Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the seventh and eighth chapters of this New Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will come to what is perhaps one of the most challenging chapters—not only within this epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul, but also within the entire New Testament. What’s more, is that when you read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you will find directly linked and directly connected to the words located in the seventh chapter some of the most powerful words penned by the apostle Paul. There are very few who are unfamiliar—or are at least somewhat aware of the words found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome. There are very few who aren’t aware with some of the powerful language found within the eighth chapter of the epistle written unto the Romans and how there is therefore now no condemnation to and for those who are in Christ Jesus. There are very few among us who aren’t familiar with the emphatic and powerful declaration that we are more than conquerors and the question of who shall separate us from the love of God which is found in the person of Jesus Christ. You would be hard pressed to find any individuals who aren’t aware of the language found within the eighth chapter concerning the person, the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit as set forth within it. In all reality, we would dare say that in the first three chapters the apostle Paul seeks to demonstrate and show us as all having fallen short of the glory of the living God, and having placed us all as having been sinners in the sight of the LORD our God. It is in the first three chapters where we are directly confronted with our sin and the destructive nature and path of sin, while it is in the fourth chapter we encounter and are brought face to face with the means whereby we are not only delivered from sin, but are able to walk in and appropriate the death of Jesus the Christ within our lives.
If in the first three chapters of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul we are brought face to face with the sin that is found within our hearts—and not only sin within our hearts, but also our willingness to judge others while doing the very same things we are judging—then it is in the fourth chapter of this epistle we encounter and come face to face with that door and that path by which we begin to experience deliverance from sin within our hearts and lives. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the opening three chapters of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome, for it is within these chapters we come face to face with and encounter the power and presence of sin within our hearts, within our minds, and within our lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that if, unless and until we allow ourselves to understand and recognize the presence and power of sin within our hearts and lives, and that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we cannot truly appropriate and appreciate the work which Jesus the Christ accomplished on the cross for us as the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. Oh dear brother, dear sister—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the words which are found in the opening three chapters of this New Testament epistle, for the first three chapters help set the stage for the fourth chapter of the epistle. It is the fourth chapter of the epistle which then sets in motion the words which we find in the fifth and sixth chapters—not only concerning the death of the Lord Jesus the Christ, but also our own baptism in His death and our planting in His resurrection. We must needs allow ourselves to come face to face with the first three chapters of the epistle written by the hand of the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome for it is only when we come to realize that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God that we are able to enter into that place of faith—that place of faith which not only allows to experience the work which Jesus did upon the cross, but also allows us to follow in His pattern and example as we allow ourselves to identify with Him in His death, in His burial, and even in His resurrection. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the opening three chapters of this New Testament epistle:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen” (Romans 1:18-25).
“For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers; backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:26-32).
WHO KNOWING THE JUDGMENT OF GOD, THAT THEY WHICH COMMIT SUCH THINGS ARE WORTHY OF DEATH, NOT ONLY DO THE SAME, BUT HAVE PLEASURE IN THEM THAT DO THEM! It is within these verses where we are brought face to face with the tremendous reality that we are without excuse, and where we are brought face to face with wickedness, iniquity, immorality, transgression, idolatry and the like within the earth. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this particular set of verses, for perhaps the single greatest declaration and statement the apostle Paul would and could make was that we are without excuse. Not only did the apostle Paul emphatically declare and proclaim that we are without excuse, but the apostle Paul would also close out the first and opening chapter writing and speaking about the basis of hypocrisy, which is namely judging others for that which they are committing within their lives when we ourselves do the very same thing. It is in the first and opening chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul demonstrates the reality that we are without excuse, and goes on to write and speak of how God has spoken unto us through and within nature, and that we are without excuse because that which may be known of God is manifest. What’s more, is the apostle Paul goes on to write that the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead. It is this revelation in creation that brings us face to face with the fact that we are without excuse because we have been given a clear and present witness and testimony of the eternal and invisible nature and character of the living God within and through nature itself. Oh it is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand this reality of our being without excuse—and our being without excuse based on that which has been revealed in both nature and creation—for if you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the second chapter you will find the following words written by the apostle Paul:
”Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; now knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: FOR THERE IS NO RESPECT OF PERSONS WITH GOD. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do my nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:1-16).
THEREFORE THOU ART INEXCUSIABLE, O MAN, WHOSOEVER THOU ART THAT JUDGEST! The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture bring us face to face with the awesome and incredible truth that not only are we without excuse because of the manifold and manifest revelation of the living and eternal God through that which has been found within creation, but we are also without excuse and are inexcusable when we judge others. It is in the first chapter of this epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul seeks to show them that they are without excuse before a living and holy God because of the revelation that is found within creation and that which has been created. The apostle goes on to describe the various means of wickedness, iniquity, immorality and idolatry that is committed within the earth—both by Jews and Gentiles alike. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand is just that salvation is not mutually exclusive to Jews—neither is sin exclusive to Gentiles. It would be very easy to think about and consider that salvation is exclusive to the Jews alone, while sin is exclusive to the Gentiles. It would be very easy to think about and consider this truly astonishing reality, and how there would be those among us who would think that salvation is somehow exclusive to certain people and certain groups, and that sin and sinning is exclusive to others, and yet what the apostle Paul seeks to show and reveal is that sin and iniquity and transgression is not exclusive to the Gentiles no more than salvation is exclusive to the Jews. Just as much as salvation is free and available regardless of Jew versus Gentile, so also is and so also can sin be found in both Jew and Gentiles. One of the most astounding and remarkable truths that is found within these chapters is that truth and that reality that salvation is not solely for and solely unto the Jews, but salvation is for the Jew and Gentile alike. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what the apostle seeks to present to the saints which were at Rome was that all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God—this despite and regardless of whether or not you are a Jew or a Gentile, regardless of whether or not you are free or bound.
The more I read the words which are found within the opening chapters of the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Rome the more I am brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that in order for us to truly understand the faith which the apostle Paul writes and speaks of in the fourth chapter—that faith by which we are justified, and that faith by which we enter into and appropriate the work of Jesus the Christ upon the cross—must be understood through the context and lens of our sinfulness and our guilt before a holy and just God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within this chapter and within this passage of Scripture, for within these verses the apostle Paul lays everything out on the line and presents us all as guilty in the sight of the living God, and how we were all guilty before we begin to walk in and by faith. It is in the first chapter of this New Testament epistle the apostle Paul writes how he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation. The apostle Paul would go on to write how it is the power of God unto salvation unto the Jew first, and then unto the Gentile, and how the way to experience this gospel is through faith, for the just shall live by faith. Oh it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the language that is found in the opening three chapters of this epistle, for the words we find within these chapters bring us face to face with the guilt, the shame, the condemnation and the judgment that we were all living under as a direct result of our being born into sin. It is this reality which is found in the fifth chapter, for the apostle Paul writes and speaks about how sin entered into the world through the first Adam, and how not only did sin enter the world through the first Adam, but so also as a result of that sin did death enter into the world. The apostle Paul sought to clearly demonstrate that sin and death reigned within and upon the earth before the Law of Moses even entered into the picture, and before Moses ascended upon Sinai in the wilderness and received the commandments, the statutes, the decrees, the oracles, and the precepts of the living God. What’s more, is that within these chapters of Scripture the apostle Paul seeks to demonstrate and reveal the tremendous importance and power of faith in Jesus Christ alone, and that it is faith alone in Christ, and faith alone through Christ that can help us to enter into the truth and reality of what the apostle writes about in the fifth and sixth chapter.
It is in the first and opening chapter of this New Testament epistle the apostle Paul brings us face to face with the fact that we are without excuse before a holy and just because that which can clearly be seen and known of Him has been manifested within creation. There is within the first chapter a clear and present distinction between the creation and the Creator, and how despite the fact that it is through creation the knowledge of God is manifested in the midst of the earth men chose to worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator. What we find in the first and opening chapter is a tremendous picture of wickedness which is found within the earth, and it is in the second chapter we encounter and come face to face with the fact that there are none of us which are excusable—and not only are none of us excusable, but we are also susceptible to give ourselves over to judgment and judging others. The entire second chapter must be recognized and understood through the lens of legalism, hypocrisy and judging others—specifically along the lines of the sin which we see and observe within the hearts and lives of others while completely and utterly ignoring the sin that is present within our own hearts and lives. It’s quite remarkable and astounding when you read the words found in the second chapter, for not only will you, and not only do you find the apostle Paul emphatically declaring that we are without excuse, but you will also find the apostle Paul presenting a powerful argument against our thinking that we somehow have the right to sit in the seat of judgment against and upon others. Much like the scribes who brought the woman who was caught in the act of adultery and sought to cast stones of judgment and condemnation against her, so also we allow ourselves to sit in the seat of judgment and pass it upon others. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second half of the second chapter in this New Testament epistle:
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, and knowest his will, and approves the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law; and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preaches a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? Thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written, For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore is the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:17-29).
WHAT THEN? ARE WE BETTER THEY? FOR WE HAVE BEFORE PROVED BOTH JEWS AND GENTILES, THAT THEY ARE ALL UNDER SIN! THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE! As you continue reading the words which are found within the opening three chapters you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking concerning the Law of Moses—and not only concerning the Law of Moses, but also the rite of circumcision which was given unto Abraham. It is within the opening three chapters the apostle Paul sets us all forth as having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and even in the third chapter bringing us face to face with the words which David wrote in the Old Testament book of the Psalms when he declared that there is none righteous, no not one, and there is none that understands, and there is none that seek after God. It is within this context of all having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all having been born and conceived into sin that Paul goes on to write concerning circumcision, and how physical circumcision avails absolutely nothing when it comes to the realm and sphere of faith. Although the living and eternal God gave the rite of circumcision unto Abraham as a sign of covenant and as a sign of personal relationship and fellowship with the LORD it would be something that has absolutely no bearing in the realm and sphere of faith. The apostle Paul would clearly set forth the contrast between the rite of circumcision that was given unto Abraham and a new circumcision that was given with the New Covenant—namely and mainly a circumcision that was not one of the flesh, but one that was of the heart. Moreover, you will find the apostle Paul writing unto the saints which were at Rome that he was not a Jew who was one outwardly but rather one who was a Jew inwardly. It is this context which sets the entire stage for the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were found at Rome, for the apostle Paul not only seeks to demonstrate the reality that Abraham is the father of the Jewish people, but also how he is the father of faith. It is this expression of Abraham being the father of faith and of all those who commit and give themselves unto faith that thus allows and thus fulfills the reality of Abraham being the father of many nations.
It is when and as you come to the words which are found in the opening verses of the third chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome you will find the apostle Paul writing unto them concerning the justice of God, and how we dare not and ought not call into question the justice of God for judging and punishing sin. In fact, it is in the opening chapter of this epistle the apostle Paul emphatically declares that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against and upon all unrighteousness. The apostle Paul then goes on to write concerning this unrighteousness and what this unrighteousness truly looks like in the world, as well as in the sight of the LORD our God. What makes this even more intriguing when you think about and consider these realities is when you come to the opening verses of the third chapter and find the apostle Paul writing and speaking concerning the justice of God in executing His judgment and executing His wrath against all ungodliness and all unrighteousness. Beginning with the first and opening verse of the third chapter you will find the following words within this epistle: “What advantage then hath the Jew? Or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightiest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) God forbid: for them how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my life unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose damnation is just” (Romans 3:1-8). Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for not only do we find within it the justice of God in judging sin, unrighteousness, ungodliness and wickedness in the world, but also the ability to overcome within and in the midst of the judgment. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that the apostle Paul would begin to set the tone and stage for what we find in the eighth chapter of this epistle when he would write that there is therefore now no condemnation to and for those who are in Christ Jesus. Oh dear reader, it is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the awesome and powerful truth that despite the fact the justice of God demands that He judge and punish sin, it is possible to stand in the midst of that judgment—and not only stand in the midst of that judgment, but also to overcome it.
Upon continuing to read the words which are found in the third chapter you will find the apostle Paul building upon the concept and reality of judging and casting judgment against and upon others as he would ask the question of whether or not we are better than others. The apostle Paul would go on to emphatically declare and proclaim that we have before proved that both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin—a reality which is not only expressed in the fact that we were conceived in sin as a descendant of Adam, and that sin is a natural inclination and tendency within our hearts and lives. The apostle would then go on to use the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms when David would write concerning the unrighteous and ungodly within the earth, for it was in the tenth chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms David powerfully puts on display before and unto us the tremendous wickedness and unrighteousness that is not only found within the world, but is also found within the hearts of the wicked. What the apostle Paul seeks to do is to bring us face to face with the reality that we too were not only conceived in sin, but so also were we at one point guilty before and in the sight of the living God because we were doers of unrighteousness and were those who walked in disobedience before and in the sight of the presence of the living and righteous God who sits upon the throne in heaven. The words which we find in the tenth chapter of this New Testament epistle seek to draw and build upon those which were spoken by the psalmist David when he wrote and spoke of the wicked—and not only how David wrote and spoke concerning the wicked, but how also we ourselves used to be wicked, ungodly, and unrighteous before and in the sight of a holy God. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter:
“What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open spulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:9-20).
The words which we find within this passage of Scripture must needs be carefully considered—particularly and especially the words which are found in verses nineteen and twenty, for not only do these words continue to place us all under the judgment and justice of the living God, but they also go to show us that by and through the law is knowledge of sin. The apostle Paul used the words which were written in the book of the Psalms by David to place us all under the judgment and justice of the living God, and even in the nineteenth verse of this chapter the apostle Paul writes concerning every mouth being stopped, and that all the world may become guilty before God. The apostle Paul would go on to write that by the deeds of the law it was absolutely impossible for any man and any flesh to be justified in the sight of the living God. If anything the Law was designed to bring us face to face with the impossible task of truly walking in righteousness, walking in obedience, and walking in holiness before and in the sight of the living God. The Law was given that we might know and have the divine statutes, standards and commands of the living God, and that through the Law we might recognize and understand—not only that we are all under sin, and not only that we are all under judgment, but that we might be brought before and unto Jesus the Christ and His cross upon which He died. In fact, it would be when writing unto the Galatian churches and saints the apostle Paul would write concerning the Law that it was a tutor and schoolmaster which brought and pointed men to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to the demonstration and manifestation of faith within our hearts and lives. We were all conceived and born into sin, and we all stood condemned and judged before a holy and righteous God, and the Law was given that we might further recognize and understand the high and lofty standards and statutes of the living God. It was through the Law that we not only came to recognize and understand that which the LORD required, but also came to understand our guilt before a living and holy God. However, even with this being said, it is absolutely necessary that we draw and call our attention to the words which are found in verses twenty-one through the final verse of the third chapter, for it is within these verses where we begin to recognize and understand the catalyst that delivers us—not only from the Law, and not only delivers us from the penalty and curse of the Law, but also delivers us from sin which the Law clearly and aptly pointed out to us. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter beginning to read with and from the twenty-first verse:
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the low. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the uncircumcision through faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).
What I find so absolutely remarkable and astounding when reading the words within this passage is that in the first and opening chapter of this epistle we find the apostle Paul writing concerning the wrath of God being revealed against all unrighteousness within and upon the earth, and now we find the apostle Paul writing and proclaiming how the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets. I have to admit that I find this particular phrase—“being witnessed by the law and the prophets”—truly astonishing, for I am convinced that we are actually given a glimpse into when this was witnessed by the law and the prophets. If you turn and direct your attention to the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find him describing the transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ atop the mountain where He brought Peter, James and John. It would be there upon the mountain when both Moses and Elijah were present with Jesus the Christ in this transfigured state, as the apostles Peter, James and John beheld and witnessed this tremendous sight. What makes this particular narrative so absolutely remarkable and astounding is when you think about and consider the fact that the voice of the Father would come forth from heaven and not only emphatically declare that this was His beloved Son, but He also instructed and commanded those who were there with Jesus to hear and listen unto Him. Oh, I can’t help but believe that it was there on the mountain when grace and truth were introduced unto the law and the prophets, as Moses represented the Law, and as Elijah represented the prophets. It would be there atop the mountain where the living and eternal God would essentially introduce Jesus the Christ as the fulfillment of both the Law and the prophets unto both the Law and the prophets—and not only introduce Jesus the Christ unto the Law and the prophets, but through those who would represent them before and in the sight of the living God. What took place there upon the mountain is actually something unique and remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for it would be there upon the mountain when the righteousness of God without the law would be manifested and witnessed by the law and the prophets—this righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference.
It is absolutely and entirely necessary that we pay attention and draw our attention to the words which are written and found within the third chapter of this New Testament epistle, for what we find here in this passage is a powerful invitation which brings us face to face with the awesome truth that there is one underlying manifestation within our lives that not only gives us the ability to overcome in judgment, but also delivers us from sin and from the law itself. The apostle Paul begins to set forth the truly wonderful and beautiful truth that we overcome in judgment and are delivered from both sin and the penalty of sin which is death by and through faith—and not only faith, but faith of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul aptly and powerfully demonstrated that we were all conceived and brought forth into this world in sin, and that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, however, the apostle Paul would go on to introduce the key and the catalyst that delivers us from the law, and delivers us from the curse and the penalty of sin which is according to the law. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to these words, for the apostle Paul is not only laying a foundation for what we read in the seventh chapter, but also what he writes in the eighth chapter. If you truly want to understand the words which are found in these chapters you must needs turn your attention back to the chapters which precede it, for within the first three chapters of the epistle the apostle Paul places us all under the judgment of God, and emphatically declares that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. It is within the first three chapters the apostle Paul demonstrates the truth that we were all conceived in sin, and that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and that as a direct result of this we are deserving and worthy of judgment—and not only judgment, but also of the curse and penalty of the law, which is death. It is through faith in Jesus Christ, and our being justified without and apart from the law that not only delivers us from sin, but also delivers us from the law and from the curse of the law. Oh that we would truly understand and allow this reality to sink down within the depths of our heart, for the apostle Paul would go on to use how this justification by and through faith not only comes apart from the law, but also was manifested before the Law within the life of Abraham.
If in the third chapter the apostle Paul draws and calls our attention to the fact that we have been and can be justified by faith without and apart from the law then it is in the fourth chapter the apostle Paul aptly paints a profound picture of how we are justified by faith without and apart from the law through the life of Abraham. It is within the life of Abraham that we see a clear and powerful picture of how Abraham—this man who was considered a friend of God—was justified before the law and was justified without and apart from the law. The apostle Paul appeals to the life of Abraham to show and demonstrate unto his audience that it is possible to indeed be justified before and in the sight of the living God without and apart from the law. What makes this even more incredibly when reading these words is that there would have been both Jews and Gentiles who would have read this epistle, and the Jews would be absolutely captivated and challenged by the fact that their father Abraham was justified before and in the sight of the living and holy God by and through faith without and apart from the Law. The apostle Paul who was himself a Jew and who had himself been a Pharisee and studied under Gamaliel in the city of Jerusalem would have been aware of Abraham and how he was indeed the father of the Jewish people, however, upon receiving revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle would come to realize and recognize how Abraham was and could indeed be the father of many nations by and through faith. It would be the narrative of Abraham the apostle Paul would use to demonstrate the awesome truth that it is indeed possible to be justified by faith before and in the sight of the living God without and apart from the law. What’s more, is the apostle Paul would also go on to appeal to the words which the psalmist David wrote in the thirty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of the Psalms when David wrote about being blessed when the LORD does not impute sin unto us, and the blessedness of sin being covered and forgiven. Oh David would have indeed recognized and understood what this blessedness of sin being covered and not being imputed would indeed look like, for in the fifty-third chapter of this Old Testament book of Psalms we find his famous prayer of repentance before the Lord after he had not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, and not only had lied about and attempted to cover it up, but also resorted to murder to ultimately conceal this transgression. It is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the words which are found in the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle:
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the Scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet been uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, thought they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also; and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had yet being uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:1-16).
It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand the words which are found in the fourth chapter, for the apostle Paul appeals to the life of Abraham—the father of both the Jews and those of circumcision, as well as of the Gentiles and those of faith—in order to demonstrate and reveal the incredible truth that not only was Abraham justified before and by God before the Law was given unto Moses, but so also was Abraham justified before God before circumcision. The apostle Paul appeals to that which is found and written in the Old Testament book of Genesis when it is said how Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him as righteousness. Moreover, the apostle Paul appeals to the words which the psalmist David wrote when he emphatically declared and spoke of that one being blessed whom the LORD does not impute sin, and whose sin the LORD covers. OH we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of that which is found within the fourth chapter, for it is in the fourth chapter the apostle Paul uses the narrative of Abraham to demonstrate that righteousness is found without and apart from the Law—and not only is found without and apart from the Law, but is also found without and apart from circumcision. Please note that this would have been something quite difficult for Jews to hear, for Jews not only held to the rite of circumcision, and not only held to the observance of the Law, but also held very dearly to Abraham as being their father. This is what made the narrative written and recorded in the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John so absolutely incredible, for Jesus began speaking of Abraham as though he knew him. The Jews held very closely and very tightly to their beloved Abraham who was unto them the father of their nation and the father of their people. That which the apostle Paul is writing and suggesting now, however, is that this beloved Abraham was justified before and in the sight of the living God through faith—and not only justified through faith, but also through faith before and without circumcision, and before and without the Law.
We must needs pay close attention to the words which are found in the fourth chapter, for these words help set the stage for what we find and read in the fifth chapter. It is in the fifth chapter we not only continue to encounter this narrative of our being justified by faith and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, but we also begin to see that which faith lays hold on and that which faith appropriates within our hearts and lives. The words which we find in the fifth and sixth chapter not only bring us face to face with that which Jesus the Christ did for us, but also our identification and our identity with Jesus in His death—and not only in His death, but also in His burial and in His resurrection. Oh we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in the fifth and sixth chapters, for if you want to truly understand the struggle and conflict the apostle Paul wrote about in the seventh chapter—and not only the conflict he wrote about in the seventh chapter, but also the freedom and deliverance that is presented in the eighth chapter—you must needs encounter the words written and recorded here. It is only when we truly understand and begin to recognize that it is by faith alone that we are justified before the LORD without works, without the Law, and apart from circumcision that we are able to lay hold of the person of Jesus Christ—and not only the person of Jesus the Christ, but also that which Jesus did for us upon the cross two thousand years ago. The apostle Paul sought to lay a strong foundation of faith, for if we truly want to appropriate the words which are found in the fifth chapter we must needs encounter and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth of what Jesus the Christ did for us upon the cross—that which we must needs appropriate by and through faith. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which are found within the fifth chapter of this New Testament epistle beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have pace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
These words must be carefully understood when seeking to understand this justification by faith alone apart from the Law and without works, however, it also directly confronts and reveals the tremendous love God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and showed unto us while we were without strength and while we were yet enemies. It is absolutely incredible to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for that which we find within it not only presents us being those without strength, but it also presents us as being ungodly, and even as sinners. It is also written concerning while we were enemies Jesus Christ commended His love for and toward us in that He was willing to die and sacrifice His own life for us. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this, for it is a truly wonderful and powerful picture that is painted here of we who were without strength, we who were ungodly, and we who were sinners, and how despite all of that the Father commanded and commended His love toward us through the person, the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely critical that we pay close attention to the words written and recorded in the fifth chapter, for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the that which the Lord Jesus Christ did—not only to deliver us from sin, but also to deliver us from the curse and penalty of sin. What’s more, is that what Jesus the Christ did for us He did apart from the Law and apart from works that there might be absolutely no room for boasting within our hearts and minds. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we can take absolutely no credit for this freedom and deliverance, nor this justification and salvation which comes only by and through faith without and apart from the Law and works. What’s more, is that in the fifth chapter of this New Testament epistle we encounter the tremendous reality that not only is this appropriated through and by faith which is what’s required on our part, but it is also that which is freely given as a gift, for even Jesus Himself declared unto Nicodemus how God so loved the world that HE GAVE his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. We dare not miss and ignore this remarkable and beautiful truth, for within it we come face to face with the fact that our faith works together with the free gift given and provided unto us by and through the Father through the person of Jesus Christ and the work He did on the cross. Consider if you will the words which are found in the final portion of the fifth chapter:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered int othe world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be death, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which received abundance of grace and of the gift or righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).
The more you read the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture the more you will encounter and come face to face with the wonderful and powerful truth of just how absolutely necessary and important faith truly is when it comes to appropriating the work of Jesus the Christ upon the cross within our lives. What’s more, is that when you come to chapters five through eight you will find that in direct connection and conjunction to faith within our hearts and souls there is an awesome and powerful work of Jesus the Christ upon the cross, as well as the person of the Holy Spirit. It is by and through faith we are able to appropriate the free gift of salvation from the Father through the work which Jesus wrought upon the cross, however, we must needs recognize that there is still a great work and great need within our hearts and lives. That which we find in the sixth chapter brings us face to face with the undeniable truth that we have a great need to give ourselves unto sacrifice, and give ourselves unto death and crucifixion, for not only was crucifixion and the cross something that was manifested within the life of the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver us from the curse and bondage of sin and death, but it was also an invitation given unto us to take up our cross and to use the cross to crucify ourselves with Christ, and to put to death the deeds of the flesh within our hearts, within our minds, within our souls, and without lives. It is absolutely necessary that we understand that there was an initial cross which Jesus Christ Himself carried and bore to the place where He would ultimately die and be crucified, however, that cross was not the exception, nor was it an exemption for and unto us. We must needs realize and recognize that there is still a work of the cross which needs to be wrought and performed within our lives, as although we have been given the free gift of salvation which is appropriated through faith, there is also the need to continually and daily take up our cross—and not only take up our cross, but also to put ourselves upon the cross and through the cross crucify ourselves together and along with our sinful desires, our sinful motives, and our flesh. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of this New Testament epistle:
“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14).
These words are absolutely necessary to understand within our understanding of what is found within chapters five through eight of the epistle written unto the Romans for I am convinced that chapters five and six are essentially Calvary, the cross, death and crucifixion—first of Jesus the Christ upon the cross, and secondly the daily crucifying of ourselves with the cross within our lives—and Pentecost as evidenced in the eighth chapter. What’s more, is that in between Calvary and Pentecost, in between the cross and the upper room, and in between Jesus the Christ and the Spirit there is this profound place of conflict and struggle within our flesh—this struggle between good and evil, this struggle between obedience and disobedience, this struggle between righteousness and unrighteousness, and this struggle between doing what we ought not to be doing and not doing what we ought to be. It’s quite interesting that in between what could very well be perceived as the cross and the upper room in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome we find the tremendous struggle that exists within our minds and within our hearts as we are constantly and continuously wrestling between our flesh and the Spirit. It is in the eighth chapter where we are brought face to face the tremendous conflict that exists within our physical and natural persons between our sinful flesh and the Spirit. What’s more, is that not only do we see this conflict and struggle between the flesh and the Spirit, but we also see this struggle which exists between our doing what we know we ought not to be doing and our not doing what we ought to be doing. Perhaps one of the most remarkable and astounding truths that is found in the seventh and eighth chapters is not only this conflict within our flesh and our minds, but also the conflict that exists between the flesh and the Spirit. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of this epistle concerning this tremendous struggle which exists within our physical and natural persons as we wrestle and struggle in the flesh:
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-6).
It is after the apostle Paul paints and presents a clear picture of our being delivered and set free from the Law which was given through and by Moses he goes on to write of this conflict which exists within our flesh, and this conflict which is present within our hearts, within our minds, and within our souls as we continually find ourselves wrestling with knowing what we ought to do and not doing it, and knowing what we ought not to do and choosing to do that. The apostle Paul—in the seventh chapter of this epistle—speaks to the conflict and struggle which countless men and women face and have faced within and throughout their hearts and minds throughout the generations and throughout the centuries. Perhaps what makes this all the more intriguing is when you think about the fact that although we have been justified by faith in and through the free gift of salvation from God through the person of Jesus the Christ we still continue to wrestle, and we still continue to struggle within our hearts and our minds in this natural and physical tent. We must needs recognize and understand this struggle that is presented in the seventh chapter, for it not only helps us to truly understand and appreciate the person and presence of the Holy Spirit within our lives, but it also helps us to be delivered from condemnation within our lives—regardless of whether we condemn ourselves, or whether it’s someone else who condemns us. With this in view please consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of this epistle beginning with the seventh verse:
“What shall we say then? IS the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the command, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good: that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:7-13).
“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would do I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. SO then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:14-25).
With these words the apostle Paul highlights and underscores this tremendous conflict and struggle within our members—that between what we know we ought to do and that which we know we ought not to do. Moreover, it is within these verses we are presented with the fact that there is this constant tension between our flesh and the Spirit—and not only between the flesh and the Spirit, but also how there is a law present within our members which wars against the law of our mind, and brings us into captivity to the law of sin. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words in this passage it’s that although we have been justified freely by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ according to the gift of God there is still an additional work which needs to be done within our hearts, within our minds, within our souls, and within our lives—namely, that of sanctification. Oh we must needs understand that justification is indeed an instant work which can be done and performed within our lives, however, when we speak of sanctification we must needs understand that it is not only continual, but it is also gradual and progressive within our lives. We must needs recognize that when it comes to this process of sanctification there is not only a work which we must needs engage ourselves in—namely, putting to death and crucifying our members and no longer yielding them as instruments unto unrighteousness, as well as the work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives. If the fifth and sixth chapters highlight and underscore the cross—and not only the cross upon which Christ was crucified, but also the cross which is to be at work within our hearts and lives—then the eighth chapter highlights the work of the Spirit, and might very well present us with the “Pentecost” of the epistle written unto the Romans. It is absolutely remarkable and astounding to read the words which are found within this New Testament epistle. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize that not only is there a need for the work of the Spirit within our hearts and lives, but there is also a tremendous work of the cross which needs to be present and manifested within our hearts, within our minds, and within our lives. We must needs commit and give ourselves to both the work of the cross as well as the work of the Upper Room, for it is when these two realities work in conjunction with our lives that we can experience the true work of sanctification that is needed to transform us into the men and women we have been called to be. It is with this in mind I leave you with the following words which are found in the eighth chapter of this epistle concerning the activity and work of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, our minds and our lives:
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spirituall minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwel in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your motal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:1-18).