Paul’s letter to the Romans is an inspired masterpiece of doctrine highlighting God’s grace, truth, and redemption. Within its pages, the apostle shares his message of good news and eternal salvation with the church, advises believers on theological truths, gives practical applications for living the Christian life, and shows how God’s righteousness comes by grace alone through faith in Christ. The book of Romans underscores that Christianity is far more than just a doctrine—it is an essential road map for daily living.
The MacArthur Bible Studies provide intriguing examinations of the whole of Scripture. Each guide incorporates extensive commentary, detailed observations on overriding themes, and probing questions to help you study the Word of God with guidance from John MacArthur.
About the Author
John MacArthur has served as pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, since 1969. His ministry of expository preaching is unparalleled in its breadth and influence. In more than five decades of ministry from the same pulpit, he has preached verse by verse through the entire New Testament and several key sections of the Old Testament. He is president of the Master’s University and the Master’s Seminary and can be heard daily on the Grace to You radio broadcast (carried on hundreds of radio stations worldwide). He has authored numerous bestselling books, including Twelve Ordinary Men and One Perfect Life.
For more details about John MacArthur and his Bible-teaching resources, contact Grace to You at 800-55-GRACE or gty.org.
Read an Excerpt
Grace, Truth, and Redemption
By John MacArthur
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
The Good News
When and where did you first hear the gospel — the good news that Jesus loves you and died for your sins?
What is so "good" about this good news of the gospel?
As you begin this study, what do want to learn about the book of Romans? How do you want to grow in your faith?
Newspapers and television news shows contain constant reminders that most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What happens on a national and worldwide scale, however, is simply the magnification of what is occurring on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large. A terrifying power grips human beings at the very core of their being. Left unchecked, it pushes them to self-destruction in one form or another. That power is sin, and that is always bad news. The tidbits of good news are oft en merely brief respites from the bad. And sometimes what appears to be good merely masks an evil. One cynic commented that peace treaties merely provide time for both sides to reload.
The essence of Paul's letter to the Romans, however, is that there is good news that is truly good! The apostle was, in fact, "a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God" (Rom. 15:16). He brought the good news that, in Christ, sin can be forgiven, selfishness can be overcome, guilt can be removed, anxiety can be alleviated, and people can, indeed, have hope and eternal glory.
The entire thrust of the book of Romans is distilled in the first seven verses. The apostle apparently was so overjoyed by his message of good news that he could not wait to introduce his readers to the gist of what he had to say. He burst into it immediately.
Keys to the Text
Apostle: "One who is sent with a commission." An apostle chosen and trained by Jesus Christ to proclaim His truth during the formative years of the church. In its primary usage, the term applied to the original twelve disciples who were chosen at the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, and were set aside to lay the foundation of the early church. They were also given power to perform healings and to cast out demons as verifying signs of their divine authority. Because Paul was not among the original twelve, he needed to defend his apostleship. One of the qualifications was witnessing the risen Christ (Acts 1:22). Paul explained to the Corinthian church that between His resurrection and ascension Jesus "was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the twelve. ... After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also" (1 Cor. 15: 5–8 NKJV). Paul witnessed the resurrected Christ in a unique way as he was traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians there (Acts 9). Further personal appearances of the Lord to Paul are recorded in Acts 18:9; 22:17–21; 23:11; and 2 Corinthians 12:1–4.
In a wider sense, the term apostle is also used of men like Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy (Rom. 16:7). Such men are more specifically called messengers (apostoloi) of the churches, whereas the Twelve and Paul were "apostles of Jesus Christ." Neither group was perpetuated. Except for Judas (who was replaced by Matthias), there is no record of an apostle in either the primary or secondary group being replaced after he died.
Unleashing the Text
Read 1:1–17, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.
Romans 1:1–17 (NKJV)
1 Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God
2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures,
3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh,
4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
5 Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name,
6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
10 making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established —
12 that is, that I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.
13 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.
14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.
15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."
1) What does this passage reveal about the promise of the good news (v. 2) and the Person of the good news (vv. 3–4)?
2) Verses 8–15 provide interesting insights into Paul's character and motives, as well as the kind of behavior that should mark all true spiritual leaders. What admirable qualities are described in these verses?
(Verses to consider: 1 Thess. 2:1–3:13)
3) What reasons does Paul give for not being ashamed of the gospel?
Read about Paul's own experience with the gospel and his commissioning by Christ to go to the Gentiles. This testimony is from Acts 26.
Acts 26:1–18 (NKJV)
1 Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You are permitted to speak for yourself." So Paul stretched out his hand and answered for himself:
2 "I think myself happy, King Agrippa, because today I shall answer for myself before you concerning all the things of which I am accused by the Jews,
3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which have to do with the Jews. Therefore I beg you to hear me patiently.
4 "My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.
5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.
7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.
8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?
9 "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
12 "While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,
13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me.
14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'
15 So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.
17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you,
18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'
Exploring the Meaning
4) How did Paul's encounter with the risen Christ alter his life and purpose?
5) Read Philippians 3:1–7. What about Paul's life before Christ would have caused him to see the message of Christ as "good news"?
6) What was behind Paul's eagerness to travel widely and minister to others?
Truth for Today
Some people object to terms such as salvation and being saved, claiming that the ideas they convey are out of date and meaningless to contemporary men and women. But salvation is God's term, and there is no better one to describe what He offers fallen humankind through the sacrifice of His Son. Through Christ and Christ alone, people can be saved from sin, from Satan, from judgment, from wrath, and from spiritual death.
Reflecting on the Text
7) The dying words of one ancient saint were, "Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, earth, and hell and I would still be the same sinful, polluted wretch unless God Himself should cleanse me by His grace." How would you answer someone who asked: "I keep hearing about 'the grace of God.' What does that mean, and why is it such a good thing?"
8) Paul was bowled over, quite literally, by the love of God, and he never seemed to get over God's amazing grace. How can lukewarm Christians recapture a sense that the gospel is good news — the very best news ever announced?
9) Who in your life needs to hear and embrace God's good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ? Take some time to pray for them right now.
Write out additional reflections, questions you may have, or a prayer.
The Bad News
How would you respond to a sincere, concerned friend who observed: "We don't need to try to scare people into heaven with all this talk of hell, fire, and brimstone. Christians should be more positive and tolerant — emphasizing all the blessings of the Christian life, not threatening people with damnation. It just gives us — and God — a bad name!"
After stating the thesis of his epistle — a righteous God is able to make sinners righteous through faith (1:16–17) — Paul expounds on the wretchedness of the human heart, and the divine wrath that this rebelliousness elicits.
For Paul, knowledge of eternal condemnation was one motivation he offered for coming to belief. He was determined that they understand that God is holy and just, and that we are all sinners under God's wrath. This approach makes both logical and theological sense. We cannot appreciate the wonder of God's grace and love until we truly understand God's righteous anger against sin. We cannot appreciate God's forgiveness until we appreciate the eternal consequences of sin.
Paul says that everyone — Gentiles and Jews, indeed all of humankind — stands guilty before a holy God. Human nature is corrupt. Human motives are impure. By the time Paul is finished with his divine indictment, every mouth has been shut (3:19–20). We are without excuse. We are incapable of saving ourselves. This "bad" news is a necessary part of the good news, called the gospel.
Keys to the Text
Human Depravity: The basic meaning of the Greek word, adokimos, "depraved," ("debased" in NKJV) is that of "not standing the test." The term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and adokimos therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless, and useless. Because fallen humanity did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over, in this case here in Romans, to a depraved mind. The God-less mind is a depraved mind, whose predetermined and inevitable disposition is to do those things that are not proper. The mind that finds God worthless becomes worthless itself. It is debauched, deceived, and deserving only of God's divine wrath. Although God-less people think they are wise, they are supremely foolish (Rom. 1:22).
Divine Revelation: God testifies through Paul that all people have evidence of God, and what their physical senses can perceive of Him, their inner senses can understand to some extent. All men know something and understand something of the reality and the truth of God. They are responsible for a proper response to that revelation. Any wrong response is "inexcusable." God has made Himself known to all people everywhere in the marvels of nature and in the human conscience, which is able to distinguish right from wrong. Because this knowledge is universal and continuous, by it God has displayed His glory to everyone.
Unleashing the Text
Read 1:18–3:20, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.
Romans 1:18–3:20 (NKJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
Excerpted from Romans by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John F. MacArthur, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction to Romans, 1,
1 The Good News Romans 1:1–17, 5,
2 The Bad News Romans 1:18–3:20, 13,
3 By Faith Alone Romans 3:21–4:25, 23,
4 Grace through One Man Romans 5:1–21, 33,
5 Dead and Alive! Romans 6:1–23, 41,
6 Delivered from the Law Romans 7:1–25, 49,
7 In the Spirit Romans 8:1–39, 57,
8 Israel and God's Eternal Plan Romans 9:1–11:36, 65,
9 Supernatural Living Romans 12:1–21, 77,
10 Living in the World Romans 13:1–14, 85,
11 The Strong and the Weak Romans 14:1–15:13, 93,
12 Ministering Together Romans 15:14–16:27, 103,