Romans and Calvinism: an Excursion

I’m doing a series on Calvinism and Predestination here on this blog, but I want to make a quick side trip.

I mentioned in the last post that Romans has a series of arguments concerning Jews and Gentiles and the righteousness of faith vs. the righteousness of the Law.

I believe the first of those arguments is the most important one, and I believe most people don’t even know Paul is presenting an argument!

Romans 1: Justification As a Defense of the Gospel

We all quote Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”

Have we ever asked, however, why Paul has to say he’s not ashamed?

The reason is pretty obvious from the first half of Romans. Paul is writing to Christians who have not met him. Most of  them are Jewish, and they have heard that he is preaching a righteousness apart from the Law.

They think this is bad, and they are quoting him as saying things like, “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom. 3:8).

So Paul writes to these Christians in Rome to defend and correctly explain his Gospel.

After a few introductory statements, he launches right into his defense: “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ …”

Why not?

The Power of the Gospel of Christ

Paul says why not immediately:

It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes; to the Jew first, but also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. (vv. 16-17)

Nowadays we like to use verses like this as an argument that we don’t have to be righteous to go to heaven. That’s ridiculous. We’ve been warned–by Paul, the very one who wrote these verses in Romans–not to be deceived into believing such nonsense.

Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived … (1 Cor. 6:9)

Paul is arguing the very opposite!

I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, Paul says, because whenever I preach it, the people who believe it experience the power of God to salvation. They live righteously, and their righteousness is not just any righteousness, but is the righteousness of God being revealed in them from faith to faith.

Have you ever heard a better argument for the Gospel? Who can stand up against that argument?

Watch this Gospel at work! I have nothing to apologize for, and I have nothing to be ashamed of. The righteousness of God himself is revealed in it.

That’s what Paul is saying.

Is That Really What Paul Is Saying?

Why doubt it? Should we doubt it because nowadays so many people believe that righteousness is imputed even when it’s not imparted?

No matter how many modern scholars and lexicons say that justification in the Greek means right standing with God rather than righteous living, the New Testament itself–in Greek or English–makes it clear that they’re wrong, wrong wrong …

… Eternally and dangerously wrong.

Little children, don’t let anyone deceive you. The one that does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. (1 Jn. 3:7)

Clear enough for you?

Now both Paul and John have told you not to be deceived about this doctrine of right standing with God apart from the actual performance of righteousness. So, don’t be deceived!!!

The Righteousness of Faith

Here’s Paul’s description of the righteousness that comes by faith:

For what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did … (Rom. 8:3)

Paul has just described what the Law could not do in chapter seven. It can’t cause us to obey God. It may display the righteousness of God and be perfect, holy, and good, but it can’t empower us to obey.

But what the Law could not do, God did!

By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh … (Rom. 8:3)

Awesome! The Law couldn’t break the power of sin in our flesh, as explained in Romans 7, but Jesus, by the offering of himself, could!!! Hallelujah!

So that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:4)

Note that the righteous requirement of the Law is not fulfilled in us as we subject ourselves to the Law and to its requirements. It is “fulfilled in us”–happens automatically–if we walk according to the Spirit!

We have to subject ourselves to the Spirit.

What happens if we don’t?

If you live according to the flesh, you will die. But if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, then you will live. (Rom. 8:13)

He who sows to the flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap everlasting life. Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap … if we do not lose heart. (Gal. 6:8-9)

That’s probably clear enough.

Conclusion: Back to Romans 1

Let’s not miss the fact that Romans 1-11 is one long series of arguments and explanations of Paul’s Gospel. It’s powerful, and once you see it as a series of arguments and explanations, it’s quite clear.

The first argument is: Those who hear my Gospel experience the power of God that produces righteousness, and that righteousness is produced from faith to faith, so I don’t apologize for preaching faith rather than Law.

Is that what we can say about our Gospel?

Then maybe we had better change our Gospel because if we believe Paul is inspired by God, then God doesn’t think very highly of false gospels (Gal. 1:8-9).

Jesus’ Gospel involves giving up your entire life and having no attachment to this world at all (Luke 14:26-33).

I love church history, and I can tell you that no other Gospel has ever produced the results Paul spoke of. Just the one that says, “Forsake everything for Christ.”

The others all produce what you see around you. You decide which one you want, which one is Biblical, and which one will gain you favor at the judgment.

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