This is my personal notes as I read through Romans.
- Rom 1:1-17: Introduction
- 1:1-7: Paul greets his readers
- 1:8-15: Paul longs to see them
- 1:16-17: Paul introduces the main topic of the epistle: salvation for the Jews and Gentiles.
- Rom 1:18-3:20: No one is righteous before God
- 1:18-32: God’s wrath is upon unrighteous men
- 2:1-11: God punishes all unrighteous men whether Jew or Gentile
- 2:12-3:20: Jews and Gentiles are condemned by the law of Moses or the law of their conscience
- Rom 3:21-5:21: Righteousness is granted by faith alone
- 3:21-30: Righteousness is granted to Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ
- 3:31-4:25: Righteousness has always come from faith (ex: Abraham)
- 5:1-21: Righteousness is freely available in Christ to all who believe (Adam vs Jesus)
- Rom 6:1-8:39: The righteous ones have a new life
- 6:1-14: We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
- 6:15-7:6: We are under a new “enslavement”
- 6:15-23: We are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness
- 7:1-6: We are no longer slaves to the law but to the Spirit
- 7:7-8:39: We have a new life
- 7:7-25: The law does not produce evil, sin in us does
- 8:1-17: We are free in the law of the Spirit and adopted as sons of God
- 8:18-39: The future glory overcomes present sufferings
- Rom 9:1-11:36: Salvation is for the Jews as well
- 9:1-5: Not all the Jews have believed in Christ
- 9:6-13: But God’s Word of Promise has not failed
- 9:14-18: God’s sovereign choice is not injust
- 9:19-23: God cannot be blamed for man’s faults
- 9:24-29: God chose His people from all nations (not only and not all Israel)
- 9:30-10-4: Israel failed to believe pursuing a righteousness based on the Law
- 10:5-13: Righteousness based on faith is for all who call on God
- 10:14-21: Israel failed to believe even if they heard the gospel
- 11:1-10: A remnant of Israel believed, but the rest was hardened
- 11:11-36: Israel was hardened for the salvation of the Gentiles
- Rom 12:1-15:13: Love builds up the body of Christ
- 12:1-2: Gentiles (as well as Jews) must offer their bodies as a living sacrifice
- 12:3-8: Diversity of gifts must serve one body and not be used to divide
- 12:9-21: They ought to overcome evil done to them by doing good
- 13:1-7: Submission to authorities
- 13:8-10: Love fulfills the law
- 13:11-14: Put on the armor of light
- 14:1-15:7: Do not judge others because of food and days
- 15:8-13: Christ is the salvation for Jews and Gentiles
- Rom 15:14-16:27: Paul desires a deeper relationship with the Romans
- 15:14-33: Paul desires to minister to the Romans in person
- 16:1-16: Paul greets the Romans he knows
- 16:16-23: The Romans must learn to be wise discerning good and evil
- 16:24-27: Doxology
Ro 1:1–2 The Gospel of God which he promised
10.13.17 – “Promise of God” theme of the Bible: Jesus came to fulfill God’s promises announced by the prophets
Ro 1:4 ESV Son of God in power
10.13.17 – Jesus is already called as “his Son” in beginning of v3. The focus is on “Son of God in power” by the “resurrection of the dead.” The resurrection of the dead powerfully shouts to the world that Jesus is the Son of God.
Ro 1:16 ESV For I am … God for salvation
10.13.17 – Do I believe the Gospel is the power of God for salvation? If I do, then I would not be ashamed to proclaim it as Paul
Ro 1:17 The righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith
This is the main point of the letter: righteousness through faith
Ro 1:20 For his invisible attributes […] have been clearly perceived
People say they do not want to believe in God because they cannot see Him, but this verse says God’s power and divine nature are “perceived” (=considered, thought carefully) through His creation. The conclusion is unbelievers are “without excuse” => radical
Ro 1:21 They knew God
Unbelievers “knew” God in the sense of being aware. See v32
Ro 1:23 exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images
Idolatry: men worshipped the creation instead of the Creator (see v25)
Ro 1:24 God gave them up
God did not push them to do evil, but did not refrain them from evil as to receive what they deserve. They did whatever they wanted and received the consequences.
Ro 2:1 in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself
The “speck and log” paradigm
I wonder if Paul addresses Christians who see evil, and condemn them (judgmental) but do them as well (hypocrisy). Verse 4 makes it sound geared toward Christians.
Verse 6: God will render according to his “works”. Disobedience to the truth and righteousness will lead to wrath.
Ro 2:4 God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
It is a warning. Be aware! We sometimes have this feeling that nothing bad can happen to us. God is gracious to everyone, but it does not mean He does not care. He will bring judgment if we do not repent.
Ro 2:12 Without the law … by the law
All sinners will perish with or without the law. The knowledge of the law determines the standards by which one is judged. See v14: the gentiles are a “law to themselves” because the moral law is written in their hearts. Their conscience of what is right or wrong will judge them.
Ro 2:13 The doers of the law who will be justified
Wow. The doers will be justified. “justified” means “to demonstrate that something is morally right, to show to be right, to prove to be right.” Assuming rightly that Romans was written by one author, “justified” must have a different meaning than “justification by faith” explained in later chapters.
Ro 2:15 Their conscience
I wonder how then we distinguish between subjective and objective guilt. The conscience is subjective. We sometimes feel guilty though we have not done anything objectively (by the law of God) wrong.
Ro 2:17 You call yourself a Jew
Apparently, there was an issue between Jews and Gentiles. Paul made it clear: everyone will be judged by God according to the law of Moses or the law of their conscience. But now, he points out the issue: Jews should not think about themselves higher than Gentiles because they have the law. They say they “boast in God” (v17) but in reality they seek the praise of men (v29). They behave as hypocrites making themselves teachers of the law (v19-20), but actually break it (v21-23). Their actions bring blasphemy from the Gentiles because they see what the Jews say and what they do and it does not match! The Jews boast of their circumcision, but they truly missed out: what matters is the circumcision of their heart. The real Jew – people of God – is “one inwardly” (v28).
Does it not sound like one of the main problems with Christians? hypocrisy? We proclaim, but we are not like we say. We claim we know God, but our actions are occasions for blasphemy. We want to teach the world, but we do not even do what we say.
Ro 3:3 Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God?
All have failed (see in v9-10) before God. The Jews failed as well but it does not mean God’s sovereign plan of salvation has failed. Instead, God will carry on his wrath on everyone including the Jews. They were not better off (see v9).
Ro 3:8 Why not do evil that good may come?
Foolish talk from unbelievers – like Paul says in v5. This is still something people do using philosophical argumentation.
Ro 3:20 By works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight
The law keeps people who have knowledge of it (the Jews) accountable before God because it points out to those who violate it or in other words “through the law comes knowledge of sin.” The law does not indicate if someone is good/righteous enough before God, but it sets the boundaries where people fail. That’s why legalism fails before God. It seeks and tries to stay within the limits of what is not sin. Though there are limits, it is not the purpose nor of the heart/spirit of the law which is “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:5)
Ro 3:21 Although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it
The law was never intended to be used to bring righteousness. The standard of God’s righteousness is not the law, but Christ and it is only reachable “through faith in Jesus Christ” (v22).
Ro 3:24 Justified by his grace as a gift
All (who believe – v22) have sinned and all are justified by grace as a gift. Does it contradict Rom 2:12-13 saying that the doers of the law are justified? In 2:13, the emphasis is hearers vs doers/Law of Moses vs Law of conscience/Jews vs Gentiles. Those who teach or hear the law but do not obey will not be justified. Those who do the law will be justified. There is no contradiction in the sense that Rom 3 deals with the means of justification while Rom 2 points out our attitude towards God’s justification. Those who are justified do obey the law.
Ro 3:25 This was to show God’s righteousness
It is talking about God’s wrath that was not poured out on sinners prior to the coming of Jesus. This verse is the response to the following question: If justification is found in Christ, then why did the Jews and all sinners before Christ get punished? God demonstrated his righteousness because Jesus was made propitiation for all who believe and God was not unjust but was patiently showing grace as he “had passed over former sins.” As conclusion, God is just (v26) and the justifier of those who believe.
Ro 3:30 God is one
There is only one God who created everyone and justification by faith is for everyone.
Ro 3:31 We uphold the law
Faith does not replace the law. Faith has always been there even from the time of Abraham. Rom 4 demonstrates that Abraham was saved by faith, and then was given circumcision (law) as a seal/sign of righteousness. The law must be obeyed by faith and in this sense, faith affirms the law.
Ro 4:7 Whose lawless deeds are forgiven
The one who did lawless deeds (sins) did not deserve to be forgiven. He is blessed because God counted him as righteous “apart from works” (v6).
Ro 4:11 The sign of circumcision as a seal of righteousness
A seal indicates “ownership, authority, or authenticity” (Lexham Bible Dictionary).
A seal “confirms or attests to the genuineness of something ‘certification, validation, proof, evidence of genuineness.” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 674–675.)
The “seal” image is not used to show the guarantee of salvation. When we think about sealing something, we think about “locking” it. But in this case, circumcision was given as a “evidence of genuineness.”
In this passage, circumcision is seen by the Jews as a sign of belonging to God’s people. Circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of righteousness or acceptance before God. Since they are Abraham’s offspring, then they thought they were the righteous people because of their heritage. To them, being circumcised meant being part of the people of God.
But Paul demonstrates the reasoning is wrong. Physical circumcision does not separate unrighteous from righteous. It is only a sign/external evidence pointing to the righteousness that is received by faith demonstrated by deeds (v12). Those who are truly circumcised are circumcised in their heart.
Ro 4:12 The father of the circumcised
Abraham had faith before he was circumcised which makes him the father of the uncircumcised believers, but also the father of the circumcised who walk in his footsteps.
Abraham is not only the father of the Jews. He is the father of all the righteous by faith. The Jews do not have a special right due to their birth.
Ro 4:15 For the law brings wrath
This is a difficult argument to understand in this context. I believe it is related to v16 explaining the promise rests on grace and is guaranteed because of faith.
1. The law brings wrath and therefore, if the promise was based on the law, then no one (not even the Jews) would be able to receive the promise.
2. “Where there is no law” may refer to faith. It does not mean that faith removes the law though. It is used in the context of the promise. “But” shows this idea. Law condemns BUT where there is faith, there is no condemnation (paraphrase) and the promise can be guaranteed by faith.
Ro 4:17 Calls into existence the things that do not exist
It refers to the dead who come to life. People who did not know God were given life.
Ro 4:20 No unbelief
It is interesting to see how the New Testament seems to show a Abraham who had no doubt, but the OT shows Abraham battling to believe in the promise of a son (to be confirmed). But this is not contradictory. Abraham surely believed God was able to accomplish what He promised, but he had to fight for faith.
Ro 4:24 For ours also
Paul makes clear he believes the offspring of Abraham is faith based and not law/physical birth based.
Ro 5:3 Suffering produces endurance
Sufferings produces endurance when we endure patiently.
Endurance produces character because our character is shaped through repeated experiences.
Character produces hope: this is the “happy path” of suffering. Our matured character looks upon the reality to come rather than the current difficulty.
Ro 5:5 Hope does not put us to shame
Hope does not put us to shame because of God’s love. Our hope is certain because God loved us even when we were against Him. He poured this love into our hearts so that we have the assurance our hope is not vain. So if God loved us when we were rebel, He will certainly save us from sufferings and from damnation now that we are reconciled with Him. This is the essence of this love passage v5-11
Ro 5:6 Christ died for the ungodly
This verse shows how God’s love was expressed for us. He loved even before we loved Him. He loved when we were enemies (v8-10).
Ro 5:9 Much more shall we be saved
If God justified us by the blood of His Son while we were enemies, we have the assurance we will be saved from his wrath now that we are justified.
Ro 5:11 We also rejoice
What we gained through justification and reconciliation is not only salvation from God’s wrath. It is the joy of this renewed relationship with God and communion in Him through Christ.
Ro 5:14 Like the transgression of Adam
It is a complicated statement to understand. The context does not give any information for the reader to understand what the author meant.
It possibly refers to Hosea 6:7 indicating that Adam transgressed the covenant. So Paul might have meant those from Adam to Moses did not transgress a covenant but still sinned.
Or it might refer to the specific effect of Adam’s sin that spread sin and death to everyone else. In this interpretation, Adam was a “type of the one who was to come” because his “special” sin led all to death.
Ro 5:15 Many died through one man’s trespass
It seems to me that this verse backs up the doctrine of original sin and deprivation. Adam’s sin led others to die. It does not mean that they were punished because of his sin, but that sin corrupted mankind. (see v19)
It is strange that the verse uses “much more have the grace of God” since all men died.
Ro 5:17 Free gift of righteousness
“Free gift” is repeated five times in this passage (v15-17). ESV add “free”, but the Greek word means “gift”
Ro 5:20 The law came in to increase the trespass
The law made the violations explicit. In this sense, it increased the trespass. There is no more confusion between objective and subjective guilt.
Ro 5:21 Sin reigned in death
Sin reigned and it was visible because everyone died. The power of sin is death. Sin has reigned but grace reigns through the righteousness of Christ. The power of grace is Christ’s righteousness leading us to eternal life. His righteousness is unshakable which ends the reign of sin.
Ro 6:2 we who died to sin
If righteousness is given by faith, then some would argue that this righteousness by faith could lead to sin more since righteousness by faith does not need good works… while those who follow the law do good (though it is to obtain righteousness).
But Paul argues those who have faith died with Christ to sin and they live a new life in Him. Their desires have changed. They do not want to sin anymore, but want to please God though not to save themselves from God’s wrath.
Ro 6:6 The body of sin might be brought to nothing
We could interpret this verse as in the future. We are not slave to sin anymore because we are not subject to death. But for now, with our current body, we are still trapped to sin and our body will die.
But I believe Paul is talking about the current situation on earth since he deals with the issue of “Are we to continue in sin” (v1). We are not enslaved to sin because we have died to sin in the death of Christ. Through this unity (v5), we are free from sin to live for God (v11). Paul does not say we do not experience sin anymore. Instead, in v12, we fight sin in our mortal body to refuse its “passions.”
Ro 6:14 Since you are not under law but under grace
This is the conclusion of Paul’s answer to “does grace make us sin more?”
Sin does not have dominion because we are under grace. The law condemn us because of our transgressions and our sin had dominion because the law only condemns. But because of Christ, we are free from the condemnation of sin. So sin does not reign in us, instead we are alive in Christ living for God away from sin. That’s the power of grace. Grace enables us to live in righteousness. Though we sin, we can move on. We can try again and overcome.
Ro 6:17 to the standard of teaching which you were committed
Paul is addressing convert Jews? Strange because in v19, he talks about their impurity and lawlessness which is probably not a reference to the Jews, but convert Gentiles who did not have the Mosaic Law and gave themselves to idolatry and sexual immorality.
Ro 6:20 You were free in regard to righteousness
They were not free not from condemnation, but they were free in the sense they did not care and server righteousness. They had a different master called “sin” to satisfy.
Ro 6:22 Leads to sanctification
Slaves of God are led to do what is right and this process is called sanctification.
Ro 7:4 Likewise
The comparison with the husband dying and the woman free from the law of marriage is interesting:
Woman (Jews) bound to the husband (law) as long as he lives
Husband (law) dies
Woman (Jews) becomes free to marry someone else (Jesus) and not bound to the dead one (law).
But this comparison does not reflect 100% what is said in v4:
You (woman) have died to the law (husband)
You belong to another (Jesus)
Ro 7:5 Aroused by the law
Paul sounds like the law is bad or is sin (see v7). Unless he meant that the law stirred up our sinful passions. We know the law not to transgress but our sinfulness leads us to want to violate it.
Ro 7:5 We were living in the flesh
Past tense: it is in the past that we lived in the flesh.
Ro 7:6 New way of the Spirit
New way of the Spirit vs the old way of the written code. This is the first time Paul introduces this “opposition” between the law and the Spirit.
Ro 7:7 If it had not been for the law
The law is good (v12) by teaching what is not.
Ro 7:8 Seizing an opportunity through the commandment
Sin seems to use the knowledge of the law to push us to do more sins where law says no. Ex: Sin may use “You shall not covet” to push us to covet wealth, women/men, miscellaneous material things, etc.
Ro 7:8 Sin lies dead
See note on 7:9
Ro 7:9 When commandment came, sin came alive and I died
v8-9 are very difficult to understand. On one hand, with law, there is no condemnation because the law says “if you violate this… then you deserve this punishment.”. On the other hand, the law of Moses came in way after death was already introduced as punishment for Adam’s sin. Now Paul has mainly the law of Moses in his mind, but he may be referring to any kind of law. In Adam’s case, God gave Adam and Eve the commandment of not eating the fruit of the tree of life least they die. So the “Sin lies dead apart from the law” or “when commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (v9) is valid.
Ro 7:10 The very commandment that promised life
Rom 10:5, Lev 18:5, Ez 20:11 says to one shall live by the commandments God gave if he does them. I am not sure to understand this statement. Is it a promise for life or an observation?
Ro 7:13 Might become sinful beyond measure
“Sinful” here could be translated “erroneous.” The French version is “condamnable.”
Ro 7:14 I am of flesh, sold under sin
Present tense: Does Paul talk about the current situation as Christian? Not sure if this is the correct understanding. But v14-15 is a practical observation of our daily life as Christian for sure.
Ro 7:16 I agree with the law
We agree with the law when we do what we do not want because we see the law as good and we want to do what is good, but that we fail doing it.
Ro 7:17 It is no longer I who do it but sin
Paul is explaining:
1. why the law is good but the result in us is evil instead of good.
2. why there is such a conflict on the inside.
“It is no longer I who do it” does not say that we are not responsible for the wrong we do. The “I” is our will. Our will represents who we truly are. “But sin that dwells within me” shows a separation between our will and our “flesh.” Sin inside of us is what lead us to do evil instead of good, not the law. Sin inside of us is what lead us to be conflicted. See v18
Ro 7:18 Nothing good dwells in me
Our flesh seems to be totally corrupted – even after conversion. There is a new will that is within us now to do what is good before God, but the old “flesh” or our body has not been redeemed yet. Our flesh does not have “the ability to carry [what is good] out.”
Ro 7:22 I delight in the law of God
Some think this passage 7:14-25 describes the life of a non convert, but this statement shows that Paul deals with Christians. Unbelievers do not delight in the law of God. They do not have the desire to seek God (See Rom 3) and do not experience this inner conflict between the law of sin and the law of God/Spirit.
Ro 7:23 Another law waging war against the law of my mind
“Another law” refers to v21 which is the law or habitual practice to see evil lying close when we want to do right.
“law of my mind” refers to the desire to do good
Ro 7:24 This body of death
Paul seems to indicate the old “body” is the issue. It has not been redeemed yet and sin has still its effect on it.
Ro 7:25 Through Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is the solution to this internal conflict. It still occurs in the inside, but what Christ has removed the condemning power of sin (v1).
Paul summarizes the situation. We do what is pleasing to God with our will/desires but with our body, we serve our own pleasure. This is odd to end this way especially with the beginning of v25 saying that we have deliverance from our “body of death” through Christ.
Ro 8:1 There is therefore no condemnation
“Therefore” must be the consequence of “through Jesus Christ” in v25.
Ro 8:2 The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus
We are free from condemnation because we are under the law of the Spirit of life which was made possible because Christ accomplished the law to fulfill the “righteous requirement of the law” (v4) while being “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (v3). So for those who are in Christ, we are not under the law of “sin and death” (which is the law that condemns us whether the law of Moses or of our conscience), but we are under the law of the Spirit of life or also called the law of Christ.
Ro 8:3 He condemned sin in the flesh
“Sin in the flesh” refers to our sin, not supposedly Christ’s. God sent Jesus to condemn our sin on the cross.
Ro 8:4 Who walk not according to the flesh
Those “who walk” does not necessarily refer to those who “do.” Paul has just established the fact that Christ is the one who delivers us from sin and not our accomplishment of the law. It refers to those who now “live” according to the Spirit (see v5).
Ro 8:6 Mind on the flesh… Mind on the Spirit
The opposition between flesh and Spirit does not indicate what is material is evil and what is spiritual is good. Paul does not say the body is evil. “Flesh” does include the passionate and wicked desires of the body but it points to all wickedness we want (for ex: dominion over others which is not physical). See also v9
Ro 8:7 Indeed, it cannot
Paul really makes a distinction between Christians and non-Christians. Those who set their mind on the flesh are under condemnation (because not under Christ). They cannot submit to “God’s law” which probably refers to doing what is righteous before God. It does not necessarily points to the law of Moses (?). So unbelievers cannot do anything that pleases God (see v8).
Ro 8:9 You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit
This phrase shows that Paul uses “flesh” to represent wicked desires and not the body since his readers were surely alive in their bodies. They were not in the flesh but in the Spirit in the sense that they were alive in Christ and received God’s Spirit in them. They were renewed in the Spirit to walk in the Spirit.
Ro 8:10 The body is dead
Our body is corrupted by sin and cannot be redeemed as is. It has to die. But we have life in the Spirit. This is also reinforced in v11 where Paul says that God will give life our “mortal bodies” in the context of the resurrection of Christ. He points out that our bodies will be redeemed somehow after death.
Ro 8:12 We are debtors
The structure of the sentence says we are not debtors to the flesh but does not tell what we are debtors to.
Ro 8:13 You will die
This verse is ambiguous:
1. Is salvation work based? If we do evil, we will die? Paul may be using a word play in this sentence: live in the flesh -> die vs put to death the flesh -> live. It is not that salvation is work based, but a Christian must live according to the Spirit.
2. What kind of death Paul is dealing with? Based on the previous comment, it must be the spiritual death since the body still dies for Christians and non Christians.
Ro 8:15 Fall back into fear
This is a strange statement. So far in this book, Paul has not brought up the idea of “fear” (apart from Rom 3:18 talking about the fear of God). So what does he refer to? This fear is the result of a “spirit of slavery.” This spirit of slavery must be opposed to the “spirit of adoption.” It must be slavery to sin that draws us to fear for our salvation.
Ro 8:17 Provided we suffer with him
Paul introduces a new “theme” here when he talks about suffering. We will be glorified with Christ if we suffer because of our faithfulness to Him (see v18 and on). Christians must persevere in their faith as to receive the reward.
Ro 8:19 The revealing of the sons of God
The creation waits (present tense) which implies that the revelation points to the time when the sons are fully revealed with glory.
Ro 8:20 because of him who subjected it
Who is “him?” It is difficult to say: Satan? Adam? God? Satan or Adam would preferred if the intent of this phrase is to seek who caused the creation to be futile. God would be preferred if it is meant to indicate who subjected the creation to futility – not because He is responsible, but because He has the power to subject. This interpretation may be preferred since the verse ends with in hope”
Ro 8:21 The creation will be set free […] and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God
Paul uses future tense which means the creation is not yet free but will be free at the revealing of the glory of the children of God.
Ro 8:23 We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies
Paul describes the reality that is taking place within Christians. We have the “firstfruits of the Spirit” which is a “foretaste and pledge of blessings to come” (Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains New York: United Bible Societies, 1996, 576.) but we still groan inwardly because we do not live the fullness of our adoption as sons. We will experience this when our bodies are redeemed and transformed in immortal bodies of glory.
Ro 8:24 In this hope we were saved
We are saved in the hope of being fully redeemed even from our bodies. Salvation is a process that will be completed at the end. So even if we suffer in this present time whether because of persecution or because of the desires of the flesh, we wait with patience because of the hope that is unseen yet.
Ro 8:26 Likewise […] with groanings too deep for words
The whole creation has been groaning in the pains of childbirth (v22) to see the sons of God.
We ourselves groan inwardly (v23) waiting for adoption as sons of God.
The Spirit intercedes for us with groanings (v26) to help us in our weakness according to the will of God (v27)
Ro 8:28 All things work together for good
There are present sufferings, but our future glory is certain. Because of the consequences of sin (futility, corruption), we suffer now whether it is caused by inner or outer struggles but we have hope in a future glory which is the adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies (v18-25). We not only have hope, we also have help from the Holy Spirit (v26-27) and the certainty that God will sovereignly brings those He foreknew to glory (v28-30).
“all things work together” gives us confidence that God handles everything. Therefore, instead of being afraid of things we cannot control, we trust in God’s sovereignty and cling on His word of promise. This hope free us from worries.
“for good” must be linked with v29 “conformed to the image of His Son.” God is not promising our earthly wellness, but our spiritual abundance in the likeness of Christ.
“to those”: The promise is for His people only, those who love God possible because they were called by God
“called according to His purpose”: what is God’s purpose?
Ro 8:29 For those whom he foreknew
Foreknowledge → predestination → calling → justification → glorification (“golden chain of salvation”):
* The main debate is to say: should we think “some” or “all” in this sentence: some foreknown would be predestined, and some predestined would be called, and some called justified, and some justified glorified… or all foreknown would be predestined, all predestined called, all called justified etc… I tend to think that “all” is more appropriate. In the case of “some”, the picture that I have in mind is a funnel. So Paul would be saying that just a small amount of persons would be glorified at the end which does not make sense in the context, because the apostle is trying to demonstrate that God is the ground of our salvation and we can be sure that He will not let us go far from Him. Therefore, “all” is implied.
* Verbs are all in the past tense. Our time line (past/present/future) seems to be already past for God. He is out of our time system. Heb 13:8 “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever”. The context of Heb 13:8 is also about the confidence that we can have in God. God’s eternal and immutable character is a pillar for our trust and faith.
* “foreknowledge” comes in first position. Arminians declare that our predestination is based on the foreknowledge of our life. God would have foreseen our faith and then predestined us to be saved.
* “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son”: Why is this part right after “predestined” and not after “glorified”? I think it is because God’s purpose in creating man was to have him reflecting his only Son Jesus.
* “called” could refer to the Gospel calling/external calling or effectual calling/internal calling (Reformed theology’s vocabulary). Since “all” is implied, “called” cannot refer to the Gospel call, but the Holy Spirit’s calling (internal).
“firstborn” refers to Jesus as the first resurrected among many others. In the context of God’s purpose in creation of man, it implies that the resurrection was planned from the beginning. If God’s purpose was to have Jesus as firstborn (first resurrected), it meant that He knew about the fall and had the salvation plan in His mind from our beginning.
v29-30 are the foundation for the statement v28 → v 29 “For”. The importance of v29-30 is in v28. v28 is fundamental for all humans, because we all have hope for safe, secure, joyful satisfaction, completion, salvation and v28 tells us the true hope that we can have in God. Therefore Paul does not shrink back from giving us a deep foundation for this greatest of all promises. And the foundation is Romans 8:29–30. The pillars of the foundation are the great doctrines of election and predestination and effectual calling and justification and glorification. The reason these things are important to know and love is that they are the foundation of all the covenant blessings we cherish.
God foreknows all things: Isaiah 46:10: “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure” but not not all are predestined to be conformed to Jesus:
The words “know” and “foreknow” commonly mean “choose” or “set favor upon” or “acknowledge.” the word itself limits the group.
Ro 8:31 What then shall we say to these things?
This future glory impacts the present life because we know God has not given up on us in our present suffering. God is for us though we may not see it now. The certainty of final triumph is ensured by God.
Ro 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son
God gave up His “own” Son to death for us. If God did what was the most difficult for us, would He not do the easiest? Would He not give us “all things?” Paul argues this way because there must have been sufferings (most likely persecution whether physical or verbal since the argument is for God’s people) going on.
Ro 8:33 God’s elect
There is no reference to the Jews in the close context of this passage. Instead, Paul argues for a renewed life in Christ whether for Jews or Gentiles. Therefore, “God’s elect” must be intentionally used here to point to those who have been foreknown to glorified (v29-30) in Christ.
Ro 8:33 It is God who justifies
God gave His Son for us. God justifies. Therefore, anyone who wants to to condemn us must overrule the One who graces us… and this is not going to happen!
Ro 8:34 Christ Jesus is the one
Christ is our intercessor/advocate/lawyer who defends us and He can do it well because He died and rose from the dead. He is at the right of God to intercede for us. In these conditions, there is no one who can speak better than Jesus for us.
Ro 8:35 Shall tribulation…
There must be a reason why Paul brings up the theme of suffering while explaining the doctrine of salvation. It is possible that the Roman church was persecuted for salvation by grace in Christ through faith causing them to doubt their theology. But Paul reexplain the doctrine of salvation and tells them God is for them and they do not have to fear for their salvation. Even under persecution, they should not deny Christ because nothing can separate them from the love of Christ. They must persevere (see v19)
Ro 8:37 We are more than conquerors
The image in Rom 8:36 shows Christians as “sheep to be slaughtered” which is true. Christ has called us not to war physically against enemies of the cross, but to follow his example as he died like a lamb. But this v37 also pictures Christians as “conquerors” in Christ. We are not victims as we are slaughtered. No! instead, we are those who triumph in Christ!
Ro 8:39 To separate us from the love of God in Christ
The them of God’s love is repeated many times because sufferings cause us to doubt God’s presence. But the death of Christ is the best evidence God loves us and nothing can separate us from Him. He did not spare His Son (Rom 8:32) for us. That’s why Paul can boast “I am sure that neither death nor life, […] will be able to separate us from the love of God.”
Ro 9:2 Great sorrow and unceasing anguish
Paul uses strong words (see also Rom 9:3) to express his feelings about the Jews who are blind and do not believe in Jesus.
Ro 9:3 For the sake of my brothers
It may be that Paul brings up the salvation of the Jews because they are those who are persecuting the Christian Jews and Gentiles.
Ro 9:3 I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
First, this phrase shows it is not possible to “trade” salvation for someone else.
Second, it shows the “individual” aspect of salvation.
Third, we could think this is “idolatry” since Paul puts his “brothers” above Christ when he says he wishes to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his Jews. But Paul expresses a love for his people that surpasses a love for himself. The comparison is not between his love for Christ and for the Jews, but for himself and for the Jews.
Fourth, do we have this intense desire to see our “kinsmen” (whoever we consider same as us) to come to Christ? Do we have this desire for those who are different from us as well?
Ro 9:4 To them belong
We must not undermine the fact that God chose Israel to receive all that is described in these verses. We should not think God did all this with the Church in His mind. The fact that the Church was revealed as God’s people receiving all that were promised to Israel is a mystery (see Ephesians – TODO). Israel was chosen but it does not mean all the Israelites in the flesh had received it equally. In fact, this is what Paul is explaining in this chapter.
Ro 9:5 The Christ, who is God over all
NASB translates it “from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” as well as LS1910. The order of the words in Greek is closer to the NASB version though it may not contradict the ESV.
Ro 9:6 It is not as though the word of God has failed
If Israel received God’s covenantal promises made to Abraham and his offspring (v7) and if not all the Israelites received Jesus as the Christ, then does it mean God’s word of promise has failed? That’s is what Paul is trying to explain in these chapters 9-11.
“Not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (NASB): the first “Israel” refers to the inwardly Jew whose heart is circumcised (Rom 2:29). The second “Israel” refers to Jacob or Israel rather than the nation of Israel. The same idea is present in v7a: “nor are they all children of the because they are Abraham’s descendants (or seed).” The children of the promise are the spiritual offspring, not the “children of the flesh” (v8) and Paul is arguing it has always been the case even since the times of Abraham.
Ro 9:7 Through Isaac shall your offpsring be named
“named” (Gr. called/kaleo) – Gen 21:12b Lit “Your seed will be called”
God chose Isaac over Ishmael so not all Abraham’s children are called even at the beginning. God did not choose to bless Isaac after his birth only because he was Abraham’s son. Rather He promised Abraham before Isaac’s birth that He would provide a son for the patriarch. His unusual birth confirmed God’s choice of Isaac as the channel of special blessing to his parents.
Ro 9:8 Children
The “children of the promise” (Gr. epaggelia) are Abraham’s seed. They are the people of God: those who are saved by faith and obey by faith.
Children of flesh != Children of God or of the promise: in Romans, Paul often opposes flesh to spirit. Ishmael was Abraham’s child in the flesh, but he was not chosen as child of the promise (Gen 21:10, Gal 4:21-31). Only Isaac was declared as such through God’s word of promise to Sarah (Rom 9:9, Gal 4:28).
* Son of the bondwoman/slave (Gal 4:23)
* Born according to the flesh(v23): Gen 16:2, 5-6: Sarah gave her maidservant lacking of faith (see Gen 18:12-15) even if God’s covenant was made with only Abram previously in Gen 15:4. Sarah was included later as part of the promise (Gen 17:15)
* Hagar, allegory of the law of Moses (v25) – present Jerusalem
* Rejected as heir
* Son of free woman (Gal 4:23)
* Born according to God’s promise(v23)/Spirit(v29): Gen 17:15 & 19 & 18:10
* Sarah, allegory of the law of Spirit (v26) – Jerusalem above
Ro 9:9 What the promise said
The word of promise (v9) “at this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son” refers in to Isaac in the flesh, but to Jesus in the spirit. In the same manner, God gave a word of promise to Mary (Luke 1:35) to announce Jesus the Son of God, firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29), children of God. Through Jesus, Abraham has a spiritual offspring.
Ro 9:10 Rebekah had conceived children
Jacob’s and Esau’s birth was supernatural since their mother was barren. Through this miracle, God had a hidden purpose for both of them. God demonstrated that not all are children of the promise even coming from one (Isaac) who was. His choice is not inherited through the flesh.
Ro 9:11 God’s purpose of election might continue
Here is my reasoning before being convinced about the doctrine of election by God’s sovereign choice:
* Salvation not by work, but by God’s calling. Does it mean that God made Esau evil to fulfill His Word? I do not think so because God does not create evil, but because of Esau’s future heart, God rejected Him.
It means God looks at Esau’s life ahead of time and chooses to reject him based on his heart and deeds. God elects because of the foreknowledge that He has from us. But what it means is that we are responsible for our own election. Our “works” determine our election.
Here is my thought after being convinced of God’s sovereign choice:
* “not because of works, but because of Him who calls”: Does God choose someone in advance, knowing his future heart? Would not it be salvation by “works”, by our own quality, the quality of our heart? But the Bible never says God chooses His people (his saved ones) based on their “predispositions.” In fact, it is not the case, it is only because of God’s faithfulness to His own covenant (Deut 7:6-11). Indeed, God told Rebekah “The older will serve the younger” (v12) even before “they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad.” It emphasizes the fact that the choice is not based on Jacob or Esau. That is why I believe these verses refer to that, we are not saved because of our predisposition to believe, but our salvation depends on “Him who calls” (See Rom 9:15-16)
* “God chose Jacob and the nation of Israel for reasons that lay within Himself, not because they merited election (cf. Deut 7:6-8). This is a powerful refutation of the claim that election results from prior knowledge, that God chooses a person for salvation having foreseen that he or she will believe the gospel. ”
* The fact that Jacob became a less admirable person in some respects than Esau shows that God’s choice was not due to Jacob but to Himself. This comes back to the doctrine of “total depravity.” Since we do not have the ability to save ourselves or to choose God, then God has to do it, He chooses us. Arminianism is much more focus on the man than God, saying that men are able morally to choose God. Reformed theology emphasizes the ability for man to choose God, but his moral inability to do it. Men will always choose evil. Arminianism does not try to say that God is unrighteous, but because they recognize their own need of grace and mercy, they understand salvation, then election, from a human point of view. Arminians see God’s mercy from a human perspective: we cannot judge others because we ourselves are sinners. We want to share mercy that we received because we don’t deserve to pour out God’s righteous wrath on you. We want you to share OUR mercy. But God’s mercy is different, just as Heb 5:1-3 demonstrates that Jesus’ mercy is far above the Levite priests who must offer sacrifices for themselves. The Levite priests had compassion because of their own sins, but Jesus had compassion because of his very merciful nature. Therefore, mercy from God’s perspective is arbitrary and He gives it to whom He wants without the possibility for us to complain of unfairness (see v14-18).
Ro 9:12 The older will serve the younger
This quote does not change the purpose of God’s election. God’s choice is not about man or nation fulfilling a service, but about being part of God’s people and receiving Jesus as savior. Paul quotes this verse to show God’s sovereignty over man’s deeds.
Ro 9:13 Jacob I loved but Esau I hated
God’s hatred of Esau is best understood to refer to God’s decision not to bestow this privilege on Esau. It might best be translated ‘reject.’
v13 refers to Gen 25:23 and Mal 1:2 where the old testament deals with the nations from Jacob and Esau (Israel and Edom). Edomites are not children of Abraham even though they physically are.
Ro 9:14 Is there injustice
Since election to be part of God’s people/to be saved/to receive mercy (Rom 9:15) is based only on God’s sovereign choice (Rom 9:16), we may think this is unfair. Why would God not choose everyone? Is He unfair or unjust? This issue is addressed in the following paragraph.
Ro 9:15 He says to Moses
When the whole nation of Israel rebelled against God by worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32), God took the lives of only 3,000 of the rebels. He could have justly slain the whole nation. His mercy caused Him to do something that appeared to be unjust to His own justice.
v15 refers to Ex 33:19 where Moses intercedes for Israel after their sin. His prayer was based on God’s sovereign election of Israel as a “distinguished nation” (Ex 33:16) and indeed, God answered that He knew Moses by name (Ex 33:17). Then Moses asked to see God’s glory (Ex 33:18). Their relationship sounds like a “love” relationship because God and Moses are reaffirming their love for each other:
* Moses, his total dependency on God
* God, His total sovereignty over Moses and Israel. God is willing to answer Moses, not because of Moses’ good argumentation, but because of His goodness and His name (Ex 33:19). The nature of God’s relation with His people is grace, mercy and compassion independently of our good works or prayers.
Ro 9:16 It depends not on human will or exertion
Can we save ourselves by our own choice or by work?
* “Man who wills” (NASB): our choice/desire
* “Man who runs” (NASB): actions/works to save ourselves
Even if we want to reach “salvation” as a state of peace and joy, living in the fullness and satisfaction of our heart, and if we do all we can, we cannot save ourselves because:
* First, “salvation” as previously described is not about looking for God, but for our wellness. Then, how can we be saved since we do not look for the one who can save us?
* Second, the verse revealing God’s truth says that it is possible only if God wills and offers mercy to us. It demonstrates our inability to choose God for who He is, not for what He can give to us.
Ro 9:17 I have raised you up
God mercifully spared Pharaoh until the moment He told him these words (after the 6th plague) despite his consistent opposition to God. God did not mean that He had created Pharaoh and allowed him to sit on Egypt’s throne, though He had done that too. This is clear from Exodus 9:16, which Paul quoted. The NASB translation translates Exodus 9:16, “. . . for this cause I have allowed you to remain.” Pharaoh deserved death for his opposition and insolence (Ex 9:15: “For if by now I had put forth my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth”). However, God did not take Pharaoh’s life in the remaining plagues so that God’s victory over his continuing opposition would result in greater glory (cf. Josh. 9:9; Ps. 76:10).
Ro 9:18 He has mercy on whomever he wills
In His justice (righteousness, fairness), God has the freedom to:
* give mercy to whoever He desires
* harden whoever He desires
and no one can contest his choice, because we were all lost and dead in our sins. Both actions satisfy His pure and holy justice:
* giving mercy because Jesus’ death has satisfied His justice.
* harden because men sin and get what they deserve.
God hardens man’s heart. He leaves people to their own sinfulness, and they simply continue in their wickedness because sins calls for more sins. God is not unjust in the fact that He does not force people to sin to bring them to their own condemnation. As they seed evil, they will reap judgment. “Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who had not first hardened himself ” (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 361).
Ex 7:13-14: “Pharaoh’s heart was hardened … Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn”: How was Pharaoh’s heart hardened? God didn’t beat him up like a violent Father. He did so with love, grace and mercy keeping sending Moses: the more God showed love, the more Pharaoh hated and rejected God and make himself his own god.
Ro 9:19 Why does He still find fault?
Paul anticipates what people would say: why does God condemn someone He himself has hardened? Do they not do His will too? How can we not sin if He has decided so? Why is man responsible for their wrongdoing if God’s election is unconditional.
Ro 9:20 Who are you, O man
The answer is not philosophical. The apostle Paul does not try to answer how man can be responsible if God has hardened him, instead he points out our rebellious attitude: “. . . men are not lost because they are hardened; they are hardened because they are lost; they are lost because they are sinners.” (Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans. p. 371)
“Why did you make me like this”: this rebellious attitude blames God instead of repenting. We always fall in self-righteousness when we accuse somebody else for our faults. Ez 18:25/29 “Yet you say ‘the way of the Lord is not right’. Hear now, O house of Israel! Is my way not right? Is it not your ways that are not right?” and then, God calls in v32 “Therefore, repent and live”.
Unconditional election does not imply we are not responsible for our choices. It does not force us to believe or to reject. God, through the work of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit, only removes the hardness of our heart. Then we are driven to choose God by the power of the Holy Spirit. If we only have a new heart (without the Holy Spirit dwelling in us), we could fall again, just as Adam and Eve did. A lost man still has the ability to choose good or evil, but ultimately is bond by his sin to do what is wrong. St Augustine calls it “moral inability”. Man has the inherent ability to decide either one, but he is compelled to choose the wrong one because he has been made slave to sin since the fall. We sold ourselves to sin in Eden. Instead of condemning Satan, we put ourselves under him, corrupting our holy nature to his rebellious and sinful influence.
Ro 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay
I believe Paul’s intention is not to demonstrate that God made us some for honor and other for dishonor, but he says that even if it was the case, we could not contest it, because God is far above us, He is incomprehensible to our limited mind and His purpose and desire surpasses our human thoughts.
Ro 9:22 What if God
“desiring to show His wrath”: Justice is one of God’s fundamental characteristics. He does not tolerate sin. He does not want to leave unrighteousness unpunished. On the contrary, he will certainly do it.
“endured with much patience”: God has already showed grace because we are still alive though we have rebelled against Him.
“To make known His power”: Punishing unrighteousness is, in a way, glorifying God by showing His power. It should only be done by God alone (“His”) because He alone is the righteous judge. We will know/acknowledge His power and give glory to His righteousness and justice. Moreover, His power is the manifestation of His sovereignty. No one will be able to contest His judgment. No one will be able to justify himself in the presence of God.
“vessel of wrath prepared for destruction”: Some are “prepared” for destruction while others are for glory (v23). There is a purpose in God’s preparation. He has planned destruction of some to demonstrate the mercy He has on others. His mercy shines because of the destruction.
Ro 9:23 The riches of his glory for vessels of mercy
“make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy”:
The riches of His glory are the amazing benefits of the cross. God is glorified in the cross of Jesus: Jesus’ obedience, God’s love manifested, His wisdom to find a solution to our sin … and Jesus Himself is glorified in the cross (Jn 12:23 “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”). The main benefit is salvation: redemption, adoption, purification of a new people devoted to worship God.
Ro 9:24 Even us
“Even us whom He has called”: “Called” does not refers to the gospel call, but to the effectual call. “Called” could be replaced by “chose”, “selected”, “picked.” “Us” might designate Paul, but also his companions and the Romans who received the letter. God has called Israel and the nations. Since Paul addressed the letter to diverse Christian population, he was saying: “we too, as Jews and Gentiles, were called by God. Look at us, we are from different nations, but we know we are all called to be Christian.”
“not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles”: Salvation was not only for Israel, but it was also planned for the other nations. God has chosen children among all the nations. Election is not about the Jews only but also the Gentiles.
At this point of the chapter, Paul returns to the “Gentiles vs Jews” topic. God did not elect all the Jews (v27-29) but did elect some of the Gentiles (v25-26) to salvation. v25-29 are quotes from the OT to prove that God’s Word has not failed because a remnant of the Jews and Gentiles were predicted to be saved.
Ro 9:25 He says in Hosea
This prophecy from the OT is fulfilled by the conversion of Gentiles proving to the Romans it was God’s plan to have children from all nations.
“call” is really a one-way word. God will name those were not His people “My people.” He gives a new name to people without name, without identity. It is interesting to note that “call” here means “naming” rather than “drawing.”
Ro 9:27 Only a remnant of them will be saved
it is an echo to v6-13: a remnant/elected part/some will be saved. Not the whole nation of Israel was saved from the judgment brought by the Assyrians. Only a remnant found mercy. The election Rom 9 deals with is not God’s choice to serve Him, but to “be saved” (27b).
Ro 9:28 The Lord will carry out his sentence
v28 is a confirmation that God’s word does not fail (v6) and His word is v29: unless the Lord had left a posterity, Israel would have been totally destroyed.
Is 10:22-23 (quoted in v27-28) is a prophecy for the nation of Israel but the principle is applicable for all. His word proclaims Israel, not as nation but as representative of mankind, sinner and evildoer and doomed to eternal death.
Ro 9:29 If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring
It demonstrates our inability to save ourselves. Without God’s mercy, all would be destroyed. Israel had already received a distinct mercy compared to Sodom and Gomorrah (see also Mat 10:15). This quote from Is 1:9 shows again the arbitrary and free-willing mercy of God on whom He desires. Sodom and Gomorrah cannot contest God’s punishment. In the same way, Israel could not have complained if God completely destroyed them.
Ro 9:30 A righteousness that is by faith
Rom 9:30-33 tries to answer this question: Where does righteousness come from if Israel with its inheritance (law) is not the elect nation?
The question finds its origin in the election of spiritual Israel, the true offspring of Abraham. If physical Israel is not the elected people of God, then its law is not really a mean to obtain righteousness. Otherwise how would it be possible for the Gentiles to be righteous children of God without the law?
The answer is: Righteousness comes from faith. By faith, we receive the righteousness of Christ.
Ro 9:31 Did not succeed in reaching that law
The law given by God through Moses is a righteous law, but the true meaning of that law can only be grasped by faith, not by blind obedience. Pure intellectual knowledge cannot understand the heart of God.
Ro 9:32 as if it were based on works
Israel had the law and a traditional heritage (rules around the law), but was not able to reach righteousness, because:
* as human being, it is not possible to accomplish God’s law perfectly.
* they did not understand the purpose of the law. It was given as an indicator of God’s standards.
* their blindness prevented them from recognizing the messiah (Jesus) who became a “stumbling rock” for them (v33).
Ro 10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God
Chapter 9 expresses Paul’s concerns about the Jews who rely on their flesh heritage for salvation, instead of putting their faith in Jesus Christ. In Chapter 10, he goes back to the basics applied to the Jews: stop thinking that the inherited law from your fathers will save you, reject the traditions you were taught in order to reach faith in Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to see that Paul – who stated God’s sovereignty to choose whoever He wants to show mercy upon – still did what we are supposed to do as Christian: pray for the salvation of unbelievers. We should not allow ourselves to think we do not need to evangelize if God chooses and saves His people. As humans, we are compelled to spread out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We must not not have mercy on others. We must not stop loving the losts. We must pray for them, for their salvation, and hope God will bring them to life even if we know that God’s decision was made before the creation of the world. We are God’s tool to announce his salvation (Rom 10:14-15).
Ro 10:6 The righteousness based on faith
Paul interestingly quotes in v6-9 Deut 30:11-14 written by Moses to explain what the righteousness based on faith is while saying that Moses wrote about the righteousness based on the law (Rom 10:5). These verses are complicated to understand. Paul argues that righteousness based on faith is not unreachable, but it is “near” in our mouth and heart (v8).
“Paul argues as did Moses in Deut 30:11–14. Just as Moses tried to convince the Israelites that the observance of the law did not demand that one scale the heights or cross the seas, so Paul plays on Moses’ words, applying them in an accommodated sense to Christ himself. The heights have been scaled and the depths have been plumbed, for Christ has come down to the world of humanity and has been raised from the dead. To attain the status of uprightness before God, no one is being asked to bring about an incarnation or a resurrection; one is asked only to accept in faith what has already been done for humanity and to associate oneself with Christ incarnate and raised from the dead” (Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 33, Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 200. 590)
Ro 10:12 All who call on him
The Jews thought they were the elected people, but they were not. They thought the Law would give them righteousness, but it did not. Righteousness by faith is available to all who call on God – all who believe with the heart and confess with their mouth.
Paul is not fatalist. Though God elects His own people out of his sovereign will, man can call on God to be saved. Salvation is available to anyone.
Ro 10:14 How then will they call on him?
They may call if they have the opportunity to believe. They may believe if they have the opportunity to hear the Good News. They may hear if someone preach. One may preach if he is sent. This verse is a call to go preach to whoever have not heard the Good News.
Ro 10:18 Indeed they have
Paul’s point in this paragraph is that the Jews did hear to “word of Christ” (v17), but they have not all believed and “they have not all obeyed the gospel” (v16). Rom 10:18-21 quotes many OT prophecies to show that it was announced and current Jewish Christians should not be destabilized by it.
Ro 11:2 God has not rejected his people whom He foreknew
This paragraph circles back to Rom 9. Does the fact that the Jews did not believe mean God rejected Israel? Not at all. God has not rejected those He foreknew. There is a “remnant chosen by grace” (Rom 11:4). They are the “elect” who obtained righteousness but the “rest were hardened” (Rom 11:7).
Ro 11:4 A remnant chosen by grace
The remnant was chosen by grace – not on the “basis of works” (Rom 11:6). They have not done anything to be chosen as God’s people.
Ro 11:7 What it was seeking
What Israel failed to obtain is “righteousness” because they sought it based on the Law and not on faith except for the elect who obtained it by grace while the others were hardened the way Pharaoh was (Rom 9:17-18). Indeed, Rom 11:8 says “God gave them a spirit of stupor.”
Ro 11:11 Did they stumble in order that they might fall?
This is a tricky question! Did Israel fail to believe so that they might perish? The answer is no. Though some did not believe and perished with knowing Christ, Israel’s failure to believe as a nation led to the evangelization of the rest of the world. The Jews persecuted the Jewish Christians who left Jerusalem and spread out the Good News to other nations. The apostle Paul himself started to reach out to the Gentiles because the Jews kept rejected Jesus as the Christ (Rom 11:13-14).
Ro 11:12 Their full inclusion
Greek “Their fullness” – Not sure what Israel will bring to the Christians when they convert. Maybe the assurance they are walking in the right direction (See Rom 11:15). I think this phrase rather encourages the Gentiles not to despise the Jews as a nation who failed God (Rom 11:18).
Ro 11:13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles
I tend to believe this letter to the Romans was mainly addressed to the Jews up to this point. It explains the doctrine of salvation for everyone and not just for the Jews. But now Paul addresses the Gentiles that they may not look down on the Jews (Rom 11:18).
Ro 11:17 The olive tree
The broken branches are the Jews who have not believed.
The wild olive shoot that was grafted is the Gentiles who have believed.
Who is the “nourishing root of the olive tree”? I believe it is Christ.
Ro 11:18 It is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you
Paul does not compare Jews and Gentiles to encourage the Gentiles to respect the Jews. Instead, he reminds them Christ is the root that supports them. They cannot do anything without Christ (Jn 15) and do not have the right to boast apart from Him.
Ro 11:20 Do not become proud, but fear
Faith reminds us there are nothing we can boast about because our salvation is based on the works of Christ and not our own efforts. We cannot be proud of something we have not done. So the Gentiles had to remember they have no reason to be proud, but instead they should “fear” (revere) God who has showed kindness to them but could show severity as well (Rom 11:22).
Ro 11:23 The power to graft them in again
This graft imagery should not be used to explain the doctrine of salvation. Paul does not mean to explain one can lose salvation and find it again. But this imagery is used to help the readers to picture how both Jews and Gentiles are dependent on Christ for their salvation, and need to respect each other.
Ro 11:25 Until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in
“Fullness” refers to the full number of the Gentiles God has chosen to be part of His people
Ro 11:26 All Israel will be saved
I believe “All” refers to a collective view of Israel rather than the sum of individualities. Not every Israelite will be saved, but as a nation, they will eventually recognize Jesus as the Messiah who came for their salvation.
Ro 11:28 As regards the gospel […] But as regards election
The Jews rejected the Gospel, and it was for the benefit of the Gentiles who received it. It does not mean that if they would have received it, the nations would have rejected it. But Paul explains what happened: Christians went to evangelize the Gentiles because the Jews refused to believe in the first place.
Though the Jews refused to believe in the Gospel, they are still elected because of their forefathers. Many times in the OT, God forgave Israel because of His promise to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, etc. What is complicated here is that Paul seems to contradict what he wrote earlier in Rom 9:6: “Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” On one hand, God has not elected every descendent of Israel by flesh to be children of God (Rom 9:11), but on the other hand, Jews who are enemies of the Gospel (who do not belong to Israel – at least as long as they reject the Gospel) are beloved and elected for the “sake of their forefathers” which refers to the physical ascendance (Rom 9:5). Paul is talking to Christian Gentiles who could claim Abraham as their spiritual forefather (Rom 4:16), but Paul says “their forefathers.”
Ro 11:32 He may have mercy on all
Gentiles cannot boast because they were disobedient. Jews cannot boast because they were also disobedient. God uses their disobedience to display his mercy on “all.” “All” may be a hyperbole Paul uses to highlights God’s great mercy on both Gentiles and Jews. He does not mean “everyone” will receive mercy. This hyperbole is indeed confirmed by the following verses where Paul praise God for the extent of His wisdom and knowledge while men are much limited to in terms of understanding God’s plan of salvation, and even more of acting in ways that glorify God since Jews and Gentiles seem to be divided in this epistle of Romans
Ro 11:33 How unsearchable are his judgments
Here is the difference between someone who argues for his own ways and understanding of God and someone who argues for God’s. The later praises God after his argument!
Ro 12:1 Present your bodies
This exhortation probably targets the Gentiles who have lived in a world (v2) where pagan worship was made of sexual rituals. Giving this correction after talking about the Jews and Gentiles may seem to be strange, but the effect of such conducts (sexual intercourse with pagan priestesses) was surely a overwhelming hindrance for the Jews. Indeed, Paul says “therefore” showing these verses are the conclusion of his previous reasoning. Gentiles must also listen the Jews who may have told them not to pervert themselves with pagan worship.
Ro 12:3 Not to think more highly
This statement is true in general, but in this case, Paul addresses the Gentiles who looked down on the Jews who have failed to believe… and the Jews who see themselves greater because of their ethnicity. But they ought to “think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith.” The measure of faith is the scale they should use to judge.
Ro 12:4 The members do not all have the same function
Church members do not have the same function though part of the same body. We ought not to elevate one function over the other. Instead, we should promote each and everyone’s gifts “according to the grace” God has given us (Rom 12:6). We are rich and better served because of the diversity of gifts within the church.
Ro 12:9 Let love be genuine
This passage is similar to what Paul writes to the Corinthians about gifts. Without love, gifts and skills are nothing. The Romans seemed to be divided between Gentiles and Jews, but apparently they also had issues with skills and abilities.
Ro 12:10 Outdo one another in showing honor
We can easily compete even in the church with how much we are able to do. We use gifts and positions to outdo each other, but what we ought to do instead is to honor one another rather than elevating ourselves.
Ro 12:11 Serve the Lord
Christians ought to be zealous and fervent as they serve the Lord with their abilities (not themselves). I wonder what “serve the Lord” meant for the early church. I am not sure if they had a building, band, transportation, etc. In v13, it says they ought to help Christians who are in need and to be hospitable.
Ro 12:12 In tribulation
This verse is good advice for difficult times:
1. Rejoice in hope because we are not hopeless,
2. Endure with patience the tough times,
3. Pray constantly.
Indeed, the Romans were persecuted (Rom 12:14). Some wept (Rom 12:15). Paul emphasized harmony and peace surely because there were division among them (Rom 12:16, 18). When hurt, some sought to curse (Rom 12:16), to repay evil (Rom 12:17), to avenge themselves (Rom 12:19). Instead, they were to do good against evil (Rom 12:21).
Ro 12:15 Rejoice … Weep
This is empathy!
Ro 12:16 Never be wise
Christians should not be elitist: “associate with the lowly!” and they should take themselves too seriously “Never be wise in your own sight” though they take what they do seriously.
Ro 13:1 There is no authority except from God
All authority have been instituted by God. It is mind blowing. But it does not mean that God embraces what each government does. They are not necessarily approved by Him, but they fulfill His sovereign plan whether good or evil. For example, Ponce Pilate was granted authority to put Jesus to death (Jn 19:11), but it does not mean God approved his actions though it fulfills His salvation plan.
Ro 13:2 Whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed
This is again mind blowing… is there room for civil disobedience? How does this verse fit with reality? Though we understand Paul deals with a particular context in Romans (which seems to be Christians who do not want to pay taxes – Rom 13:7), Paul makes a general statement about all autorities which is difficult to deal with. Should Christians have not resisted Hitler? Should Christians disobey North Korean’s dictator in order to spread the Gospel? What is “good” and “bad” in Rom 13:3? Are those wicked dictators “God’s servant for your good” (Rom 13:4)?
Ro 13:3 Rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad
Maybe this is a key to understand this passage. It is not a rigid commandment about all governments, but a line of conduct led by “conscience” (Rom 13:5). Submission is demanded for government that do what is “good.” We may even understand this principle not at the general government level but at the law level meaning that we may disobey some laws that violate our conscience. Otherwise the default attitude is submission to authority.
Ro 13:5 For the sake of conscience
Conscience tells what we believe is right or wrong. It is not necessarily always correct though, but as Christians, our conscience is shaped by reading Scripture and by the work of the Holy Spirit. We ought to submit to the government not only to avoid the wrath of God but also that our conscience is not defiled and guilt falls upon us. We obey to what we believe is right. But if the government demands something our conscience says it is wrong and we verify Scripture says it is wrong, then we may disobey for the sake of conscience as well. But we need to be very careful not to rely purely on our conscience.
Ro 13:6 You also pay taxes for the authorities are ministers of God
This verse implies ministers of God “deserve” to be paid. Christians are expected to support ministers.
Ro 13:7 Honor to whom honor is owed
This is a reminder of what Jesus said in Matt 22:21: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” We pay tax to authorities because it is good for the functioning of our country, but also out of obedience to God as we honor Him by respecting our government.
Ro 13:8 Owe no one anything
Paul says “owe no one anything, except to love each other” to return to the main topic of the letter: Jews and Gentiles. Those who love fulfill the law of Moses. Jews ought to love the Gentiles and vice versa. If the Jews are so eager to respect the law, then they should love the Gentiles.
Ro 14:1 For the one who is weak in faith
Someone who is weak in faith does not mean he is a weak person without character. We can easily argue about doctrines: law vs grace or meat vs only vegetables (v2) or days (v5) for Jews and Gentiles, but now it could be homosexuality, speaking in tongues, etc. Such argument can be useless if the person is not interested or open to learning. Instead, we ought to love by welcoming him.
Ro 14:2 One person believes he may eat anything
This is typical what we do even now when it comes to doctrinal disputes. For example, some believe in infant baptism while others do not. At that time, the conflict meat vs only vegetables is not practical but doctrinal. Some believe they can eat meat while others do not based on their faith and traditions. Paul’s answer is not to take a position first (though he does), but to call out each party to welcome/love each other (v1) because God has welcomed both parties (v3b), not to judge the others because God is the judge (v4) which implies everyone ought to look at his own position before God before criticizing the others.
Ro 14:3 Despise […] Pass judgment
This is often the pattern when there are conflicts. Those who do something despise those who do not and those who do not judge those who do. Ex: those who speak in tongues despise/look down on those who do not and those who do not judge those who do.
Ro 14:4 Who are you to pass judgment
Paul does not say we should not assess doctrinal positions. He says to be careful to judge and condemn people when it comes to minor doctrines. But he does evaluate minor doctrines and so we ought to do it and be “fully convinced in [our] own mind” (Rom 14:5). We ought to have a position that is clearly coming from our interpretation of Scripture which results in conviction in our conscience, but tempered when debating with others. We can all be convinced and sincere, but not have the same opinion.
Ro 14:5 One person esteems one day as better than another
There are two possibilities. First possibility, some Christians still followed Jewish Sabbaths and holidays while others did not. Second possibility, Jews had days set for fasting.
“Judaism also developed in time a text called Megillat Taʿanit, ‘Scroll of Fasting,’ which listed days on which it was not permitted to fast or to mourn. In time, early Christians too came to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays” (Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 33, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 690)
Whatever the case was, some – “weak” because they were not free – judged those who did not respect days while others – “strong” because free from rules – despised those who followed rules (Rom 15:1). It was also true with eating meat or vegetable only (see Rom 14:2, 6).
Paul does not give a clear answer to what is right, but he says “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” It is a matter of conscience. At that time, some could justify their actions (respect of food and days) as the result of following the OT and traditions just like it could be today. The OT indeed commands Jews to respect Sabbaths and to eat specific foods. Paul does not argue here for the freedom Christ brought against those laws. He simply establish that love fulfills the law (Rom 13:8) and that each should deal with his conscience as for what he does with rituals.
Ro 14:6 In honor of the Lord
The principle Paul sets is that every Christian whether he follows days and specific food diets ought to do it “in honor of the Lord” with thanksgiving to God. He does not say the rules are not important, but what matters most is our heart motive. Do we honor God in whatever we do or are we driven by legalism?
Ro 14:8 We are the Lord’s
Legalism is me-centered: “What much can I do before I do something wrong?” while the Gospel-centered mindset says “What can I honor God with what I do?”
Ro 14:12 Give an account
We must be convinced about our position. Our conscience must be clear. But at the end of the day, what matters is that we will give an account to God for our own position and for how we have treated our “brother” (Rom 14:10). Therefore, we should be careful to judge others but instead, judge ourselves.
Ro 14:14 Nothing is unclean in itself
Paul finally gives his opinion on the matter: “Nothing is unclean in itself.” The meat itself is not unclean, but it is unclean when someone believe it is.
Ro 14:15 You are no longer walking in love
If someone boast about being “strong” and eat “unclean” food before his “weak” brother, he does not show love. Eating is not a problem in itself, it becomes one when it violates someone’s conscience. This is a compromise we ought to make in order to build up the body of Christ (Rom 14:19).
Ro 14:17 Not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness
Some may have believed not eating or drinking unclean food led to righteousness. To them, it was probably a doctrinal matter of purity. But to Paul, it is clearly not. Righteousness comes from Christ, not the law. However, he is willing to ask the “strong” to compromise on this minor issue in order to truly obey the spirit of the Law: Love one another.
Ro 14:22 The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God
This is a strange statement, but what Paul means is that we must judge our own beliefs before God. We ought to have our convictions right before Him and live according to it (v22-23). It does not mean we are right or wrong, but if we go against our own conscience and beliefs, we sin (v23b).
Ro 15:2 To build him up
The reason why we do not stand on our position is to build up others, not to avoid conflicts, or anything else. There are times when we need to stand for our position. Paul rebuked Peter for being an hypocrite when he stopped eating with the Gentiles (Gal 2:11-21). Peter withdrew out of fear compromising the message of the Gospel which is righteousness comes from Christ alone, not any law. He did not act to build up others, but fearing judgment from others.
Ro 15:3 For Christ
Christ is our example. Christ bore reproaches out of love for us to do the will of God. So we ought to love and not necessarily stand on our positions. Others may criticize us for doing so, but we must bear their reproaches and do what we know is best for the body of Christ.
Ro 15:4 Whatever was written in former days
This is a general principle about Scripture that can be used within and without the context of this passage.
Ro 15:6 With one voice
The issue of eating and respecting days was dividing Jews and Gentiles (Rom 15:8-9). The Christian Jews probably wanted to “judaize” the Gentiles in order that they may be Christians, which is why Paul spent time explaining the doctrine of salvation before tackling practical issues.
Ro 15:8 Christ became a servant to the circumcised
The structure of the sentence communicates the need for Jews and Gentiles in the church to be united because Christ came to save both:
“Christ became a servant …
…in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
…in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy”
Christ came to serve Israel (Matt 15:24) but not exclusively to the Jews. Indeed He healed many Gentiles as well. This was to fulfill the promises given to Israel’s patriarchs… and bring the Gentiles to salvation according to the prophecies given in the OT (see v10-12).
Ro 15:14 Able to instruct one another
The Romans had knowledge and were even able to teach it, but they needed reminders so that what they know is also what they do.
Ro 15:20 My ambition
NASB translates it “I aspired to preach.” We ought to have desire and fulfill the ministry we called to do, but we need to remember it is by grace (Rom 15:15) in Christ (Rom 15:17), and for Christ (Rom 15:18).
Ro 15:26 Contribution for the poor
Churches help churches in need. It may be that Jerusalem was going through tough times. This help might have been relief or rehabilitation effort – not a development. It is temporary.
Ro 15:30 Strive together with me in your prayers
Paul asks the Romans to “fight” in prayers for his ministry in Jerusalem. Prayer = spiritual battle. Prayers are needed in ministry.
Ro 16:1 Our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church
The Greek word for servant is “diakonos” which is also translated deaconess. Phoebe would be an example of female deacon. In v2, she is also called a “patron” which is someone who support financially others. It is not compatible with what a deacon do, but might slightly point toward “servant” rather than “deacon.”
Ro 16:3 Greet
The lengthy list of greetings show Paul knew the Romans well.
Ro 16:17 Cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine
This is a doctrinal issue. People divide because they preach a different doctrine leading to practical obstacles. In the general context of Romans, those words probably refer to Judaizers who desire Gentiles to become “Jews” and practice Jewish laws in order to be come Christians. It was different from what the Romans had been taught and create obstacles to spiritual growth in Christ.
Ro 16:19 Be wise as to what is good
The Romans were obedient. They were probably younger Christians eager to grow, but they were “naive” (v18) and lacked of discernment to what is good and evil. That is why Paul explains extensively the doctrine of salvation because they need clarity in order to grow correctly. Young/growing Christians need direction from leaders (see book Move by Willow Creek Church).
Ro 16:25 The revelation of the mystery
It may refer to the Gospel of Christ that proclaims salvation by faith alone since that is what Paul mostly explained in this epistle.
Ro 16:26 Through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations
The “prophetic writings” might refer to the OT prophecies (which Paul quoted frequently in this epistle) announcing salvation to the Gentiles. Paul closes with this idea that God desired to bring the Gentiles to an obedience coming from faith.
Ro 16:27 To the only wise God
In Rom 16:19, Paul calls the Romans to be wise and what is good and evil. In this last verse, he really points out God as the only wise because God is truly the One above all who know what is good and evil with certainty. We can grow in wisdom, but only God can be called “wise.” He is the reference for all.