Plight to Solution

In his Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul argues from plight to solution. The Gospel that he proclaims is the “power of God for salvation.” Due to sin, two forces are at work in the world – Righteousness and Wrath. In his Son, God has provided the solution to the desperate plight of all men that is now available to all on the same basis - “from the faith of Jesus Christ.” Moreover, this “Good News” was promised beforehand in the Hebrew scriptures and is now being fulfilled as the Gospel is preached.

This message concerns the Son of God “who came to be of the seed of David according to flesh, was marked off as the Son of God by power, according to a Spirit of Holiness, through a resurrection out from among the dead.” Through him, Paul “received grace and apostleship for the obedience of faith among all the nations.” Furthermore, his resurrection is the irrefutable proof that he is the Messiah, and it also validates Paul’s Gospel - (Romans 1:2-4).

Good News - Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash
[Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash]

In the present age, two forces are in the process of being revealed – 
Righteousness and Wrath. Every person will experience one or the other, depending on his or her response to the Gospel, the “power of God for salvation” - (Romans 1:16-19).

This “Righteousness” is revealed from faith for faith. In the passage, the Greek verb apokaluptetai is translated as “being revealed.” It is in the present tense, signifying an ONGOING process of unveiling. Whenever the Gospel is declared God’s righteousness is unveiled for all those present to see, and it is unveiled “from faith for faith,” faith is both the SOURCE and the proper RESPONSE to the message.

At this point in the Letter, it is not clear what or who is intended by the clause “from faith.” Who or what does Paul mean by the “Righteous One,” singular, who lives from faith?

In the passage, it is the “Righteousness of God” that is under discussion, NOT the righteous deeds, nature, or status of any individual, and it is manifested in His covenant faithfulness when He provides salvation for His wayward creatures.

At the same time, “Wrath” is also unveiled; only, against all those “who possess the truth in unrighteousness.” Thus, two ongoing processes occur whenever the Gospel is proclaimed. The “Wrath from heaven upon ungodliness” is the negative counterpart to the “revelation of righteousness.” Anyone who embraces the Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile, is empowered to receive salvation, but “wrath” is released against all men who refuse it, both now and in the future.

Elsewhere in his letters, Paul links the “wrath” to the final judgment, but here, he describes its present aspect. The very sins practiced by and delighted in by those who reject the Gospel prove that they are under this “wrath” - (Romans 1:22-25).

God delivered rebellious humanity to the very sins for which men lust, even though sinners “acknowledge the righteous sentence of God, that they who practice such things are worthy of death.” Humanity wallows in idolatry because of the “wrath of God.”

Rampant sin demonstrates that humanity is under His “wrath,” and this is the plight of all men, both Jews and Greeks alike.

DEMONSTRATION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS


Sin is the Great Leveler. Both the Jew and the Gentile fall short and miss the mark. Therefore, both stand under the just judicial “sentence of God.” Every man is “without excuse” because of sin.

Without Divine intervention, everyone stands condemned, whether “within the law” or “apart from the law.” Without exception, everyone will experience condemnation on the coming “Day of Wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” This must be so since “there is no respect of persons with God.” On that day, God “will render to each one according to his works.” Paul now stresses the future aspect of the “wrath” - (Romans 2:16, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

Using several proof texts, he argues that “both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.” Since all men have “sinned and lack the glory of God,” they are not set right before God “from the works of the Law.” Instead, the Law “exposes sin” for what it really is, the “transgression” of God’s righteous commandments, whether violated “within” or “apart from the law.” The Mosaic Law never was and still is not the means for justifying men before a righteous God. It serves a different purpose.

However, in the Gospel, “righteousness” is available “through the faith of Jesus Christ for all those who believe.” In other words, “from the faith” of Jesus, and “for the faith” of those men and women who respond in faith to the message. Jesus is the “Righteous One who lives from faith.” In this way, God declares all who respond in faith “righteous by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” and this is apart “from the works of the law” - (Romans 1:16, Romans 3:9-24).

The term rendered “faith” or pistis can signify “faith” or “faithfulness.” The latter is the intended sense when Paul speaks of the “faith of Jesus.” Most likely, the phrase is shorthand for his faithful obedience unto death which provided the means for placing men in right standing before God - (Galatians 2:15-21, Philippians 2:6-11).

HEIR OF THE WORLD


Next, Paul introduces Abraham as the great exemplar of faith. God declared him “right” and reckoned his faith as “righteousness” while he was uncircumcised, and thus apart from the “works of the Law.” Therefore, he became the father of all those “from faith,” circumcised, or not.

The true “children of Abraham” are men with the “faith of Jesus.” Neither circumcision nor ethnicity has any bearing on inclusion in the covenant community. Abraham was justified before his circumcision, even though it is a requirement of the Torah. The Law was not given to justify individuals before God. Instead, circumcision was “a sign” of the covenant – (Romans 4:1-25).

References in Romans to “promise” and “heir” point to future realities, things not yet received. For the “children of Abraham,” the promised inheritance is the entire “world” or kosmos, not just Canaan. Paul has universalized the original “land promise” since it now encompasses the entire Cosmos– (Romans 4:13).

The promise is to Abraham and to “his seed,” which includes all who walk in the same faith as the Patriarch. The promised inheritance is through faith, and the “promise is firm for all the seed.” Because he believed the One “who causes the dead to live,” God appointed Abraham as the “father of many nations.” Paul applies the idea of resurrection to Abraham’s belief that God would grant him “seed” from the “dead” womb of Sarah.

By doing this, he links the inheritance to the future bodily resurrection of the saints. The record of Abraham’s justification was not “written for his sake alone,” but “for our sakes also to whom it is to be reckoned, even to them that believe upon Him who raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead, who was delivered up on account of our offenses, and was raised on account of the declaring us righteous.”

FUTURE ASPECTS


Since believers have been “declared righteous through his blood,” they also “will be saved through him from the Wrath.” Although they have been “set right” in God’s sight, “salvation” is consummated in the future.

  • If we have been “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” how much more “will we be saved by his life.” For though “through one man,” Adam, “sin entered the world and through sin deathhow much more they who the superabundance of the grace and the free gift of righteousness do receive will reign through the one man, Jesus Christ” {Note the future tense}. “Just as through one fault the sentence was to all men for condemnation, so also through one recovery of righteousness the decree of grace is for all men for righteous acquittal for life…and through the obedience of the one,” - {through the obedience of Jesus!} – the many will be constituted righteous.” Just as “sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness for everlasting life through Jesus Christ.”

Death for all men is the universal consequence of sin. This is the plight of every man. However, for all men who believe the Gospel, condemnation is in the past, and right standing before God is a present reality, though their final salvation will be received when God raises them from the dead.

For those who are in Jesus, “there is now no condemnation” since the “law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set them free from the law of sin and of death.” What the Law of Moses could not do because of human frailty and bondage to sin. By sending his own Son, God “condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.”

The flesh “prefers death, but the Spirit prefers life and peace.” The carnality in men was produced by the sin of Adam, and it is “hostile towards God, for it cannot submit to the Law…and they who have their being in flesh cannot please God.”

The discussion of “flesh” and “spirit” is Paul’s way of contrasting the old Adamic life under sin to the new life in Jesus. He is not contrasting physical and nonphysical “realms,” but different modes of living. It is the indwelling of the Spirit that enables the believer to walk righteously and identifies him as an heir to the promise.

Though our present bodies remain “dead by reason of sin,” if the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, “He that raised from among the dead Christ Jesus will make alive even our death-doomed bodies through his indwelling Spirit.”

Way Forward - Photo by Wojciech Portnicki on Unsplash
[Way Forward - Photo by Wojciech Portnicki on Unsplash]



SUFFERING AND RESURRECTION


Paul next focuses on the future resurrection. The redemption of our bodies is foundational to our salvation. The Spirit of God “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” We are “heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” - (Romans 8:1-23, 1 Corinthians 15:12-28).

But to be co-heirs with him necessitates suffering in this life, so “they may also be glorified.” Due to sin, the creation was subjected “to vanity,” therefore it is travailing-in-birth-throes, “ardently awaiting the revelation of the sons of God.” At the resurrection the “creation itself will be freed from the bondage of decay into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God” - (Romans 8:20-25).

The Gift of the Spirit is the “first fruits,” namely, the guarantee of the future “adoption, the redemption of our body.” New creation and bodily resurrection are two sides of the same salvation coin.

In the first half of the Letter, the focus is on the salvation of believers provided by God, and the corresponding condemnation of unbelievers – Righteousness and Wrath. “Salvation” has present and future aspects, justification now and resurrection later.

Unbelievers demonstrate the “righteous sentence” of God as they continue and even revel in sin. Death awaits all men because of Adam’s sin, but the impenitent also will undergo the “wrath of God,” both Jewish and Gentile sinners alike. Both “salvation” and “wrath” will be consummated at the end of the age when God raises the dead and liberates the creation itself from bondage to death, and the unrighteous experience the “Day of Wrath.”



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