A Letter From Paul the Missionary to the
Society of Christians in Rome
The Book of Romans
Paraphrased and Abridged By
"If you love your neighbour as yourself, you have fulfilled the whole moral law. But be in earnest about things, for the better day is already dawning. (Rom. 12:1-13:14) "
The following abridged paraphrase of the Epistle to the Romans aims at presenting in a plain way the continuous sequence of the argument, while suggesting the free epistolary form of the original
My DEAR FELLOW-CHRISTIANS OF ROME,
Wherever I go I hear of your faith, and I thank God for it. It is a part of my daily prayers that I may be permitted to visit you. I believe such a visit would do you good, and I am sure it would do me good. In fact, I have tried again and again to get to Rome, but hitherto something has always turned up to prevent me. I shall not feel that my work as missionary to the Gentiles is complete until I have preached in Rome. My mission is a universal one, knowing no bounds of race or culture--naturally, since my message is a universal one. It is a message of God's righteousness, revealed to men on a basis of faith. (Rom. 1:1-17)
Apart from this, there is nothing to be seen in the world of today but the Nemesis of sin. Take the pagan world: all men have a knowledge of God by natural religion; but the pagan world has deliberately turned its back upon this knowledge, and, for all its boasted philosophy, has degraded religion into idolatry. The natural consequence is a moral perversity horrible to contemplate. (Rom. 1:18-32)
But you, my Jewish friend, need not dwell with complacency upon the sins of the pagan world. You are guilty yourself. Do not mistake God's patience with His people for indulgence. His judgments are impartial. Knowledge or ignorance of the Law of Moses makes no difference here. The pagans have God's law written in their conscience. If they obey it, well; if not, they stand condemned. And as for you--you call yourself a Jew and pride yourself on the Law. But have you kept all its precepts? You are circumcised and so forth: that goes for nothing; God looks at the inner life of motive and affection. An honest pagan is better than a bad Jew in His sight. I do not mean to say there is no advantage in being a Jew: of this more presently ; but read your Bible and take to yourself the hard words of the prophets--spoken, remember, not to heathens, but to people who knew the Law, just as you do. No, Jew and pagan, we are in the same case. No one can stand right before God on the basis of what he has actually
done. Law only serves to bring consciousness of guilt. (Rom. 2:1-3:20)
But now, Law apart, we have a revelation of God's righteousness, as I was saying (Rom. 1:17). It comes by faith, the faith of Jesus Christ; and it comes to every one, Jew or Gentile, who has faith. We have all sinned, and all of us can be made to stand right with God. That is a free gift to us, due to His graciousness. We are emancipated in Christ Jesus, who is God's appointed means of dealing with sin--a means operating by the devotion of His life, and by faith on our part. It is thus that God, having passed over sins committed in the old days when He held His hand, demonstrates His righteousness in the world of to-day; i.e., it is thus that He both shows Himself righteous, and makes those stand right before Him who have faith in Jesus Christ. No room for boasting here! No distinction of Jew and Gentile here! (Rom. 3:21-31)
But what about Abraham? you will say. Did not
he win God's graciousness by what he did? Not at all. Read your Bible, and you will find that the promise was given to him
before he was circumcised; and the Bible expressly says that "he had faith in God, and
that counted for righteousness." The same principle applies to us all. (Rom. 4:1-25)
To return to the point, then, we stand right with God on the ground of faith, and we are at peace with Him, come what may. God's love floods our whole being--a love shown in the fact that Christ died for us, not because we were good people for whom anyone might die, but actually while we were sinners. He died, not for His friends, but for His enemies. Very well then, if while we were enemies Christ died for us, surely He will save us now that we are friends! If He reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely He will save us by living for us, and in us. There is something to boast about! (Rom. 5:1-11)
Christ died and lives for us all, I say. But, you ask, how can the life and death of one individual have consequences for so many? You believe that we all suffer for Adam's sin; and if so, why should we not all profit by Christ's righteousness? Of course there is really no comparison between the power of evil to propagate itself, and the power of good to win the victory, for
that is a matter of God's graciousness. However, you see my point : one man sinned--a whole race suffers for it; one Man lived righteously--a whole race wins life by it. But what about Law? you say. Law only came in by the way, to intensify the consciousness of guilt. (Rom. 5:12-21)
Now I come to a difficulty. I have heard people say, "If human sin gives play to God's graciousness, let us go on sinning to give Him a better chance. Why not do evil that good may come?" (Rom. 3:8) What nonsense! To be saved through Christ is to be a dead man so far as sin is concerned. Think of the symbolism of Baptism. You go down into the water: that is like being buried with Christ. You come up out of the water: that is like rising with Christ from the tomb. It means, therefore, a new life, a life which comes by union with the living Christ. You will admit that, once a man is dead, there is no more claim against him for any wrong he may have committed. He is like a slave set free from all claims on the part of his late master. Think, then, of yourselves as dead. When you remember the death of Christ, think that you--i.e., your old bad selves--were crucified with Him. And when you remember His resurrection, think of yourselves as living with Him, a new life. And above all, bear in mind that Christ, once risen, does not die again: and so you, living the new life in Him, need not die again. I mean, the sin that once dominated you need not any longer control you; do not let it! You are freed slaves; do not sell yourselves into slavery again. Or, if you like to put it so, you are now slaves, not of Sin, but of Righteousness (a very crude way of putting it, but I want to help you out). Just as once you were the property of Sin, and all your faculties were instruments of wrong, so now you are the property of Righteousness, and every faculty you have must be an instrument of right. Freed from sin, you are slaves of God; that is what I mean. The wages your old master paid was death. Your new Master makes you a present of life. (Rom. 6:1-23)
Or take another illustration. You know that by law a woman is bound to her husband while he lives; when he is dead she is free; she can marry again if she likes and the law has no claim against her. So you may think of yourselves as having been married to Sin, or to Law. Death has now released you from that marriage bond, though here the illustration halts, for it is Christ's death that has freed you! Well, anyhow, you are free--free, shall I say, to marry Christ. You had a numerous progeny of evil deeds by your first marriage; you must now produce an offspring of good deeds to Christ. I mean, of course, you must serve God in Christ's spirit. (Rom. 7:1-6)
Now I admit that all this sounds as though I identified law with sin. That is not my meaning. But surely it is clear that the function of law is to bring consciousness of sin; e.g., I should never have known what covetousness was but that the law said, "Thou shalt not covet." Such is the perversity of human nature under the dominion of sin that the very prohibition provokes me to covet. There was a time when I knew nothing of Law, and lived my own life. Then Law came, sin awakened in me, and life became death for me. Of course, Law is good, but Sin took advantage of it, to my cost. I am only flesh and blood, and flesh and blood is prone to sin. I can see what is good, and desire it, but I cannot practice it; i.e., my reason recognizes the law, and yet I break it through moral perversity. If you like to put it so, there is one law for my reason, the Law of God, and another for my outward conduct, the law of sin and death. It is like a living man chained to a dead body. It is perfect misery. But, thank God, the chain is broken! The law of the Spirit of Life which is in Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death. Christ entered into this human nature of flesh and blood which is under the dominion of Sin. Sin put in its claim to be His master; but Christ won His case; Sin was non-suited, its claim disallowed, and human nature was free. The result is that all the Law stood for of righteousness, holiness, and goodness is fulfilled in those who live by Christ's Spirit. There are two possible forms of human life: there is the life of the lower nature of flesh and blood, of which I have spoken; and there is the life of the spirit. We have Christ's Spirit, and so we can live the life of the spirit. And in the end that Spirit will give new life to the whole human organism. (Rom. 7:7-8:11)
You see, then, that the flesh-and-blood nature has no claim upon us. We belong to the Spirit. Those who are actuated by that Spirit are sons of God. I used a while back the expression, "slaves of God "; but really we are not slaves but sons---sons and heirs of God, like Christ; and when we come into our inheritance, how glorious it will be! (Rom. 8:12-18)
This, however, is still in the future. At the present time the whole universe is in misery, and in its misery it waits for the revelation of God's sons.
Now all existence seems futile in its transience; and even we still share creation's pangs. But we have hope; and the ground of that hope is the possession of God's Spirit--in a first installment only, but enough to reckon upon. The fact is that every prayer we utter--yes, even an inarticulate prayer--is the utterance of the Spirit within us. We know that all through God is working with us. His purpose is behind the whole process, and He is on our side. If He gave His Son, we can trust Him to give us everything else. He loves us, and nothing in the world or out of it can separate us from His love. (Rom. 8:18-39)
That concludes the present stage of my argument; but before I can proceed to final deductions, I must return to a difficulty already raised (Rom. 3:1-4). If there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, does all the great past of Israel go for nothing? Do all the promises of Scripture go for nothing? First, let me say how bitterly I regret the exclusion of the Jewish nation as a body from the new life. I would surrender all my Christian privileges if I could find a way to bring them in. But we must recognize facts; and the first fact is that the nation as a whole never was able to claim the promises; from the beginning, there was a process of selection. Of the sons of Abraham, Isaac alone was called; of the sons of Isaac, Jacob only. If we ask why, there is no answer save that God is bound by no natural or historical necessity, but intervenes according to His will. To question that will is as absurd as for the pot to arraign the potter. Then again, while some members of the Hebrew race have always fallen out, always God has declared His purpose ultimately to include others, not members of the Hebrew race--and that is just what is now happening. Now, as I said, I desire nothing more earnestly than that the whole nation should be saved. But the fact is that they have deliberately rejected the chance that was offered them. There is nothing remote or abstruse about the Christian message. It is a very simple thing: acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and believe that He is alive; that is all. And they cannot say that they have never heard the message, for Christ has His witnesses everywhere. It looks, then, as if God had rejected His people, as punishment for their obstinacy. I do not believe it. God's promises cannot go for nothing. In the first place, there has always been, and there still is, a faithful remnant of the Jewish people. And in the second place, as for the main body, their present rejection of the message is only a means in God's Providence for its extension to the Gentiles. The old olive-tree of Israel stands yet; many of its branches have been lopped off, and new branches of wild olive have been engrafted in their place. But God can engraft the lopped branches on again, if it be His will; and I believe it is His will, and that in the end the whole nation will return to Him and inherit the promises. And if the failure of Israel has meant such blessing to the world, how much greater blessing will its ultimate salvation bring! God's purpose, as I said at the beginning (Rom. 1:16), is universal: He has permitted the whole of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike, to fall under sin, only in order that He may finally have mercy on the whole of humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. How profound and unsearchable are His plans! (Rom. 9:1-11:36)
So now I can take up again my main argument. If
this is the way of God's dealing with us, what ought to be our response? Can we do less than offer our entire selves to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving? How will that work out? In a life lived as by members of one single body. Let each perform his part faithfully. Let love rule all your relations one to another, and to those outside, even to your enemies. Do not regard the Emperor as outside the scope of love, but obey his laws and pay his taxes. Yes, and pay all debts to every one. Love is, in fact, the one comprehensive debt of man to man. If you love your neighbour as yourself, you have fulfilled the whole moral law. But be in earnest about things, for the better day is already dawning. (Rom. 12:1-13:14)
I hear you have differences among yourselves about Sabbath-keeping and vegetarianism. Take this matter, then, as an example of what I mean by the application of brotherly love to all conduct. Remember that the Sabbatarian and the anti-Sabbatarian, the vegetarian and the meat-eater, are alike servants of one Master. Give each other credit for the best motives. Do not think of yourself alone; think of your Christian brother, and try to put yourself in his place. If he seems to you a weak-minded, over-scrupulous individual, remember that in any case he is your brother, and that Christ died for him as well as for you, and reverence his conscience. If through your example he should do an act which is harmless in you but sin to him, you have injured his conscience. Is it worth while so to imperil a soul for the sake of your liberty in such external matters? If the other man is weak-minded, and you strong-minded, all the more reason why you should help to bear his burden. Remember, Christ did not please Himself. In a word, Sabbatarian and anti-Sabbatarian, Jew and Gentile, treat one another as Christ has treated you, and God be with you. (Rom. 14:1-15:13)
Well, friends, I hardly think you needed this long exhortation from me. You are intelligent Christians, and well able to give one another good advice. Still, I thought I might venture to remind you of a few points ; for after all, I do feel a measure of responsibility for you, as missionary to the Gentiles. I have now accomplished my mission as far West as the Adriatic. Now I am going to Jerusalem to hand over the relief fund we have raised in Greece. After that I hope to start work in the West, and I propose to set out for Spain and take Rome on my way. Pray for me, that my errand to Jerusalem may be successful, so that I may be free to visit you. (Rom. 15:14-33)
I wish to introduce to you our friend Phoebe. She renders admirable service to our congregation at
Clenches. Do all you can for her; she deserves it.
Kind regards to Priscilla and Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, and all friends in Rome.
(P.S.--Beware of folk who make mischief. Be wise; be gentle; and all good be with you.)
Timothy, Lucius, Jason, Sosipater, and all friends at Corinth send kind regards. (So do I--Tertius, amanuensis!)
Glory be to God!
With all good wishes,
PAUL, Missionary of Jesus Christ.
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- 27 Dec 2002
I am not surprised that he did not deal with the salvation of "all Israel", the remnant according to the election of Grace in Rom. 11:26. This verse was a problem to me for over forty some years. Why were the days shortened and the elect Jews compelled to flee to the mountains [Matt 24:22]? The salvation of the elect among Abraham's Seed made this mandatory and the wrath of the Romans was God's insturment to make this effectual. We must acknowledge that Fulfilled Eschatology has so long been neglected that its tenents seem strange to a generation afflicted with the addiction of the those who put Jesus on the torture stake and validated the New Covenant.[Heb. 9:23-28; 10:9; 13:10-15]. R. G. Williams USMC Korean Veteran firstname.lastname@example.org