I am going to speak about one of the letters of the New Testament. It is a very important one and it was written to people just like us. It is not too theoretical for us to understand. I would recommend that the Lord’s people, and especially the Lord’s servants, to continually read this letter and to find out Paul’s understanding of the Gospel of Christ; to find out his understanding of spiritual teaching. It is placed, first, in the revelation of God. Paul was belittled in the religious world, yet he was true to the revelation of God in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. Many are content to look on Christ as a great teacher and as a great martyr. But, Paul goes further, as he has the revelation of God about His Son, he sees Christ as more than a martyr, more than a teacher, “The Son of God with power.”
Chapter 1:4, the natural man in his pride won’t have, and doesn’t like to have this Christ and His salvation. But the necessity for this salvation is what the Truth of God demands. Think of the world that Paul had a part in, he says he was a citizen of no mean city. There are all kinds of citizens, all kinds of divisions of society. It was probably the proudest Empire that had ever been. The same things made by Rome pagan, as by Rome Antichrist. Paul knew the opinions of men about him and their opinions about the Truth of God. He knew the contempt and ridicule that would be heaped upon him by the Roman Emperor, but he says, “I am not ashamed, etc.” “I have a sure foundation,” “I have a hope.”
Romans 1:16 contains the key word of the whole letter, “Gospel.” Then the letter probes deep into the need of the human soul; it reveals what is wrong with humanity and with what puts humanity right. But, first of all I am going to speak about the last chapter, Romans 16, because it gives us the conditions under which the letter was written. A little leisure was granted to God’s children and he spent the time ministering to God’s sheep. It is a delightful thing to minister to God’s people. Paul thought of those sheep, scattered abroad. He had never been at Rome, but there were men and women there, that he knew and loved.
Where was this letter written from? The home of Gaius. 16:23, a noble home. The word of God has produced wonderful hearts and wonderful homes. I am glad for the memories of the days when we had an open home. How thrilled I was to come home and see two bicycles outside with bundles strapped on them and to know that God’s servants were sharing our home.
It meant a lot to Gaius to have that worthy worker in his home. I can picture Paul sitting there, maybe with his head in his hands and telling Tertius (verse 22) what to write those people. Then, I can see Erastus coming in to visit a little and Quartus and others. Gaius would come in once in awhile to see how they were progressing.
Ah! the Gospel and interest in the Gospel, brought out the best that was in the mind of God’s servant. It would be good if you could show the spirit that refreshes the heart of the homeless one.
Conditions will be placed before us that should bring out the best in us, if we grasp the opportunity. Paul mentions a great number in this chapter, he speaks of them one by one. He warns them particularly about those that would cause divisions, verse 17. “Mark them,” label them. “Avoid them,” an urgent warning given about those who would cause divisions and offences; “For they serve not our Lord, Jesus Christ.” They would prevent this great kingdom of God from having the peace that it should have. These marks are so abhorrent to God. The Under-shepherd was on watch for the sheep.
These few thoughts will help us to understand the conditions under which this letter was written. This letter is divided into two sections, 1st Doctrinal, the first 11 chapters. 2nd Practical, personal, affecting present lives of God’s people. The latter is only acceptable when it rests upon the right foundation. That’s why he states clearly, the principles of the doctrine of Christ. 1:16, contains the keyword of the whole following chapter, the beginning of the Gospel of Christ.
The linking of the soul with God, that he speaks of is faith, faith that is the simple faith of a little child. Faith, saving faith is the attitude of mind that links the soul with God. Faith has a basis, an object, and it must have results or it is merely a superstition, a historical fact. It gives us the revelation of God concerning Himself and concerning His revelation to men. Saving faith, its object is a person, the Son of God.
He did not come to the world with a code of ethics or rules, He came with a life, and all our hopes lie around the person of God’s Son. “What think ye of Christ?” Have you come into allegiance to Him? What is the deep-seated attitude of your heart to Christ? Then there must be results. Psalms 55:19, “Because they have no changes, therefore, they fear not God.” They know not God. If we have saving faith, there must be fruit appearing unto God.
The thought develops as he proceeds, but he builds on the right foundation, immortality. By the picture of a degraded humanity, he shows how far men can depart from the original plan of God. Literature, everything is corrupted. The world boasts of its civilization, but it leads to ruin, death, rottenness, and decay.
Chapter 2, shows another class that were not one whit better in the sight of God with all the privileges they had to enjoy. The body is but a tomb. They needed the salvation that came to them, through the provision that comes to them by the Gospel.
Some people are like pagans, some are like professors, there is no difference, all have need of the Gospel. Chapter 3, the same theme is pursued. 19th verse shows, the only place a human being can take, when God can have mercy on him. All must enter by the door and all must believe they are guilty. Verse 22, tells of the righteousness of God that can be obtained, not by mere imitation.
The moment there is a surrender in the human heart, there is an acceptance of us by God. Remember the one who said, “Lord remember me,” and the answer came, his name was written in Heaven. This is the Gospel, a sinner can be saved immediately through his surrender to Christ. Faith in his blood, saving faith, a Redeemer Saviour for the sinner. Therefore a man can be justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Chapter 4, it’s good company we are found in, among those who had faith in God, it’s been from the beginning. Mention is made of Abram and David. It wasn’t just Abraham’s obedience or his character but it was the disposition of his heart Godward. David in his day wrote of the Blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness.
Oh! the wonderful salvation of God. This sweet psalmist of Israel, the whole testimony of a wonderful shield of God. It’s true, there was a deep dark stain on that record, but he speaks of the Blessedness of sins forgiven. By the grace of God, he was able to come into that blessedness. We are brought into company with God’s saints, and the results are seen in the next chapter.
Chapter 5, justified by faith, there’s a new relationship and we have peace with God. Oh! the peace of God, could you sell it? Could you part with it for anything in this world? Judas sold it, but what did he go out to? Night! Demas went out into the darkness of the world, Oh! the soul-destroying, be-numbing influence of this world! Ah! you can’t think of going out into that cold world that destroyed our Lord, Jesus. Verse 2.
Access. No fear now, in coming into the holy of holies. It’s the grace of a new relationship and we proclaim it to the world as the unsearchable riches of Christ. All these things rest on the sure foundation, we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. It’s not all a tear-dimmed sky. We have the valley and the hill; the clouds and the sunshine.
Verse 3, we glory in tribulation. I hope we do. “Through great tribulation, we enter the kingdom of God.” Do we squirm? We are the sanest people on the earth, when we live for the eternal kingdom, for the kingdoms of this world will be abolished, will be destroyed. What a catalogue of benefits we get in this chapter.
Verse 5, the only worthwhile thing is the love of God in your heart. Chapter 6 speaks of dealing with sin. Some would say, if forgiveness of sin is so free, let us continue in sin. He demolishes that thought immediately. This is still the talk of the sinner and of the rebel. How can I do that which is evil? Those who are dead to sin cannot live any longer therein.
11th verse, reckon yourselves indeed dead unto God. Sin is that opposition to the will of God. Let it be the deep intention of our heart to avoid it, to banish it. Put up the curtain of your mind against it. It shouldn’t be there in your heart, mind, or life, the hallowed ground that God has Sanctified.
13th verse, this yielding yourself unto God is the climax of your victory, God is no longer a God afar off. Reckon yourselves dead unto sin as the Lord’s people. The last verse of the chapter gives us warning words of the rightful payment for transgressors. On the other hand the gift of God, that great gift is eternal life.
The beginning of this chapter speaks of Christian baptism. It’s a figurative and symbolic ceremony, it expresses “I witness to all that I die to the old life, and I want to live a new in the new life that comes to us through the Gospel.”
Chapter 7 gives us the conflict that takes place early in the Christian life. The Christian has two natures and we soon discover that we all have the same temptations, the same powerful affections, but there’s a new power that comes unto our lives that enables us to get the victory. This chapter gives us an experience, that can come in the life of every child of God and it will cause them to see that in their flesh no good thing dwelleth.
But, there’s the prospect of victory. We may ask, “Who shall deliver me?” We may be conscious of the old nature, but we need no longer fear its power.
Chapter 8, tells us of that victory. It begins with “there is no condemnation” and closes with “no separation” to those in Christ. In between, there are great vital truths, evidence and proof of victory. They that are in the flesh cannot please God. Cain tried to please God in the power of the flesh, but God had no respect to him.
Others have followed Cain’s way of self-righteousness and unrighteousness. God’s difficulty has been to bring them to be willing to consent to what God has provided for them graciously through the Gospel. “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” It’s the spirit we show and the spirit in us that declares if we are a Christian or not.
Jesus had to say to His disciples, “Ye know not what spirit ye are of.” How remarkable it is that when we come in contact with some people there is a barrier, the spirit is not right. Jacob told Laban’s sons, Genesis 31, how the spirit of their father was manifested. Likewise God saw Cain’s countenance, etc. Genesis 4:6. This spirit of God in us makes us feel that it is worthwhile, to have Fellowship with God.
Think of the loveliness of the character of Jesus, of the ease by which He was approached by His disciples. If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His. If a person is high-minded, if he shows aloofness, if he is hard to approach, it is an indication how far he is from Christ.
Verse 14, “As many as are led, etc.” These are cardinal tests that we may apply to ourselves. Do we apply such tests to our conduct? It’s those who are led by the Spirit of God, who are the children of God. It’s not doctrine, it’s not theory, it’s the spirit of Christ helping you to behave as Christ behaved.
Verse 28-29 shows the purpose of God. All human nature is under the wrath of God and it’s hard for a proud human nature to see the perfection of God’s will and way. The way of Jesus is repulsive to human nature. But, the time is coming when every knee must bow to Christ, whether it is in Heaven or hell. We need not dread the pathway of humiliation, for it’s the path that leads to the place that shall exist. We are led by the spirit of God to build on the certain foundation of an eternal hope.
Verse 35, the chapter closes with a glorious promise. Paul feels that all he has, he would give in exchange for the love and life of God. “Shall tribulation” etc. We haven’t been called upon to endure these things as yet, but would we be willing for the stake? Would we go to death with the sweet confession of the Master on our lips? As I read these verses I am ashamed of myself if ever there has been a wavering thought in my mind. Now and again let us face the possibility of losing more for Christ’s sake.
We live in times that are comparatively easy, but even though sorrow and death may come to us, let us purpose that nothing can separate us. Hope that living faith has come to you. “Hope of our Father’s living hope.”
Chapter 9, Paul speaks of his own countrymen. Think of what the world owes to the Jewish people. We can’t separate the history of the world from the history of the Jews. Paul had a great love for His countrymen and so should we. The Jew is under judgment and wrath now, but he is a message of God to the world in this day.
God had great hope in Abraham. God wanted to illustrate by an earthly people what He wanted in a spiritual people. God reserves the right to say who will be in Heaven, and who will be in hell. God’s election is those who are in Christ. God’s rejection is those who are out of Christ.
“Jacob have I loved,” is the keyword of this chapter. God loves those in Christ, but hates those who are after the flesh. The closing verses give the reason why they had not attained, they sought it not by faith. God said He would lay a stone in Zion, but God’s cornerstone was to them a stumbling stone and a rock of offence. The trouble with the Jew is the trouble with many today; they are unwilling to be associated with the man of Nazareth. They reject God’s way into God’s heart and into God’s Home.
Chapter 10, gives us the opening of the way of God for both Jew and Gentile. It is not something hard to understand; it is something that could be accepted by every sincere human being. Verse 15, through their feet, through the journeys taken, the trouble taken by God’s servants to bring the message of God to honest souls. This message of God causes Faith. (connect with chapter 4). We get a description of this message that brings peace. How wonderful is the thought of the possibility of the Gospel speaking unto people. From the depths of a burdened heart, to the depths of a convicted heart. Deep calling unto deep. Let us be careful that it is the word of truth.
Chapter 11, the continuation of his consideration about his own countrymen. Is it possible that after all the centuries of the care of Jehovah for these people, that there is nothing now? But there is also brought before us in this chapter the glorious future for God’s people, for the earth. It seems only a little that we are gleaning now, but in Revelation we read of the thousands and the ten thousands, not the feeble few, but the great harvest of God. The promises He gives His earthly people, must come through the receiving of Christ and through the receiving of those who bear the name of the Lord.
Verse 12, through the instrumentality of the Cross, they were the instruments of God. If that has resulted in the blessing of God on the Gentiles, how much more will their fullness be? Verse 23, “and they also.” I love to think that in spite of all the past rebellion and sin, God has in view that glorious day when He will graft in that people. Evidently, that day has not arrived yet and it speaks to us of a brighter, better day “and all Israel,” spiritual Israel shall be saved. Paul closes the chapter with a song of praise. The ways of God are past his understanding. There were profound depths of God’s counsels that he couldn’t understand. He laid all on the altar of God and worshipped humbly as a little child, as he said, “How unsearchable, etc.” What wonderful words of consolation.