Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Romans - Chapters 1 and 2

(Pictured above is a word cloud on the entire book of Romans. click here to see word clounds for the 66 books of the Bible. )

This post is part of a study in Romans, whereby we identify keywords and phrases for each chapter with the goal of having a handle on the subject matter and flow of thought within Romans whereby we can preach the gospel to ourselves and others every day. See here for a introduction and description of our study in Romans.

Below is a handout plus a few added notes to summarize the previous four weeks in Romans Chapters one and two, and to introduce the memory verses and keywords for Romans Chapter 3.

November 15, 2009

  • Chap 1: Without Excuse
  • Chap 2: The Law Condemns
  • Chap 3: There is none righteous

Alternate Keywords:
  • Chap 1: The Indictment Begins (Rom 1:18)
  • Chap 2: Jews having a Law, Gentiles not having a Law Answered
  • Chap 3: All have sinned, Total Depravity

Memory Verses:
  • Rom 1:20
  • Rom 2:13
  • Rom 3:10

Extended Memory Verses
  • Chap 1: Rom 1:20, Rom 1:1, Rom 1:8, Rom 1:16-20
  • Chap 2: Rom 2:13, Rom 2:12-16
  • Chap 3: Rom 3:10, Rom 3:10-12, Rom 3:18, Rom 3:21, Rom 3:23, Rom 3:28-29
In the summaries below the idea is to cement in yourself what is meant by "Without Excuse" and "The Law Condemns." It is not so important to memorize a script as to grasp how these two keywords begin to explain the truth that everyone stands in need of a savior--that outside of Christ there is no salvation. And to remember the flow of the presentation the apostle Paul by the Spirit of God is setting forth.

Romans Chapter One - Without Excuse:

Everyone is without excuse. No one is a victim who is innocent because of ignorance. That which may be known of God has been plainly-made-known or manifest in us, God has showed it to us. Having the truth yet suppressing it. Everyone is without excuse. The invisible things of Him from the very beginning of the world are clearly seen. They are understood by the things that are made. EVEN his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are WITHOUT EXCUSE. Creation evidences a creator. Everything that exists owes for it’s origin ultimately to a self-existent one. Every flower dependent upon the bee, every bee dependent upon the flower, every woodpecker dependent upon the superior strength of his beak that can peck and upon his tongue and every woodpecker’s tongue dependent upon the sheath in his head and every woodpecker’s head dependent upon the incredible shock absorbers surrounding his brain, --- every symbiotic relationship showing forth the glory and wisdom of it’s creator. God’s power is on display. If we would just open our eyes and marvel and worship HIM, Marvelous creator, MARVELOUS GOD. (For more on the woodpecker example click here.)

Romans Chapter Two - The Law Condemns:
The gentiles can make excuse saying, “but we have no law to guide us -- we don’t know -- how can we be blamed?” and the Jews can boast saying “but we have the law, we hear it, we read it, we are Jews, we will escape judgment.

In this chapter, both parties are answered and both are shown to be undone. For the gentiles show the work of the Law written on their heart when they see and value something as either right or wrong. When they are incensed at an injustice, or when they make excuse to justify someone’s action they are clearly showing that God has placed his law on their hearts, though they know it imperfectly, yet even their conscience testifies to the truth of this and their thoughts making excuses on the one hand and accusations on the other. The Jews have the law, but it is not the hearing of it that counts. And as to both parties, whether the law is only what they have by nature written on their hearts, or as do the Jews having a written law, yet it is not the having of it that counts, or the hearing of it that counts but only the doing -- and only the perfection of that doing. As Gal 3:10 says, Cursed is everyone that does not CONTINUE in ALL. The word “continue” pointing to the required continuous perfect adherence to the law - at all times, and the “in all” showing that all parts of the law must be kept moment by moment. You must at all times always with every breath love God with all of your being, ever fiber perfectly or you fail. And if you fail the law condemns.

The law is very good to show you what must be done but it has no power to enable you to do what it requires. The law condemns. And this word “Condemns” is a very grave word speaking of very serious and eternal consequences concerning an eternal judgment. If you hope for the good to outweigh the bad, if you hope to meet some standard, if you hope for some merit by living by some code that seems right in your own heart -- know this - you will fail. The Law Condemns - it does not enable - it shows no mercy and offers no grace. It demands perfection, perfectly all the time. (see commentary at the bottom of this post.)

I often remember this poem, generally credited to John Bunyan, as a further explanation of how in the Law there is no grace, no promise of enablement, no mercy extended but rather to expose our sin and condemn us.

Run, John, Run, the Law commands
But gives me neither feet nor hands
Far Better news the Gospel Brings
It bids me Fly and gives me wings
(click here for possible alternative author and slightly modifed version)

I should add here, that Christ Jesus is our perfect law keeper. That as we continue our study through Romans we will find one who did in all points at all times perfectly keep the law. And he did it not for himself but for us whom he represented. So that, in his life, Christ fulfilled all righteousness and he did so FOR US who are in Christ, who believe. And in his death, our sins were imputed to him, so that he died in our place, in the place of his people and to satisfy the judgment and wrath of God which was against us. Christ Jesus made atonement for sin. He made satisfaction. What a savior! Hallelujah to God for the grace of faith to believe and partake in "so great salvation."

Summary of previous Blog Posts containing Expanded notes of our Study in Romans:
Paul an Apostle, Verbal Plenary Inspiration
Rom 1:1-8
Rom 1:18 Faith is a Gift
Rom 1:20 Without Excuse
Rom 1:17-20 Questions

From here to the bottom is a blog bonus feature offering an opportunity for the more inquiring to read from Calvin's Commentary on Rom 2:12-15.

John Calvin's Commentaries: (click here for online version)

12. Whosoever have sinned without law, 69 etc. In the former part of this section he assails the Gentiles; though no Moses was given them to publish and to ratify a law from the Lord, he yet denies this omission to be a reason why they deserved not the just sentence of death for their sins; as though he had said — that the knowledge of a written law was not necessary for the just condemnation of a sinner. See then what kind of advocacy they undertake, who through misplaced mercy, attempt, on the ground of ignorance, to exempt the nations who have not the light of the gospel from the judgment of God.

Whosoever have sinned under the law, etc. As the Gentiles, being led by the errors of their own reason, go headlong into ruin, so the Jews possess a law by which they are condemned; 70 for this sentence has been long ago pronounced,

“Cursed are all they who continue not in all its precepts.” (Deuteronomy 27:26.)

A worse condition then awaits the Jewish sinners, since their condemnation is already pronounced in their own law.

13. For the hearers of the law, etc. This anticipates an objection which the Jews might have adduced. As they had heard that the law was the rule of righteousness, (Deuteronomy 4:1,) they gloried in the mere knowledge of it: to obviate this mistake, he declares that the hearing of the law or any knowledge of it is of no such consequence, that any one should on that account lay claim to righteousness, but that works must be produced, according to this saying, “He who will do these shall live in them.” The import then of this verse is the following, — “That if righteousness be sought from the law, the law must be fulfilled; for the righteousness of the law consists in the perfection of works.” They who pervert this passage for the purpose of building up justification by works, deserve most fully to be laughed at even by children. It is therefore improper and beyond what is needful, to introduce here a long discussion on the subject, with the view of exposing so futile a sophistry: for the Apostle only urges here on the Jews what he had mentioned, the decision of the law, — That by the law they could not be justified, except they fulfilled the law, that if they transgressed it, a curse was instantly pronounced on them. Now we do not deny but that perfect righteousness is prescribed in the law: but as all are convicted of transgression, we say that another righteousness must be sought. Still more, we can prove from this passage that no one is justified by works; for if they alone are justified by the law who fulfill the law, it follows that no one is justified; for no one can be found who can boast of having fulfilled the law. 71

14. For when the Gentiles, etc. He now states what proves the former clause; for he did not think it enough to condemn us by mere assertion, and only to pronounce on us the just judgment of God; but he proceeds to prove this by reasons, in order to excite us to a greater desire for Christ, and to a greater love towards him. He indeed shows that ignorance is in vain pretended as an excuse by the Gentiles, since they prove by their own deeds that they have some rule of righteousness: for there is no nation so lost to every thing human, that it does not keep within the limits of some laws. Since then all nations, of themselves and without a monitor, are disposed to make laws for themselves, it is beyond all question evident that they have some notions of justice and rectitude, which the Greeks call preconceptions προληψεις, and which are implanted by nature in the hearts of men. They have then a law, though they are without law: for though they have not a written law, they are yet by no means wholly destitute of the knowledge of what is right and just; as they could not otherwise distinguish between vice and virtue; the first of which they restrain by punishment, and the latter they commend, and manifest their approbation of it by honoring it with rewards. He sets nature in opposition to a written law, meaning that the Gentiles had the natural light of righteousness, which supplied the place of that law by which the Jews were instructed, so that they were a law to themselves. 72

15. Who show the work of the law 73 written, etc.; that is, they prove that there is imprinted on their hearts a discrimination and judgment by which they distinguish between what is just and unjust, between what is honest and dishonest. He means not that it was so engraven on their will, that they sought and diligently pursued it, but that they were so mastered by the power of truth, that they could not disapprove of it. For why did they institute religious rites, except that they were convinced that God ought to be worshipped? Why were they ashamed of adultery and theft, except that they deemed them evils?

Without reason then is the power of the will deduced from this passage, as though Paul had said, that the keeping of the law is within our power; for he speaks not of the power to fulfill the law, but of the knowledge of it. Nor is the word heart to be taken for the seat of the affections, but only for the understanding, as it is found in Deuteronomy 29:4,

“The Lord hath not given thee a heart to understand;”

and in Luke 24:25,

“O foolish men, and slow in heart to believe.”

Nor can we conclude from this passage, that there is in men a full knowledge of the law, but that there are only some seeds of what is right implanted in their nature, evidenced by such acts as these — All the Gentiles alike instituted religious rites, they made laws to punish adultery, and theft, and murder, they commended good faith in bargains and contracts. They have thus indeed proved, that God ought to be worshipped, that adultery, and theft, and murder are evils, that honesty is commendable. It is not to our purpose to inquire what sort of God they imagined him to be, or how many gods they devised; it is enough to know, that they thought that there is a God, and that honor and worship are due to him. It matters not whether they permitted the coveting of another man’s wife, or of his possessions, or of any thing which was his, — whether they connived at wrath and hatred; inasmuch as it was not right for them to covet what they knew to be evil when done.

Their conscience at the same time attesting, etc. He could not have more forcibly urged them than by the testimony of their own conscience, which is equal to a thousand witnesses. By the consciousness of having done good, men sustain and comfort themselves; those who are conscious of having done evil, are inwardly harassed and tormented. Hence came these sayings of the heathens — “A good conscience is the widest sphere; but a bad one is the cruelest executioner, and more fiercely torments the ungodly than any furies can do.” There is then a certain knowledge of the law by nature, which says, “This is good and worthy of being desired; that ought to be abhorred.”

But observe how intelligently he defines conscience: he says, that reasons come to our minds, by which we defend what is rightly done, and that there are those which accuse and reprove us for our vices; 74and he refers this process of accusation and defense to the day of the Lord; not that it will then first commence, for it is now continually carried on, but that it will then also be in operation; and he says this, that no one should disregard this process, as though it were vain and evanescent. And he has put, in the day, instead of, at the day, — a similar instance to what we have already observed.

69 Ανόμως commonly means unlawfully, wickedly, lawlessly; but here, as it is evident from the context, it signifies to be without law. The adjective ἀνόμος is also used once in this sense in 1 Corinthians 9:21. — Ed.

70 The word “condemned” would be better in the text than “judged;” it would then more plainly correspond with the former part, where the word “perished” is used: and that it means “condemned” is evident, for those who have “sinned” are the persons referred to. — Ed.

71 On the expression “hearers of the law,” Stuart has these remarks — “The Apostle here speaks of οἱ ἀκροαταὶ τοῦ νόμου, because the Jews were accustomed to hear the Scriptures read in public; but many of them did not individually possess copies of the sacred volume which they could read.”

72 As to the phrase, “these are a law unto themselves,” Venema adduces classical examples — πᾶν τὸ βέλτιστον φαινόμενον ἔστω σοι νόμος ἀπαράβατος “Whatever seems best, let it be to thee a perpetual law.” — Epict. in Ench., c. 75. “τὸ μὲν ορθὸν νόμος ἐστὶ βασιληκός What is indeed right, is a royal law.” — Plato in Min., page 317.
The heathens themselves acknowledged a law of nature. Turrettin quotes a passage from a lost work of Cicero, retained by Lactantius, which remarkably coincides with the language of Paul here — Ed.

73 By the work of the law, τὸ ἔργον τοῦ νόμου, is to be understood what the law requires. The “work of God,” in John 6:29, is of the same import, that is, the work which God requires or demands; and the same word is plural in the former verse, τὰ ἔργα — “the works of God.” So here, in the former verse, it is τὰ τοῦ νόμου — “the things of the law,” where we may suppose ἔργαto be understood. The common expression, “the works of the law,” has the same meaning, that is, such works as the law prescribes and requires. — Ed.

74 Calvin seems to consider that the latter part of the verse is only a expansion or an exposition of the preceding clause respecting “conscience:” but it seems to contain a distinct idea. The testimony of conscience is one thing, which is instantaneous, without reflection: and the thoughts or the reasonings — λογισμῶν, which alternately or mutually accuse or excuse, seem to refer to a process carried on by the mind, by which the innate voice of conscience is confirmed. This is the view taken by Stuart and Barnes, and to which Hodge is inclined.
Another view of the latter clause is given by Doddridge, Macknight, Haldane, and Chalmers The last gives this paraphrase of the whole verse, — “For they show that the matter of the law is written in their hearts — both from their conscience testifying what is right and wrong in their own conduct, and from their reasonings in which they either accuse or vindicate one another.”

But to regard the two clauses as referring to conscience and the inward workings of the mind, appears more consistent with the context. The Gentiles are those spoken of: God gave them no outward law, but the law of nature which is inward. Hence in the following verse he speaks of God as judging “the secrets of men,” as the inward law will be the rule of judgment to the Gentiles — Ed.

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