Ten Things to Know About Romans - Part 2 of 4

by Joe McKeever

Editor's Note: In this series, Joe encourages and challenges pastors to take on the message of Romans in their churches by laying the groundwork for study, application, and appreciation of this most intense of Paul's epistles.

4) Romans Answers the Question, "What about the Jews?"

That's chapters 9, 10, and 11. Buckle your seat belt. Expect some turbulence.

In the early 1970s I served on the staff of a large church where the pastor was in his early 30s and brimming with confidence. Everything he did seemed to flourish. He began a Tuesday noon Bible study luncheon for men in the downtown area and soon had 150 in attendance. After going through the Gospel of John, the young pastor decided to tackle Romans at these noontime sessions. Everything went fine for a while. Then one evening he called my house. "Are you doing anything important tomorrow?" He wanted me to ride to New Orleans and back with him the next day. Only later did I find out why.

On the campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the pastor spent two hours picking the brain of everyone's favorite New Testament professor, Ray Frank Robbins. The issue: Chapters 9, 10, and 11 of Romans. The pastor had plowed into this book, teaching a chapter each week, without advance studying or preparation, and suddenly found himself in over his head. He needed rescuing and needed it immediately.

Here is my quick-some would say "too quick"-take on the question of "What happens to the Jews?"

A) Over and over in Romans, Paul says, "There is no partiality with God." He says it in 2:11, and basically the same thing in 3:22 and 10:12.

B) All are sinners, all are in need of salvation, Christ died for all. Period.

C) So, is there advantage to being a Jew? Certainly, plenty, Paul says. An illustration from our family seems a lot like the answer Paul gave. My wife and I have two sons who were born to us. When they were 8 and 11, we adopted a Korean daughter who was 5 years old. We bent over backward to make up for the neglect she had known as an infant and to treat her the same as her brothers. And yet they had advantages she did not. They had no language difficulty and at least a five-year head start on her in regard to the relationship with us. She knew deprivation and loneliness and poor health care in Korea; our sons never knew a day without being loved and cared for. And yet, at the end of the day, the bottom line was always that as our children, all three were to obey us and do as we taught them.

D) Ultimately, while being a child of Abraham brought certain privileges and blessings, no one should assume too much from that bloodline. After all, Abraham had two sons, and only through Isaac was the blessing given. And two sons were born to Isaac, but only through Jacob was the lineage blessed.

E) Perhaps the best clue to the answer is this line from Romans 2:28-29, "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardlybut he is a Jew who is one inwardly." Implying that what makes a person a "true Jew" is faith in the Lord's promises and obedience to His will. That then allows Paul to utter the truly audacious statement that "all Israel will be saved." (11:26)

I have known Christians with Jewish family members who grasped those words (11:26) in the assurance that their loved ones would ultimately come to Christ. But, to me, that is not what they are saying. In the context of the entire book, they're simply pointing out that every "true Jew" will be saved, and anyone of Abraham's line who does not believe in Christ is not part of "all Israel."

F) Paul uses Abraham as the ultimate illustration of one who was "justified by faith," the line which was to spark the Reformation under Luther (Romans 1:17). It was not circumcision that saved or justified him, Paul points out, because Genesis 15:6 flatly states, "Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Since Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised and only by his faith, the implications are enormous.

G) This line from I Corinthians 13 comes to mind: "We see through a glass darkly." We strive to know God's will and understand His ways, but we must always be willing to receive further instruction in matters such as this on which God's faithful children often disagree.

I recall a telling comment from a scientist who was grappling with some puzzle of the universe. "When we find the solution," he said, "it will be simple." Unless I'm missing something crucial in Romans, that same analysis can be applied to the question of the ultimate destiny of the Jews as well as the Gentiles. "For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).

5) Romans 8 May Be the Most Glorious Thing in the Bible outside of the Gospels

Sometime in the early 1990s I preached a series of sermons through this chapter and encouraged our members to memorize all 39 verses. Some did, and occasionally someone will tell me they retain it to this day. Often in my early-morning walks on the levee by the Mississippi River, I recite this chapter and breathe in its incredible promises.

Let me share two possible ways of outlining Romans 8. (Bear in mind that Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote 3 volumes just on this chapter, so go easy on me here!)

A) Think of the chapter as dividing at verse 31, and the "if" should be "since." That way, it comes out: "What then shall we say to these things? Since God is for us, who can be against us?" Seen this way, it becomes obvious that the first 30 verses of Romans 8 are given to show that "God is for us." You will have fun (literally) walking through those verses with your precious-metal detector (figuratively) finding all the places where God the Father is for us, where Christ the Son is for us, and where the Holy Spirit is for us.

Then, having established that "God is for us," Paul asks "who can be against us?" Basically, he means, "What does it matter who is against us?" He implies that it does not matter.

Five questions are asked and answered from verses 31 through the end of the chapter. 1) Who can be against us? "God is for us." 2) He gave us His Son; "how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" 3) Who will bring a charge against us? "It is God who justifies." 4) Who is the one who condemns? "It is Christ who diedwas raisedand intercedes for us." 5) Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Nobody or nothing.

B) Here's the other outline of this incredible chapter. I first heard Charles Carter use this plan, and then found it in Harper Shannon's book on Romans. Whether it's original with one of these friends of mine or they borrowed it, I cannot tell you, but I dearly love it and highly recommend it.

Everyone is aware that Romans 8 begins with "no condemnation" and ends with "no separation," but there's plenty more where that comes from. Consider this:

No Condemnation (8:1-8). No Alienation (8:9-17). No Disintegration (8:18-25). No Isolation (8:26-27). No Miscalculation (8:28-30). No Accusation (8:31-34). No Separation (8:35-39). What a wonderful expression of God's overpowering work of salvation!

Joe McKeever is director of missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

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