In Romans chapter 9, Paul writes about God having selected an entire nation – the nation of Israel – to receive His special calling, covenant, and blessing. The promised Messiah would come out of Israel, bringing eternal life. Chapter 9 supports the doctrine of election. The Jews had been God’s covenant people. But Paul reveals to the nation of Israel that they were never going to please God by virtue of them being Jews, or by the works of the Law. Salvation is available to anyone (including Gentiles) simply on the basis, of their faith. Consequently, neither a person’s Jewish nationality nor their obedience to the law counted for anything – anymore. Throughout Romans chapters 9, 10 and 11, Paul goes to great lengths to show that God’s goal had – all along – been to reach out beyond the borders of Israel and to the whole world.
As we begin Chapter 10, my wish is to relate what Paul says about Israel to the Latter-day Saints. Listen to this passage and how it can apply to any works-based, high performance-based religious system. Verses 1-4 “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel (and Mormons) 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. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” It is His righteousness – not ours – not our zeal – not our efforts. It is His. It’s not our law keeping – not our holiness. It is His. Any religious system where people believe they are in a position, or that it is up to them to save themselves, they will in the end: 1) Become ignorant of God’s righteousness, 2) Endeavor to establish their own righteousness, 3) and will less and less submit themselves unto the righteousness of God, 4) Forget that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who truly believes.
Paul now, describes how a person receives salvation by grace through faith, Verses 9-10 “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.” This is not a simple acknowledging that He is God. This is a deep personal conviction that Jesus is our Lord. It includes repenting, trusting, and submitting to Him as Lord. Now, there are those who believe they must add water baptism to the mix. Not so. Water baptism is an action that believers take as a result of having been saved – which is the result of them believing in their heart and confessing with their mouth. That’s what Scripture says, here. Now, is it possible for a man to confess Jesus as Lord and – for him not to be saved? Absolutely! Just read Matthew 7:21-23 for an illustration of that. Paul reiterates in Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Period! Among everything God could have done to get the word out – about His Son, Verse 14 explains the most effective method “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” God places this most important responsibility to share the Good News and the truth of the Gospel in the hands of mere mortal men and women and children. Verse 17 “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Faith arrives by the hearing of facts – the Word of God – which points to Jesus Christ – His birth, life, teachings, death and resurrection.
Starting off in the 11th Chapter of Romans, let’s consider a very important passage. Verse 6 “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” Paul makes it perfectly clear that salvation does not and cannot come by and through a combination of grace and works – or by works alone. In other words, grace and works are mutually exclusive. If we are expecting God to accept us by His grace, then there is no work that we can do to make us acceptable. It is completely impossible for grace and works to co-exist. If I am seeking to be accepted by God through my works, then grace has absolutely no affect upon my life. Yet there are those who seek to make a combination out of the two. Case in point, let’s read from the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” It is obvious that Nephi and Paul are not in agreement. Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” So you see – Nephi and Joseph Smith, got it all wrong.
In these final five chapters of Romans, Paul explains in great detail how believers are to practically live out the rich theological truths taught in the first eleven chapters. God has graciously given believers so much that Paul exhorts them to respond in grateful obedience. Paul starts of in Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Under the Old Covenant, God accepted the sacrifices of dead animals. But because of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, they are no longer needed. For those in Christ, the only acceptable worship is to offer themselves completely to the Lord. When he says, “present your bodies” he means – present your whole being.
Verse 2 “And be not conformed to the world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” The “renewing of your mind” is a metamorphosis process – a renovation of ideas and ways. He is talking about having our former man or woman morphed into a New Creation that views life through the lens of God. It comes as Paul teaches in Ephesians by the “Washing of the Word.” Jesus even said to His apostles in John 15:3 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” His words are Spirit and the Spirit replaces old ideas into correct and true ideas. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “There if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Then finishing out the rest of the chapter, Verses 9-21 is a list of traits that characterize the Spirit-filled life.
Now, let’s jump over to Romans chapter 14. Verse 1 “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” And Paul goes on to explain that “doubtful disputations” are arguing, debating, criticizing, judging one another, over trivial things and personal preferences. Paul counsels, believers not to get caught up in the sin of being judgmental of others who are “weak in the faith.” Christians were not to despise others for what they ate or didn’t eat – Or, what day of the week they worship the Lord. It’s not anyone’s place to judge others. Verse 13 “Lets us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” So, instead of forming a judgment about others – look at your own conduct and make sure you are not causing another stumble. Verse 14 “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Nothing – in and of itself – is unclean. It’s in how each of us – through our liberty in Christ – view it. Romans 14:17-18 “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.” We remember that in preparation for what He was about to accomplish, Jesus began to introduce to His followers – teachings that were to transition them away from outward observances and to the grace of God under the New Covenant. Jesus said in, Matthew 15:11 “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” Yet, Mormonism has “restored” this legalism in the form of the Word of Wisdom and made it a requirement for all to obey – who want to receive salvation through temple rites and rituals. This is exactly what Paul is trying to teach the Saints to get away from. Paul taught in Colossians 2:16 “Let no man therefore judge you, in meat or in drink.” No bishop or stake president should be judging you to decide whether or, not you are worthy. There are no health codes. Salvation is based not on food or drink – but upon our faith in Jesus Christ. Paul is teaching that God is not dealing with us in the physical – He is dealing with us in the spiritual. We are free from the law of man and religion, because we have the Holy Spirit.
Paul is wrapping up his epistle by stating, Romans 15:15-17 “Nevertheless, brethren, I have written more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind because of the grace that is given to me of God. That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God.” Paul never boasted in his accomplishments as a Minister or Apostle – but only in what Christ had accomplished through him. Paul is always deferring the attention and glory to the Lord.
Chapter 16, which has no explicit teaching and contains several lists of mostly unknown people, is the most extensive and intimate expression of Paul’s love for other believers and co-workers found anywhere in his epistles. It also provides insights into the lives of ordinary first century Christians. And gives an inside look at the nature and character of the early church.