Paul had never been to Rome, so he is writing from the point of view of his universal mission to the Gentiles. He reasons out the gospel: the state of man, the place the law held, and the Jews’ position. :
The Lord had called him and given him a personal mission to the Gentiles. He was an apostle by God’s calling, separated to the gospel out from the whole human race. He was directly connected with Christ in glory He was a witness of the glorified Lord Jesus, unconnected with the Messiah down here or Jesus after the flesh in His earthly (Jewish) associations. Paul witnessed to a Christ who had suffered death and accomplished redemption, and who was now the glorified Man, the Beginning and Head of creation.
Paul was sent forth into active service by the Holy Spirit from Antioch. ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’ (Acts 13:2) He received his commission directly from the Lord, and was separated to the glad tidings of God by the Holy Spirit.
The glad tidings have a double character:
- The accomplishment of promise
- The Person of the Son of God designated in power through resurrection.
The divine power, which raised Him from the dead, proving Him to be Son of God, was manifested throughout His life of holiness. He was quickened by the Spirit (lit. in Spirit), but His holiness, never allowed sin to enter for an instant. Resurrection was the public demonstration that He was the Son of God in power, having secured the victory over the full wages of sin. The opened eye would have seen the same power in the absolute and perfect holiness all through His sinless life.
God, in His goodness, approached man in grace. God came to him. This is the true gospel of God. He came in power and grace, into the place where sin and death reigned. He is the Son; He has power to deliver, but above all He is the Son of God. Grace made Him a man, but resurrection proved Him to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness. There is One revealed to us in perfect grace, but who in grace has a perfect claim over our souls.
He is from God. In the Person of the Son, God accomplished His promise, and secured victory over death. His righteousness is revealed, meeting the need of man. This is the general aspect: man’s responsibility and man’s need will follow. But we must first have the gospel as it is for God and before God, though all in grace to us. God has Himself brought in grace and glory.
As Romans is foundational, the testimony that Christ is Son of God is resurrection, not glory. His ascension is assumed as is the church’s, but already in resurrection God had put His seal on Christ’s Person and His work, redemption having been accomplished, sin atoned for, death overcome and Satan’s stronghold brought to nothing. The whole case between man and God had been met and established on a new ground.
In Romans some things are not gone into:
- The glories which result according to the counsels of God
- Our resurrection with Christ
- Union with Him (which follows our resurrection with Christ)
Individual justification, not union is the subject of Romans. The assembly is not even presented. Christ is viewed as risen alone. Romans does cover our death with Him, because this was necessary to close the old evil, and bring us into a state where we are capable of living with God as fully delivered.
Paul’s mission concerned obedience to the faith (not the law) and the subjection of men’s souls to the truth of the revelation of God’s Son, the risen Man, the Lord Jesus. This can only be in grace, for grace could not come without truth, for what would grace be about, and how else should God be revealed? But God is light, and God is love – we know these in grace and truth.
What marvellous grace it is to see the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber of death. In submitting to death, He took upon Himself all the weakness of mortal man, completely and absolutely delivering him.
There was no difference between Jew and Greek. To the Gentile it was the revelation of God in grace; to the Jew it was the fulfilment of the gospel that had been announced beforehand by the prophets. It was now a time to secure people for His Name.
Now we have Paul’s own feelings for those in Rome. The believers already in Rome were the called of Jesus Christ, beloved of God, and saints by His calling. The love of Christ made those he had not even seen the objects of his heart, and precious to him. He expresses his desire to see them. He is apostle by right, but in heart he is their servant; and with the most true and ardent brotherly love, desires to impart t some spiritual gift, but in unfeigned grace he would be comforted in their mutual faith. He was a ‘debtor to Greeks and barbarians’ (v.14) and he was ready to preach the glad tidings to them. It was ‘to the Jew first, and also to the Greek’ (v. 15). It was salvation to a sinful Jew, who had to come in in mercy, by faith, just like a Gentile.
He was not ashamed of the glad tidings; they were ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (v. 15) – simple words, but how much they contain! It is not man acting for God, but God acting for man, in man’s favour, to deliver him from the state he was in – to save him. How marvellous is the grace that sees the whole power of evil broken, destroyed, by Him, who was willing to enter into the gloomy chamber, taking upon Himself all man’s weakness in death, completely and absolutely delivering him whose penalty He had borne!
Thus, in the gospel, God intervened, accomplishing a salvation which was entirely His own work. Man came to have part in it by faith without adding anything whatsoever to it. God be praised that it is so! Whether for righteousness or for power, it is a perfect divine work. The righteousness of God is revealed on the principle of faith to faith. Nothing had to be done by man; nothing was required from man. It is on the principle of faith that it might be by grace. The object is love, God’s intrinsic nature. God’s righteousness was revealed on the principle of faith, not works. The just were to live by faith.
A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, with additional material from JND’s Synopsis – Romans.