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The Epistle to the Romans.
An important parenthesis and its point (Rom. 1: 18-iii.20).
When we reach Rom. 1: 16, 17 we cannot avoid the conviction that we are at the
heart-of the gospel as preached by Paul. At verse 18 we seem to take a turn, and any
further explanation of faith, righteousness, or justification seems to be suspended. From
Rom. 1: 18-32 we have a fearful picture of the utter failure of the Gentile world even
though they had received the revelation of creation, and the monitorship of conscience.
When we get into Rom. 2: the teaching becomes more involved; we seem further than
ever from the theme of the epistle, and indeed the conclusions we may have reached at
the end of Rom. 1: seem rudely challenged by the time we reach the end of Rom. 2:
Nevertheless we approach God's word not with a wonder as to whether it is perfect in
every part, but with a conviction that it is, and just as it is said of the lover of the works of
God: "The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein"
(Psa. 111: 2), so to the earnest seeker after truth light will surely be given.
A reading of Rom. 2: leaves one with the feeling that the whole passage is an aside,
a great parenthesis, and the opening verses of Romans 3: are but a continuation of the
same theme. At Rom. 3: 9 light dawns, for the apostle himself definitely tells us what he
has been endeavoring to set forth since Rom. 1: 17. To follow the direction given by his
own analysis gives certainty in place of conjecture. The object with which Paul wrote
Rom. 1: 18-3: 9 is given in the following words: "We have before proved both Jews and
Gentiles, that they are all under sin" (Rom. iii.9). (" Proved" is better translated"
accused," as may be seen by other parts of the same word in Matt. 27: 37, &100:).
It is evident that the charge against the Gentile is opened in Rom. 1: 18--32, and that
the two-fold accusation against Jew and Gentile occupies Rom. 2: I---3: 8, and the
concluding evidence against the Jew-" those who are under the law" (3: 19)--occupies
verses 10-18, bringing us to the great conclusion: "all the world guilty before God." As
soon as we pass this point, the thread laid down in Rom. 1: 17 is seen to be resumed, and
we immediately have before us one of the most illuminating passages of Paul's epistles so
far as justification by faith is concerned: "even a righteousness which is by faith of Jesus
Christ" (Rom.3: 22). Although we have not as yet seen more than the drift of Rom. 2:,
we have at least set the bounds of our inquiry.
A - Rom. 1: 17. Justification by faith.
B - Rom. 1: 18--32. The accusation against the Gentile. -List of offences.
C - Rom. 2: I-3: 9-. Circumcision and uncircumcision.
B - Rom. 3:-9-19. The accusation against the Jew. -List of offences.
A - Rom. 3: 20, &100: Justification by faith.
The members denominated" A" are merely to set bounds; we do not attempt
anything further here. The passage that we have before us as the subject for study is "C"-
Rom. 2: l-3: 9--. Now for the trial of faith. The writings of our fellow-labourers in this
epistle yield nothing as to structure or outline. The Companion Bible says nothing. Our
own attempted sub-divisions were unsatisfactory. Accordingly we took a clean sheet,
confessed to the Lord our ignorance, but at the same time the conviction that no one part
of this epistle would be found unruly or out of order, and the light came. The fullest
section, and that which sets forth the perfectness of the argument, is that under notice,
and this will be the better appreciated when its place and purpose is understood. This