightly.

The absurdity of such thoughts is self-evident, but such is the confused state of the unclear thinker. They only see the results of the first half of their argument, but they have fail to think the entire scenario through. As evident as it is, this is the state which the world is rapidly heading. As one-line arguments fill the cyber-world of Facebook and Twitter, our ability to reason out important issues is diminishing.

As Paul saw in his own time, those around him misunderstood, either unintentionally or intentionally, his comments about the grace of God and reported that Paul had actually affirmed that this was what Christianity held. But he, noting that God's grace is magnified through the repentant sinner, never went to such extremes. For every note of how gracious God is, there is a note of warning that those who call on Jesus need to abstain from willful sin. Grace, to Paul and the other apostles, never meant a license to commit iniquity.

The Christian world of today though is turning away from the truth of the Bible and is actually following the absurd course Paul lays out. Homosexuals preach from the pulpit. Perversion of all sorts is openly condoned by the church and yet to them the grace of God is expected to cover such unrepentant actions. As Paul says, when this attitude is seen "their condemnation is just." God will judge and condemn those who hold to such flawed views. They failed to use the brains He gave them and their actions will result in an eternal swim in the Lake of Fire. Let us heed the Proverb -

The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him. (18:17)

Life application: An argument which sounds fine on the surface, such as allowing abortion for rape or incest is found false when it is completely thought through. However, most people hear the initial argument and stop with that, agreeing that the murder of the unborn is somehow just. When you are presented with an argument, make sure to think its consequences through to the end. When you do, you may find that what originally seemed as right as rain is actually as twisted as a tornado.

Lord God, You have created me to be a rational, moral being. Help me to think issues of importance through clearly and to understand the ramifications of those things which could separate me from You when a wrong path is taken. May my life be a testimony to Your grace, but may I never assume that it gives me license to sin. Amen.

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. Romans 3:9

"What then?" What is the result of the question posed in 3:1 & 2? "What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God."

Paul noted that there is both advantage and profit in being a Jew and being circumcised. However, he then laid out the case that if their actions didn't correspond with the sign they bore that God would be proven just in His judgment of them. He also showed that His faithfulness isn't negated by their unfaithfulness and that His receiving glory through their unrighteous actions gave them no excuse in acting in an unrighteous manner.

And so he asks "Are we better than they?" In the end, are Jews better than the gentiles? The answer, "Not at all." In chapter 1, he proved that the gentiles are bound under sin and then in chapters 2 and 3 he showed that the Jew are also - "For we have previously charged..."

The charges have been made and they have been fully substantiated. "All are under sin." This is a truth not just found in Paul's philosophy, but is found in Scripture itself. As Paul notes in Galatians 3:22 - "But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

Yes, Paul wrote Galatians, but he is citing "Scripture" which at that time consisted only of the Old Testament. The proof of Paul's claim comes from the earliest pages of the Bible and continues right up until its last paragraph. Something more would be needed - Jesus. As chapter 3 unfolds, we will see this clearly.

Life application: God has shown in His word that all people are bound under sin. This doesn't merely mean that we are sinners individually, but that we are under a broad kingdom of sin. We are trapped in it and there is only one exit. Take time to read Jesus' words from John 14:1-6 and then stand fast on the truth that Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God. Then, determine in your heart not to waffle on this conviction when confronted by those who challenge it.

Heavenly Father, I can see that I am no better than any other person. But what is also true is that no other person is any better than me. All it takes is one sin for us to be separated from You. Help me to remember this as I deal with others who seem so much more "sinful" than I am. We are all in the same desperate need of Jesus. Amen.

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;... Romans 3:10

Today is the start of a rather long set of quotations selected by Paul directly from the Scriptures in order to justify his statements and prove his case. He starts with, "As it is written..." If the Old Testament (the Scriptures of his day) are truly the word of God (and he takes this as an axiom), then what they say is absolute truth and is binding as guidance and instruction.

The verses he selects will continue through verse 18 and come from Ecclesiastes, the Psalms, and Isaiah. They will speak of God in verses 10-12 first as a judge, then in verses 13-15 as an anatomist, and finally in 16-18 as an anthropologist.

Today is a close quote of Ecclesiastes 7:20 -

For there is not a just man on earth who does good
And does not sin.

From the first man, Adam, there has been none who have not sinned. Adam was created as a perfect man, but he lacked the knowledge of good and evil. This was not a flaw, merely a lack. Something lacking something else is not necessarily flawed and we cannot ascribe his innocence as such. In his innocent state, he was given one command. But, exercising the free will was given, he chose to disobey this command. This became "fault" or as we would term it "sin."

From this one man's sin, sin entered not only the world at large, but into the stream of humanity as well. Sin transfers through man to the next generation and therefore we are born in sin. David understood this when he penned these words -

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5

The NIV clearly translates this, "Surely I was sinful at birth." All people are born into sin and therefore, "There is none righteous, no, not one."

But this isn't just a philosophical concept of Solomon which is repeated by Paul. Rather, it is a truth born out in the historical record of the Bible as well. In Genesis 4 this truth is highlighted several times. In verses 3 through 5 offerings are brought to the Lord and yet there is no record of Cain or Abel having committed any sin. The Bible therefore implies that because no demonstrable sin was committed, they had inherited their father's fallen state. This concept continues to be born out in Cain's murder of Abel and on through the rest of the Old Testament.

And yet, from the same early pages of the Bible, all the way through to Malachi, there are pictures and promises of One who would come to right the wrong of Adam and thus restore the fellowship that was lost so long ago. Yes, there is none righteous who is born of man. But Jesus wasn't born of man; He was born of the Holy Spirit and through a woman. The sin of Adam didn't transfer to Him.

Life application: Are you doing works in order to please God and get you to heaven? Guess what, it won't work. You have already inherited a problem which works can't fix. You have inherited a nature which infinitely separates you from God. But there is a remedy. By faith, put your trust in Jesus and what He did and He can be your bridge back to a right relationship with His Father. Only then can your works be found pleasing to God.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the plan of redemption which includes me... a sinner in need of a Savior. Thank You for Jesus who would give up His perfect life in order to restore me to You. I stand in awe of the majesty of what You have accomplished on my behalf. May my lips ever sing Your praises, O God. Amen.

There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God. Romans 3:11

Real care needs to be taken when evaluating quotes in the New Testament which come from the Old. Anybody can quote anything to come to whatever conclusion they wish by tearing things out of context. This is the case with today's verse more often than not. Paul is citing Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1 which are almost a mirror of each other in their first verse.

If taken at face value, and without considering both the context and the rest of Scripture, then one might come to the conclusion that "Man in his natural state cannot seek God" or something similar to this. This is the standard conclusion of Calvinist doctrine as well as some others, especially among those who deny the free will of man in accepting or rejecting Jesus. However, this is wrong.

Taking the verse in proper context as Paul would have expected his readers to do, we see the basis for the original statement which was made by David in the psalms -

The fool has said in his heart,
There is no God.”
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good.

David had in mind, and was speaking of, the atheist - "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" To make an all-inclusive claim about this verse as Calvinism does is to completely tear it out of its original context. We could question, "Are Muslims seeking after God?" "Are Mormons seeking after God?" "Are Buddhists seeking after God?" The answer in each case is "Yes. They are just doing it wrong." Further, if Calvinism were true and this were an all inclusive statement, then David couldn't have even written the psalm because "none" would include him. Such a conclusion is entirely unsupportable by the rest of Scripture.

Enoch who is recorded in Genesis 5 "walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (v. 24). Ruth, a young girl from the pagan nation of Moab refused to be separated from her mother-in-law and stated,

"...wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God." Ruth 1:16

Speaking of a time, yet future, Hosea prophesied that the Israelites who had long rejected God will search Him out in the latter days -

"Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God and David their king. They shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days." Hosea 3:5

Those who seek after God, from both within the covenant people of Israel and those from without, are noted time and time again Scripture. Therefore, that this verse today is not "all inclusive" is as evident as water is wet.

Having determined this we can acknowledge that there is "none who understands" God in the fullest sense. If they did, they would be God because only God who is infinite can fully know Himself. It is also true that without His special revelation to us "there is none who seeks after God" perfectly. To perfectly seek after God would imply a perfect knowledge of how to do so. But, in His wisdom, God sent us Jesus to reveal the Father in a way which we can understand. When we look to Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:7).

By showing us who the Father is, we now have the ability to properly pursue God and to accurately understand Him as He continually, ceaselessly is revealed by the Son. It will be an eternal adventure for us if we are willing to start the trip. Jesus offers any to come unto Him and when they do the journey begins. It is not forced upon us, nor are we first "regenerated" in order to accept the offer as those who deny free will must claim. Rather, we are given the free-will to choose and the mental faculties to make the choice.

Life Application: The fact that God already knows what we will choose in no way negates our responsibility in the matter. Don't be the fool David wrote about and whom Paul analyzes in today's verse. Rather, think it through and understand that God has given us all we need in order to make the right decision. Now it is up to each of us to do so. Choose life. Choose Jesus.

Lord, Your word is sure and without contradiction. If those throughout the history recorded in it have sought You out, then so can I. And so I commit my life to Jesus and look forward to eternally learning more about You. What a great and awesome God You are! Amen.

They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.” Romans 3:12

This verse, taken from Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1, is to be taken in a general sense. The gentile has turned away from the natural revelation given by God which is written in our hearts and consciences. The Jew has turned away from the special revelation he has been given by God and toward apostasy. Paul has shown this in the chapters and verses leading up to this conclusion. Because the Jew has the natural revelation and also the special revelation and yet they still turn from God, it shows the truly depraved nature of man.

And so, both Jew and gentile have "together become unprofitable." The Greek of this word is echreothesan. It has been variously translated as worthless, useless, completely useless, unprofitable, rejected, rotten to the core, corrupt, etc. The word from which it stems in the Hebrew has the idea of something offensive or putrid. The corresponding word in Arabic is used to describe sour milk. In man, it is the state of moral impurity which is vile and degraded.

Because of these things, the result is that "there is none who does good, no, not one." As noted in the previous verse, care needs to be exercised here. The portion of the psalm being quoted is specifically speaking of the atheist - "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" It would be contradictory to Scripture, even Paul's writings, and yes even the book of Romans and the very thoughts which he is presenting, to apply this to all people in an absolute sense. For example in Romans 2:14, 15 Paul shows that there are gentiles who "by nature do the things in the law." He then explains this and other notable traits throughout the rest of chapter 2. This must, by definition, be considered as "good."

So Paul is clearly not saying, as Calvinism claims, that man is entirely incapable of doing good or seeking after God. Rather, this is the general, not absolute, tendency of man. Having said this, when Paul writes, "there is none who does good, no, not one" it isn't at all contradictory. The sin in man - both inherited from Adam and committed personally, places a barrier between God and man. It is impossible for man to please God unless the sin is dealt with first. And so truly, "there is none who does good, no, not one."

Making the leap from not being good to not being capable of doing good is a category mistake. There may be nothing good in us, but this does not mean we cannot see the good in God (or in His revelation of Himself - either natural or special) and pursue it. We see the good in Him and either choose or reject that. Is it the confused soul who says that man has free will to commit evil, but denies the free will to pursue what is good, even if erringly.

Life application: Ideas, concepts, biblical truths, evaluations of man's relationship with God, etc. all have individual categories which must be kept separate and distinct. When we take one concept from the Bible and inappropriately apply it to, or over, another our thinking on what is biblically correct becomes skewed. Keep the boxes straight and fix your eyes on Jesus.

Heavenly Father, You have shown us what is good, both internally in our hearts and in a specific way in the Bible. And then You have allowed us the choice of pursuing it or going our own way. Help us to choose what will be pleasing in Your sight and by following Jesus who guides the path. In His name we pray. Amen.

“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; Romans 3:13

In this verse and the next two verses come quotes from the One who created the human body. As the designer of man, God understands the intended use of the parts of the body and He also understands both what they can represent metaphorically and also how they can be misused.

In these three verses, the throat, the tongue, the lips, and the mouth are noted in order and then the feet are mentioned. The order starts with the internal most part and works outward - throat, tongue, and lips. It then is summed up in the visible notation of the three combined - the mouth. It is as if we are visibly watching a person vomiting out wickedness.

After this will be noted the feet. Once the heart's wickedness is expelled from the mouth, the feet are used to carry it everywhere they go. The imagery is shocking when considered as intended. Verse 13 is a quote from the 5th Psalm, and is taken more specifically from the Greek translation of that Psalm known as the Septuagint. Noted below are the Hebrew (NKJV) and Greek (LXX) translations:

For there is no faithfulness in their mouth;
Their inward part is destruction;
Their throat is an open tomb;
They flatter with their tongue. (NKJV)

For there is no truth in their mouth;

their heart is vain;

their throat is an open sepulchre;

with their tongues they have used deceit. (LXX)

As with any quote from the Old Testament, the context needs to be considered. The quote is specifically speaking about "boasters" and "workers of iniquity" (v5) and "those who speak falsehood" and "the bloodthirsty and deceitful man" (v6). Therefore, this verse, as with the previous verses, is not intended as an all-encompassing indictment, but is directed to those who practice such ways.

The throat of these people is compared to an open grave. The grave is the repository for the dead. If the grave is left open, the stench of the decaying body is left uncovered and it affects everything around it. The words which proceed from such a person are intended to reduce anyone around to a nauseas state, even to despair.

At the same time as being a place from which stench and putridity arises, the grave is open to receive more corpses - even until it is filled. The mouth which speaks such abominations not only offends, it destroys and consumes. Because it does it will continue to put out a vile odor as those it receives begin to rot. This is the state of mind we are intended to see. Those who speak falsehood and who are bloodthirsty reek with wickedness, destroy others, and cause them to reek with their decay. It is a repetitious and increasing cycle which is never satisfied.

All of this proceeds from the heart, through the open throat, and then off the tongue. The symbolism of these body parts is so vivid and correct because God who designed them knows how easily they can be misused.

Life application: Our words have consequences. When they are used properly, they are edifying of others, honoring to ourselves, and glorifying of God. When they are used in a wrong manner, they cause harm to those who receive them and they will be used as a tool of judgment against us (Matthew 12:36). Let us determine in our hearts to use our words carefully and in a manner which is good and right, not in evil and wickedness.

Jesus, may You be with me and remind me that the words I speak have power to help or to harm, to glorify or demean, to build up or to tear down. May the words of my lips only be used in a positive and honoring way. I know that what they ultimately reflect is the state of my heart, so change my heart to be pure, noble, and right. This I pray to Your glory. Amen.

Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Romans 3:14

Paul's next quote is from Psalm 10:7 -

His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression;
Under his tongue is trouble and iniquity.

Under divine inspiration, Paul has amended David's words while maintaining the overall intent of what he was saying. Anyone who opens his mouth in deceit and oppression is himself a person of bitterness. The cursing of man can be accomplished in several ways and in different directions. Man can curse God who created Him. This can be done directly or indirectly. An attack against the unseen God or upon Jesus who reveals God would be a direct curse. A person who speaks against God's word indirectly attacks God because the word of God issues from Him.

An act of cursing God directly is found in Leviticus 24:10-23. The penalty for the one who did this was to be stoned to death.

Cursing can be against others as well. An example of this is found in 2 Samuel 16 when a man cursed King David as he fled from his son who had revolted against him -

Now when King David came to Bahurim, there was a man from the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei the son of Gera, coming from there. He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David. 2 Samuel 16:5, 6

The bitterness which Paul speaks of is rooted in the heart of man and pours out in his words. Jesus, while speaking to Israel's leaders showed us this in Matthew 12. There He revealed that we cannot disassociate what we say from who we are -

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. Matthew 12:33-35

Life application: Our words are a reflection of the state of our heart. How we speak about God, His word, and the things He has created reflect our relationship with Him. How we speak to and about others shows others our concern for those He has created and for whom He sent His Son to die. Although we have every right to speak out against evil and the perverse ways of the world, we need to ensure that our words rightly reflect the truth without promoting evil. Others are watching and evaluating us as Christians. And as Christians we represent Christ.

Lord God, if my words are unpleasing in Your sight, then come in and change my heart. Help me to be a person whose words are truthful and which edify others, call out sin and evil without becoming a part of the problem, and which ultimately bring You the glory You deserve. Amen.

Their feet are swift to shed blood;... Romans 3:15

This verse is taken first from Solomon in the book of Proverbs -

For their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed blood. Proverbs 1:16

Isaiah builds upon it in his writings as well -

Their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed innocent blood;
Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
Wasting and destruction are in their paths. Isaiah 59:7

The heart has shown its state - the words have come up from the throat, they have been shaped by the tongue and passed through the lips (v 13), from there they have issued from the mouth (v 14). Now the words are carried into action. The first recorded sin in the Bible outside of Eden was the murder of Abel by Cain. Adam's sin in Eden separated man from his Creator. Cain's sin in the fallen world separated man from man. Abel sacrificed animal life to his God for restoration; Cain sacrificed human life out of jealousy, leading to condemnation.

Within about 1600 years of Cain's crime, the world had become so wicked that God destroyed it by flood. The same pattern occurs time and again throughout the post-flood world. At the time of King Manasseh it says that he, "shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin by which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the Lord." 2 Kings 21:16

The world is once again at a state of such violence and degradation, that human life has little value. The process of abortion is a mill of death. Euthanasia has become an acceptable method of human disposal, murder rates in cities such as Chicago are higher than war deaths in Afghanistan. TV shows and newscasts are so filled with crime scenes that one cannot determine reality from Hollywood. All of this stems from the intent of the heart. Jeremiah rightly called out the words of the Lord as he looked at the world around him -

The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:9, 10

Life application: Yes, the Lord does search the heart and He is able to heal its desperately wicked state, but it takes moving from the fallen world to the risen Christ. Without this action, there can be no true peace. Take time to learn the following five verses which show how to make this move. Think about them and how you can rightly explain them to others. Then go and share the message -

1) There is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10

2) ...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23 

3) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

4) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

5) For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

Glorious God, despite our wicked hearts, You sent us Your Son to reconcile us to You. Help each of us to commit to telling others about Jesus and His beautiful deeds which can restore the bridge between us. Help us to get our priorities right and to never waste an opportunity to share this good news of peace and restoration. Amen.

Destruction and misery are in their ways; Romans 3:16

This verse is a quote from the second half of Isaiah 59:7 -

Their feet run to evil,
And they make haste to shed innocent blood;

Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity;
Wasting and destruction are in their paths.

The ways of those who reject God lead to "destruction and misery." The Greek word translated as "destruction" is suntrimma and this is its only use in the New Testament. It comes from the idea of dashing something to pieces. "Misery" comes from the Greek talaiporia, a word found only one other time in the Bible - James 5:1. It indicates a state of wretchedness.

It is evident that these words are not applicable to all people at all times. Rather they apply to a state of corruption which exists in the hearts of people and which is brought out when a denial of God exists. This is important to remember because, as was noted in a previous quote, these words cannot be found to imply that unregnerate man is unable to seek after God as Calvinism claims. These are generalities about humanity which can lead to specific extremes in humanity - such as Khan, Hitler, Stalin, etc.

The opposite is true as well. There a those who pursue peace who haven't been called by Jesus. Perhaps they refuse to bear arms against others or spend their lives ministering to others, even though they aren't saved believers. This is important to note in order to gain a proper understanding of how one comes to saving faith. It is often true that the worst offenders will see their need for Jesus before the one who is always helping others and doing good stuff.

The truly depraved person, when confronted with the truth of the gospel, may fully understand their condemned state and seek for pardon. The kind, gentle, and humble person when given the gospel may shun it because they feel they are already good enough and that the balances tip in their favor or maybe they are at the top of the bell curve.

Neither of these understandings would lead to the choice of accepting or rejecting the gospel without free-will. Instead, they would continue down their chosen path without a second thought. If man doesn't possess free will, the evil of the person described in today's verse would have to be traced back to the fall of man who didn't possess free will and thus the blame would be elevated back to the Creator; such is impossible as God is perfect and holy in all ways.

Therefore, the wicked state of those described by Paul is a personal choice acting upon the already corrupt state of man. It is a choice which is reflected in Matthew 7:13 - "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it." Jesus asks us to make the right choice because the wrong one will end in the destruction and misery noted in this same verse.

Life Application: If you're struggling with the doctrine of free-will in man because you were originally instructed that you don't possess it, then think the issue through to its logical conclusion at the fall of man - ascribing the fall to God. The question is, "Do you have free will?" The reply - "Think it through and then you decide."

Lord, You have been so gracious to Your fallen creatures. You have given us the choice to choose You, but time and time again we choose the opposite. And yet You continuously call us back to You, giving us the chance to turn and call on You in truth. Help us to think rightly and to make the choice of life and peace... the choice of Jesus. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

And the way of peace they have not known. Romans 3:17

Again Paul turns to the words of Isaiah to substantiate man's general character and disposition -

The way of peace they have not known,
And there is no justice in their ways;
They have made themselves crooked paths;
Whoever takes that way shall not know peace. Isaiah 59:8

There are several ways in which the "way of peace" can be demonstrated. Here are four:

1) In oneself. A life of peace in an individual must start with contentment in one's station. If a person is content, then a hovel and a bowl of rice soup is sufficient for peace. If a person's eyes are full of greed and want, a mansion with a table of feasting will never satisfy. One must appreciate the gifts God has given in order to have peace in oneself. If such appreciation doesn't exist it can only lead to internal toil and boil over in our actions toward others.

2) Toward others. Peace and contentment in oneself naturally keeps one from harming others, but when it is lacking, the greed and lust of the heart spills over in our actions - be it individually or as a group or nation. Harming others then becomes an satisfactory means of obtaining what we want. We rationalize reasons why theft is acceptable and move toward the subjugation and oppression of those who have earned their way. As noted, this stems from a lack of contentment in our own station. This frustration is taken out on others, but it inevitably directs the blame toward God.

3) Toward God. Peace with God comes from an appreciation of His goodness and an understanding of His sovereignty. When one feels jipped by their circumstances, they will find fault in God. The sentiment "It's not my fault I was born here..." would necessarily place the blame on God who made the choice. But Acts says, "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us..." (vs. 26, 27)

God, who is infinitely wiser than man, has selected our time, place, and position to be the very best possible moment in which we will seek Him out. In other words, a person born in Honduras in AD1630 would no more search out God than he would if born in New York city in 2013. God knows this and determines that which is the very best for His creatures, and yet we reject Him. Proof that this is true is that there is a Bible on practically every shelf and accessible from every computer on earth and yet, even with this opportunity, it is ignored. In America, there are churches on every corner and yet they are closing due to a lack of interest. "The way of peace they have not known..." This lack of contentment in self which then overflows towards others and is ultimately blamed on God results in unholy instruction within family and society.

4) In Instruction. When the way of peace is unknown, the venues of life instruction follow a course of wickedness. The raising of children disregards education in the Bible, in respect, in honor, and in right living. School systems turn towards a liberal agenda and "tolerance" for that which is profane. This carries from kindergarten to college. Young minds are perverted from what is normal and the developed minds are perverted from what is reasonable. Society itself rejects the truth and turns to a news media which is based on feelings rather than objective journalism. Churches no longer preach doctrinal truths, but instead provide soft messages without any real substance. As these institutions continue to turn away from soundness, the only thing which cannot be tolerated is "intolerance." But even this is self-contradictory and so vile emotions are spewed out at those who pursue peace and reason.

In the end, the pattern repeats itself and the world ends in a state which is no longer worthy of anything but destruction. At the time of the flood, a mere 1600 years after the creation of the world, Genesis 6:5 says that "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Of course, this resulted in a global flood which took the lives of all but eight people.

God's people, Israel, have been destroyed and exiled twice because they followed this same pattern and the church is now following it as well. At the rapture of the church, there will only be strife against God leading to the Tribulation period. All because "they have not known the way of peace."

Life application: It is unreasonable to love others into hell through tolerance. That which is against God - be it in the general society or in the church - must be identified and called out. If not, there is eventually a breakdown in right moral thinking. This is especially true with our religious leaders. If they depart from what is right or deflect attention away from Jesus, their words or actions must be shown for what they are. Judgment begins at the house of the Lord and so the house of the Lord must proclaim the way of peace - Jesus.

Lord, please be with those who teach Your word. Give them strength and wisdom to properly proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ and to never water down the severity of the consequences of rejecting Him. Give them soundness of doctrine and clearness in their thinking. This, to Your honor and glory. Amen.

There is no fear of God before their eyes. Romans 3:18

This is the final quote in this train of thought and is taken from Psalm 36:1 -

An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked:
There is no fear of God before his eyes.

"Fear of God" is speaking of awe and reverence. When we have these it will bring about an understanding of our own fallen nature in relation to God. Time and again in Scripture, when one is brought close to God the person finds himself overwhelmed at the majesty of His presence. Such is the case in Isaiah 6. When Isaiah had a vision of the Lord, he cried out -

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.”

One of Israel's holy men stood in awe at what he witnessed, but the people Paul is speaking about shun the glory of God and in their hearts there is only contempt for Him. These past quotes from the Old Testament show us several things. First, the Jew cannot hope to be saved simply because of their heritage. Their own word testifies against them. Paul spoke about this in detail and then provided these quotes, directly from their own sacred writings, to show this is true.

Secondly, what these verses show us is the character of human nature in general, not specifically any given man. They are a broad brushstroke of how humanity is displayed from the creation until today. There was the flood to correct it. There was the cleansing of the land of Canaan by the Israelites to correct it. There was the purging of Israel from their land (twice) to correct it. And there will be the tribulation period of the future to once again destroy wickedness. Humanity, when left to his own devices will shun God and choose the path of destruction.

Third, the corruption of man proceeds from the innermost depths of who he is and it proceeds outward in a vile display of how he presents himself. This is symbolized by the mentioning of the parts in order - throat, tongue, lips, mouth, and then feet. The corruption spreads outward and is carried far and wide.

When man forgets God and sets his feet on an evil path, only wickedness can follow. This is so, so very important to remember because as a nation, the United States has set its feet upon this course. We have condoned that which is forbidden; we have spoken that which is vile; we have spread that which is wicked; and we have lost our fear of God. Unless the people return to the Bible as its source for instruction and guidance, we will come under God's continued hand of chastisement, eventually leading to destruction. It is the church which must lead the way in this endeavor.

Life application: When the fear of God is lost, only unrighteousness can follow. We must stand up for what is right and not allow ourselves to be caught up in the eddy of moral degradation which surrounds us. Stand firm on the tenets in the Bible and be ready to defend them above all else. There is one standard by which we will right the wrongs around us and it is found there.

O God, please renew in me a reverent fear of who You are and the glory You possess. Forgive me for not treating Your name in a manner which will magnify You. Help me to be a light and a guide to others so that they will see You for who You truly are - the One worthy of all our praise, honor, and devotion. Amen.

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19

Paul sums up his argumentation in this verse and will draw his final conclusion in the next. "Now we know" is his way of saying - "See, the evidence is clear, it is concise, it is fully substantiated, and it is irrefutable." And so we know "that whatever the law says" is given to mean whichever law applies to the addressee. To the Jew, it is the Law of Moses and to the gentile it is natural law clearly revealed to us and which Paul carefully explained in Romans 1.

These laws are the facts to be presented in a judicial proceeding. Whatever the law says, "it says to those who are under the law." Whichever law applies - be it to Jew or gentile - it is spoken to that group. In the case of the Jew, it is actually both laws because despite having the Law of Moses, they also have the natural law. They are accountable in both cases, but by whichever law, the evidence is clear; the charges have been presented and so "every mouth may be stopped."

This phrase is alluded to in the Old Testament such as in Job 5:16 -

So the poor have hope,
And injustice shuts her mouth.

Every mouth being stopped means that the evidence is so overwhelming that no valid reply can be made in response to it. At the judgment, nobody will be able to say, "but I didn't know." We have received enough of God's revelation to condemn us. For the gentile it is conscience mixed with reason - "We exist; we didn't create ourselves; and therefore, we were created by another who has shown Himself through the rest of His creative works." For the Jew the argument was drawn directly from the authority they claim as the basis for their culture - Scripture. Paul has demonstrated from the source of what establishes them as a people that they are guilty.

A clear example for us to understand this is to simply change "Jew" to "Christian" and include the New Testament. You who claim to be a Christian, have you met the requirements of being a Christian? There is one source for such a claim - the Bible which tells of Jesus. It is the basis of our faith. If it can be demonstrated from this source that we haven't met the requirements of the title, then we are found as false Christians.

Paul has shown that no gentile can be saved by natural revelation and no Jew can meet the demands of the law perfectly and therefore "every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." The term "become guilty" is the Greek word hupodikos. This is its only use in the New Testament. It means to be "liable to the judgment of."

The sum of Paul's thoughts to this point then is that when the judgment comes - for both Jew and gentile - the verdict is to be "guilty" and there can be no appeal. God's revelation of Himself condemns us. If this were the end of the story, it would be a sad story indeed. What value would it be to go on? What purpose would there be in doing any good at all? For what then did God create - just to destroy His creatures? The story would make no sense at all.

The next verse will conclude this line of Paul's thoughts and will show the utter futility of existence without Jesus Christ. But verse 20 will open a new page for the condemned soul.

Life application: If we somehow feel that we are pleasing to God in and of ourselves, then we have made an immense error. God has given us His law and we have broken that same law. Thank God that the story doesn't end there. Take time today to reflect on the glory of Jesus Christ. Without Him, there would be no purpose to our existence, but in Him life again has meaning.

Heavenly Father, thank You that the story didn't end with the giving of the law. Thank you that grace and mercy have been found in Jesus Christ. I fear the law, and rightly so, because it shows my own fallen state. But yet I rejoice in the law as it was fulfilled in Jesus. And so through Him I pour out my praises to You. Amen.

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

"Therefore" indicates Paul's final conclusion of the issue he has been addressing. The case has been presented and the lawyer has given his closing argument. Now comes the final statement, "Therefore..."

Paul has been speaking of the law in two ways, natural law as revealed to the gentile and the Mosaic law as revealed to the people of Israel. It wouldn't logically follow that this verse suddenly drops the natural law to speak only of the law of Moses. Therefore, "by deeds of the law" is certainly speaking of man's efforts to please God under either law.

In other words, someone who isn't under the law of Moses who goes about doing good stuff cannot expect to be justified in God's sight. Nor can someone who is under the law of Moses expect to meet its requirements and thus be justified before God. In both cases, "by the law is the knowledge of sin."

For the gentile, the natural law tells us internally that there is a gap between us and God. There will always be a state of uncertainty about our eternal state because deep inside we know that the things we've done have separated us from Him. For the Jew who has the written law, there is the same knowledge. When they objectively look at the law and then compare their deeds to what it calls for, the honest soul will acknowledge that they haven't measured up.

Of course, there are those under both the natural law and the written law who feel they are above what they see; there are those who feel these things don't apply to them individually; there are those who completely reject the premise; etc. These attitudes in no way negate what is obvious, but merely further demonstrate the righteousness of God who has so revealed Himself.

In the end, Paul says that by "deeds of the law no flesh" - no person who has ever lived - "will be justified in His sight." The law merely condemns us. It is a sad and seemingly hopeless state in which man finds himself.

"By the law is the knowledge of sin" and, after all, the wages of sin is death. If this were the end of the book of Romans, it would be better for us that we had never been born. Or for those of us who are alive, it would be a pointless existence of knowing that death was coming and which would be followed by an eternal separation from the very Source of our existence. For all eternity our mind would contemplate, "Why did He even create me?"

But Paul's words do continue and they will show us the magnificence of what God has done for His wayward creatures!

Life application: The divide already exists between God and you and there is no deed or deeds that you can accomplish in order restore the bridge. But God, in His infinite goodness has provided the bridge Himself. As you contemplate your state before Him today, think on the perfection of what He has done through Christ Jesus. What a great God!

Heavenly Father, I know that I have failed You time and time again. I know that the law You have given me only shows me this more clearly. By it, I realize that I need something more to be pleasing to You. I need a Substitute to meet the law in my place... I need Jesus. Thank You for Jesus who did what I could never do. Hallelujah and Amen.

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, Romans 3:21

After two chapters of laying out a defense against the possibility of man somehow being justified before God on his own merits, Paul now brings in words of amazing relief to the fallen soul. The word "but" is used to show the contrast between the case he has so meticulously laid out and the introduction of new evidence which can be submitted in man's defense. However, the new evidence is actually something "witnessed by the Law and the Prophets."

This term, the "Law and the Prophets" is used to indicate the entire body of Scripture known as the Old Testament. In other words this new evidence is not being introduced apart from Scripture, instead it has been continuously proclaimed throughout Scripture. The evidence is new to Paul's argument, not to the basis for it.

What he submits now is that "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed." The law has done its job; it has revealed man's fallen and condemned state before God. There is no hope of being justified before Him without something "apart from" it, but there is in fact something apart from it. The necessary righteousness has been revealed and so we are taken right back to Romans 1:17 -

"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'”

The faith is for "everyone who believes" the gospel of Christ (see verse 16). It is this act which brings the righteousness of God to fallen man. Now that this is understood, it is necessary to evaluate what this actually means. There is a sharp divergence of thought at this point between the ideologies of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. Calvinism teaches that it is an imputed righteousness, whereas Arminius claims it is an imparted righteousness.

Imputation means to "ascribe" or "credit" something. This then would mean someone is counted as righteous, whether they actually are or not. Impartation signifies "to give" something. If righteousness is imparted, it would me that the believer is infused with righteousness; they actually "become" righteous. To understand more clearly perhaps it is best to turn these two into statements of declaration -

Imputation: I believe the gospel and therefore I am counted as righteous.

Impartation: I believe the gospel and therefore I am righteous.

The body of evidence is that Christ's righteousness is imputed to the believer actually at this time, but that Christ's righteousness is imparted to the believer potentially, being actually reserved for a future time. Man is justified before God by faith in Jesus Christ, but he is not actually righteous at this time. He continues to sin after salvation (a good example of this in Peter is found in Galatians 2:13-16 and in Paul see 2 Corinthians 11:29).

However, Paul indicates that in God's mind we are both glorified (Romans 8:30) and seated in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:6) even though we are actually still on earth and living out our lives. What has been accomplished in the eternal state is still future to us in our temporal reality. Hebrews 11:39, 40 is another set of verses which show us that this is so -

"And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."

These things may seem like hair-splitting, but they are of great importance when thought through. Our current relationship with God, our ability to lose our salvation, our rewards and losses are all contingent on such issues. Having incorrect ideas concerning these things can only lead us down unhappy avenues in our Christian life and so it is good to get them right.

Life Application: Are you now righteous because of Christ's work, or are you counted as righteous because of Christ's work? Others are evaluating you and making their decisions about Christianity based on your attitude, and this is reflected in what you believe to be true. Don't think more highly of yourself than you should lest you fall and bring discredit upon Jesus' name.

O God, I know that even now, even after having called on Jesus as Lord, I am unrighteous in and of myself. My thoughts stray, my actions often belie the Name I bear, and I fail you continuously. And yet in Your rich goodness to me, You have counted me as righteous because of the work of Jesus. Help me to be conformed to His image more and more each day so that I reflect the goodness You have already lavished upon me. Amen.

...even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; Romans 3:22

It will help to understand this verse better by returning to verse 21 along with it -

But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference...

"The righteousness of God" noted here is not a law-based righteousness in and of itself, although the law does play a part in it. Paul says it is "apart from the law" though, so this must be carefully considered. To us the righteousness of God is a faith-based righteousness. Paul has shown that all are under a sentence of condemnation because of the law (be it natural or Mosaic); we simply cannot measure up to what God has revealed to us.

However, Jesus could and did. He was born without inherited sin and He lived perfectly without ever violating God's law. Now, by faith in His work the righteousness of God is imputed to us. This goes back to the concept of being declared righteous simply by taking God at His word. This was the case with Abraham in Genesis 15:6 -

"And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."

By simple faith in what seemed otherwise impossible, God declared Abraham righteous. This is the consistent theme throughout the Bible. God knows our weakness and so He asks for us to trust Him and His promises. When we do, "the righteousness of God" is revealed in us and it is based on faith in what Jesus Christ did.

Many translations state here "through the faith of Jesus Christ" instead of "through faith in Jesus Christ." Actually, it is possible to have the faith "of" Jesus Christ by faith "in" Jesus Christ and so either is possible. The phrase "faith of Jesus Christ" is in what is known as the genitive form. Therefore, this is speaking about Jesus' faith which He imparts to those who believe.

In order to understand this, we can go to Ephesians 2:8, 9 -

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

The grace and the faith combined are the gift of God and they are bestowed upon us because of the merits of Jesus Christ "to all and on all who believe." Simple faith is the key to reconciliation with God the Father and it is faith in the accomplished work of Jesus. What a great bargain!

This verse ends with "For there is no difference..." This thought continues on into the next verse, but the idea here is that there is no "distinction." Things can differ without having any real distinction. But there is more than just difference between Jew and Gentile and natural law and the Mosaic law; there is a distinction which is made - until Jesus enters the picture. When He does, all distinctions are set aside.

Life application: Today, take time to look back over your life - at the innumerable things you've done which are contrary to what is good. Little lies, secret faults of the heart, open rebellion - whatever it may be. Your sins have separated you from your God. And yet all of that is washed away, cleansed, and purified by Someone else's work, by simple faith in what He did. Think on this and give God the glory for the giving of His Son for you.

Lord Jesus, how can it be that You would give Your perfect life in exchange for my imperfections, flaws, and open rebellion? I stand amazed at what You have done for me. And yet it is more than just me, but anyone who will simply call out to You in faith. Every soul who looks to You will stand spotless and pure because of Your work... amazing. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,... Romans 3:23

Guilty! Paul laid out a clear and concise argument demonstrating that all people, both Jew and Gentile, are under the same condemnation. There is no person who has attained to God's glory, either innately or through works, that can expect to be exempt from His righteous judgment.

Every person ever born was born through man who originally traces back to Adam. Thus, without even committing any misdeeds, we have already inherited his sin. As we are in a continuum of time which is ever moving forward, we cannot go back before Adam to reverse the fall. David's words from the 51st Psalm remind us that we were "sinful at birth."

And as shown, not only did we inherit sin, we have added sin upon sin thus further separating us from the glory of God. This verse today, taken in conjunction with John 3:18, clearly lays out our hopeless state -

"He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already,..." John 3:18

The following truths are revealed - 1) All people, Jew and Gentile alike, inherited sin which separates us from God. 2) Our inherited state condemns us. There is nothing we need to do to be condemned, it is a fact of our birth. 3) There is no way for us to improve our station before God; our works cannot please Him and only further condemn us.

Were it up to us, all hope of reconciliation and restoration would be futile. But as we've seen and as we will continue to see, God has done the work for us. He has restored the bridge over the chasm. He has worked salvation by Himself. All of it has been done by Him and all of it will glorify Him. It is Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! All hail the name of Jesus!

Life application: When you look at others don't forget today's verse, but instead remember it and use it as a tool to prompt you to tell them about Jesus. Without Jesus, they will never know peace and reconciliation with God, but will instead be eternally separated from Him. Your words and your actions toward them may have eternal consequences, so don't be silent about Jesus.

Lord God Almighty, I know that I have sinned and acted in a way which sets me against You. There is a chasm between us which I could never cross, but in Your goodness You sent Your Son, Jesus, to restore the breech. Now I know He can put His divine hand upon You and His human hand upon me and make peace between us once again. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

...being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,... Romans 3:24

This thought ties directly back to verse 22. "The righteousness of God" is bestowed upon all who believe - both Jew and Gentile who alike are under the penalty of sin. Now, because of the grace of Jesus Christ, we are "justified freely." We, in other words, are treated as if we had kept the law and were perfectly righteous even though this isn't the case at all. Such is the nature of grace - it is unmerited favor granted to those who demonstrate mere faith in the work of Jesus.

Because it is by grace, we merit no favor at all in the decision; it has come "freely." The word here is the Greek dorean and it carries the intent of standing in opposition to anything which was purchased or earned through work or industry. No claim of personal effort can be made to that which was granted. Rather, all the honor and all of the gratitude is to be given to the One who bestows the grace - "To God be the glory." He has done it all for those who could do none of it. As the psalmist says, so we must say -

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth. (115:1)

We now stand justified and free from sin's penalty "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." The term "through the redemption" comes from a root word which indicates the price paid to redeem a prisoner of war. It signifies liberty from captivity, bondage, or imprisonment. We are born into sin and we are prisoners of sin, held in bondage by its power and are kept by the master of sin, the devil. This is confirmed by the devil's words to Jesus in Luke 4 where he stated that "All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish." Sin is a firm bond and the devil is a cruel taskmaster. However, Jesus' mission was to destroy this power. John notes this as the principle reason for His coming -

"He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8

Jesus prevailed where Adam failed. What the devil gained through Adam's disobedience, Jesus regained through His obedience. What God asks is that we simply believe this message, receive His gift, and place our trust in what Jesus has done for us. This is the "redemption that is in Christ Jesus." This is the marvel of what God has done for us. In Him there is absolute victory and complete reconciliation with God the Father.

Life application: Do you often feel defeated by sin's power? Jesus Christ has defeated the devil and broken the bonds which held us. We are now free from the power of sin, protected from the penalty of sin, and someday we shall be taken from the presence of sin - all because of Jesus. Take time to reflect on what He has done and then put your thoughts into action by standing on the freedom for which Christ has set you free!

Dear Lord, I look to what You have done through Jesus and I am humbled by it. Through Him, You have cancelled sin's penalty; through Him, You have defeated sin's power; and through Him, some day I shall be removed from sin's presence. I have complete victory through the work of Jesus and the devil has no power or claim upon me. Hallelujah and Amen.

...whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, Romans 3:25

Continuing from the previous verse, Paul says that "...the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God set forth." This term in Greek is proetheto and signifies a public display of some sort. In the case of Jesus, it was the cross of Calvary where He was exposed to public humiliation and death. This wasn't done in a back alley where no one could witness it, but it was done in the public setting of the people of the law, the temple of God, and in the presence of the angels who ministered to Him. God set forth His own Son for all to see and understand the action for what it was - "a propitiation by His blood."

The term "propitiation" is of immense importance here. It is the Greek word hilasterion. It is a sin-offering or a "covering" of sin by the blood which is shed. Its purpose is to bring together parties at odds with each other and to restore a favorable relationship; to make things propitious again. This word is used only one other time in the New Testament, in Hebrews 9:5 where it is translated as "mercy seat" -

"...and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail."

It is the same word which is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Exodus 25:17 (and elsewhere) when describing the Hebrew word kapporeth, or "mercy seat." The mercy seat is where the covering of blood was applied to the Ark of the Covenant on the Day of Atonement and which restored felicity between God and His people for another year. But the Day of Atonement, like all of the Bible, required something more than rote ritual. It required faith that it would accomplish what was intended. As a demonstration of that faith, the people were told to fast and confess.

Likewise, the propitiation God offers through Jesus' shed blood is "through faith." It is through faith in what God has done in this final sacrifice of which the temple sacrifices only prefigured. Jesus' life was given "to demonstrate His righteousness." This phase is pointing directly to the voluntary giving of His life as the means of obtaining this propitiation. In this offering, the sins of the people are removed from them and they are also removed from God's presence. It is as if they never occurred. Complete and total restoration is accomplished through the cross of Jesus.

Now that the sin has been removed, the ungodliness of the sinner is remembered no more and God's wrath at the sin has been appeased in His punishment and death. The blood of Jesus accomplishes all of this; it is a suitable offering for the sins of the world. Because of this, Paul continues on by stating that "in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed."

What this means is that the sins prior to the cross are dealt with in the cross as well as those are that look back on it. Before Jesus' offering, God would punish sin in sinful man in various ways - at the Flood of Noah, for example. However, He didn't fully punish sin because if He had, then all humanity would have been destroyed. Instead, God "passed over the sins" and enacted a temporary system of offerings through the nation of Israel to temporarily atone for their transgressions.

This system, the rituals in it, the items used in the rituals, every detail of them actually prefigures Jesus. The entire picture of the Old Testament comes into focus when looked at through the lens of who Jesus is and what He accomplished. It cannot properly be understood apart from Him.

Life application: As you read the Old Testament, it may seem unnecessary and outdated. But every word and every detail is noted and has been selected specifically to show us the majesty of what God has done in and through the Person of Jesus. The New Testament does not stand alone and it must be evaluated based on what previously occurred. Take time to read and absorb the Old Testament so that you can properly grasp the significance of the New.

Lord God, what happened at the cross of Calvary was done in a public display of Your anger at our sin and how You deal with it. When I see sin's consequences so revealed, it makes me understand the magnitude of what You did through Jesus. Without Him, there would be no hope, but through Him I know there is complete restoration and that all my sins are washed away. Thank You for Jesus. Amen. demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:26

As a demonstration of what has occurred in and through Jesus Christ, Paul says "At the present time." This is the Greek en to nun kairo and it establishes a link to what was said in the previous verse - "God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." The type of time Paul is speaking of is an on-going movement of time, such the running of a watch as it clicks forward.

As time progressed, God often passed over the sins of the people without bringing judgment on them. This doesn't mean that God "overlooked" them, but that judgment was merely withheld. All sin will be judged, but out of His mercy, and looking forward to the cross, He stayed His hand of judgment. During this time, as noted in the previous verse, God either didn't fully punish sin in men or He withheld punishment through an impermanent system of offerings. This was enacted through the nation of Israel as a temporary system of atonement.

Being temporary in nature they only looked forward to something far better. This is the propitiation mentioned in verse 25; it is the shed blood of Jesus. Christ's offering "at the present time" demonstrates God's righteousness - looking back on those of the past and forward from the time of Calvary.

This demonstration of His righteousness is that "He might be Just..." What Paul is saying here isn't speaking of His benevolence, but rather that the integrity of His nature is in no way violated. He remains Just though the sacrifice of Jesus; nothing is morally compromised. This is the very heart of the gospel. God's perfect character is maintained and yet fallen man is reconciled to Him in the process. It is the highest point of the turning of the universe and to which nothing in the continuum of time could ever compare.

The integrity of the law is maintained through Jesus because He fulfilled the law. Further, because the law already gave the precedent in the doctrine of substitution - an innocent animal in place of man's sin - the doctrine may satisfactorily continue on and be complete in the more perfect sacrifice of Jesus. All of the moral character of God is seen on display in this great act. Nothing is compromised, nothing is overlooked, and what occurred displays the absolute perfection of God's plan and the infinite wisdom He possesses.

And not only is He Just in this action, but He is also the "Justifier" in what occurs as well. The One who retains His moral integrity through the giving of Jesus, is also the One who has accomplished all things through Him. Apart from Him, there can be no justification and thus Jesus' words in John 14:6 can be more clearly understood -

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

No other avenue is available to be restored to the Father because no other avenue can maintain His integrity. Thus what Jesus said about the narrow gate and the wide gate in Matthew 7:13 is easily seen to be true. Jesus is that gate and apart from Him there is only a wide highway to the narrow confines of hell. But through Him is the avenue to the splendid and wide expanse of heaven's glory. All of the majestic wonder of this paradise is available in only one way - to "the one who has faith in Jesus."

The gospel is so simple that people miss it time and time again. They trip over the stumbling block. The words of Paul today show the demarcation line. On one side are those who attempt to be justified on their own merits, and on the other are those who depend on faith alone in the works of Christ Jesus for their salvation. There is nothing we can add to it and there is nothing that can be subtracted from it. At one moment in the history of man, God did what was otherwise impossible and He reconciled us to Himself.

Life Application: God asks for faith in what He has done. Nothing else can satisfy our sin-debt because nothing else can meet His perfect moral standard. Take time today to reflect on the cross of Jesus. Understand that it alone is God's provision for your soul. Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord and in the glory of His cross.

Oh God, I look at the splendor of Your creation and I marvel at its beauty. And yet the creation can never meet the splendor of the Creator. How infinitely beautiful You are. I long to gaze upon Your glory for all eternity, and I know that I can because of the work of Jesus. Thank You O God... thank You for Jesus. Amen.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Romans 3:27

Continuing on with his humbling line of thought, Paul shows us the greatness of God - both innate greatness and that which He bestows upon us. He asks, "Where is boasting then?" The term he uses (he kauchesis) indicates glorying in something or reveling in something. It is equated with "See what I have done!" Paul wants us to think it through. What will we glory in when we come before the Lord? This Greek term can be used in a negative way - achievements to glory in self, or in a positive way - gratitude for His work and thus glorying in the Lord.

So, where is our boasting? Paul says, "It is excluded." There can be no merit when something is accomplished by faith in something else or someone else's work. In fact, to make a personal boast in oneself when they haven't done anything would be the epitome of stupidity and arrogance. All boasting is excluded and to make sure we comprehend the reason we are given two more questions to ponder - "By what law? Of works?"

The idea of "law" here is one of economy. The Jew was under the economy of the Mosaic law. The gentile was under the economy of natural law. Is the Jew able to boast before God based on fulfilling the deeds of the Law of Moses? No. Paul has shown that the law only brought further condemnation. How can someone boast in salvation from something that condemned them? And the same is true with the natural law of the gentile. Can a philanthropist stand before God and say, "See what I did. You owe me big time."? No. All are bound under sin - both inherited and those committed in the body against the law.

Boasting isn't excluded by works. It is excluded by the law of faith. This law, or economy, says that in order to please God we must have faith in what God has done. If God has accomplished all the works, then how can we boast of having done anything at all? It is ludicrous to think that we somehow merit any favor in our salvation.

1) Jesus came from God.

2) Jesus was born without sin.

3) Jesus fulfilled the law that no one else could fulfill.

4) Jesus was crucified for our sins.
5) Jesus was raised for our justification.

6) Jesus will return for us and through Him we will be glorified.

Therefore -

7) To God be the glory.

Let our boasting not be in self but in the Lord. As Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31 -

"But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— that, as it is written, "He who glories, let him glory in the Lord."

Life application: When we came before the Lord, it was as poor beggars who had nothing to offer. And yet He crowns us with eternal splendor and glory - a gift fitting the highest noble or the greatest king. This is grace; this is God's unmerited favor to those who, by faith, reach out to Him. Make it your goal today to truly boast in the Lord and put aside any thought of having merited His favor.

Heavenly Father, it is hard to fathom the depths of Your grace. The favor You lavish upon us is undeserved. From our very breath and the food we eat to the eternal life You have promised us through Jesus - and everything in between - all of it is from Your open hand and truly none of it is deserved. How can we boast in anything when it all came from You? Help us to remember this and to glory in You alone. Amen.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. Romans 3:28

"Therefore." Based on what precedes this statement, Paul will now make an absolute and exclusive claim. It is a tenet which defines true Christianity and separates it from all other religions. It is also a point of separation between the true faith and that which is heretical. Paul couldn't be clearer in what he is saying. Our justification comes from faith in the merits of Christ Jesus alone. No deeds of the law (note that "law" has no definite article in the Greek, thus it says "deeds of law") have any part in our justification. We are justified and declared righteous by faith in Christ and by faith in Christ alone.

Martin Luther called this tenet of justification by faith the point upon which the church either stood or fell - and he was right. Any denomination or person who proclaims anything other than this tenet is not a Christian entity because it is a foundational principle of the work of Christ. Only He was born sinless and lived the law perfectly. In contrast, we have both inherited sin and have added further sins to our account before God. Therefore, to claim that we somehow participate in our justification would call into question the righteousness of God and malign His holiness.

To deny justification by faith alone would be comparable to denying that Jesus was born of a virgin or that the Bible wasn't divinely inspired. Either tenet being false would negate the truth of the Christian faith. The same is true with this one. It is this concept above all others which caused the final break from the Roman Catholic Church during the Protestant reformation.

Life application: What does your denomination teach about justification by faith alone? What does your preacher believe concerning this tenet? Go find out and if they differ from Paul's words in today's verse, then you need to find another place to worship. This is serious stuff.

Glorious Almighty God, how I thank You for sending Jesus to redeem me from the power of sin, to justify me apart from deeds of the law, and to reconcile me to You. Where I have failed and fallen short, You have forgiven me. I stand amazed at the grace and the mercy You have lavished up me, even me. Thank You O God. Amen.

Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, Romans 3:29

The case against favoritism, prejudice, and presumption has been fully substantiated. The Bible makes it perfectly clear that there is one God. The great affirmation of this fact is quoted by observant Jews around the world each and every day -

"Here O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Deuteronomy 6:4

Jesus restated the truth of Deuteronomy 6:4 when He cited it in Mark 12:29. The concept of there being but one God is reaffirmed repeatedly throughout the rest of the New Testament as well. If there is only one God, then He must be the God of all. This fact is being presented in order to establish what is already painfully obvious, but which Paul will clarify anyway in the following verse.

The Jewish nation traces its ancestry back to Abraham through Isaac, but Abraham had another son also, Ishmael. Because both of them came from Abraham and Abraham was justified by faith prior to the rite of circumcision, and then Abraham and both sons were circumcised, then it must be that God is the Justifier of all people apart from the law.

The circumcision mandated in the law cannot be a source of boasting or one which makes a claim on God because it was actually instituted prior to the law and after Abraham's declaration of righteousness. And the declaration was made based on faith; simple belief in God's promises.

Life application: It can be deduced apart from the Bible that there is only one God. When we peer into the pages of the Bible, we need to continually remind ourselves that He is the God of all people. When it seems as though He treats different people differently, it is because we are misunderstanding what He is doing and why. In the end, all must come to Him in exactly the same way - by faith alone. Don't forget this fact and be reassured that God is completely fair in how He deals with all people.

O Lord, when I stand back and look at the Bible as a whole, I see that Your hand is equally upon all people. You are perfectly fair in how You deal with us. When You show mercy on us, it is not because we deserve it, but because of Your infinite goodness. I know that the life I have been given through Jesus is completely unmerited and so I receive it by faith and with eternal gratitude. Amen.

...since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. Romans 3:30

Both Testaments wholly and completely establish the truth that "there is one God." This was noted in the previous verse and accepting the notion of the Trinity in no way implies polytheism. The Trinity is noted as "three persons in one essence," although the term "persons" is an unfortunate but necessary appellative. Time is three states in one essence - past, present, and future. All three exist equally and at the same time and yet they differ from each other. They are different reference points within the stream of time. This in no way implies "polychronsim" or multitudes of time. It is one essential thing. Proclaiming a Trinity within the godhead is to affirm one God.

This God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - "will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith." God's means of justification doesn't change. The law cannot save and so faith in God and His provision, even under the law, is necessary in order to be saved. A person under the law, who lives the law scrupulously and yet doesn't have faith in what the law teaches is as far from God as the most vile sinner. And the vile sinner who understands his state under the law and yet has faith in the mercy of God is closer to God than the most obedient soul who lacks faith. Jesus showed us this in the following parable -

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14

This train of thought is repeated throughout the Old Testament and throughout Jesus' teachings as He cited the law, reminding those around Him of this truth. The fact is that if a person could be justified through the observance of the law, then God would be the God only of those under the law. Everyone outside of the law would, by default, be excluded. But this isn't the case at all. In all times and in all ways, it is by faith that one stands justified before God. However, it must be proper faith. Misdirected faith is, after all, wasted faith.

So where does this leave "deeds." The question is valid because as the New Testament progresses, we will be faced with the concept of "bearing fruit" such as in Romans 7 and "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" as noted in James 2. The answer cannot be that deeds further justify us in our standing before God. If this were so, then a person who accepted Jesus and then got run over by a train wouldn't be "as saved" as someone who got saved and then lived a long life helping others and doing good stuff.

The deeds after salvation - those done in faith for the sake of the gospel - must then accrue to our account, not for salvation but for rewards. This is an important point and it is the dividing line between heresy and truth concerning justification before God. It is by faith alone with nothing added that we stand justified before God. And the properly directed faith is in Jesus and His works. This will be explained in the following verse.

Life application: What is the motive for your deeds? If it is to attain salvation and a right standing with God, then you are far from Him. You have missed the grace of God as displayed in the work of Jesus for your salvation. Rather, trust in what Jesus has done - that it is all-sufficient to save you. And then, O saved soul, go forth doing good deeds out of a grateful heart in the salvation God has lavished upon you through His Son.

Heavenly Father, how could I add to the perfection of Your salvation through Jesus? I look to the cross and see the fulfillment of the law on my behalf. The code which condemned me has been nailed to that tree and I stand justified, free, and forgiven. May my life go forward in gratitude and in a display of appreciation for the immeasurable gift of my Lord. Amen.

Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law. Romans 3:31

Based on his argument that it is faith apart from deeds of the law by which we are justified, Paul now asks, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" The question is obvious and the answer, unfortunately will be misunderstood unless looked at through the work of Jesus on our behalf. Let us first consider Jesus' words from Matthew 5:17 -

"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."

Using Paul's response, and/or the first half of Matthew 5:17, some teach that we are bound by the precepts of the law. This is taken to varying degrees by different sects and denominations, but in the end, it is entirely contrary to the tenor of the rest of the New Testament. Time and time again, we are instructed by Paul and others that the law is over and done with in Christ Jesus. Here are a few of the many examples of this -

"For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,.." Rom 5:20

"For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace." Rom 6:14

"I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." Gal 2:21

"You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." Gal 5:4

"For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." Heb 7:18, 19

That the law is obsolete and set aside in Christ is explicitly stated. This means the entire body of the law; no distinction is ever made between a "moral law" and a "ceremonial law." However, many attempt to find such a distinction. The "moral law" would include the Ten Commandments and the "ceremonial law" would include such things as eating pork, sacrificing at the altar in Jerusalem, etc.

By looking for such a distinction, the body of law found in the Old Testament becomes a "pick and choose" code for Christians. Some denominations still teach tithing, or they may pick "no pork" for example. And even those who say only the Ten Commandments still apply will normally worship on a Sunday instead of observing a Saturday Sabbath. Thus they violate their own premise in retaining the Ten Commandments. It is all or none and the answer is "none." The former commandment is annulled in its entirety.

However, this sits uncomfortably with the masses. Does this mean that murder is ok? Of course not. Nine of the ten commandments are explicitly restated in the New Testament and are therefore binding; they are a part of the New Covenant. However, the Sabbath is noted as having been fulfilled. We now enter into God's rest (Hebrews 4:3) and therefore we are free from a specific Sabbath observance.

Understanding this, we must now return to Paul's question, "Do we then make void the law through faith?" Paul says, "Certainly not!" So is there a disconnect in what Paul is saying here and the rest of the New Testament? Certainly not! Instead, it is our misunderstanding of his next comment - "On the contrary, we establish the law." The word translated here as "establish" is histanomen. It has been variously translated as strengthen, uphold, fulfill, establish, support, etc.

The law of faith which Paul has been speaking of is a means of validating or strengthening the law. We have failed at fulfilling it, but Jesus fulfilled it on our behalf. Return again to Jesus' words in Matthew 5:17 - "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill." And fulfill it He did!

Now, by faith in His work we are free from the very law which He fulfilled on our behalf. His merits are credited to us when we place our faith in what He did. Thus the law is established in us; it is upheld in us; and thus it is obsolete to us. When something is fulfilled, it is no longer necessary. As He fulfilled it in our stead, we are free from its constraints. This is the amazing work of Jesus on our behalf.

Life application: Do not reinsert the law where it does not belong. Jesus established the New Covenant at the Last Supper. The book of Hebrews tells us that the former commandment is annulled. We cannot mix that which is annulled into what is newly established without showing a lack of trust in Jesus' work. Give God the glory for what He has done through Jesus and then go forward in the power and strength of that which Jesus established for us.

Beautiful Lord God, when I think on the marvel of what You have done by having wiped out the handwriting of the law which stood against us, having nailed it to the cross to set me free from its constraints, it is beyond my ability to grasp. Where I failed, Jesus prevailed. He has triumphed over darkness and shown forth Your marvelous light. Hallelujah and Amen.

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? Romans 4:1

Paul begins chapter 4 in a manner similar to chapter 3 (the original letter contained no chapter or verse divisions, but these are logical points of demarcation which were later added) by introducing a pertinent question. He has built an argument and defended it in a precise and exacting manner, introducing legal terms and processes in order to validate his points. Each step has been introduced to confirm the concept of justification by faith.

During the progression, he has shown the nature of sin and the nature of fallen man, both under natural law and the Mosaic law. All are bound under sin and none have an innate righteousness. Because of this, none can attain to it by their own works; something external is needed.

And so now he introduces Abraham as a living example of his argument. As Abraham is the father of the Hebrew nation and because he lived hundreds of years before the introduction of the law, he will demonstrate that what occurred between God and Abraham was apart from the law or any deeds of the law. This will confirm his statements at the end of chapter 3 which concerned boasting before God.

He now asks "What shall we say that Abraham our father has found...?" Paul is clearly indicating that Abraham is the father of the faith, a point not missed by those under the law when speaking to Jesus such as during this exchange in John 8 -

"I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” (vs. 38, 39)

Even the Lord acknowledged this to the people of Israel when He spoke to them through Isaiah -

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father,
And to Sarah who bore you;
For I called him alone,
And blessed him and increased him.” Isaiah 51:1, 2

Because this is testified to the nation, even from their own Scriptures which established them as a people, then what is deduced concerning Abraham will be all the more sure and binding if it is a demonstrable truth. Paul's next words will begin to establish what Abraham "has found according to the flesh."

The introduction of this phrase "according to the flesh" has been debated and two options are most disputed -

1)That Abraham is the physical father of the people; he is their ancestor and they are his descendants.

2) That "according to the flesh" is tied to the words "has found." In other words, "What thing in the person of Abraham is found to be true concerning our previous argument?"

The second is the obvious and correct option. Paul has been speaking about how righteousness is found and how one stands justified before God. He will continue with this thought by giving the practical example of Abraham. The fact that he is the father of the faithful is true, but how he became that way is what is of importance to Paul and his argument. The first is dependent on the second, but the reciprocal is not the case.

Life application: Use caution when reading commentaries, particularly in biblical matters. Don't bind yourself to one interpretation until you have researched other possibilities. The Bible is a unified whole and it will always internally validate itself. Logical arguments must rest on ultimate truths and the conclusions must be in line with the overall objectives presented in Scripture.

Oh heavenly Father, Your word is a delight to my mind and the highest point of joy in my daily thoughts. From Your word I see light and truth and in Your word I see the glorious plan of the ages - all of it pointing to what You alone have accomplished for us, your wayward creatures. And so to You alone be the glory. May I only boast in what You have done for us. Amen.

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. Romans 4:2

Paul's words today would be set against the thought of the Jew who says, "Abraham was justified through circumcision." And again, "Abraham was justified by the offering of his son on Mount Moriah." To argue against this, he will introduce Scripture which will stand against this thought.

It's important to note here though that James 2:21 seems to indicate contrary to this -

"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?"

There are important concepts which must be understood clearly before we can grab the words of James 2 and stand before God and boast in our deeds. The first is that the term ek or "out of" is used by both Paul and James concerning works, not the term dia or "through." Although the difference may seem small, Paul consistently shows that justification does not come "through" works. The second thing to note about James 2 is that the example of Abraham and the others given (such as Rahab the harlot) are fully explained in Hebrews 11. There, they are clearly described as deeds of faith. "By faith Abraham..."

In other words, the faith in God's word led to the deed, not the other way around. The deed had no part in the justification of righteousness. So where did the justification come from? Paul will explain it quite clearly in the following verse. To set it up though, he gives today's verse. "If Abraham was justified by works..." The words "if Abraham was" implies that he wasn't, but the introduction is proper to show why. Therefore, "If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about."

Of course, if we do something to merit favor, then we can boast in what we've done. If we are in a battle and everyone is certain to die unless an immediate source of relief is found, then the actions of the person providing the relief could lead to boasting. "Johnny charged the hill alone, took out the enemy guns, destroyed the mine field with a blasting charge, and had lunch waiting for us when we arrived at the bunker..." Well, Johnny can boast. He didn't have faith that he would make it though. In fact, he probably thought he would die trying. He simply saw no other action and took it. It was a step in the dark.

Faith is not a step in the dark. Rather it is a step into God's revealed light; it is trust that what He has said is true and will come to pass. This is why Paul finishes today's verse with, "but not before God." It is the introduction into verse 3 which will explain why Abraham's faith was not a step into the dark, nor was it a point on which he could boast. He bore no part of his justification, but rather it was an act of God based on his faith alone.

This leads to the final point today. Faith... faith is not a deed. Exercising one's faith is not somehow usurping God's gift as many Calvinists would claim. Their idea is that God regenerates us to believe, we then believe, and then are saved and justified. This is nonsense of the highest order and it crosses the lines of reason. It also violates the tenor of Scripture on a multitude of levels.

When man fell, he gained the "knowledge of good and evil" and, as God said, "the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil." Something was lost, but something was gained. Using reason is a part of what we are. There may be nothing inherently good in us, but we can "see the good" in God and accept it. This reason, leading to faith, is not a work and it in no way diminishes the glory God deserves. On the contrary, it exalts Him because we use our free will, granted by Him, to choose Him. God regenerating somebody in order for them to be saved does the opposite. It would demonstrate God's need to be glorified. But God lacks nothing, including the need to be glorified.

By mixing categories of what occurs in our salvation, we come up with confusion and a loss of what has happened in creation since the beginning; it skews the plan of redemption which is laid out in Scripture. Man chose to disobey and this is in no way laid at the feet of the Creator. Man chooses to accept His offer and it is completely and absolutely a gift for which God alone receives the glory. It is belief in what God says, not mere belief in God as we will see in verse 3.

Life application: Jesus and the apostles, throughout the New Testament, state time and time again words such as "believe," "call on," "have faith," "trust," etc. These are things that we do throughout our lives. The ability to do these things establishes us as rational, free-willed beings. This is a gift of God and therefore when we exercise them "for" God, it is still ultimately "of" God, not ourselves. Today, take time to revel in what God has given you... choice. Now go and give Him the glory for the choice of accepting what He has done for You - the giving of Jesus!

O God, at the very beginning we chose to reject Your word and to do things our own way. We took from the tree and were separated from You. But without all the bad, we could never appreciate the good. Thank You that the way has been restored through another tree... the cross of Calvary. I stand amazed at the glory You have revealed there. Amen.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Romans 4:3

Paul returns to Scripture - to the Old Testament - in order to prove his just-made statement. If Abraham was justified by works, then he would have something to boast about, but not before God. The verse Paul selects is Genesis 15:6 and the timing of the occurrence in Abraham's life is as important as the words used. When taken in context and analyzed properly, today's verse disproves the Calvinist doctrine of regeneration and it also shows that "faith" is not a work it all.

The previous verse said, "For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God." It is clear then that what is stated in today's verse, "Abraham believed God..." is not a work. Paul began with "for" to demonstrate this. He is placing "works" and "belief (or faith)" in opposition to each other; therefore "faith" cannot be considered as "work."

Quoting the noted Bible scholar Albert Barnes, "Faith is uniformly an act of the mind. It is not a created essence which is placed within the mind. It is not a substance created independently of the soul, and placed within it by almighty power. It is not a principle, for the expression a principle of faith, is as unmeaningful as a principle of joy, or a principle of sorrow, or a principle of remorse. God promises; the man believes; and this is the whole of it."

As Barnes notes, "It is not a created essence which is placed within the mind." In substantiation of this, Barnes reviewed every passage on which the corresponding Hebrew word was used in the Old Testament, and then again every corresponding time the Greek was used in the New Testament. His conclusion was that "there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right."

This completely and entirely demonstrates that the doctrine of regeneration as submitted by Calvinism is wrong. Faith, which comes from within the man, results in justification. A man is not "regenerated" first in order to believe, as if God were injecting man with something externally in order for the act to occur. Further, to demonstrate that "faith" is not a "work" we can contemplate the following argument -

1) Deeds of the law, or works, do not lead to justification (as noted in Romans 3:28).

2a) "Faith" is not something required within the context of the law. The law is of works and demands perfect obedience (Romans 3:19, 20 & Galatians 3:11).

2b) But by faith a person is justified and declared righteous (Romans 3:28, Galatians 3:24)

3) Therefore, because the law demands works, and faith is not a requirement under the law, then faith cannot be a work; it is something entirely different.

It is completely evident, fully supportable, and biblically correct to note from this one verse that 1) belief is an act of the free will of man; 2) it is not placed in man through a nebulous process of being "regenerated to believe" by which he then believes; and that 3) this faith is in no way considered a work.

Therefore, the truth of Scripture indicates, from the first pages of Genesis, that man has been granted free will and that He must exercise that gift in faith. Further that this faith must be properly directed and in line with the revealed light which God has provided.

Now to address the second issue of today's verse - the timing of God's declaration. Genesis 15:6, which today's verse from Romans cites, occurred several chapters and many years before the sign of circumcision. Circumcision was mandated in Genesis 17 when Abraham was 99 years old and when Ishmael was 13. However, Genesis 15 was prior to the conception and birth of Ishmael. Therefore, the declaration of righteousness was at least 14 years earlier, possibly more. Further, Abraham's offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 and which is noted in James 2 came many long years after that.

Because Abraham's faith was credited to righteousness prior to either of these acts, then neither of them can have any bearing at all upon his declaration of justification.

Life application: When reading the Bible, make sure you take time to stop and think through why ideas and concepts are introduced. God is revealing His light to us and to quickly pass over what is being said will cause you to miss the point of the passage. And be careful to not rely too heavily on commentaries. Reading them is fine, but be sure to compare them with what God has laid out, when they conflict with the word, they need to be disregarded.

Most gracious and heavenly Father. You have given me the ability to choose, but I know that the faith I exercise must be properly directed. Please be with me and open my eyes to the truth of Your word and the principles it contains so that my decisions will be right and in line with Your will for me. To Your honor and glory I pray this. Amen.

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. Romans 4:4

Paul now brings up the subject of wages. When a person goes to work in a job as an employee, it is under the premise that he will receive payment for his efforts and that the pay will be comparable to his level of output, skill, knowledge, etc. Some people may work for their food and a place to sleep, some may work for currency, some may work for a precious metal like gold, etc. The first time "wages" are mentioned in Scripture it was work in exchange for a bride -

"Then Laban said to Jacob, 'Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?'" ... "Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, 'I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.'" Genesis 29:15 & 18

An agreement was made and the wage was paid based on the work performed (with a little cunning on the part of Laban...)

The concept of earning something for accomplishing deeds is found throughout Scripture and it is found throughout human history. The word for "work" in today's passage indicates the doing of something by which something else will result. The word for "wages" is translated exactly as noted, wages. It is dues paid for working. The word for "counted" is also well chosen. It is to reckon, impute, or account. And the word for "grace," which is found throughout the New Testament speaks of unmerited favor; it is "getting what one doesn't deserve." Finally, "debt" is something that is due - either for the sake of what is just or what is legally necessary; something is owed.

Taking all of these words and considering them from what Paul has been teaching us, there is a contrast between working to receive wages and demonstrating faith in order to obtain grace. A person who attempts to be justified by deeds of the law feels that God somehow owes him and that he has merited good standing in His presence; his salvation is earned. On the other hand, a person who understands that God's grace cannot be earned places his trust completely and entirely in the hands of God, knowing that what he deserves is condemnation, but what he seeks is God's pardon.

This is the contrast between the two - 1) Wages - The law looks to a trial based on merit. The trial will be perfectly fair and it will lead to condemnation. 2) Grace - Faith in Jesus seeks God's favor through the work of another and the receiving of a pardon based on His accomplishments.

Life application: The choice is given to all - will we attempt to merit God's favor by our own works, or will we place our trust in the work of Jesus? The biblical record stands - Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf if we are willing to accept it. Either way we will be judged by the same standard - it will be fair and it will either condemn us or justify us. Choose wisely. Choose Jesus.

Oh God, You have done for me that which I could never do. You have fulfilled the law in my place through a Substitute. Now, by faith in His work I stand justified in Your presence. The work of the Messiah is hinted at throughout Your word... and then He came! He was offered once to bear the sins of many and to those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. Hallelujah and Amen.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,... Romans 4:5

This is the amazing truth of the gospel revealed in its glory. The ungodly, the sinner, is justified by faith, not by works. This takes us back to Romans 3:31. Jesus fulfilled the law for us, and therefore when we place our trust in Him and what He did, we establish the law by faith. The righteous requirements of the law are met in Him and His righteousness is imputed to us through faith in that.

This brings us to an important concept though. If we attempt to be justified through works of the law and fail at them, then of course we can never be justified. But just as important is an attempt to be justified by deeds not recorded in the law - trusting in our own law.

If we attempt to establish our own righteous standards by adding to God's word, then we are guilty of exactly that - adding to the word of God. This is what Jesus condemned when addressing the scribes and Pharisees. He repeatedly makes a distinction between the Word of God and the traditions of men -

"Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition." Mark 7:6-9

As God's word is truth, and because God is love, then the proper proclamation of God's word, no matter how painful or cutting, is a loving action. It establishes the law of God. Truth and love are not at war with each other, they compliment each other. This is why properly handling the message of Christ is so important. When we attempt to be justified by our own deeds, we actually set aside the grace of God. When we teach others to do so, we bring condemnation, not salvation, to those who follow suit; it is the most unloving action imaginable.

God justifies the ungodly by faith. It is counted to them for righteousness. Let us believe this truth and not attempt establish our own righteousness before Him.

Life application: It is either the Bible or the teachings of man which brings salvation; the two are incompatible with each other. In our walk we must decide who we will follow and why. Let us never fail to stand on God's word alone lest we be found to have fallen short of His grace.

Lord God, Your wisdom is displayed in Your word. Every story and every detail is given to show us who You are, what You expect, and our complete dependence on You. Help us to abide by its precepts, live by its statutes, and fear its judgments. Your word is precious and it is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path as I walk in this sin-stained world. Amen.

...just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Romans 4:6

Today precedes two verses which form a quote from the 32nd Psalm. In this quote Paul will show how "David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works." In other words, in a masterful insight into the heart of the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul will go to David, a man under the law, to show how righteousness is attained. It is by imputation from God "apart from works."

Not only was David a man under the law, but he was also the King of Israel and the one through whom the promise of the Messiah would come (2 Samuel 7:12-16). If anyone had a reason to boast before the Lord, it would certainly be David. As the author of a large portion of the Psalms and the one who received the instructions for the building of the temple directly from Lord (1 Chronicles 28:19), David had an intimate relationship with God. He had a grasp of the intent and the purpose of the law and it is apparent through his words that he knew that the righteousness of God came not from the law itself, but from the One who gave the law in the first place.

How could David know this? Because the law not only promised life to the one who lived by it (Leviticus 18:5), but it also promised punishment and death for those who failed to do so. And David, this great and noted king, failed. When he was faced with his own sin, which under the law was worthy of death, God's prophet spoke these words to him, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die."

The Lord's mercy was bestowed upon David apart from the law. David thus deduced that if this occurred, then God's other divine attributes were also to be realized in our relationship with Him only apart from the law. The law then must have had another purpose than to bring man into a right relationship with God. Although David didn't have a full comprehension of the work of the Messiah, he did understand the blessedness of man who received God's righteousness apart from the law.

In the book of Galatians, Paul will show that the law was a tutor to lead us to Christ "that we might be justified by faith." Somehow, in his ponderings of the work of God, David understood this, even if in a limited way. The quotes Paul uses from David's hand will clearly show this.

Life application: God authored the law which is finite in its scope and so it cannot be the full extent of our relationship with Him. However, it is eternal in its purpose; it must be fulfilled, and yet we cannot fulfill it. Therefore, the righteousness of God must come to us apart from our deeds under the law. It must come from Jesus who embodies the perfection of it. In Him alone can our righteousness be found. Be sure to give God the glory for doing through Jesus what we could never do.

Gracious and glorious Heavenly Father, I have sinned against You - my heart has been deceitful, my lips have been impure, and my actions have not been in accord with Your word. I stand before You knowing that what I deserve is to be cast from Your presence, and yet because of the work of the Messiah I am reconciled to You and brought near to Your throne. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
And whose sins are covered; Romans 4:7

This is the first half of Paul's quote from the 32nd Psalm. Paul, citing David, shows the state of blessedness or happiness of those who are forgiven of their misdeeds. Paul changes the quote from singular to plural. David's original words said, "Blessed is he whose..." This thought then covers all who are included - male and female, Jew and gentile.

In the forgiveness of lawlessness and the covering of sin, a person stands justified and free from guilt even though the offense(s) actually occurred. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and was responsible for the death of Uriah. Moving forward in time means that these actions cannot be undone. What has occurred is over. A finite crime thus infinitely separates man from an infinite Creator; we can never undo our deeds.

But God, the Creator of time, has the ability to do what we cannot. Thus it is the truly blessed person who obtains access to this infinite fountain of grace and mercy. When forgiveness occurs, the sins are "covered." They can never been seen again. The Bible repeatedly confirms this -

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19

For You have cast all my sins behind Your back. Isaiah 38:17

These and other metaphors are intended to show the complete and eternal nature of forgiveness and justification. When a transgression is covered, it is forever gone. When forgiveness is granted, it becomes a garment of righteousness. And when a person is justified by faith, it stands forever as a seal and a promise from God that a right relationship again exists.

Life application: The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all unrighteousness and ungodliness. What has been cleansed by Him is forever clean and holy. As proof of this, the believer in Jesus Christ has been given a deposit, the Holy Spirit of promise. When you err and fall short of God's glory, remember this. Despite your faults, you are eternally safe and secure in the hands of God.

Lord God Almighty, in You I have found my rest and my peace. Surely a day in Your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. And yet, because of Your Son I have the surety of eternal days in Your presence - free from the guilt I have stored up through a lifetime of misdeeds. How can I but praise You and glorify You for what You have done. Thank You, O God. Amen.

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin. Romans 4:8

Paul again quotes David from the 32nd Psalm.

"Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit."

There David noted that the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin is blessed. However, the law demanded that his sin be tried and punished. He had committed adultery and murder - both capital offenses and transgressions against God. He couldn't go back in time and undo what he had done; time is ever-moving forward. And yet, God provided atonement for him and for those who put their faith in Him through sacrifice and repentance.

The question is, "Did the sacrifices - such as those on the Day of Atonement - take away the sin?" The answer is given in both Testaments and it is "No." The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin. (Psalm 51:16, 17, Hebrews 10:4, etc). So what provided the atonement? It was faith that God would withhold His wrath for the sins committed. The sacrifices merely pointed to the final sacrifice of Jesus, even if the people didn't know that this was the case. It was faith in God and His promises and a humble walk before Him. Passages such as Micah 6:6-8 show us this -

With what shall I come before the Lord,
And bow myself before the High God?
Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings,
With calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
Ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

The questions Micah asked demanded a negative response. All of the sacrifices and offerings in the world were useless without a heart for God and without faith in His providence. It is through faith that the blessedness is received. When faith is exercised, the sins are pardoned and felicity between God and man is restored.

Life application: Have faith in God's promises which come through the Person and work of Jesus. This is what pleases God, not church attendance or charitable giving. After your faith is established, then these things have meaning, but without it they are just vapor which fades away.

Lord, I know that my sins make me deserving of Your wrath and judgment, but because of Jesus, You have granted me mercy and a pardon from the sentence. I trust that Your word is true and that what He has done is all-sufficient to restore me to You. I marvel at the perfection of what You have done through His wondrous work. Thank You, O God. Amen.

Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Romans 4:9

Paul has been addressing David's comments which are found in the psalms and which point to the blessedness of man to whom the Lord does not impute sin. Based on David's words, Paul showed that this blessedness translates into "righteousness apart from works."

Through Paul's observations and by citing the Scriptures, it is verifiable that this state of blessedness can be obtained because David both received it and spoke of it. David was a man under the law, the law which included circumcision as one of its signs of the covenant between God and His people. So Paul now asks an obvious question - "Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only?"

The question is important because if it is only upon the circumcised, then anyone outside of the law will never be free from the sin-guilt they bear. All sins committed will in fact be imputed to them. There would then be... no hope. But Paul asks, "Does this blessedness then come 'upon the uncircumcised also?'" If it does, then there is hope for the world at large and not just those in the nation of Israel and who had been circumcised.

In order to demonstrate that this blessed state does, in fact, come upon those outside of the law Paul will now reintroduce Abraham. Why would he do this? Abraham was the father of circumcision! What could it be about Abraham's justification that will in turn give hope to the non-circumcised world? Stay tuned for the exciting details.

Life application: When things look hopeless and every exit is blocked, remember that God is fully capable of rescuing you from your trials. Those things that you may have overlooked are already known to Him. So trust that His plan is greater than your time of testing. Stand in the confidence of knowing that His hand is upon you and will guide you to broad places.

Precious Lord, how wonderful it is to live in Your presence and to know that You are always with me - a shade at my right hand. When life is difficult and the trials seem to big to bear, remind me of Your glorious presence and help me to open my mouth and speak to You about the cares and burdens I feel. I know that You will respond according to Your great mercy. Amen.

How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. Romans 4:10

Paul has shown as clearly as could be done, that righteousness comes apart from the law and that it is granted by faith alone. Noting this, Paul continues to make his address to those who would still consider the law as a means to an end. His questions are meant to dispel this notion once and forever. "How was it (meaning the blessedness of being declared righteous noted in the previous verses) accounted?" In other words, where or when did this declaration originate? In follow-up he asks "While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised?"

This is an immensely important question. If it was after circumcision, then the circumcision may have had a bearing on the declaration of his righteousness. This then might mean that this same declaration could be available only to those who are circumcised. If so, then anyone outside of the law would be in the same state they were always in - alienated from God and strangers to the promise. But Paul's answer is a note of relief to those outside and it is one which comes directly from an analysis of Scripture itself... "Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised."

Abraham was declared righteous in Genesis 15:6. He simply believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness. It wasn't until Genesis 17 that the sign of his righteousness was introduced. This was many long years later and it had no bearing at all on his state before God. If it had no bearing, then why was it even given? The answer is that it was an outward sign of the change in relationship and was intended for him and his descendants afterwards to remember that relationship and live in a manner worthy of it.

This outward sign was a means of validating what occurred. It had no bearing on what happened, but it gave him the memory of, and the assurance in, the act. As an example to grasp this, let's consider a war hero. He is involved in a great act which saves many lives and which is the epitome of braveness and heroism. Everyone knows it and calls him a hero. This is equivalent to Abraham's faith and God's recognition of it.

After the act, the hero's commander submits him for an award. The award goes through the ranks and arrives at the president's desk. The president approves it - a Congressional Medal of Honor; the highest military award one can receive. The award is then officially presented to the hero on the one-year anniversary of his act. Did the presentation of the award have any bearing on the accomplishment of the act? No. Did the presentation have any bearing on his status as a hero? No, but it does validate it. The award was given as a sign and a confirmation (or validation) of the significance of the deed, but it in no way changes what occurred. This is Paul's point. The circumcision, in which the Jew boasts, has no bearing at all on what was previously granted.

If the war hero's descendants carry around his award and boast in it and yet don't live a life worthy of the act of their father, then the award means less than nothing. In fact, it has become in them as if they weren't even a part of this noble man's family. And now, after more than a chapter of analysis and explanation, we can return to Paul's words at the end of chapter 2 and more fully understand what he meant -

"For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Therefore, if an uncircumcised man keeps the righteous requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be counted as circumcision? And will not the physically uncircumcised, if he fulfills the law, judge you who, even with your written code and circumcision, are a transgressor of the law? For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God." Romans 2:25-29

Life application: Don't let anyone steal the prize from you by insisting that you adhere to some precept found under the law. Circumcision, dietary restrictions, dress codes, etc that are found under the law will only separate you further from God if you attempt to be justified by those things. Stand firm on the fact that Abraham was declared righteous by faith alone and this is how you will also be so declared.

Lord God, I see in Your word that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised. The circumcision was only an outward sign of the declaration. I also see that this is how You work at all times - declaring us righteous by faith in what You alone have done. The work of Jesus frees us from the constraints of the law because He fulfilled them in our stead. Thank You, O God, for Jesus. Amen.

And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, Romans 4:11

The previous verse reminded us of what Scripture proclaims - Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised; long before. To ensure that point couldn't be misunderstood, God waited many long years before giving him the sign of circumcision. This sign is "a seal of righteousness of the faith he had while still uncircumcised."

The sign did nothing to further justify him in God's sight. By this picture, which we derive directly from Scripture, we learn that it is God who defines the parameters and establishes the basis by which a person is declared righteous. And this is shown to be by faith; faith alone. When this faith is properly directed toward God's promises (meaning the work of the Messiah) we are counted as righteous.

Abraham was made the type or pattern of the faithful, "that he might be the father of all those who believe." There is no distinction made in us because there was none made in him. He simply believed God and received the blessedness of God. As this is the pattern, then it is available to all "though they are uncircumcised, that the righteousness might be imputed to them also."

This wondrous relationship with God is available to all - Jew and Gentile, male and female. It is open to any person of any culture, ethnicity, or race. No person is above another and no person is excluded when mere faith is exercised. This is the very heart of the gospel and is reflected in Jesus' words of John 3:16 - "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

"Whoever" means just that. All who believe are granted the same inheritance and become Abraham's descendants; adopted into God's family.

Life application: A simple act of faith is all that is needed to change our eternal state. It doesn't matter who you are, if you have accepted Jesus as Lord, you have been declared righteous and stand justified before God. Don't let anyone steal your joy by telling you that more is needed. Your faith has healed you, O child of God.

Heavenly Father, Abraham was declared righteous by mere faith and your word says that the same is true with me. I am freed from the bondage of the law by the work of Jesus who fulfilled it in my stead. I stand free and forgiven and now I am ready to bear fruit in this new life. Set me on the course which will bring you the honor and glory You are due. Amen.

...and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised. Romans 4:12

The previous verse showed that Abraham was "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised." Today shows that likewise, Abraham is "the father of circumcision." The Greek actually leaves out a definite article before "father." He is "father of circumcision." This is an abstract term for the concrete principle similar to saying someone is "father of the modern jet airplane." However, Paul includes a caveat concerning those circumcised people. It is those who are not "only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith..."

Being circumcised but lacking faith has already been addressed and then it was supported by Paul's inclusion of David's quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures. In order to further substantiate it, Paul pulls out a word for "walk" which is only used a few times in the New Testament, stoichousin. This word finds other uses in secular Greek writings to indicate the concept of military order. There it has the idea of keeping in rank or walking in step with a leader.

In other words, those who are of the circumcision can't claim any special participation with Abraham unless they walk in the manner of Abraham, which has been shown to be a walk of faith. Other Jewish writings designate Abraham "the head of those that are circumcised" or "the head to them that are circumcised." However, Paul calls him "father of circumcision." The difference is immense. The first indicates a relationship is contingent on circumcision, but the second indicates that true circumcision is contingent on faith.

What this means, and it is of the highest concern for those who are circumcised, is that in order to be saved the Jews must come under Abraham's covenant of faith which was while he was still uncircumcised, not the other way around. The entire concept of circumcision had been turned upside down by those who bore the sign.

Unfortunately, this is still the case in Christianity today. Far too many sects and denominations insert the law where it doesn't belong by imposing its restrictions on those who have been freed from them. The sign of the saved Christian is an internal one; it is the sealing of the Holy Spirit. Attempting to add to that can only bring in unhappy consequences and a life of walking in uncertainty.

In the same way, some believe they are saved through their denomination and that others are excluded. Or, they may believe that baptism is a saving grace comparable to the Jew's belief in the effectiveness of circumcision. However, both of these ideas are dispelled when one understands that it is faith, and faith alone, which restores us to God. We too must come under the covenant of the faith of Abraham.

Life application: Was there a time when you called on Jesus Christ as Lord by simple faith? If so, then remember that move and return to it. Live in it and revel in it. If you've been adding external requirements to it and have wondered why your walk is a meandering one, then re-evaluate your walk. If someone is teaching you to follow certain dietary requirements, certain days of church attendance, etc., then you are only harming your walk of faith. Look to Jesus and what He already did and then glory in that.

O most precious Lord, by faith Abraham was declared righteous and so he is considered the father of faith for all who walk in his steps. Help me to be a person of faith, putting aside attempts to merit my salvation by adding to what You have already done for me. What could I add to the work of Jesus? In Him my rest is found and in Him I shall take my rest. Amen.

For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. Romans 4:13

The words "for the promise" are being introduced to show that what was promised to Abraham, both explicitly and implicitly, are to be offset from the notion that the law had any bearing on it at all. When taken in context of the times and the circumstances, nobody with right thinking could come to any other conclusion.

Abraham was given the promise and declared righteous in Genesis 15. From that time until the giving of the law at Mount Sinai it was a period of 430 years. This is seen in Exodus 12:40, 41. The dating in these verses is speaking of 430 years from the promise to Abraham until the exodus, not the time the amount of time the Israelites dwelt in Egypt -

"Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt."

Understanding this, we can now evaluate the word "promise." There are two English words which are used to translate it, one is huposchesis and the other is epangelia. The first one is used when a condition is involved. The second is used when the promise is an unconditional one. It is the second one, epangelia, that Paul uses here. Therefore, the promise involves no act to

which merit could be counted, but is an act of grace alone.

Next is the thought of the promise, "that he would be heir of the world." An heir is one who inherits something, such as an estate. This is not a promise that was made specifically to Abraham. The promises to him included giving to him and his descendants the land of Canaan; making him a great nation; that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed; that his descendants would be a multitude (as of the dust of the earth and as of the stars of the sky); and that he would be the father of many nations.

The promise that he would be "heir of the world" must be inferred from these other promises and which then would point directly to the Messiah who would issue from him. To understand this, Paul says "or to his seed through the law." The word seed is translated from one of three words in the New Testament. The one used here is the word spermati. In almost every one of its 44 uses, it is speaking specifically of descendants. Such is the case here.

Jesus, the seed of Abraham, is the One this part of the inheritance is speaking of. This is explicitly noted in Galatians 3:16-18 -

"Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise."

To sum this up for us as believers in Christ Jesus, Paul finishes with, "but through the righteousness of faith." The promise to Abraham and his seed comes only through the righteousness of faith. The law has no part in it for us. It was promised prior to the law and Jesus, who was born under the law fulfilled the law on our behalf. Therefore, by faith in Him, not deeds of the law, we are justified before God.

Life application: The Bible is a complex book, but its message is simple - have faith in God and His promises; have faith in Jesus. Our continued exploration of the word should always bear this in mind. If so, then we will never get off base as we plumb the depths of its treasures.

Heavenly Father, the more I read and study Your word, the more I understand how complex it truly is. But one thing consistently shines forth - the just shall live by faith. And so I stand on that simple tenet. I put my faith, hope, and trust in the Person and work of Jesus alone. Amen.

For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect, Romans 4:14

Today's statement is so obvious and yet so powerful that it should be posted as a banner at the doorway to houses of worship around the world. "For" is used here as if to say "indeed" or "surely." It is stressing the truth of what is coming. "For if those who are of the law are heirs..."

The first thing to note is that there is no definite article before "law" in the Greek. "For if those who are of law are heirs..." Whatever law, natural or Mosaic, is hinted at. If someone who is living under law is an heir of Abraham, then the very thing that caused Abraham to be declared righteous, which is faith, "is made void and the promise made of no effect.

The promise would then be made inoperative; it could never be fulfilled. Grace which is sought for by work isn't grace. Anything beyond faith is a work and therefore grace could never be bestowed upon a person who is seeking righteousness by the law. So, if a person is an heir who is doing works of the law, then faith is made void.

The importance of this is immense because both Jews living under the law, and Christians who mandate any given aspect of the law (such as "no pork" or "be circumcised") are in essence saying that God's promise to Abraham is of no effect. They are basically hinting that the entire premise of the Bible is faulty.

God's word, which states that we are saved by grace through faith, is either true or it is false. If it is true, then attempting to obtain grace in any other way can only lead to not receiving the grace at all.

Life application: Stand on the biblical truth that grace is grace. It is unmerited favor bestowed upon us by simply believing that God has it all under control and has accomplished the work for us through Jesus. Don't add to this, lest you be found to have fallen short of His immeasurable gift.

Heavenly Father, what could I add to the grace You have granted me through the cross of Jesus? I receive what You did and I stand on the merits of the Lord and not on my own supposed righteousness. I have faith that His work will carry me through to be received into Your holy temple. Thank You for this surety. Amen.

...because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression. Romans 4:15

Today a concept is introduced which goes back to the very creation of man and is found throughout the Bible and throughout human history - "the law brings about wrath." Man was placed in the Garden of Eden and he was, in fact, given a law. It was one command and it was in the negative (you shall not), but it was a command none-the-less.

Man was told that he was not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. If God had not given him this law, then there could have been no penalty for eating the fruit. It would have been no different to the man than eating any other fruit in the garden.

Secondly, the law was just. If God told the man, "You shall not drink any water" then that law would have been unjust because man needs water to exist. However, man didn't need to eat the fruit of that particular tree; there was other food to eat. The law was just and therefore enforceable. A violation of it brought about wrath.

The same is true with every other law given by God along the way. The laws were just and holy and they were reasonable. But accepting God's promise in Genesis 3:15 as well as those to Abraham could only come by faith because no law had been introduced along with them. Further, there is no law that could come along and fulfill the promises. They preceded any type of law and were thus grace. The only thing the introduction of a law could do would be to diagnose problems along the way, but they couldn't provide a cure for the state of man. In other words, the law can only condemn, but it cannot save.

Understanding these things leads to the fact that the law can only point out sin and show the need for something else. Fallen man needs to be completely detached from the principles of the law in order to be brought to a place where there will be no transgression and thus no wrath. This is the marvel of Jesus' work.

By coming in the form of a man, without the stain of original sin, Jesus fulfilled the law that only condemns us. He then offers His perfection under the law to any who will receive it. When it is so received, it brings us to that place where there is no transgression. We have overcome the law which was contrary to us and therefore we have no wrath which would result from that law!

The place of inheritance, which preceded the law by promise, is therefore the only place of freedom from wrath. The inheritance is through Jesus. If you have grasped this, then you truly stand in "the liberty by which Christ has made us free (Galatians 5:1)." Paul would then ask you to "not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." You are free from the law and eternally saved by the work of Jesus. It is the most glorious place to be.

Life application: To reintroduce the law after calling on Jesus can only bring a person into subjugation once again. The law brings about wrath, not freedom, so stand firm in the freedom of Jesus Christ and let nothing hinder you from the prize.

O God, when all was hopeless and uncertainty prevailed in my life, you came and offered me Jesus - a Man, born under the law and who fulfilled the law which stood against me. Now I stand free because of His work. The substitution was offered, the exchange accepted, and the righteousness granted. May I never boast except in the cross of Jesus which made all this possible. Thank You and Amen.

Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... Romans 4:16

"Therefore" is Paul's note of conclusion for this particular line of thought - "Because of these things... the following is the conclusion."

"It is of faith." This returns to verse 13 - " For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith." The promise was through faith and thus it stands by faith even now. And the reason?

"That it might be according to grace." If the promise isn't of faith, then there would be no grace involved. Anything other than faith involves work. When work is included, then wages are due. As was noted in Romans 4:3 and which should be repeated, 1) Deeds of the law, or works, do not lead to justification. 2a) "Faith" is not something required within the context of the law. The law is of works and demands perfect obedience. 2b) But by faith a person is justified and declared righteous. 3) Therefore, because the law demands works, and faith is not a requirement under the law, then faith cannot be a work; it is something entirely different; no wages are due.

But Paul has shown clearly and concisely, using both David and Abraham, that it is of faith and therefore it might be according to grace. And the reason is clear - "So that the promise might be sure to all the seed." The term "all the seed" must be apart from the law because the promise was made prior to the law in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. The promise stands even though there was no law. If this is the pattern, and it is also the pattern through David who was under the law, then it is all-encompassing - "to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law."

Anyone of faith may receive God's grace; anyone lacking faith - regardless of whether they are of the law or not - are excluded. The promise is by grace through faith only. It is to those who "are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."

It is astonishing how many people miss this. Instead, they tear verses out of context in order to justify that we are bound to the constraints of the law. And yet, the law demands such things as going to Jerusalem to sacrifice three times a year. It demands that one not wear clothing of two types of material - wool and linen for example. It demands circumcision and Sabbath observance - and on and on. Any violation of the law breaks the entire law (James 2:10). And yet, while ignoring all of these tenets found under the law, they still claim that adherence to the law is required. This is unclear thinking and it is a setting aside of the very grace bestowed upon us in Jesus Christ.

Life application: Verse after verse has come to the same irrefutable conclusion - we are not under law but under grace. This is so important that we need to be reminded again and again. It is the principle tenet of Paul's writings and yet... and yet we continue to miss it. Stand firm on the gospel and do not let yourselves be brought again under the yoke of bondage.

Lord God, keep me resolute in my walk and in the light of Your truth. And help me never to be swayed from the heart of the gospel which says that I have been saved by grace through faith. I know there is nothing I can do which could ever add to the work of Jesus. His work is all-sufficient to restore me to You. Thank you for the cross. Amen.

...(as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed—God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;... Romans 4:17

This is a continuation of the previous verse which stated that the promise belonged "to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." To support this, Paul returns to the fountain, to Scripture - "as it is written."

When a thing can be argued over and debated against, the surest way to prove one's claim is to return to the source of the matter. When this avenue is taken, argumentation is quickly cleared up. God spoke to Abraham, "I have made you a father of many nations." The term "I have made" is tetheika. It is used to indicate a granting or constituting of a matter. This promise was spoken to Abraham as if it was complete; in God's mind, the promise is as if it were already accomplished.

Abraham was given the promise from God and he simply believed it, despite its otherwise incredible nature. But the promise after all was from "God, who gives life to the dead." This phrase is certainly speaking of the deadness of Sarah's womb which is referred to in verse 19. However, because it is speaking of the calling of life from a dead womb, it demonstrates that God can call anything to life and so through the dead womb of Sarah will come the One who would restore man's spiritually dead condition. This is evidenced by Abraham's declaration of righteousness in Genesis 15:6.

Each step of Abraham's life is used to show us the pattern of our own calling. It is God who restores us to life "and calls those things which do not exist as though they did." Abraham would be a father of many nations. People who appeared to be outside of God's chosen line are called into it. Those who were once far off are brought near. Those who were dead are called to life. The relationship which did not yet exist in our temporal reality is spoken of by God in a manner as if it already did, and therefore it does.

Life application: The Bible is full of promises which are still future to us now and yet they are spoken of as if they have already come about. For example, it says those who were called are glorified. It also says that when we were saved God "raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." These haven't yet happened in our stream of existence, and yet to God who is outside of time, they have already occurred. When you're feeling as if everything is against you and God has forgotten you, remember this. In His mind, you are already seated in Christ Jesus in heaven. It is done and will never be taken away. Your salvation is eternal and your hope is already realized.

Lord God, I am reassured to know that Your promises come from the vantage point which is outside of the stream of time in which I exist. What we see as future, You see as already done. Because of Jesus, I am already seated in Him in the temple of Your heavenly city. Help me to remember this as I face my daily trials. To You, it is already done. Hallelujah and Amen.

...who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Romans 4:18

Hope is defined as a want or expectation of something, particularly when the thing seems likely or possible. Contrary to this premise, Abraham "in hope believed." In other words, Abraham placed his hope in something that wasn't likely and which was seemingly impossible. His wife was beyond the age of bearing and yet he accepted God at His word. This is specifically referring to Genesis 15:5 -

"Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.'"

The faith of Abraham wasn't misdirected faith even though the promise was otherwise unlikely. The reason is that it is "God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did." If the One speaking to Abraham is truly the Creator, then the word spoken from Him, even if it seems impossible to us, is actually more than probable (Matthew 19:26).

The word from God when properly handled contains the surest guarantee of all.

Life application: When reading the Bible, you are reading the very word of God to you. Its promises are guaranteed and what it states is absolute truth. But be careful to rightly apply it and to keep its words in proper context. One cannot claim promises to which they are not entitled. Through right interpretation, we will be built up in our faith and not disappointed when misdirected hopes are dashed.

Lord God, when I consider Your word, I realize that what it contains is no less certain and true than the principles of science or mathematics. Your word stems from who You are and therefore it must be absolute truth. Help me to accept its precepts and to never diminish them for the sake of tolerance, convenience, or to be socially acceptable. Amen.

And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Romans 4:19

Abraham's faith remained strong despite the odds against him. He was given a promise that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky at a time when it seemed a bit more than improbable.

However, misunderstanding often comes into our thinking at this time concerning the wording of today's verse. The NKJV here states "He did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old)..." This is misleading concerning the issue. Here is another version for comparison, "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:" (KJV).

The issue isn't concerning the deadness of Abraham's body, but the "considering" of Abraham's body dead because of the deadness of Sarah's womb. There is nothing to suggest, and everything to refute, the thought of Abraham's body being dead. He was only about 100 years old and he would father many children before his death at 175. However, at this point in his life Sarah, his only wife, had no children. The consideration of Abraham becoming a father is tied to Sarah. This is the reason why later, in Genesis 16, Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant Hagar to bear a child.

This same consideration is to be seen in Hebrews 11:12 - "Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore." In this verse, as in Romans 4:19, the reckoning that Abraham's child-bearing was "as good as dead" is tied directly to Sarah. It shows us the moral uprightness of Abraham who was faithful to his beloved wife despite her inability to bear. This is the strength of Abraham's faith - that God made a promise and that it would in fact come about.

It was Sarah who proposed that Abraham go into Hagar and thus, because of her words, he agreed. Until she made the proposal, the belief was that his faithfulness to Sarah would be rewarded. And in a way it was - both through the begetting of Ishmael through Hagar and then later begetting Isaac through Sarah. Abraham walked in faith and was rewarded for his faith by God.

To God, who called the universe into existence and who raised Lazarus from the tomb, the miracle of life through Sarah's dead womb was His way of showing us that He has all things under control.

Life application: With God, nothing is impossible. When we see difficulties, God sees opportunity for His glory to shine forth all the more brightly. Let us stand fast and firm on the surety that if God has made a promise in His word, it will certainly come about.

O Lord, my God! My heart sings at the prospect of eternity in Your presence. Nothing can take away the surety I have in the promises of Your word. You have said that the redeemed will walk in Your light and that there will be no more death, sorrow, or crying. I know this will come about and so I wait on that glorious day! Thank You for such wondrous promises. Amen.

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,... Romans 4:20

Abraham has been given as the prime example of fortitude in faith. He remained unwavering in his convictions concerning the promise of God. Unfortunately, he is too often maligned against this very premise when it comes to the account with Hagar. The man of faith is said to have weakened at that time, but this is not at all the case. Paul states very clearly here that "he did not waiver at the promise of God through unbelief."

What occurred with Hagar was simply a man not having all the information that God has. Because of this, his actions with Hagar were done in faith, not apart from them. It was Sarah who made the proposition and Abraham acted upon it, possibly assuming this was the divine plan God spoke of. In the end, all came about exactly as God intended. Ishmael was born to meet God's plans and later Sarah conceived Isaac, thus bringing glory to God.

Abraham's walk was continuously one of undivided faith. The Greek word translated as "waver" indicates a mental struggle concerning the issue. In Abraham, there was no such turmoil. God spoke and he believed unwaveringly. Abraham learned early and held fast to the truth that if one looks at the circumstances around them they will falter, but if they fix their eyes on the Lord their is only surety of purpose and resoluteness in determination.

For this very reason, the Bible elsewhere implores us to "fix our eyes on Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) and again to "fix our thoughts on Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1). When we look unto Him, there will be no time for mental distractions which cause us to falter.

But there is an important caveat which must be considered concerning our faith. Misapplied promises can only lead to unsatisfactory results. It is highly fashionable to take single verses out of context and make faith-based claims on them. This is both unreasonable and harmful. When quoting Scripture to build up faith, it must be taken in context and in the manner intended by God. Otherwise, it is no promise at all. Handle the word with care, especially when looking to its promises.

Life application: Who is being addressed in a letter or book? What are the circumstances of what is being said - time, place, person. Is the verse speaking directly to you or are you merely being allowed the privilege of seeing God's promise to someone else for learning, but not self-application. Knowing and applying these and many other rules of interpretation will keep one from becoming disillusioned by promises which were never intended to be used in your own personal manner.

Lord God, give me wisdom and discernment concerning Your word and help me to rightly divide its instruction. Help me to know when a verse is being taken out of context and instead, help me to be built up by a clear understanding of the intent of what is being presented. I know that as I learn these things, my walk with You will become more sure. Amen.

...and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. Romans 4:21

Hebrews 11:1 defines what faith is - "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." It is something which one possesses, "substance" and "evidence." Roman's 4:21 takes this definition and describes it. Abraham was "fully convinced that what He [God] had promised He was also able to perform." This is the substance of Abraham's hope and it is the evidence of his faith.

Abraham's internal conviction that God was able to perform exactly what He spoke was looked upon as an act of righteousness by God. This is the foundation of the biblical pattern for such a reckoning and it will be broken down and explained in the next verses. And the Bible will never deviate from this premise - that it is by grace through faith that one is saved. Jesus' words confirm this precept and are worth remembering yet again -

"For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

This is the model, this is the standard, and this is the truth of the word of God. We are to be fully convinced that what He promises He will also perform.

Life application: Have faith in God and His word. It is the only thing that you can ever do which will restore you to Him. He has done the work; now accept what He has done and the promises which accompany it.

Heavenly Father, I am fully convinced that the things You have promised You are also able to perform. You have said that through Jesus my sins are forgiven and I accept that. You have said that through faith in Him I am declared righteous and I believe that. You have said that I am granted eternal life through Him and I wait patiently for that day! Great is Your faithfulness O God. Amen.

And therefore "it was accounted to him for righteousness." Romans 4:22

"And therefore..." Paul sums up the thoughts of verses 9-22 (which includes an interim "therefore" that must be considered in this thought). Because of everything he has noted, clearly laying out his defense of righteousness apart from works, he cites Genesis 15:6 - "It was accounted to him for righteousness." The word translated here is telling us that God was counting Abraham righteous because of his belief. The difference between "imputation" and "impartation" was previously detailed. Here is that difference -

Imputation: I believe the gospel and therefore I am counted as righteous.

Impartation: I believe the gospel and therefore I am righteous.

Abraham believed God and righteousness was credited to his account, even though he was still a fallible man. He knew that the Seed of the woman, promised at the fall of man, would come. Even more, he believed that He would come through him despite his circumstances. His unwavering faith in the promise of God was all that was necessary to justify him.

Life application: Take time to re-read verses 9-23 today and then store away this valuable treasure trove of information. If you have called on Jesus as Lord, then you are saved. Don't let anyone tell you that you're lacking something necessary to please God. Let your works result from your salvation and not be an attempt to somehow merit it.

My Lord and my God, when I look at the marvel of Your creation I stand in awe of all that You have done. From you comes wonder, joy, and every good blessing. Help me to live my life in a manner worthy of Your glory and to never bring dishonor upon Your great name. Amen.

Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, Romans 4:23

In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul says, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." Jude's epistle says the same basic thing in verse 1:7. The stories of the Old Testament aren't just written for us to read without careful consideration. Instead they are written so that we have real examples of how God works in and through history and they are to be used in for our instruction and learning.

Having said this, its important to understand that these are types and pictures and so care needs to be used when evaluating them. In the case of Abraham, Paul explicitly says that what is written about how righteousness was imputed to him wasn't "written for his sake alone."

We have the assurance that the pattern set down in Scripture concerning imputation was one that we can apply directly to ourselves and Paul will explain it in the next two verses.

Life application: When evaluating passages in the Bible for self-application, context is king. Understanding proper context takes an immense amount of study and contemplation. Be careful not to run ahead and attempt to apply verses or passages to your own life without understanding their full intent and purpose. Unless a concept, type, or shadow is explicitly explained, use great care in how you apply it.

Heavenly Father, lead me to teachers of the Bible who will use care and right reasoning when teaching and preaching from it. Please keep me from those who would misapply verses or passages and give me right discernment in what I hear and believe. This I pray to Your honor and glory. Amen.

...but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,... Romans 4:24

"But also for us" is tied to the previous verse which explained Genesis 15:6. Abraham simply believed God's promise and it was accounted to him for righteousness. This written account of that declaration, according to Paul, "was not written for his sake alone." In other words, what the Bible records about Abraham serves a another purpose which is that we too enter into the same state of righteousness.

And how will it occur? "It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." We learn that our justification before God comes to us by an act of faith, just as it did with Abraham. The record of Abraham's reckoning has been given to show us that the same thing will occur to us in the same way. The only difference between what occurred in Abraham and what will occur when we believe is the difference in what is known.

Abraham was given a promise and without wavering he believed. We have been given the account of Jesus and we are asked to believe it. This is the good news and it is the foundation of our faith. There are two things to note about it. First, Paul calls Jesus "Lord" and secondly he notes that He has been raised from the dead. He will call these to mind again in chapter 10 -

"....that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." (verse 9).

After this, he will explain how this process works - "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (verse 10).

The pattern is set in the Old Testament and it continues and is confirmed in the New - there is only one way to be saved and works are excluded from the process. It is by faith, and faith alone that God bestows righteousness. We are to have faith that "Jesus is Lord." This means that He is the divine Son of God - fully God and fully Man. And we are to have faith that God raised Him from the dead; He has fulfilled the law on our behalf.

Life application: What does your denomination require of you? Do they say you can't eat pork? Do they say you must observe a Sabbath? Is there some other work that they tell you is necessary for you to prove you are saved? If so, it is time for you to find another place of worship. The Bible is clear, but we misunderstand. Call on Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved. Nothing else is required. Now, go share this good news.

Lord God, thank You for the simplicity of the gospel. Help me to never add to the message that I am saved by grace through faith and that this is a gift. Reassure me as needed that a gift from You is an eternal bestowing of Your righteousness. When I fall short and sin, remind me that nothing can ever separate me from Your love again; that I am eternally saved through Jesus. Amen.

...who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Romans 4:25

This final verse of chapter four explains the marvel of the finished work of Jesus. He "was delivered up because of our offenses." Sins committed by the fallen sons of Adam must be punished. God cannot arbitrarily overlook sin without violating His own righteousness. Every sin must be punished. And the punishment must be perfectly executed. Therefore, there are only two possibilities -

1) Punishment in the one who commits the sin. A finite sin committed against an infinite Creator requires and infinite punishment - condemnation and eternal separation.

2) Punishment in a perfect Substitute. An animal cannot substitute because it is in a different category. Another person born from man cannot substitute because that person bears Adam's sin. Thus Jesus is the only acceptable Sacrifice apart from option 1. He was born of God through a woman. He is the God/Man.

Jesus was delivered up for the sins of the world and, as Paul has clearly laid out, the justifying work of His sacrifice can only be received by faith. There is nothing we can do to add to what He has done for us. This is why Abraham is used as the preeminent example of this. Abraham looked forward in faith to the coming Messiah -

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." John 8:56

Is it really that hard to believe? The answer demands an affirmative. Very few in proportion to the total number of people in the world today have grasped the truth that an itinerant preacher in the little nation of Israel came to redeem the world. They reject the premise and rail against it. The only hope of their salvation is shunned because of an inability to perceive the marvelous workings of God.

However, Paul doesn't finish with the cross, but he completes the gospel by stating that Jesus "was raised because of our justification." God declared us "not guilty" through the cross of Christ. All of our sin was heaped upon Him and He bore the punishment for what we have done. But Christ also carried our sins away. They were removed "as far as the east is from the west."

Therefore, where sin is removed, there is no longer punishment for sin. After bearing our punishment, He came back to life because it was impossible for death to hold Him. The wages of sin is death; He never sinned; therefore, He came back from the grave. He was "raised because of our justification."

In one fell swoop, God removed our sins and raised us to new life through the work of His Son. This is exactly how Paul portrays the cross and the resurrection - as a single, unified whole. They together are the work of Christ on our behalf. Now, as is recorded in 1 Corinthians 15, the victory has been realized -

"The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (vs. 56, 57)

Life application: There is one and only one way to be reconciled to God the Father - through the work of Jesus Christ. God has shown us what is acceptable and He alone has done the work. Now by simple faith in what Jesus did, we stand justified, holy, and righteous before God.

Heavenly Father, I long for the day when I stand in Your presence and walk in Your light. And it has been made possible because of the precious Lamb without spot or blemish, my Lord Jesus. How great is Your love that You would place my sin and punishment upon Him and grant me His righteousness. I cannot grasp the depth of Your love. Thank You for Jesus. Amen.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1

Paul begins chapter 5 with "Therefore." What he has explained throughout chapter 4 is summed up in today's verse. This includes the following three concepts which are contrary to justification by faith alone. He explains they have no bearing on our declaration of righteousness -

4:1-4:8 - Works where wages are due

4:9-4:12 Circumcision in the flesh

4:13-4:25 Obedience to the law apart from faith

Based on these three topics, Paul proclaimed at the end of the chapter, "It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification."

Now, as a result of this, he gives his "therefore." Having been justified by faith (what has been explained) "we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." He is writing to saved believers (those having been justified). Because of this, translators and commentators find themselves in a difficult situation. The word translated as "we have" is the Greek word echomen and is explained this way in Vincent's Word Studies -

"The true reading is ἔχωμεν - let us have; but it is difficult if not impossible to explain it. Godet says: 'No exegete has been able satisfactorily to account for this imperative suddenly occurring in the midst of a didactic development.' Some explain as a concessive subjunctive, we may have; but the use of this in independent sentences is doubtful."

Actually, the difficulty isn't as great as claimed here. The very premise of what Paul is writing is that our justification before God is one of faith. Paul is of course writing to believers, but he is also writing to skeptics, and unbelievers (his epistles were used as doctrine for anyone to hear). Further, the very premise of his previous words (instruction on what will and won't lead to justification) implies that there are those addressees who are confused enough to need the instruction in the first place.

Some of them are relying on works; some of them are relying on circumcision; and some of them are relying on obedience to the law apart from faith. Paul has been writing to correct them and therefore "let us have peace with God" is instructing them that this corrective action is required. Faith is a volitional act of the free will. When one comes to the table with the presupposition that man doesn't have free will to choose Jesus, then of course "let us" would be a confusing thought in the midst of such instruction. But when we realize that God has granted us this right, it follows naturally that we must exercise the very act that has been explained to us.

Therefore - As a result of what has been said.

Having been justified by faith - You came to Christ by faith and were justified by that same faith.

Let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ - 1) (To saved but confused souls) Continue in that faith and don't fall back on works, telling others that they need to be circumcised, or telling others that obedience to the law is necessary. Instruct them as you have been instructed. 2) (To the unsaved) You now know what will bring reconciliation with God, so have faith in this and don't attempt to be justified by works in order to obtain this state.

This is fully substantiated by the thoughts laid out in the book of Acts and Galatians. In Acts 15:5 it says -

"But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.'"

And again we read this short account from Paul in Galatians 2:11-16 which involves the apostle Peter, a saved believer who was falling back on the law -

"Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified."

Paul's use of "let us" here in Romans 5:1 is directed toward exactly such people. They were already saved believers, but they weren't standing on the truth of what saved them in the first place - faith in what Jesus did for them, apart from deeds of the law.

Life application: The Bible is a large book with many difficult issues, but the more we read it and the more we remember what we've read, the surer our knowledge of what it proclaims becomes. It is a book without contradiction or confusion. So if we are confused, the problem lies in our understanding of the word, not in the word itself.

My wonderful Lord! I look to You in awe. You created all things by Your wisdom and all things are sustained by Your great power. In You is no shadow or change and from You comes truth, light, and life. Make me a pleasing vessel for Your use and then fill me with Your wisdom and instruction - even until I overflow for the sake of others. Amen.

...through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:2

Here is the entire thought as is stated in 5:1, 2. Read it slowly and think about what is occurring here -

"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."

We were enemies of God and outside of His favor when He did the unimaginable. He sent us Jesus. Now we are justified by mere faith in Him and His finished work. Because of this we are implored to have peace with God through Him. He is our peace and so through Him we enter into a new state and a new relationship with our Creator.