So a while back I started writing a commentary on Romans that I was going to post. But the project got bogged down and I never really felt entirely good about the result. But I did prepare this summary of the book of Romans that was to help me ‘get the flow’ of Paul’s thoughts (from an LDS perspective, of course.)
Summary of Romans:
Background: Paul writes to the primarily Jewish Christian community in Rome (a gentile city) to head off problems with Judaizers, those that taught that the Law of Moses was still to be practiced in full. Imagine the problems with baptisms if all adult males had to be circumcised (without pain killer) to be able to join the Church.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to them that believe (have faith) in Jesus Christ. (Rom 1:16–17). All men are accountable before God because, since the world began, God’s hand in things was perceptible to those that cared to see it (Rom 1:18–20). But most men failed to act on this knowledge and it became a curse to them instead, leading them into great sins. (Rom 1:22–32).
Because of this, none of us has excuse for our sins. The very fact that we are capable of judging sin in others shows we understand our own sinfulness. (Rom 2:1–3). We are often inconsistent because we want God to punish the wicked now when if he did, we’d not have time to repent ourselves. (Rom 2:4–5). But God will, eventually, reward all according to their works. (Rom 2:6–16). No matter how well you keep the laws of God, no one keeps it perfectly. A non-believing gentile that keeps the commandments of God (through his conscience, see Rom 2:14–15) but none of the ordinances/rituals is “more Jewish” than someone that keeps the rituals but none of the commandments. (Rom 2:17–29).
So what advantage was there to be part of the Jewish nation? The Jews received God’s revelations through His prophets! (Rom 3:1–2) Not all Jews were true to God, but God was always kept his promises to them. (Rom 3:3–6). Some have claimed this means it doesn’t matter if we sin because we just make God look more merciful and good when he saves us. This is incorrect. (Rom 3:7–8) Others say that being “God’s chosen” makes us “better” than Gentiles. But the scriptures prove otherwise. We are sinful just like them and just as open to God’s judgments. (Rom 3:9–19). Salvation doesn’t come through the laws of God alone. (Rom 3:20). God will save us through the atonement of Jesus Christ despite all of us being sinners. The Law of Moses (nor any law alone) can save us. (Rom 3:21–27). All men, Jew and Gentile alike, are saved by faith in Christ, and not by adhering perfectly to a law. (Rom 3:28–30).
According to the Law of Moses itself (i.e. Genesis) Abraham was saved by faith in God, not through works or rituals. (See Gen 15:6). (Rom 4:1–3.) If we were saved by our works, God would be a debtor to us. (Rom 4:4–8). Abraham himself wasn’t circumcised yet when God said He counted his faith as righteousness. (Rom 4:9–11). God will save all men, not just circumcised men, that are faithful to God like Abraham was. (Rom 4:12–25).
We are forgiven (i.e. justified) by faith in Jesus. (Rom 5:1–2). That faith, combined with life’s tribulations teach us endurance. This gives us experience and leads to a tested moral character. That tested condition (along with faith in Christ) give us hope (confidence to be in God’s presence.) (Rom 5:3–5). This is how we are saved by Christ. Adam caused our race to fall and Jesus undid it. (Rom 5:6–21).
So if Christ saves us through faith, does that mean that we may sin freely and still receive salvation? No it doesn’t! (Rom 6:1–2). When we were baptized, we buried our old sinful lives and started a new one. Do not return to a sinful life. If you do, then Christ is not your master, sin is – and you will spiritually die. If you are really God’s servants then you will bring forth holy fruit. (Rom 6:3–23).
Just as a dead man is free of mortal laws, so the death of Christ ended the Law of Moses. (Rom 7:1–4.) We are free from the law and now live in the Spirit. (Rom 7:5–6). So does this mean the Law had no purpose? No, God giving us laws (such as the Law of Moses) is how we know what is right and wrong in God’s eyes. The problem isn’t the Law, it’s my carnal (i.e. fallen/natural man/flesh) nature. I am unable to consistently avoid sin by my own efforts. I know what is right and wrong due to the Law, and I want to keep the commandments, but I don’t always. (i.e. I sin.) Who will save me from my sinful cycle of never being perfect? I thank God for Jesus! (Rom 7:7–25).
Those that have joined with Jesus (i.e. through faith, repentance, and baptism) are not condemned for their sins if they continue to walk in the Spirit. It is by walking in the Spirit that a person can really fulfill the laws of God. This is also how you become Christ’s. (Rom 8:1–11). This is why we must not return to our sinful life after choosing to follow Christ. (Rom 8:12–13.) Those that allow themselves to be led by the Spirit become the Sons of God with Jesus – Joint heirs and glorified with Him! (Rom 8:14–17). The reward promised (i.e. being a Son of God just like Jesus is) is so much greater than the suffering we go through in this life. (Rom 8:14–19). The whole of creation awaits for us to transcend and become the Sons of God! Ourselves included. We do not see it now (i.e. that’s why we have faith and hope rather than full knowledge) so we must endure to the end expecting it. (Rom 8:20–25). The Spirit helps us endure this life. (Rom 8:26–27). God knew us (in the pre-existence) and foreordained those of us that would accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be saved. (Rom 8:28–30). If God is on our side, who could possibly overcome us? He didn’t withhold His own Son from us! He plans to give us all things (i.e. He will give us the very life He has.) (Rom 8:31–32). No one can cause us to be condemned. Christ Himself will intercede for us. Nothing could force us to separate from God now! (Rom 8:33–39)
I feel awful over the fact that the Jews lost their chosen status before God. Not that God’s promises have failed. (Rom 9:1–6). Look how God made promises to Abraham’s descendents, but only applied those promises to Jacob’s descendents. God chooses which nations He will work through. (Rom 9:7–13). Does this make God unrighteous because it’s His choice of what nation to bring his word through? Of course not! God decides who he’ll show mercy to (based on His superior knowledge.) It’s not man’s choice. (Rom 9:14–16). (Look at the case of Egypt and Pharaoh.) God raised up Pharaoh specifically so that God would be able to show his power against him. (Rom 9:17–18) You might respond to me: “God won’t punish anyone (in our example, the Jews for losing their status as chosen of God) because it’s God that chose to remove them and who can resist His will?” But we (i.e. the Jewish nation – or any nation) are just something formed by God. He’s the potter, we’re the clay. He forms us how He wants. (Rom 9:19–21). God may suffer long with a vessel He knows he’ll destroy or chose us (the Church) to be made into something fit for glory. (Rom 9:22–23). And if he chooses to call Gentiles to this glory as well as Jews, that is His choice. (Rom 9:24–29). It’s ironic that the Gentiles didn’t seek righteousness but by accepting Christ found it, while the Jews – dutifully following God’s laws – ended up losing it. (Rom 9:30–31). Why did they lose it? Because they didn’t seek righteousness through faith! (They got caught up in the rituals.) (Rom 9:32–33).
I pray that the Jews will be saved. (Rom 10:1). They zealously worship God, but incorrectly. They established their own ideas about righteousness, thus not submitting themselves truly to God. This caused them to miss the coming of Christ. (Rom 10:2–4) The Law of Moses explains how one is really saved (compare Deut 30:14 and Rom 10:9): by putting God’s word (Christ) in our mouth and heart (to do it.) (Rom 10:5–11). All may be saved, Jew and Gentile, equally by calling upon Jesus. (Rom 10:12–13). This is why we have to send out missionaries to preach, so that people can hear God’s word and call upon Jesus in faith (throughout their lives.) (Rom 10:14–18). The Jews should have known they’d lose their status with God, it was predicted by their prophets. (Rom 10:19–21.)
Does this mean God cast the Jews away entirely? No. Even now, some Jews have accepted Christ and retained their elect status. (Rom 11:1–5). God elects His chosen people (nation) by His graciousness, not by their works of righteousness. (After all, the Jews were always wicked historically.) Israel, as a whole, sought God but God saved a portion and the rest were blinded. (Rom 11:6–10). Have the rest stumbled forever? No. God is using their fall to save other nations, but this will eventually lead to the Jewish nation being saved as well. (Rom 11:11–17). But the gentiles have nothing to boast about. God could just as easily cast them off (as a chosen people) just as He did with the Jews. And He will if they don’t continue in His goodness. Indeed, people of all nations and peoples can be saved through faith in Christ. (Rom 11:18–25). In the end, the Jewish nation will be saved (i.e. individuals may not be saved, but God will be true to His promises to the nation as a whole in the end.). After He uses the Jewish nation to save the gentiles, he’ll use the gentiles to save the Jews. (Rom 11:23–36).
Because of all this, I urge you to present your bodies (i.e. your life) as a living “spiritual” sacrifice to God (in place of the physical sacrifices of the Law of Moses.) Avoid the ways of this world and instead discern God’s will for you, according to what God calls you to do. (Rom 12:1–3). For we are all one in Christ, but each have our own roles, callings, and gifts. (Rom 12:4–8). Live as becomes Saints of God. (Rom 12:9–20). Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:21).
Be subject to priesthood authorities (those called above you, as was just explained), for they were appointed by God. Pay your tributes (tithing) to them and render to them what they are due. (Rom 13:1–7). (By doing this) you will owe nothing but love: this is how all commandments are fulfilled, by loving your neighbor. (Rom 13:8–10). So wake up and throw off your works of darkness (sins), for salvation is nearer than you think. (Rom 11-14).
Don’t debate or judge those weak in the faith. Help people out at whatever spiritual level they are at. Don’t judge others in the Church, but rather judge yourself that you do not do things to become a stumbling block to others. (Rom 14:1–23).
(This is why) we that are strong in the faith must bear the infirmities of the weak in the faith (rather than judge them.) Instead be unified in mind (spirit) in your worship of God. (Rom 15:1–7). The Gospel has now gone to the gentiles and I glory to be a part of this work. (Rom 15:8–33).
Paul gives final salutes and final reminder to not cause the gentile converts to stumble (by requiring circumcision.) (Rom 16:1–27).