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Waggoner on Romans

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    The Sum of the Matter

    We have now finished the study of the first two chapters of the book of Romans, and it is time to take a brief review. It is not really correct to say that we have finished the study of these two chapters, because we can never finish the study of any portion of the Bible. After we have put the most profound study upon any portion of the Scripture, the most that we have done is only a beginning. If Newton, after a long life of study of natural science, could say that he seemed to be as a child playing on the seashore with the vast ocean before him unexplored, with much more aptness can the same be said by the greatest student of the Bible.WOR 50.3

    Let no one therefore think that we have by any means exhausted this portion of the book. When the reader has the text well in mind, so that he can quite distinctly recall any passage at will, and can locate it with reference to the connection, he has just got where he can begin to study with real profit. Therefore let the reader who is anxious to acquire an understanding of the Scriptures for himself, dwell upon the words as though he were digging in a sure place for treasure. An inexhaustible treasure awaits his search.WOR 50.4

    We found that the first portion of the first chapter, containing the salutation, some personal remarks, and the statement of the theme, really contains an epitome of the whole Gospel.WOR 50.5

    Leaving out the introduction, we might say that the first chapter is devoted to a statement of the origin of heathenism, and the condition of the heathen world.WOR 51.1

    The second chapter is really summed up in the first verse, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.” The remaining verses are but an amplification of this statement.WOR 51.2

    Thus, we find that there is no exception to the fact that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Hearing and knowing the truth is not a substitute for practicing it. God is no respecter of persons, but will punish sin wherever it is found.WOR 51.3

    Accepted with God.-In the house of Cornelius the apostle Peter made a statement: “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:34, 35. There are men in heathen lands who may never have heard the name of God, or seen a line of his written word, who will be saved. God is revealed in the works of creation, and they who accept what they see of him there are accepted with him as surely as they who have learned much more of him.WOR 51.4

    Objections Answered

    The first part of the third chapter of Romans consists of questions and answers. The thoughtful reader of the epistles of Paul must have noticed the frequent occurrence of questions in the midst of an argument. Every possible objection is anticipated. The apostle asks the question that an objector might ask, and then answers it, making his argument more emphatic than before. So in the verses next following it is very evident that the truths set forth in the second chapter would not be very acceptable to a Pharisee, and he would combat them with all his might. That the questions raised by the apostle are not difficulties that lie in his own mind; this is clear from the parenthetical clause in verse 5, “I speak as a man.” With this in mind, we may read Romans 3:1-18:-WOR 51.5

    “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid; yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged. But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man.) God forbid; for then how shall God judge the world? For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. What then? are we better than they? No, in nowise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known; there is no fear of God before their eyes.”WOR 51.6

    As this text consists almost wholly of questions and sharp, clear answers, we shall not, as heretofore, specially question the text. Read it carefully.WOR 52.1

    “The Oracles of God.” -An oracle is something spoken. That which was emphatically spoken by the mouth of the Lord is the Ten Commandments. See Deuteronomy 5:22. Stephen, speaking of Moses receiving the law, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; who received the lively oracles to give unto us.” Acts 7:38. The Ten Commandments are primarily the oracles of God, because they were uttered by his own voice in the hearing of the people. But the Holy Scriptures as a whole are the oracles of God, since they are the word of God, spoken “in divers manners” (Hebrews 1:1), and because they are but an expansion of the Ten Commandments. Christians are to shape their lives solely by the Bible. This is seen from the words of the apostle Peter: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” 1 Peter 4:11.WOR 52.2

    The Law an Advantage.-There are many who think that the law of God is a burden, and they imagine that the advantage of Christians is that they have nothing to do with it. But on the contrary, John says, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3. And Paul says that the possession of the law was a great advantage to the Jew. So Moses said: “What nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” Deuteronomy 4:8. All who truly love the Lord, count it a great blessing to have God’s holy law made plain to them.WOR 52.3

    “Committed.” -The advantage of the Jew was not simply in the fact that to them were made known the oracles of God, but that “unto them were committed the oracles of God.” The Revised Version has it, “They were intrusted with the oracles of God.” That is, the law was given to them to hold in trust for others, and not simply for their own benefit. They were to be the missionaries to the whole world. The advantage and the honor conferred upon the Jewish nation in intrusting them with the law of God to make it known to the world, can not be estimated.WOR 52.4

    Tell It to Others.-When Peter and John were arrested and threatened for preaching Christ, who is simply the living law in perfection, they said, “We can not but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20. They who appreciate the gift which God commits to them must tell it to others. Some think that it is useless to carry the gospel to the heathen when they hear that God justifies the heathen who walk according to the little light that shines to them just the same as he does the person who walks according to the light that shines from the written word. They think that the wicked heathen are in no worse case than the unfaithful professed Christians. None who appreciate the blessings of the Lord could think so. Light is a blessing. The more people know of the Lord, the more they can rejoice in him, and all who truly know the Lord must be desirous of helping to spread the “good tidings of great joy” to all the people for whom it is designed.WOR 52.5

    God’s Faithfulness.-“What if some were without faith? Shall their want of faith make of none effect the faithfulness of God?” A very pertinent question. It is an appeal to the faithful of God. Will he break his promise, because of man’s unbelief? Will he be unfaithful because man is unfaithful? Will our wavering cause God to waver? “That can not possibly be;” for this is the force of the expression which is incorrectly rendered, “God forbid.” God will be true even though every man be a liar. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful; he can not deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds.” Psalm 36:5.WOR 53.1

    Power and Faithfulness.-Some one might hastily affirm that this overthrows the previous statements, that only those who have faith are heirs of the promise; for “how can it be that only the faithful are Abraham’s seed, and thus heirs, if God will fulfill his promise even though every man disbelieves?” Very easily, when we consider the Scriptures and the power of God. Listen to the words of John the Baptist to the wicked Jews who could be fitly characterized only as “vipers:” “Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” Matthew 3:9. God will bestow the inheritance only on the faithful; but if every man should prove unfaithful, he who made man of the dust of the ground can of the stones raise other people, who will believe.WOR 53.2

    God Justified.-“That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” God is now accused by Satan of injustice and indifference, and even of cruelty. Thousands have echoed the charge. But the judgment will declare the righteousness of God. His character, as well as that of man, is on trial. In the judgment every act, both of God and man, that has been done since creation will be seen by all in all its bearings. And when everything is seen in that perfect light, God will be acquitted of all wrongdoing, even by his enemies.WOR 53.3

    Commending God’s Righteousness.-Verses 5 and 7 are but different forms of the same thought. God’s righteousness stands out in bold relief in contrast with man’s unrighteousness. So the caviler thinks that God ought not to condemn the unrighteousness which by contrast commends his righteousness. But that would be to destroy the righteousness of God, so that he could not judge the world. If God were what unbelieving men say he ought to be, he would forfeit even their respect, and they would condemn him more loudly than they do now.WOR 53.4

    “I Speak as a Man.” -Was not Paul a man? Most certainly. Was he ever anything other than a man? Never. Then why the expression, “I speak as a man”? Because the writings of Paul, like those of the ancient prophets, were given by inspiration of God. The Holy Spirit spoke by him. We are not reading Paul’s view of the gospel, but the Spirit’s own statement of it. But in these questions the Spirit speaks as a man; that is, the Spirit quotes the unbelieving words of man in order to show the folly of that unbelief.WOR 53.5

    Unbelieving Questions.-There is a great difference in questions. Some are asked for the purpose of gaining instruction, and others are asked for the purpose of opposing the truth. So there must be a difference in answering them. Some questions deserve no more notice than would be given the same unbelief if uttered as a positive statement. When Mary asked, “How shall this be?” (Luke 1:34) with a desire for further information, she was told how. But when Zacharias asked, “Whereby shall I know this?” (Luke 1:18), thus plainly showing his disbelief of the angel’s words, he was punished.WOR 53.6

    Wickedness Exposed.-When the objector says, “If the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” the swift retort comes, in effect: “You might rather say, what you really mean is, Let us do evil that good may come.” The real intent of these unbelieving questions is that what which is called evil is really good; people are really righteous, no matter what they may do, so that good will at last come out of evil. This is the substance of modern Spiritualism and of Universalism, which teach that all men will be saved.WOR 54.1

    Evil not Good.-There are many besides Spiritualists who virtually say, “Let us do evil that good may come.” Who are they? All who claim that man is able of himself to do any good thing. The Lord declares that only God is good, and that good can come only from good. See Luke 18:19 and 6:43-45. From man only wickedness can come. Mark 7:21-23. Therefore he who thinks that of himself he alone can do good deeds, really says that good can come from evil. The same thing is said by the one who refuses to confess that he is a sinner. Such an one is placing himself above God, for even he can not make evil into good. God can make an evil man good, but only by putting his own goodness in place of the evil.WOR 54.2

    “All under Sin.” -The objector is silenced by the exposure of his infidel sentiments; the damnation of those who hold such positions is just; and now the conclusion is emphatically stated, namely, that all men, both Jews and Gentiles, are alike under sin. Thus the way is fully prepared for the further conclusion that there is but one way of salvation for all men. The one who has been brought up within the sound of church bells and who hears the Scriptures read every day, has the same sinful nature and the same need of a Saviour, that the savage has. No one can justly despise another.WOR 54.3

    All Out of the Way.-When the apostle wrote concerning both Jews and Gentiles, “They are all gone out of the way,” he was but repeating what Isaiah had written hundreds of years before: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6.WOR 54.4

    “The Way of Peace.” -“The way of peace have they not known” because they refused to know the God of peace. It has already been shown that God’s law is his way; therefore, since he is the God of peace, his law is the way of peace. So he says, “O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea.” Isaiah 48:18. “Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them,” or, “they shall have no stumbling-block.” Psalm 119:162. So he who prepares the way of the Lord, by giving knowledge of remission of sins, guides our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:76-79), because he brings us into the righteousness of God’s law.WOR 54.5

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