salvation
Scheduled for study August 5-11, 2019. This week Paul teaches the Romans how the gospel of Christ provides us with the power of salvation. He shows how Christ is the God of all, not just the Jew, and how the ordinance of circumcision doesn’t make one holy, faith in Christ does that.

For further explanation and help in reading Paul’s letter to the Roman Saints read the article linked below as part of your studies for the week.

An Introduction to the
Writings of the Apostle Paul

Day 1

Romans 1-6 – When I show faith in the Savior by keeping His commandments, I am justified through His grace.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording promptings will help you remember what the Spirit is teaching you. Consider also recording how you feel about these promptings.

The law

Vocabulary in the book of Romans is very important. Law refers, generically, to anything having to do with the law of Moses, which is a law of performances. This means the law of Moses required daily physical acts of devotion to demonstrate one’s dedication to the principles the law taught. It’s whole purpose was to keep the Israelites’ focus on the coming of their Savior and Redeemer – their Messiah. Over time they lost sight of what their Messiah was supposed to do for them, and they began to look for a political deliverer instead of a deliverer from sin.

When Paul contrasts “the law” with “faith” or the gospel of faith, he is talking about the “law of the gospel,” the doctrine taught by Christ when he came to earth as a mortal man. This is what we sometimes refer to as the “higher law.” This higher law taught the people that it was no longer necessary to follow the law of Moses, or “the law.” They were now to offer up to God their heart and soul, instead of calves, doves, oxen, and lambs. Instead of relying on animals to represent them on the altar of sacrifice, they were now to put themselves on that altar by living more righteously. This higher and holier way of living required meekness, humility, and greater accountability to God for their thoughts and their actions.

The key to the law of the gospel, the law of faith Paul was talking about, was repentance. Repentance comes from seeking forgiveness from God. It requires changing the way we live our lives so as to come into conformity with God’s laws. More about this is in tomorrow’s lesson. The atoning sacrifice of Christ makes this reconciliation with God’s laws possible.

As you read the book of Romans you will have to do a lot of word substitutions. Whenever you see the word “law” think “law of Moses, law of performances, the preparatory law, the law that was supposed to lead the people to Christ.” The people of Paul’s day already understood all about the Jews and what they believed, for many of the original members of the Church were Jews, and many gentiles who joined the Church had lived around or had dealings with the Jews. The general beliefs of the Jews was common knowledge to everyone in the Mediterranean area where the gospel was being preached.

Just as you need to substitute for the word “law,” you also need to substitute for the word “faith.” We think “gospel.” That word, gospel, represents to us all that Jesus taught during his mortal ministry and beyond. It was the gospel that was new to the people. This is what they needed to have explained to them. They were only familiar with what the Jews had been believing and living for the last thousand plus years.

Circumcision, uncircumcision

In Paul’s day the doctrine of circumcision was a big deal. This physical covenant given to Abraham and his posterity was a “forever” covenant. The males were all to have their foreskins cut off as a symbol in their flesh that they were God’s covenant people. Any males deciding to accept the God of the Israelites had to also accept this covenant, no matter how old they were when they joined with the Israelites. There are several stories in the Old and New Testaments of people being circumcised as adults (very painful). Circumcision for males set the whole nation of the Jews apart from the rest of the world. It had been this way for several thousand years.

Now some of the Jews were taking their religion to other people. This had never been done before. The Lord, as Jehovah, had always commanded the Israelites to keep to themselves and remain a private people. But Jehovah, now as Christ, commanded that the higher law, the gospel, be taken to all the world. So now the Jews were seeking converts to their elevated form of Judaism to all the world. As non-Jews, gentiles, joined the Church, the question of whether or not they be required to submit to circumcision became a big topic of discussion.

The Apostles gathered together in Jerusalem and discussed it and decided that it was not necessary to require those who were not Jews to be circumcised. Circumcision of the flesh was a sign of the old covenant or Old Testament with God. Circumcision of the heart was the sign of the new covenant or New Testament with God. Circumcision of the heart is what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount. We need to be humble, submissive, meek, teachable, and willing to keep his commandments. Our willingness to do these things is what demonstrates that we are circumcised of heart. So circumcision of the flesh was replaced with the higher law of making and keeping covenants, starting with baptism.

The same principle of substitution of words is required here as it was for “law” and “faith.” When Paul uses the word “circumcision” he is referring to the Old Testament law of circumcision that was given to Abraham. When he uses the word “uncircumcision” he is referring to the higher law of the gospel taught by Christ. The gospel is referred to as “uncircumcision” because most of the members of the Church were now gentiles and were uncircumcised.

The main question in this debate in the Church over circumcision seems to have centered around whether or not a member of God’s Church could demonstrate faith and be acceptable to God without the ordinance of circumcision. Paul points out to his readers that Abraham received this law because he had already exercised his faith in God and was found to be accepted by God. Abraham had already been forgiven of his sins and stood as one who was righteous in the eyes of the Lord BEFORE circumcision had been given to him as a law to live by. This is Paul’s argument to the Romans. The Church need not require circumcision any longer, because it was only required during the time period when the Lord required it, but he no longer required it. In the higher law given by Christ the Lord looked not on one’s flesh, but on one’s heart to judge worthiness. Technically, he has always looked on the heart, but remember, the Israelites were living a law of physical performances until Christ came, so they were having difficulty learning to think in terms of this higher law that had very few outward physical demonstrations.

Day 2

Romans 1-6 – When I show faith in the Savior by keeping His commandments, I am justified through His grace.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording promptings will help you remember what the Spirit is teaching you. Consider also recording how you feel about these promptings.

Justification, justify, justified

The questions I would like to answer here are: What does it mean to be “justified?” and “Why do we need to seek to be justified?”

It is important to note that we live in a state of condemnation. That sounds harsh, but it is true. We break or violate God’s laws all the time. That does not mean we murder and enslave as a sinning joyride through life. I am talking about God’s commandments that we love one another. We are so busy looking out for ourselves, protecting our own self-interests, that we ignore those who need our help. We hurt others by our words and actions. And we are even violating God’s commandments by unworthy or outright sinful thoughts. All these things keep us in a state of condemnation before the laws of God. God’s laws are celestial in nature, and in order for us to become reconciled with His laws, we must learn to live as He lives, think as He thinks, and feel as He feels.

Christ came and atoned for our violations of God’s laws. The Greek word for atonement is reconciliation. Christ reconciled our standing with God. But in doing so we became his debtors, instead of being debtors to God, our Father. Christ now has the rights to the disposition of our souls, since he has paid for the reconciliation between us and our God. Jesus now sets the terms for our forgiveness. God could not forgive us, since he is the giver of the law. As the giver of the law He can only set the standard and punish those who violate that standard. Christ, having paid the law’s demands for us, can now offer  us mercy and forgiveness, but he gets to set the terms for that forgiveness.

Many struggle with the concept of how we are to take advantage of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. What does it really mean to accept his sacrifice and be forgiven of our sins? How is this done? To accept his sacrifice on our behalf we must first acknowledge that he did it. With that acknowledgement in our heart, we must then accept his requirement that we obey his commandments. It is when we exercise our faith in Christ that as we obey his commandments and do all in our power to be true to our covenants with him that he will forgive us of our sins.

It is when Jesus forgives us of our sins that we enter the realm of being justified. To be justified means that we no longer are condemned by the laws of God, because we are now living them as we are supposed to. Laws only have a hold on someone when they have violated that law. When a law is obeyed it can demand nothing from you, for you are in compliance with that law. To be justified is to live in compliance with the laws of God. This is what we seek. We seek to be justified before the laws of God. By being justified before God’s laws we are able to experience all the blessings those laws can provide. It is only when we are in violation of those laws that we experience the sorrows that come with living outside of His laws.

Grace

The manual defines grace using the definition from the Bible Dictionary. The last word of the definition caught my attention. The manual says that grace “gives us “strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain” (Bible Dictionary).” We can do good on our own. We can probably do it for a long time, but we cannot be as good as we need to be, for as long as we need to be without this enabling power called grace that Christ provides for us.

How do we get grace? As we work to demonstrate our faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on our behalf, he in turn, gives us ability to change that is not possible to have on our own. It has always been a truth that anything spiritual must be revealed to us to be understood. The natural, carnal mind cannot comprehend or conceive of spiritual things. We just don’t have the capacity. These things must be revealed to us. And it is just as true that in order for us to become holy people, worthy of celestial glory, we must be changed, for we cannot do it on our own. This is what grace does for us, it provides that enabling power to have our hearts changed and it grants us the ability to live in holier and holier ways, until we are able to live like God in complete compliance with all the celestial laws.

Grace is given to us in exchange for our obedience. Please let me be clear about this. We don’t “earn” grace. There is nothing we can do that is good enough to “deserve” Christ’s grace. But God cannot give us the ability to change, nor can he change our hearts, unless we first obey his commandments and exercise our faith in him. Our obedience does not earn his grace. Our obedience enables us to access his grace. What we receive is far and above anything we could possibly earn through our own efforts. But our obedience and faith are the tokens of love for Christ and his ways that he is hoping to receive. For when we offer these tokens of our love, he is able to bless us beyond our wildest imaginings.

Paul makes the point to the Saints in Rome that the old covenant of circumcision is not necessary in order for any of the Saints to receive God’s grace. His forgiveness for sin is based on the exercise of faith and the willingness to obey commandments, not on whether or not the male converts are circumcised. He demonstrated to them that Abraham received the covenant of circumcision BECAUSE his faith and obedience earned him that covenant, not the other way around. The covenant of circumcision guaranteed to him and his posterity that God would send his oracles, his prophets through his lineage. This means his posterity would always have God’s sacred priesthood and covenants among them (Romans 3:1–2 be sure to look at the JST footnote in the first verse).

Day 3

Romans 2:17–29 – My outward actions must reflect and increase my inner conversion.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording promptings will help you remember what the Spirit is teaching you. Consider also recording how you feel about these promptings.

This passage needs to be thought through carefully, for Paul uses the words circumcision and uncircumcision freely. It can get confusing. Let’s look at what he is trying to communicate to the Roman Saints by looking at a few verses starting with verse 25. His general topic is about the importance of being true to the covenants made.

25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.

Loose rewrite:

25 For making covenants truly profits you, if you keep the law you have covenanted to keep: but if you are a law breaker, your covenants can’t benefit you any longer. It is almost like you didn’t make any covenants.

Verses 26-27

26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision?

27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?

Loose rewrite:

26 Therefore if someone who has made no covenants (a gentile) lives according to his conscience, and by so doing obeys the laws of God, even without knowing that he is being obedient to a law, shouldn’t his non-covenant state be counted as though he has made the covenant to be obedient?

27 And isn’t the non-covenanting person fulfilling the law better than someone who has been taught the law of God, has made the covenants, but does not live the law?

Paul goes on to point out in verses 28-29 that being a Jew is not a matter of birth, but of willingness to live according to the covenants of the Jews. Those who are humble and obedient to God’s laws are circumcised of heart. It makes no difference now if one is circumcised in the flesh, for God looks on, and judges, the heart.

Day 4

Romans 3:10–31; 5 – Through Jesus Christ, I can be forgiven of my sins.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording promptings will help you remember what the Spirit is teaching you. Consider also recording how you feel about these promptings.

Many of the Jews were boasting of their heritage of having been raised with the law of Moses. Paul points out in chapter three that knowing the laws of God condemns us, because where there is no law there is no punishment. Therefore, those who know the law are held accountable for the laws they have been taught, and therefore stand condemned for all their sins. This is nothing to boast about.

Paul continues to demonstrate that only through the “law of faith,” the gospel of Christ, can we be forgiven of our sins, and that is open to both Jew and Gentile. God is the God of everyone, not just the Jews. Paul says that God will justify the Jews (those who are circumcised) by faith, and will justify the Gentiles (those who are uncircumcised) by faith (Romans 3:30). In this way God is the God of all those who believe on His name and worship Him.

Paul’s message condemns only those who feel to boast in their own personal righteousness, thinking they are better in some way than others they feel are inferior or at a disadvantage to themselves. His goal here is to show us that the Lord is merciful to all, and that the requirement for that mercy is the same for all, obedience to his commandments.

Day 5

Romans 6 – The gospel of Jesus Christ invites me to “walk in newness of life.”

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording promptings will help you remember what the Spirit is teaching you. Consider also recording how you feel about these promptings.

Would anyone argue that life for Jesus after his resurrection was no better than before his resurrection? Baptism represents to us the experience that Jesus went through. He suffered for sins then rose in a newness of life filled with glory and joy. This is what we should be looking forward to when we make the covenant of baptism. We enter the water a hopeless sinner, are buried in the waters, and emerge to a life full of eternal opportunities and possibilities. With the making of the baptismal covenant and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost we open the doors to a whole new endowment of God’s grace, enabling us to become truly Christlike in all respects.

The difference in our lives between life before baptism and life after baptism should be dramatic, just like Christ experienced between his death and resurrection.  Does this mean there is such a difference in our lives, or that there must be? No. If we don’t deliberately seek for the changes Christ’s atoning sacrifice offers to us then we will continue on in the way and path we have been using. How new our lives become after baptism, whether one hour after or five decades later, is up to us individually. But as soon as we decide to take advantage of the opportunities to move forward with our spiritual growth, the Spirit will be there to help us to repent and improve. And Christ’s reconciliation with God will be ours to enjoy just as soon as we seek for his grace to help us repent and change for the better.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Romans 3:23–28 – God’s grace

God’s grace, though equally free to all mankind, is not equal in its distribution. Those who live outside of the covenant of baptism, and of the temples, can receive the grace to repent of their sins and feel the joy of that repentance. But they can never change enough to become like Christ. That kind of change requires covenants. Only when we declare our desire to become like Christ and return home to live with our Father in Heaven will we be able to claim the degree of grace needed to make the changes necessary to become truly holy. This is why God offers us covenants. It is by and through these covenants that we enter into a partnership with the Godhead to have the Holy Spirit tutor us and teach us how to become like God. It is only after we have made sacred covenants with God that the Holy Ghost will affect the changes in our attitudes and in our heart that are required for us to learn to think, feel, and act like someone who will be comfortable around celestial beings.

Priesthood authority makes a measurable difference in how much of God’s grace we are able to access. This is why having God’s priesthood power in the Church makes all the difference in the world. Without God’s priesthood power we can find a measure of happiness in this life, but we could never return to live in His presence, and we could certainly never make the changes necessary to become like Christ.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 32