Romans, Part I: The Indicatives
Paul was a Roman citizen called by Jesus to introduce the gospel to the Gentiles. He had a large arena to work in, considering Rome’s extensive empire. But the city Paul came from was the mighty capitol of the Empire. The gospel came from Jerusalem, the capitol city in one of the nations Rome conquered. This Jewish tentmaker and former Pharisee wrote to Jewish and Gentile Roman citizens in what is possibly the best theological treatise on the gospel of Jesus Christ ever written. It is the longest letter of Paul’s collection of epistles.
Most scholars agree Paul wrote this letter on his third missionary journey in A.D. 57 in Corinth (Acts 20:2-3).
©NLT Study Bible
Because this letter is long and rich in the gospel, I chose to cull what I consider to be the most important verses that speak to this subject of indicatives and imperatives. There is much spiritual bread to digest in Romans, and I encourage you to take a few weeks to read it in its entirety in more than one Bible version. Choose one version that is a study Bible with plenty of commentary. I assure you it will be worth it.
“Romans 1:17 is the key verse of the letter. In it Paul announces the theme: ‘the righteousness of God.’ The word righteousness is used in one way or another over sixty times in his letter (righteous, just, and justified). God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel; for in the death of Christ, God revealed His righteousness by punishing sin; and in the resurrection of Christ, He revealed His righteousness by making salvation available to the believing sinner.” Warren W. Wiersbe, Romans, Wiersbe Bible Commentary
Paul lays out the gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. He only begins to issue imperatives after he shows us the indicatives of the saving grace of Christ. Christ gave us grace and new life: salvation by taking our sins, justification through our faith in him, reconciliation to God, eternal life through his resurrection, and righteousness through the Holy Spirit.
(Notes added) For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith [God’s faithfulness] for faith [our faith in His faithfulness], as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. (1:16-17, Habakkuk 2:4)
God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived from the creation of the world in the things that have been made. (1:20)
Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.The free gift of God’s grace makes all of us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free.God gave him as a sacrifice to pay for sins. So he forgives the sins of those who have faith in his blood. (3:23-25)
God did all of that to prove that he is fair. Because of his mercy he did not punish people for the sins they had committed before Jesus died for them.God did that to prove in our own time that he is fair. He proved that he is right. He also made right with himself those who believe in Jesus. (3:25-26)
“Now to the one who works, his pay is not credited due to grace but due to obligation. But to the one who does not work, but believes in the one who declares the ungodly righteous, his faith is credited as righteousness. So even David himself speaks regarding the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the one against whom the Lord will never count sin.’ ” (Romans 4:4-8, Psalm 32:1-2)
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (5:1-2)
For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (5:6,8)
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life. (6:3-4)
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you were also made to die to the power of the Law through the body of Christ so that you could be may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. (7:4)
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. (8:1-3)
In other words, you’ve been saved by God’s compassionate grace. You cannot be “unsaved.” You’ve been forgiven totally, completely and irreversibly. You are a new creation in Christ.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (8:11)
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. (8:14-17)
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. (8:26-27)
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? (8:31-32)
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (8:35)
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (8:38-39)
Whether you know it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not, He lives in you. The more you surrender to Him, the more He will reveal Himself to you. You will feel His love and love Him back. You do not need laws to understand God’s heart; in the stillness, you will become aware of it beating, know His will. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose.” (8:28)
God says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. (9:15-16)
Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (10:4)
So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise, grace would no longer be grace. (11:5-6)
The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (11:29)
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (11:33)
The one who makes the jar can make anything he wants. He uses the same clay to make different things. He might make one thing for special purposes and another for daily use. It is the same way with what God has done. He wanted to show his anger and to let people see his power. But he patiently endured those he was angry with—people who were ready to be destroyed. He waited with patience so that he could make known the riches of his glory to the people he has chosen to receive his mercy. God has already prepared them to share his glory. (9:21-23)
Paul makes the case for faith vs. the law, faith vs. works, and God’s redemptive grace through Jesus Christ as the gospel. He also explains in great detail we are not to think we are better than others, expecting we are entitled to salvation. It is only God’s mercy and compassion that gives us the assurance of hope, His promise of redemption and eternal life as His adopted children.
Next Week: The Imperatives
©2007, Warren W. Wiersbe, Romans, p. 412 Wiersbe Bible Commentary, NT David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, CO
©1996, Roman Empire and Spread of Christianity Map, NLT Study Bible, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Ill