Life through His Spirit
In his Letter to the Romans, Paul presents his most detailed explanation of the Gospel. His purpose was to deal with conflicts between Gentile and Jewish members of the Assembly and prepare the ground for taking the Gospel to the West. In doing so, he touched on key topics, including death, redemption, the Law, resurrection, and New Creation. Believers are justified through his death and saved by his resurrection life.
The Apostle begins by describing the plight of humanity due to sin, and then he explains the solution provided by God through His Son. All men are in the same dilemma. Disobedience alienates them from God and condemns everyone to weakness, decay, and death.
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No one is exempt from the penalties of sin, neither Jew nor Greek, not even the most righteous saint from the illustrious past of Israel. Even the holy law given by God is unable to reverse this horrific reality.
Paul identifies himself as a “called apostle, separated to the Gospel of God, which he promised through his prophets.” In this role, he proclaims the Good News of the man who was “marked out as Son of God in power, according to the spirit of holiness, from the resurrection of the dead.” From the start, he anchors his message in the past death and resurrection of Jesus - (Romans 1:1-4).
The Gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Jews and Gentiles are in the same fix, and therefore, they acquire right standing before God on the same basis, namely, faith.
God has “revealed a righteousness from faith for faith,” but the Gospel also reveals the “wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Sinners resist what truth they already know from what they glean from the created order (“The invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made”).
Having rejected the God who created all things, they exchange the worship of Him for the “likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” They now pursue meaning in idolatrous worship.
For this reason, God has “delivered them up to the lusts of their hearts.” The very sins in which fallen humanity delights demonstrate that men are under His “wrath” already. His “wrath” includes handing men over to engage in the very sins they desire.
The picture of idolatry running rampant primarily has Gentiles in view. But what about Jews? Are they any better off than the idolatrous Gentiles? Paul answers in the negative - “No, certainly not, for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.” He then cites several passages from the Hebrew Bible to demonstrate that all have sinned, including even the most devout Jew:
- “There is none righteous, no, not one…They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that does good, no, not, so much as one.”
But what about the Law? Does not its possession give Israel an advantage over unenlightened Gentiles? Well, yes and no. The Jews have the Law, and therefore, they understand what God requires. However, the Law speaks to those who are under it:
- “So that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God; because from the works of the law shall no flesh be set right in his sight; for through the law is the knowledge of sin.”
The possession of the Law serves to highlight Israel’s sins, and that increases her responsibility. Jews are at even greater risk of receiving God’s “wrath” than unenlightened Gentiles. In contrast, the Gospel provides a solution for Jews and Gentiles alike - “The righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ for all of them who believe, for there is no distinction; all have sinned and lack the glory of God.”
SALVATION IN JESUS
Both Jews and Gentiles are set right before God “through the ransomed release in Christ Jesus.” Thus, a man is put in right relationship with God from faith, and that is “apart from the works of the Torah.” Thus, God demonstrates His love for and faithfulness to humanity:
- “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now set right by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be SAVED BY HIS LIFE.”
Being saved “by his life” means his resurrection life. Sin is not reckoned to us if we believe that God “raised Jesus our Lord from among the dead.” He was handed over to a violent death for our trespasses, but he was “raised for our justification.”
This is the plight of humanity - “Through one man, sin entered into the world, and death through sin; thus, death passed to all men, for that all sinned.”
The penalty for sin is death, and Paul is referring in the first place to Adam and his disobedience, the sin that doomed us all to death and enslavement under sin. Not that all die for Adam’s sin, for all men commit sin, and therefore, all rightly deserve death. Fortunately, God has not left us without hope:
- “If by the trespass of the one man, the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound unto the many…For if, by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; much more shall they that receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.”
Believers are baptized into Christ’s death so that, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection… if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no more has dominion over him. For the death that he died, he died unto sin once: but the life that he lives, he lives unto God.”
Throughout Paul’s argument, the counterpart to death is resurrection - LIFE RECEIVED BY THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD. That knowledge should reorient our entire lives, including our relationship to the Law.
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We also must “become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that we should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead.” Despite being set right before God, believers are still subject to death. However, “If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead will give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit.”
Believers remain mortal while living in the present age, and whether mortal or immortal, they live an embodied existence, and the Gift of the Spirit is the guarantee of their future bodily resurrection.
The Spirit dwells in mortal believers and attests that they are the “children of God” and “joint heirs with Christ.” The creation itself is, at present, in “earnest expectation” as it waits for the day when the “sons of God” will be revealed.
The disobedience of Adam subjected the entire creation to decay and death. Nevertheless, all creation will be delivered from the “Bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God…at our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:10-23).
Thus, not only does Paul base the salvation provided by the Gospel on the past resurrection of Jesus, but he also links the future resurrection of believers and the coming New Creation. The “redemption of our bodies” refers to our resurrection when Jesus returns. Moreover, if the creation itself is waiting for that event, then his arrival will result in the appearance of the “New Heavens and the New Earth.” Indeed, “life from the dead”!