THE EPISTLES OF PAUL.
Following the Acts, a book which records the continuation of the ministry of Christ through His chosen witnesses, we have the fourteen epistles written by the apostle Paul. The last one is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Not all (theologians) accept the belief that Paul is the writer, but the style followed is more like the Pauline than writings by the other apostles. We therefore, accept the popular view of its authorship.
Paul was converted by the personal ministry of the Lord in glory. He is, therefore, distinctively a witness of a glorified Christ, Head over all things to the Church which is His body.
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.
This epistle was written from Corinth during Paul’s third visit to that city about A.D. 60, see 2 Cor. 13:1. It was the apostle’s intention to visit the Christians in Rome at some time. This prompted him to write that he might announce beforehand the distinctive truths which had been revealed to him. Romans not only embodies the doctrine of grace in relation to salvation, but in three of the chapters the promises to Israel are recalled, and God’s purpose to restore the seed of Abraham according to the flesh is clearly dealt with.
The epistle, exclusive of the introduction, is in seven parts:
1. Chs. 1:18 to 3:20. Universal guilt.
2. Chs. 3:21 to 5:11. Justification by faith.
3. Ch. 5:12 to Ch. 7. Identification with Christ.
4. Chapter 8. The law of the spirit of life.
5. Chs. 9 to 11. God’s covenant promises to Israel.
6. Chs. 12 to 15. Christian life and service.
7. Chapter 16. The outflow of Christian love.
The theme of the epistle to the Romans is the Gospel of God, Ch. 1:1, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Two things declare Jesus to be the Son of God. The first is His spirit of holiness, and the second is His resurrection from the dead. Both are historical facts and give undisputed proof to the claims our Lord made for Himself, v.4. Paul would have all men know that he felt his indebtedness to others, and that he had the remedy which never fails, the Gospel which is the Power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, vs. 14-17.
The whole world is steeped in the guilt of sin. Man’s rejection of light is the cause of his downfall. No one is excused. Apart from oral messages by man, God Himself speaks through creation, Ch. 1:19-20. Any thoughtful person must be impressed with the wonders of the universe, and to deliberately give glory to the creature rather than to the Creator leads into darkness. This in turn leads to great depths, so that man finally finds himself a slave to an exacting lower nature. God is no respecter of persons. Mere religion never meets the need.
Chapter 2 plainly teaches that the Gentile without law, and the Jew under the law, are both likewise condemned for their insincerity. To the Jews were committed the oracles of God, but they are no better than the Gentiles if they fail to conform to them. All are under sin, and all must seek for righteousness in another way than by their good works, Ch. 3:9-20.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH.
Into man’s darkness, God sends light, and shows a way of life wherein we can hope. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, but through the substitutionary death of Christ and faith in Him we can be justified from all guilt, Ch. 3:23-25. The law of God which condemned us is not made void, but is established in that its judgment was born by our Substitute, legally freeing those who believe, v. 31. Abraham, our great example was saved that way, Ch. 4:2-3, and to understand how secure the believer is, God says in v.8, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” This is received apart from any religious ordinance, v.10, and it does not come through keeping the law, v.14, but is an act of pure grace in response to faith, making possible the salvation of every grade of sinner, v.16.
To understand just how to believe we have a clear statement in v.17. Jesus told His disciples to “have faith in God,” which simply means that as He called those things which be not as though they were, so we should do likewise, and He will provide the quickening. Abraham walked with God and grew in faith until he was fully persuaded that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform, v.21. This pleased God, and Abraham was counted righteous because of his faith. Justification is the open door into all further blessing, so that in all things we shall be saved from wrath through Christ, and His life will meet our every need, Ch.5:9-10.
IDENTIFICATION WITH CHRIST.
Adam’s fall involved the entire race so that man is born in sin, v.12; Psalm 51:5. Sin is something which cannot be cured. Many remedies have been tried but all to no purpose. God has, however, provided deliverance by offering to make man a new creature. The plan is simple but very effective. Verse 19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.” Christ submitted to a false judgment, and yielded to death on the cross not for His own sake, but for every one of the human family. In order to participate in this redemption we must learn of the threefold accomplishment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Our acceptance identifies us the Him. If we do this, God will work in us and bring the truth to pass, see Ch. 6:1-5, 11, & 17. Ch. 7 describes man by nature endeavoring to overcome the law of sin which is working in his members, hindering every effort he makes to conform to God’s righteousness, vs. 14-21. In despair he cries out, “who shall deliver me”, and then with thankfulness sees that Christ the great Emancipator has met the need, vs. 24-25.
THE LAW OF THE SPIRIT OF LIFE.
In contrast with the life of failure depicted in Ch. 7, we have a brighter picture in Ch. 8. Through Christ we obtain deliverance from condemnation, and by the new “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus we triumph over the law of sin and death”, vs. 1-2. Life for the mortal body is also included, v.11, and an exalted position as joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ awaits those who will suffer with Him now, v.17. To encourage His children, God promises a personal oversight of their lives, so that each one may be assured “that all things work together for good,” v.28. Although Satan may slander God and picture Him as failing in His love to us, we can reply with vs. 38-39, that nothing can “separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
GOD’S COVENANT PROMISES TO ISRAEL.
In the plan of redemption God has remembered His covenant with Abraham. “Unto thy seed have I given this land”, Genesis15:18, is the promise the Lord made. Although through disobedience the children of Israel were cast out and scattered among the nations, they will eventually be led back, and in true repentance will be fully restored spiritually, and Christ their King shall sit upon the throne of His father David. At the present time they are estranged from God because they think to obtain salvation by works, Ch. 10:2-4, but “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob, for they are beloved for the fathers sakes”, Ch. 11:26-28.
CHRISTIAN LIFE AND SERVICE.
The reference to Israel is a parenthesis in the Epistle to the Romans. The next four chapters tell the redeemed soul how to live before the world, and faithful represent the God who has saved him. The first and all important thing is a full surrender to all the Divine will, Ch. 12:1-2. Out of such a consecration will spring helpful service, for God is looking for People whom He can make channels of usefulness, vs. 3-8. Various thoughts on behavior are then mentioned, and an exhortation not to take vengeance on those who harm us, but leave it all to God and He will fully recompense in due time, vs. 19-20. We are to be law abiding citizens, Ch. 13:1-2, and injunction which every believer should heed. Charitable consideration of fellow believers must also be observed, and the rule to adopt in our contact with others is mentioned in Ch. 14:13. Every church has some who are weak in the faith. They must be cared for in a spirit of love, Ch. 15:1-2.
THE OUTFLOW OF CHRISTIAN LOVE.
The apostle Paul meant every word he wrote, and endeavored as much as possible to be the very embodiment of his message. Ch. 16, is taken up largely with kindly reference to his fellow laborers in the Gospel. Two instances are worthy of note. In v.7 Adronicus and Junia are mentioned. They were Paul’s fellow prisoners, and believers who were in Christ before him. How nice of Paul to think of them in that way. The other person we might notice is Apelles approved in Christ, v.10. Whoever this person was, he evidently had a distinctive place in Paul’s memory as one with whom the Lord was pleased, and who no doubt was used in a noticeable way.
The epistle closes with a note of triumph. In Ch. 1:16, we learned that the Gospel is the power or dynamite of God which saves both Jew and Gentile through faith. Now in Ch. 16:25 we are told that God has power to establish according to “the revelation of the mystery” which of course is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” One thing is needful and is the obedience of faith, v.26. To those who are constant in this way God guarantees unlimited success in the Christian life, because of His unlimited power to be drawn upon at will.