What Are the 2 Crucial Messages of the Book of Romans?

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What Are the 2 Crucial Messages of the Book of Romans?

If you were temporarily stranded on a desert island, and knew nothing of God’s power to save, and a bottle washed ashore containing nothing but the book of Romans, you would find enough truth there to not only get you saved, but also enough to give you an excellent working knowledge on how to live the Christian life.

This admittedly far-fetched and unlikely scenario nonetheless is intended to relate the fact that in the book of Romans, the Holy Spirit has given us the most comprehensive revelation and explanation of God’s redemptive plan. This is not to imply in any way that the rest of Scripture is somehow irrelevant; for the same could be said of the gospel of John, and all the gospels for that matter. John tells in his gospel:

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

Yet, the book of Romans proves to be an invaluable resource, as Paul the apostle – the human writer of this theological masterpiece – painstakingly elucidates upon the great doctrines of justification by grace alone through faith alone, and sanctification by the same, before thoroughly expounding upon Israel’s rightful place in the plan of God. Having said this, as we pore through its pages, we are convinced that no human writer alone could ever pen these principles through mere wit or intellect. No, these words, like the whole of Scripture, flow from the very breath of God:

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

It is no wonder that the book of Romans has been tagged summarily and interchangeably as, ‘The Magna Carta of the Christian faith,” “The Christian Manifesto,” and “The Cathedral of the Christian Faith.” The sixteenth century theologian and religious reformer Martin Luther wrote in his Preface to the Epistle to the Romans:

“Romans is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word by heart, but occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with the more precious it becomes, and the better it tastes."

What Is Justification?

At the very heart of the book of Romans, as aforementioned, are the great doctrines of justification and sanctification; together, they form the core of the gospel, and Paul is careful to distinguish between the two. Justification is a legal transaction which separates the believing sinner from the guilt associated with sin. Relative to this salvation, justification takes place when God declares the sinner righteous, based on their faith in Christ’s sacrifice. This righteousness is not their own; rather it is Christ’s righteousness imputed to them.

The late Christian educator, Myer Pearlman adds: “Justification is primarily a change of position on the part of the sinner; once condemned, he is now acquitted; once under Divine condemnation he is now the subject of Divine commendation.’’ (Knowing The Doctrines Of The Bible)

Justification is an act of God (Romans 8:33). It comes to us in three separate, yet interrelated ways. First, as we have stated, it comes by faith:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

This justifying peace with God is a direct result of attaining right standing with God. Peace should not be undervalued as we live for the Lord. We are told in Isaiah 26:3 that we will be kept in perfect peace, as our minds are stayed on Him, because of our trust in Him. Peace with God allows us to exercise the boldness that we now have on account of the change in our status before Him. But as for our justification, it does not end here, because Paul states this truth:

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:9).

Some theologians argue that Christ’s blood is irrelevant, in that it is only a metaphor for death; this could not be further from the truth. In order for sins to be forgiven it was absolutely necessary that His life’s blood be shed. We read from the book of Hebrews:

“And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Finally, Paul speaks of the place of grace in our justification:

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

Nothing happens apart from grace. Defined succinctly, grace is God’s undeserved favor to undeserving man. In the book of Romans, this word “grace” appears no more than twenty times, letting us know that – as it pertains to the scope of our salvation – grace plays a most important role.

“Through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

What Is Sanctification?

While justification is concerned with declaring a sinner righteous, based on their faith, sanctification relates to being made righteous — this is the distinction. Sanctification then, is both a position and a condition. It means being separated from sin unto God and being made holy. Unlike justification, it does not address the guilt associated with sin, rather sanctification deals with the presence, the practice, and the poison of sin.

From what Paul writes in his other epistles, we are able to conclude that sanctification is three-dimensional. It is first positional (1Corinthians 1:2), then progressive (Colossians 3:1-10), and finally, perfected (1 John 3:2).

Paul introduces us to this divine work of God in chapters six through eight. A careful reading of these chapters yields truths that no child of God should be without. In chapter seven, Paul gives us an autobiographical look into his own personal struggle with the sin nature, which is spotlighted in the previous chapter. He speaks words that mirror, if we are honest, the experience of every child of God at some point in their life:

"And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. ... For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it" (Romans 7:16, 19-20).

The sin Paul speaks of here is no specific act of sin; the Greek yields that he is referring to the sin principle, or sin nature. He ends this section of Romans with a powerful truth that we all need to carry with us and never forget:

“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Christ has set us free! It has been done through what Christ accomplished on the cross. Through faith in His blood (Romans 3:25), we are justified, we are sanctified, and we are delivered. These things have not taken place because of anything that we have done, because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16), but all these blessings are ours because of what Christ has done.

This then, is the overriding message of this remarkable theological document which is the book of Romans. Read it and be blessed! 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Bohdan Bevz

Michael Jakes is a Bible teacher, and co-founder of That’s The Word! Ministries, a distinctly online Cross-centered outreach. He hosts several live weekly webcasts, including 'The Bible Speaks Live', 'The Cutting It Right Bible Study', and the 'Line By Line Webcast'. He has also authored three books, The Lights In The Windows, Churchified Or Sanctified?, and Living In Between Sundays. He and his wife Eddye have been married for over 40 years, and reside in New York. You can follow him on Facebook and Youtube , or listen to his podcasts on Spreaker.