Commentary on Romans 6-10
by Dave Brown
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6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
[This is a rhetorical question that was intended to shame those who would exploit the grace of God to satisfy their own lusts. No one says this explicitly today, although the combination of faith-only and once-save-always-save implicitly asserts it, and this leads to its great popularity. This chapter dispels any chance that such a doctrine could be of God. In this case it seems as though there were accusation from the Judaizers made against Paul in his teaching of salvation by faith that "he is in favor of no law -- anarchy." So Paul gets out in front of his potential accusers to proclaim that this is absolutely not what "by grace through faith" means at all.]
2 Absolutely not! We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?
[How did they die? What actions did they take? It has to be some definitive action on their part to separate them from the world. But that is not the point here. Here he acknowledges that they have now accomplished this "death" and have separated themselves from the sins of this world. Given that they have done that, why would they want to dive back into it again?]
3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
[I doubt they were ignorant of this fact, which provides for us some insight into the meaning of being "in Christ" and just how one gets "into Christ." Remember, Paul is speaking to baptized believers, so he assumes that they should have had some basic knowledge of what they did when they were baptized and why they did it. Nevertheless, he regards it necessary to remind them of this fact. Perhaps they had not problem with being baptized into Christ Jesus, but they did not fully apprehend that they were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be baptized into the death of Jesus? This is answered in the next verse.]
4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.
[Jesus obtained new physical life after his death. In like manner, the Christian should obtain new spiritual life once joined to Christ. The analogy is quite applicable. We were born sinless but out sins separated us from God, which is spiritual death. When we are baptized these sins are removed and we are not only in Christ but our spiritual life is renewed just as Jesus' physical life was when he arose from the dead. The figure of a burial here is very significant. The immersion in water emulates Jesus' burial and resurrection. Just like Christ, those who are baptized into Christ are "raised from the [spiritual] dead through the glory of the Father. But that is not the end of salvation. The point is that the goal of this resurrection is to walk in newness of life -- not continuing IN sin but rather, being SEPARATED from sin (dead to sin). This is further defined and detailed in the remainder of this chapter.]
[Walking in newness of life is equivalent to what was commanded by the assertion in Romans 1;17: The righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). This chapter perhaps more than any other demonstrates that the righteousness attained by Christians by being motivated by their faith in Jesus Christ is infinitely higher than what could be attained by adherence to any rigid set of laws. The principles given in the gospel, the New Testament, are lofty and sublime, causing us to be constantly striving for a consistency with this righteousness of God. While we realize that we cannot perfectly attain to these principles, there is a peace of mind and a sense of accomplishment that comes from doing all that we can to glorify God in our weak vessels (2 Timothy 2:21).]
5 For if we have become united with (him) in the likeness of his death, we shall be also (in the likeness) of his resurrection;
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with (him), that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin;
7 for he that hath died is justified from sin.
[The death of Jesus had to take place for justification to take place; and part of the "righteousness of God" is that we are to participate in this death by becoming united with Jesus in the likeness of his death. For us, this death is a death to (separation from) sin as we resolve to no longer give ourselves to sin. It is a spiritually painful process -- our old man is crucified -- of course, not literally. But just as physical crucifixion causes pain, there is pain in this spiritual process as well. The pain of recognizing our sin, and the pain of rejecting those old ways to stay in Jesus and on His Way. Recall what Peter command (in Acts 2:37) those who asked him "what must we do?" His response was "Repent and be baptized every one of you." Baptism is not the crucifixion of Romans 6:6 -- baptism is emblematic of the burial and resurrection after this death takes place. No, it is repentance that is so painful, especially if we still harbor a remnant of love for the evil things of this world. But once we are alive in Christ the pain of repentance is quickly put in the past. It is difficult to see any reason (especially inconvenience) for people to minimize the importance of baptism in this conversion process.]
[The analogy compares our death to sin with Jesus' physical death. While Jesus' separation from his spirit was temporary, our separation from sin is to be permanent. When Jesus arose to walk in new life, it was not to the same physical life that would end; it was an eternal spiritual life that is described in 1 Corinthians 15:42-58. In like manner when we arise from the burial of baptism we are born again into a new life that must never go back to our past sinful life. The remainder of this chapter is very definitive in making this point. It is our choice as to whether we remain faithful to Jesus or allow ourselves to be once again corrupted by sin.]
8 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;
9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more hath dominion over him.
[As physical death has no more dominion over Christ, so sin is to have no more dominion over us.]
10 For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God.
11 Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.
[The "righteousness of God" (i.e., faith in the revealed gospel) enables us to live with Christ, something that law-keeping could not do. Faith is a motivating force that lifts the Christian to new levels of righteousness (albeit, not perfection). Woe unto those who would turn it around and degrade it to become an excuse for their not only continuing in their old life of sin, but delving deeper into it, as discussed in the second half of Romans 1. Having anticipated an objection to salvation by grace, Paul is now in the midst of showing that it does not result in lawlessness, but rather in a much closer walk according to God's will than would otherwise be possible.]
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof:
13 neither present your members unto sin (as) instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves unto God, as alive from the dead, and your members (as) instruments of righteousness unto God.
[It is one thing to sin inadvertently; it is quite another to let sin reign in your mortal body. We are not expected to live perfectly according to the extremely lofty ideals of the gospel; but we are to strive to move ourselves in that direction. We must realize that we never "arrive," but that continuous improvement forever is the goal. Sin will get in the way and it should be extremely grievous to us as we seek the remedy of 1 John 1.]
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.
[What this is saying is when they were under law (or if some thought they still were), then sin would have dominion over them -- one sin led to condemnation. So why bother? Worse yet, if they thought they "punched all of the check list," then they might get the idea that they were free to do what they wanted. They might rationalize that under grace we can be forgiven for that one sin and we can move on to another without it dominating us. We must realize that once we give into sin, it will quickly become habitual and have dominion over us. Since we are under a system of grace, we should have strong negative feelings when we give into sin. This will serve to prevent it from having dominion. "Under grace" here is synonymous with being "under righteousness of God" since it is through God's grace that we are esteemed to be righteous.]
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? Absolutely not!
[This shows that Paul is still anticipating the question raised in the first verse of this chapter. He has made a complete circle and come back to the beginning where, again, he would anticipate some to raise this objection.]
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves (as) servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
[Before this was described as "letting sin have dominion over you" -- sin being your boss so to speak. It is the same thought here as Paul uses the metaphor of the master-slave relationship. Who is calling the shots in your life? Is it sin? or is it obedience to God in the direction of or "unto righteousness?" Paul's answer is obvious...]
17 But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching where unto you were delivered;
18 and being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness.
[Faith leads to obedience from the heart -- not just to manipulate God into giving us salvation, but to become like God as far as our being righteous is concerned. The "form of teaching" that was delivered to them was the basic rudiments (milk) of the gospel. What Paul is presenting now is certainly the meat of it, urging them not to go back, but to go forward unto perfection and salvation. Verse 17 is one of the most definitive in the New Testament, indicating that while faith in the mind is critical, it is "obedience from the heart to that form of teaching" that was delivered to them (and us) that is essential to our being made free from sin. This is the gospel, the righteousness of God.]
19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members (as) servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members (as) servants to righteousness unto sanctification.
[In the same way we (and they) served sin, we should now apply that to our lives to become servants of righteousness. Did we look for ways to be selfish, to please ourselves sensually, to satisfy our pride, to exalt ourselves by putting others down, by telling the truth only when it was to our advantage? Obviously, we could go on and on. These things should begin to sink into our past lives to the point where they no longer entice us. This is the product of the crucifixion of the old man, i.e., repentance. So now we should be looking for ways to please God and not ourselves, because we are not the source of righteousness, God is. Again, recall we are saved by the "righteousness of God" that is revealed in the gospel.]
20 For when ye were servants of sin, ye were free in regard of righteousness.
["Free" in the sense that you did not give it a second thought. Certainly not free to sin, or free from sin, or free from the consequences of sin. But those given to sin do not want to even think about God, So we put God so far from us that we no longer even think about Him and His will for us. This is freedom from righteousness in that we totally prohibit righteousness from having an effect on our behavior. Serving sin, we have no time for righteousness. In this old state we are dead to righteousness. For more insight into the figurative language, see Rom 7:7-8 where the metaphor of death is used as opposed to freedom.]
21 What fruit then had ye at that time in the things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.
[It is impossible to repent unless/until we can internalize the damage that our sins (every one of them) has caused both to ourselves and those around us. Sin is not just the violation of arbitrary laws; it is an act against God and mankind, and it has eternal ramifications even if we are ultimately forgiven of it. Perhaps this is the reason that a simple thing like eating a condemned fruit would wreak such havoc upon mankind for as long as the earth shall last. Are our sins of any less consequence to both ourselves and others? Sin has caused all of the problems in this world. If we cannot see that, then perhaps it is because we marginalize our own sin. Jesus had to shed his blood to cleanse us of every one of those sins. How dare we make excuses or think that our sins are minor and really do not matter.]
22 But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.
[This is the essence of what eternal life and salvation is all about. What a tremendous and succinct statement of the meaning of salvation to each one of us who have accepted God's free gift.]
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Oh, but obeying God is working isn't it? So how can it be a free gift? The real question is, when you obey God, who gets the benefit? Does God make some profit off of it? If God has nothing to gain by your obedience, but you have everything to gain by it (both in this life and in the world to come), then how can that be considered working and earning something. Receiving the free gift of God and rendering obedience to His will are not mutually exclusive; in fact they are inseparable; they are one and the same because God wants you to be saved and to glorify Him through your life. Loving us, he also wants us to be as happy in this life as we can be in a world of sin. But, we cannot possibly obtain the benefits of God's love for us if we refuse to obey the commands that he has given, all of which are out of His love for us and His desire for us to live eternally with Him. God's commands are expressions of His love toward us.]
[Primarily the subject to this point has been that while God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, His will for us has changed over the years -- things change, people change, and while God does not change, His laws and specific instructions to individuals and nations have (e.g., we all understand that it is not a command for all of us to go out and build an ark). These changes were not just arbitrary -- they had a purpose, e.g., the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster, or tutor, to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25). All of God's laws had a specific purpose and they satisfied those purposes, and thus they should all be regarded as perfect demonstrations of God's perfect love for us. Paul wants to make it clear that there was nothing deficient in the law itself; the deficiency was in us -- once we sinned the law became unable to restore us to a state of sinlessness.]
[Having demonstrated the difference between attempting to save ourselves by law keeping and attaining to God's righteousness through faith, Paul now goes on to provide a basis for the Jews to understand the rationale for the fact that they are no longer under the law. Paul will also show his humanity; we should be able to relate to that recognizing that the first and last halves of Chapter 7 are effectively saying the same thing in dramatically different ways.]
7:1 Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he lives?
[Some use this to illustrate God's law of marriage. Paul was not doing that -- he assumed that the law of marriage was something they understood and agreed to. His goal was to show that there are circumstances under which this law no longer holds in order to apply this analogy to the Old Testament law. Of course, this passage does state some valid facts with regard to how God views marriage that are still applicable today. But recognize that this is not the subject of this discourse.]
2 For the woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he lives; but if the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband.
3 So then if, while the husband lives, she be joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if the husband die, she is free from the law, so that she is no adulteress, though she be joined to another man.
[Again, they understood this as God's timeless law of marriage that has been in effect since the creation.]
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also were made dead to the law through the body of Christ; that ye should be joined to another, (even) to him who was raised from the dead, that we might bring forth fruit unto God.
[Paul's analogies are not always easy to fathom. The death here is the death he talked about in Chapter 6, which we feel is important to review at this point. Rom 6:5-11: "5 For if we have become united with (him) in the likeness of his death, we shall be also (in the likeness) of his resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with (him), that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; 7 for he that hath died is justified from sin. 8 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more hath dominion over him. 10 For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God. 11 Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus."
[While under the law they were condemned because they could never come up to that standard. When their sins were forgiven in baptism not only was the sin erased, but so was the law -- it became dead to them, just as the husband became dead to the wife in this analogy. For the wife to go on being subject to a dead husband is obviously absurd. But in addition to her not being bound in this way, she is also free to marry another man. That other man in this analogy is Christ. Being joined to Christ in this analogy is the same as being in Christ (baptized into Christ) in Romans 6:3. From that point forward we are subject to his will for us.]
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
6 But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.
[We still serve, and serving in the "newness of the Holy Spirit" is not trivial -- it is a whole new higher level of service that could not be attained through law keeping. This whole new level of service, however, is not what saves us -- it is what results from our being saved and totally trusting in the righteousness of God, the gospel to save us. It results from the motivation of faith in God's righteousness and God's grace. Not trusting in ourselves, but subjecting ourselves totally to Him.]
7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! Howbeit, I had not known sin, except through the law: for I had not known coveting, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet:
[It was stated in earlier chapters that the purpose of the law was to bring about a knowledge of sin. Without this communication from God there could be nothing charged as sinful to us, even though from an absolute sense, that which it good is always good, and that which is evil is always evil. But if we do not have any means of knowing the difference, then we cannot be held accountable for it. So some could reason that it is the law that creates sin, since if there were no law there could be no sin. Covetousness is a good example here since most people have no idea just how evil and wicked this seemingly harmless sin can make us. If we did not have God's law on it then it would only be when the most dire consequences of it are felt (by the guilty and the innocent alike) that we would recognize its wickedness. But since God said, "Thou shalt not covet" it is not necessary for us to reap the consequences in order to know it is sin. Oh that we could see this truth with all of God's laws.]
8 but sin, finding occasion, wrought in me through the commandment all manner of coveting: for apart from the law sin (is) dead.
[The law became counterproductive to Paul as it does all of us, beginning with Adam and Eve. How many times do we find something to be of minimal temptation until we learn that it is forbidden? Examples abound throughout the Bible, and it is codified in Proverbs 9:17: "Stolen waters are sweet, And bread (eaten) in secret is pleasant." We would do well to recognize the practical thinking of Solomon and apply it to ourselves. Not only is it impossible to be saved by a law-keeping mentality, such a mentality leads us to greater sin. Paul says it "wrought in me" indicating its shaping of us (we often speak of "wrought iron" today). He then goes on to state: "... for apart from the law, sin is dead." In what way? This can only mean that it has no force as far as his and our consciences are concerned. Without the law (in this case the Old Testament law) there is no knowledge of sin, and therefore, there is little incentive to make correction, obtain forgiveness, and cease to allow sin to reign over us. See 6:20, where the metaphor of freedom is used rather than that of death.]
9 And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died;
10 and the commandment, which (was) unto life, this I found (to be) unto death:
11 for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me.
[This initiates a very complex and controversial part of the letter. To understand it, two questions must be addressed: (1) Who is the "I" in this context? and, (2) To what time is he referring: (a) before he became a Christian? or, (b) in his present situation? In answering these questions we should not assume that a given answer must apply to the entire passage. We have heard various explanations that have caused us to wonder it there is some incentive to explain away the simple statements that Paul is making. From the outset, let us confess that it is our opinion that this is the only explicit passage in the New Testament that states that we can be saved despite our sins as long as we continue to fight against them in every way that we can; in other words if we "do our best." This too will need definition. We will deal with the two questions as we continue through the rest of the chapter.
Clearly there is no difference in the meaning of "apart from the law" from the last clause of verse 8, where it was stated that "apart from the law, sin is dead" in the sense that it had no effect on stirring his conscience. Now he is using the same metaphors of life and death but in a different way, now applying the figure to himself. "Alive" and its contrast with death must be understood in the context of the contrast that is being made. The opposite of "alive" occurred when he learned the commandment and realized he was in sin. This caused a type of death. Death always means separation. We know that sin separates us from God and that is how we define spiritual death. But this is a different death. It is death to the blissful ignorance of thinking that you can save yourself. "The commandment," which he is using to refer to whatever law that he would be under at the time, which he illustrated by example (synecdoche) with the sin of covetousness.
The knowledge of his own sin was not only unto spiritual death, but it also caused a sense of guilt that made his life miserable. "Unto death" encompasses both of these deaths -- spiritual death and the death of peace of mind. So while the commandments of the law were designed to be "unto life," Paul is stating that in his life, they brought both a reality and a recognition of sin that he is metaphorically calling death.]
12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.
13 Did then that which is good become death unto me? Absolutely not!!! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; — that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.
[Evil is evil regardless of whether there is a law against it or not. But the law pointed this out, and thus made it a chargeable sin. Would murder have been right had there been no law against it? No. The presence of the law did not cause sin -- it just defined what it was. But in this definition there was also the realization that the sinner is falling short. Like the man falling off a cliff and grasping for anything that might save him -- but there is nothing to grasp -- he has sinned and his fate is hopeless without Christ.]
[The second half of this chapter shows a struggle within Paul to do what he has dedicated himself to do while so often finding himself falling short. Note the change to present tense. If it can be argued that Paul was talking about some past time in is life by the tense of the verb in vss. 9-13, then why can the tenses of the verbs in the remainder of this chapter (and chapter 8) not be used to determine just when Paul was applying this to himself. Is this so strange? This is a struggle that all Christians should have -- that of never being satisfied that we have attained a satisfactory degree of righteousness. There is controversy over this following passage. I believe the proper approach is to just take it at face value -- Paul talking about himself in the present tense -- unless there is a compelling reason not to, such as a contradiction with known basic doctrine, i.e., the milk of God's word). But I see no such contradiction in this case. Let us go back and review verses 12 and 13 again before we continue on.]
12 So that the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good.
13 Did then that which is good become death unto me? Absolutely not! But sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good; — that through the commandment sin might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
[Paul was probably one of the most righteous and spiritual persons who ever lived, so we need to consider this in its context. This will be clear as we move forward. However, we can say that if this was true of Paul, then it would certainly be true of every one of us. And as we continue I think we will be able to empathize with Paul's conflict here. Paul for sure does not want to blame his sin on the law. All laws of God are perfect for their intended purpose, and Paul lived under the Mosaic law at one point. However, since he is using the present tense here, we mush recognize that he is talking about the "law of faith" (Rom 3:27) that he is currently under (see also 1 Cor. 9:21 and James 1:25). Can he fulfill this law perfectly? Obviously not, since he proclaims that "I am carnal, sold under sin." It must also be recognized that the laws of the New Testament are considerably higher in principle than the Old Testament laws. Thus when he says "the law is spiritual" he may well be talking about the "righteousness of God" described in the gospel (1:17), which contains principles that are at a far higher level than the Old Testament laws were (see 7:6). This would be all the more reason for Paul's aggravation over his falling short of them.]
15 For that which I do I know not: for not what I would, that do I practice; but what I hate, that I do.
[Some want to say that Paul is speaking of before he was converted. He could have just as easily used the past tense, and he could have prefaced the entire passage by stating that he was referring to his life prior to his conversion, but he did neither. Would Paul intentionally mislead us? No, let us take his words at face value. Further, as alien sinners, we did not hate sin -- we sinned because we loved it. But when one becomes a Christian and finds himself sinning, he hates it and wishes he could rid his life of it completely. So, we conclude that Paul is speaking in the present tense of the sins he wishes he could totally prevent himself from committing, but he finds that to be impossible.]
16 But if what I would not, that I do, I consent unto the law that it is good.
[Because the law is making him aware of the evil that he is doing, and we definitely want to be aware of it so we can work on ridding our lives of it.]
17 So now it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.
[Paul is not making excuses or seeking to be excused -- his conscience still bothers him about this sin -- we need to keep these statements in context. We can all relate to the sinful habits that we acquired before becoming Christians, and we wish that we had never acquired them. This is sin dwelling in us that will come out in the form of selfishness, lack of consideration for others, lust, envy, jealousy, evil thoughts, etc., etc. ... we could go on and on. These things are not remedied by baptism -- the past sins are forgiven, but the habits of sin and our inclination toward them still dwells in us, and they will continue to cause us to sin the rest of our lives -- hopefully less tomorrow than yesterday, but 1 John 1 states clearly that our sins will never be eliminated altogether this side of eternity.]
18 For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me, but to do that which is good (is) not.
[So, he wants to do good -- to be perfectly sinless -- but it just does not happen, and clearly this is bothering him. It should bother us as well. The first clause of this verse is essentially the reason why we must depend on "the righteousness of God" as opposed to our own system of righteousness. This is the underlying theme throughout these chapters -- let us not lose sight of it. "Dwells no good thing?" Could this ever literally be said of Paul? Certainly not now as a Christian, since many of the things he does because Christ lives in him (Galations 2:20). When the literal extreme of a statement is absurd, then we must conclude that it is hyperbole, i.e., emphasizing a point to the extreme in order to press the point. (We do this all the time. Did you realize that my previous sentence is hyperbole? It is also true since hyperbole is used in our expressions quite often without our even recognizing it or identifying it as such. Hyperbole is not exaggeration -- exaggeration is a lie since it is the intent for the hearer to believe it. Hyperbole is a statement that is not intended to be taken literally, but nevertheless, it is used effectively to convey truth.) The truth that Paul's hyperbole is conveying here is totally consistent with the theme: "we cannot save ourselves by our own works despite the fact that we have the highest of motivations." Again, we are in dire need of "righteousness of God" (1:16-17).]
19 For the good which I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I practice.
[This is in retrospect. Don't we all have these same conflicts? If we do not admit it, that in itself is a sin of blind pride. Cannot we see our own sin? Paul is trying to reason with us as mature Christians. Let us not twist his truths around to mean things that he never intended. We should hate the sin that we practice and totally relate to Paul's plight as our own.]
20 But if what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwells in me.
[Again, Paul is not excusing his sin. Giving the cause of it does not excuse it. This sin that dwells in him is there because he had given himself up to sin in the past. It is not to be blamed on God; and if we were to say that we could not help it (or that this is the way God made us), then we would be blaming it on God, something that Paul would never do.
21 I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present.
[The word law here is being used in a different sense than in the rest of the passage. We might say it is a principle that Paul discovered just by being alive and trying to follow Jesus to the best of his abilities. Using the same word (law) here is a play on words that will become clearer in verse 23. Paul is showing the weakness of our trying to be saved by law-keeping and our own righteousness, and so he introduces another law here, a "law in my members" that totally prevents him from ever being able to keep God's law perfectly.]
22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
23 but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members.
[Again, can't we relate to this? -- we want to be perfectly righteous in thought, word and deed, but we fall so far short. Again, all of this is being brought up to show the futility trying to save ourselves. And one more time, to provide evidence that Paul is speaking in the present tense -- could he have said verse 22 when he was an alien sinner?]
24 Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then I of myself with the mind, indeed, serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
[The mind here is what often is called the heart, and God looks into our hearts. Paul is not giving up here. He is still going to strive to be perfect. But there is a difference now, and this will be shown in the 8th chapter. That difference comes from the help that God, and especially the Holy Spirit, provide. Again, this system of faith (the gospel -- 1:16) is not an excuse to become any less than someone who is totally dedicated to keeping God's laws. Absolutely not!!! No, it is the motivation to raise us to a higher level of service and righteousness that could be attained in any other way. Not perfect by any means, but different -- much different, as we shall see. And much better than we could ever be if our only motivation was that of law keeping.]
[For those who might wonder if Paul is using himself as an object but really speaking of someone else (as is certainly true in the early part of 1st Corinthians), try this. Read the first couple of sentences in Chapter 8, and then read backwards into Chapter 7. I think it is very clear who Paul is talking about ... there is no reason for a shifting of gears from Chapter 7 to 8. Remember when this was written there were no chapter or verse numbers.]
[Paul, having demonstrated that salvation is not through law keeping now goes on to demonstrate the benefits of "salvation by faith" and all that it entails. Please go back and read a couple verses form chapter 7 for continuity. The second part of Chapters 7 (7:7-25) is to prepare us for Chapter 8. The study of them independently is a grave disservice to their understanding.]
8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.
[The solution is to be "in Christ Jesus" -- getting into Christ Jesus was discussed in connection with Chapter 6. But it is not just a matter of just "getting in," it is also a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit to rule your life, as will be discussed presently.]
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.
["The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" would have to be the "law of faith" of 3:27, which we identified there to be the gospel. Of course, it is not a check-list law like the Old Testament was turned into; it is a set of principles by which we have our access by faith to the righteousness of God (5:2), and thereby become more like Jesus each day of our lives. The "law of sin and of death" is that which Paul told us was plaguing him in 7:23. This law kept Paul from being perfect, but he fought its influence with all of his being. Now he is saying that although he cannot eliminate its influence totally from his life, he is now made free from its consequences by his faith in and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.]
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
[Recall Romans 1:16 "... from faith unto faith, as it is written, 'the Just shall live by faith.' " Faith involves a major change of life, not just mental assent. "The law" here is neither of the laws mentioned in verse 2. It is the law of Moses. The ordinance of the law of Moses was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life in conformity to it. That perfection is neither possible nor is it required for us. So then, how is the ordinance of that law fulfilled in us? By following as best we can in Jesus' footsteps, or as it says in Romans 6, we are to "arise to walk in newness of life." This new life begins with being born again (John 3), but it must not end there. We must continue for the rest of our lives to "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Note how this details the solution to Paul's dilemma in 7:7-23 a well as his solution to it given in 7:24-25.
How is "the ordinance of the law" fulfilled in us? Faith in Jesus Christ and what he promises motivates us to a much higher consistency with God's will than was ever possible under any of the Old Testament laws. Those today who would turn God's gospel plan into licentiousness are just the opposite to the higher degree of obedience that is an integral part of "righteous of God" (1:17).]
5 For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
6 For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace:
7 because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be:
8 and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
[The contrast here is in regard to what we set our mind to. But the implication is that it also involves our hearts and our souls -- the inner being of each of us. Failing to do this is here termed "in the flesh." He is not talking about faithful Christians, but those who mind the things of the flesh as opposed to things of the Spirit. Run this definition back to the last verse in Chapter 7. Those who mind the things of the flesh take delight in sensual and worldly things -- they are not those who are delighting in the law of the LORD (Psalms 1) and the spiritual things of God. Paul is talking to Christians here, not alien sinners. When he says that "the mind of the flesh is death" it means the same thing as "the wages of sin is death." Christians who go back to their old lives will fall from grace and be lost.]
9 But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
[So this is a condition for remaining in Christ Jesus (vs. 1). This does not infer anything supernatural that has to take place -- God has given the Holy Spirit to all who obey Him (Acts 5:32). Neither would this give the Christian supernatural powers. Miraculous things, of course, did occur in the first century, and perhaps some at Rome had miraculous spiritual gifts (implied in Chapter 12), but that is not the subject in this context. The decision here has to do with what we "mind" from the previous verse. If we mind the things of God and wish to partake of them through obedience, then we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit. The Spirit of God and Christ Himself are used interchangeably here to reinforce the fact that there is no difference between their influences; the effects are one and the same. Again, relate this back to the last verse of Chapter 7 and also back to 8:3]
10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.
[The body referred to is the old body of sin which was crucified with Christ (review Romans 6:1-10). Obviously Paul is not speaking of physical death here, but a spiritual death to the "old man of sin." Note also here that the term "Christ is in you" is used synonymous with "Spirit of God dwells in you" in the previous verse. This shows that both of these are figurative terms indicating the predominant influence that they are to have within our lives. We know that Christ's physical body does not indwell our own, but His influence does, and this is the same influence as the Holy Spirit. There need be nothing mystical proposed about it. These verses show that this is a natural process involving our making up our minds to serve Christ. While God and the Holy Spirit may help in providential and other direct ways, there is nothing here that can be compared with the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit discussed intensively (because of their abuse) in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. Miracles were essential to revealing new truth and to confirming that the new truth revealed was from God. This is not necessary since we have all truth in God's word today.]
11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwells in you.
[This is how the born-again process of Romans 6 continues to work within the Christian -- in a sense, it is God's part of the equation. The Spirit here is obviously the Holy Spirit. Recall James 2:26, which gives a definition of death as being separation. Physical death is separation of the body form the Spirit, and this is confirmed in John 19:30 with regard to Jesus: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit." There is no reason to view this as a euphemism; Jesus the man was like all other men in this regard. But the Holy Spirit is said to have "raised up Jesus from the [physically] dead" -- this of necessity since Jesus was never spiritually separated from God. But Paul applies the analogy to our spiritual life. As the Holy Spirit was able to give Jesus physical life, so He is even more capable of giving our previously spiritually dead bodies spiritual life as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Again referencing 7:25, the influence of the flesh is being systematically put to death by the spirit as we continue to progress and mature in our Christian lives to greater and higher degrees of righteousness. Given the part that the Holy Spirit plays, Paul now turns to man's part ...]
12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh:
13 for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
[In one fell swoop Paul has devastated both the doctrines of Faith Only and Once Saved Always Saved. Go back and read verse 13, and recognize that Paul is talking to Christians here, many of them of some maturity -- he is talking to those who have been born again (see 6:3) and are faithfully living the life of following Jesus. It is quite clear that being "led by the Spirit of God" is not a one-time, or a part-time thing ... it is a life-long endeavor that we must give our total hearts and souls to. It is up to us to resolve to live according to what the Spirit has revealed to us in the gospel (1:16-17). How does Paul say we must deal with the dilemma that he addressed in 7:25, i.e., serving "with the flesh the law of sin?" He does not take credit for putting sin in his flesh to death. But just as when water is cut off from a living plant, it is only a matter of time before it withers and dies, so when the Holy Spirit is allowed to dominate our lives, the sin that is in the flesh is systematically "put to death."]
[Starting from 7:14, the above passage is the only one that we are aware of in the Bible that necessarily implies that our part of salvation involves what we will call "doing our best." Without trying to formulate this into some new law or creed, we suggest that those doing their best to serve God and follow Jesus will have the following characteristics:
- They will hate sin with every fiber of their being because it bothers them so much;
- They will, out of humility, recognize that, despite their hatred for sin, they often succumb to it;
- When they sin it will give them grave disappointment that will bother their consciences until they have repented, sought and obtained forgiveness (1 John 1);
- This disappointment along with the peace of mind of overcoming their sinfulness of the past will motivate them to a higher degree of righteousness -- something called "righteousness of God" by Paul starting back in 1:17;
- They will do all that they can to take advantage of the resources that God has given to help them in this continuous improvement process that will continue for the rest of their lives; resources including individual Bible study, collective study and worship with a faithful local church, and prayer.]
15 For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
[This is one of the most beautiful verses in the bible. Think of the child babbling, perhaps trying to say something (or perhaps not). What does the father of the child say? "Oh, she knows who I am; she called me DaDa." But over a very short period of time children learn who DaDa is and puts their entire confidence in their parents (perhaps mother -- Mama -- even more than Dada). In most cases their natural love for the child compels them to do anything to care for the child. So the love of God is for us as we are babes in Christ; and so should be our love for Him in wanting to serve him and do whatever we can to please him (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). Not to buy anything or to gain his favor; but just because we love Him and want to do what pleases Him. Not because we fear Him (although perhaps we should), but because we appreciate what He has done for us in giving us both life and salvation. This is a higher level of faith/trust than can be accomplished by those who are checking the boxes and having their tickets punched to manipulate God. For such love to be interpreted as license to sin should be repugnant to all Christians. God has such love for us and His commands are expressions of His love in that they are all given to benefit us. Conversely, it is impossible for us to realize the blessings that God has for us and the happiness that will result if we refuse to do our best to honor all of his commandments. In summary, the major point of this verse is that we should not fear God any more than we should fear a loving parent, for God loves us. And if God is for us there is no one to fear.]
16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God:
17 and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with (him), that we may be also glorified with (him).
[Paul is making a slight turn to the subject of suffering. No doubt the Roman Christians had already suffered much, and we know that they were about to suffer much more. So, given this, it is necessary for him to communicate with them that such suffering is not a sign from God that they were doing anything wrong ... in fact, it might be just the opposite ... it could well be a way that the Holy Spirit is indicating to them that they are suffering the same things that Jesus suffered, and therefore they could look toward the same glorification. It would also show that they were not, in fact, walking after the flesh as those who are persecuting them most certainly were. How does the Holy Spirit bear witness with our spirits? At the time that Paul wrote this could well have been a direct miraculous occurrence, and that should certainly give us comfort even though we know it is not a demonstrative super-natural occurrence today. But we might have even more assurance today than they did back then, in that we have the completed word of God. For example, they may not have had the completed book of Revelation that we can draw so much comfort from today. Finally, note the condition again -- "if so be that we suffer ..." We cannot expect to be glorified with him just by having some mental experience -- it must manifest itself in a new born-again life (John 3), dedicated to whatever a life of faith in Him will encounter. We are warned that "all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3:12).]
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.
[Think of the worst possible thing that could beset a Christian. Torture and death, or worse yet the murder of family members by those who hate Jesus. Paul had experienced many of these things and he was more than willing to accept these sufferings for the glory that has been promised to the faithful.]
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope
21 that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.
[Some think Paul is talking about the creation of mankind. I see no reason that he is not talking about the entire creation, which takes his words at face value. When man sinned God cursed the ground and subjected both it and mankind to physical decay and vanity. Paul personifies these physical things in order to demonstrate the similarity between them and mankind. However, most interpretations bring out the basic point that man was created perfect and was originally designed to live forever. But God, true to His word, plagued the man and the woman to death because of their sin, and with them, all of their descendants because of our sins (review Romans 5).]
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now.
23 And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for (our) adoption, (to wit), the redemption of our body.
[Christians do not escape the physical decay that exists in the world due to all things being subject to corruption. The only relief will be in the resurrection -- what Paul here calls the redemption of the body (see 1 Corinthians 15 verses 39-58).]
24 For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for that which he sees?
25 But if we hope for that which we see not, (then) do we with patience wait for it.
[Those who are saved look forward to a time when their destiny will not be a shriveled up decayed body in the grave. The fact that it is not seen makes it a matter of future hope, not present realization. It is this hope that gives us salvation when it increases our faith and leads us to greater spirituality. Like faith and love (1 Cor. 13), hope is a great motivator, but it cannot exist in a vacuum. There must be something to hope for and a clear path toward its attainment.]
26 And in like manner the Spirit also helps our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself makes intercession for (us) with groaning which cannot be uttered;
27 and he that searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because he makes intercession for the saints according to (the will of) God.
[This is an amazing passage and one that some have questioned because, they say (and correctly), Jesus is our mediator. However, there is no contradiction. Jesus could do it through the Holy Spirit, or they could both participate in the intercession process (see verse 34). This is an obvious place where the insertion of the word "only" leads to error, if done either explicitly or implicitly. "In like manner" is comparable to the nature of hope. It introduces someone who is not seen and yet is has an active and living force, namely, the Holy Spirit.
The major point is that our feeble prayers are probably so sorry that they do not deserve to reach the throne of God. The Holy Spirit helps us in this regard, looking into our motivations and searching out our hearts, knowing what we need much better than we do. So, we should pray as Jesus did "thy will be done." It is not our intent to over-ride the will of God, because we know he has our best interests in mind. However, there are some things that are not a matter of right and wrong that we might plead with God for, and He might well grant those things. If it is something of a spiritual nature that we need, He has promised to provide everything that we need in verse 8:32. This passage is probably the best known for totally defeating the Jehovah's Witnesses theory that the Holy Spirit is "God's active force," akin to electricity that is totally subject to God (and thus, they teach that the Holy Spirit is not a separate being). This passage shows, quite differently, that the Holy Spirit acts independently from God the Father and the Son, evaluates our wants and needs as we express them in prayer, and presents these requests to the Father in a form that is fit for Him to respond to -- something that we by ourselves cannot do.]
28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, (even) to them that are called according to (his) purpose.
[Another astounding statement, the obvious substance with which many want to take issue. Does he REALLY mean all things? We know that the word "all" in the new testament is often used by Paul for hyperbole. On the other hand, if God is in total control (which He is, albeit He allows many bad things to happen), then would it not be essential that all things (no matter how bad they might seem in this life) will ultimately be turned to good at some time in the future -- perhaps in eternity and not in this life. Remember the overall thrust of the context here is that you are going to be persecuted, but that those things are nothing compared to your reward in heaven. Notice also that this only applies "to them that love God" and "to those that are called according to His purpose." Bad things happening to bad people will not necessarily ever be reversed and they should not believe that all things work together for good for them. But Christians must accept the fact that God is in total control, so those things that He allows must ultimately work out to their benefits.]
29 For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained (to be) conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren:
30 and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
[View these two verses as the supporting information so that we can understand verse 28. He foreknew and foreordained the saved. He knew that there would be some who would accept His conditions and who would accept the free gifts of eternal life, and to those there is a total guarantee of justification and glorification. This is talking about that group collectively, not as Calvin taught that: (1) certain individuals were chosen by God and others were lost (irresistible damnation) totally independent of their behavior and their wills; and (2) that there is nothing that any individual can do to change that one way or the other. Such would be the highest degree of respect of persons and the lowest form of injustice. The thought that individual humans are just puppets is totally against all that the bible teaches -- to those who hold such a position, we just plead with them to open the Bible and read. There are few passages of scripture that do not refute the idea of total predestination and the absence of free will.]
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God (is) for us, who (is) against us?
32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?
[Does all things mean all things here? Of course, we know that it is restricted to all things that we need and that are good. God does not grant us the universe or control over it. But if it is in our spiritual benefit, it will not be denied.]
[Paul has established the supremacy of God's way (His righteousness) over anything that we could invent (man's righteousness). Given that, he has now gone on to provide evidence that God's love and grace are beyond measure, and thus, we do not have to depend on ourselves as long as we turn to and trust in Him. All things work together for good even though we may not understand it now. Further, the salvation of the faithful was foreordained before the creation of the world and it cannot be altered in the least bit. Now he goes on to answer the rhetorical question given in verse 32 (although rhetorical questions generally do not need answers, which is probably the reason that he answers them with more rhetorical questions).]
33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifies;
34 who is he that condemns? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
[I believe the "also" in this last clause is quite significant here. The general thought might be -- oh yes, he is doing other things, sitting on the right hand of God, etc. and also making intercession for us. But consider another possibility for the "also" here. Go back to verse 26 where it states that the Holy Spirit is making intercession for us. Now he is saying that Jesus is also making intercession for us. We have help, not only from the Holy Spirit but also from Jesus Himself. No person(s) or power(s) external to ourselves can have any effect at all upon this. It is totally resolved, and if we really believe that God keeps His promises, then we will not waiver in our faithfulness.]
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
[Those things are irrelevant to Christ and his love for us. This series of rhetorical questions establishes the truth of John 3:16 and the fact that God is love. This verse and those that follow are often used to defend the erroneous doctrine of once-saved always-saved, or also known as "the security of the believer." Indeed the believer is secure as long as s/he goes on believing. But absent from this list and the one given in verses 38 and 39, are the individuals themselves. Jesus said: "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end , the same shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). This, and many other similar passages necessarily infer that those who do not endure to the end will not be saved.
36 Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
[Psalms 44:22, while not written for this application, expresses what Paul is trying to say. The Roman Christians at that time were suffering for "thy sake," i.e., for their faith in God, just as was the case with the Psalmist when the Psalm was written. It would be good for all bible students at this point to read Psalms 44. In all probability a Psalm of David when he was under the greatest of persecution. He starts by asserting that in the past God had done great things for Israel and had demonstrated his power over evil. But the bulk of the Psalm seems to be one complaint after another asking where God is now and why will He not bring relief to those who serve him. The Psalm completes with a prayer for God's intervention and help. The Roman Christians may well be finding themselves in a comparable situation, where things seem totally hopeles and there is a tendancy to throw up their hands and give up. But the Holy Spirit through Paul says NO ... these things do not matter because ...]
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
[How can we be MORE than conquerors and still endure these pains and persecutions? First of all, recognize what this is saying. The conquerors would parade through the city and be praised by all of the citizens. There must have been no more heady experience at any time. Think of the emotion of those even now who come back from war -- even just to their families, since there seems few in our society anymore who want to reward our soldiers for risking their lives and dying for us. Today it is seen in the super bowl victors and other sports championships and in the rock concert halls, where people literally worship the ground of their heroes, as despicable as many of them are. But back then it was the military leaders who were the heroes, and they were rewarded with their triumphant entries into their capitol cities. Paul is saying -- that's nothing. You who have trusted in Jesus Christ have infinitely more than these conquerors through Jesus Christ.]
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[In responding to the error taught from this passage, we dare not neglect its positive teaching. We do not need to worry about any force in this universe -- family , friends, enemies, armies, bombs, whatever -- it will never hurt you and you can be fearless in the face of all such oppositions. But does this mean that it is impossible to fall away? You cannot read too many pages in the New Testament without warnings about the possibility of falling away. Some are right in this chapter (vss 5-8, 13), and Paul will give more in the following chapters. Recognize that these warnings are being given to Christians; there is no implication anywhere that it is impossible for them to fall away. No, there is one thing that Paul left out of the list, and that is ourselves. We and we alone, as individuals, can separate ourselves from God's love. Not that his love is no longer being extended to us, but that we are not accepting it and in turn responding to it with a love for Him of our own.]
[Having established the trials and rewards of those who accept and live by the "righteousness of God" as opposed to their own righteousness, Paul now turns to a topic that was obviously quite perplexing to him -- why did so relatively few of his own countrymen accept these truths? This will be the over-riding topic for the next three chapters and it is important not to take any one passage and try to build too much of a case on it, especially should it go against the plain milk of God's truth.]
9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing witness with me in the Holy Spirit,
2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing pain in my heart.
[Some believe that Jesus condemned all types of swearing in his preaching the sermon on the mount, but we see Paul making statements like this in many of his letters. Obviously he feels compelled to appeal to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit as witnesses to the truthfulness of his statements. Those who knew Paul well would know that he would not lie about anything, and he would not need to swear before them, but it seems clear that some were attacking Paul in a variety of fronts, and so the necessity for such strong language. What Paul is trying to get across to friend and foe alike is the great concern that this subject has in his heart. As we go through Chapters 9, 10 and 11, it will become quite clear that Paul knows that they are currently lost in their sins, and that unless they embrace and subject themselves to the righteousness of God (the gospel; 1:16-17) they will be lost eternally. Thus, this portion of the letter is to demonstrate that all men everywhere, including the Jews, are saved by the same gospel, but to specifically appeal to the Jews to recognize and serve Jesus. It also has the purpose of explaining to the Gentiles how God is using the Jews' lack of faith to benefit the Gentiles.]
3 For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service (of God), and the promises;
5 whose are the fathers, and of whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
[Paul describes his nation and his race and all that they have contributed to mankind. He is not speaking against them because he is hateful of the race. He is, indeed, one of them. It seems the idea here is that if Paul were anathema, then Paul could do something about it. But he is frustrated that he can do nothing other than what he is doing -- proclaiming the truth and writing the truth -- and he is feeling considerable angst, struggling to find words that would convince them. Here and in other letters, especially in 2nd Corinthians, we can relate to Paul's inner feelings. The words reveal a man who cannot fathom why anyone would refuse to accept the free gift of Jesus that is salvation. This leads him to considerable frustration as it seems he is quite perplexed and wishes that there was something that he could do to instill his faith in them.]
6 But (it is) not as though the word of God hath come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel:
7 neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh that are children of God; but the children of the promise are reckoned for a seed.
[These are very important and key verses. It is essential that we recognize that there is both a physical and a spiritual meaning to the word "Israel." The physical meaning are those recognized as Jews according to their birth and heritage; the other meaning include all Christians, including both Jews and Gentiles who were in Christ, but excluding those who were not (e.g., some Jews). Please see all of Galatians 3 as a commentary on these verses, and especially Galations 3:29: "And if ye are Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise." So the statement that appears to be a contradiction on the surface is readily interpreted: "they are not all [spiritual] Israel that are of [physical] Israel. Physical Israel as a nation is neither summarily saved nor summarily lost, nor will it be. They are saved just like all other people are saved -- there is not respect of persons with God (Acts 10:34). The example of the restriction to Isaac is to prove that the original promise to Abraham was not to all of his descendants. The converse is that the promise that "in thy seed all nations lf the earth shall be blessed" includes everyone, Jew and Gentile, and thus, not just to the Jews.
9 For this is a word of promise, According to this season will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only so; but Rebecca also having conceived by one, (even) by our father Isaac --
11 for (the children) being not yet born, neither having done anything good or bad, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth,
12 it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 Even as it is written, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
[This might seem arbitrary, but those who know the whole story realize that Jacob had regard for his birthright while Esau did not (see Hebrews 12:14-17, and realize that God knows the end from the beginning). Obviously God could foresee that this would happen, and we could argue forever whether this was a cause or an effect. If we trust in the righteousness of God we must conclude that He did the right thing in this regard; and we see that physically, Esau too became a great nation. But God's eternal purpose demanded that there be a lineage through which the Messiah would come, and thus the pronouncement was made before there was any evil or righteousness to base it upon so that we can see that Jacob did not earn his status by his works.]
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Absolutely not!
[Now it is important that we back up and see the big picture here. The subject is not Jacob and Esau -- the subject is the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul is anticipating the accusation against God that, after all the Jews did to serve Him, he has now opened up the floodgates to enable the Gentiles to come into the fold of Jesus Christ. The sovereignty of God is being called in question on a major racial scale of which Jacob and Esau are a microcosm. Paul is arguing from the lesser to the greater, and we should see it as confirming Acts 10:34 and the many other verses that proclaim that God loves all people everywhere, and thus, He is not a respecter of persons.]
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that hath mercy.
[Again, look back over the first 8 chapters. Salvation is not by our own works; it is by faith in the righteousness God (the gospel; 1:16-17). This faith will result in a greater dedication than could ever be attained by a works-based system of faith (e.g., the Law of Moses). But our relative righteousness under Christ is irrelevant; we still are not saved by our works. So, once again Paul is using this as a major premise in moving forward. This is the way that God has set it up for us by His son dying for us on the cross, and we place ourselves above God when we refuse to acknowledge it.]
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth.
[There is nothing here to imply that, had Pharaoh wanted to serve the true and living God, God would have prevented him from doing it. Pharaoh's subjection is God's first preference, as it is for all people, and when we are obedient it is not necessary to harden our hearts. But God will take all evil and turn it to good -- we saw that back in 8:28. This is given as an example of God turning evil to produce good. God allowed Pharaoh to have power even though he was evil. The good that came from this is in the destruction of Egypt showing the superiority of God's power over their evil rulers, who themselves were claiming to be deity. This is a principle reiterated in the book of Revelation, and it explains many of the evil events of our world today.]
18 So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardens.
[This is taught in many places in the New Testament. Those who will not give themselves to the service of God will, by their own devices, be driven away (e.g., 1 Cor. 1 and 2). Indeed the same words that bring some people to Christ harden and turn others away. Most of us have seen where a single sermon that lifts some to greater dedication and service drives others to resentment. As was true of God's decisions with regard to Jacob and Esau (9:9-13), in verse 19 Paul anticipates the objection that God then must be unjust because of His treatment of Pharoah. It is quite common for people to blame God for evil and their own sins.]
19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstands his will?
20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that replies against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why didst thou make me thus?
21 Or hath not the potter a right over the clay, from the same lump to make one part a vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?
[The questions in vss. 20-21 are rhetorical questions -- Paul was obviously trying to shame them. But those in verse 19 are accusations of what Paul anticipates their objections to these teachings will be. Looking ahead to Chapter 11, verse 25, we will see that "a hardening in part hath befallen Israel." Paul is establishing the foundation for this, not only for the Jewish Christians, but also that the Gentiles would have an understanding as to the unreasonable Jewish response to the gospel. The analogy of the potter and the clay is a perfect illustration, and it is drawn from Isaiah 29:16 and 64:8. The potter sets out to form a beautiful vase, but the clay will not respond to his efforts. Once the potter sees that this clay is just not going to be formed as he originally wanted, he relents and forms something else of use, although not nearly the use that he first wanted. So with Pharaoh -- God would much have preferred that all Egypt be saved, but they refused to honor Him and so He used them as best He could to His honor. But this is preparation for the example to be given next.]
22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering vessels of wrath fitted unto destruction:
23 and that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he afore prepared unto glory,
24(even) us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles?
[Paul does not go so far as to assert this. It is a "what if" rhetorical question; but the meaning is clear. The basic thought is that God has the right to do this. This is consistent with his making all things work together for good (Rom 8:28). What would make God be willing to show His wrath and power? Would it not be His love for us? Do not loving parents show such in punishing their children -- not to hurt them but to make them better and happier persons? Paul never gets too far away from the subtheme that the Gentiles are saved without first becoming Jews, and that those Jews who will be saved will be saved in like manner as the Gentiles are saved. God is not a respecter of persons; the context of Acts 10:34 that states this is one of God saving the Gentiles by faith just as the Jews on Pentecost were saved (Acts 2).]
25 As he saith also in Hosea, I will call that my people, which was not my people; And her beloved, that was not beloved.
26 And it shall be, (that) in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, There shall they be called sons of the living God.
[There are many, many OT references that indicate that God would at some time in the future make a way for the Gentiles. A major part of the promise to Abraham was that "through thy seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed." This too was in the plan of God from the beginning, or perhaps before the beginning. In this case the reference seems to be to Hosea 2:23: "And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them that were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, (Thou art) my God."]
27 And Isaiah crieth concerning Israel, If the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that shall be saved:
28 for the Lord will execute (his) word upon the earth, finishing it and cutting it short.
[This indicates God's foreknowledge that the majority would reject Jesus Christ. "Remnant" indicates the vast majority are excluded. The reference is almost a direct quote of Isaiah 10:22. While Isaiah was making the application to the children of Israel of his day, Paul is making the application of these words to the current dispensation. This should totally dispel any idea that at some point in the future God would summarily save all Jews just on the fact that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Galatians 3 is an excellent commentary on Abraham's seed (Jesus) blessing all nations.]
29 And, as Isaiah hath said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, We had become as Sodom, and had been made like unto Gomorrah.
[The reference is to Isaiah 1:9, and for the application Paul is making it would seem that the seed was Christ (Galatians 3:16-29)? Without Christ, i.e., with the leadership that killed Christ, what would the nation of Israel have become? But there is an alternative, and that is that the seed here is not the one promised to Abraham, but is the remnant of verse 27. Certainly that would better reflect Isaiah's meaning. In either case, only a small number of Jews were anticipated to be saved, at least in the first century. Our experience and observation tells us that there has not been much that has changed since then in this regard.]
30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:
31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at (that) law.
[Yes, in fact, that IS what he is saying. As we read on he tells us why.]
32 Wherefore? Because (they sought it) not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling;
33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believes on him shall not be put to shame.
[More scriptural evidence from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, which the Jews in general did not apply to Jesus. But the essence of the answer is in the first sentence after the question, and it is basically the same that Paul has be emphasizing since Chapter 1 (especially 1:16-17). We are not saved by our own righteousness, even if it is based on our efforts to keep the legitimate law of God. (Here he stipulates that they were attempting to do this, although we know that in most cases they did not know or understand the Law of Moses and were not keeping it as God wanted them to; Matthew 5, 6, and 7 -- the Sermon on the Mount -- demonstrates this.) But even if they were, they could not keep it by their own power and righteousness. They needed to depend on the good news of Jesus Christ, which is the power and righteousness OF GOD (and not man) unto salvation (1:16-17).]
[Paul has explained just why it was that the vast majority of the Jews had rejected Jesus. He is now going to go into more detail in an attempt to explain this and to provide an additional scriptural basis for it, something that the faithful Jewish Christians at Rome would surely appreciate despite the fact that they are the exception to it since they were saved (Romans 6).]
10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved.
[Expressing very much the same thoughts as in 9:1-3, so we can expect that he is going back to reinforce some of the same things. From this verse we can be totally certain that the total salvation of all Jews as a nation was the furthermost thing from his mind -- it would never even enter into his reasoning. Clearly they were not saved in general, and this caused him considerable pain in his heart. With Paul's strong conviction, it must have been quite difficult for him to understand why they would not be as passionate for Jesus as he was. But as we continue, we see that he did have spiritual insight into their shortcomings.]
2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
[We are all aware of the zeal that many have for their religion. This verse demonstrates that in order to be acceptable to God, zeal alone is not enough. Many of the Jews were apparently trying to be acceptable to God by keeping the Old Testament (OT) laws. They did not know, or else they did not choose to believe, the gospel teaching on this subject -- that salvation was through faith in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. Perhaps they were associating with Jews who were good people and worshiping God, but not according to the way that God had graciously given through the death of Jesus. Paul does not seem to infer that they were willfully wicked or evil, and in the next verse he states that the reason for their behavior was ignorance.]
3 For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.
[Ignorance would seem to be an excuse -- a person cannot respond to God if he is ignorant of what God wants of him. However, there is the matter of willful ignorance, practiced by those who isolate themselves from the truth not wanting to go where such a knowledge will take them. In this state we find most of what is commonly called "Christianity" today. Their knowledge of the bible is so gross that many cannot even explain the difference between the Old and New Testaments. If you doubt this, ask them.]
[Recall the term "righteousness of God" from Romans 1:16 where it was defined as the contents of the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ. Another term for it used in this verse is "God's righteousness." Romans 1:17 states that this was revealed in the gospel. One way of viewing this is that the gospel contained the words while the "righteousness of God" is the meaning of these words, i.e., the means by which sinful humans are made righteous to live forever with God. This is an important verse in that it clearly indicates that the righteousness of God is something that we must subject ourselves to. It is not just an abstract concept. So, just as we obey the gospel (2 Thes 1:8; 1 Pet 4:17), we obey the righteousness of God, which is the meaning of the contents of the gospel. It is impossible to subject ourselves to something without there being some requirements. The fact that God is righteous is a truth, but it is not something that we can subject ourselves to. There has to be some way by which the belief of this truth translates itself into a response from us that we can subject ourselves to, and that body of knowledge is the gospel. Consider this: the Jews who were trying to be saved by the OT laws had no doubt that God was righteous, but that did them no good in an of itself -- they did not subject themselves to the gospel and thus, they were lost.]
4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believes.
[Or, the law should lead one to Christ as its end; the law is not an end in itself. Righteousness is obtained by faith in Christ. This is a profound statement and not one to be taken lightly. The key phrase is "unto righteousness." The process begins as that the law leads people to Christ, and then Christ leads us to a superior level of righteousness than the law ever could. Those who minimize the transformation that must take place in those who are born again do not begin to understand "righteousness of God." We will revisit this in Romans 12:2, but we will not repeat the discussion in Chapter 1 (please review the discussion of 1:16-17). "Righteousness" in this verse has two facets: (1) the born-again righteousness that comes through our initial obedience and being added to Christ through baptism -- review Romans 6:3; and (2) the continuing transformation from our old crucified man to the righteous people that God wants us to be, a process that is never completed in this life since we never arrive at sinless perfection. Unless we understand and embrace both of these facets, we cannot view the gospel as being "unto (eis) righteousness."]
5 For Moses writes that the man that does the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby.
[Lev 18:5 "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and mine ordinances; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD." Notice how close this is to Habakkuk 2:4, which we discussed in conjunction with Romans 1:17. To live in something is to be totally guided by it. Today if we fail to live in the gospel of Christ; we die spiritually.]
6 But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:)
7 or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (That is, to bring Christ up from the dead.)
8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach:
11 For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off.
12 It is not in heaven, that thou should say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?
13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou should say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?
14 But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that you may do it."]
["Righteousness which is of faith" is the "righteousness of God." It is completely revealed and easily accessed. Salvation is not something that is so complex that only the intellectuals and Bible scholars can understand. (In fact, it is amazing how many "Bible scholars" cannot even tell you what Jesus taught regarding the conditions of salvation.) Quite to the contrary, the simple word of faith that Paul preached would bring about their salvation ... they needed to look no further than that. What is "the word of faith" that he (and the other apostles) preached? This is just another way of describing the gospel of Jesus Christ.]
9 because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus (as) Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:
10 for with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed.
[A rather profound set of conditions of salvation are given here -- starting with confession. Can we confess that we believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God without doing what he tells us to do? Is this what Paul is stating here? Confession only? If so, this would be a hypocritical confession from the mouth. Or, is he not talking about a complete change in our lives' orientation toward Jesus. The same question could be asked with regard to "believing in one's heart that God had raised Jesus from the dead." So Paul is not talking about some short cut that eliminates their efforts. On the contrary, he is providing the motivation by which their efforts will be greatly and gladly multiplied. The passage referenced in Verse 11 is Isaiah 28:16.]
[Paul continues to contrast the righteousness of God with the Jews trying to be saved by keeping the Old Testament law. Mainly giving scriptural evidence, for which the Jewish Christians (and perhaps other Jewish readers there at Rome) would have great veneration.]
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same (Lord) is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him:
13 for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
[This was something that Joel stated (Joel 2:28-32) that was quoted by Peter in Acts 2:21. In that context it also involved all of the nations. This is a reiteration of the theme that was covered in chapters 1 and 2 -- that ALL are in need of the saving blood of Christ. For the meaning of "calling on the name of the Lord" see the commentary on Acts 2:21.]
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? even as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that bring glad tidings of good things!
[A logical sequence of rhetorical questions, each one depending upon the next, showing that calling on the name of the Lord is originally caused by a preacher of the gospel being sent. Of course, there are exceptions, but this is the general rule. The reference is to Isaiah 52:7. The beauty is in the recognition of the value of what the herald had to deliver as opposed to anything related to his physical appearance.]
16 But they did not all hearken to the glad tidings. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
[To some the messenger was not well received, reflecting the history of the Old Testament, as Stephen did in Acts 7. The reference is to Isaiah 53, which is such a beautiful and totally accurate prophesy of Jesus that we feel compelled to copy in the first few verses of it, Isaiah 53:1-2: "Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." Paul hits the nail squarely on the head with this reference; indeed, "not all" seems to be an understatement -- it was the vast majority of the Jews who refused to listen to the glad tidings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.]
17 So faith (comes) of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
[This is the only verse that we know of that tells how to attain faith. Examples tell us that miracles were used to create faith in the time of Jesus and the apostles. But the days of such are gone (see 1 Corinthians 13), and even if they were not, it would not be within the ability of the common person to create a miracle. However it is well within all of our abilities to pick up the word of Christ (the gospel, i.e., the New Testament) and either create or increase our faith.]
18 But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world.
[Paul uses the words of David in Psalms 19:4 to show that the access to the gospel of Jesus Christ was and is universal. Then by the sending out of the apostles on their various missionary journeys, as well as the Christians themselves who were scattered (Acts 8). But today even more with access to the Internet, there is little reason that the vast majority of people can learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ.]
19 But I say, Did Israel not know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy with that which is no nation, With a nation void of understanding will I anger you.
[This is a statement made by God through Moses in Deuteronomy 32:21, and much like Stephen, Paul is using it to show that the Jews had a propensity for not being satisfied with what God gave to them. It is an example that generalizes into a much more grave consequence ... the crucifixion of Jesus. With this statement Paul asserts that, just as in the previous verse, the Jews had no excuse for failing to know and understand Christ and His mission. The idea of God blessing a foreign nation to provoke the Jews to jealousy will be the theme of Chapter 11.]
20 And Isaiah is very bold, and saith, I was found of them that sought me not; I became manifest unto them that asked not of me.
[Again reinforcing the acceptance of the Gentiles, the quotation here is from Isaiah 65:1. The idea is not to put a premium on laziness and ignorance. The only Gentiles who were acceptable to God were those who took the time and effort to learn the truth of God, the gospel, and to obey it. But to the major part of the Jews there was a prejudice against Gentiles, and so they would always be considered to be inferior to them.]
21 But as to Israel he saith, All the day long did I spread out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.
[Isaiah 65:2 follows from the reference in Verse 20. Paul states that this is directed to Israel, and the context indicates the same. We might wonder where Paul is going with this, and we remind the reader that there were not chapter divisions at the time of the writing. So what is so very necessary at this point is for the readers to understand that God does not deal with nations today like He did in the Old Testament times. We come to God today as individuals, and it is up to each one of us to avail ourselves of the blessings that are so accessible to us in Christ. Paul will deal with this in greater detail in Chapter 11.]
Go to Romans 11-16