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Romans Chapters 1-2

(The importance of being a doer of the law)


          The book of Romans is considered to be one of the most doctrinally important books of the scripture.  It is written by the Apostle Paul, who was well educated in the Mosaic law.  The Apostle Paul was, "Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:5-6), and educated at the "feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3).  He would be what we would call today a prosecuting attorney for he was sent out by the High Priest to prosecute the church (Acts 9:1-2).  In fact, Paul was so intelligent that the Apostle Peter wrote warning people of how difficult his writings were (2 Pet. 3:15-16).  We should take heed to this warning and take great care in understanring the writings of the Apostle Paul.  After all, with his great education in the Mosaic law, we need to understand his writings in light of the Mosaic law.

          Chapter one opens up with a traditional salutation.  This book is written by, "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1-2).  It is written, "Concerning [God's] Son Jesus Christ our Lord . . . By whom we have received grace and apostleship" (Rom. 1:3-6).  It was written, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints" (Rom. 1:7).  Paul then thanks God for them and their faith (Rom. 1:8-12), and then mentions his debt to both Jew and Greek alike (Rom. 1:13-16). 


Righteousness is Revealed: (Romans 1:17-31)


          After mentioning his debt, Paul starts out with the main point of the first few chapters,"For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17).  God's righteousness is revealed from "faith to faith" since the beginning of time.  Righteousness has never been by the works of the law, but by faith.  Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet to support this by saying, "the just shall live by faith" (Hab. 2:4).  Righteousness has always come by faith, but wrath comes by the law.  "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (Rom. 1:18).  And why did this wrath come, "Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them" (Rom. 1:19).  They received God's wrath because God was manifest in them by creation itself (Rom. 1:20).  This wrath came because though, "they knew God, they glorified him not as God" (Rom. 1:21-23). 

          The result of their actions is that, "God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves" (Rom. 1:24) and unto "vile affections" (Rom. 1:26).  The uncleanness mentioned is homosexuality, and a whole list of others (Rom. 1:26-27, Rom. 1:29-31).  This was given as a, "recompense of their error which was meet."  The Greek word for "recompense" is antimisthia, which means "requital, correspondence: - recompense" (Strong's Concordance - G489).  This is a legal term that means, "a return or compensation for a good or bad action" (The Free Dictionary Online).  They were getting what they deserved.  God gave them over to these vile affections because of their own actions.  The reason for this is that they, "[knew] the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom. 1:32).  This is an example of the judgment of God, which always comes through the law.  Those Paul is writing of obviously understood God's law, but did not practice His law.  This brought upon them the curses from the law, which are listed in Rom. 1:26-31.  A simple study of the law of God will reveal that the curses that God will bring upon someone for not following His law are the same as Paul listed here in Romans chapter one.  For example, Paul said God will make us prideful (Rom. 1:30); God's penal clause said He, "will break the pride of your power" (Lev. 26:19).  Paul said God would turn them over unto "fornication" (Rom. 1:29); God's penal clause said we will, "betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her" (Deut. 28:30).  Paul said they would be "without understanding" (Rom. 1:31), but the Psalms teach that, "a good understanding have all they that do his commandments" (Psalm 111:10).  A study of the penalties of the Mosaic law compared to the list Paul provides clearly shows that this is a result of the curse of the law.  Each one is either a direct curse or the result of a curse from God's law.  Those Paul is speaking of are receiving exactly as the law promised.  In fact, the next chapter plainly tells us so.


The Judgment of God: (Romans 2:1-10)


          In Romans chapter two, Paul makes the point that we need to be careful of what we judge.  It is "inexcusable" when we judge another, because we are guilty of the same (Rom. 2:1).  When we judge others we are condemning ourselves because we are guilty as well, but, "the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things" (Rom. 2:2).  Paul clarifies his position later in chapter twelve when he says, "avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom. 12:19).  It is not our place to judge another, but God is the Judge of all people.  This, however, does not mean there is nothing we should do when we are wronged.  There is a way we can affect a remedy according to the Mosaic law.  The Messiah clearly taught to confront our brother if he "trespass against thee" (Matt. 18:15).  We are to go to him by ourselves.  If he does not repent we are to bring one or two with us as "witnesses" (Deut. 19:15, Matt. 18:16).  If he still does not repent, even after the church has heard the matter, he is to become as a "heathen" unto you.  The purpose of this is to allow for repentance, which the Mosaic law endorses.

          When properly understood, the Mosaic law allows for repentance.  The Mosaic law works very similar to our court system.  When a trespass was made against someone, that person could take them to court (or the Temple - Ex. 18:21-22).  However, this was not necessary if the brother would turn in repentance, which is what the Messiah was speaking of in Matt. 18:15-17.  God even said the same when He said, "For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice" (Hos. 6:6).  When someone was brought to the Temple before the rulers of Israel, the party with the grievance would owe a heave offering as payment for their service, and the party who was found guilty would owe a sacrifice.  God, when He said he desired, "mercy, and not sacrifice" was saying he wanted His people to forgive each other their trespasses, but repentance was always first.  For more on how the sacrificial system works please watch my video, "The Sacrificial System."

          Those that, "judgest them which do such things, and doest the same" will not escape the judgment of God (Rom. 2:3).  This is the same as despising, "the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering" (Rom. 2:4).  If God is "longsuffering" towards our sin, shouldn't we be "longsuffering" towards our brother's sins?  The result of God's "goodness" is that it leads to "repentance" (Rom. 2:4).  This should be our goals as well.  Our goodness and longsuffering towards our brother, especially when we have been wronged, is designed to lead them to repentance.  Instead of taking our brother immediately to court/temple, we should seek them out and give them the opportunity to repent first.  Going to court/temple should always be a last resort.  If our, "hardness and impenitent heart" leads us to judge our brother, we are building up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath (Rom. 2:5, 8-9).  After all, there is a day coming where God will, "render to every man according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:6) and to those who, "by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" He will give eternal life (Rom. 2:7, 10).


The Importance of Doing the Law: (Romans 2:11-29)


          This next section is hard for most people to accept.  Keep in mind, the main point is that God is not a respecter of persons (Rom. 2:11).  Why, because, "as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law" (Rom. 2:12).  God is a just judge and will judge all accordingly.  Whether you knew the law, or not, God's judgment will be righteous.  "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Rom. 2:13).  It does not matter whether or not you knew God's law, what matters is that you practiced God's law.  We are still expected to practice the law of God today.  Just as James said, "be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves" (James 1:22).  The example given is a Gentile who did the things of the law.  This demonstrated that they have the law in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-15).  "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men" (Rom. 2:16), these Gentiles will be judged as having followed God's law.  But the Jew, that rests in the law, and has been instructed in the law, and teaches the law, and has the knowledge of the law, does not teach the law to themselves and dishonors God (Rom. 2:17-23).  Though they know the law, they do not practice the law and "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through [them]" (Rom. 2:24).  The Jews who know the law, but don't practice the law, blashpeme God through their disobedience.  The Gentile who does not know the law, but still practiced those things that were in the law, shall be judged as one who has the law in their hearts.

          "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision" (Rom. 2:24).  Though circumcision is one of the laws of God, and should be followed, this is not the only requirement necessary to practice God's law.  Circumcision is a sign of the Mosaic Covenant.  This was a decision that the parents made on the eighth day of the child's life and not a decision that was made as an adult.  Just because your parents made this decision for you does not make you a follower of God's law.  Once you become of age you need to practice this law on your own.  You can no longer rely on your parent's decision for you.  If, as an adult, you choose not to follow God's law, your circumcision will be counted as uncircumcision (Rom. 2:25).  The same is true for the uncircumcised.  If, though not raised in God's law, an uncircumcised chooses to do what is written in God's law, his uncircumcision will be counted as circumcision (Rom. 2:26).  "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh; But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Rom. 2:27-28).  This calls to memory how Israel got it's first king.  The people chose a man named Saul, who was impressive in his appearance, but God picked a man named David, who was impressive in his heart.  God told Samuel, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7).  This principle has not changed.  God still looks upon our heart, and not our outward appearance, even when considering His law.

          This brings up an interesting point concerning God's law.  Circumcision is definitely a law of God and should be followed, but the law specifically said to do so on the eighth day (Gen. 17:12, Lev. 12:3).  Is a Gentile, who was not circumcised on the eighth day, required to get circumcised as an adult?  After all, Abraham was circumcised as an adult (Gen. 17:24) and Joshua, "circumcise[d] again" all the adult males at God's order (Josh. 5:2).  This question was answered in Acts 15.   There were those among the Jews who believed circumcision and keeping the law was necessary for salvation (Acts 15:5). The Apostles and elders came together to discuss this matter (Acts 15:6).  The answer to the question was given by Peter in Acts 15:7-11.  The proof of the Gentile's salvation before circumcision is that of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8).  The Holy Spirit was the evidence of their salvation, which they had.  Why then should they, "tempt God" and put a, "yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither [their] fathers nor [they] were able to bear" (Acts 15:10)?  James stood up to answer this question by citing the Prophets (Acts 15:14-18) and concluding, "trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood" (Acts 15:19-20).  James, being level headed, suggested not to start the Gentiles off with circumcision, but with the idolatry laws, adultery laws, and dietary laws.  It is not that circumcision is a bad thing, but was specifically to be done on the eighth day.  One could argue, since this day was missed, when should they do so as an adult?  The scripture is not clear.  If an adult wants to do so, perhaps it should be considered a private matter and no one else's business.  The adult in question should make up his own mind and we should not judge their decision.  Some have argued that since Joshua circumcised the uncircumcised adult males to prepare them for passover (Josh. 5:8-10), new converts should be allowed one passover without being circumcised, then the next one they are to be circumcised.  This gives each male the time to make this personal decision, but I find it hard to make a strong argument for this from scripture, though it does offer a solution.  Either way, I don't see it as anyone's business but the male in question, and I doubt anyone will be checking all males during passover either.


           The book of Romans can be very complicated.  Paul spends much time explaining righteousness, judgment, the law, justification, sanctification, etc.  His purpose is not to get rid of any of them, but rather to put them in their proper place.  Each topic throughout this book is a valid topic of the scriptures, but has not been understood in the proper context.  Paul is trying to clarify their context and put them in the right place.  To continue this study in Romans chapter three please click here.

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By Steve Siefken

  Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth

not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 KJV