Although Romans is not a comprehensive work of systematic theology, the argument presented is a well structured teaching on the Christian worldview. This organized argument has been coined as the “Roman’s Road to Salvation,”, which can be summarized a follows; God exists, man is in rebellion to God, God provides salvation to man, and the saved man is to live as a reflection of God’s redemption. This article will discuss how Paul addresses creation, sin, salvation, eschatology, ethics and theology according to the Christian worldview.
Creation (Romans 1:18-20)
Paul’s argument begins with the presupposition that God has created the universe and everything within it. While this position is obvious to those who believe in God, Paul asserts that it is also apparent to those who do not believe. The awesome characteristics of nature – the fine tuning and intelligent arrangement – are evidence that the universe and the life within it are not possible by random chance, but rather are the product of a sentient being that has purposefully created and is guiding the order of nature. Natural creation testifies to the existence of God, and what Paul asserts even further is that we can know God from creation. God has made known, through his creation, both his “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20, NIV84). Ironically, Paul states that these “invisible qualities” are such that they can actually be seen or perceived through creation itself. This self-evident witness of God should be as discernible as viewing the differences between a natural rock formation that appears to look like a human face and that of the manmade faces carved onto Mount Rushmore. A person would never confuse the two in their intended complexity, and neither should a person confuse chance with the organized order of the universe.
In addition to the witness of God through creation, Paul also asserts that man’s conscience, our sense of right and wrong, bears this same evidence as he later explains in Romans 2:15. Our understanding of justice and our demand for such a metaphysical law to be upheld with certainty and devotion is absurd in a universe where God does not exist. The condition of human nature is that we recognize this reality and that while we seek for it we equally rebel against it. Therefore, the conclusion is not that man is unknowing of God or his character, but rather that man is aware and accountable to God for this consciousness. Within the Christian worldview this is the condition of man known as the sinful nature.
Sin (Romans 3:9-20)
To Paul, failure to acknowledge God’s creation is at the heart of the sin nature. It is not that man is in sin because he rejects God as creator but rather that it is precisely because of man’s sin that he rejects God. Sin is more of a condition of our being than it is a set of acts we commit. The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to reveal to man the seriousness of his rebellion toward God. In verses 10-18 Paul cites from Psalms 14 and 53 in order to convey this same point that all of mankind is guilty of sin and its effect on our lives, whether we have the law or not. By this conclusion, all men are guilty of violating God’s commandments, whether they are revealed to them through creation or through the law. This is why, as a Pharisee, Paul could no more easily follow the given commandments of God than could an unknowing Gentile. The distressed result of a life entrenched in sin is to cry out, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, NIV84). The recognition of sin as a universal condition of all mankind is a desperate position that screams out in need for salvation. While in sin, man’s fate is certain death, both physical and spiritual, which can only be resolved by faith in the salvation God has provided through Christ (Romans 6:23).
Salvation (Romans 3-8)
Man’s sin nature is beyond fixing with a set of rules we can keep, rather it is in need of a complete transformation of our sinful being. For man’s sin to be reconciled before God requires a fulfillment of justice. Without justice, God would be in violation of his character. To reconcile this justice was the mission of Jesus Christ. The atonement of Christ provides propitiation for sin as required by justice, canceling the debt owed by mankind (Colossians 2:13–15). This provision is done out of God’s love and mercy to all who trust him, placing those with faith in Christ’s atonement in a position of righteousness before God. As Paul states, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22, NIV84). This new position of righteousness is known as justification by faith (Romans 4). This justification satisfies the demand for justice, as is necessary of God’s nature, as well as revealing his mercy, which is inherent in his love. God’s love for his creation is so deep that it not only provides the means by which the sinful nature is rectified through his justification but that he also provides the sanctification of our new life through his Holy Spirit (Romans 5). Paul exhorts that though the believer in Christ is justified by his atonement there is a transition that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to live according the spiritual law and no longer our own desires (Romans 6-8). This transition of sanctification from the old sinful man to the new righteous man is a work done by the Holy Spirit within the Christian (Romans 8:23-28). Through God’s grace the Christian is enabled to shed the bondage of sinful desire and grow in the image of Christ as God’s adopted children.
Eschatology (Romans 9-11)
The purpose of God’s plan is revealed in Romans to be that God has always intended for one people to be his children, heirs of his Kingdom living in this world as ambassadors. In Paul’s eschatology, God’s Kingdom consists of those who trust by faith in the redemptive work of Christ regardless of ethnicity, race, or gender; those are true Israel – God’s children. Paul makes the point that although sin entered the world and put man in the condition of a sinful nature, this was not a surprise to God. God did not have to go to a plan B but had the original plan in place the whole time (Romans 9:6–8). This is why Paul explains that the first Adam made a mess of things and the second Adam (Christ) set it right again (Romans 5). God’s objective is that, through Christ, his children recapture their position given in Genesis 1-2 to exercise, on earth, the authority and ethics of his Kingdom.
Ethics (Romans 12-14)
While Romans 6 explains the kingdom position of a Christian as a slave to Christ, it is chapters 12-14 that define what the ethics of God’s Kingdom look like. Beginning with the concept of our bodies being a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1), Paul addresses the ethics of Christian living. To be a living sacrifice involves; grace (v.12:3-8), love and patience (v.9-21), submission (v.13:1-7), and ultimately fulfilling the law through love (v.13:8-14). In Christ’s example Christians are not to pass judgment in condemning people (v.14:1-12) and they are not to cause others to falter in their faith (v.13-23).
Throughout Romans, God can be seen to be a complex mix of justice and mercy. His justice is shown through judgment, wrath, punishment, and righteousness. His mercy is shown through patience, grace, forgiveness, and ultimately justification and sanctification. Though both justice and mercy reveal God’s nature it is mostly that he is love, which shines through in Romans theology.
- “The Roman Road to Salvation.” Contender Ministries.
http://www.contenderministries.org/romanroad.php (accessed October 4, 2014).