Unit 20, Day 3: Romans 1–3

New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, 2015


Introduction

The Apostle Paul wrote an epistle, or letter, to the Saints in Rome. In it he proclaimed that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation. He explained that because all people sin, none can be saved by their own works. They must be saved by the grace of God made available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

The following list may help you understand some of the words Paul uses in his epistles (letters):

Gospel: “God’s plan of salvation, made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The gospel includes the eternal truths or laws, covenants, and ordinances needed for mankind to enter back into the presence of God” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Gospel,” scriptures.lds.org).

Salvation: “To be saved from both physical and spiritual death” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Salvation,” scriptures.lds.org).

Justification: “To be pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless. A person is justified by the Savior’s grace through faith in Him. This faith is shown by repentance and obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Jesus Christ’s Atonement enables mankind to repent and be justified or pardoned from punishment they otherwise would receive” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Justification, Justify,” scriptures.lds.org).

Faith: “As most often used in the scriptures, faith is confidence and trust in Jesus Christ that lead a person to obey Him. Faith must be centered in Jesus Christ in order for it to lead a person to salvation” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Faith,” scriptures.lds.org).

Propitiation: Restitution (to restore or make right); atonement (“As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for an act of sin, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of making a perfect atonement for all mankind” [Guide to the Scriptures, “Atone, Atonement,” scriptures.lds.org].)

Grace: “The enabling power from God that allows men and women to obtain blessings in this life and to gain eternal life and exaltation after they have exercised faith, repented, and given their best effort to keep the commandments. Such divine help or strength is given through the mercy and love of God. Every mortal person needs divine grace because of Adam’s Fall and also because of man’s weaknesses” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Grace,” scriptures.lds.org).

Works: “A person’s actions, whether good or bad. Each person will be judged by his own works” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Works,” scriptures.lds.org).

Law: “The commandments or rules of God upon which all blessings and punishments are based both in heaven and on earth. Those who obey the laws of God receive the promised blessings. …

“The law of Moses [or simply ‘the law,’ as used by Paul] was a preparatory law to bring men and women to Christ” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Law,” scriptures.lds.org).

Romans 1:1–17

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation

Elder Larry Echo Hawk of the Seventy shared an experience he had as a young man after enlisting in the United States Marine Corps:

Elder Larry Echo Hawk

“I met my drill instructor, a battle-hardened veteran, when he kicked open the door to the barracks and entered while screaming words laced with profanity.

“After this terrifying introduction, he started at one end of the barracks and confronted each recruit with questions. Without exception, the drill instructor methodically found something about each recruit to ridicule with loud, vulgar language. Down the row he came, with each marine shouting back his answer as commanded: ‘Yes’ or ‘No, Sergeant Instructor.’ I could not see exactly what he was doing, because we had been ordered to stand at attention with our eyes looking straight ahead. When it was my turn, I could tell he grabbed my duffel bag and emptied the contents onto my mattress behind me. He looked through my belongings, then walked back to face me. I braced myself for his attack. In his hand was my Book of Mormon” (“Come unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 32).

  1. journal icon1.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      How would you feel if you were in Elder Echo Hawk’s situation?

    2. b.

      What do you think the drill instructor was going to do?

    3. c.

      Have you ever been in a situation when you worried that your beliefs would be ridiculed? If so, what were the circumstances?

As you study Romans 1, look for truths that can help you when you face ridicule or persecution for your beliefs and standards.

The book of Romans is an epistle, or letter, that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Saints in Rome near the end of his missionary journeys. He wrote it to prepare them for his arrival, to clarify and defend his teachings, and to promote unity between Jewish and Gentile members of the Church. Rome—the capital city of the Roman Empire—was filled with worldly philosophies and would have been a difficult place to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Romans 1:1–14 we read how Paul began his epistle by testifying of Jesus Christ and expressing his hope and desire to visit the Saints in Rome.

Read Romans 1:15–17, looking for what Paul taught the Roman Saints about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These verses teach the following truth: The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation to all who exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Consider marking the phrases that teach this truth in Romans 1:15–17.

The gospel teaches us how we can be saved from both physical and spiritual death and return to the presence of God. We must exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive the blessings of salvation because He provided the Atonement, which makes salvation possible.

“For Paul, faith [and believing] in Jesus Christ was not just mental agreement with the idea that Jesus is the Son of God, but wholehearted acceptance of Jesus Christ and trust in Him as the One who offered Himself in Atonement for our sins. This deep trust leads to a life of faithfulness, manifested by repenting of sins, being baptized, and trying to live as Jesus Christ taught (see Acts 16:30–33; Romans 6:1–11; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11). ‘Faith in Jesus Christ … is manifested in a life of obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel and service to Christ’ (Guide to the Scriptures, “Salvation”; scriptures.lds.org)” (New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 334).

One principle we can identify from Romans 1:16 is that as we gain a testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ has power to save each of us, then we will not be ashamed to share it with others.

  1. journal icon2.

    Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think gaining a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ can help us have the courage we need to share it with others?

Read more of Elder Echo Hawk’s experience with the drill sergeant:

“I expected that he would yell at me; instead, he moved close to me and whispered, ‘Are you a Mormon?’

“As commanded, I yelled, ‘Yes, Sergeant Instructor.’

“Again I expected the worst. Instead, he paused and raised his hand that held my Book of Mormon and in a very quiet voice said, ‘Do you believe in this book?’

“Again I shouted, ‘Yes, Sergeant Instructor.’

“At this point I was sure he would scream disparaging words about Mormons and the Book of Mormon, but he just stood there in silence. After a moment he walked back to my bunk and carefully laid down my Book of Mormon. He then proceeded to walk by me without stopping and went on to ridicule and disparage with profane language all remaining recruits” (“Come Unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” 32).

Think about how Elder Echo Hawk’s response is a good example of the principle taught in Romans 1:16.

Elder Larry Echo Hawk

Read the remainder of Elder Echo Hawk’s statement: “I have often wondered why that tough Marine Corps sergeant spared me that day. But I am grateful I was able to say without hesitation, ‘Yes, I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ and ‘Yes, I know the Book of Mormon is true.’ This testimony is a precious gift given to me through the Holy Ghost” (“Come Unto Me, O Ye House of Israel,” 32).

  1. journal icon3.

    Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:

    1. a.

      When have you or someone you know demonstrated courage and not been ashamed to share the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    2. b.

      What is your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

    3. c.

      What are some ways you are strengthening your testimony of the gospel? What more can you do to make your testimony stronger? Write down a goal that you can work on this week that will help strengthen your testimony.

Romans 1:18–3:23

All mankind sin and fall short of the glory of God

During the time of Paul, some Gentile Christians sought to excuse immoral or sinful behavior by emphasizing God’s mercy and ignoring His perfect justice. In addition, some Jewish Christians still believed that observance of the law of Moses was necessary for salvation. The Apostle Paul sought to correct both of these misconceptions.

Read Romans 1:22–31, looking for sins the Gentiles were committing.

In Romans 1:25, what do you think it means to worship and serve “the creature more than the Creator”? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Phrases such as “change the natural use into that which is against nature” in Romans 1:26 and “leaving the natural use of the woman” in Romans 1:27 refer to lesbian and homosexual behavior. To better understand the Church’s position on lesbian and homosexual behavior, read the following statements:

“Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 36).

“Homosexual activity … is contrary to the purposes of human sexuality (see Romans 1:24–32). It distorts loving relationships and prevents people from receiving the blessings that can be found in family life and the saving ordinances of the gospel” (True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference [2004], 30).

“The Church’s doctrinal position is clear: Sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married. However, that should never be used as justification for unkindness. Jesus Christ, whom we follow, was clear in His condemnation of sexual immorality, but never cruel. His interest was always to lift the individual, never to tear down. …

“The Church distinguishes between same-sex attraction and behavior. While maintaining that feelings and inclinations toward the same sex are not inherently sinful, engaging in homosexual behavior is in conflict with the ‘doctrinal principle, based on sacred scripture … that marriage between a man and a woman is essential to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children’ [‘First Presidency Statement on Same-Gender Marriage’]” (“Same-Sex Attraction,” topics.lds.org).

Why is it important for us to understand the teachings of the Lord’s prophets and apostles concerning lesbian and homosexual behavior? ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In Romans 2:1–3:8 Paul taught that all people will be judged according to their works and he showed that the Jews’ unrighteousness came from them living the law of Moses outwardly but not inwardly.

Read Romans 3:9–12, 23, looking for who Paul said is affected by sin.

Consider marking in verse 23 what effect our sins have upon us.

A truth that these verses teach is that all accountable people sin and are in need of God’s forgiveness. How does this truth help us better understand why we need Jesus Christ? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As you continue studying Romans 3, look for truths Paul taught that offer us hope from our sinful state.

Romans 3:24–31

All mankind may be justified through faithful acceptance of Christ’s Atonement

After explaining that we all commit sin and thus stand condemned before God because He cannot accept sin, in Romans 3:24–31 the Apostle Paul taught how that condition can be overcome through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. To understand these verses, you need to understand the meaning of the following words: justified means pardoned from punishment for sin and declared guiltless, grace is the divine means of help or strength given through God’s mercy and love, and propitiation means atonement.

Read Romans 3:24–26, substituting the definitions given above. You may want to mark in Romans 3:24 how we are justified, or declared worthy to be in God’s presence.

The Joseph Smith Translation of Romans 3:24 changes the word freely to only (see Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 3:24 [in Romans 3:24, footnote a]). Even though our good works help demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot earn or merit salvation by those works because, as Paul taught in Romans 3:23, we all have sinned and, therefore, fall short of salvation. It is only by God’s grace—His divine strength and enabling power—that we are saved.

Notice in Romans 3:25–26 that those who believe and have faith in Jesus Christ are justified by God’s grace. Remember that the words belief and faith mean wholehearted acceptance of Jesus Christ that leads one to become a member of His Church with a willingness to keep His commandments and be obedient to the ordinances of the gospel. From these verses we can learn the following principle: Through faithful acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all mankind may be justified and receive salvation.

Ponder your need for a Savior, Jesus Christ, in order to receive salvation. Write some ways you can demonstrate faithful acceptance of the Savior’s Atonement: ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Consider sharing your feelings and testimony of Jesus Christ and His Atonement with someone who might benefit from hearing about the Savior.

In Romans 3:27–31 Paul re-emphasized that both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. By turning to Jesus Christ through faith, they fulfill, or “establish the law” of Moses (Romans 3:31), which pointed to Christ.

  1. journal icon4.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied Romans 1–3 and completed this lesson on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: