The Point of Romans–Part One

In Max Lucado’s book, In the Grip of Grace, he says, “Romans is the grandest treatise on grace ever written.” Lucado merely echoes a long held belief that Romans is all about grace. Perhaps this lens has hindered our ability to see other points from Romans, maybe even the main one.

Although one cannot tell the importance of an issue by numbers (“love thy neighbor” is only mentioned once in the Old Testament yet is said to be the second greatest commandment), numbers can assist in determining main points.

“Grace” and other words with the “grace” root are mentioned 25 times in Romans.
Faith and belief with their derivatives are mentioned 63 times.
“Righteous” and “righteousness” are mentioned a combined 43 times (all counts based on the KJV, God’s one true holy word). (Yes, that was supposed to be funny.)

Paul has a definite point in Romans and the definite point is not a revelation of something new. Paul has over 60 Old Testament quotes in Romans.

Paul is correcting an error—how to achieve the righteousness of God—that Israel in the Old Testament completely botched and Paul is hoping to keep the New Testament Church from the same error.

To say that Paul is revealing salvation by grace as though this were something new is to show ignorance of the entire scope of the Bible’s teaching on salvation. Romans 11:1-5 makes it clear that God’s grace has always been reserving a remnant of faithful believers.

Grace is nothing new; Grace is as old as God Himself. Romans is not inventing grace, or explaining something new about grace. Paul’s point is to correct ages-old wrong thinking about faith, obedience, and righteousness.

“The obedience of faith” is Paul’s hope for the readers of Romans. Paul even says it is the point of his entire ministry–he received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations (1:5). Paul’s main point is the obedience of faith that leads to true righteousness.

15 thoughts on “The Point of Romans–Part One”

  1. Jeff,
    Obedience of faith would be what James would say, is the same as the evidence of faith by our works. At the moment of true conversion, our sin nature is mortally wounded, and as we grow in faith our sin nature continually dies as we grow in sanctification. Our flesh should be dying daily, as our soul prospers each day, in coming under the subjected power of the Spirit of God that reigns in us who are trusting in Christ

    As our sin nature dies daily, we should be becoming more like Christ each day, I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that “Paul’s main point is the obedience of faith that leads to true righteousness.”

  2. Jeff,

    My father-in-law gave me a book by Lucado as a wedding present. After going through it, I wouldn’t read anything by that man again. Lucado reminds me of that man in Bunyan’s “Holy War”, Mr. False-Peace, who said in his defence:

    “Whenever I saw anyone troubled by what they had done, or afraid of destruction, I labored by some way, device, invention, or other, to bring them to peace again!”

  3. Paul,

    A comment to your comments, for the sake of clarity…

    There is a work to be done in subduing the passions of the flesh, but the new birth is more than the bringing in of an external power (Spirit) to hold down the flesh. There is a change within the person themselves: something old is taken out, and something new put in.

    We were children of the devil and of wrath, we are now children of God through a literal removing of the old life and a literal taking in of the life of Christ. A child partakes of the life of the father. This takes place in the spiritual realm: the “most holy place” of the human nature. But what was there previously? A corrupt life…an old nature, which ruled over us and brought us into bondage. This does not just gradually die, but is entirely removed at the new birth. The flesh remains, but the heart is changed.

    It is not simply the indwelling of the Spirit of God, because the Spirit did not unite Himself with humanity. Christ united Himself with humanity to be the new father of the human race. The Spirit simply brings the gifts of Christ to us. It does not say “if you are of the Spirit’s seed,” but “if you are Christ’s [seed] then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:16,29)

    To use another simple object lesson: Jesus used healing as an illustration of the work of forgiveness of sins. He said, “which is easier to say, your sins be forgiven, or arise and walk?” Both require creative power…the removal of the sin or disease, and the putting in of new life.

    When Jesus healed the paralytic, he did not just stoop down, pick up the man, and have him hobble around, leaning on Jesus. Some people see the gospel that way: “we’re just full of sin but as long as we lean on Jesus we can live a Christian life”…but that’s not what the healing examples teach.

    They show that Jesus actually gave something to the diseased person so that they were different than they were before. He imparted to them a new power and new life, and removed the old one. They were new men, not just men with new ideas.

  4. Frank,
    So if I read what your saying correctly, those who are trusting in Christ, and have saving faith, won’t sin anymore while still on this side of eternity?

  5. Paul,
    It is important to distinguish what is changed and what is not, at the new birth. The flesh and blood body is not changed; the mind with it’s formed habits, ideas, practices, and theories is not entirely changed; therefore, what is left?

    What part is referred to when God says he will “take the stony heart out of our flesh”? Which part does Jesus refer to when He says, “a good tree produces good fruit”? Where in human nature does that “life” reside when John says, “he that has the Son has life”?

    I take it to be the “spirit” of man…that invisible part which cannot be seen with eyes, but the effects of it are seen in the thoughts and actions. Here is where the new birth takes place…here is where “old things are passed away, all things are become new”. Human psychology and medical science do not recognize this part of man, but the Bible reveals it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned.

    The new birth puts a new power in the man, in place of the old. It is a radical change, and the effects are often seen in a surprising change in certain areas of the life…especially those areas of weakness where the human struggled and failed (Romans 7 is an example of this struggling/failing condition).

    Since the new life from Christ is a sinless life, it gives a type of perfection (“he that is dead [ie. the old stony heart is removed] is freed from sin”), but only in the spiritual nature…and only in seed, or “baby” form. It still needs to grow and develop.

    The mind also still needs re-education, and the flesh and blood body still remain to tempt to ease, indulgence, and pleasure. So sanctification, in the fullest sense, does not happen instantly.

    Nevertheless, the Bible makes no excuses for sin. God’s grace is enough to “keep us from falling”, for He “gives us the victory” by giving us the victorious life of Christ in our hearts.

    A Christian does not go out to “get the victory over sin”, he receives the victory as a gift, and then goes out to see it manifested. Abraham got the right kind of faith, and then the promised son appeared. The battle is won or lost in the heart before the outward conflict takes place. That is why the martyrs were victorious on the stake…because their faith could not be broken. “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” “According to your faith, so be it unto you.”

  6. “Since the new life from Christ is a sinless life, it gives a type of perfection (“he that is dead [ie. the old stony heart is removed] is freed from sin”), but only in the spiritual nature…and only in seed, or “baby” form. It still needs to grow and develop.”

    I agree Frank we are freed from the power of sin when we bend our knee to Christ, but because of our flesh we will not have a complete victory over sin on this side of eternity, because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. A mortal wound means the wound is going to lead to death, our flesh in which sin still reigns (our sin nature) is mortally wounded at conversion, but we will not see complete victory over sin until it passes away.

    Our spirit man is at war with our flesh for control of our soul (mind, will and emotions)
    “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4.12).
    And as we growing from glory to glory in Christ, the mortally wounded sin nature continues to die, and the Spirit of God is comforming us into the image of Christ

  7. Paul,
    I believe Jesus took the same fallen mortal flesh and blood body, and defeated it at every conflict. He lived without sin in the same flesh we have.

    He was made of the “seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3), made in “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3); he “took part of the same” flesh and blood (Heb 2:13); he “took on him the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:14); he “suffered being tempted” (Heb. 2:18).

    The same sinless life He lived as a baby, child, youth, and man, is possible to every repenting, believing child of God today. The weakest believer is more than a match for all the powers of the world, flesh, and devils combined. But he must be a “believer” and not a “doubter”.

    The mystery of God is divinity joined to humanity in Christ. This mystery is repeated in each believer, “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. The mystery of iniquity is Satan trying to interpose himself between humanity and God, usually through a pretended representative, such as a pope, false prophet, false minister, etc.

    Therefore, the special doctrine of Antichrist is to deny that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:3). This means much more than simply denying that Jesus came 2000 years ago, it means any teaching that makes a difference between His humanity and ours, so that it is not possible to live victoriously over sin. Any such teaching cuts Christ off from reaching His people, and opens the door for other band-aid solutions to the sin problem, which do not really heal.

    In Daniel’s day, the test of Antichrist was also applicable to the Babylonian teachers. They told Nebuchadnezzar that their gods “did not dwell with flesh” (Dan. 2:11). Here is the same mystery of iniquity…god does not dwell with flesh, so he cannot reach us. Daniel taught the king about a different God, one who can reach us. And Daniel demonstrated this power in his consistent and faithful life.

    Although Daniel would have been conceived in sin (with the fallen spiritual nature), yet at some point in his life he was born again, and lived very close to God. He dwelt in Babylon, but was not a part of her. At each conflict between the principles of Babylon and Jehovah, Daniel overcame Babylon. It is not just his prophecies that are a guide to us in these last days, but his blameless life is a beacon of what kind of people we must be, if we want to be victorious over the great Babylon of our time.

  8. “The same sinless life He lived as a baby, child, youth, and man, is possible to every repenting, believing child of God today.”

    Frank are you saying you are perfectly living a life free from sin?
    That you are perfectly fullfilling all of God’s laws and commands? That you can stand before God and say I’m without sin, because I’m a true a “believer”, because that is what it sounds like to me, and I just want to be clear on what your saying?
    Please correct me if I’m not understanding you clearly.

  9. Paul,
    No, it’s not my righteousness I’m talking about here, it’s that of Christ. I don’t believe that even He would have gone around on this earth confident and proud about his spiritual attainments…otherwise why the long nights of prayer, the “resisting unto blood striving against sin”? Christ met the flesh, and overcame it. He was fully conscious of His need of a constant connection to His heavenly Father in order to live such a life. He formed a seed that was able to withstand the greatest pressure of temptation…He did that for us, and gives us that life. Therefore, in the life of a born-again Christian, there is no excuse for sin.

    The apostle Paul taught this too: “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” What is the cause of sin in believers then? Their lack of faith. It is a problem of the heart, not a problem of the flesh.

    If I got up every day thinking that I must sin because the flesh is so sinful and powerful, then I would fall into sin much more easily than I do now. These “excuses for sin” will lead to sin…they are the arguments of unbelief. It may look like humility to declare that you are such a sinner and that you sin all the time, but it is actually a denial of the power of Christ.

    We need to have a clear view of what the goal is, otherwise we will be content with something less than what God promises, and that would be fatal. What is God’s promise, and what is His command? Believe the one, and obey the other.

  10. Frank,
    Thanks for the reply, I agree we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness by faith, and we are no longer a slave to sin, but to righteousness. But we will not perfectly follow after Christ in faith, on this side of eternity. Our sin nature was dealt a mortal wound that will die, when as Paul says this veil of flesh is removed.

    “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.’ – 1 Cor.13:12

  11. Paul,
    I agree with you that the flesh will be changed when Christ comes. However, the term “sin nature” can apply to two different elements in man: the old stony heart (spiritual nature), or the human flesh. These are different. One is cleansed, the other remains. Christ had the flesh, but not the stony heart. We get rid of the stony heart at the new birth.

    What’s the difference then between us and Christ? He had a pure heart from his conception in the womb, and never messed up his mind with sin like we have. Does this give Him an advantage, so that we cannot follow Him? No…for He was tempted well beyond what any of us will ever have to face. To use a rather weak example, He was like a strong man lifting 1000 pounds, while we have to lift 100 pounds. It was just as difficult (more so actually) for Him to do that in His human nature, as it is for us to take our smaller burden in our human nature. Therefore, He understands us, was “tempted in all points like us”, and has the power to deliver. He “makes a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). Therefore, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Tim. 1:19)

    I don’t agree with your application of 1 Cor 13. It does not teach that we will live imperfect, sinful lives. Instead it refers to knowledge, and compares our dim understanding with the full light of day that will come when faith is swallowed up in sight. In heaven we will see Christ face to face, we will be able to talk to Him directly; all the mysteries of life that didn’t make sense here will be explained.

    BUT…this imperfect knowledge that we have here does not mean imperfect obedience, because we walk “by faith, not by sight”. The just live by faith. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Or, as it states in the chapter you quoted this verse from, “Charity never fails”. Charity is faith working by the power of love in the heart. We may not understand everything here, but that in no way hinders us from trusting and loving God…and obeying Him. Knowledge, prophecies, tongues, miracles…all are external and temporary on this world. But charity, the gift of Christ’s love in our hearts, “never fails”. Sin is failure. Charity never does that. God has made ample provision for us…where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.

  12. “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” 1 Cor.13: 10

    What aspect of a man prevents him from following Christ perfectly? Paul gives us an idea about what he is talking about in verse 12 that I quoted earlier, here in verse 10.
    I believe it’s the flesh, yes our hearts have been changed, but we will not become like Christ until we become perfect as He is perfect. Our understanding of the fullness of Christ is not diminished now, it’s our ability to follow perfectly, because of our flesh.

    “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3: 18

    Paul is telling us that we have had the veil removed from our hearts, that we are growing from glory to glory, being transformed daily by the renewing of our minds. Man is tree-parts Spirit, soul, and flesh, God desires that the spirit, being the noblest part of man, should control the whole being. But when we behold Christ face to face, the imperfect will be done away, and the perfect will come, and we shall become as Him.

  13. >What aspect of a man prevents him from
    >following Christ perfectly?…I believe it’s the flesh…

    Paul, hold on here. Our flesh prevents us from following Him into heaven! But it certainly doesn’t prevent us from living a Christian life, just as He lived it when He was in the same flesh. Look at the previous verse: “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Liberty is freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from sin! “He shall save His people from their sins.” We were “sold under sin”, slaves to it. He frees us. I see no reason to draw limits on God’s power and say “thus far and no further”.

    Look at a similar verse:
    “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

    Now, you might think, “look…it says we won’t be like Him until He appears!” But hold on, read the next verse:

    “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” 1 John 3:3.

    How pure is Jesus? 95%? No, 100%. Then that is what we can become also. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Amen! I want to see God, don’t you? Then we must be pure in heart here, and now. Not tomorrow, not next week. Every day we can rise in the knowledge that God has made provision for us that we can live a Christ-like life, in our own sphere. We are not called on (at this time) to go out and preach to multitudes or heal them with a touch. But in the area where we have responsibility, we can live and work as Jesus would have when He was on the earth…with a pure heart, right motives, and perfect trust in His ability to guide and direct all things to His glory.

    Really…I’m wondering where such a doctrine as you propose, that “we cannot overcome all sin”, would lead? Which sin(s) would you think were too hard for a Christian to overcome? Where would you draw the line? Would you dare to erect another standard than what God has already put up in His holy Law?

    It’s dangerous business. It undermines both the power of Christ’s blood, and the standard of the Law. It is the foundation for Phariseeism…for when men find that they cannot keep God’s law, they then erect some other barriers to try and make themselves look holy. These “rules”, which they think they can keep, then become the standard, and as their attention is turned away from God to themselves, real love dies out of the heart. They then begin to judge men by their standard, and become self-centered judges and petty spies. Such were the “holy” men that Jesus had to meet in the church of His day.

    I don’t think that is your intention…but you need to be careful about building on the sand. Those who build on the Rock hear God’s word and do it. They don’t say “it’s impossible”.

  14. >What aspect of a man prevents him from
    >following Christ perfectly?…I believe it’s the flesh…
    No aspect
    I believe the flesh is nothing more then self. Remove the sin by a continual removal of self (my will). Deny self daily,take up his cross. I can’t do it. The Godhead can. Go to the Father the Son ask for the filling of the Holy Spirit as often as needed in Faith, and total surrender of self, faith in the finished work. William Law said it best ” Self
    is the whole evil of fallen nature; self-denial
    is our capacity of being saved; humility is
    our savior. This is every man’s short lesson
    of life; and he that has well learned it,
    is scholar enough, and has had all the
    benefit of a most finished education. Then
    old Adam with all his ignorance is cast out
    of him; and when Christ’s humility is
    learned, then he has the very mind of
    Christ, and that which brings him forth a
    son of God.

  15. Frank,
    I’m a sinner who was saved by grace, thank God I’m not what I once was, but I have not yet reached perfection, nor do I believe I will, on this side of eternity, so pray for me.

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