"On every page of the God-breathed writings are many thoughts that stretch out like long, clear arms of light across the darkness, discovering things otherwise hidden and illuminating wider areas than those of the immediate context. They are searchlights. From a multitude of these, I have selected one in each chapter of Scripture, for at least one central thought in every chapter should arrest the mind and affect the life," wrote G. Campbell Morgan, a wise, warm-hearted, careful Bible teacher who conducted a classic 3-year chapter-by-chapter study called Life Applications from Every Chapter of the Bible. Here are the fruits of that timeless study—summarized, illustrated, and amplified—on all 66 books of the Bible (posted one book at a time, cumulatively).
GENESIS, EXODUS, LEVITICUS, NUMBERS, DEUTERONOMY, JOSHUA, JUDGES, RUTH, 1 SAMUEL, 2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS,
1 CHRONICLES, 2 CHRONICLES, EZRA, NEHEMIAH, ESTHER, JOB, PSALMS, PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES, SONG OF SOLOMON, ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, LAMENTATIONS, EZEKIEL, DANIEL, HOSEA, JOEL, AMOS, OBADIAH, JONAH, MICAH, NAHUM,
Romans 1:15 "As much as is in me." To begin to read this great letter of Paul is to find ourselves in the closing chapters of the Book of Acts. There we found Paul expressing his certainty that he would see Rome, and we followed him through the years of stress that at last brought him there. He wrote from Corinth in Greece toward the close of his third missionary journey, saying, "As much as in in me, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you who are in Rome also." Paul's qualifying phrase "as much as is in me" seems a recognition of both limitation and of resource. The sense of limitation comes from Paul's overwhelming consciousness of the greatness of the Gospel. He knew that no one man could fully explain its depths, but more lay within this devoted man than his natural capacities. Christ was formed within him; he was indwelt by the Spirit. That explains Paul's ability to preach the Gospel in all its fullness as he did in this inspired letter or Book of Romans. The measure in which a man is conscious of limitation is the measure to which he makes possible the operation of those powers that are his in Christ.
Romans 2:4 "God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my Gospel, by Jesus Christ." The phrase "according to my Gospel" is a parenthetical qualification to this statement: "God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." Here we have a merging of "the kindness and the severity of God" in the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that God has made righteousness available to sinful men and women through Christ. But the Gospel is also the declaration that all people will be judged by the One through whom that grace has been made available. There we see the finality of the Gospel message: the Savior is to be the Judge. The reverse is just as true: the Judge is the Savior. He whose eternal right it is to sit as Judge has in His Son provided perfect redemption for fallen mankind. By doing so He has not relinquished His right as Judge, but has established it. All men and women must meet Him as Judge, but before they do so He comes to meet them with a righteous and just way of saving them from their sins. If they refuse that salvation, the Gospel declares that by so doing they have not escaped Him as Judge. The Gospel never lowers the standards of divine requirements; it makes them possible of realization. If it is refused, then the Savior as Judge condemns and punishes.
Romans 3:4 "As it is written." That is not the first time we read that phrase in this letter (see Romans 1:17 and 2:24); neither is it the last (see Romans 3:10-18; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13, 33; 10:15; 11:8, 26; 12:19; 14:11; 15:9, 21). Beyond those are many other quotations or allusions to the Hebrew Bible/Torah/Old Testament in the Book of Romans. It reveals the high place of the Holy Scriptures in the thinking of the apostle Paul. The first thing to notice is he never referred to any Old Testament Scripture to deny or correct its teaching. Every reference or allusion to the Sacred Writings is authoritative. All those quotations are from each section of the Hebrew Bible: the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy), the Prophets (1 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Joel, Habakkuk, Malachi), and the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs). Paul quoted generally from the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible), but sometimes from the Hebrew. He often varied the precise words, but never the essential meaning. A careful study of these facts will help us to a right attitude toward the Old Testament.
Romans 4:18 "Who in hope believed against hope." That is a description of Abraham's mental attitude toward God's miraculous promise that he would become the father of many nations. It also describes the experience of all who live by faith in the Lord God. Hope is the expectation of good things to come with a corresponding activity toward the realization of them. There can be no hope where there are no grounds of expectation. To elderly Abraham, there were no grounds of expectation in his circumstances that he should have an heir, for they denied the possibility. Nevertheless, he hoped. As Paul writes here, Abraham "did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about 100 years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb." Upon what grounds? "The promise of God." Therefore Abraham hoped and he ordered his life accordingly. That is the genius of the life of faith in God, who is utterly reliable. No Word of His can be void of power. Therefore we hope against hope. When there is no ground for expectation in circumstances, we find it in God and what He has promised in His Word.
Romans 5:5 "Hope does not put us to shame because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts." These words lead us a step further in understanding the nature of Christian hope. It triumphs because it knows and believes God, and also because it is not put to shame. That is, it is never overthrown or discredited in any way by the difficult circumstances through which we must pass for it to be realized. On the contrary, Paul explains, we rejoice in those very difficulties because we realize they are instrumental, "knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." The secret of this victorious hope is that the love of God has been poured into those who have saving faith in Christ. Here the idea is not merely that God loves us, though necessarily that is involved. It is rather that He fills us with His love by His Spirit so that we love what He loves and as He loves. That self-emptying sacrificial love becomes the inspiration of all our thinking and doing. It is not only patient love that endures, but also mighty love that accomplishes. It is the secret of toil that never tires until its object is achieved. Where there is such love filling and mastering one's life, hope is never put to shame in the midst of any suffering, and will be ultimately saved from shame as all the toils are vindicated by the glory of the results.
Romans 6:13 "Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead." Christianity is a living religion. The way of entrance is death, but it is the way that leads to life. This was so in the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. In order to save, He died. The salvation into which He brings repentant men and women through His death is that of life, and that more abundantly. God moves them to death in the form of self-denial, which is the ending of all confidence in self and all endeavor to win spiritual life by effort. When that occurs, life is received as a grace-gift of God. Then dedication begins. This is an important distinction. When the soul yields to Christ, it is not giving anything to God. It has nothing to give. It yields just as it is because it cannot make itself worthy. When this surrender of a sinful and unworthy being is made, God takes the polluted life and pardons, cleanses, and renews it. Now the renewed, cleansed, and pardoned one is called to present him or herself to God as alive from the dead. "Just As I Am," to quote the famous hymn title, I cannot dedicate myself to God, but I can yield myself to the Savior. In Him I am "accepted in the Beloved." Such dedication is implicit in my yielding to Christ. It must be explicit in my resulting life.
Romans 7:14 "The Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh." These words from the Apostle Paul reveal at once the supremacy and inadequacy of the Law, helping us to understand the difference between it and grace. The Law is spiritual; "it is holy, righteous, and good," to quote Paul. It is not the result of human thought, for it is divine revelation from God that reveals His will. God's Law can be obeyed in material activities as it is accepted and yielded to in spirit. But that is its limit. It is a revelation, not an enablement. It tells man what to do, but does not help him do it. That would be sufficient for man were he living under the power of his spiritual nature, but he is not. Paul speaks for us all when he bluntly states, "But I am of flesh." He is living under the power of his flesh, which means even though he consents to the truth and beauty of God's Law, he is unable to realize it unaided by God Himself through Christ. That realization is the important first of three functions or uses of God's Law. Grace does not lower the standard of God's Law, but it does exactly what the Law cannot do: enables men and women to live according to that standard, fulfilling the New Covenant promise of writing the Law on the heart.
Romans 8:37 "More than conquerors." To conquer is to subdue, master, and overcome in the sense of defeating an attack. Following the list Paul gives at the end of this chapter, to conquer tribulation would put an end to it, to conquer anguish would replace it with joy, to conquer persecution would turn it into patronage or favor, to conquer famine would provide food, to conquer nakedness would provide clothing, to conquer peril would secure safety, and to conquer the sword would destroy the sword. In all these things, Paul says, "we are more than conquerors." This does not mean that, in the senses referred to, we conquer and more. On the contrary, it may mean we do not conquer at all in those senses, but that we do more: we wrest from defeat values that could never be gained by conquest. Enduring tribulation, we are brought through patience and testing to the hope that is not put to shame. Experiencing anguish, we are drawn into fellowship with the suffering that sanctifies. Bearing persecution, we demonstrate true godliness. Suffering hunger, we demonstrate that man does not live by bread alone. In nakedness we reveal the beauty of spiritual adornment. Living amid perils, we reveal the power of our Lord. Dying by the sword, we demonstrate the weakness of the sword. This is more-than-conquering, and is possible only through "Him who loved us."
Romans 9:16 "It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." This does not mean we are not to will or to exert ourselves. Neither does it mean we enter into the blessings of salvation apart from willing and effort. We must will to do, and we must run well, allowing nothing to hinder. This text does clearly mean that no willing on our part, no exertions of our own, can procure for us the salvation we need. It also means that of ourselves, we shall have no will for salvation, and shall make no effort toward it. Everything of human salvation begins in God. His will is to have mercy. Those who enter into salvation shall do so only because of the everlasting mercy of God. There is neither merit nor cause for glorying in our choice or effort. If God had not willed our saving, neither should we. If God did not work within us, we should work nothing out. Even if we have labored much in His service, we shall have to add that it was not us, but the grace of God working in us.
Romans 10:14-15 "How...? How...? How...? How...?" That list of questions follows an important quote from the prophet Joel, cited not only by Paul here, but also by Peter at the birth of the church on Pentecost: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Paul is emphasizing man's responsibility concerning the salvation provided in Christ Jesus. Salvation comes to a person when he or she calls on the name of the Lord. The How questions reveal the place and nature of the call: the call follows belief, belief follows hearing, hearing follows preaching, and preaching follows sending. Paul traces that movement back to its origin. Let us trace it in the opposite direction to grasp the nature of man's calling on the name of the Lord. God has a message of salvation, and this He sends preachers to proclaim. The preachers proclaim that message. Men and women hear the preacher's message and believe it, but not all are saved by that belief. So far it is merely intellectual, a strong conviction that the message is true. That does not bring individual men and women into salvation. They must now "call upon the name of the Lord." At once we can see that the will of man, displayed in volitional surrender to the message believed, is a necessary part of salvation, by God's design. Everything begins with God, but this crucial responsibility lies with man.
Romans 11:23 "God is able to graft them in again." Paul's great subject in this section is the ultimate salvation of Israel after a lengthy period of unbelief that separated them from the root of spiritual life and health. He saw "some of the branches ... broken off," yet God's purpose through them and for them was not destroyed. The breaking off was very real, resulting from their unbelief, yet if they turned in repentant faith to Christ the Messiah, they would be grafted in again, for "God is able to graft them in again." This text is similar to what Jesus said about Himself as the true vine and true believers as branches abiding in the vine and bearing much fruit through His life in us. Jesus explains that His Father is the vinedresser who removes useless branches that do not bear fruit. That is a solemn truth we must take to heart, but the text here in Romans encourages us to take heart in the grace and power of God to graft back in again branches that have been broken off. But while we recognize that, we must not minimize the dreadful condition of fruitless unbelief. God will never graft in broken branches merely out of pity for them. He will do so only when they repent and return to the true vine, Jesus the Lord of life. Only then will they bear the fruit of good works that they were saved to bring forth.
Romans 12:9 "Let love be without hypocrisy." This twelfth chapter begins the apostolic life applications of the doctrines of salvation. Paul starts with this foundation: "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may discern the will of God: that which is good, acceptable, and perfect." The church he describes as the Body of Christ, each part having its own giftedness and usefulness. The first order given to the whole is for love to be without hypocrisy. Love is the most beautiful and enduring fruit of the Christian life. It must be without acting, for that is what hypocrisy really is. Mere words without corresponding deeds or deeds without corresponding heart attitudes are mere show. Also, to violate love by failing to abhor evil, even when the violation is in the guise of tender toleration, is itself evil. Love protects the beloved, so it is untrue to itself when it condones evil in any form. Love must cleave to good or be untrue to its deepest nature. This truth is rooted in God's own nature, for "God is love." We, in turn, are called to be "imitators of God" by walking "in love, as Christ loved us, and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant sacrifice and offering to God."
Romans 13:10 "Love therefore is the fulfillment of the Law." This is a simple statement of a profound truth that corrects many mistakes. Most people are inclined to think of law and love as being antagonistic. Some are confused by the declaration in John's Gospel that "the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." They mentally supply a but between the two statements and assume a radical difference between them, but that word is not there. The distinction is that God's Law tells us what to do, and grace enables us to do it, making Law an expression of love. That is the sense in which love is the fulfilling of Law. Paul illustrates that in this chapter with the Ten Commandments by showing it is impossible to sin against others if we truly love them. Who commits adultery against or murders someone whom we truly love? Every sin, therefore, arises from some cooling or failure of love. Love is the most vigilant and strict guard over all our actions. It is the only motive strong enough to make us true under all circumstances and at all times. Fear may carry us far, but under stress of fierce temptation, it will break down. Love will carry us all the way and leave us still desiring better things than we have ever attained.
Romans 14:5 "Let each man be fully assured in his own mind." This instruction is of great practical value. Its application in Paul's argument is to legitimately disputable matters such as whether one should observe certain days or abstain from certain foods. It is sad and strange how those and similarly unimportant matters have been, and continue to be, reasons for bitterness between fellow Christians. Paul instructs us otherwise by having us focus on our personal duty and our attitude toward others as they focus on theirs. The first is explicit, the second implicit. The personal duty is that a man must be fully assured in his own mind. That means he is to have an opinion. He has no right to unthinkingly adopt the opinions or habits of others. It may be that coming to full assurance on certain matters will demand time and thought, and in the process he may be helped by conferring with others, but at the last he must find his own stand. Going through that process naturally helps him recognize the right and obligation of every other man and woman to do the same. Therefore no one has the right to impose on any other his or her own personal convictions. This is important and reasonable because one person may be helped by observing particular days while another is not; one may find strength in abstinence from types of foods, while another experiences weakness. We each are servants of the Lord who make our choices to please Him, and are to encourage each other to do the same.
Romans 15:16 "The offering up of the Gentiles." This phrase expresses a beautiful idea we are in danger of forgetting: the priestly nature of all ministerial work. Paul was a chosen instrument of God to the Gentiles. We see in the Book of Acts that he was diligent in his calling to preach the Gospel to them and build them up in their faith. Here in Romans he describes that noble labor by God's enabling as an offering to God Himself. In doing his work Paul was exercising the priesthood of worship. What a radiant light that sheds on all Spirit-led evangelistic and pastoral effort! Every person won by the preaching of the Gospel is not only brought into a place of safety and blessing, but is also an offering to God, a gift that gives Him satisfaction, the very offering He is always seeking. Every soul carefully and patiently instructed in the things of Christ, and so made conformable to His likeness, is a soul in whom the Father takes pleasure. We continue working hard not only for the salvation and spiritual maturity of more people, but also to satisfy the heart of God. That is the most powerful motive. There may be times when we are tempted to think of individual men and women as not worthy of our sacrifice, but that temptation will fade when we remember that God is always worthy to receive such sacrifices.
Romans 16:19 "Be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil." This is one of Paul's last expressed wishes in this letter for the believers in Rome, as well as for Christians of all times. Rome, like every great city in human history, was full of wickedness. Evil lures people by its subtlety, its mystery, and its dark depths. The seduction of it is very powerful, for we are all desirous of knowing. Untold multitudes of men and women with many natural abilities have found destruction because, as they say, they desired to see life. What they experienced was not life, but death. Paul wants those of us who love Christ to remain simple in all those things. There are things in the underworld, the very knowledge of which pollutes the soul. It is better not to know. The children of God are permitted to know freely the mysteries of the good, which includes godliness, light, purity, and beauty. In this realm Paul urges us to be wise. By our relation with God in Christ, we Christians are admitted into this wonderful realm. We see life and share it, the more abundant life, the life eternal. In this world of the highest matters the soul is purified, ennobled, and eventually glorified. Here it is better to know. Let us come to full knowledge in these matters, for that is true wisdom. Let it be sought earnestly and persistently.