Key Concepts in Romans

There are some key words Paul uses in explaining salvation that can, and often do have different meaning. The difference in meaning is usually determined by two factors: how the word is used in the Greek language (which is not conveyed in modern languages), the context of the passage or both. Therefore, before studying the book of Romans it is good to bear the various meanings of key words in mind. Over the next two or three days I will be sharing with you some of the meanings of the key words in Romans.

Righteousness (taken from the Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology)

  • The Righteousness of God – God, is righteous in that he speaks and acts in accordance with the purity of his own holy nature.
  • God’s righteousness is, for Paul, God’s saving activity in and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, his Son. It is activity that is directly in line with the saving activity of God in the Old Testament. The acceptance of the unique saving deed of God at Calvary by faith in the person of Jesus Christ is that which God has ordained to be the means for sinners (the unrighteous and the disobedient ones) to enter into the right (relationship) with God.

God’s people are righteous when they are in a right relation with him, when they enjoy his salvation; they are considered by God, as the Judge of the world, as righteous when they are being and doing what he requires in his covenant. So it may be said that the concept of righteousness in Paul belongs more to salvation than mere morality, even though it has distinct moral implications. God as the Judge justifies believing sinners by declaring them righteous in and through Jesus Christ; then he expects and enables these sinners to become righteous in word and deed. Faith works by love.

From the human standpoint what God looks for in those who receive the gospel is “faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Gal 2:20 ). God’s gift to those who believe is a righteousness that exists and can be given only because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners and his resurrection from the dead as the vindicated Lord of all.


(a) Loyalty. Faith is the enduring fidelity.

(b) Faith means belief. It means the conviction that something is true. 

(c) Faith sometimes means the Christian Religion (The Faith). 

(d) Faith is sometimes practically equivalent to indestructible hope. “

(e) But, in its most characteristic Pauline use, faith means total acceptance and absolute trust. It means being utterly sure that what Jesus said is true, and staking all time and eternity on that assurance

Uses of flesh in Paul

  1. Bodily flesh
  2. Natural human descent
  3. Mankind
  4. Human nature (weak) both physically and sinful

Uses of spirit in Paul

  1. The spiritual aspect of man – the God conscious element
  2. The Holy Spirit
    1. He imparts life
    2. He bestows freedom
    3. He imparts directive power
    4. He intercedes for us
    5. He sanctifies the believer
    6. He is the pledge of coming glory

The gift of the Spirit is thus presented in terms of ‘proleptic eschatology’. He is the ‘first fruits’ of the final salvation (8:23), the immediate ‘down-payment’ of that inconceivably rich heritage which God has prepared for those who love him.

Uses of Law in Paul

The term ‘law’ (nomos) occurs over seventy times in this letter, not always in the same sense. Most often it means the law of God in one form or another, but there are some places where it means something else. From least frequent to most frequent.

  1. Law in general
  2. Law as principle or as an observed regularity, habit
  3. Law as the Pentateuch
  4. The Old Testament in its entirety
  5. The Decalogue

Just, Justified, Justification

We must be quite clear that the word justify, used in this sense, has a different meaning from its ordinary English meaning. If we justify ourselves, we produce reasons to prove that we were right; if someone justifies us, he produces reasons to prove that we acted in the right way. But all verbs in Greek which end in “oo” do not mean to prove or to make a person or thing to be something; they always mean to treat, or account or reckon a person as something. If God justifies a sinner, it does not mean that he finds reasons to prove that he was right–far from it. It does not even mean, at this point, that he makes the sinner a good man. It means that God treats the sinner as if he had not been a sinner at all. Instead of treating him as a criminal to be obliterated, God treats him as a child to be loved. That is what justification means. It means that God reckons us not as his enemies but as his friends, not as bad men deserve, but as good men deserve, not as law-breakers to be punished, but as men and women to be loved. That is the very essence of the gospel.

Justification is the right relationship between God and man. The man who is just  is the man who is in this right relationship, and–here is the supreme point–he is in it not because of anything that he has done, but because of what God has done. He is in this right relationship not because he has meticulously performed the works of the law, but because in utter faith he has cast himself on the amazing mercy and love of God.  Barclay


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