How can a man be just with God? – Romans 1-8

‘How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2). This is the great question in Romans. In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer. Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
Justification ‘of life’ – putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)


How can a man be just with God?’ (Job 9:2).  This is the great question in Romans.  In the first eight chapters of Romans we learn the answer.  Sinners want justification.

There are two aspects of justification, so there are two parts to Romans 1 to 8.

  1. Justification ‘from sins’ – clearing me of my old state,’ (Rom 1:1-5:11)
  2. Justification ‘of life’  –  putting me into a new place before God. (Rom 5:12-8:39)


Part 1 – Justification from Sins

Chapter 1

The first thing we see in this epistle is that it concerns God’s Son Jesus Christ’ (See v. 3).  It is not primarily about ourselves.  Romans is about the claims of Christ, the ‘author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him’ (Heb 5:9).  People have lost sight of that.

In chapter 1 we see why justification is needed:  ‘The wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness’ (v. 18).  That is wrath against the sinner, because ‘all have sinned, and come short’ (Ch. 3:23).  It does not say ‘of what we ought to be’, or ‘of the law’, but ‘of the glory of God.’  The glory of God involves the light.  In Christianity we must walk in the light, or we can have nothing to do with God.  It is as simple as that.  God is in the light; He has not hidden Himself behind a veil.  We are to walk in the light, as He is in the light, and even become ‘partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light’ (Col 1:12).  Justification makes us fit for that.  Christ’s work in grace fits us for glory.

Two things are found in the first four verses: promises and revelation.

  1. People rest on promises. But the promises are fulfilled by Him. ‘For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us’ (2 Cor 1:20).
  2. God’s righteousness is revealed because there was none in man. ‘Therein [i.e. in the glad tidings] is the righteousness of God revealed’ ( 17).   Faith receives God’s righteousness, whereas the law claimed righteousness from man. The gospel is the righteousness of God.

Chapters 2 & 3

In chapter 1 the righteousness of God is revealed; in chapter 2, we have the proof of this; in chapter 3, having been brought under sin, we are given righteousness.  ‘But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets’ (v. 21).  The Lord our righteousness was witnessed in the prophets who were under law.  However, He is now manifested without (or apart from) law.  Righteousness is ‘through faith in His blood’ (v. 25).  God sits as a Judge, and man is brought before Him and found guilty.  The penalty is death. But the death of a sinful man could not glorify God.  Only the death of Christ alone glorifies Him, and through it He puts away the sins of the old man.  Now we see how God makes a new man.

Under the old system the law required man to establish his own righteousness. ‘The law entered that the offence might abound’ (ch. 5:20).  It is not that sin might abound, but the offence.  The law not only made sin more manifest, but also aggravated its character.  The authority of God was despised, not because of the offence, but because of the people’s disobedience.  In ch. 2:12, what is translated sinned ‘without law,’ is the same word (ἀνομία – anomia) as in 1 John 3:4, ‘transgression of the law’ – (KJV) or ‘lawlessness’ – (Darby and others).’  The Day of Atonement was necessary:-

  • The scape-goat – ‘Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many’  (Heb 9:28) – Part 1 above (sins)
  • The sin-offering – ‘He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself’ (Heb 9:26) – Part 2 (sin).

The blood of the sin-offering was sprinkled on and before the mercy-seat.  This is now the ground of God’s invitation to the sinner.  In Leviticus 16, the sins of Israel were confessed over the head of the scape-goat.  For us, Christ has died, and the blood is on the mercy-seat.  Now I will be received if I come to Jesus.  Not only has the Lord Jesus put away my sin, but He has borne all my sins, and confessed them as if they were His own: they are all gone.  My sins are forgiven: past, present and future.

Chapter 4

In chapter 4 we have, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’ (v. 4).  A man is faultless before God if Christ has made atonement for him.  The first part of Romans, referred to above, has to do with sins and the remedy – Christ dying for our sins.  (In Part 2 below, it is sin and the remedy, my dying with Christ).  This whole work was settled on the cross, resurrection making it complete.  In this chapter it is justification by faith.  ‘If we believe in him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead’ (v. 24).  We are justified, and Christ’s work is ratified.

Unless we see Christ in resurrection, we do not have the assurance of being justified. ‘If Christ is not risen, ye are yet in your sinsif in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable’ (1 Cor 15:17,19).

Chapter 5 v. 1-11

Chapter 5 begins, ‘Having been justified, we have peace’ (v. 1).   We get past, present, and future:

  • Justified, as to the past
  • Having peace with God, and standing in the favour of God, as to the present
  • Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God, as to the future.

What more can I want?  I may have all sorts of trouble, but what a mercy it is that God sees me as righteous!  In God’s eyes I am a righteous man.  Now I can boast in tribulation, knowing that this leads to patience, experience and hope (see v. 3).  I am not ashamed ‘because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us’ (v. 5).  I can rejoice, too, in God Himself (before whom, in ch. 3:19, I was guilty, and my mouth stopped).  Not only do I know myself, but I know God as well – God in His own absolute goodness.  Knowing that everything is settled, and that I am reconciled, I have peace.  Peace is deeper than joy: I may have joy, but not yet know myself reconciled.  The prodigal had some joy when he left the far country, but he did not have peace till he met the Father, and learned what is the Father’s heart was toward him.

Foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified!  No creature power can break that chain of five golden links, for it is purely of God.


Part 2 – Justification ‘of Life’

Chapter 5 v. 12-21

From chapter 5:12, we come to man’s condition.  Adam ruined us all.  We are now dealing with the state of the race, not of the individual.  I have a nature away from God, and without the knowledge of the grace of God, I would be driven to despair. But grace has put away my sin.

Even if I know that my sins are forgiven, I can be extremely troubled because of the sin that is in me.  The remedy is not in the fact that Christ has died for my sins, but that I have died with Christ to sin.  I am a sinner because of Adam’s disobedience.  However by the obedience of One (Jesus) I am made righteous, with no condemnation: ‘There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (ch. 8:1).  If that is the case, can I live as I like?  ‘No’, the apostle says, ‘You have died.’  How can I live in sin if I am dead?  I am justified; I have life.

Sin is never forgiven. but condemned. ‘God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and by a sacrifice for sin, condemned sin, in the flesh’ (ch. 8:3).  Sin is got rid of by death.  If a man dies, that is the end.  Adam received a commandment, and lived so long as he obeyed it.  But from Adam to Moses there was no commandment or law, and death reigned over those who had transgressed.  We find no forgiveness there.

Chapter 6

In Romans 6, I am dead and justified from sin.  I reckon myself dead.  I have had enough of ‘I.’  Now Christ is ‘I’.  ‘I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Gal 2:20).  In Romans I am cleared from what I was as a child of Adam, and get the privileges of a child of God.  I am perfectly free: what am I going to do with myself?  I was once a slave to sin: now I am to yield myself to God.

Chapter 7

In chapter 7 we have the same principle applied to law.  We have died to the law by the body of the risen Christ, so now we are connected with Him in resurrection.  We cannot have both the law and Christ. ‘We are delivered from the law, that being dead by which we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter’ (v. 6 (Darby).  The law isn’t dead; I am dead.  The law is the jailer; I am the prisoner.  The mistake people are making is that they are killing the jailer instead of the thief.  The jailer is not dead, the thief is.

In chapters 2 and 3 we saw what a man does.  In chapter 7 we see is what he is.   Many Christians do not know what verse 7 means – ‘When I was in the flesh’.  It is my previous state.  This chapter is experimental, not just a doctrine.  We must learn the truth not merely as a theory, but experimentally.  I can say that my sins are forgiven – that is doctrine, not experience, but if I tell you something about myself, that is experience.  It is not just that I have done bad things, but I have found by experience that ‘in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing’ (v. 18).

In Romans 7 the soul learns three things:

  1. That in himself, that is, in his flesh, dwells no good thing ( 18).
  2. That the flesh is not himself (he is not in the flesh) – he hates it ( 15).
  3. That the flesh is too strong for him, and he cries out for deliverance. ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ ( 24).

As to the flesh, there is no question of forgiveness.  I do not forgive an offending power; I want deliverance from it.  The more spiritual I am, the more I shall see the infinite value of the cross.  I keep the cross before myself in faith, and hold it the to the flesh (because I am not in the flesh, otherwise I could not do it).  That is what ‘Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body’ means. (2 Cor 4:10)

I have to learn what sin is.  Christ, who has met the consequences of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, becomes the tree of life to me.  Now, in Romans 5:1-11, I learn what God is in love to the sinner.

Chapter 8

Now in Chapter 8 I learn my condition as a believer with God.  The new man in Christ Jesus is in a higher place: God is for me, and I can say, ‘Abba, Father’.

Glory is certain through the promise of God. ‘Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified’ (v. 30).  The whole chain is there, from beginning to end, and depends on His faithfulness in keeping us.


Summary by Sosthenes

Based on   How are we Saved? Romans 1-8Collected Writings vol. 21 (Evangelic) page 193

April 2016



Darby on Romans 4 – Christ’s resurrection as sealing His work

Law requires power in man to fulfill it. A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain. That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.

RomeThere is more in Israel’s history than the law.  Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness. (See Rom. 4:3). He was reckoned righteous because of his faith.   Also, David said, ‘Blessed is the man whose iniquity is forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin.’ (Psalm 32:2). No sin was imputed to him. He was held to be wholly clear of it before God; it was forgiven and covered. The responsibility of man was fully met, and he knew it.

Faith was counted for righteousness to Abraham. Circumcision was only a seal of the righteousness he had already before he was circumcised.   Therefore he became the father of all who believe (including uncircumcised, believing Gentiles), and more than that, the father of those truly separated to God – circumcised in spirit, not in letter.

The promise to Abraham that he would be the heir of the world was a matter of law, but of the righteousness of faith. Promise is not law: promise and faith go together. If promise had been on the basis of law, faith would have been void – man could not have had an inheritance because of transgression. But the inheritance is of faith, not law, that it might be by grace. Faith just believes in grace.

When Abraham received the promise, as far as having offspring was concerned, he was as good as dead. But he believed what God had said as to his seed. So we have another important principle: grace and promise on the part of God, and faith, and the redemption that is in Christ, on the part of man.   God’s power comes in; God raises the dead, and makes them to be as He calls them. This applies to Abraham’s seed, to the Gentiles’ blessing, and to Christ’s physical resurrection.

Law requires power in man to fulfill it.  The law being given to the sinner, wrath was the consequence of its imposition.  A dead person has no power; resurrection is by God’s power, and Abraham believed that. If God spoke, the thing was certain.  That is why his faith was imputed to him for righteousness. When man justifies God not himself, God justifies him. Abraham believed that God was able to perform what He had said; we believe that He raised Christ from the dead – delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. God glorifies Himself in grace by granting  divine righteousness to man, when he had no human righteousness before God.

As to ourselves, righteousness is imputed to us, as we believe on the God who raised up Christ from the dead. We do not merely own Christ’s work, but God’s acceptance of that work, and His power to quicken the dead. As John said, ‘God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.’ (Matt 3:9).   God demonstrated His power in raising up Christ from death, the state into which our sins had brought Him through grace. Of course, God could not leave Him in death, for He was satisfied as to the matter of sins, and righteously raised Him from the dead – in public testimony.

 A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s  Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans 

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Galatians

Galatians contrasts law with God’s promises, grace, and the Holy Spirit. It does not refer so much to righteousness, but shows that the law came between the promise and Christ.

Outline of Bible coverGalatians contrasts law with God’s promises, grace, and the Holy Spirit. It does not refer so much to righteousness, but shows that the law came between the promise and Christ. The law could not annul the promise: – it went only to Christ, by faith. He shows the independence of his ministry, stating that he was dead to the law which brought the curse – dead by the law, crucified with Christ, so that, as living, Christ lived in him, and he lived by the faith of the Son of God (chaps. 1, 2).

In chapter 3:20 the point is, that the fulfilment of an absolute promise depends only on the faithfulness of one. The law requires a mediator. Under Moses, two parties were implied, but God is only one. Hence, blessing under the law depends on the faithfulness of another as well as of God, and therefore, apart from Christ, all fails. The promise was confirmed before God to Christ. Christ came after the failure, and we rest on the work of the Mediator, and not on the work of a second party. The law was added to produce transgression, not sin.

Those who were under the law were delivered by Christ’s taking its curse; so that the blessing flows freely, and that they may receive the promise of the Spirit.

In Galatians, death is applied to the law, the flesh, and the world. In chapter 6 we find that the government of God applies to all men, and brings its attendant consequences.

Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes,  September 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original

A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible – Romans

Outline of Bible coverRomans unfolds the gospel of God as the testimony of the righteousness of God. It testifies of God’s wrath from heaven, and begins with the depravity of the Gentiles, the hypocrisy of moralisers, and the guilt of the Jews. It concludes that all are under sin, and that our guilt is met by the blood of Christ through faith. This proves at the same time the righteousness of God in bearing with the sins of the past saints, and lays the present foundation of divine righteousness for the future.

From chapter 4 the apostle connects faith with the resurrection, Christ having been delivered for our offences. In chapter 5 he applies this to justification and peace in the assurance of God’s love, and traces all up to Adam on one side, and to Christ as head on the other, the law only coming in by the bye. In chapter 6 he applies it to a godly life, and in chapter 7 to the law. He unfolds in chapter 8 the full life and liberty the Christian obtains through the presence of the Holy Spirit.   God secures all by what He is for us, all this being made good to us through Christ. And nothing shall be able to separate us from it. There are three parts in chapter 8:

  1. The Spirit as life, going on to the resurrection of the body (v. 1-11);
  2. The Holy Spirit as a separate Person, dwelling in us for joy, and sympathy with us in infirmities (v. 12-27);
  3. God for us – life, God in us, and God for us (v. 28 to the end.

Note that except just for bringing in Christ’s intercession, you never get His ascension in Romans. Hence we do not have the unity of the body, which is only alluded in ch. 12 as to in its practical effects, but we have the relationship of the individual with God on the ground of grace reigning through righteousness – God’s righteousness being very definitely brought out in contrast with man’s, man having the law for his rule, convicting him of transgression, lust, and his powerlessness to do good, despite willing otherwise.

From chapters 9 to 11, Paul reconciles special promises to the Jews with the no-difference doctrine of divine righteousness. In chapter 9, while professing his own love to the Jews, he recognises all their privileges and the absolute sovereignty of God. This was proved in their own history by the exclusion of Ishmael and Esau, despite their being sons of Abraham and Isaac. It was only the sovereign mercy of God which had spared them at Sinai: likewise it was this sovereign mercy in God’s call of Gentiles as well as Jews, confirmed by quotations from Hosea. He then shows that the rejection of the Jews was foretold by prophets – that it is founded on a pretension to human righteousness. In chapter 10, he contrasts the righteousness of the law with that of faith, showing the title of the Gentiles to the latter.   The call involved preaching to them, Jews having rebelled, convicted, by their own scriptures.

In chapter 11, Paul raises the question, Has Israel as a people, finally and definitely, been rejected? No. He gives three proofs

  1. In his own person.
  2. The declaration that the Gentiles will be called would provoke them (Israel) to jealousy, and therefore that they would not be finally rejected.
  3. The positive declaration of scripture that the Redeemer would come to Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

In connection with this, he puts the Gentiles, introduced on the principle of faith, upon their own responsibility, showing them that if they did not continue in God’s goodness, they would also be cut off from the tree of promise on the earth, as so many of the Jews then were. God could graft the Jews in again, this being the testimony to the wisdom of God. God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. (V.32)

In the subsequent part we get exhortations. Only that in chapter 15 Paul resumes the doctrine. Jesus Christ was “a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, and that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” (v. 8-9)


Originally by JND.   Lightly edited by Sosthenes, July 2014

– Se A Brief Outline of the Books of the Bible  for the original