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Highlights of Romans


Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Romans

Highlights for the Reading of the Bible: Romans

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Romans, Letter To The

*** it-2 pp. 819-821 Romans, Letter to the ***
A book of the Christian Greek Scriptures written by the apostle Paul to Christians in Rome. Paul’s writership has never been seriously challenged, and the book’s authenticity as a part of the sacred canon has been almost universally acknowledged by Bible scholars, with the exception of some who could not fit it in with their own doctrinal beliefs. Actually, the letter is in full harmony with the rest of the inspired Scriptures. In fact, Paul quotes copiously from the Hebrew Scriptures and makes numerous other references to them, so that the letter can be said to be most solidly based on the Hebrew Scriptures and the teachings of Christ.
Time and Place of Writing. The letter was written about 56 C.E., from Corinth. Tertius was evidently Paul’s secretary, writing at Paul’s dictation. (Ro 16:22) Phoebe, who lived at Cenchreae, the seaport town of Corinth about 11 km (7 mi) away, was possibly the carrier of the letter. (Ro 16:1) Paul had not yet been to Rome, as is evident from his remarks in chapter 1, verses 9 to 15. The evidence also points to the fact that Peter had never been there.—See PETER, LETTERS OF.
Establishment of the Congregation at Rome. The congregation may have been established by some of the Jews and proselytes from Rome who had visited Jerusalem on Pentecost 33 C.E., had witnessed the miraculous outpouring of holy spirit, and had heard the speech of Peter and the other Christians gathered there. (Ac 2) Or others who converted to Christianity later on may have taken the good news about the Christ to Rome, for, since this great city was the center of the Roman Empire, many moved there in time, and many were the travelers and businessmen visiting there. Paul sends respectful greetings to Andronicus and Junias, his ‘relatives and fellow captives,’ who were “men of note among the apostles,” and who had been in the service of Christ longer than Paul had. These men may well have had a share in establishing the Christian congregation in Rome. (Ro 16:7) At the time Paul wrote, the congregation had evidently been in existence for some time and was vigorous enough that its faith was being talked about throughout the whole world.—Ro 1:8.
Purpose of the Letter. It becomes clear in reading the letter that it was written to a Christian congregation composed of both Jews and Gentiles. There were many Jews in Rome at the time; they returned after the death of Emperor Claudius, who had banished them sometime earlier. Although Paul had not been in Rome to experience personally the problems the congregation faced, he may have been informed of the congregation’s condition and affairs by his good friends and fellow workers Priscilla and Aquila, and possibly by others Paul had met. His greetings in chapter 16 indicate that he knew a good many of the members of the congregation personally.
In Paul’s letters he attacked specific problems and dealt with matters he considered most vital to those to whom he wrote. As to Jewish opposition, Paul had already written to the Galatian congregations in refutation, but that letter dealt more specifically with efforts made by Jews who professed Christianity but were “Judaizers,” insisting that Gentile converts be circumcised and otherwise be required to observe certain regulations of the Mosaic Law. In the Roman congregation there did not seem to be such a concerted effort in this direction, but there were apparently jealousies and feelings of superiority on the part of both Jews and Gentiles.
The letter, therefore, was not merely a general letter written to the Roman congregation with no specific aim toward them, as some suppose, but it evidently dealt with the things they needed under the circumstances. The Roman congregation would be able to grasp the full meaning and force of the apostle’s counsel, for they were doubtless wrestling with the very questions he answered. It is obvious that his purpose was to settle the differences in viewpoint between Jewish and Gentile Christians and to bring them toward complete unity as one man in Christ Jesus. However, in writing as he did, Paul illuminates and enriches our minds in the knowledge of God, and he exalts the righteousness and undeserved kindness of God and the position of Christ toward the Christian congregation and all mankind.
Earnestness and Warmth of Feeling. Commenting on the authenticity of the letter to the Romans, Dr. William Paley, English Bible scholar, said: “In a real St. Paul writing to real converts, it is what anxiety to bring them over to his persuasion would naturally produce; but there is an earnestness and a personality, if I may so call it, in the manner, which a cold forgery, I apprehend, would neither have conceived nor supported.”—Horae Paulinae, 1790, p. 50.
Paul very straightforwardly and directly outlined the position of the Jews and showed that Jews and Gentiles are on the same level before God. This required him to say some things that might have been considered an occasion for offense by Jews. But Paul’s love for his countrymen and his warmth of feeling for them was shown in the delicateness with which he handled these matters. When he said things that might sound derogatory of the Law, or of the Jews, he tactfully followed up with a softening statement.
For example, when he said: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh,” he added: “What, then, is the superiority of the Jew, or what is the benefit of the circumcision? A great deal in every way. First of all, because they were entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God.” (Ro 2:28; 3:1, 2) After saying: “A man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law,” he quickly continued: “Do we, then, abolish law by means of our faith? Never may that happen! On the contrary, we establish law.” (3:28, 31) Following his statement: “But now we have been discharged from the Law,” he asked: “Is the Law sin? Never may that become so! Really I would not have come to know sin if it had not been for the Law.” (7:6, 7) And in chapter 9, verses 1 to 3, he made the strongest possible expression of affection for his fleshly brothers the Jews: “I am telling the truth in Christ; I am not lying, since my conscience bears witness with me in holy spirit, that I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were separated as the cursed one from the Christ in behalf of my brothers, my relatives according to the flesh.”—Compare also Ro 9:30-32 with 10:1, 2; and 10:20, 21 with 11:1-4.
By a study of the book we find, therefore, that it is not a desultory, or aimless, discussion but that it is a discourse with a purpose and a theme, and that no one part can be fully understood without a study of the entire book and a knowledge of its purpose. Paul stresses the undeserved kindness of God through Christ, and he emphasizes that it is only by this undeserved kindness on God’s part, coupled with faith on the part of the believer, that men are declared righteous; he notes that neither Jew nor Gentile has any basis for boasting or for lifting himself above the other. He strictly warns the Gentile Christians that they should not become lofty-minded because they profited from the Jews’ failure to accept Christ, since the Jews’ fall allowed Gentiles to have the opportunity of membership in Christ’s “body.” He says: “See, therefore, God’s kindness and severity. Toward those who fell there is severity, but toward you there is God’s kindness, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise, you also will be lopped off.”—Ro 11:22.
[Box on page 820]


A letter explaining that righteousness comes, not as a result of ancestry or through works of the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ and as a result of God’s undeserved kindness
Written about 56 C.E., some 20 years after the first Gentiles became Christians
Righteousness is through faith in Christ and as a result of God’s undeserved kindness (1:1–11:36)
Faith is essential for salvation; the scripture says, “The righteous one—by means of faith he will live”
The Jews, although highly favored by God, have not been able to attain to righteousness by means of the Law
Jews as well as non-Jews are under sin; “there is not a righteous man, not even one”
By God’s undeserved kindness both Jews and non-Jews can be declared righteous as a free gift through faith, just as Abraham was counted righteous as a result of faith—even before he was circumcised
Men inherit sin and death from one man, Adam; through one man, Jesus, many sinners are declared righteous
This does not give a license to sin; any remaining slaves to sin are not slaves of righteousness
Those formerly under the Law are “made dead to the Law” through Christ’s body; they must walk in harmony with the spirit, putting sinful practices of the body to death
The Law served the purpose of making sins manifest; only through Christ, though, is there salvation from sin
God calls those who come to be in union with Christ and declares them righteous; His spirit bears witness that they are His sons
Fleshly Israel received the promises but most of them try to attain righteousness by the Law, hence, only a remnant of them are saved; a public declaration of faith in Christ is necessary for salvation
The illustration of the olive tree shows how, because of the lack of faith of fleshly Israel, non-Israelites were grafted in so that the true Israel might be saved
Attitude regarding superior authorities, self, other persons (12:1–15:13)
Present your body as an acceptable sacrifice to God, make your mind over, use your gifts in God’s service, be loving and aglow with the spirit, endure, and keep conquering the evil with the good
Be in subjection to the superior authorities
Love one another; walk decently, not planning ahead for fleshly desires
Do not judge others in matters of conscience, nor abuse your Christian freedom and so stumble those with weak consciences
Be guided by Christ’s example in not pleasing self; be willing to bear others’ weaknesses, doing what is good for their upbuilding
Paul’s loving interest in the congregation at Rome (15:14–16:27)
Paul’s reason for writing is to fulfill his commission as an apostle to the Gentiles and in order that these Gentiles might be an acceptable offering to God
No longer having territory where the good news had not already been proclaimed, Paul wants to fulfill his longing to visit Rome and from there to go to Spain, after first traveling to Jerusalem with a contribution from the brothers in Macedonia and Achaia for the holy ones
Paul greets numerous believers by name, encouraging the brothers to avoid those causing divisions and also to be wise regarding what is good

Bible Book Number 45—Romans

*** si pp. 205-209 Bible Book Number 45—Romans ***
Writer: Paul
Place Written: Corinth
Writing Completed: c. 56 C.E.
IN Acts we watched Paul, formerly a violent persecutor of Jewish Christians, become Christ’s zealous apostle to the non-Jewish nations. With Romans we begin the 14 books of the Bible that the holy spirit inspired this former Pharisee, now a faithful servant of God, to write. By the time he wrote Romans, Paul had already completed two long preaching tours and was well along on the third. He had written five other inspired letters: First and Second Thessalonians, Galatians, and First and Second Corinthians. Yet it seems appropriate that in our modern Bibles, Romans precedes the others, since it discusses at length the new equality between Jews and non-Jews, the two classes to whom Paul preached. It explains a turning point in God’s dealings with his people and shows that the inspired Hebrew Scriptures had long foretold that the good news would be proclaimed also to the non-Jews.
2 Paul, using Tertius as secretary, laces rapid argument and an astounding number of Hebrew Scripture quotations into one of the most forceful books of the Christian Greek Scriptures. With remarkable beauty of language, he discusses the problems that arose when first-century Christian congregations were composed of both Jews and Greeks. Did Jews have priority because of being Abraham’s descendants? Did mature Christians, exercising their liberty from the Mosaic Law, have the right to stumble weaker Jewish brothers who still held to ancient customs? In this letter Paul firmly established that Jews and non-Jews are equal before God and that men are declared righteous, not through the Mosaic Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ and by God’s undeserved kindness. At the same time, God requires Christians to show proper subjection to the various authorities under which they find themselves.
3 How did the Roman congregation get started? There had been a sizable Jewish community in Rome at least since the time of Pompey’s capturing Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. At Acts 2:10 it is specifically stated that some of those Jews were in Jerusalem at Pentecost 33 C.E., where they heard the good news preached. The converted sojourners stayed in Jerusalem to learn from the apostles, and later the ones from Rome no doubt returned there, some probably at the time when persecution broke out in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:41-47; 8:1, 4) Further, the people of that day were great travelers, and this may explain Paul’s intimate acquaintance with so many members of the Roman congregation, some of whom may have heard the good news in Greece or Asia as a result of Paul’s preaching.
4 The first reliable information about this congregation is found in Paul’s letter. It is clear from this that the congregation was made up of both Jewish and non-Jewish Christians and that their zeal was praiseworthy. He tells them: “Your faith is talked about throughout the whole world,” and, “Your obedience has come to the notice of all.” (Rom. 1:8; 16:19) Suetonius, writing in the second century, reports that during the rule of Claudius (41-54 C.E.), the Jews were banished from Rome. They later returned, however, as is shown by the presence of Aquila and Priscilla in Rome. They were Jews whom Paul met in Corinth and who had left Rome at the time of Claudius’ decree but who were back in Rome at the time Paul wrote to the congregation there.—Acts 18:2; Rom. 16:3.
5 The letter’s authenticity is firmly established. It is, as its introduction says, from “Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ and called to be an apostle, . . . to all those who are in Rome as God’s beloved ones, called to be holy ones.” (Rom. 1:1, 7) Its outside documentation is among the earliest to be found for the Christian Greek Scriptures. Peter uses so many similar expressions in his first letter, written probably six to eight years later, that many scholars think he must have already seen a copy of Romans. Romans was clearly regarded as a part of Paul’s writings and was cited as such by Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch, all of whom lived in the late first and early second centuries C.E.
6 The book of Romans is found, together with eight others of Paul’s letters, in a codex called Chester Beatty Papyrus No. 2 (P46). Regarding this early codex, Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote: “Here, then, we have a nearly complete manuscript of the Pauline Epistles, written apparently about the beginning of the third century.” The Chester Beatty Greek Biblical papyri are older than the well-known Sinaitic Manuscript and Vatican Manuscript No. 1209, both of the fourth century C.E. These too contain the book of Romans.
7 When and from where was Romans written? There is no disagreement among Bible commentators that this letter was written from Greece, most probably from Corinth, when Paul visited there for some months toward the end of his third missionary journey. The internal evidence points to Corinth. Paul wrote the letter from the home of Gaius, who was a member of the congregation there, and recommends Phoebe of the nearby congregation of Cenchreae, Corinth’s seaport. Apparently it was Phoebe who carried this letter to Rome. (Rom. 16:1, 23; 1 Cor. 1:14) At Romans 15:23 Paul wrote: “I no longer have untouched territory in these regions,” and he indicates in the following verse that he intends to extend his missionary work west, toward Spain. He could well write this way toward the end of his third tour, at the beginning of 56 C.E.


8 God’s impartiality toward Jew and Gentile (1:1–2:29). What does the inspired Paul tell the Romans? In his opening words, he identifies himself as an apostle chosen by Christ to teach ‘obedience by faith’ among the nations. He expresses his fervent desire to visit the holy ones in Rome, to enjoy “an interchange of encouragement” with them, and to declare among them the good news that is “God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith.” As had long ago been written, the righteous one will live “by means of faith.” (1:5, 12, 16, 17) Both Jews and Greeks, he shows, merit God’s wrath. Man’s ungodliness is inexcusable because God’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward.” (1:20) Yet, the nations foolishly make gods of created things. However, the Jews should not judge the nations harshly, since they also are guilty of sins. Both classes will be judged according to their deeds, for God is not partial. Fleshly circumcision is not the determining factor; “he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart.”—2:29.
9 By faith all are declared righteous (3:1–4:25). “What, then, is the superiority of the Jew?” It is great, for the Jews were entrusted with God’s sacred pronouncements. Yet, “Jews as well as Greeks are all under sin,” and no one is “righteous” in God’s sight. Seven quotations are made from the Hebrew Scriptures to prove this point. (Rom. 3:1, 9-18; Ps. 14:1-3; 5:9; 140:3; 10:7; Prov. 1:16; Isa. 59:7, 8; Ps. 36:1) The Law shows up man’s sinfulness, so “by works of law no flesh will be declared righteous.” However, through God’s undeserved kindness and the release by ransom, both Jews and Greeks are being declared righteous “by faith apart from works of law.” (Rom. 3:20, 28) Paul supports this argument by citing the example of Abraham, who was counted righteous, not because of works or circumcision, but because of his exemplary faith. Thus Abraham became the father not only of the Jews but of “all those having faith.”—4:11.
10 No longer slaves to sin but to righteousness through Christ (5:1–6:23). Through the one man, Adam, sin entered into the world, and sin brought death, “and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” (5:12) Death ruled as king from Adam down to Moses. When the Law was given through Moses, sin abounded, and death continued to reign. But God’s undeserved kindness now abounds even more, and through Christ’s obedience many are declared righteous for everlasting life. Yet this is no license for living in sin. Persons baptized into Christ must be dead to sin. Their old personality is impaled, and they live with reference to God. Sin no longer rules over them, but they become slaves to righteousness, with holiness in view. “The wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”—6:23.
11 Dead to the Law, alive by spirit in union with Christ (7:1–8:39). Paul uses the example of a wife, who is bound to her husband as long as he lives but who is free to marry another if he dies, to show how through Christ’s sacrifice Christian Jews were made dead to the Law and were free to become Christ’s and bear fruit to God. The holy Law made sin more evident, and sin brought death. Sin, dwelling in our fleshly bodies, wars against our good intentions. As Paul says: “For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice.” Thus, “the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.”—7:19, 20.
12 What can save man from this miserable state? God can make those who belong to Christ alive through His spirit! They are adopted as sons, are declared righteous, become heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, and are glorified. To them Paul says: “If God is for us, who will be against us? Who will separate us from the love of the Christ?” No one! Triumphantly he declares: “We are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—8:31, 35, 37-39.
13 “Israel” saved through faith and by God’s mercy (9:1–10:21). Paul expresses “great grief” for his fellow Israelites, but he recognizes that not all fleshly Israel is really “Israel,” since God has the authority to choose as sons whomever he wishes. As is shown by God’s dealings with Pharaoh and by the illustration of the potter, “it depends, not upon the one wishing nor upon the one running, but upon God, who has mercy.” (9:2, 6, 16) He calls sons “not only from among Jews but also from among nations,” as Hosea long before foretold. (Hos. 2:23) Israel fell short because of seeking to gain God’s favor, “not by faith, but as by works,” and because of stumbling over Christ, the “rock-mass of offense.” (Rom. 9:24, 32, 33) They had “a zeal for God” but not “according to accurate knowledge.” Christ is the end of the Law for those exercising faith for righteousness, and to gain salvation one must publicly declare “that Jesus is Lord” and exercise faith “that God raised him up from the dead.” (10:2, 9) Preachers are sent forth to enable people of all nations to hear, to have faith, and to call upon the name of Jehovah in order to be saved.
14 Illustration of the olive tree (11:1-36). Because of undeserved kindness, a remnant of natural Israel has been chosen, but because the majority stumbled, “there is salvation to people of the nations.” (11:11) Using the illustration of an olive tree, Paul shows how, because of the lack of faith of fleshly Israel, non-Jews were grafted in. Nevertheless, non-Jews should not rejoice over the rejection of Israel, since if God did not spare the unfaithful natural branches, neither will he spare the wild olive branches grafted in from among the nations.
15 Making over the mind; the superior authorities (12:1–13:14). Present your bodies as living sacrifices to God, Paul counsels. No longer be “fashioned after this system of things,” but be “transformed by making your mind over.” Do not be haughty. The body of Christ, like a human body, has many members, which have different functions, but they work together in unity. Return evil for evil to no one. Leave vengeance to Jehovah. Conquer “the evil with the good.”—12:2, 21.
16 Be in subjection to superior authorities; it is the arrangement of God. Keep doing good and do not be owing anyone a single thing except to love one another. Salvation approaches, so “put off the works belonging to darkness” and “put on the weapons of the light.” (13:12) Walk in good behavior, not according to the desires of the flesh.
17 Welcome all impartially without judging (14:1–15:33). Put up with those who, because their faith is weak, abstain from certain foods or observe feast days. Neither judge your brother nor stumble him by your own eating and drinking, since God judges everyone. Pursue peace and upbuilding things, and bear the weaknesses of others.
18 The apostle writes: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction,” and he gives four more Hebrew Scripture quotations as final proof that the inspired prophets had long before foretold that God’s promises would extend to the non-Jewish nations. (Rom. 15:4, 9-12; Ps. 18:49; Deut. 32:43; Ps. 117:1; Isa. 11:1, 10) “Therefore,” Paul admonishes, “welcome one another, just as the Christ also welcomed us, with glory to God in view.” (Rom. 15:7) Paul expresses appreciation for the undeserved kindness given to him by God to be a public servant to the nations, “engaging in the holy work of the good news of God.” He is always seeking to open up new territories instead of “building on another man’s foundation.” And he is not yet finished, for he plans, after taking contributions to Jerusalem, an even greater preaching tour to distant Spain and, on his way there, to bring “a full measure of blessing from Christ” to his spiritual brothers in Rome.—15:16, 20, 29.
19 Concluding salutations (16:1-27). Paul sends personal greetings to 26 members of the Roman congregation by name, as well as to others, and exhorts them to avoid persons who cause divisions and to “be wise as to what is good, but innocent as to what is evil.” All is for God’s glory “through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.”—16:19, 27.


20 The book of Romans presents a logical basis for belief in God, stating that “his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” But more than this, it goes on to exalt his righteousness and to make known his great mercy and undeserved kindness. This is beautifully brought to our attention through the illustration of the olive tree, in which the wild branches are grafted in when the natural branches are lopped off. In contemplation of this severity and kindness of God, Paul exclaims: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—1:20; 11:33.
21 It is in this connection that the book of Romans explains the further development of God’s sacred secret. In the Christian congregation, there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile, but persons of all nations may share in Jehovah’s undeserved kindness through Jesus Christ. “There is no partiality with God.” “He is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code.” “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for there is the same Lord over all, who is rich to all those calling upon him.” For all of these it is faith, and not works, that is counted to them as righteousness.—2:11, 29; 10:12; 3:28.
22 The practical counsel contained in this letter to the Christians in Rome is equally beneficial to Christians today, who have to meet similar problems in an alien world. The Christian is exhorted to “be peaceable with all men,” including those outside the congregation. Every soul must “be in subjection to the superior authorities,” for these constitute an arrangement of God and are an object of fear, not to the law-abiding, but to those who do bad deeds. Christians are to be in law-abiding subjection not only on account of the fear of punishment but on account of Christian conscience, therefore paying their taxes, rendering their dues, meeting their obligations, owing no one anything, “except to love one another.” Love fulfills the Law.—12:17-21; 13:1-10.
23 Paul emphasizes the matter of public testimony. While it is with the heart that one exercises faith for righteousness, it is with the mouth that one makes public declaration for salvation. “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” But in order for this to take place, it is necessary for preachers to go forth and “declare good news of good things.” Happy is our portion if we are among these preachers whose sound has now gone out “to the extremities of the inhabited earth”! (10:13, 15, 18) And in preparation for this preaching work, may we try to become as familiar with the inspired Scriptures as was Paul, for in this one passage (10:11-21) he makes quotation upon quotation from the Hebrew Scriptures. (Isa. 28:16; Joel 2:32; Isa. 52:7; 53:1; Ps. 19:4; Deut. 32:21; Isa. 65:1, 2) He could well say: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Rom. 15:4.
24 Wonderfully practical advice is given on relations within the Christian congregation. Whatever their previous national, racial, or social background, all must make over their minds to render God sacred service according to his “good and acceptable and perfect will.” (11:17-22; 12:1, 2) What practical reasonableness breathes through all of Paul’s counsel at Romans 12:3-16! Here indeed is excellent admonition for building zeal, humility, and tender affection among all in the Christian congregation. In the closing chapters, Paul gives strong admonition on watching and avoiding those who cause divisions, but he also speaks of the mutual joy and refreshment that come from clean associations in the congregation.—16:17-19; 15:7, 32.
25 As Christians, we must continue to watch our relations with one another. “For the kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.” (14:17) This righteousness, peace, and joy is especially the portion of the “joint heirs with Christ,” who are to be “glorified together” with him in the heavenly Kingdom. Note, too, how Romans points to a further step in the fulfillment of the Kingdom promise given in Eden, saying: “The God who gives peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rom. 8:17; 16:20; Gen. 3:15) Believing these great truths, may we continue to be filled with all joy and peace and abound in hope. Let our determination be to come off victorious with the Kingdom Seed, for we are convinced that nothing in heaven above or in earth below “nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Rom. 8:39; 15:13.

Highlights From the Letter to the Romans

*** w08 6/15 p. 29 - p. 31 Highlights From the Letter to the Romans ***
ABOUT 56 C.E., while on his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul arrives in the city of Corinth. He has come to know of differences in viewpoint between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. Desiring to bring them into complete unity in the Christ, Paul takes the initiative to write them a letter.
In that letter to the Romans, Paul explains how humans are declared righteous and how such individuals should live. The letter enriches our mind with the knowledge of God and his Word, stresses God’s undeserved kindness, and exalts Christ’s role in our salvation.—Heb. 4:12.


(Rom. 1:1–11:36)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” writes Paul. “It is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by [God’s] undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” Paul also says: “A man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law.” (Rom. 3:23, 24, 28) Through faith in “one act of justification,” both anointed Christians and members of the “great crowd” of “other sheep” can be “declared righteous”—the former for life in heaven as joint heirs with Christ and the latter as God’s friends, with a view to surviving “the great tribulation.”—Rom. 5:18; Rev. 7:9, 14; John 10:16; Jas. 2:21-24; Matt. 25:46.
“Shall we commit a sin because we are not under law but under undeserved kindness?” asks Paul. “Never may that happen!” he answers. “You are slaves . . . , either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view,” Paul explains. (Rom. 6:15, 16) “If you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live,” he says.—Rom. 8:13.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

1:24-32—Did the degradation described here apply to the Jews or to the Gentiles? Although the description could fit either group, Paul was specifically referring to the apostate Israelites of old. Even though they knew God’s righteous decree, “they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge.” They were thus reprehensible.
3:24, 25—How could “the ransom paid by Christ Jesus” cover “the sins that occurred in the past” before it was paid? The first Messianic prophecy, recorded at Genesis 3:15, found fulfillment in 33 C.E. when Jesus was put to death on a torture stake. (Gal. 3:13, 16) The moment Jehovah uttered that prophecy, however, the ransom price was as good as paid from his viewpoint, for nothing can prevent God from fulfilling what he purposes. So on the basis of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jehovah could forgive the sins of descendants of Adam who exercised faith in that promise. The ransom also makes possible a resurrection of those of pre-Christian times.—Acts 24:15.
6:3-5—What is meant by baptism into Christ Jesus and baptism into his death? When Jehovah anoints followers of Christ with the holy spirit, they are united with Jesus and become members of the congregation that is the body of Christ, he being the Head. (1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 27; Col. 1:18) This is their baptism into Christ Jesus. Anointed Christians are also “baptized into [Christ’s] death” in that they live a life of sacrifice and renounce any hope of everlasting life on earth. Their death, therefore, is a sacrificial one, as was Jesus’ death, though their death does not have ransoming value. This baptism into Christ’s death is completed when they die and are resurrected to life in heaven.
7:8-11—How did ‘sin receive inducement through the commandment’? The Law helped people to realize the full range, or scope, of sin, making them more conscious of being sinners. Consequently, they saw themselves as sinners in more ways, and more people were exposed as sinners. It can thus be said that sin received inducement through the Law.

Lessons for Us:

1:14, 15. We have a number of reasons to declare the good news with eagerness. One of them is that we are debtors to people purchased with the blood of Jesus and are under obligation to help them spiritually.
1:18-20. People who are ungodly and unrighteous are “inexcusable,” for God’s invisible qualities are made evident in creation.
2:28; 3:1, 2; 7:6, 7. Paul follows up statements that may appear derogatory to the Jews with softening remarks. This sets an example for us in handling delicate subjects with tact and skill.
3:4. When man’s word conflicts with what God says in his Word, we “let God be found true” by trusting in the message of the Bible and acting in harmony with God’s will. By having a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work, we can help others find God to be true.
4:9-12. Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness long before he was circumcised at the age of 99. (Gen. 12:4; 15:6; 16:3; 17:1, 9, 10) In that powerful way, God showed what makes a righteous standing with him possible.
4:18. Hope is an essential element of faith. Our faith is based on hope.—Heb. 11:1.
5:18, 19. By showing logically how Jesus bears a resemblance to Adam, Paul concisely explains how one man can “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Logical reasoning and brevity are excellent teaching methods to imitate.—1 Cor. 4:17.
7:23. Such body members as our hands, legs, and tongue can ‘lead us captive to sin’s law,’ so we should guard against misusing them.
8:26, 27. When we are faced with situations so perplexing that we do not know what to pray for, “the spirit itself pleads for us.” Then Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer,” accepts appropriate prayers recorded in his Word as coming from us.—Ps. 65:2.
8:38, 39. Calamities, wicked spirit creatures, and human governments cannot make Jehovah stop loving us; neither should they make us stop loving him.
9:22-28; 11:1, 5, 17-26. Many prophecies concerning Israel’s restoration are fulfilled by the congregation of anointed Christians, whose members are “called not only from among Jews but also from among nations.”
10:10, 13, 14. Along with love for God and our fellow man, strong faith in Jehovah and his promises can motivate us to have a zealous share in the Christian ministry.
11:16-24, 33. How beautifully balanced are “God’s kindness and severity”! Yes, “the Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice.”—Deut. 32:4.


(Rom. 12:1–16:27)
“Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers,” says Paul, “to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1) “Consequently,” or in view of the fact that Christians are declared righteous because of their faith, what follows should affect their attitude toward themselves, others, and governmental authorities.
“I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think,” writes Paul. “Let your love be without hypocrisy,” he exhorts. (Rom. 12:3, 9) “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) In matters pertaining to conscience, he encourages Christians ‘not to be judging one another.’—Rom. 14:13.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

12:20—How do we “heap fiery coals” upon an enemy’s head? In Bible times, ore was put in a furnace with a layer of coals placed on top as well as underneath. Increased heat on top helped to melt the metal and separate it from impurities. In like manner, we put fiery coals upon the head of an enemy by doing kind deeds to him so that his hardness will melt and good qualities will come to the fore.
12:21—How do we “keep conquering the evil with the good”? One way we do this is by fearlessly sticking to our God-given work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom until it is done to Jehovah’s satisfaction.—Mark 13:10.
13:1—In what way are the superior authorities “placed in their relative positions by God”? Secular authorities “stand placed in their relative positions by God” in that they rule by God’s permission, and in some cases their rulership was foreseen by God. This is made evident by what the Bible foretold about a number of rulers.

Lessons for Us:

12:17, 19. To retaliate against evil is to take into our own hands what should be left up to Jehovah. How presumptuous it would be for us to “return evil for evil”!
14:14, 15. We should not grieve our brother or stumble him by the food or drink that we offer him.
14:17. Having a favorable standing with God does not principally depend on what one eats or drinks or what one refrains from eating or drinking. Rather, it is related to righteousness, peace, and joy.
15:7. We should impartially welcome all sincere seekers of truth into the congregation and proclaim the Kingdom message to all we meet.
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Can the ransom apply to sins that were committed before it was paid?

The Romans Get the Best of News

*** w90 8/1 pp. 23-25 The Romans Get the Best of News ***
HOW can a sinful human be righteous in God’s eyes and thus gain everlasting life? This question caused heated discussions in the first century of our Common Era. Do you know the answer? Whether you do or not, you owe it to yourself to read the apostle Paul’s masterful discussion of the problem in the Bible book of Romans. Doing so will help you to understand the vital relationship that exists between faith, works, righteousness, and life.


The book of Romans is a letter written by Paul about 56 C.E. to the Christians in Rome. Why did he write the letter? Although Paul in 56 C.E. had not yet visited Rome, he evidently knew many Christians there, since in his letter he addressed a number of them by name. Additionally, Paul very much wanted to go to Rome in order to give encouragement to his Christian brothers there, and he also seems to have planned to make Rome a staging point in his proposed missionary trip to Spain.—Romans 1:11, 12; 15:22-24.
However, Paul’s major purpose in writing this letter was to answer the question: How can people gain the righteousness that leads to life? The answer turns out to be the best of news. Righteousness is counted on the basis of faith. Paul makes this point and sets the theme of his letter when he writes: “I am not ashamed of the good news; it is, in fact, God’s power for salvation to everyone having faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek; for in it God’s righteousness is being revealed by reason of faith and toward faith, just as it is written: ‘But the righteous one—by means of faith he will live.’”—Romans 1:16, 17.
In the first century, not everyone agreed that righteousness was counted on the basis of faith. A vocal minority insisted that more was needed. Had not Jehovah provided the Mosaic Law? How could anyone be righteous who did not submit to that inspired provision? (See Galatians 4:9-11, 21; 5:2.) In the year 49 C.E., the question of adherence to the Law was discussed by the governing body in Jerusalem, and they concluded that Gentiles who accepted the good news need not get circumcised and submit to the regulations of the Jewish Law.—Acts 15:1, 2, 28, 29.
About seven years later, Paul wrote his letter to the Romans supporting that landmark decision. Indeed, he went further. Not only was the Law unnecessary for Gentile Christians but Jews who depended on obedience to it would not be declared righteous for life.
As you read through the book of Romans, you will notice how carefully Paul builds his case, supporting his statements with many quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. When speaking to the Jews, who might have difficulty accepting his inspired teaching, he shows affection and concern. (Romans 3:1, 2; 9:1-3) Nevertheless, he presents his case with notable clarity and indisputable logic.
In Romans chapter 1 through chapter 4, Paul begins with the truth that everyone is guilty of sin. Hence, the only way that humans can be declared righteous is on the basis of faith. True, the Jews tried to be righteous by keeping the Mosaic Law. But they failed. Hence, Paul boldly says: “Jews as well as Greeks are all under sin.” He proves this unpopular truth with a number of Scripture quotations.—Romans 3:9.
Since “by works of law no flesh will be declared righteous,” what hope is there? God will declare humans righteous as a free gift on the basis of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. (Romans 3:20, 24) To avail themselves of this, they must have faith in that sacrifice. Is this teaching that humans are declared righteous on the basis of faith something novel? Not at all. Abraham himself was declared righteous because of his faith before the Law was even inaugurated.—Romans 4:3.
Having established the importance of faith, Paul in chapter 5 discusses the basis of Christian faith. This is Jesus, whose course of righteousness annuls the bad effects of Adam’s sin for those who have faith in Him. Thus, “through one act of justification,” not by obeying the Mosaic Law, “the result to men of all sorts is a declaring of them righteous for life.”—Romans 5:18.
If, though, Christians are not under the Law, what is to prevent them from going ahead and committing sins and counting on being declared righteous anyway, thanks to God’s undeserved kindness? Paul answers this objection in Romans chapter 6. Christians have died to their past sinful course. Their new life in Jesus obligates them to fight their fleshly weaknesses. He urges: “Do not let sin continue to rule as king in your mortal bodies.”—Romans 6:12.
But should not the Jews, at least, still cling to the Mosaic Law? In chapter 7, Paul carefully explains that this is not the case. Just as a married woman is freed from the law of her husband when he dies, so the death of Jesus freed believing Jews from subjection to the Law. Paul says: “You also were made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ.”—Romans 7:4.
Does this mean that there was something wrong with the Law? By no means. The Law was perfect. The problem was that imperfect people could not obey the Law. “We know that the Law is spiritual,” wrote Paul, “but I am fleshly, sold under sin.” An imperfect human cannot keep God’s perfect Law and so is condemned by it. How wonderful, then, that “those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation”! Anointed Christians have been adopted by spirit to be God’s sons. Jehovah’s spirit helps them to wrestle with the imperfections of the flesh. “Who will file accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who declares them righteous.” (Romans 7:14; 8:1, 33) Nothing can separate them from God’s love.
If the Law is no longer necessary, where does this leave the nation of Israel? And what about all those scriptures promising a restoration of Israel? These questions are taken up in Romans chapters 9 through 11. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold that only a minority of Israelites would be saved and that God would turn his attention to the nations. In harmony with this, the prophecies about the salvation of Israel are fulfilled not by fleshly Israel but by the Christian congregation, which is made up of a nucleus of believing fleshly Jews and filled out with righthearted Gentiles.—Romans 10:19-21; 11:1, 5, 17-24.
In Romans chapters 12 through 15, Paul goes on to explain some practical ways in which anointed Christians can live in harmony with their being declared righteous. For example, he says: “Present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God, a sacred service with your power of reason. And quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over.” (Romans 12:1, 2) We should trust in the power of good and not fight evil with evil. “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil,” wrote the apostle, “but keep conquering the evil with the good.”—Romans 12:21.
Rome was the center of political power in Paul’s day. Hence, Paul wisely counseled Christians: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God.” (Romans 13:1) The dealings of Christians with one another are also part of living in harmony with righteousness. “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing,” says Paul, “except to love one another; for he that loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.”—Romans 13:8.
Furthermore, Christians should be considerate of one another’s conscience and not be judgmental. Paul urges: “Let us pursue the things making for peace and the things that are upbuilding to one another.” (Romans 14:19) What fine counsel to apply in every aspect of a Christian’s life! Then, in chapter 16, Paul concludes with personal greetings and final words of encouragement and counsel.
The topic discussed in Romans was important in the first century and is still of vital concern today. Righteousness and everlasting life are of compelling interest to all of Jehovah’s servants. True, Romans was written to a congregation of anointed Christians, whereas today the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are of the “great crowd” and have an earthly hope. (Revelation 7:9) Nevertheless, this letter has a vital message for these also. What is it?
The book of Romans proves that Christians are declared righteous by means of faith. For anointed ones, this is with a view to their becoming corulers with Jesus in the heavenly Kingdom. However, members of the great crowd are also declared righteous, but as ‘friends of God,’ as was the patriarch Abraham. (James 2:21-23) Their righteousness is with a view to their surviving the great tribulation, and it is based on faith in the blood of Jesus, just as is the case with the anointed. (Psalm 37:11; John 10:16; Revelation 7:9, 14) Hence, Paul’s reasoning in Romans is of great concern to other sheep as well as anointed ones. And the book’s fine counsel for living in harmony with our being declared righteous is vital for all Christians.
The Book of Life, edited by Doctors Newton Marshall Hall and Irving Francis Wood, states: “On the argumentative and doctrinal side [Romans] reaches the highest point of Paul’s inspired teaching. It is courteous, tactful, but none the less authoritative. . . . The study of this epistle brings its own rich and abundant reward.” Why not read the book for yourself and rejoice in “the good news” that it contains, which is “God’s power for salvation.”—Romans 1:16.
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“There is no [secular] authority except by God.” This does not mean that God puts each individual ruler in place. Rather, secular rulers exist only by God’s permission. In many cases, human rulers were foreseen and foretold by God and thus were “placed in their relative positions by God.”—Romans 13:1.
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Museo della Civiltà Romana, Roma
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Christians are told: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” This means they should follow Jesus’ footsteps closely, imitating him by putting spiritual rather than fleshly interests first in their lives, thus, “not . . . planning ahead for the desires of the flesh.”—Romans 13:14.
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Paul told the Romans to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” However, he was not here establishing a new Christian custom or religious rite. In Paul’s day, a kiss on the forehead, lips, or hand was often given as a sign of greeting, affection, or respect. Hence, Paul was merely referring to a custom that was common in his day.—Romans 16:16.


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