In this lesson, we consider three short passages in Paul’s letter to the Romans which relate to the theme God’s living way. We will introduce each passage at an appropriate point in the lesson.
In our first key passage, Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah:
“They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt,
There is none who does good, no, not one...
Their feet run to shed blood.
Destruction and misery are in their paths.
The way of peace they have not known,
There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Quotes from Psalm 14:1,3, Isaiah 59:7-8, Psalm 36:1.
Paul could have added many other passages but he leaves that to us. Here are three examples...
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
“Thus says the Lord: stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the ancient paths where is the good way, and walk in it; then you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it' ” (Jeremiah 6:16).
“Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it; because narrow is the gate, and difficult is the way, that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
There are times when communities, Christian congregations, and nations, will turn aside from God’s living way and not one person among them will stay on the true path. This happens because people make the foolish choice to abandon the right ways of the Lord, to turn aside and go with the crowd down a crooked path.
We call this “transgression” or “digression”. God’s true path is always there; but we have to choose to walk in it rather than in the path of ignorance and evil. We may have to do this even when nobody else will.
Are you choosing God’s living way, or are you refusing to walk in it, and choosing your own way instead? You determine that for yourself. God has determined that if you choose his way, you will end up in eternal life.
We now come to our next key passage. Notice carefully what Paul says and compare it with something else he said, and that Jesus said that we have already quoted:
“For whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...” (Romans 8:29)
PAUL— “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity, but toward you, goodness, if you continue in God’s goodness, otherwise you also will be cut off ” (Romans 11:22).
JESUS— “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction. There are many who enter through the wide gate; for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Those who walk the road to life are predestined, and these predestined are few. Let's ask some questions.
The first question we ask is, who is the "whom" in Paul’s statement? There is nothing to suggest that the number of those who belong to that "whom" is a predetermined number exactly set which cannot be increased or decreased. Nor is there anything to suggest that the number is few because God decreed that it must be few (Romans 3:23-24, Romans 5:18, 2Peter 3:9).
The "whom" is simply God’s church or family of faith. God foreknew that he would have that church, but he did not limit the number of its members. It is your choice whether you belong to it. You decide whether you are named among that "whom" or not. God decided what your destiny would be, if you made the right choice.
Paul’s point is that God’s living way is predetermined in the foreknowledge and eternal purpose of God. Predestination simply means that God has prepared one way to life eternal. That does not stop you or anyone else saying, "I will not walk in it". But if you or anyone else will walk in it, and keep walking in it, you and they are certainly predestined to eternal life (Revelation 22:17).
Why does Jesus say that "few" find God’s living way (Matthew 7:14)? It's not because God himself predetermined who would find his way, and only chose a few! Few people are predestined to life because few have sought and chosen to walk the difficult way which God predetermined would lead to life. Paul shows us that God predetermined the path; he did not predetermine the persons who would walk it. So it isn't God’s will or fault that there are few who seek and find the path. It is God’s sorrow.
Think about this question: suppose you choose to walk in God’s living way, and for a while you do so. But then you decide to leave that way, and walk again according to the way which leads to death. What is your destiny then?
The question may be asked in these terms: Once saved, are you always saved —even though you repudiate Christ and his way? Or you could ask, "If I leave the path, will I still reach the destination at the end of the path?"
Here we introduce the final key passage (Romans 12:1-2). Starting from there, the rest of Romans (30% of the letter) consists not of "theology" but of instructions about how to live the Christian way.
¶ “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by renewal of your mind, proving the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
“Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer...” (Romans 12:11).
Imagine somebody says to Paul, "I won't submit to God. I will turn my back on Christ. What you tell me in the last six pages of your letter, I refuse to do. I will present my body as an instrument of sin. I will conform myself to the world once more. I will disobey the perfect will of God. I will spit in the face of God’s Son. Nevertheless, I still demand all the blessings promised in the first sixteen pages of your letter."
How does Paul answer that case? As we saw before, Paul is quite blunt: Consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity, but toward you, goodness, if you continue in God’s goodness, otherwise you also will be cut off ” (Romans 11:22).
What Paul urges upon you, and makes conditional for your salvation, is "obedience to the faith" (Romans 1:5, Romans 16:25-27)