New Testament Lesson 36 (Romans)
THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
When Was the Epistle to the Romans Written?
● During Paul’s third missionary journey he spent 3 months in Corinth, probably waiting for good sailing conditions before departing for Jerusalem (Acts 20:2–3).
● From clues within the epistle, we deduce that the letter to Rome was written from Corinth near the end of the third journey, most likely during the winter months of AD 57–58 (Romans 16:35).
● The epistle was sent to Rome with Phebe, a church member from Cenchrea.
Why Was the Epistle to the Romans Written?
● Paul was alerting the Saints of his intent to visit them.
● The reports from Rome were positive. The Saints were believing, growing, testifying.
● But with Paul’s concern for the growing threat of false teachers, Romans contains a powerful defense of true righteousness and of salvation based on faith in Jesus Christ.
Significant Contributions of the Epistle to the Romans
● It defines the gospel and summarizes the process by which full salvation comes.
● The Theme of Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
● It speaks plainly of Adam’s fall, bringing death, and Christ’s atoning sacrifice, bringing life.
● It tells how the law of justification works: by faith and works, through the blood of Christ.
● It contains some of the most explicit Biblical teachings on:
— The election of grace
— The status of the chosen race
— Why salvation cannot come by the law of Moses alone
— Why circumcision was done away in Christ
— How and why salvation was taken to the Gentiles
● It is a chief source of the glorious doctrine of joint-heirship with Christ.
To Whom Was the Epistle to the Romans Written?
● Romans presupposes gospel knowledge, so it was written to the Saints, not investigators.
SAINTS VS. SINNERS
The Faithful Roman Saints
● The theme and language of Romans parallels Galatians, but the tone is vastly different. Here Paul mentions the faithful reputation of the Saints, their beloved standing before God, and his unceasing prayers for them (Romans 1:7–13).
● Phebe was a member of the Church from Cenchrea, the port town south of Corinth (Romans 16:1–2). She had assisted Paul in the work before this time, and now carried Paul’s letter to Rome.
● Paul had apparently become acquainted with many Roman Saints, probably in Corinth and Ephesus (Romans 16:3–15). Twenty-eight individuals, a number of them women, are mentioned by name. Some may even have been relatives of Paul.
The Wicked World
● A description of the pagans and their prideful ignorance (Romans 1:18–25).
● A clear declaration against homosexual behavior (Romans 1:26–28).
— “Convenient” is King James English for the Greek word meaning “fitting” or “proper.” The opposite of the elect is the reprobate or depraved (v. 28).
● Paul listed characteristics of the reprobate (Romans 1:29–32). “Whispers” refers to gossip.
FAITH, JUSTIFICATION & GRACE
How Our Faith Is Measured
● About 20% of this epistle deals with faith and grace and about 30% with works. These two terms are used more often in Romans than in any other New Testament scripture.
● Paul was speaking to both Jews and Gentiles, emphasizing different aspects of the gospel to each group, according to what each needed to hear.
— To Jews: Emphasis on justification by grace, apart from the works of the law.
— To Pagans: Emphasis on avoiding evil works and being judged by our actions.
● Paul spoke of the importance of works (Romans 2:6–10). Those churches today that make much of Paul’s doctrines of justification by faith and salvation by grace either skip or gloss over the powerful teaching of Paul in these verses.
— “Deeds” is from the Greek word ergon, which is translated in the New Testament 20 times as “deeds” but more than 150 times as “works” (v. 6).
● The importance of works (Romans 2:11–15).
— Not the hearers, but the doers of the law will be justified (v. 13).
— All men’s deeds will be judged by gospel standards (vv. 14–15).
● Note the clarification in the JST—inner motivations and outward motions are both critical in bringing disciples closer to God (Romans 3:1–2).
● “Where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “All men—all living souls, whether they have knowledge of gospel law or not—shall be judged by the law of the gospel. . . . Gentiles who have not the law given them by revelation, nonetheless have the law written in their hearts so that their minds and consciences bear record that they should not violate the laws of God [verse 15]. This is another and quite an expressive way of saying that `the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil.’ (Moroni 7:16; D&C 84:46). Hence every man, in and out of the Church, whether he has the gospel law or not, is accountable for his deeds and will be judged by gospel standards.”1
The Law of Justification
● No living soul is sinless (Romans 3:10–12, 23).
● Since we violate the law, we cannot be justified by obedience (Romans 3:20).
● What does it mean to be justified?
— The Greek word means “to be declared righteous.”
— It means to be reconciled to God, pardoned from punishment for sin, and declared righteous and guiltless.
● Why do we need to be justified?
— Unless we are pardoned, we cannot live with God (Alma 7:21).
The Necessity of Grace
● What Is grace?
— Divine help through the “goodwill,” “favor,” or “spiritual generosity” of God.
— Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: “It is by the grace of Jesus Christ that we are saved. And had he not come into the world, and laid down his life that he might take it again, or as he said in another place, to give us life that we may have it more abundantly we would still be subject to death and be in our sins. . . . So it is easy to understand that we must accept the mission of Jesus Christ. We must believe that it is through his grace that we are saved, that he performed for us that labor which we were unable to perform for ourselves, and did for us those things which were essential to our salvation, which were beyond our power; and also that we are under the commandment and the necessity of performing the labors that are required of us as set forth in the commandments known as the gospel of Jesus Christ.”2
● Christ’s grace gives us hope despite our weakness (Romans 5:1–2).
— Even our best efforts will not be enough to make us pure (Mosiah 2:20–21).
— God gave us weaknesses to keep us humble, then provided a way for us to be forgiven through grace (Ether 12:26–27).
— Christ’s atonement pays the debt for our sins (2 Nephi 2:6–8).
The Importance of Works
● How is grace obtained? Is mere confession of faith enough?
— These two verses of scripture are often quoted by those who believe that we are saved by the grace of God alone, and that we can do nothing to promote our own salvation (Romans 10:9–10).
— This is a gross misinterpretation of what Paul was saying in these verses. Paul was talking about Israel’s rejection of the gospel. He pointed out that while the Jews were zealous for God (that is, eagerly trying to be obedient to his commandments), they hade missed a vital point of the gospel by trying to rely on their own righteousness alone.
— Paul then quoted from the Old Testament to show that no man could accomplish what Christ did in coming down from heaven and overcoming death, no matter how hard he tried.
— To qualify for salvation, Paul said we must confess the Lord openly before the world with a heart that “believeth unto righteousness” (v. 10).
— The “heart” (kardia) in Greek meant man’s inner self. “Believing with the heart” was an idiom that implied much more than intellectual assent. It implied an inner change as demonstrated by behavior. Confession with the mouth was not sufficient.
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “What price must men pay for this precious gift? Not conformity to Mosaic standards, not compliance with the ordinances and performances of a dead law, but the price of faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith that includes within itself enduring works of righteousness, which faith cannot so much as exist unless and until men conform their lives to gospel standards. Does salvation come, then, by works? No, not by the works of the law of Moses, and for that matter, not even by the more perfect works of the gospel itself. Salvation comes through Christ’s atonement, through the ransom he paid. . . .”3
— We are saved by the grace of Christ, “after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
— Faith alone is not enough; works demonstrate our faith (Romans 3:31).
— We demonstrate our faith by our works (James 2:14–20).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Any person who is exalted to the highest mansion has to abide a celestial law, and the whole law, too. . . . To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded. . . . obey God in just what He tells us to do.”4
● The JST version clarifies this otherwise very confusing verse (JST Romans 4:16). We are justified by faith and works thru the grace of Christ.
● Faith and grace help us bear tribulation with hope (Romans 5:1–5).
● The connection between Adam, Christ, and the Atonement (Romans 5:11–21).
● “The law entered, that the offense might abound” (Romans 5:20).
— The Greek word Paul used here that is translated entered means literally “to come in by the side of.” In classical Greek it was often used of actors in the theaters who played a supporting role and who would come on stage from the wings, play their part, and disappear again. Such a word used to describe the law of Moses points out the same things that Paul suggested in Galatians when he called the law a “schoolmaster.” (Galatians 3:24).
WE ARE HEIRS OF GOD
Children of God
— Elder Dallin H. Oaks said: “Consider the power of the idea taught in our beloved song ‘I Am a Child of God’ (Hymns, 301). . . . Here is the answer to one of life’s great questions, ‘Who am I?’ I am a child of God with a spirit lineage to heavenly parents. That parentage defines our eternal potential. That powerful idea is a potent antidepressant. It can strengthen each of us to make righteous choices and to seek the best that is within us. Establish in the mind of a young person the powerful idea that he or she is a child of God, and you have given self-respect and motivation to move against the problems of life.”5
● If we are God’s children, we are joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17–18).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “A joint-heir is one who inherits equally with all other heirs including the Chief Heir who is the Son. Each joint-heir has an equal and an undivided portion of the whole of everything. If one knows all things, so do all others. If one has all power, so do all those who inherit jointly with him. If the universe belongs to one, so it does equally to the total of all upon whom the joint inheritances are bestowed.”6
Joint-heirs with Christ
● Christ is an heir to all things that the Father has (John 16:15).
● What blessings will we receive from the father?
— All that the Father has will be ours. (D&C 84:33–39).
— We will be made equal with Christ. (D&C 88:107).
— If we keep the commandments we will receive all things. (D&C 93:19–23, 27–28).
● What we will inherit: (D&C 76:54–59).
— All things the Father has (v. 55).
— Become priests and kings (priestesses and queens) (v. 56).
— Receive a fulness of God’s glory (v. 56).
— Become gods, because we are the children of God (v. 58).
— We will be gods, with all things subject unto us (D&C 132:20).
● Who will inherit these things:
— Those who have a testimony of Jesus Christ (D&C 76:40–53).
— Those who are baptized.
— Those who are confirmed members of the Church.
— Those who overcome all things by faith.
● All creation anticipates a future day of redemption and glory (Romans 8:18–23).
● Nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:31, 35–39).
ELECTED BEFORE THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE WORLD
Foreordination, Not Predestination
● Knowing our intended destiny helps us bear tribulation (Romans 8:28–31).
— All things work together for one’s ultimate blessing (v. 28).
— A similar promise in our own dispensation (D&C 90:24).
— “Predestinate” appears four times in the Bible (though the word predestination does not occur at all) (v. 29). There is nothing in the Greek implying loss of agency; the word literally means “to determine [our potential destiny] beforehand.” The word “foreordain” more aptly describes the concept.
The Doctrine of Election
● We were chosen in the pre-mortal existence.
— The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “The whole of [Romans 9] had reference to the priesthood and the house of Israel; and unconditional election of individuals to eternal life was not taught by the Apostles. God did elect or predestinate, that all those who would be saved, should be saved in Christ Jesus, and through obedience to the Gospel; but He passes over no man’s sins, but visits them with correction, and if His children will not repent of their sins He will discard them.”7
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “This election to a chosen lineage is based on pre-existent worthiness and is thus made `according to the foreknowledge of God.”8
— “Chosenness” implies obligation and accountability.
● Paul was emphatic in his love for the Jewish people, but because the Jews rejected Christ, they forfeited great blessings (Romans 9:1–5).
● The Gentiles accepted the gospel and were adopted into the house of Israel (Romans 9:6–8).
— “They are not all Israel [spiritually], which are of Israel”—that is, not every covenant child was born an Israelite (v. 6).
● Jacob was chosen over Esau before they were even born (Romans 9:9–14).
— “Hated” is used here to translate a Greek verb that also means “displeased with” or “rejected” (v. 13). The Lord did not hate Esau. Rather, the Lord’s preferential regard for one over the other is based on their righteousness in premortal life.
● God does not prefer one nation over another (Romans 10:12–13).
— “All are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Nephi 26:33). The phrase “is rich unto all that call upon him” means “richly blesses all that call upon him.”
● Paul taught that faith comes by hearing the word of God preached, and this requires an authorized messenger (Romans 10:14–17). The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation.”9
THE JEWS’ LOST OPPORTUNITY
● Paul used the analogy of the potter and the clay to emphasize God’s omnipotence and sovereignty in dealing with man (Romans 9:16–21). Of course, God is perfectly just and merciful and our own actions produce the result.
● The stumbling stone for the Jews was Jesus Christ (Romans 9:32–33).
— “Their own righteousness” was Judaism. “The righteousness of God” was the gospel (Romans 10:1–3).
● Paul used a series of quotations from the Old Testament in a logical progression to explain the relationship between preaching and faith (Romans 10:18–21, especially vv. 14–17).
● Israel rejected God, not the other way around; a righteous remnant remains (Romans 11:1–9).
— Wot is the present tense of the now obsolete English word wit, which means “to know” (v. 2).
— Wist is its past tense. Paul is asking, “Know you not?”.
● Magnifying the priesthood (Romans 11:13–14). Paul refers to himself as “the Apostle of the Gentiles,” and focuses on them, hoping that his own people (Jews) will also listen. In so doing, he “magnifies” his priesthood calling.
● Olive Tree Allegory (Romans 11:11–25). This section discusses “ingrafted branches” or adoption into the house of Israel. “Graffed in,” or “grafted in,” is an agricultural way of saying “adopted in.” Paul uses an analogy from agriculture to make the doctrine clearer. The natural olive tree is Israel; the wild branches are the Gentiles. The natural order of things is that the grafted branches control the destiny of the tree. Hence, a good branch from a tame tree could be grafted into a wild tree and make it tame.
— The “fullness of the Gentiles” is defined (v. 25). Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “‘Until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in,’ means that since Paul’s day, the gospel has been and will continue to be taught to the Gentiles on a preferential basis until they have had a full opportunity to accept it. That is ‘the fullness of the Gentiles.’ Then, the message will go again to the Jews.”10
1. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1966–73], 2:222.
2. Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Elder Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:309–311.
3. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:231.
4. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 331–332.
5. In Conference Report, October 1995, 31; or Ensign, November 1995, 25.
6. Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. , 395.
7. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 189.
8. Mormon Doctrine, 216.
9. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148.
10. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:290.