Understanding Paul

(Number Three)

In chapter 5, of Romans, Paul illustrates that as the sin of Adam led to the death of mankind (not because of Adam’s sin but because all have sinned), Christ’s death led to the salvation of many (Rom. 5:12, 15).

The Moffatt Translation gives a clear explanation of this.

For if the trespass of one man [Adam] allowed death to reign through that one man, much more shall those who receive the overflowing grace and free gift of righteousness reign in the life through One, through Jesus Christ.  Well then, as one man’s trespass issued in doom for all, so one man’s act of redress issued in acquittal and life for all.  Just as one man’s disobedience made all the rest sinners, so one man’s obedience will make all the rest righteous.  Law slipped in to aggravate the trespass; sin increased, but grace surpassed it far, so that, while sin had reigned the reign of death, grace might also reign with a righteousness that ends in life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord.  (Rom. 5:17-21, Moffatt Translation)

Paul illustrates the difference between Adam’s sin and Christ’s sacrifice. Notice particularly the word “grace.”  Paul mentions how that the law slipped in to aggravate sin.  How was sin aggravated?  The answer is given in Romans 7:7-11.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.  But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.  For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.

The law that “slipped in” does not refer to the Ten Commandments.  Why?  Because death reigned from Adam to Moses, which means that there was a spiritual law in motion long before the time of Moses.  The law that entered in was the codified law given to the nation of Israel when the Old Covenant was ratified.  This is the law Paul had observed from youth, but now he became aware of its spiritual intent, and this knowledge had made him aware of the depth of his guilt before God.

In Romans, Chapter 6, Paul addressed a false idea that was circulating at that time.  The idea was that the more sin, the better. The more sin, the more grace to pardon it. But what is grace?  Grace is God’s gift of free, undeserved, unmerited pardon. Paul shows the fallacy of this false doctrine in Romans 6:1-2. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?  God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”  Paul had previously repudiated this notion in Romans 3:5-6, 8.  “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? . . . And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.”  So, some were purporting that Paul taught sin was perfectly acceptable, because by this means God would manifest more grace and be more glorified.  What is the truth?  The very thing that makes man accountable before God is sin.  One cannot repent and then return to a sinful life and expect God’s grace to continue.  Death no longer has a claim over one who repents and turns from sin, but if one returns to sin he can no longer be considered a Christian.  “For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision” (Rom. 2:25-26)? Also note Romans 2:28-29.  “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. . . .  Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:6, 11-12).

One of the least understood and wrongly interpreted texts is Romans 6:14.  “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”  In general, theologians take this to mean that we are no longer under the jurisdiction of the law and thus are no longer obliged to keep it.  This idea flies in the face of many clear-cut Scriptures that say the opposite.  Even the next verse contradicts this notion.  “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (v. 15).  Grace is God’s free, underserved, unmerited pardon.  Are we now pardoned so that we can go back to breaking the law?  Paul says no!  Clearly then, under the law in this verse means we are no longer under the penalty of the law – eternal death – but under grace.

Consider in this context Romans 10:3-4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”  Falsely interpreted that Christ’s sacrifice brought an end to the law, many theologians teach that it is no longer necessary to obey God’s Commandments.  Because of texts like this one and others, many church historians believe that Paul was the Apostle that freed Christians from the Jewish yoke.  It is then a short step to rejecting the Ten Commandments, which is what many theologians have done.  So, what is this text really saying?  First, compare the context beginning with verse one.  “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.  For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (vv.1-3).  Then read the critical verse 4, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

To repeat, the Jews were attempting to attain righteousness by the works of the law.  Paul wrote to the Galatians:  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:10-13).  Compare this with Deuteronomy 21:22-23.  In their attempts to attain righteousness by the works of the law, the Jews rejected Christ even though they had not been able to live up to what the codified law of the Old Testament period required.  Only by accepting Christ’s sacrifice as the penalty paid for our sins, along with repentance and baptism, could pardon be granted (grace) and one be made right with God.  The Jews could not comprehend this and do not, even to this day. This is why Paul told the Romans that Christ was the end of the law for righteousness.

What is the meaning that Christ is the “end of the law”?  1 Timothy, Chapter  1 verse 5, provides a clue.  “Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.”  The meaning of end is “the end result.”  This text does not remotely imply that the commandment is done away.  Completely overlooked is what Jesus Himself said:  “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fillful [to magnify, to make it honorable].  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18).  The entire Sermon on the Mount magnifies the spiritual intent of the Law of God, and in no way abrogates it.  The statement “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” means that the life of Christ and His sacrifice was the aim and purpose of the law.  He represented the perfection and righteousness of the spiritual intent of the law, not the limited physical application that was assigned the people of the Old Testament.  Paul goes on to say in the following verses that one need not look into the heavens or bring back Christ from the dead, but that He is nigh to everyone that hears the word of faith that was taught by Paul and his helpers.  Righteousness cannot be attained by the works of the law.

Romans 10:9-11 also requires an explanation.  Paul wrote: “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. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  This text is correct as far as it goes, but this requirement is just the beginning.  Anyone who assumes that all one has to do is believe in Christ to be saved overlooks two important principles of Bible understanding.  One is that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16), and the other is that all Scriptures regarding a Bible subject must be considered (Isa. 28:10).  What, then, has been overlooked here?

Consider the following texts:  “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).  “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16).  “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)?  “. . . Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.  Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt.15: 6-9).  “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).  “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? . . . Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. . . . But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?  Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect” (Jas. 2:14, 17-18, 20-22)?

While it is indeed a requirement to believe in Christ, in addition there must be an active, living faith of obedience to the Commandments of God, and this includes obedience to the Ten Commandments!  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.  For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” (Jas 2:10-11).

Now let us take a look at Romans 14:5:  “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”  This text has been interpreted to mean it is not necessary to observe the Seventh-Day Sabbath — the day of worship that God commands — but to keep Sunday as the day of worship.  Remember, Scripture must be interpreted in the light of the context in which it is found.  Let us take a look at the context.

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.  Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:1-4).

So what is the argument here?  Two things:  One, that man is weak in the faith if he is a vegetarian; and two, one should not judge [condemn, call into question] one who is a vegetarian.  Why is such a person weak in the faith?  The answer is that he does not understand or accept the Bible teaching about eating flesh.

Since we are to live by every Word of God, here is what the Bible states:

And the LORD spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, These are the beasts which ye shall eat among all the beasts that are on the earth.  Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.  Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.  And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.  And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.  Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you. (Lev. 11:1-8)

An examination that includes both Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 reveals the approval and restrictions on fish and fowl.  The reader may wish to study these Chapters.  What Paul states in Romans 14:5 is that some who were weak were setting aside days for the purpose of eating or abstaining from certain foods.  Paul continues:  “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks” (v. 6).

In Romans 14:5, the word “esteemeth” means “to separate,” “to select,” or “to prefer.”  Does any place in the entire Bible give anyone the right to prefer or select which day of the week he may observe?  Absolutely not!  Every text in the Old Testament requires observance of the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and every text in the New Testament that refers to Sunday — the first day of the week — shows it to be a workday.  The reader may see the proof on our website article entitled, “Is the Sabbath Commanded for Christians Today?”  What Paul emphasizes in Romans 14 is that it is not important to make issues of these sorts of things.   In the following verses  Paul asks:  “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.  So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.  Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Rom. 14:10-13).

In the next article we shall consider Romans 14:14-23.