Author: Ron Graham


The Chain of Great Events
—Paul in Romans

Everyone who obeys God's plan of salvation experiences a chain of events —and it's so important that Paul in Romans describes it in three different ways, aiding our understanding of the process in which we receive salvation.

1 Theological Terms

Every expert has a “jargon” or technical terminology essential to describe and discuss the matters the expert deals with. Paul is an expert theologian —one who studies and reasons about God and his word. (Theologian from Greek theos God, and logos word, reason, discourse). So Paul uses theological terms to describe the chain of great events involved in our salvation. Paul is expressing the chain of great events from God's eternal perspective.

Take for example Romans 3:23-25 and Romans 8:29-30. Paul uses words like redemption, justification, propitiation, predestination, calling. We will not tackle theological terms like these in this particular lesson, but rather notice how Paul expresses the same thing in other ways much easier to understand.

2 Cultural Metaphors

There are certain important events in our lives that most of us experience and remember. Paul says, in effect, "Look, you experience special events in your cultural life. Think of these as analogies of your spiritual relationship to Jesus Christ. This will help you to understand your salvation."

One or two of the events that Paul mentions are not part of our general Australian culture —but most of us have read enough books, seen enough documentaries, and rubbed shoulders with enough ethnic groups here and overseas, that we can imagine well enough the scenes which Paul evokes.

Paul uses analogies drawn from circumcision (Romans 2:25-29, 4:11), burial (Romans 6:3-4), birth (Romans 6:4), liberation (Romans 6:17,22), marriage (Romans 7:2-4), divorce (Romans 7:2-4), adoption (Romans 8:14-16), and inheritance (Romans 8:17). We discuss these briefly in the panel below.

Paul’s Cultural Metaphors

Circumcision (Romans 2:25-29 4:11)

Paul likens being saved to being circumcised. To us, circumcision might seem cruel. God evidently did not think it cruel for boys. God commanded circumcision for boys, whilst he accepted girls without requiring them to be circumcised and God never approved of female circumcision.

To Jewish families a boy's circumcision is a celebrated event. Circumcision for them, is a mark of approval and belonging, a sign of an ancient covenant God made with the Jews' forefathers. Physical circumcision is not a part of the Christian religion or faith, but there is a spiritual circumcision. The heart is circumcised by faith in Christ. Think of faith in spiritual life as one's circumcision.

Burial (Romans 6:3-4)

At a burial, there is grief. But in the spiritual burial, the old person we used to be dies and is buried and a new person rises up to walk in newness of life. This spiritual burial is an occasion of joy. Think of baptism as as one's spiritual burial, says Paul.

Birth (Romans 6:4)

The newness of life Paul speaks of, is one and the same as the new birth of which Jesus spoke (John 3:3-7). Being saved is like being born again spiritually.

Liberation (Romans 6:17,22)

Imagine you were the slave of a wicked master who ill treated you cruelly. One day you were purchased out of that slavery by a new master who treated you like a son or daughter in his household. That is really what Jesus did for us. He purchased us from sin which had us cruelly enslaved. Now we belong to Christ as his purchased possession.

Marriage (Romans 7:2-4)

A widow who has found a new husband, and made a new vow to him. That's a lovely metaphor. We men might find it harder to relate to the idea of being a wife to Jesus, but we are concerned with our commitment and faithfulness to Christ. Are we having a "bit on the side" spiritually, by still lending ourselves to sin? That would be spiritual adultery.

Divorce (Romans 7:2-4)

If we stretch Paul's marriage analogy a little to make it relate to our own culture, we might think of ourselves as having been divorced from Satan before being married to Christ. Divorce is common in our culture, and of that we strongly disapprove. But being divorced from Satan is one divorce in which we can readily rejoice.

Adoption (Romans 8:14-16)

Imagine you were an orphan cooped up in an institution where you were unloved and had no joy. Then one day a wonderful, rich, and kindly man, came and said to you, "I want to be a father to you. Come to my home and be my beloved child." What a great event that would be. Yet that is what God has done for us.

Inheritance (Romans 8:17)

Imagine that, being adopted by that wonderful man, you became his heir, and could look forward to inheriting a vast estate. Or imagine that you received a solicitor's letter telling you that you were heir to an estate worth two million dollars. Yet you have an inheritance unimaginably greater than that. This is what God has done for you.

3 Plain Language

Paul goes even further, and describes the chain of great events in plain language — six simple steps (see box below) which Paul lays down in his letter to the Romans. This is just another way of expressing the same process that Paul has expressed in theological terms and in cultural metaphor.

Steps to Salvation

—The words of Jesus in the gospels, and Paul’s agreement in Romans, about what people should do to receive grace. Touch any yellow heading to go to a lesson on the subject.

1. Hearing Christ’s word

¶“7So then, everyone who hears these words of mine, and does them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24).

¶“17Faith comes from hearing, and hearing [comes] by the word of Christ [being preached]” (Romans 10:17).

2. Believing —having faith

¶“16For God so loved the world, that he gave his one unique Son —so that whoever believes on him should not perish, but instead have eternal life” (John 3:16 ).

¶“16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'” (Romans 1:16-17).

3. Repentance from sin

¶“31And Jesus answered them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick need one. 32I came to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.'” (Luke 5:31-32).

¶“4Do you take for granted the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But, because of your hard and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself when the day of wrath comes, and God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Romans 2:4-5).

4. Confessing Christ

¶“32Whoever acknowledges [or confesses] me in the presence of other people, I will also acknowledge in the presence of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

¶“8What does scripture say? 'The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart'. That refers to the very word of faith that we preach: 9 if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10For with your heart you believe to be made righteous, and with your mouth you confess to be saved.” (Romans 10:8-10).

5. Being baptised into Christ’s death

¶“15Jesus then said to his disciples, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16Anyone who believes and is immersed shall be saved. Anyone who does not so believe will be condemned'” (Mark 16:15-16).

¶“3Aren't you aware that all of us who were immersed into Christ Jesus were immersed into his death? 4Thus we were buried with him by immersion into death. And consequently, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too are able to walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:3-4).

6. Ongoing commitment

¶“61Another said to Jesus, 'I will follow you, Lord —but first let me go back to bid my family goodbye.' 62Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:61-62).

¶“11Do not slacken in your zeal. Rather, be fervent in spirit as you serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:11-12).