Exposition of Romans 2:6–11 God does not play any favorites

When the kids chose up teams in your school, did they choose you first? In my school it was always the favorites who were chosen first, and certain people got left for last every time. If you were one of the fastest, smartest, best looking, most sociable, life was good. The alternative was painful — a lesson learned from a distance.

Playing favorites is also common among adults. How about with God? Does he play that way too?

(ESV) Romans 2:6–11  He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Keep in mind that Paul is still in the midst of addressing the argument of the Jews that their special status as children of Abraham and recipients of the Law ensures the salvation of every Jew. Paul is tearing away that illusion. In today’s Scripture he does so using a literary arrangement known as chiasm, as shown below:

A   God will judge everyone equitably    verse 6

B          Those who do good will attain eternal life   verse 7

C         Those who do evil will suffer wrath   verse 8

C’        Wrath for those to do evil     verse 9

B’         Glory for those who do good    verse 10

A’  God judges impartially    verse 11[1]

Grant Osborne points out that Paul is trying to “demonstrate divine justice by showing how God judges fairly with both Gentiles and Jews.”[2] This accounts for the phrase “the Jew first and also to Greek” (2:10), which overtly shows that both Jew and Gentile stand in the same relationship of responsibility to God.

In short, verses 7 and 10 refer to those who are justified by faith and prove it through a life of obedient works before God. C. E. B. Cranfield says, “Paul was probably actually thinking only of Christians; but there is little doubt that, had he been asked whether what he was saying also applied to OT believers, his answer would have been affirmative.”[3] There is more than one way to reach this conclusion. Douglas Moo holds that Paul is teaching here (2:6–11) that God will impartially judge all men by their works; later Paul will show that no one can reach a positive verdict in that way (3:9; 3:19–20); later still Paul will show that faith in Christ enables the believer to have good works “as the fruit of faith.”[4] So, Moo effectively arrives at a similar conclusion by a different thought process.

Verses 8 and 9 refer to those who “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18) and prove it by doing those evil deeds outlined in Romans 1:18–32. The nature of the works depends upon the human heart behind them; the works provide an image of the heart. Be sure to notice the chilling vocabulary of Romans 2:8–9. God’s wrath is bad enough; his fury is worse than unthinkable!

Critical to Paul’s argument is the fact that God impartially judges the works ? and thus the heart behind them ? without regard to whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile. God does not play any favorites.

The verb used in 2:11 confirms what has been said above about God showing no partiality in judging the works of Christians. That is exactly how the same verb is used in Eph. 6:9, Col. 3:25, and James 2:1.

Only one name to know: Jesus

Think carefully about God’s impartiality! This means that the rich have no advantage over the poor; the powerful have no edge on the weak, and the socially-connected have no insider pull. Jesus said the same thing in these words: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31).

1. Read Matt. 7:1–2. How do these commands guide you in the same direction as Paul’s words in Rom. 2:6–11?

2. Since every human is judged on the same basis before God, how does this influence the way you make choices and behave?

During Prohibition the only way to get into many private clubs was to know the right name to give at the door. Heaven is the most exclusive club of them all, and the only name to know at that door is Jesus. If Jesus knows you, you enter without question. If not, there is another door ? you do not want to see what goes on in there!

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 135, citing K. Grobel.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 63.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 152.

[4] Moo, Romans, 142.

Exposition of Romans 2:1–3 Don’t try to condemn those others!

A woman in authority once said, “Nobody likes to be told their baby is ugly.” In like manner, nobody likes to be told that their conduct brings them before God’s judgment seat without any reasonable defense. But there is incredible value in knowing that fatal weakness in advance when we may seek the one remedy that can put us on God’s side.

(ESV) Romans 2:1–3 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God?

A natural reaction to what Paul has said in Romans 1 is: “You are right, Paul, that those bad people — not me of course! — are just as wicked as you say they are.” Paul was not born at night, so he is prepared for that counter to his argument. In short, his statement is: each of you does the very same thing (2:1). Jesus spoke similarly in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:1–5).

Paul was likely writing from Corinth to people whom he has never met, but he knows that among these Christians in Rome is a strong contingent of Jewish-Christians. Most scholars think this not-me type of pushback will come chiefly from these Jews. The Jews had argued for centuries that they were superior to the godless Gentiles because God had chosen them as his own people, Abraham’s children. Of course, there will also be some Gentiles who jump on the bandwagon to condemn someone else. In this game, everyone plays.

In Romans 2, Paul ramps up his rhetorical power in several ways. Douglas Moo describes one element: “Paul utilizes here, and sporadically throughout the letter, a literary style called diatribe. Diatribe style . . . uses the literary device of an imaginary dialogue with a student or opponent.”[1] In keeping with this device, Paul addresses his argument to you (second-person singular). That is more forceful. The third device is the “O man” (2:1; 2:3) direct address, which Daniel Wallace says “is used in contexts where deep emotion is to be found.”[2] Clearly the verbal intensity is increasing.

In saying the objectors “have no excuse” (2:1), we have the same Greek adjective used in 1:20 for those who have knowledge of God but suppress it. This adjective is part of a serious change in vocabulary that begins in 2:1. In Romans 1, Paul spoke of God’s wrath (1:18), but now we begin to see the verb krin? (“to judge”), used seven times in Romans 2:1–16, and the noun krima (“judgment”), used in 2:2 and 2:3 to refer to God’s verdict of guilt. In 2:1 we have one person judging another, but Paul says in 2:1–2 that we all stand under God’s judgment because of our individual guilt.

(NET Bible) Romans 2:2 “Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things.”

The ESV gets unusually metaphorical in saying “the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things” (2:2), but NET has the better translation here by replacing the italicized phrase with “in accordance with truth.” God is not confused by arguments over which humans are more sinful; they all are! C.E.B. Cranfield explains, “What is being said of the divine judgment is not that it truly is (that there truly is such a thing), but that it is in accordance with the facts (i.e., is just).”[3]

In Romans 2:3 an important Greek verb makes its first appearance: logizomai, here meaning “to hold a view about something, think, believe, be of the opinion.[4] Since the verb primarily is used for calculating costs and debts, it involves a serious kind of thinking. Even though Paul is asking a rhetorical question, he effectively states that no one is going to be a special exception when it comes to sin, guilt and judgment before God.

In relation to Paul’s question in 2:3, Moo says: “Such a question is legitimately put to the Gentile moralist or philosopher who thinks he or she can please God by his or her good life, but it is particularly the Jew who would be likely to make such an assumption.”[5] None will escape!

Denial is futile

God is saying through Paul that every human being is guilty of acts that put us under his judgment; we are all without excuse.

1. World history is replete with those who fought for high status as proof they were better than others. But such denial of the truth about humanity does not work before God. What role has self-justification played in your own spiritual journey?

2. How does admitting our guilt before God free us to seek God’s solution to the problem?

In itself our sin and guilt before God cannot be considered good news, yet it forms a critical pillar of the gospel. Just as accurate diagnosis must precede effective medical treatment, so our spiritual condition must be accurately described so that God’s mercy in Jesus Christ is all the more clear.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas). Used by permission.



[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 125.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 68.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 143.

[4] BDAG-3, logizomai, be of the opinion, q.v.

[5] Moo, Romans, 132.

Exposition of Romans 1:26–28 Having an unreliable mind is devastating

Few thoughts are more terrifying to older Americans than the threat of Alzheimer’s disease. The fear of memory loss, confusion, and other cognitive losses are sobering to say the least.

But there is a threat to mental function that is far worse and affects people of all ages: deliberate suppression of the truth about God results in a mind that is incapable of making reliable moral choices.

(ESV) Romans 1:26–28  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

We discussed the Greek verb paradid?mi (“hand over” BDAG-3 lexicon) in Rom. 1:24, and that same verb occurs in 1:26 and 1:28 as well; the ESV has “gave them up” in all three verses. Since we know that an author’s repetition of a word is generally significant, this threefold repetition plays a strong role in the interpretation of this entire section. Since they recognize the importance of the verb’s repetition, all major English translations (NIV, ESV, NLT, NET, HCSB) maintain the parallelism in their translations of paradid?mi.

C.E.B. Cranfield points out that paradid?mi is also used in 8:32 for God giving up his Son to death for our sake, and he uses this fact to balance the argument of Romans 1:24–28:

It ought to put us on our guard against too readily assuming that God gave these men up forever. It seems more consistent with what is said elsewhere in the epistle (e.g. in chapter 11) to understand the meaning to be that God allowed them to go their own way in order that they might at last learn from their consequent wretchedness to hate the futility of a life turned away from the truth of God.[1]

Although many have tried to avoid the plain meaning of Romans 1:26–27, Douglas Moo puts the obvious conclusion like this: “It is clear that Paul depicts homosexual activity as a violation of God’s created order, another indication of the departure from true knowledge and worship of God.”[2] Actually, Paul spoke in a context similar to the twenty-first century. Cranfield notes the fact that both Greek and Roman societies were indulgent of homosexuality, and it was common in the Semitic world (including Israel) as well.[3] But Paul did not deviate from Old Testament norms.

Another parallel to the twenty-first century is stated by Osborne: “The issue is one of biblical authority. Even when the command runs counter to the current cultural norm, the true Christian must obey God’s command rather than the demands of political correctness.”[4]

The phrase “did not see fit” in 1:28 is a reasonable choice but it leaves out too much. In Romans 1:28, the Greek verb dokimaz? means “to draw a conclusion about worth on the basis of testing, prove, approve.[5] James Dunn explains: “The implication then is of a deliberate act of disqualification. It was not simply a case of humans being distracted by something else and losing sight of God; they gave God their consideration, and concluded that God was unnecessary to their living.”[6]

The immediate punishment fits the crime; the minds that tested God and found him not worthy of their commitment became incapable of rendering trustworthy moral decisions. Instead they approved “what ought not to be done” (1:28b).

One choice affects all choices

You must take steps to counter the flood of messages the world uses to assail a mind committed to Christ. After all, each of us commonly encounters those who have become morally insensitive or even evil by their suppression of the truth about God.

1. As the trend toward homosexual marriage continues to spread across America, Christians can become discouraged and adopt a gloomy outlook about the future. How does it help to realize that Paul’s entire ministry and the explosive spread of Christianity took place in a morally corrupt world?

2. In light of the fact that those who have not trusted Christ have minds which do not function reliably in moral decisions, how does that affect your patience with them and your approach in reaching them for Christ?

In time Paul will introduce the solution to the unreliable mind: the renewing of the mind by the Holy Spirit following personal faith in Jesus Christ (12:2). Only God’s grace can overcome this disability within the human mind. The grace of God is one of the greatest themes of Romans.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas). Used by permission.



[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 121.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 115.

[3] Cranfield, Romans, 127.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 54.

[5] BDAG-3, dokimaz?, approve (as worthwhile), q.v.

[6] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 66.

Exposition of Romans: 1:24–25 — Deal with God, not the lie!

Because the created order pours out evidence of God’s divinity and power, a choice to suppress that truth has grave consequences. First, thinking becomes distorted (1:21), and then lust drives those affected toward physical actions that deepen the problem (1:24).

The process described above underscores the importance of choosing God as the focus of your life!

(ESV) Romans 1:24–25  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

There is a sad reciprocity in these verses. Because they had exchanged God for powerless idols, while knowing he was God, the Lord handed them over to impure actions driven by their own lusts (1:24). The Greek verb paradid?mi (1:24), meaning “to convey something in which one has a relatively strong personal interest, hand over,”[1] is the very same one used repeatedly in the Gospels for those who handed over Jesus to be tried and crucified (John 18:30, 19:11). So, the verb frequently has strong overtones of physical custody or limitation.

One commentator has likened the handing over to God’s released hold on a boat that is being pulled downstream by a current, whose pull represents “the lusts of their hearts.” Douglas Moo goes even further: “The meaning of ‘hand over’ demands that we give God a more active role as the initiator of the process. God does not simply let the boat go — he gives it a push downstream.”[2] ESV says God gave them over “to impurity” (1:24), and this word means “immorality, vileness especially of sexual sins.”[3]

In relation to God handing them over, John Chrysostom (c. 347–407 AD) said:

After all, he set before them, as a form of teaching, the world. He gave them reason and an understanding capable of perceiving what they needed to understand. Yet the people of that time did not use any of those things in order to obtain salvation, but rather they perverted what they had received into the opposite. What could God have done about this? Could he have forced them to do what was right? Yes, but that would not have made them virtuous.[4]

The exact nature of “dishonoring of their bodies” (1:24) will become more clear in Romans 1:26–27, so we will reserve detailed discussion until that time. For now, consider that this is not merely a problem in the spiritual sphere, though that would be serious enough, but it affects the bodies of those involved. Spiritual decisions have a physical effect!

In 1:25, the ESV is alone in translating with “because.” Moo says, “Since v. 23 has already expressed the reason for this handing over, it is preferable to see v. 25 as initiating a new sentence.”[5] What does the new sentence say? It holds that humanity has made a fatally bad bargain by trading the truth of God for a lie. Not surprisingly, Jesus says the devil is the father of lies (John 8:44).

Paul is not thinking about lies in general, but the specific lie described by the second half of 1:25. People who suppress the truth reject the worship of God “the Creator” and replace it with worship of some part of the creation (“mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” 1:23). Above all lesser lies is the fundamental lie that denies both God’s right to rule and his power.

Paul will in time explain how Jesus Christ is the one to whom our faith must be given. But before that comes the fundamental issue: will you seek God or fall for the lie? Osborne points out: “In the West, where there are few physical idols, another type of idolatry predominates (even more dangerous because it is not identified as such): the idolatry of self that is manifested in possessions, status in society and sex.”[6]

Accept God and reject the lie!

The same bargain the world offers to us in the twenty-first century was offered to Jesus in the first century. Before his ministry to Israel, Jesus was tempted by the devil:

Then  the devil led him up to a high place and showed him in a flash all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “To you I will grant this whole realm — and the glory that goes along with it, for it has been relinquished to me, and I can give it to anyone I wish. 7 So then, if you will worship me, all this will be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You are to worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5–8, NET).

 1. What events indicate that pressure is rising against the expression of Christian faith in public settings? How do these developments push people toward making choices with their time, money and commitment that do not consider God?

2. What forms has idolatry taken in your extended family and what terminology might you use to try to reach the affected people for Christ? How might you use the creation itself to convince family members of God’s divinity and power?

Many mistakes in life can be easily corrected, but fundamentally rejecting God is not one of them. Because that choice has spiritual, intellectual and physical consequences, it takes nothing less than the power of God to overcome it. Only through the gospel of Jesus Christ is such power available.

Copyright © 2012 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] BDAG-3, paradid?mi , hand over, q.v.

[2] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 111.

[3] BDAG-3, akatharsia, vileness, q.v.

[4] Gerald Bray, ed., Romans, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998) 44.

[5] Moo, Romans, 112.

[6] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 50.

Exposition of Romans 1:18-20 — They know — Oh yes! — they know!

At some point in our lives every one of us has played dumb. We claimed that we did not know that Mom said to be home by five oclock because our sister did not tell us. So, why was Mom giving us that doubting look at half-past-five?

The truth was that our sister had told us when to be home, but Mom could not quite be certain of that, so at times we got away with playing dumb. The astonishing thing is that some people grow up and try that same scam on God. They imagine the existence of some large group of people who do not know about God, and think surely God would not judge those who do not know him. We used to call it the heathen-in-Africa problem and imagined some stone-age scene.

News flash: there is no such group! As we will see, there are plenty who need to hear how to join Gods kingdom, but all humanity knows there is a powerful God who must be sought and found.

(ESV) Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Like a brilliant diamond on black velvet, the good news that Gods righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ (1:16-17) contrasts with the sin-darkened state of all humanity outside of Christ. And we must recall that all Christians were once outside of Christ with all the rest of humanity. So, the somber account from verse 18 to the end of the chapter illuminates part of our personal history and shows the fatal trajectory our lives might have taken except for the grace of God.

Some have considered Pauls assessment of humanitys sinfulness (1:18-31) too negative. C.E.B. Cranfield points out that the assessment is not actually Pauls:

It is not Pauls judgment of his contemporaries that we have here, but the gospels judgment of men, that is of all men. . . . The section depicts man as he appears in the light of the cross of Christ. It is not a depiction of specially bad men only, but the innermost truth of all of us, as we are in ourselves.[1]

But human sinfulness is not the only unwelcome disclosure from heaven. Those who wish to impose their own views on the biblical text totally reject the idea of Gods wrath (1:18), though it takes real conceptual gymnastics to explain it away in light of all the biblical evidence.[2] Evangelical scholars generally consider denial of Gods wrath to be a key part of liberal theology, which embraces anti-supernaturalism and a humanistic viewpoint that are essentially useless for understanding the Bible. If you are looking for a blind guide on the biblical trail, a liberal theologian is your man.

Cranfield comments on the parallel revelations of righteousness (in 1:17) and wrath (in 1:18) by saying: The two revelations referred to in these two verses are then really two aspects of the same process. The preaching of Christ crucified, risen, ascended and coming again, is at the same time both the offer to men of a status of righteousness before God and the revelation of Gods wrath against their sin.[3] Gods holy wrath against sin is exactly why Jesus had to die for our sins.

Against what is Gods wrath directed? By answering all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (1:18), Paul uses two words that are very close in meaning; Douglas Moo approvingly cites Cranfield’s opinion that the first word asebeia characterizes sin as an attack on the majesty of God and the second word adikia speaks of sin as a violation of Gods just order.[4] Imagine sinful humanity shaking its fist at God and rejecting both his rulership and his way of life.

How was this rejection of Gods truth expressed? Romans 1:18 says, by their unrighteousness [they] suppress the truth; by living as rebels against the rule of God, humanity suppresses Gods truth. One of the worst effects of extreme postmodernism is that it denies the possibility of absolute truth, makes everything a matter of opinion and declares everyones opinion to be worthy. Extreme postmodern says: You claim God has spoken truth; well, thats just your opinion. And if God did speak, thats only his opinion. I have my own opinion!

Someone might say that those who suppress Gods truth should be excused because they are victims of ignorance, but Paul stops that argument in a hurry by saying, What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them (1:19). The gospel contains this chilling truth: every single member of humanity knows enough to be responsible before God, because he has made sure they each know enough. No one will be able to stand before God and say that they did not know there was a God to whom they were responsible. All people are on notice!

In saying what can be known about God is plain to them, Paul uses the Greek adjective phaneros, which means, being evident so as to be readily known, visible, clear, plainly to be seen, open, plain, evident, known.[5] The word phaneros occurs in Acts 4:16 when it was common knowledge in Jerusalem that Peter and John had healed the man who had been lame from birth (Acts 3:110). In Mark 6:14, the word is used of Herods knowledge that Jesus disciples had worked many miracles; everyone knew. We are not talking here about experts knowing something; all know there is a God.

If someone asks how God made this disclosure, Paul provides the answer in Romans 1:20. The creation itself –perhaps also the things that God has done in history –testifies to his eternal power and divine nature (1:20) even though those aspects of God are otherwise invisible. Moo says, These properties of God that cannot be seen . . . are seen . . . –an example of the literary device called oxymoron, in which rhetorical effect is achieved by asserting something that is apparently contradictory.[6]

We will take a closer look at what God has made plain to humanity. His eternal power (1:20) created the deeply-designed world, including humanity, and that power operated before the world existed. More than that, humanity also knew his . . . divine nature (1:20), the Greek noun theoites, which means divinity, divine nature, divineness.[7] So, all humanity knows there is a God and he has eternal power. James Dunn rightly says, That this is no longer a widely-acceptable worldview should not, of course, influence our exegesis of Paul.[8] The suppression of truth is stronger than ever! But we proclaim the gospel anyway.

God had a purpose in humanitys knowing his eternal power and divinity, and that purpose is declared clearly in Acts 17, when Paul spoke to the philosophers of Athens about God:

From one man he created all the nations throughout the whole earth. He decided beforehand when they should rise and fall, and he determined their boundaries. His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him– though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27, NLT).

If some members of humanity have not sought after God, after he enabled them to do so, they are without excuse (1:20).

Common-knowledge about God

Be clear that plenty of people still need to learn more about Jesus and how to be justified before God. But you may be equally certain that every person knows that there is a God who is powerful that they should seek and find. They may suppress that knowledge in various ways because they do not want to seek God, but God has already reached out to them in a way they have comprehended.

1. If we start with the understanding that non-Christians are suppressing the truth, how should this affect our approach in helping them reach out for Christ? Perhaps they are weary of fighting God or think they have burned that bridge. Why might they keep suppressing the truth even over a long period of time?

2. How might the Scripture we studied today affect the way we pray for those outside of Christ? What preparation might we make for offering information and support to those who desperately need to know about Christ?

The things we have studied today have serious implications about Gods fairness and about the moral vulnerability of all people before God. He is patiently waiting for the rebels to put aside their suppression of the truth and to seek his mercy through Jesus Christ.

Copyright 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas), by permission.

 


[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 104.

[2] Ernst Ksemann, Romans, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980) 37, provides a typical example of a theologian who rejects Gods wrath.

[3] Cranfield, Romans, 110.

[4] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 102, footnote 50, citing Cranfield, Romans, 112.

[5] BDAG-3, phaneros, clear, q.v.

[6] Moo, Romans, 104-105.

[7] BDAG-3, theoites, divineness, q.v.

[8] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 58.

Exposition of Romans 1:17 — The righteous-by-faith will live

The Bible reveals some awesome scenes, but none more remarkable than the circumstances of the final judgment. On that day there will be no cell phones, no career, no sporting events, no meals to fix, no homework to do, no war to wage, and no decisions to make. Instead, the Apostle John tells us, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them” (Rev. 20:11).

The only thing that remains is the one on the throne and all of humankind from all the ages standing before him. The Judge is ready to make his final decisions.

On that awesome day only one thing will matter: do you have the righteousness of God or not?

(NET) Romans 1:17  For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

In the estimation of most scholars, Romans 1:16–17 contain the theme of Romans.[1] However, within these two verses the focus may shine on different points. I agree with Douglas Moo’s view that the gospel is the only theme broad enough to embrace the diversity of the entire letter, but notable scholars believe that “justification by faith” is the theme of the letter. The second view certainly looks attractive in chapters 1–4, where “faith” occurs 25 times and the “justify”-“righteousness” family of words occurs 23 times. But Romans has sixteen chapters, not four.

But, there is no necessity to pick a horse in the thematic race by eliminating one of the prospects. Instead, we will find Paul’s meaning verse by verse. For those of you who assembled models at some point in your life, we will follow the same approach in unlocking the meaning of this profound verse.

“the righteousness of God”

The first phrase — “the righteousness of God” — presents issues typical of Romans. That little word “of” can mean so many things! Of course, the difficulty actually goes back to the underlying Greek text. The Greek text has the phrase dikaiosun? [righteousness] . . . theou [of God], where the final word is in the genitive case. Since the genitive is a descriptive or limiting case[2], we are roughly speaking here about a God-kind-of-righteousness. If that sounds weird, think how it contrasts with a man-kind-of-righteousness such as that practiced by the Pharisaic Jews, who were zealous about keeping the law and their Pharisaic vows.

How exactly does God relate to this righteousness? And what does this righteousness have to do with us? Moo gets to the point: “For Paul, as in the OT, ‘righteousness of God’ is a relational concept. . . . We can define it as the act by which God brings people into right relationship with himself.”[3] The beauty of this definition is that it combines the saving action of God with the resulting status we have in his sight. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are acquitted before God by his saving action. In other words, through faith in Jesus Christ, we receive the “righteousness of God.”

“is revealed in the gospel”

The gospel unveils something that humankind had never imagined — the way for people to attain a God-wrought salvation. The verb (“is revealed”) is present tense — suggesting that the revelation is ongoing — and the verb is expressed in passive voice — suggesting that God is the one doing the revealing. C.E.B. Cranfield says, “The choice of the verb [‘is revealed’] underlines the fact that, though the gospel is proclaimed by human lips, the revelation of [‘the righteousness of God’] in the proclamation is God’s doing.”[4]

“from faith to faith”

This phrase has been discussed for centuries, but Moo once again sends us on the right path: “The combination is rhetorical and is intended to emphasize that faith and ‘nothing but faith’ can put us into right relationship with God.”[5]

“The righteous by faith will live.”

The easiest way to understand this clause is to translate it with hyphens: “The righteous-by-faith will live.” We will consider several translations of Romans 1:17 below:

NLT: This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

NET: For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

ESV: For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Here is the problem: in Greek word order, the final clause says, “the righteous by faith will live.” The key question is whether the italicized phrase modifies “the righteous” or alternatively modifies “will live.” Moo correctly prefers the former choice: “Of greatest significance is the way Paul in Rom. 1–8 consistently links faith with righteousness (cf. the summary in 5:1) and shows how ‘life’ is the product of that righteousness (cf. 5:18 and 8:10). These connections favor the translation ‘the one who is righteous by faith will live.’”[6]

If you study the translations carefully, you will see that NET and NLT agree with Moo that “by faith” modifies “the righteous,” while ESV prefers the idea that “by faith” modifies “will live.”

Romans 1:17 provides an excellent illustration of how translation approaches differ. Because Romans 1:17 contains some rare and idiomatic phrases, it offers the opportunity for a more interpretive translation like the NLT to shine, and NLT does shine here. NET is slightly more conservative than NLT in its approach; notice that NET leaves the final Greek verb as a verb when it translates it as “will live,” but NLT makes the Greek verb into a noun “has life.” Similarly, note the interpretive “Good News” (NLT) in comparison to the more cautious “gospel” (NET) or the grammatically correct “it” (ESV). ESV strives to be scrupulously neutral, sometimes succeeding, whereas NLT risks misinterpretation to produce clarity, and NET is somewhere in between.

But all of these translations share a single purpose: to help us accept and enjoy the righteousness of God that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The issue on the last day

There have been many who initially set out to find a righteousness of their own but then got lost in the endless maze of diversionary human experiences.

1. Since God and all humankind are the only entities present at the final judgment, how important is your car, your education or your luncheon at the club? What do you want for your children on that day?

2. Preparation for the final judgment is so simple. John 3:16 says, “For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (NET). How have you personally prepared for the final day?

Of course, this world offers the opportunity to make the wrong decision too. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killing 168 people. His final statement before execution consisted of the poem “Invictus” (Latin for “Unconquered”) by a British poet. The last stanza says:

“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”

Timothy McVeigh now knows that he was mistaken about that. What about you?

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials developed for Christ Fellowship (McKinney, Texas), by permission.

[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 64.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 76-77.

[3] Moo, Romans, 74.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 92.

[5] Moo, Romans, 76.

[6] Moo, Romans, 78.

Exposition of Romans 1:1-6 — The significance of the resurrected Son

This post begins a series on Romans 1-5. The subtitle is “The Significance of the Resurrected Son.” I hope you enjoy it!

Partial Outline of the Romans 1–6 (C.E.B. Cranfield)

I.          Superscription, address and salutation (1:1-7)

II.         Paul and the Roman church (1:8-16a)

III.       The theme of the epistle is stated (1:16b-17)

IV.       The revelation of the righteousness which is from God by faith alone — “He who is righteous by faith” expounded (1:18-4:25)

1. In the light of the gospel there is no question of men’s being righteous before God otherwise than by faith (1:18-3.20)

a. Man under the judgment of the gospel (1:18-32)

b. Jewish man is no exception (2:1-3:20)

2. The manifestation of the righteousness that is from God in the gospel events (3:21-26)

3. All glorying is excluded (3:27-31)

4. The case of Abraham as confirmation of the statement that glorying has been excluded (4:1-25)

V.         The life promised for those who are righteous by faith — “shall live” expounded (5:1-8:39)

1. A life characterized by peace with God (5:1-21)

a. Peace with God (5:1-11)

b. Christ and Adam (5:12-21)

2. A Life characterized by sanctification (6:1-23)

The significance of the resurrected Son

If we look at church steeples or at interior areas near the pastor, we will see the cross, the symbol of Christ’s death. Nowhere will we see any symbol of Jesus’ resurrection. God’s good news for humankind has always been about both the cross and the resurrected Son, yet Christ’s church has been slow to grasp this.

The cure for this imbalance is not to put less emphasis on the cross but to enhance understanding of how important the resurrection really is. The resurrection of Jesus Christ authenticated his sacrificial death for our sins and provided the power to resist sin (Rom. 6). Further, it is as our risen Lord that Jesus intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father (Heb. 7:25).

(ESV) Romans 1:1-6  Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

This remarkable letter begins with a name that stands among the top ten in human history ? Paul. In calling himself “slave” (1:1, NET), he immediately declares his utter commitment to the one who summoned him ? Christ Jesus. New Testament scholar Douglas Moo says: “’Slave of Christ Jesus’ is patterned after the familiar OT phrase ‘slave’ or ‘servant’ of Yahweh.”[1] That puts Paul in the company Moses, David and the prophets.

In saying he has been “set apart for the gospel of God” (1:1), Paul mentions the likely theme of his letter ? the gospel, a term not accurately understood by many Christians. In evangelical circles, “the gospel” is often seen as a brief set of ideas shared with non-Christians to which they may respond with faith in Jesus as their savior. That understanding of the word gospel is far too narrow to fit Paul’s meaning.

To understand the word gospel as Paul used it, we will first look at its lexical meaning. The Greek euangelion means “good news,”[2] originally news of victory. Both NLT and HCSB use the phrase “good news” in their translation of Romans 1:1. [We get our English word “evangelism” from the Greek euangelion.]

It is obviously important to consider what gospel would have meant to Roman citizens. NT scholar C.E.B. Cranfield says, “For the inhabitants of the Roman Empire it had special associations with the Emperor-cult [worship of the Emperor as a god], since the announcements of such events as the birth of an heir to the Emperor, his coming-of-age, and his accession, were referred to as [euangelia].”[3] Since gospel had these secular associations for Romans, Paul expressed it as the “gospel of God” (1:1) to distinguish it from the Roman civil idea; then he elaborated the broader meaning in the immediately following verses.

Summarizing Paul’s statements about the gospel in Romans 1:2-4, NT scholar Grant Osborne says: “First, he tells us it was promised beforehand in the Old Testament. . . . Second, the heart of the gospel is the Son of God as descended from David. . . . The gospel centers on God’s designation (better than NIV’s declared) of Jesus as his divine Son.”[4] To this we should add some other things — chiefly justification by faith — but to show the breadth of Paul’s concept of gospel we must consider that he even adds judgment when he speaks of the “day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (2:16).

Moo delivers what I consider the correct conclusion about the theme of Romans when he says, “My own outline reflects what I think is the theme of the letter: the gospel.”[5] The ESV Study Bible says, “The theme of Romans is the revelation of God’s judging and saving righteousness in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[6] The NIV Study Bible agrees: “Paul’s primary theme in Romans is the basic gospel, God’s plan of salvation for all peoples, Jew and Gentile alike.”[7]

Now that we have considered the theme of Romans — the gospel concerning Jesus Christ — we will focus our attention on Romans 1:3. Above all else, what God promised beforehand in the holy Scriptures was “concerning his Son.” The remainder of 1:3 focuses on Jesus’ physical descent from David, which was necessary for him to qualify as the promised Messiah (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Isa. 11:1, 11:10). Using his famous contrast between flesh and Spirit, Paul next adds to Jesus’ title of Messiah another title that comes in the spiritual realm; NET says that Jesus was “appointed the
Son-of-God-in-power” (1:4, NET) by virtue of his resurrection from the dead.[8]

This is a very important point: Jesus has eternally been the Son of God, but he took on added authority after his resurrection. Moo summarizes, “What Paul is claiming, then, is that the preexistent Son, who entered into human experience as the promised Messiah, was appointed on the basis of . . . the resurrection to a new and more powerful position in relation to the world.”[9] This explains why Jesus appeared to his disciples after the resurrection to say, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mat. 28:18). He was announcing his new status!

Osborne notes that “Jesus Christ our Lord” culminates verses 3-4,” and then he adds: “This incredible passage tells us that the Gospel is all about Jesus — Messiah, Son of God and Lord of all creation.”[10]

If you think Paul has merely been exercising his theological skills, get ready for his powerful application. Paul has revealed the supreme power of the resurrected Jesus. Now he reminds his Roman readers that this exalted Lord has appointed Paul his apostle “to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5) among all nations, including the Christians in Rome! Zap! Roman Christians certainly understood imperial politics, and Paul represents a ruler far above the emperor.

The phrase “obedience of faith” (1:5) is subject to various interpretations. Osborne summarizes the most probable one: “Obedience is the natural result of a faith relationship with Christ, and faith always produces obedience.”[11] NT scholar Ernst Käsemann says, “When the revelation of Christ is accepted [faith], the rebellious world submits again to its Lord [obedience].”[12]

The Son-of-God-in-power

Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25). Jesus made this audacious statement because he knew that he would rise from the dead and that our faith in him would bring us the same result.

1. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-22. How important does Paul say the resurrection is to your faith?

2. Read Psalm 2 about the enthronement of Christ as King. How is the Son-of-God-in-power received by the rulers and nations? What does the final verse mean to you personally?

In the days of the Roman Empire men and women would aspire to be named a “friend of Caesar.” We have the greater privilege of being the friends of Jesus Christ, the Son-of-God-in-power. That is worth celebrating!

 [1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 40-41.

[2] BDAG-3, euangelion, good news, q.v.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 55.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 29.

[5] Moo, Romans, 32.

[6] ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway Bibles, 2008) 2151.

[7] Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) 1736.

[8] TNIV corrects NIV (1984) in Romans 1:4 so that it reads “appointed the Son of God in power.”

[9] Moo, Romans, 48-49.

[10] Osborne, Romans, 32.

[11] Osborne, Romans, 33.

[12] Ernst Käsemann, Romans, Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980) 15.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.