It may facilitate our apprehension of the epistle to the Romans, if we briefly survey Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians.
We need to understand two aspects of man’s state of sin
- Man as living in evil ways, alive to sin and lust. According to Romans, death must come in to free him from the evil – redemption by grace.
- Man as dead towards God. Ephesians treats man as dead in sins and gives us new creation.
Galatians brings out the following points: –
- Promise, in contrast with law, which brought a curse and no justification of man
- Redemption from that curse, by Christ’s being made a curse for us
- The promised Seed, come of the woman (once the source of sin), to redeem those under the law.
The law had been the school-master until Christ came. Now, as sons by faith, having the Spirit, we are consciously heirs – not servants but sons. The flesh, our evil nature, may lust against the Spirit, but, we are not under law. There can be no law against the fruit of the Spirit – elementary, though most important teaching.
Ephesians begins with the counsels of God:
- Our place before God, morally like Himself
- Christ’s position, as gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God
- God’s purposes as to the Christ Himself, head over all as Man
- The inheritance and the earnest of the Spirit given to us
- The present exaltation of Christ
- The working of the same power in us, so we are raised with Him
- The church His body associated with Him
- Christ as Head over all things, to the church.
Eph. 2 gives Christ’s work. God’s power comes in and raises us up into His place of glory and blessing. We are sons and heirs. The church, Christ’s body is united to Him, something hidden from all ages and generations, impossible to exist or be revealed till the middle wall of partition had been broken down.
The gifts of the Spirit from the Man on high builds up the saints, forms the body in union with Christ, and evangelises the world. From Eph. 4:17 onward we have practical conduct. Having been brought to God in Christ, we are to display God’s own character, Christ being the perfect pattern in man. Having put off the old man and put on the new, we love one another as Christ loves His church. Finally we are God’s warriors in Canaan – that is, in heavenly places – and have need of God’s whole armour against spiritual wickedness, walking in dependence on God.
In Colossians saints are not sitting in heavenly places, but with a hope laid up for them in heaven. Their are affections are to be set on things above, where Christ sits. They are buried with Him by baptism unto death (as Rom. 6). The believer is looked at as previously alive in his sins, but now quickened with Christ (Col. 2:13). Colossians does not reach on to the full level of Ephesian doctrine, but we do not get these thoughts in Romans at all.
The fullness of the Godhead is in Christ in Colossians; in Ephesians it is the body that is His fullness. The glory of an exalted Christ is before the Christian’s eyes – the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This should enable us to study the epistle to the Romans more intelligently. Romans does not develop the counsels of God, but lays the ground for their accomplishment. All have sinned, Jew and Gentile, and have the same fleshly nature. There is no difference: God’s righteousness is applicable to both. Sins are put away, and we have deliverance from the old man. Romans treats the responsibility of man, explains God’s righteousness, and unfolds His grace unfolded as the source and principle of God’s dealings with us.
The epistle to the Romans furnishes the eternal principles of God’s relationship with man – the way in which, by means of Christ’s death and resurrection, the believer is established in blessing. It reconciles of these things with the promises made to the Jews, by Him whose gifts and calling are without repentance.
Romans comprises several parts:
- Rom 1:1-17 – Introduction
- Rom 1:18 – 3:20 Proof that all were under sin. The righteousness of God now revealed, propitiation having been made through Christ’s blood.
- Rom 3:21-31 – Justification by faith
- Rom 4 – Christ’s resurrection as sealing His work
- Rom 5:1-11 – The result and effect of grace in our present standing under that grace.
- Rom 5:12 begins a new subject – sin as opposed to sins – – The old man, the flesh, sin in the flesh, what we are as of Adam (not what we have done) dealt with. Our death with Christ, and life in Him (not in Adam). Deliverance, not forgiveness.
- Rom 5:12-21 – what we are as of Adam (not what we have done) dealt with.
- Rom 6 – Dead to Sin, Alive to God
- Rom 7 – Released from the Law
- Rom 8 – Our place in Christ and security through Him. The law addressed to the child of Adam, but having died with Christ, it has lost its application to us.
- Rom 9-11 – There were promises to Israel as well as law. Did they not make a difference? This appendix deals with that question.
- Rom 12-16 – Exhortation founded on mercies previously referred to.
- Rom 12 – A Living Sacrifice
- Rom 13 – Obey the Civil Authorities
- Rom 14 – The Spirit in which Christians should Behave towards one another
- Rom 15 – Paul’s Service moves to Rome
- Rom 16 – Conclusion
A simplified summary of part of the introduction to John Nelson Darby’s Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans