A Study of the Epistle to the Romans
The Heartwarming Conclusion to a Great Revelation
When you meet people who cause divisions and who become stumbling blocks (division has to do with arguments over doctrine; stumbling blocks consist of offenses to a Christian's sensitivity), you are not to argue with them. You are to "mark them and avoid them," get as far away from them as possible.
In these modern times we are told we must have unity above all else. The idea of being united has been exalted to the very skies, and very often at the price of truth and purity. In this verse, the apostle Paul does not talk about divisions and offenses in the abstract sense, but they are "divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned." This is a very plain commandment that the Christian is never to surrender, even for the sake of unity, to any man or woman who brings some teaching contrary to the doctrine we have learned in this book. In other words, the truth is exalted above unity. If it is possible for us to have truth and unity, we will praise the Lord! But if it is impossible, hold to the truth!
We are not to split over trivialities, yet when it comes to fundamental truth, we are to cling to that truth as we would cling to life itself.
According to verse 18 these divisive people think of nothing but themselves. It is all selfish. "By good words and fair speeches they deceive the hearts of the simple." Christendom is filled today with men who are teachers, who use the very same language we do - who talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, the atonement, the resurrection, the coming of the Lord, inspiration - but they do not mean at all what you and I mean when we speak of these things. They use the very phraseology of the Bible, but they do not mean what the Bible means.
Why did the apostle Paul warn the church at Rome, if they had no false teachers? The reason is given in the nineteenth verse. All over the Roman Empire, people had heard of this wonderful church - how willing the Christians were to work, how easily led by any man who wanted to teach them. Paul knew that it would not be long before false teachers would converge on this church. Here was a wonderful church, a church were a man could make a name for himself.
He gives therefore a little note here in the nineteenth verse: "I rejoice therefore over you; but I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple unto that which is evil." The moralists say today, "Just turn that around - be wise about the evil and simple about the good." That is NOT Christianity! We hear a great deal about the sophistication of youth. The young men and the young women know everything about evil. They tell us that it is a good thing for a young man to sow his wild oats. That is a lie of satan! God, in His Holy Word, declares that we should be simple, guileless, in ignorance of evil.
Verse 20 has reference o the first prophecy in the Bible of the coming of the Messiah (Genesis 3:15). The God of peace is in contrast to these false teachers, who always stir up strife. "Shortly" does not mean that the time is near, but it means when God starts in, the work will be done quickly - very shortly.
Verse 22 reveals a beautiful aspect to Paul. Who wrote this epistle? The apostle Paul did, but he did it by dictation. He had a secretary, and that man's name was Tertius. When he came to Tertius, he could have said, "Tertius sends his greetings," but the apostle Paul is so gracious and thoughtful that he said, "Tertius, you send your greetings yourself." So we, salute you in the Lord."
Verse 23 continues, "Gaius mine host"; he is the man that Paul baptized at Corinth (1 Co. 1:14). He was probably a wealthy man, because he was not only Paul's host, but the host of the whole church which met in his home.
Then Paul says, "Erastus, the chamberlain of the city, saluteth you." Corinth was no mean city. We might compare it favorably with Philadelphia. You know how great a man is treasurer of Philadelphia would be. This man, who was the treasurer of the city, and Gaius were probably wealthy men.
There follows another benediction. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen". Then comes the doxology.
I want to refer back to the first chapter. Those of you who have followed the studies will remember that Paul says, "I long to see you that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end that you may be established." That is the reason Paul wanted to go to Rome and why he wrote this epistle. After he wrote this and looked back over the epistle, Paul realized that only God can establish. Paul could not in any final sense do it, and so now this doxology:
"Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen"
The mystery is not developed. Paul develops it in Ephesians. But it was no mystery that God had some promise for the Gentile world. That was promised in the Old Testament. The mystery was that God was going to receive Jew and Gentile into the same body, the church of Jesus Christ. He is saying that "my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ is according to the mystery," that the Jew and the Gentile shall be received together.
The scriptures of the New Testament prophets, not the Old Testament, is here meant.
Then he closes: "To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever. Amen."
That will be a wonderful day. As we have passed through the book of Romans there have been many things not easy to explain, and perhaps never fully understandable in this life, but it will be wonderful to sit down with Paul and with Gaius, Erastus, Priscilla, Aquila in that day to come. Someday we are going to meet them all! and at last we shall know something of the details that we have been trying to point out in this book.
It has been a great privilege for me to study the book. But we have not finished with it; we have just begun. The many times you read Romans in the future will only give an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to open up new truths.
Our Father, we thank Thee for the book of Romans. We ask Thee, our Father, as we come to the conclusion of this study, that somehow the doctrines of this book may be experienced in our lives, and that in some small way we shall walk more worthy of the calling wherewith Thou hast called us. In the name of our Lord Jesus we ask it. Amen.
~Alva J. McClain~