The Book of Romans
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s sermon series on the book of Romans were preached to the congregation at Westminster Chapel in the heart of central London on Friday evenings between October 1955 to March 1968. These sermons …
The expression “missing the wood through the trees” is particularly appropriate when approaching a new section of sacred Scripture. While it is tempting to focus on individual subsections in Romans 9–11, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones encourages keeping an overall big picture in mind. In this sermon Romans 9:1–33 titled “Introduction,” he provides a helpful overview of these key chapters. Dr. Lloyd-Jones demurs from well-loved interpreters who elevate the doctrine of predestination and election as central to chapters 9–11. He also objects to placing the question of salvation for Jews and conflict with Gentiles at the center of this section. Instead, he argues for a much bigger central theme of this section. Dr. Lloyd-Jones says Paul is harmonizing the ways of God. What is found in this section, in other words, is Paul’s way of harmonizing the Old Testament with the New Testament. There is no contradiction in God’s purposes as Paul talks about the old covenant in relation to the new. Dr. Lloyd-Jones shares his justification for this conclusion by drawing attention to Romans 11:33–36 and the apostle’s doxology. Listen as he traces the central theme of Romans 9–11 as well as subsidiary themes of this important section of Scripture.
Paul's Great Sorrow
What is the purpose of the conscience? How does it function? Can it be wrong? In this sermon on Romans 9:1–3 titled “Paul’s Great Sorrow,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones dissects the phrases that Paul uses to show how his conscience testifies to the truth of Scripture. This, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, must first be considered, both the statement and the terms in which he says them. Then the reader can go on to consider the lessons and conclusions. Paul is attesting that his own conscience is a witness that what he is saying is true. Dr. Lloyd-Jones points out that a person’s conscience is independent of the person. The extent to which the conscience is saturated with Scripture determines the extent to which one can depend on their conscience. Additionally, Dr. Lloyd-Jones warns never to speak against it or condemn it on the basis of personal opinion. The conscience is enlightened by the Holy Spirit in the Christian and it is used by the Holy Spirit to convict. Paul then says how grieved he is over the Jews and their condition, wishing he himself could take their place. Dr. Lloyd-Jones begins to ask why Paul is making these types of statements and states that Paul is doing this because he is eager to clear the charges that were against him.
Relationships and God's Purposes
There is much to learn from the apostle Paul. In this sermon on Romans 9:1–3 titled “Relationships and God’s Purposes,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones examines Paul’s attitude towards his fellow Jews, most of them who are still unbelievers. Paul does not have an attitude of anger or antipathy towards them, but rather he shows love and compassion. He mourns that they have rejected the very Messiah that their Scriptures speak of and that they remain blinded in their sin. How often does one become frustrated with those that do not believe? However, this is not how Paul responds at all. His love for Christ informs his faith and missionary zeal for his lost kinsmen. He is motivated not towards anger, but rather to love and evangelism towards his fellow Jewish brethren. Often times, intellectualism in the church gets in the way of evangelism, but this is not the case with the apostle Paul. Though he was well-educated and brilliant, this did not hinder him from being concerned with the souls of the lost, nor did it make him arrogant toward unbelievers. The church has much to learn from Paul, not only in his teaching but also his way of living. In the apostle Paul is found a heart that is truly dedicated to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Who are the Israelites?
What is the significance of the apostle Paul's use of the term 'Israelites' in Romans 9:4? Why didn't he use the term 'Jews' or 'Hebrews' instead? In this sermon on Romans 9:4–5 titled “Who are the Israelites” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the three terms which are often used to describe this people group: Jews, Hebrews, and Israelites. Each of these terms have a different meaning when used in Scripture and he details those three meanings. The term Jews is used to show the opposite of Gentile, which is the rest of the world. Hebrews describes a time in Jewish history when they spoke Hebrew. The term Israelites is the term given to God's chosen people in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Dr. Lloyd-Jones then goes on to detail two other terms of supreme importance that Paul uses in this passage. Adoption is used in a general sense, but means that God has placed this people group in a whole new position as his children. Glory means how God presented Himself to His people, proving His faithfulness to them. All Gentiles have been brought into a share of this, becoming sons and daughters of Christ through adoption.
What is a covenant? In this sermon on Romans 9:4-5 titled “God’s Covenants,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that it is vital to come to a right understanding of the nature of biblical covenants in order to understand the gospel. He says that a covenant in the Bible is not an ordinary agreement between two people, but it is first and foremost something God does. It is not a bargain between humanity and God, but it is something instituted by God. This is seen in the case of Abraham when it is God who makes the terms of the covenant and it is God who upholds the covenant. What does this mean for one’s understanding of Jesus? Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all of God’s covenantal promises and He is the one who established the new covenant on His last night with His disciples. It is this new covenant that brings salvation because it is established by Christ Jesus shedding His blood upon the cross for all who are His. Those who believe in the message of Jesus are made members of the new covenant and inheritors of eternal life and the kingdom of God, as all blessings come through Jesus Christ.
The Privileges Given to Israel
It is significant for the Christian to know how to approach God, to enter His presence, to take petitions and prayers to Him, and how to render service to the true and living God. Unlike the Gentile nations, Israel was given specific instructions on this. God had shown them special favor, despite their small number and unimpressive abilities. Moreover, God gave them promises. Through the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David), the children of Israel were children of promise. Unlike their pagan neighbors who worshipped idols, the apostle Paul says they were brought into a covenant. Why is the apostle Paul emphasizing this unique privilege of the children of Israel and what is his purpose? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones seeks to answer this question in this sermon on Romans 9:4–5 titled “Children of the Promise.” There is a tragedy in the story of the Jews, one that the Christian must acknowledge. They were a people of such hope and promise and yet they missed it all. Despite that, Christ’s coming was abundantly clear in the Scriptures, most of the Jews could not see it. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones traces the promises made to Old Testament Israel and the tragedy that followed.
Christ, who is God
Have modern critical scholars undermined the teaching about Christ’s deity? On what basis is this passage a doxology to God the Father instead of an affirmation of deity of the Son? False religions and cults seek to mislead the people of God and Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones takes up the challenge of looking closely at the arguments for the departure of modern translations from the Authorized Version. In this sermon on Romans 9:4–5 titled “Christ … Who is … God,” his main contention is that the changes reflected in the modern translations is not the result of an honest reading of the grammar, nor are they based on studying the manuscript tradition (textual criticism). Instead, it rests entirely on a general argument about what Paul does not do in his letters. Dr. Lloyd-Jones finds this most troubling and leverages not only other modern scholars, but the history of interpretation, and most importantly, other Scriptural evidence in order to show that Jesus Christ is called “God” by the apostle Paul in this verse. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones provides a fresh account of an old debate and defends Trinitarian orthodoxy in the face of modern critical scholarship.
The True Israel
Is salvation applied to everyone born of Christian parents? Does church membership automatically provide salvation? In this sermon on Romans 9:6-7 titled “The True Israel,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones draws attention to the danger of a person relying on parenting, church membership, or country of origin as their means of salvation. In the time of the Lord Jesus the Jews made a fatal assumption that because they were descendants of Abraham, they had no need of the new covenant. They based their salvation on their physical lineage. Dr. Lloyd-Jones teaches that the apostle Paul is clarifying God’s purposes and promises to the true Israel, that is those who belong to God through Jesus Christ. While all Israelites belonged to the physical and general Israel, not all those of Israel are true Israel. A distinction was made by God. In much the same way, we who are in the new covenant age must take heed that we are not making the same error, specifically as it applies to church membership. We must not presume that our membership or participation in church activities make us Christian. Not all who belong to the visible church belong to the spiritual, invisible Church and so we must examine ourselves and draw close to the living Lord Jesus Christ in faith and belief.
Child of the Promise
How do Christians today rightly understand the division between Isaac and Ishmael? In this sermon on Romans 9:6-9 titled “Child of the Promise,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses the promise given to Abraham to give him innumerable descendants, to make his name great, and to establish nations and kings through his line. Though Isaac and Ishmael were both sons born to Abraham making them children of his seed, through God’s sovereign plan Isaac was chosen as the one to fulfill God’s covenantal promises. It had nothing to do with Isaac himself; he was chosen even before he was born. This particular and covenantal calling of Isaac to be the child of promise reminds believers today that God’s calling is not dependent on their works and activity or on their intrinsic merit. It is entirely God’s production and according to His sovereign plan and purpose. It is God’s choice and calling that matter.
The Case of Jacob and Esau
Although everyone is under God's sovereign control, His special purpose and promises are only for His children, those who are born of the Spirit. As Paul argues this case in Romans 9:10–13, he gives examples in the Old Testament including that of Isaac and Ishmael. Because Paul understands that there may be some arguments or disputes against this example, he then goes on to give the example of Esau and Jacob. In this sermon on Romans 9:10–13 titled “God’s Purpose Made Sure,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that Paul always refutes any arguments with facts first, and later provides doctrine to prove his point. The example of Esau and Jacob proves that God intervened in their situation because Rebecca was barren. Before the twins were even born, God said that he would choose Jacob to fulfill his promise and not Esau. This shows that the Lord draws distinctions among people, proving the doctrine of election. God did this because it was part of his holy plan. God’s purpose is always worked out by means of election. Dr. Lloyd-Jones reminds that God’s plan is never based on works and it is all through those whom he calls. Therefore, only those who are born of the Spirit are truly part of God’s plan.
God's New Humanity
What does the apostle Paul mean when he speaks of God electing people? There are few questions more controversial than this one. In this sermon on Romans 9:10–13 titled “God’s New Humanity,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones seeks to answer this particularly important question. He notes that throughout Scripture God chooses men and women to serve and follow Him. The great apostle Paul argues in this passage that salvation comes because God chooses to save sinners and to make them part of the body of Christ. This divine decision is not based on anything that they do nor is it based on any merit in them, but it is wholly a result of God’s great love. The decision does not mean that God simply renovates fallen sinners in Adam, but He elects them into the body of Christ as children and heirs. While there is no doubt that this is a controversial and debated passage, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones exhorts the listener to not flee from difficult passages in Scripture, but to use their God-gifted mind to seek to understand His Word. This doctrine ought to lead the Christian to look not to themselves, but to look to God who saves them because He is just and righteous and not because of anything in themselves.
A Right Approach to Election
Does God really choose who to save? How should one respond after hearing the truth about the doctrine of election? For some, this is the hardest concept to grasp in all of theology. In this sermon on Romans 9:14 titled “A Right Approach,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains Paul’s exclamation by first stating that one should never try to manipulate the Scripture of God to make it fit what they want it to say. He then goes on to outline several viewpoints of how people might respond after hearing the true teaching of election and salvation. In the second part of this message, Dr. Lloyd-Jones asks how someone should respond. First, they should be thankful that the apostle Paul never skirts around the issue. Just because something is difficult to grasp does not give permission to dismiss it from Scripture. One should always be careful of the inner spirit when dealing with this issue. One should never approach it with a bipartisan attitude or by debating it. Finally, one should always acknowledge that the Scripture is the word of God and the Christian must submit themselves to the whole of it even when they do not understand. Election is how God carries out his perfect plan and they should know that not all things are meant for human understanding.
What is the great mystery of salvation? According to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in this sermon on Romans 9:14–18 titled “God’s Mercy,” it is not why every sinner is not saved, but why any are saved. This is because as the apostle Paul says, God does not have to give mercy to anyone but He chooses to because He is a gracious God. There is no doubt that this is a hard teaching to grasp; this is seen in the fact that many wise and godly Christians have rejected it. Yet God’s word is clear that from start to finish, salvation is a free and gracious gift from God. For if God had to give salvation to everyone, how would it be all of grace? As the Scripture teaches, God gives mercy to whom He wills to give mercy and He hardens whom He wills to harden. This truth is seen in the Lord Jesus’s parable of the workers in the vineyard. Here it is seen that God is not obligated to give mercy to all, yet He chooses to give some in order that His name might glorified. What should be one’s response to this teaching? This great doctrine should cause the Christian to forsake all hope in themselves and look to Jesus who alone can save.
Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart
Does God purposefully harden people’s hearts? This statement causes great offense. In this sermon on Romans 9:17–18 titled “Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the meaning behind Paul’s statements and the conclusions that can be drawn from it. Paul says that God raised up Pharaoh into this situation for His specific purposes and then God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God did this so that he could display His power through Pharaoh. Dr. Lloyd-Jones reminds that when one comes across a difficult passage, they should compare it with other similar passages. He then gives several examples in the Old and New Testaments that show God hardening people’s hearts. So how does God do this? Several factors that result in a hardening of the heart include God removing his restraining influence, by showing His mercy, by initiating desires that were already in a person, and by using Satan. God never creates sin or causes an evil position of the heart; He only aggravates what is already inside of a person. In this passage of Romans, Paul speaks of how God used Pharaoh to create the result of his plan. In this, Pharaoh chose to harden his own heart in addition to God also hardening his heart.
Who Art Thou O Man?
Who is responsible for a hard heart? Is it something one does or something God does to them? In this sermon on Romans 9:18–24 titled “Who Art Thou, O Man?” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones introduces the challenging subject of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s responsibility. Scripture speaks of God’s sovereign choice first of the nation of Israel and then of individuals within that nation such as Jacob over Esau. Yet a person’s decision to reject God is also seen. How can God allow such rebellion to exist? Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains that in many cases, it is so that God’s power may be seen in how He handles evil. Yet some may ask, how can God find fault with people since He is sovereign? The question is valid since even Paul incorporates it in this passage, yet before it can be addressed, Dr. Lloyd-Jones encourages examination of motive so that one does not question God from a place of arrogance or indignation. A person’s spirit must be contrite, knowing that their understanding is limited. He encourages careful consideration of who one is and to follow the pathway of Moses before he walked on holy ground or of Isaiah who cautiously and humbly responded to God’s glory.
Holy God; Fallen Man
Who is really in charge? Is a person free to do whatever they want? Is God really guiding everything to happen the way He wants? How can one understand the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humanity? Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones sheds some much needed light on this difficult subject as he preaches this sermon on Romans 9:19–24 titled “Holy God, Fallen Man.” The apostle Paul warns creation not to fight against the one who has both the authority and ability to exercise His power. In the same way that a potter has the right over the clay, God has the right to do what He desires. He alone decides what to make from the same raw materials, each person for a different purpose. Just as He chose to make both Jacob and Esau, He also chose to love Jacob and hate Esau. However, as Dr. Lloyd-Jones explains, God never created anything evil nor forces anyone to sin, as he quotes from James 1. But because of Adam’s choice to sin, human nature is fallen and sin is an instinct. So who then is responsible for salvation? The world offers hopeless, fatalistic answers that are contingent on heritage, context, and childhood experiences. While God is responsible for salvation, people remain responsible for their damnation. God offers hope since He sets His claim on His people and gives them His mercy in salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the sin payment.
Why does God allow evil to exist? Many see the presence and reality of evil as something God should extinguish. In this sermon on Roman 9:19–24 titled “God’s Wrath,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says that what fails to be seen is that evil is not an external force acting upon humanity, but an internal reality within people. To extinguish evil would be to extinguish humanity. The holiness of God will not tolerate anything sinful in His presence and His wrath is completely justified to protect His glory. That protection should immediately send every sinner to hell; however, it is God’s grace and mercy that restrains His wrath. As seen in the example of Pharaoh, God endures sinners for a time so that His kindness may be on display and people brought to salvation (Romans 2:4). However, His kindness is not to be abused and His patience and longsuffering are not to be ignored. Though for a time He may endure sinners as Christ did with Judas, that patience did not save him and it only prolonged the time until his punishment. That is the lesson of the Old Testament – that God waits, longing for people to repent. However He will not delay punishment forever and when it does arrive, it will be without recourse. The lesson to humanity today is to repent while there is time and while the longsuffering of God endures their sin. Be reconciled to God today and embrace the forgiveness only available through Jesus Christ.
God's Glory Revealed (1)
God has every right to immediately and eternally punish sin. Humanity has been warned for centuries to turn from sin and submit to Christ. While God restrains His wrath, He will not allow His voice to be ignored forever. In this sermon on Roman 9:19–24 titled “God’s Glory Revealed (1),” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones lays out a four-fold case to explain God’s patience with sinful people. That case includes (1) the compassion of God that does not take pleasure in punishment; (2) the fact that humanity is utterly inexcusable because of the opportunities God has given; (3) the reality that when God’s wrath is revealed, it will be all the more striking; and (4) the patience and wrath of God reveal His character in ways nothing else can. The wrath of God protects His holiness, but it was His wrath that was poured out on Jesus Christ when He took humanity’s punishment for sin. That gift of salvation makes known the riches of His glory and is the most magnificent thing God does. Even the miracle of creation pales in comparison to the miracle of salvation. The fact that God would even choose to associate with humanity is staggering to Dr. Lloyd-Jones as he explains how the entire Trinity is involved in the salvation plan: it is the Father’s will to save, the Son who was executed and rose from the grave, and the Spirit who seals salvation and continues to apply the work of sanctification to the Christian’s life. This is the work God delights to do, yet it is also the work from which humanity runs. Today is the day of salvation, to stop running from God and turn to Him in humble confession of sin, believing in the finished work of Jesus Christ.
God's Glory Revealed (2)
Romans 9:19–24 can sometimes be troubling to Christians. Paul’s talk of predestination, election, and God’s wrath against sinners can plunge them into discussions that challenge their intellect and instincts of the justice of God. Perhaps lost in the rigors of grappling with such important matters is the doxology which deep theology elicits in the apostle Paul –– “the riches of His glory.” In this sermon on Romans 9:19–24 titled “God’s Glory Revealed (2),” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones teaches that the glory of God is on display and shares how the Bible reveals its many aspects. While God’s glory is primarily revealed in the person of Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit, it is often forgotten how according to Paul, the riches of God’s glory is also seen in His children. The Christian should ask themselves if they are captivated by the wonder of God’s preparing beforehand vessels of His mercy and if they find satisfaction that results in praise when reflecting upon God’s sovereign choosing and calling of sinners. They also can challenge themselves to the adoration of the riches of God’s glory like the apostle Paul. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones helps focus the listener’s attention on the awesome majesty of salvation that is revealed in Scripture.
Jew and Gentile
The Old Testament Scriptures testify that salvation is for Jews as well as the Gentiles. Surprisingly, many Jews needed to be convinced of this in the first century. In this sermon on Romans 9:25–26 titled “Jew and Gentile,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones calls attention to the apostle Paul’s method. He builds his case using reason, logic, and Scripture. It is clear, says Dr. Lloyd-Jones, that Paul is trying to be winsome and persuasive towards his fellow Jews. Nevertheless, the great apostle refutes the idea that it is by physical birth or lineage that one can be called a child of the living God. Paul turns to the Scriptures to show how no one should be surprised at this. Dr. Lloyd-Jones engages the issue of Paul’s citation of Hosea. He combats skeptics of the doctrine of inspiration who question the legitimacy of Paul’s application of Hosea to the Gentiles. As Paul is led by the Holy Spirit to write Scripture himself, he states the same essential truth in a slightly different form than Hosea does. However, since it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired both, Christians can have confidence Paul is applying Scripture appropriately. Listen as Dr. Lloyd-Jones helps the listener understand how the apostle Paul correctly handles Holy Scripture in this passage.