A General Survey of the Epistle to the Romans
The Whole World Condemned (3: 9-20)
"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" (3:9). Paul sums up his case, leaving no one out of the general condemnation.
Paul could not discuss salvation until he demonstrated that the whole world is under condemnation. Now he is ready for the next movement of thought.
Three aspects of salvation appear in this very logical section of the book.
The first aspect is the basic doctrine of justification which has four movements of thought:
The divine method of justification (3:21-31). At this point the world is condemned and every mouth silenced - not a man saying a word, nobody answering back to God - and it looks as if the whole world is lost. "But now the righteousness of God is manifested" (man has none.) Then Paul explains the divine method of justification: "Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (3:24).
The Old Testament illustration of justification (4:1-25). Immediately this question would arise in the mind of the Jew: "How about Father Abraham?" So Paul discusses Abraham. "What saith the Scriptures? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (4:3). Paul used Abraham as an illustration of the doctrine he is teaching.
The results of justification (5:1-11). "Being therefore justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ," Paul explains that we have peace with God, access to grace, and rejoicing because of hope.
The comparison between justification and condemnation (5:12-21). Paul makes a comparison between justification and condemnation. The contrast is between Christ and Adam: we were condemned in Adam; we are justified in Christ.
In studying this last movement of thought, notice that what God has done in Christ far exceeds what happened in Adam. Paul explains, "For as through one man," and then he makes his comparison: God has done much more through the second man or last Adam, Jesus Christ His Son. The last verse in the fifth chapter is a great summary of the two preceding sections: "Even as sin reigned unto death" - condemnation - "even so might grace reign" - justification.
Paul begins by anticipating the very thing that would come into some men's minds. Being justified apart from any works (that is, men do not need any works or character, which means that God saves men by their faith - right in their sin), they do not need to "clean up" and "be good." A man can stop right where he is, look up into the face of God, accept Christ, and have righteousness. This poses a real problem to some people, who say, "If that is the case, it doesn't matter how he lives." To meet that objection Paul begins his discussion: "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (6:1). He comes then to the practical section, how the justified man is sanctified and made holy in his life. This section contains chapters 6 and 7 and each chapter is a division: chapter 6 contains the right way of sanctification; and chapter 7, the wrong way.
The right way. Believe to be true what God says is true - that we died, were buried, and were raised from the dead with Christ." "Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body" (6:11-12). That is the way it is done - not by fighting, not by trying - just by looking at Jesus and saying, "God, you told me that I died with Christ, that I was buried with Him, that I was raised with Him." Paul points to our identity with Christ in His work. He says, "Now the way to do this is to believe what God says is true, whether you feel that way or not." This is the right way of sanctification.
The wrong way. "Or are ye ignorant, brethren (for I speak to men who know the law), that the law hath dominion over a man for so long a time as he liveth?" (7:1). All through the seventh chapter, Paul explains that the wrong way to sanctification is by the law. People try to keep the law to be sanctified, to make themselves holy. In the section on justification, Paul declared that no man could be righteous or justified by keeping the law. Stay out of the seventh chapter. Study it, but stay out of it. Folks say, "That's right, get out of it. Go over into the eighth chapter." That is not right either; get out of the seventh into the sixth chapter. If you are ever troubled by the seventh chapter, remember that it is the experience of a man who is trying to be sanctified by keeping the law. It is useless for folks to lay down rules and say, "You must do this" and "You cannot do that." I do not believe in preaching against sin in the abstract, but in dealing with the concrete things, It is no good saying, "Thou shalt not dance, or go to movies." Sanctification cannot come that way. There is only one way - reckoning the self dead to sin but alive in Christ Jesus. Then will come clean lives - lives that are not worldly. That is God's way to get what He wants in the life.
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 5 - "Preservation")