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05 April 2022

According to Paul

In Romans, Paul presents his most detailed explanation of the gospel. He is dealing with conflicts between Gentiles and Jews in the church, and he is preparing the ground for taking the gospel to the west. In the process, he addresses several related topics, including death, redemption, the Law, resurrection, and the New Creation.

He begins by describing the plight of humanity that resulted from sin, then he presents the solution provided by God through His son, Jesus Christ.

In the end, all men are in the same dilemma. Disobedience alienates them from God and condemns every member of humanity to weakness, decay, and inevitable death. No one is exempt, neither Jew nor Greek, not even the most righteous saint from the history of Israel. Even the holy law given by God at Sinai is unable to reverse this horrific reality.


Paul begins by identifying himself: “Paul, a called apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, which he promised through his prophets.” In this role, he proclaims the gospel about the one who was “marked out as ‘Son of God’ in power, according to the spirit of holiness, from the resurrection of the dead” - (Romans 1:1-4).

This gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Jews and Gentiles are in the same fix, and therefore, acquire right standing before God on the same basis, namely, faith.

God has “revealed a righteousness from faith for faith,” but the gospel also reveals the “wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Sinners resist what truth they already know from the knowledge they have gleaned from the created order - (“The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made”).

Having rejected the God who created all things, they exchange the worship of Him for that of the “likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” - That is, idolatrous worship.

For this reason, God “delivered them up to the lusts of their hearts.” The presence of the very sins in which fallen humanity revels and even boats demonstrates that men are under His “wrath” already.

Put another way, the “wrath” of God includes His handing men over to engage in the sins and trespasses they desire. This picture of idolatry running amok has primarily Gentiles in view.


But what about Jews? Are they any better off than the idolatrous Gentiles? Paul answers in the negative - “No, certainly not, for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.”

He cites several passages from the Hebrew Bible to prove that all men have sinned, and so, everyone is in the same sinking ship, including even the most rigorously Torah-observant Jews. “There is none righteous, no, not one…They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that does good, no, not, so much as one.”

So, what about the Law? Does not its possession give Israel an advantage over unenlightened Gentiles? Well, yes and no. The Jews possess it, and therefore, they understand what God requires. However, the Law speaks to those who are under it:

  • “So that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God; because from the works of the law shall no flesh be set right in his sight; for through the law is the knowledge of sin.”

The possession of the Law serves to highlight Israel’s own sins, and this only increases her responsibility. The Jews are at even greater risk of receiving God’s “wrath” than unenlightened Gentiles. To whom much is given, much is required.

In contrast to the Law, the gospel provides a solution to Jews and Gentiles alike - “The righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all of them who believe, for there is no distinction; all have sinned and lack the glory of God.”

Both Jew and Gentile are set right before God “through the redemption in Christ Jesus.” Thus, a man is put into a right relationship with God from faith, and that is “apart from the works of the Torah.” Thus, God demonstrates His love for us:

  • While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now set right by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life.”

When Paul states we are saved “by his life,” he means his resurrection life. Sin is not reckoned to us if we believe that God “raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead.” He was delivered to a violent death for our trespasses, but he was “raised for our justification.” This is the plight of humanity - “Through one man, sin entered into the world, and death through sin; thus, death passed to all men, for that all sinned.”


The penalty for sin is death. In the passage, Paul is referring to Adam and his disobedience in the Garden of Eden. That first sin doomed all humanity to death and enslavement under sin, the just punishment for disobedience. Not that all die for Adam’s sin, for all men sin. Therefore, all men rightly deserve death. Fortunately, God did not leave humanity without hope:

  • If by the trespass of the one man, the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many…For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.”

Believers have been baptized into Christ’s death so that, “just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection… if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more has dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God.”

Throughout his argument, the counterpart to death is resurrection - Life received by the resurrection from the dead. That knowledge should reorient our entire lives, including our relationship to the Law.

We also must “become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that we should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” Despite being set right before God, believers are still subject to death.

However, “if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead will give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit.”

Believers remain mortal as they continue living in the present age. But whether mortal or immortal, they live an embodied existence. The gift of the Spirit is the guarantee of their future bodily resurrection.

The Spirit dwells in mortal believers and attests that they are the “children of God,” and therefore, “joint heirs with Christ.” The creation itself is in “earnest expectation” as it waits for that day at the end of the present age - the “revealing of the sons of God.”

The disobedience of Adam subjected the entire creation to decay and death; however, all creation will be delivered from this “bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God…at our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:10-23).

Thus, Paul links bodily resurrection and the New Creation. The “redemption of our bodies” refers to our bodily resurrection. If the entire creation waits in anticipation of that event, then its arrival can only mean the commencement of the New Creation. And who, then, “shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Certainly NOT death!