SALVATION AND BEHAVIOR
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
(1 – 8; 12 – 15)
Bible Readings delivered at the Keswick Convention, 1952
W.GRAHAM SCROGGIE, D.D.
Many similar books have been written on the Epistle to the Romans, but here is one that is different. In this short work we find Dr. Scroggie at his best. His microscopic mind, expressing itself in characteristically alliterative language, brings to life two sections of a well-known letter. There is an even balance about these Bible Readings which is most refreshing. The doctrinal aspect of Christian teaching is not emphasized to the exclusion of the practical; the two are shown to be complementary one to the other. Herein, the superficial reader will find faith strengthened and Christian life challenged; the searcher will discover many things the development of which will give hours of pleasurable study; wherein ‘the meditation of Him shall be sweet’.
HAVING regard for the distinctiveness of this audience, and the design of this Convention, I have been led to call your attention this week to the subject of Salvation and Behaviour as these are revealed and related in the Epistle to the Romans. They who would derive most profit from these studies should read each day chapters 1-8, and 12-15; remembering, as you do so, that the first part treats of Salvation, and the second, of Behaviour.
Between these two divisions of the Epistle is another —chapters 9-11—integral to the whole, but as it is not essential for our present purpose we omit it.
This Epistle was written by Paul to the Church at Rome in a.d. 58. The occasion was the virtual close of his missionary ministry, and the object was to present in one comprehensive survey all that he had learned and taught, since his conversion, of the redeeming purpose and plan of God for mankind, as revealed in Jesus Christ.
The canonical and the chronological orders of Paul’s Church Epistles are worthy of notice. ‘Romans’ was the sixth Letter to be written, but it is put first, because it is the foundation of all that follows; and the two Letters to Thessalonica, which were the first to be written, are placed at the end, because their subject is the Lord’s Return, which is the last event.
‘Romans’ is the most systematic of all Paul’s Epistles, and its importance cannot possibly be exaggerated. Coleridge called it ‘the most profound writing extant.’ Godet spoke of it as ‘the greatest masterpiece which the human mind has ever conceived and realized; the first logical exposition of the work of God in Christ for the salvation of the world.’ Luther described it as ‘the chief part of the New Testament, and the perfect gospel.’ Calvin said that ‘every Christian man should feed upon it as the daily bread of his soul.’ Tholuck called it ‘a Christian philosophy of human history.’ Meyer of Hanover described it as ‘the greatest and richest of all the Apostolic works.’ Farrar said, ‘it is unquestionably the clearest and fullest statement of the doctrines of sin and deliverance from it, as held by the greatest of the Apostles.’ Chrysostom used to have it read to him twice every week. And one more testimony: William Tyndale wrote, ‘Forasmuch as this Epistle is … a light and way unto the whole Scripture, I think it meet that every Christian man not only know it by rote and without the book, but also exercise himself therein evermore continually, as with the daily bread of the soul. No man verily can read it too often, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is; and the more groundly it is searched, the preciouser things are found in it, so great treasure of spiritual things lieth hid therein.’
If this is what such men thought of the Epistle to the Romans, for any Christian not to have an intimate acquaintance with it, is something to be ashamed of, and to be remedied without delay. In this Epistle is a ‘whole body of divinity,’ and he who has a heart and mind possession of it is both Christian and cultured.
The significance of the Epistle is determined by its scope, and its scope is indicated by its structure. We must, therefore, discern its structure if we would appreciate and appropriate its profound truths. Between a Foreword (1. 1-17) and a Final Word (15. 14-16. 27), there are three distinct divisions: chapters 1-8; 9-11; and 12-15. 13. The first is Doctrinal; the second is Dispensational; and the third is Dutiful.
The Epistle is the profoundest Christian philosophy; and the first division treats of the Philosophy of Salvation; the second, of the Philosophy of History; and the third, of the Philosophy of Behaviour.
That which gives unity to these three divisions is the subject of God’s Righteousness, which is the keynote to the whole Epistle. It is introduced in ch. 1. 16, 17:
I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written,
“He who through faith is righteous shall live.”
(Revised Standard Version)
In chs. 1-8, the Righteousness of God is seen in relation to Sins and Sin; in chs. 9-11, it is seen in relation to the Calling of Israel; and in chs. 12-15. 13, it is seen in relation to Everyday Life. This outline should be rooted in the memory, and so be given a chance to bear fruit in the heart.
As has been said, we shall omit the second of these divisions, and so bring together the subjects of Salvation and Behaviour. To begin with, it is important to observe that in the New Testament Literature of the Church, creed and conduct are always related. Doctrine and practice, theology and morality, knowledge and action are inseparably connected, being related to one another us foundation to superstructure, as centre to circumference, as root to fruit, as cause to effect.
Some preachers expound without applying, and some endeavour to apply what has not been expounded, but the Apostles always do both. When revealed truth is divorced from Christian living it becomes an impotent abstraction. But Paul will have none of it. For him salvation must express itself in behaviour, and behaviour must embody salvation; and it is this which we are now to consider.
In the doctrinal division, chs. 1. 18-8. 39, the Apostle deals in detail with two things; the Christian Message, in chs. 1. 18-5. 21, and the Christian Life, in chs. 6-8, and it is made quite clear that there can be no such Life where there is no such Message.
When the Christian Message is not known or understood, the exhortation or effort to live the Christian Life is fatuous; it is as foolish as commencing to build a house from the roof. The Christian Message is an origin, and the Christian Life is an issue. The Christian Message tells of Christ for us; and the Christian Life relates to Christ in us; the one unfolds the need of redemption, and the other, the way of it; and these ideas cannot be transposed. If you would live a Christian life you must know what the Christian message is. When Dr. Dale first went to Birmingham, on his way home after a service one Sunday morning he met a brother minister who asked him what he had been preaching about. Dr. Dale told him that he had commenced a series on Christian doctrine; whereupon the other minister said: ‘they won’t stand doctrine in that church’; to which Dr. Dale replied, ‘they’ll have to’; and they did.
The only message to man which has substance and permanence is that which is expository, which is an unfolding of God’s redeeming purpose and method. One may preach philosophy, or psychology, or ethics all his life, and yet accomplish nothing of permanent! value, because those things are on the circumference of truth, and not at its centre.
What, then, is the content of the Christian Message in the view of Paul, the greatest of all theologians? He says that it has two dominating notes: Condemnation, and Justification, and the message must be proclaimed in that order.