Salvation in Romans
Salvation, what is it? Do we need it? How de we get it? In the Epistle to the Romans Paul talks extensively about salvation. His first mention of it is in 1:16 where we learn that the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. So we learn that salvation is acquired by believing the gospel of Christ, but Paul goes further in v.17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from fait to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Paul therefore equates belief with faith with righteousness with salvation.
The need for salvation is made clear in 1:18-32. There is a wrath of God and that is what we need saving from. The charges against us are “because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful”; “And changed the glory of the incorruptible God…”; “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator,…”. We know these charges to be true of us regardless of our religious standing. We can ask ourselves , do we glorify God as God or do we see him as some kindly old man who simply started the universe then stepped back and left us to ourselves? Are we thankful to him? Or do we question his goodness and imagine that we could have done a better job?
Have we changed the glory of God into an image? This is more than simply make a physical idol, it is as v. 25 records changing the truth of God into a lie, worshipping and serving the creature more than the creator. Whether it is an idolatrous religion or a materialist atheism the truth of God is changed and the creature is served more than the creator. Idol worshippers have changed the truth of God and all idol worship leads to worship and service of creatures, animal and human. Atheism worships and serves in the same manner, worshipping either nature or humanity or even self.
As Paul continues he makes clear that there is a judgment of God against the individuals who commit such sin, but there is also a goodness of God which leads to repentance, v.4. He introduces us to a new term in 2:13, justification, “For not the hearers of the law are jut before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Justification can be simplified as just as if I’d never sinned. Justification is therefore the removal of the guilt of the sin, it returns us to the starting point of innocence.
Paul shows us that there is something beyond this in 2:26 “Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law,”, righteousness. Righteousness is not simply innocence from sin but an active doing of good. We must be careful in how we define good for it is often the case that people will condemn God as being unrighteous because His good is not beneficial to some. But doing things that benefit or profit either us or any given group of people is not necessarily righteousness.
Romans 3:10-18 makes clear that no individual is righteous, and it is not that the whole list of things that are unrighteous need to apply to us, only a single item need be true. The statement “there is none that seeketh after God” is true of many a charitable humanist. “They are all gone out of the way,” God has a specific path and code of conduct He wishes us to follow, the simple attitude of independence make a person go out of the way. “There is no fear of God before their eyes .” The fact that people are willing to pass judgment on God shows that there is no fear of God. Even if only one of these three things is true of a person they are unrighteous.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight…”. There is no action we can take that clears our guilt before God, nothing that will restore our innocence, but, and I love the buts of scripture, “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested,… even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe…” . But, God has made a way for us receive rather than achieve righteousness. It is by faith, by belief that we receive the righteousness of God. Our justification is by grace, 3:24, so we come to v. 26 where it is again stated “that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Justification therefore comes through belief in Jesus with no reference to any works of ours. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Paul spends a great deal of time in chapter 4 in showing that the righteousness of Abraham was by faith in the promise of God. He then shows that these promises apply not simply to the physical offspring of Abraham, not simply to his descendants in Isaac and Jacob, but to all who believe. “And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him. But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Paul has placed all of his effort toward helping us understand that salvation is through faith. If we expect to be justified it must be through faith in Jesus Christ.
There is more to salvation though than simply justification, and throughout chapters 3 and 4 of Romans Paul has repeatedly asserted that righteousness is by faith, and yet there is still more. In chapter 5 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:” . It is not simply an uneasy innocence we receive, but peace, a settled condition arrived at by faith. Just in case we didn’t get it Paul puts it more forcefully in vv.9-10. “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” After reading verse 8 I am amazed that there can be “Much more”, but there is! Having been justified we are saved from wrath. It is not simply an uneasy innocence, not simply a return to zero that we have been given, but we have been reconciled to God, and much more, we are saved!
“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” It is another concept that Paul introduces here, atonement, simplified it is at one ment. This is reconciliation, the distance placed between us and God because of Adam’s sin has been overcome by grace.
Paul give us an absolutely clear statement about salvation and faith in chapter 10:9-10 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
Throughout the Roman epistle Paul makes clear that salvation is through faith and that faith is equated with belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. He also goes to great lengths to contrast faith and works showing that salvation is not by works but by grace. These are plain statements which are easily understood rather than parables or proverbs requiring subtle interpretations. What Romans makes plain is that nothing other than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is required for salvation, no works are detailed for us to work, no doctrines to learn, no church to attend, just belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 10:11
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