New Testament Week 31: “Justified Freely By His Grace.” – Romans 1-6

Previous File: jmAwaitingTheCommand_2_5.psd Epson_2_05WP_720uni_2005_0411 'Awaiting The Command'

As mentioned last week, the narrative portion of the New Testament concluded with Acts. The remaining books we will study are mostly epistles, or letters, written to the various churches that were being established throughout the world. The churches were an amazingly diverse group of converts who had no experiences starting, organizing, and administering a church. They were high on belief and conviction, but very low on doctrine, policies, and experience. This situation coupled with the difficulty of communication and travel made these epistles the backbone of Christianity’s growth and theology.

With the change to studying epistles I will also change the format of my posts. Moving forward I will still talk about the main focus points, but the context section will be more about defining words and situations. I will add a historical section that will talk about what is going on in the place where the letter is being sent, and what is going on with the author. After that we will do a doctrinal section that outlines and discusses the doctrines being taught and what they mean for us. The rest of the posts will remain the same.

This week we will be studying the first part of Romans. Paul’s epistles are generally organized by longest to shortest, not chronologically, so Romans is the most developed book we will study. Before we jump into it I want to recommend the book, “Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan” by Adam Miller. It is cheap and short but I feel it will help immensely as you study Romans, but also just in the course of your understanding of Jesus and being justified by faith.


– Christ’s atonement provides salvation for all, not just for those born into the covenant.

– Every person sins and therefore we are all in the same situation in this life, in need of Jesus Christ.

– We are Justified (made righteous) through faith, not checking the boxes of the Law.

Context and Timeline:
– The Epistle to the Romans was written between 53-56 AD while Paul was traveling through Macedonia (Greece). He was hoping to visit Rome soon on his way to preach the gospel in Spain.

– Roman Christians were renowned for some reason that is not defined in the letter.

– Paul had many friends in Rome – Prisca, Aquila, and many others who he mentions non-specifically throughout the letter.

– In the first chapter of Romans Paul condemns strange sexual customs – they appear to be condemning homosexuality, which could have been his point, but at that time there was an epidemic of pederasty going through Rome and it could be that Paul is condemning that.

– “O man” is translated more accurately “Whoever you are” and means both men and women.

– Repentance is translated with words that describe it as a kindness from God.

– Recompense can be translated as reward.

– Law with capital “L” refers to the Law of Moses and law with lowercase “l” is just law in general or other laws that are not defined.

– Justified is translated to be righteous or to be oriented toward God.

– Seat of Mercy means the same thing as the Throne of God and Ark of Covenant located in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. The holiest place on earth for Jews.

– Reconciliation is also translated as atonement.

– Phebe was a deaconess of the church and was likely the carrier of the letter sent to Rome by Paul to help the church.

– Tertius signs the letter at the end of Romans, as likely the scribe of the letter for Paul.

History around Epistle:
The most unique part of Paul’s epistle to the Romans is that he had not visited Rome yet. In all of his other epistles he is writing to people and groups with whom he had preached and built the church. However, in Rome, he appeared to have enough friends and contacts that he could write them a letter as well. It appears that many in Rome had been critical of his message preaching among the Gentiles, particularly they felt like he had condoned the dismissal of following the Law of Moses. Paul’s letter seems an effort to explain his teachings and soften them to him for when he does visit. This might explain why it is so much longer than other letters.

A central issue that has been discussed in other posts is the conflicting beliefs and requirements that were being introduced to the church. Jewish born converts were required to follow the Law of Moses and much of its oral law, things like only eating kosher food, circumcision, and Sabbath rules. While Gentile converts were not required to follow those, but there were other deeper issues like Jews believed their salvation was their birth into Abraham’s lineage and covenant, but the new ideas was that salvation was through faith in Jesus Christ, baptism, and all that was taught as truth by the new apostles. I chuckle to think what it would be like in the modern church if it were formal that people who were born in the church had to follow different requirements than converts. Anyway, this was deeply serious issue that was intensifying as the church was growing.

Rome is split into 4 major sections
Chapters 1-4 – Paul’s Thesis Statement – Justification through Faith in Christ
Chapters 5-8 – Justification and Salvation
Chapters 9-11 – Adoption in the House of Israel
Chapters 12-16 – Exhorting to be Kind, Loving, and Accepting in the Church

Doctrinal Teachings:

  • Salvation for All Who Do Not Reject God (Chapter 1)
    • Paul gives us his Thesis Statement in Chapter 1 verse 16-17
      • The Gospel is the Power of God unto Salvation for ALL who believes – both those inside and outside of the church – Their justification (our being made righteous) happens through increasing our faith in Jesus Christ.
    • The end of Chapter 1 is basically an explanation that those who will not be saved are those who know the goodness of God and yet reject Him so they can pursue their selfish goals. Humility and Gratitude to God disappear and the things of God become foolishness.
  • Sin and the Law (Chapter 2)
    • Paul teaches an important thing in this chapter about Sin and the Law.
      • Sin is inevitable, it is the counterpart to the Law. Living the Law perfectly would bring righteousness, but breaking even one part of the Law makes us unrighteous. This means the Law is what makes us need Jesus Christ. The Law seals our fate of being unrighteous.
      • Also, knowing the Law, and thinking it is what makes us righteous, yet still not living it perfectly, causes us to be stumbling blocks to those who know they struggle with the Law.
  • Justification (Chapter 3)
    • Paul begins this chapter by explaining the value of the Law.
      • It gives the safest path to faith in God.
      • It gives us a knowledge of our Sin so we need God.
      • It allows us to teach others the gospel through revelation and the Law.
    • We cannot be Justified by the Law – it condemns us – but we can be justified freely by the grace of Jesus Christ.
      • Everything related to the Law and Prophets is to help us increase our faith in Jesus Christ.
      • Only through faith in Jesus Christ – all people have this chance – can we be justified (made righteous and saved).
    • We have to change our mindset – checking the boxes is not what matters, it is not what determines righteousness, it is not what saves us. The Grace of Jesus Christ is what matters, what makes us righteous and what saves us.
      • Changing this mindset lessens the temptation to boast or feel better than others because we checked boxes.
      • It also lessens shame for when we don’t think we fit the mold because we realize we all don’t fit the mold.
      • It shifts the focus of the Law to driving us to Jesus and compassion to all because we all fail to live the Law.
      • The Law becomes a help, a guide, and a reminder that we need Jesus. Then we can love the Law and Jesus.
  • Faith and Covenants (Chapter 4)
    • To hammer Paul’s point home he brings up the key point the Jews use in making the Law justification. They believe that the circumcision and covenant that Abraham made with God is how they are all made righteous. The covenant and Law are what justified Abraham, and therefore all his posterity.
      • Paul points out that Abraham only received the covenant because he had faith and trust in God before that. The covenant and the Law were just a sign that he had faith in God.
      • Therefore if we keep the Law as our means to justification it is empty because it has not faith.
      • If we have faith in Jesus Christ then we will improve in living the law and make covenants with God as a sign of our faith.
  • Jesus Christ – Reconciliation and Choosing a Master (Chapter 5-6)
    • Christ’s gift of grace is made possible by shedding his blood, dying, and being resurrected on behalf of all men and women. Not only those who are “good” but to all, even His enemies.
      • We are reconciled, or atoned, through His sacrifice and we know that through faith our trials and weaknesses can become sources of strength and hope in Jesus Christ.
    • Sin is inevitable and universal, but so is Jesus Christ’s grace and mercy. In fact, it is more powerful because it is a gift that is freely given to us if we choose it.
    • Grace makes us new creatures in Christ if we choose Him as our master.
      • The free gift of grace is not an excuse to sin more, that rejects the purpose of grace.
      • When we are baptized and make that covenant (and future covenants) we are made new, and brought to life through Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. The newness is our attempt to keep improving and remain faithful to Christ. Grace becomes our master if we choose Jesus Christ. We get to choose Him all the time, especially when we sin.
      • Guilt is that reminder to choose Jesus Christ and His grace.
      • We will continue to fail to live the Law, as it is contrary to our natural desires, but we are no longer governed by the Law. We are governed by grace in Jesus Christ. This grace saves us even as we still fail to live the Law. Our failure reminds us that Jesus loved us and died for us.

Key Moment or Scripture: Romans 3:20-31
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin
21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 
22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 
24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 
25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 
26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. 
28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. 
29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 
30 since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. 

The debate between faith versus works has been happening for thousands of years, and I understand the emotions that can be stoked in the conversation. For my purposes today I want to focus on what Paul is trying to teach us in these verses. There is a specific context in which he is claiming that Jews have become to reliant on the Law for their justification. The context is that no one else can be saved except they are like them and that the Law is what makes them righteous.

We have some of this attitude in the culture of the modern restored church. We can feel like our justification (or what makes us righteous) is checking off the boxes contained in our Law. There are significant problems with this mindset. Paul doesn’t say we should throw away the Law, or stop checking boxes, he is going deeper to why we are checking the boxes, or why we think everyone else has to in order to be as righteous as we are.

The Law, when used as justification, creates false pride, self righteousness, and a distraction from Grace, Love, and Compassion. However, it also creates some worse things like feeling shame when we don’t feel we can live up to it all, hopelessness that God is viewing us the way the “Box Checkers” seem to view us, fear and sadness when loved ones are wandering away from the “Law”. These feelings distract us from Jesus Christ, they separate us from God, and they most definitely do not make us more righteous.

Paul is teaching us that justification comes from faith in Jesus Christ and the humility that we need his help. This spawns a desire to improve ourselves and love others. The motivation for following the Law becomes love, compassion, loyalty, and hope. The Law then becomes a way to see that we need help, a guide to find our way, and a reminder that we cannot even be perfect and therefore need Grace from Jesus Christ.

I know that many will read this and want to add the caveat, “Ya but they still have to do all the stuff.” For today, I am going to say that is false, if they have faith in Jesus Christ and accept His Grace in humility then the stuff will figure itself out, especially if we, those who have been given the amazing gift of the covenant, will minister and love them with compassion. They will see the fruits of the gospel in our lives and respond by following the voice of their master Jesus Christ.

Final Thoughts:
I really hope that you will buy the book I mentioned in the beginning of the post. I believe that it can make a difference in all of our lives. I love Romans, and I love the opposition between Grace and the Law. It makes us think and search and seek out Jesus Christ. I hope that it can help you feel closer to the Lord and more confident in your discipleship.