Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Letter to the Romans
ABOUT 56 C.E., while on his third missionary journey, the apostle Paul arrives in the city of Corinth. He has come to know of differences in viewpoint between Jewish and Gentile Christians in Rome. Desiring to bring them into complete unity in the Christ, Paul takes the initiative to write them a letter.
In that letter to the Romans, Paul explains how humans are declared righteous and how such individuals should live. The letter enriches our mind with the knowledge of God and his Word, stresses God’s undeserved kindness, and exalts Christ’s role in our salvation.—Heb. 4:12.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” writes Paul. “It is as a free gift that they are being declared righteous by [God’s] undeserved kindness through the release by the ransom paid by Christ Jesus.” Paul also says: “A man is declared righteous by faith apart from works of law.” (Rom. 3:23, 24, 28) Through faith in “one act of justification,” both anointed Christians and members of the “great crowd” of “other sheep” can be “declared righteous”—the former for life in heaven as joint heirs with Christ and the latter as God’s friends, with a view to surviving “the great tribulation.”—Rom. 5:18; Rev. 7:9, 14; John 10:16; Jas. 2:21-24; Matt. 25:46.
“Shall we commit a sin because we are not under law but under undeserved kindness?” asks Paul. “Never may that happen!” he answers. “You are slaves . . . , either of sin with death in view or of obedience with righteousness in view,” Paul explains. (Rom. 6:15, 16) “If you put the practices of the body to death by the spirit, you will live,” he says.—Rom. 8:13.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:24-32—Did the degradation described here apply to the Jews or to the Gentiles? Although the description could fit either group, Paul was specifically referring to the apostate Israelites of old. Even though they knew God’s righteous decree, “they did not approve of holding God in accurate knowledge.” They were thus reprehensible.
3:24, 25—How could “the ransom paid by Christ Jesus” cover “the sins that occurred in the past” before it was paid? The first Messianic prophecy, recorded at Genesis 3:15, found fulfillment in 33 C.E. when Jesus was put to death on a torture stake. (Gal. 3:13, 16) The moment Jehovah uttered that prophecy, however, the ransom price was as good as paid from his viewpoint, for nothing can prevent God from fulfilling what he purposes. So on the basis of the future sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Jehovah could forgive the sins of descendants of Adam who exercised faith in that promise. The ransom also makes possible a resurrection of those of pre-Christian times.—Acts 24:15.
6:3-5—What is meant by baptism into Christ Jesus and baptism into his death? When Jehovah anoints followers of Christ with the holy spirit, they are united with Jesus and become members of the congregation that is the body of Christ, he being the Head. (1 Cor. 12:12, 13, 27; Col. 1:18) This is their baptism into Christ Jesus. Anointed Christians are also “baptized into [Christ’s] death” in that they live a life of sacrifice and renounce any hope of everlasting life on earth. Their death, therefore, is a sacrificial one, as was Jesus’ death, though their death does not have ransoming value. This baptism into Christ’s death is completed when they die and are resurrected to life in heaven.
7:8-11—How did ‘sin receive inducement through the commandment’? The Law helped people to realize the full range, or scope, of sin, making them more conscious of being sinners. Consequently, they saw themselves as sinners in more ways, and more people were exposed as sinners. It can thus be said that sin received inducement through the Law.
Lessons for Us:
1:14, 15. We have a number of reasons to declare the good news with eagerness. One of them is that we are debtors to people purchased with the blood of Jesus and are under obligation to help them spiritually.
1:18-20. People who are ungodly and unrighteous are “inexcusable,” for God’s invisible qualities are made evident in creation.
2:28; 3:1, 2; 7:6, 7. Paul follows up statements that may appear derogatory to the Jews with softening remarks. This sets an example for us in handling delicate subjects with tact and skill.
3:4. When man’s word conflicts with what God says in his Word, we “let God be found true” by trusting in the message of the Bible and acting in harmony with God’s will. By having a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work, we can help others find God to be true.
4:9-12. Abraham’s faith was counted to him as righteousness long before he was circumcised at the age of 99. (Gen. 12:4; 15:6; 16:3; 17:1, 9, 10) In that powerful way, God showed what makes a righteous standing with him possible.
4:18. Hope is an essential element of faith. Our faith is based on hope.—Heb. 11:1.
5:18, 19. By showing logically how Jesus bears a resemblance to Adam, Paul concisely explains how one man can “give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Logical reasoning and brevity are excellent teaching methods to imitate.—1 Cor. 4:17.
7:23. Such body members as our hands, legs, and tongue can ‘lead us captive to sin’s law,’ so we should guard against misusing them.
8:26, 27. When we are faced with situations so perplexing that we do not know what to pray for, “the spirit itself pleads for us.” Then Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer,” accepts appropriate prayers recorded in his Word as coming from us.—Ps. 65:2.
8:38, 39. Calamities, wicked spirit creatures, and human governments cannot make Jehovah stop loving us; neither should they make us stop loving him.
9:22-28; 11:1, 5, 17-26. Many prophecies concerning Israel’s restoration are fulfilled by the congregation of anointed Christians, whose members are “called not only from among Jews but also from among nations.”
10:10, 13, 14. Along with love for God and our fellow man, strong faith in Jehovah and his promises can motivate us to have a zealous share in the Christian ministry.
11:16-24, 33. How beautifully balanced are “God’s kindness and severity”! Yes, “the Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice.”—Deut. 32:4.
LIVING IN HARMONY WITH BEING DECLARED RIGHTEOUS
“Consequently I entreat you by the compassions of God, brothers,” says Paul, “to present your bodies a sacrifice living, holy, acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1) “Consequently,” or in view of the fact that Christians are declared righteous because of their faith, what follows should affect their attitude toward themselves, others, and governmental authorities.
“I tell everyone there among you not to think more of himself than it is necessary to think,” writes Paul. “Let your love be without hypocrisy,” he exhorts. (Rom. 12:3, 9) “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) In matters pertaining to conscience, he encourages Christians ‘not to be judging one another.’—Rom. 14:13.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
12:20—How do we “heap fiery coals” upon an enemy’s head? In Bible times, ore was put in a furnace with a layer of coals placed on top as well as underneath. Increased heat on top helped to melt the metal and separate it from impurities. In like manner, we put fiery coals upon the head of an enemy by doing kind deeds to him so that his hardness will melt and good qualities will come to the fore.
12:21—How do we “keep conquering the evil with the good”? One way we do this is by fearlessly sticking to our God-given work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom until it is done to Jehovah’s satisfaction.—Mark 13:10.
13:1—In what way are the superior authorities “placed in their relative positions by God”? Secular authorities “stand placed in their relative positions by God” in that they rule by God’s permission, and in some cases their rulership was foreseen by God. This is made evident by what the Bible foretold about a number of rulers.
Lessons for Us:
12:17, 19. To retaliate against evil is to take into our own hands what should be left up to Jehovah. How presumptuous it would be for us to “return evil for evil”!
14:14, 15. We should not grieve our brother or stumble him by the food or drink that we offer him.
14:17. Having a favorable standing with God does not principally depend on what one eats or drinks or what one refrains from eating or drinking. Rather, it is related to righteousness, peace, and joy.
15:7. We should impartially welcome all sincere seekers of truth into the congregation and proclaim the Kingdom message to all we meet.
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Can the ransom apply to sins that were committed before it was paid?