Back to home page
This commentary is a work in progress and will be updated as time allows. The Bible is from Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.s site. Last update was 1-29-14.
Comments on Romans
I would like to show the balance between the value of faith and works for a Christian. I think that we are saved by grace and by faith, and not by works, which is the standard Protestant viewpoint. However, in actual experience, one does not encounter examples of true faith that are not accompanied by a true desire to change ones works. The change in actions is the only way that one mortal is able to observe faith in another mortal. One demonstrates the validity of their faith by their works. In the autobiography of John Newton (famous for writing the words to “Amazing Grace,” he writes a lot of very profound and Christian sounding things in his correspondence, written from the very cabin of his slave ship, while he was in the sinful business of transporting slaves. They would otherwise seem to be written by someone having Christian faith. It would be interesting to see if the Christian world of today would take him seriously if he had never repented of slave trading. However this did not happen, and I think a lot of why the Christians of today think well of him is because he did indeed repent.
I think what we as Christians can pull out of Romans is not that the works of a Christian are meaningless, only that they are not the mechanics of our salvation, that being instead Christ dying for our sins.
The famous line “The just will live by faith” which one hears a lot in Christian circles, comes from the short and often overlooked book of Habakkuk.
I see 18-32 as a description of the state of pagan Greek and Roman society.
29-31 are a list of sins, being things that define a person as an unrighteous pagan. I would say that if a if people do these things, regardless of their self definitions, they show to others that they are unrighteous pagans. Galatians 5 has a similar list, followed by a list of good attributes and works. There is another list in 2 Peter 1, that starts with faith and builds good works on it.
I have heard that the chapter divisions in the epistles are a modern invention and were not in the original letters. So really 1:18-3:8 is a continuous discourse that leads up to the conclusion that all men are sinful.
Verses 7 and 8 could be seen to show that salvation is by works only, but I think we need to take these in context with the ideas presented later. I do not think that this makes the later verses about salvation by grace invalid, but it does serve to balance them, showing that God is always concerned if with our deeds, whether they be good or evil. I think that the person that Paul has in mind in v7, would have to be one seeking God through Jesus, not merely a righteous pagan, for unless the Gospels be false no one comes to eternal life save through Jesus. Paul here actively seeks to proselytize the Jews and the pagans. The whole point of these verses is If they could achieve salvation though their own faiths.
Also Paul obviously believes in a very real coming day of judgment, which is mentioned elsewhere in Gospels and letters. I think verses 7 and 8 show that all deeds of both the believer and the unbeliever are judged (though other scripture would indicate that they are judged differently) Observation of human lives show that no one is a pure example of either v7 or v8. One who is generally evil does some good and one who is generally good does some evil, even if these exceptions are known only to God.
Verse 8 brings to mind that we kind of piece together what the arguments of the Jews and pagans against Paul actually were. A lot of times Paul seems to go off on tangents that seem very strange to me. I guess when this happens, this is how I explain it to myself, that these tangents would seem more logical if the what the other side were saying were well known to me. This letter was not written to me, but I believe God allowed it to remain in the canon for my benefit and that of my fellow Christians. We get the idea that there must have been a decent sized Jewish minority in Rome at this time.