I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

Dr. Robert R. Seyda

EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS

CHAPTER SEVEN (Lesson III)

There is a Jewish commentary on Isaiah, Chapter 53, that has an interesting quotation. The quote goes this way: “When God created His world, He stretched out His hand under the throne of His glory, and brought forth the soul of the Messiah. He asked Him: ‘Will you heal and redeem my sons after 6000 years?’ He answered Him: ‘I will.’ Then God asked Him: ‘Will you then also bear the punishment in order to blot out their sins, as it is written: “But He bore our diseases?”1 And He answered Him: ‘I will joyfully bear them.’”2 In this passage, as well as in several others, we see where the doctrine of the vicarious sufferings of the Messiah is taken from Isaiah 53 and explained. The commentator regrets that later on, the Jews would reject this doctrine.3

Such thoughts may have inspired the last song that Christian composer Eugene Monroe Bartlett, Sr., wrote in 1939. These are some of the words he penned:

I heard an old, old story,
How a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary
To save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning,

Of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins;
And won the victory
.”

Refrain:
O victory in Jesus,
My Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me
With His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him,
And all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory,
Beneath the cleansing flood
.”

Paul mentions that this transformation took place through the body of Christ. This is in line with the same figure of speech we find in our Lord’s own words to His disciples at their last supper:Jesus took a small piece of flatbread and blessed it and broke it apart and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take it and eat it, for this is my body’.”4 There are some twenty-two verses in the New Testament that refer to the body of Christ. It is used mostly as a metaphor for the community of believers called the church. In such cases, He is the head, they are the members.5 So Paul tells the Corinthians: “When we break off pieces of matzah to eat together, this shows that we are sharing together in the benefits of his body.”6

Paul’s emphasis here is that once we are engaged to Christ through grace (remember, the wedding is yet to come), we should then never be tempted to look for another to share our lives with. Perhaps the Apostle recalled reading this: “I will bind you to me forever with chains of righteousness and justice and love and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and love, and you will really know me then as you never have before.7 This was on Paul’s mind when he wrote the Corinthians: “I am anxious for you with the deep concern of God Himself – anxious that your love should be for Christ alone, just as a pure maiden saves her love for one man only, for the one who will be her husband.”8 And to the Ephesians Paul wrote: “A husband is the head of his wife, just as Christ is the head of the church. Christ is the Savior of the church, which is His body.”9 Paul calls Christ, Savior of the Church, His bride, because He willingly gave His life for her. Paul is essentially asking: How can a bride who married the man that saved her from death, now want to leave him in search of another?

In Paul’s day, and to some degree even up to this day, the reason for marriage was to produce children that could be nurtured, educated, and kept safe to grow up and continue the legacy of faith and family. Jesus infers this in His words to the disciples: “Show that you are my followers by producing much fruit. This will bring honor to my Father.10 Not only is this fruit represented by converts to Christ, but Paul tells the Galatians that in his mind it also involves the Fruit of the Spirit.11 However, he also tells the Philippians: “That your life will be full of the many good works that are produced by Jesus Christ to bring glory and praise to God.12

Theodore, a 4th century Bishop, believes that in order not to offend the Jews or encourage heretics who reject the Old Testament, Paul did not say that the rule of law ended, but rather, that the law became a dead thing to us through the saving grace of baptism.13 And a fellow scholar of the Bishop’s remarked that he also believed that Paul was reluctant to tell the Jews the law was dead. Yet, even though he didn’t say it out loud, he certainly implied it in his writings.14

Then another Greek theologian, active at this same time, explains how remarkable it was that Paul does not say we died through the act of baptism but through the death of Christ. He recognized Adam as the source of life here on earth, and Christ is the author of the life to come. Because of this, everything we have in this life is in common with Adam, but all we have in the next life will be shared with Christ. It begins with being born again in Him and continues on through His resurrection. That’s why we are considered part of the Lord’s body because we have all this in common with Him. So, just as we take baptism as a metaphorical illustration of being born again and raise to newness of life, so Paul says that we have become a part of Christ’s body by sharing in the resurrection which is also typified by baptism.15

Reformer Martin Luther notes that Paul’s precept of there being two personalities inside us is an unusual and profound teaching.16 The one personality is called “the old man,” and relates best to Adam. The second personality is called “the new man,” and identifies with Christ. The old man is subject to the Law which has dominion over him, making him perform good works in order to gain respectability, while the new man has surrendered to Christ and lives by faith and receives forgiveness by grace. Because of being subject to the Law, sin is prevalent and continues to hound the old man. However, once the relationship with the law dies, the old man is freed and as a new man can serve God freely out of love and devotion.

For John Calvin, Christ first triumphed over sin by His glorious victory on the cross. He did this so that He might perform the following: Take the signed contract by which we were held in bondage to the Law and tear it up. This contract required obligatory service in order to be paid. And as long as it remained in effect, we were forced into obedient. Failure to do so would cause us to be charged with sin because it had no authority to forgive us. That obligation was called the power, or authority, of the Law. It was only after Christ canceled this contract by paying the price of redemption on the cross, that we were set free. The official seal that validated this cancellation was His body affixed to the cross.17

This does not allow the liberated person to live any way they want. Rather, Calvin says, it is as though the Law took us by the hand, and like a father accompanying the bride led us to Christ. Christ then takes our hand as a sign that we are now His. The Law then has no more say over us, and we consider that relationship as having died. In Calvin’s mind, in order for Christ to have a close relationship with us, He took off the rough harness of the Law and replaced it with His own comfortable yoke. Although Christ, of His own accord, subjected Himself to the Law’s demands for a short time, it never ruled over Him. The only part of the Law that He was interested in was meeting the sacrificial need to acquire forgiveness and salvation. In addition, He then passes on to those who follow Him the liberty He won for them at the cross and at the grave. So it is no wonder then that Christ exempts those who have bonded with Him from being dictated to by the law any longer. We cannot be part of the law and part of Christ at the same time. And it is not necessary because the work of Christ supersedes the law. That is the only way we can unite with Him in the holy bond of complete fellowship by being fully part of His sacred body – the Church.18

John Bengel found some very interesting things in this verse. For him, Paul’s comparison is summed up in this idea: The husband or wife, by the death of one or the other, leads to liberty. In the first part, the party dying is the husband. In the second part, that which died [his body] corresponds to the wife. In the expiation [atonement] for sin, why is it that the body is generally mentioned rather than of the soul of Christ? Answer: The theater and workshop of sin is our flesh; and for this, it is the holy flesh of the Son of God, who is raised, which is the remedy. And since we are now alive in Him [over which the Law no longer rules the believer], we should bring forth fruit). Fruit here corresponds to offspring; for the simile is derived from marriage.19

In Adam Clarke’s exegesis of Paul’s teaching, God determined that His people should no longer be subject to the force of the law in order to obey Him. So He arranged for that relationship to be canceled by killing the Law’s authority. This He did on the cross by sacrificing His only Son to pay the price for our freedom. So it’s just like when a woman’s husband dies, she is no longer subject to him, and he can no longer control her life. And now that she is free, she may legally be married to another. In the same manner, God, who gave the law under which Jews had to live in the past, designed it so that it would only be in force until the Messiah came. Once that happened, using the law as a method to acquire salvation ceased to function. He replaced it with Grace. That allowed them to join Jesus in the yoke of the Gospel, and throw away the harness of the law. Unfortunately, the Jews refused to accept this new covenant as a nation. So God sent out the word to all the world that they were now welcome to become part of the family of God.20 Clarke suggests, that after being united to Christ, just as man and woman are joined together, that we are to bring forth fruit in the same way that a Christian married couple are expected to produce children for the kingdom. A number of Bible scholars agree with this, while others find it totally out of place. Nevertheless, everyone agrees with what Jesus said in His Great Commission.21

1 Isaiah 53:4

2 Taken from an ancient book called Pesikta, by Rabbi Abkath Rokhel, Treatise printed in Venice in 1597, p. 309

3 Christology of the Old Testament, and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions by E. W. Hengstenberg, Translated from the German by the Rev. Theodore Meyer, Vol. II, T. & T. Clarke, Edinburgh: 1856, p. 311

4 Matthew 26:26

5 See 1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 12:12; Colossians 1:24; 2:19

6 1 Corinthians 10:16

7 Hosea 2:19-20 – Living Bible

8 2 Corinthians 11:2

9 Ephesians 5:23

10 John 15:8

11 Galatians 5:22-23

12 Philippians 1:11

13 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, loc. cit.

14 Pelagius: On Romans, loc. cit.

15 Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Romans, loc. cit.

16 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 109

17 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 Ibid.

19 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 248

20 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

21 Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15

1 Isaiah 53:4

2 Taken from an ancient book called Pesikta, by Rabbi Abkath Rokhel, Treatise printed in Venice in 1597, p. 309

3 Christology of the Old Testament, and a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions by E. W. Hengstenberg, Translated from the German by the Rev. Theodore Meyer, Vol. II, T. & T. Clarke, Edinburgh: 1856, p. 311

4 Matthew 26:26

5 See 1 Corinthians 12:27; Romans 12:12; Colossians 1:24; 2:19

6 1 Corinthians 10:16

7 Hosea 2:19-20 – Living Bible

8 2 Corinthians 11:2

9 Ephesians 5:23

10 John 15:8

11 Galatians 5:22-23

12 Philippians 1:11

13 Theodoret of Cyr: On Romans, loc. cit.

14 Pelagius: On Romans, loc. cit.

15 Theodore of Mopsuestia: On Romans, loc. cit.

16 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 109

17 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

18 Ibid.

19 John Bengel: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 248

20 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.

21 Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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