Bible studies on Romans

Romans 8v31-39
For many, this is an all time favourite passage of scripture. Paul gives us the ultimate list of hardships and sufferings that any Christian might face and then says in v37, "Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us". He had proved this in his own life from hard personal experiences. He concludes that absolutely no one and nothing can "separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord".

Romans 8v26-30
Is powerful and meaningful prayer possible for an ordinary human being? Verses 26 and 27 give us tremendous hope in our relationship with God. Although a Christian may feel like just an ordinary human being, he or she is in reality born of the Spirit, a temple of the living God.

The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, Counsellor and the One who comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. He "makes intercession for us", groaning deep within us, praying as part of us, in union with us. No wonder our prayers get answered!

Our very calling and new birth were foreknown and predestined before time began. His plan for us, in Christ, always has been that we should become like Him and be His brothers. His sacrifice achieved this. Our right standing before God, our ultimate glorification in heaven, are rock solid sure - no matter what life throws at us. Nothing can happen to us that will not work in our favour. No wonder we love Him! No wonder we rejoice!

Romans 8v18-25
We considered how the creation was "subjected to futility" at the fall of man, and how it will be when it is released from its "bondage to decay", and the "lion will lie down with the lamb".

Can the creation itself "groan" and "expect eagerly" the end of the ages? These verses suggest that the creation is longing for the coming of our Lord, the new heaven and earth as much as we are. We all agreed that there is a mystery that surrounds these truths.

Equally our very faith is a mystery. Hope that is seen is not hope. We are willing to press on in following Christ, often with little physical experience to back it up. We trust in His word alone – that is real faith.

Romans 8v12-17
This is the fourth of our studies in Romans 8. The dominant theme is "walking after the Spirit" as the way of life available to all believers. This walk is characterised by simple faith and focus on Christ and His finished work for us on the cross. Our debt is to Him. We owe the flesh nothing (v12). Our self-effort and self-righteousness achieve nothing. The Spirit gives life (John 6v63). Only by the Spirit can we please God (v8).

We talked about our experiences of being led by the Spirit (v14). Mostly we described God's "still small voice" inside of us - an intuitive sense, a knowing. We all had testimonies of practical ways in which we had been led to be a blessing to others. "My sheep hear my voice", Jesus said.

Walking after the Spirit is all about our relationship with the Lord. Just as Jesus heard His Father say to Him, "You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased" (Luke 3v22), so we too can know that love and acceptance of our heavenly father because we are in Christ. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus used the words, "Abba Father", as He faced the ordeal of death. Abba Father is like we would say "Daddy".

People may question our right to our special relationship with God. God's word speaks to us as we read it, and the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are God's children (v16).

Children inherit from their parents. Christ deserves to inherit; yet we, the undeserving, inherit all heaven's blessings because we are in Him. Identification with our beloved Saviour, Jesus, may bring suffering, but He suffered big time for us. It will certainly bring glory, glorified together with Him (v17).

Romans 8v7-11
What is a carnal mind? We looked at 1Corinthians 3v1-4 and discussed how a mind set on the flesh, on worldly things, produced bad fruit. Christians can be carnal and behave like "mere men" with demonstrations of envy, strife and divisions. Unless one's mind is set on Christ and His righteousness won for us at Calvary, a person cannot obey God.

"Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11v6) or put another way, "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God". (8v8)

Romans 8v9 makes it clear that if we are "in the Spirit" then we have the Holy Spirit living in us and we belong to Christ. We, who are such believers, should be those who walk according to the Spirit (8v1) and experience God's full abundance of life and peace (8v6).

Our fleshly bodies are dead because of sin (8v10) and sooner or later the grave/crematorium is inevitable. But thanks be to God our spirits live forever because of Christ's righteousness. This is good news indeed!

Romans 8v5-8
Living according to the flesh is a consequence of a mind set on the things of the flesh, just as living according to the Spirit is a consequence of a mind set on the things of the Spirit (v50). We looked at 1Corinthians 10v3-5 to expand this concept, the warfare of the mind. To keep one's mind; to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" is impossible by natural means. Our weapons are "not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds".

Being "carnally minded" (v6) would describe an unbeliever, but believers can be such too as 1Corinthinas 3v1-4 shows us. Carnal Christians demonstrate their thought lives by envy, strife, divisions, behaving like "mere men".

Only a Christian can be "spiritually minded" and experience the life and peace that comes from being focused on Christ, trusting in His righteousness all the day.

How impossible to obey God's righteous requirements when we are carnally minded, trying to please God by our own efforts. "So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God". (v8)

How wonderful to know and experience "the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled in us" as we look to Christ. Hallelujah!

Romans 8v1-6
We began by revelling in the glory of verse 1. We all agreed that the word of "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" was food indeed for the soul and the foundation of our love relationship with the Lord. Although our Lord is not condemning us, and will never condemn us, we do a great job of condemning ourselves. It is one of those bright shining verses good to commit to memory along with Romans 5v1 "justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ".

Rejoicing in "no condemnation" we remember that it was Christ who took the condemnation that we deserve. He pioneered the life of "living according to the Spirit" (v4) and by His death on the cross, opened up the possibility of our living according to the Spirit too.

The principle or law of sin and death (v2) could be likened to the law of gravity, pulling us down at all times and without fail. Christ (like an aircraft) overcomes this law, and providing we get on the plane, we too can live by a higher principle, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

We all agreed that to "set our minds on what the Spirit desires" was something that we were learning to do but as Paul said, "not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me" (Phil 3v12).

To set one's mind on the Spirit is not to live an isolated monastic life, but to enjoy all God's good gifts with thanksgiving and to have the abundant life that Jesus promised (John 10v10).

What a rich and glorious passage of scripture! No wonder we only covered six verses!

Romans 7v7-25
Perhaps never before has a passage of scripture provided us with so much to talk about! 7v14-25 seemed to draw our focus like a moth to a flame.

We considered our relationship to the Law and looked at 2Cor 3v7-9. The Law is described here as "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation". This being what was written on the tablets of stone, by the finger of God, i.e. the Ten Commandments! This ties in with Romans 7v8-11 where Paul says that the commandment "do not covet" brought death to him. The commandments themselves are good and holy, but the sin nature of man can't handle it. Our flesh is weak and cannot fulfil God's commands. The end result is that we feel guilty and condemned and feel the pull to sin even more.

Yet this condition is just the way we need to be in order to appreciate the grace of God in our Saviour Jesus Christ. In desperation Paul writes, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (7v24, 25).

We considered carefully who is the "I" of verses 14-25. Is he a non-Christian (v14 is pretty strong) or a Christian (v22 backs that surely)? A third option is that he is a Christian walking "after the flesh" (8v5) and not "after the Spirit". Whilst this passage is a comfort to us, in that we see that even Paul shared our struggles, we recognised that we are not meant to stay there! Our born again new nature in Christ is designed and equipped to "walk after the Spirit and not satisfy the desires of the flesh" (8v1). Alleluia!

Praise God that we have been redeemed and rescued by Jesus Christ our Lord!

Romans 7v1-6
In Romans 6 we saw how God delivered us from sin. In Romans 7 we see how he delivers us from law. Chapter 6 shows us the way of deliverance from sin in the picture of a master and his slave; chapter 7 shows us the way of deliverance from the law in the picture of two husbands and a wife. The relation between sin and the sinner is that of master to slave; the relation between the law and the sinner is that of husband to wife.

The law is pictured as a perfect and good, but utterly demanding husband. The wife (us) longs to be released from this marriage and be joined to another (Christ) but the law is not going to die. The solution is found. If the law will not be dissolved and die, then the wife must die. This illustrates how we have died to the law through the body of Christ. And yet just as Christ was raised to life, so are we in Him, and the result of that new marriage is bearing fruit to God.

We wrestled to understand this passage. We talked much about the meaning of the terms, "old man", "new man", "old self", "I" (7v14-25), "the old nature" etc.

We all agreed that although we are not without sin in our present lives, something fundamental has changed in us at the very core of our beings. We praise Him who has brought about salvation for us and given us a revelation of eternity with Him.

Romans 6
For a second time, we considered Romans 6, because it is just too wonderful to pass over quickly.

We thought again bout the mystery of our baptism into Christ (perhaps it is not referring to water baptism after all?). How dead to sin are we really? Which old man was it who died anyway?

Although we disagreed about exactly how we were buried with Christ and which part of our being died and when, we know that something profound and glorious has happened to us as Christians; clearly stated, "we have been freed from sin" v7, v18, v22. Sin's dominion has been broken in us and it behoves us to acknowledge it and reckon on it.

The result should be that we present ourselves to Christ as instruments of righteousness. Having been slaves to evil, resulting in death, we now joyfully enslave ourselves to Christ. The outcome is holiness and everlasting life.

Roman 6 v1-6
Although we aimed to cover 14 verses we barely did 5!

As chapter 5 is a description of how much God's grace abounds and overflows to us, so chapter 6 shows us how we appropriate that grace.

Verse 1 is a restatement of 3v8, and comes again in 6v15. Paul preached grace to such an extent that he was accused of promoting ungodly living. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones said that is no-one questions our preaching in like manner, we should ask whether we are preaching the same gospel that Paul preached!

Trust God's grace and live like a devil? Paul answers emphatically in v2 "Certainly not!" "How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" We spent the rest of the evening discussing what it means to have "died to sin". Does it happen gradually during our lives, and finally at our physical death? Is it something we feel or actively take part in?

We looked at many similar verses in the New Testament including Galatians 2v20, Col 2v20, 3v1-5, and 9-10. When Adam sinned, we sinned in a way. "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (5v19). Similarly when Christ died, we died (6v5).

So if we, as Christians have died, why don't we feel dead? Clearly we are not dead physically. And we are very much alive in mind, will, emotions and personality. We certainly have no memory of physical and mental torture such as Christ suffered.

If our "old man was crucified with Him", what does our old man consist of? In Christ we are "new creatures". The old has gone, the new has come (Scor5v17). We wrestled with these things and went away to study and to discuss further next time.

Romans 5v6-21

Verses 6-11

The passage speaks clearly about Christ's provision of atonement for us. It highlights our condition (humanity in general and us in particular) at the point at which Christ died. We were "without strength", "still sinners", "enemies" and "ungodly".

Now that we are "sowed" and "reconciled" even bigger miracles take place (as if these weren't enough!). "Much more" is available to us. We are "saved from wrath" at the end of our lives, and "saved by His life" throughout our lives by His Holy Spirit living in us, and His intercession for us.

We discussed the phrase "at the right time Christ died for the ungodly". Although we had many ideas about why Christ came and died when He did, we concluded that we did not completely understand it. We are just thankful that He did come and that "Christ died for us".

Verses 12-21

This passage linked Adam and Christ. We looked at 1 Corinthians 15v45-49 as a commentary on it. Paul repeatedly tells us that Adam's sin brought about sin and death in the entire human race. A person's sin does not make him a sinner. Rather, a man sins because he is a sinner. Paul puts this at least six times, and some eight times he tells us that Christ's obedience makes many righteous.

Christ's righteousness is a "free gift"; it "abounds to many". It causes us to "reign in life". "Grace abounded much more". It is more powerful and more effective than Adam's trespass. It is sufficient to save us to the uttermost. It must be received by faith. The Lord does not force His love on us.

Hallelujah what a Saviour!

Romans 5v1-5
We talked for an hour and a half about just five verses! We realised that this passage was too rich and full to skim through quickly.

Peace with God is something that we have through Christ, a relationship with Him that is permanent. Although we may not always feel peace, nevertheless this is our privileged position for eternity as born again believers. This peace we must accept by faith in order to experience the reality and benefit of it.

We stand in grace, a position that the devil will try and convince us out of (Ephesians 6v11). We rejoice this side of glory, because of our hope (our certain expectation), just as Abraham gave glory to God before Isaac was even conceived (4v20).

Faith is a gift (Ephesians2v8), but we all have access to it. It is available to anyone who will ask, seek, knock (Luke 11v9).

God does not send tribulations, but we are not taken out of them in this life. With faith in God's strength and ability to overcome, they produce amazing Christ like qualities in us that shine out to others. Exercising our faith in this way brings about its strengthening, and forms in us a certain expectation (hope) of glory.

All this takes place through Christ's love for us. He endured so much; we can but persevere. The Holy Spirit indwells every Christian and so perseverance is part of our very nature just as it is Christ's.

Hope in Christ does not disappoint. Everything in this life is always less wonderful than we hope for. Everything in Christ is better than we can possibly imagine!

Romans 4v13-25
Abraham's journey of faith over decades, believing God's word to him about a son to be born to Sarah, dominates this passage. He didn't get it all right in his life (an encouragement to us) but "he was strengthened in his faith" (v20) as the years went by.

The NIV rendering of v19 "he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead" contrasts with the NKJV "he did not consider his own body already dead". What you consider, meditate or focus on is important when it comes to strengthening faith. Abraham deliberately set his thoughts on God's promise and not on the deadness of his own body or Sarah's. Abraham gave glory to God (v20) even before Isaac was on the way, so convinced was he. He was aligning himself with his God in whom he believed "who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did". (v17)

Isaac, the miracle baby, is an Old Testament "type" or illustration of our "new man" or the born again spirit within us Christians. Verses 22-25 reiterate the righteousness reckoned "to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead". From the dead body of Christ a seemingly impossible thing happened, resurrection life for us who believe.

This is further illustrated in Galatians 4 where Hagar and Sarah are shown to be "types" of the old and new covenants. Galatians 4v31 says, "we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman".

This glorious truth has huge application for our daily walk of faith. Our flesh is dead and incapable of any real righteousness or victory over sin. The "new creature" within is real, just as Isaac was real to Abraham, even before he arrived. By faith we can say, "sin shall not have dominion over me" (Romans 6v14). I will "reckon myself dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6v11)

Alleluia! Glory to His Name!

Romans 4 v1-12
Abraham had a unique roll in God's salvation plan. He quite simply believed the promises of blessing that God made to him. When God asked him to do something, he did it. That was it.

His faith in God was reckoned to him as righteousness. His faith pleased God. His good deeds did not add to it and his failures did not take it away.

He is a model for us New Testament believers, Jews or non-Jews. As non-Jews he is as we are, because righteousness was reckoned to him long before he was circumcised. He is the father of the Jewish nation in a physical sense, but a father in the faith to those Jews only who walk in the steps of the faith that he had.

We looked at psalm 32 which Paul quotes in verses 7 and 8. If having God's righteousness was only a matter of having sins forgiven it would be worth rejoicing about for eternity, but Psalm 32 makes it clear that a close relationship with God is what its all about.

Romans 3 v 27-31
When boasting is absent, it is a sure sign that a person is completely trusting God for righteousness and not working to earn it. In seeking God's love and approval, we bring nothing to the table. Faith in Christ's finished work for us is everything. Your family background is irrelevant and your religious credentials are worthless.

We focused our discussion on the phrase in verse 31 "we uphold the law" (NIV) or "we establish the law" (AV). Having found grace in the sight of God, it is no license to go out and live like the devil. Rather knowing God's great love, we desire more than ever to love others. Clothed with His righteousness and filled with His Spirit we do "fulfil the law" (Gal 6v2) in a way that would be impossible otherwise. In a sense, we really have become "perfect" as our "heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5v48).

Finally we looked ahead to Romans 4, which is all about Abraham. We considered the questions, "Why so much about Abraham? What's so special about him?" And how should we quantify faith? Little faith or weak faith? Much faith or strong faith?

We reveal all next week!

Romans 3v21-26
"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all, and upon all, who believe".

We lingered on the mountaintop of these glorious verses in Romans, admiring the view! We looked at many other verses containing the word righteousness and discussed what it was. We concluded it to be the legal standing we have before God by which we are considered right with Him, innocent and clean. Elsewhere it is a moral or ethical description of good action. Yet more, it is something wonderful given to us by God when we are born again. New creatures, given new spirits, new hearts. Ephesians 4v23 tells us, "to put on the new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness".

Righteousness is a gift to us through the merits of Christ who died for us, an atoning sacrifice before a holy God. We do not necessarily feel righteous, or indeed automatically experience good deeds happening in our lives. It is by faith that God's righteousness becomes a reality in our behaviour, the way we live each day.

This unmerited grace is freely offered to all men, because everyone needs it. No one can have relationship with God without it. It cuts off boasting at every point. Rather we praise and magnify the Lord who is our righteousness!

God does not overlook our sin or brush it under the carpet. He does not let us off the hook without punishment. His justice cannot allow that to happen. He took our punishment and paid the price for our sin. He was both "just and the justifier" of those who trust in Jesus Christ.

What a glorious truth, glorious salvation!

All praise to our glorious Lord!

Romans 3v1-22
In this study Paul concludes his proof that everyone is a sinner. It was not difficult to demonstrate how bad the Gentiles were, in chapter 1. In chapter 2 he reasoned that the Jews were equally blameable, with their self-righteousness and hypocrisy.

The "total depravity" of man only goes to highlight the goodness and patience of God. Does that mean that my awfulness in some way enhances God's glory? Perhaps I'm doing Him a favour after all? Absolutely not, says Paul. That kind of polluted thinking justly deserves condemnation. It only goes to show that I had never really understood the grace and mercy of God in the first place.

Using quotes from Psalms, Isaiah and Ecclesiastes, Paul shows from the Old Testament how all men "have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (v23).

V19 and v20 conclude and wrap up the "sin problem". The purpose of the law was to "shut our mouths" once and for all and make us despair of ever being "justified in His sight" on our own.

V21 and v22 come bursting through with God's revealed solution to all this. He presents us with unmerited love and favour in the glorious gospel of His son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 2
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul is showing us that every man and woman is guilty before God and deserving of His wrath. Chapter 2 speaks to the Jews at Rome, who might have considered themselves better than the rest.

Having a judgmental attitude towards the behaviour of others is inexcusable (2v1). Considering yourself to be better than others probably indicates that you have never understood your own dire sin problem. It is an indicator of a hard and unrepentant heart (2v5) that has not appreciated God's goodness and mercy to all.

The book of Romans describes two ways of gaining relationship with God. You can fulfil the righteous requirements of the Law yourself. That way you would have to be a perfect doer of the Law (v13). One person has only ever achieved this standard, Jesus Christ. The second way is to accept His righteousness on your behalf as a free gift (3v21,22).

The self-righteous mindset of the Jews can be equally applied to any religious person. Rules and standards can dominate church teaching rather than a heart of love for the Lord who saves. Being circumcised, or having a baptism certificate is not what counts, but being a new creature in Christ (2v29, Gal 6v15).

In reading this chapter it is good to keep in mind where Paul is going with his argument. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (8v1). Trying to please God out of our own flesh is impossible, but praise His Name, that "in the Spirit, not in the letter" this is gloriously possible! (2v29)

Romans 1v16-32
Following his introduction in the first part of the chapter, Paul now begins his wonderful argument about our need for justification by faith.

God has revealed Himself to everyone in all ages, and each one has somewhere deep within him a knowledge of God's wrath for sin. When this knowledge is pushed down, it leads to futile thinking and rejection of the truth. On the other hand those who glorify God and give Him thanks for the abundance of all things find faith in God is a natural way of thinking and being.

These verses paint clearly for us a picture of our western society that has progressively turned away from the Lord and His commandments. The decadence and immorality that we witness all around us has come as a result of "not liking to retain God in their knowledge." (v28)

Although these verses are depressing, we hold in mind that the gospel "is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes." No hopeless sinner is so bad that he or she cannot be reached and gloriously saved by the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. What good news!

Romans 1v1-17
It is interesting to consider that unless Paul had been "hindered" (v13) in his desire to visit the church at Rome, he might never have had need to write the letter to them! Could he have known the incredible worldwide impact that "Romans" would have to millions over two millennia? Surely this book is one of the most important for the theology of the Protestant Church.

Paul probably penned this around AD57 during his third missionary journey in Corinth. He had not planted the Roman church, yet he longed to see them, and his constant prayers for them over spilled with thankfulness to God for their faith. Paul was quite "upfront" with them about his apostleship and special commission of evangelism to the known world. He knew he could bring them spiritual benefit, as well as receiving encouragement himself from them. His instruction from the Lord was to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to everybody, Jew, Greek and barbarian. No one is too low for the gospel!

The theme of the book of Romans is beautifully introduced in v17,18. The gospel is defined in v17 as the "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes". Paul had already witnessed its life changing power in thousands of lives and he was eager to see more "fruit" in Rome. In the gospel the "righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith" as it is written, "the just shall live by faith" (v18). We are looking forward to studying the great themes of Romans in the coming weeks, and being thrilled once again by the great gift of salvation that God has given us.