Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans
6th Edition 1944
Loizeaux Bothers, Inc.
19 West 21st Street
New York, 10 N. Y.
The present volume consists of Notes of Lectures on the Roman Letter, substantially as given to the students of the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, the Evangelical Theological College of Dallas, Tex., and at various Bible Conferences through the United States and Canada in recent years.
They are sent forth in printed form in response to the earnest solicitation of many who heard them; and in the hope that they will be used of God to the blessing of numbers who cannot be reached by the spoken word.
The author is indebted far more than he realizes to writers and speakers who have gone over the same ground before him. No claim is made for originality. It is God’s truth-not that of any teacher-and as such it is committed to His care for His glory.
July 30th, 1927.
Division 1. Doctrinal. Chapters 1-8. The Righteousness of God Revealed in the Gospel.
Division 2. Dispensations. Chapters 9-11. The Righteousness of God Harmonized with His Dispensational Ways.
Division 3 Practical. Chapters 12-16. Divine Righteousness Producing Practical Righteousness in the Believer.
The Epistle to the Romans is undoubtedly the most scientific statement of the divine plan for the redemption of mankind that God has been pleased to give us. Apart altogether from the question of inspiration we may think of it as a treatise of transcendant, intellectual power, putting to shame the most brilliant philosophies ever conceived by the minds of men.
It is noteworthy that the Holy Spirit did not take up an unlettered fisherman or provincial Galilean to unfold His redemption plan in all its majesty and grandeur. He selected a man of international outlook: a Roman citizen, yet a Hebrew of the Hebrews; a man whose education combined familiarity with Greek and Roman lore, including history, religion, philosophy, poetry, science and music, together with closest acquaintance with Judaism both as a divine revelation and as a body of rabbinical traditions and additions to the sacred deposit of the LAW, the PROPHETS, and the PSALMS. This man, born in the proud educational centre, Tarsus of Cilicia, and brought up at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem, was the chosen vessel to make known to all nations for the obedience of faith, the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, as so marvelously set forth in this immortal letter.
It was evidently written somewhere along the journey from Macedonia to Jerusalem, and very likely, as tradition asserts, at Corinth.
About to leave Europe for Palestine to carry to the Jewish Christians, his brethren after the flesh and in the Lord, the bounty provided by the Gentile assemblies, his heart turns longingly to Rome, the “eternal city,” the mistress of the ancient world, where already apart from direct apostolic ministry a Christian church had been formed. To a number of its members he was already known, to others he was a stranger, but he yearned over them all as a true father in Christ, and earnestly desired to share with them the precious treasure committed to him. The Spirit had already indicated that a visit to Rome was in the will of God for him, but the time and circumstances were hidden from him. So he wrote this exposition of the divine plan, and sent it on by a godly woman, Phebe, a deaconess of the assembly at Cenchrea, who had been called to Rome on business. The letter served the double purpose of introducing her to the Christians there and ministering to them the marvelous unfolding of the righteousness of God revealed in the gospel in accordance with the testimony committed to Paul. Think of the grace that entrusted this matchless epistle to the feeble hand of a woman in times such as those! The whole Church of God throughout the centuries owes to Phebe a debt of gratitude, and to the God who watched over her unending praise, for the preservation of the valuable manuscript which she delivered safely into the hands of the elders at Rome, and through them to us.
The theme of the Epistle is the Righteousness of God. It forms one of an inspired trio of expositions which together give us an amazingly rich exegesis of a very brief Old Testament text. The text is found in Habakkuk 2:4: “The just shall live by his faith.” As quoted three times in the New Testament there are just six words, the pronoun “his” being omitted. The three letters referred to are Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews, each of which is based upon this text.
Romans has to do particularly with the first two words. Its message is, “THE JUST shall live by faith,” answering the question that is raised in the book of Job, “How shall man be just with God?”
Galatians expounds the two central words, “The just SHALL LIVE by faith.” The Galatian error was in supposing that while we begin in faith, we are perfected by works. But the apostle shows that we live by that same faith through which we were justified. “Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
Hebrews takes up the last two words, “The just shall live BY FAITH.” It emphasizes the nature and power of faith itself, by which alone the justified believer walks. Incidentally, this is one reason why, after having carefully examined many arguments against the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, I have not the slightest doubt that it is correctly attributed to the same one who wrote Romans and Galatians; and this is confirmed by the testimony of the apostle Peter, in his second epistle, chapter 2Peter 3:15-16, for it was to converted Hebrews Peter was addressing himself and to them Paul had also written.
The epistles to the Romans may be readily divided into three great divisions. Chaps. 1-8 are DOCTRINAL, and give us THE RIGHTEOUSNESS of GOD REVEALED IN THE GOSPEL. Chaps. 9-11 are DISPENSATIONAL, and give us THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD HARMONIZED WITH HIS DISPENSATIONAL WAYS. Chaps. 12-16 are PRACTICAL, and set forth THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD PRODUCING PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE BELIEVER. Each of these divisions will be found to break naturally into smaller subdivisions, and these into sections and subsections.
In submitting the following outline I do so only suggestively. The careful student may think of more apt designations for each particular part, and may possibly find it simpler to separate the different paragraphs according to some other arrangement, but I suggest the following analysis as one that seems to me to be simple and illuminating:
DIVISION I. DOCTRINAL, chaps. 1-8:
The Righteousness of God Revealed in the Gospel.
SUBDIVISION I. Chaps. 1:1-3:20: The need of the Gospel.
Section A. Chap. 1:1-7: Salutation.
Section B. Chap. 1:8-17; Introduction.
Subsection (a) vers. 8-15: The Apostle’s Stewardship.
Subsection (b) vers. 16,17: The Theme Stated.
Section C. Chaps. 1:18-3:20: The Ungodliness and Unrighteousness of the entire Human Family Demonstrated, or, The Need of the Gospel.
Subsection (a). Chap. 1:18-32: The State of the Degraded Heathen-the Barbarian World.
Subsection (b). Chap. 2:1-16: The State of the Cultured Gentiles, the Moralists.
Subsection (c). Chap. 2:17-29: The State of the Religious Jews.
Subsection (d). Chap. 3:1-20: The Complete Indictment of the Entire World.
SUBDIVISION II. Chaps. 3:21-5:11: The Gospel in Relation to the Question of our SINS.
Section A. Chap. 3:21-31: Justification by Grace through Faith on the Ground of Accomplished Redemption.
Section B. Chap. 4: The Witness of the Law and the Prophets.
Subsection (a) vers. 1-6: Abraham’s Justification.
Subsection (b) vers. 7, 8: David’s Testimony.
Subsection (c) vers. 9-25: For all Mankind on the Same Principle.
Section C. Chap. 5:1-5: Peace with God: Its Basis and Results.
Section D. Chap. 5:6-11; The Summing Up.
SUBDIVISION III. Chaps. 5:12-8:39: The Gospel in Relation to Indwelling SIN.
Section A. Chap. 5:12-21: The Two Races and Two Heads.
Section B. Chap. 6: The Two Masters – Sin and Righteousness.
Section C. Chap. 7: The Two Husbands, Two Natures, and Two Laws.
Section D. Chap. 8: The Triumph of Grace.
Subsection (a) vers. 1-4: No Condemnation; In Christ.
Subsection (b) vers. 5-27: The Spirit of Christ in the Believer.
Subsection (c) vers. 28-34: God for us.
Subsection (d) vers. 35-39: No Separation.
DIVISION II. Dispensational. Chaps. 9-11: The Righteousness of God Harmonized with His Dispensational Ways.
SUBDIVISION I. Chap. 9: God’s Past Dealings with Israel in Electing Grace.
SUBDIVISION II. Chap. 10: God’s Present Dealings with Israel in Governmental Discipline.
SUBDIVISION III. Chap. 11: God’s Future Dealings with Israel in Fulfilment of the Prophetic Scriptures.
DIVISION III. PRACTICAL. Chaps. 12-16: Divine Righteousness Producing Practical Righteousness in the Believer.
SUBDIVISION I. Chaps. 12:1-15:7: God’s Good, Acceptable, and Perfect Will Revealed.
Section A. Chap. 12: The Walk of the Christian in Relation to his Fellow-believers, and to men of the world.
Section B. Chap. 13: The Christian’s Relation to Worldly Governments.
Section C. Chap. 14: Christian Liberty and Consideration for Others.
Section D. Chap. 15:1-7: Christ, the Believer’s Pattern.
SUBDIVISION II. Chap. 15:8-33: Conclusion.
SUBDIVISION III. Chap. 16:1-24. Salutations.
APPENDIX. Chap. 16:25-27: Epilogue: The Mystery Revealed.
I would earnestly press upon the student the importance of committing to memory, if possible, this outline, or some similar analysis of the epistle, before attempting the study of the letter itself. Failure to get the great divisions and subdivisions firmly fixed in the mind leaves the door open for false interpretations and confused views later on. Many, for instance, through not observing that the question of justification is settled in Chapters 3-5, are greatly perplexed when they come to Chapter 7. But if the teaching of the first chapters referred to be clearly understood, then it will be seen that the man in chapter 7 is not raising again the question of a sinner’s acceptance with God, but is concerned about a saint’s walk in holiness. Then again, how many a soul has become almost distracted by reading eternal issues into chapter 9, altogether beyond what the apostle intended, and endeavoring to bring heaven and hell into it as though these were here the chief questions at issue, whereas God is dealing with the great dispensational question of His sovereign electing grace toward Israel, and His temporary repudiation of them nationally, while in a special way His grace goes out to the Gentiles. I only mention these instances at this time in order to impress upon each student the importance of having an “outline of sound words” in studying this or any other book of the Bible.
I add an additional suggestion or two. It is good to have “catch-words” sometimes to fix things in the mind. Someone has aptly designated Romans as “The Epistle of the Forum.” This, I think, is most helpful. In this letter the sinner is brought into the court room, the forum, the place of judgment, and shown to be utterly guilty and undone. But through the work of Christ a righteous basis has been laid, upon which he can be justified from every charge. Nor does God stop here, but He openly acknowledges the believing sinner as His own son, making him a citizen of a favored race, and owning him as His heir. Thus the challenge can be hurled at all objectors, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Every voice is silenced, for “It is God that justifieth,” and this not at the expense of righteousness, but in full accord therewith. This view readily accounts for the use of legal and judicial terms, so frequently found in the argument.
A dying sinner was once asked if he would not like to be saved. “I certainly would,” he replied; “but,” he added earnestly, “I don’t want God to do anything wrong in saving me.” It was through the letter to the Romans he learned how “God can be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” You will remember how Socrates expressed himself five hundred years before Christ. “It may be,” he said, addressing himself to Plato, “that the Deity can forgive sins, but I do not see how.” It is this that the Holy Spirit takes up so fully in this Epistle. He shows us that God does not save sinners at the expense of His righteousness. In other words, if saved at all, it will not be because righteousness has been set aside in order that mercy might triumph; but mercy has found a way whereby divine righteousness can be fully satisfied and yet guilty sinners justified before the throne of high heaven.
The apostle John suggests the same wondrous truth when in his first epistle, chapter 1, verse 1John 1:9, he says, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” How much more natural the sense would seem to our poor minds before being divinely instructed, if it read, “He is merciful and gracious to forgive.” Although the gospel is in the most marvelous way the unfolding of the mercy of God, and exalts His grace as nothing else can, yet it is because it rests on a firm foundation of righteousness that it gives such settled peace to the soul who believes it. Since Christ has died, God could not be faithful to Him nor just to the believing sinner if He still condemned the one who trusts in Him who bore our sins in His own body on the tree.
It is, therefore, the righteousness of God that is magnified in this Epistle to the Romans, even as David of old cried, “Save (or deliver) me in Thy righteousness.” It was as Luther was meditating on this verse that light began to dawn upon his darkened soul. He could understand how God could damn him in His righteousness, but it was when he saw that God can save in righteousness that his soul entered into peace. And untold myriads have found the same deliverance from perplexity when through this glorious unfolding of the righteousness of God as revealed in the gospel, they saw how “God can save, yet righteous be.” If we fail to see this as we study the epistle, we have missed the great purpose for which it was given of God.
I would add one other thought, which I believe is of moment, particularly for those who seek to present the gospel to others. It is this: In Romans, we have the gospel taught to saints, rather than the gospel preached to unsaved sinners. I believe it is very important to see this. In order to be saved it is only necessary to trust in Christ. But in order to understand our salvation, and thus to get out of it the joy and blessing God intends to be our portion, we need to have the work of Christ unfolded to us. This is what the Holy Spirit has done in this precious epistle. It is written to people who are already saved to show them the secure foundation upon which their salvation rests: namely, the righteousness of God. When faith apprehends this, doubts and fears are gone and the soul enters into settled peace.
Chapter Romans 1:1-17.
As we come to a verse-by-verse examination of this epistle, we may well remind ourselves once more of the precious truth that “All scripture is God-breathed and profitable.” God has spoken through His Word, and this letter contains some of the most important messages He has ever given to mankind. It will be well for us, therefore, to approach the study of it in a prayerful and self-judged spirit, putting all our own preconceived ideas to one side and letting God through the inspired Word correct our thoughts, or, better still, supplant them with His own.
The first seven verses, as we have already noticed, form the salutation, and demand a careful examination. Some most precious truths are here communicated in what might seem a most casual manner. The writer, Paul, designates himself a servant, literally, bondman, of Jesus Christ. He does not mean, however, that his was a service of bondage, but rather the whole-hearted obedience of one who realized that he had been “bought with a price,” even the precious blood of Christ. There is a story told of an African slave whose master was about to slay him with a spear, when a chivalrous British traveler thrust out his arm to ward off the blow, and it was pierced by the cruel weapon. As the blood spurted out he demanded the person of the slave, saying he had bought him by his suffering. To this the former master ruefully agreed. As the latter walked away, the slave threw himself at the feet of his deliverer, exclaiming, “The blood-bought is now the slave of the son of pity. He will serve him faithfully.” And he insisted on accompanying his generous deliverer, and took delight in waiting upon him in every possible way.
Thus had Paul, thus has each redeemed one, become the bondman of Jesus Christ. We have been set free to serve, and may well exclaim with the Psalmist, “O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid: Thou hast loosed my bonds” (Psalms 116:16).
Not only was Paul in the general sense a servant, but he was a servant of peculiar and exalted character. He was a called apostle; not as in the Authorized Version, “called to be an apostle.” The words “to be” are in italics and are not required to complete the sense. It may seem a small thing to which to call attention, but the same interpolation occurs in verse Romans 1:7, where it is altogether misleading, as we shall see when we come to consider it.
We need not think of Paul as one of the twelve. Some question the regularity of the appointment of Matthias, but it seems to me we may well consider his selection by casting lots as the last official act of the old economy. It was necessary that one who had kept company with the Lord and His disciples from the baptism of John should fill the place which Judas had forfeited. Thus the number of the twelve apostles of the Lamb who are (in the glorious days of earth’s regeneration which we generally call the Millennium) to sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, would be completed. Paul’s ministry is of a different character. He was pre-eminently the apostle to the Gentiles, and to him was committed the special “dispensation of the mystery.” This puts his apostleship on an altogether different plane from that of the twelve. They knew Christ on earth, and their ministry in a very definite way was linked with the kingdom and the family of God. Paul knew him first as the glorified Lord Jesus, and his was distinctively the gospel of the glory.
He was “separated unto the gospel of God.” We may rightfully think of this separation from several different viewpoints. He had been set apart for his special ministry before his birth. As in the instances of Moses, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist, he was separated from his mother’s womb (Galatians 1:15). But he must first learn the weakness and unprofitableness of the flesh. Then God had mercy on him, and he was separated from the Christless mass and called by divine grace. But there was more than this. He was in a peculiar sense delivered from both the people of Israel and the Gentile nations to be a minister and witness of the things he had seen and heard. And lastly, he was separated with Barnabas for the specific work of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles, when at Antioch in Pisidia, the brethren, in accordance with the divine command, laid their hands upon them and sent them away to carry the gospel to the regions beyond. This gospel is here called “the gospel of God.” In verse Romans 1:9 it is called “the gospel of His Son,” and in verse Romans 1:16, “the gospel of Christ,” although there is a possibility that the words “of Christ” should be dropped, as they do not appear in some of the best manuscripts.
Verse Romans 1:2 is parenthetical and identifies the gospel with the glad tidings promised in Old Testament times and predicted by the prophets in the Holy Scriptures. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.” Timothy had been taught, from a child, the Holy Scriptures, and the apostle says that these “are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
This gospel is not a new law. It is not a code of morals or ethics. It is not a creed to be accepted. It is not a system of religion to be adhered to. It is not good advice to be followed. It is a divinely given message concerning a divine Person, the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. This glorious Being is true Man, yet very God. He is the Branch that grew out of the root of David, therefore true Man. But He is also the Son of God, the virgin-born, who had no human father, and this His works of power demonstrate. To this blessed fact the Spirit of Holiness bare witness when He raised dead persons to life. The expression, “By the resurrection from the dead,” is literally, “By resurrection of dead persons.” It includes His own resurrection, of course: but it also takes in the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus, of the widow’s son, and of Lazarus. He who could thus rob death of its prey was God and man in one blessed, adorable Person, worthy of all worship and praise, now and for evermore.
From Him, the risen One, Paul had received grace (not only unmerited favor, but favor against merit, for he had deserved the very opposite) and apostleship by divine call, that he might make known the gospel unto all nations, to the obedience of faith for Christ’s name’s sake.
His apostleship, therefore, extended to those who were in Rome. Hitherto he had not been able to visit them personally, but his heart went out to them as the called of Jesus Christ, and so he writes “to all that be in Rome, called saints.” Observe that they were saints in the same way that he was an apostle, namely, by divine call. We do not become saints by acting in a saintly way, but because we are constituted saints we should manifest saintliness.
As is customary in his letters, he wishes them grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Saved by grace in the first place, we need grace for seasonable help all along the way. Having peace with God through the blood of His cross, we need the peace of God to keep our hearts at rest as we journey on toward the eternal Sabbath-keeping that remains for the people of God.
Verses Romans 1:8-17 are the Introduction, which make clear his reasons for writing.
It is evident that a work of God had begun in Rome a number of years before the writing of this letter, for already the faith of the Christian assembly there was spoken of throughout the whole world, that is, throughout the Roman Empire. There is no evidence whatever that this work was in any sense linked with apostolic ministry. Both Scripture and history are silent as to who founded the church in Rome. Certainly Peter did not. There is not the remotest reason for connecting his name with it. The boast of the Roman Catholic Church that it is founded on Peter as the rock, and that the Roman Bishop is the successor of St. Peter, is all the merest twaddle. We have no means of knowing whether any apostle visited Rome until Paul himself was taken there in chains.
There seems to have been a providential reason why he was hindered from going there earlier. He calls God to witness (that God whom he served not merely outwardly but in his spirit, the inward man, in the gospel of His Son) that he had never ceased to pray for those Roman believers since he first heard of them; and coupled with his petitions for them was his earnest request that if it was the will of God he might have the opportunity to visit them, and a prosperous journey. How differently that prayer was answered from what he might have expected, we well know; and it gives us a little idea of the overruling wisdom of God in answering all our prayers. No man is competent to say what is prosperous and what is not. God’s ways are not ours.
Paul longed to see them, hoping that he might Be used of God to impart unto them some spiritual gift which would be for their establishment in the truth. Nor did he think only of being a blessing to them, but he fully expected that they would be a blessing to him. Both would be comforted together.
Many times during the past years he had prepared to go to Rome, but his plans had miscarried. He longed to have some fruit there as in other Gentile cities, for he felt himself to be a debtor to all mankind. The treasure committed to him was not for his own enjoyment, but that he might make it known to others, whether Greeks or barbarians, cultured or ignorant. And realizing this he was ready to preach the gospel in Rome as elsewhere.
When in verse Romans 1:16 he says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” I understand that he means far more than people generally attach to these words. It was not merely that he did not blush to be called a Christian, or that he was always ready boldly to declare his faith in Christ; but the gospel was to him a wonderful, because inspired, scheme for the redemption of mankind, a divinely revealed system of truth transcending all the philosophies of earth, which he was ready to defend on every occasion. It was not, as some might have supposed, that he had refrained from visiting Rome because he did not feel competent to present the claims of Christ in the metropolis of the world in such a manner that they could not be answered and logically repudiated by the cultured philosophers who thronged the great city. He had no fear that they would be able to overthrow by their subtle reasonings that which he knew to be the only authoritative plan of salvation. It is beyond human reason, but it is not illogical or unreasonable. It is perfect because of God.
This gospel had been demonstratively proven to be the divine dynamic bringing deliverance to all who put faith in it, whether the religious Jew or the cultured Greek. It was the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation. It met every need of the mind, the conscience, and the heart of man, for in it the righteousness of God was revealed faith-wise. This I take to be the real meaning of the somewhat difficult expression translated “from faith to faith.” It is really “out of faith unto faith.” That is, on the principle of faith to those who have faith. In other words, it is not a doctrine of salvation by works, but a proclamation of salvation entirely on the faith principle. This had been declared to Habakkuk long centuries before when God said to the troubled prophet, “The just shall live by faith.”
This is the text of the entire epistle, as we have already seen, and of Galatians and Hebrews likewise.
It gives us the quintessence of the divine plan, It has been the rest of millions throughout the centuries. It was the foundation of what has been designated the Augustinian Theology. It was the key that opened the door of liberty to Martin Luther. It became the battle-cry of the Reformation. And it is the touchstone of every system since, that professes to be of God. If wrong here, they are bound to be wrong throughout. It is impossible to understand the gospel if the basic principle be misunderstood or denied- Justification by faith alone is the test of orthodoxy. But no mind untaught by the Holy Spirit will ever receive it, for it sets the first man aside altogether as in the flesh and unprofitable, in order that the Second Man, the Man of God’s counsels, the Lord Jesus Christ, may alone be exalted. Faith gives all honor to Him as the One who has finished the work that saves and in whom alone God has been fully glorified, His holiness maintained, and His righteousness vindicated, and that not in the death of the sinner but in the salvation of all who believe. It is a gospel worthy of God, and it has demonstrated its power by what it has accomplished in those who have received it in faith.