A LONANG Commentary on Romans

by Gerald R. Thompson*


In this commentary, I’m not trying to duplicate what other commentaries on Romans have said from a theological perspective. In fact, I generally make no claim to be a theologian, nor that my writings consist of theology. I am a lawyer, and I write as a lawyer. When I examine and interpret the scriptures, I use a legal analytical style and a legal method of interpretation. In other words, I use the same hermeneutic to interpret both legal documents and scripture. It is my hope that such an analytical style will lead to some insights about scripture that might not otherwise be apparent.

I am also trying to avoid presupposing how a text should be understood before reading it to see what it might actually mean. When I examine the scriptures, what I seek is truth with as little bias as possible – not conformity to anyone else’s beliefs or understanding. I want the words of the scripture to speak to me, and for my mind to be unclouded by the thoughts of others so that I might listen. I may make mistakes, and trust me I’ve changed my mind about more than a few things over the years, but in the end my opinions are my own as the Spirit has led me, and not as others have been led.

My intent is to explore Romans in view of the laws of nature and of nature’s God. The law of nature simply being the will of God impressed upon the creation when it was made, being eternally existent and part of the nature of the world (and universe) so long as it exists. This will of God is part of the so-called General Revelation of God, being non-verbal in nature, but particularly focusing on that aspect of the creation that reveals rules, or laws, of human behavior, the consequences of violating such laws, and the nature of God and His kingdom government. These laws of nature are fixed, uniform and universal. That is, such laws apply for all time, to all people, everywhere in the universe. The laws of nature are unchangeable and eternal.

Whereas the laws of nature’s God is part of what some people call Special Revelation, that is, the verbal revelation of God as written in the scriptures of the Holy Bible. But again focusing on the verbal rules, or laws, of human behavior, the consequences of violating such laws, and the nature of God and His kingdom government. Now it is true that some of the laws revealed in scripture are not universal, namely, the laws given to Moses for the nation of Israel, or the Jews (I use Israel and Jews interchangeably). It is important to note, on the one hand, that the Mosaic laws never did, do not now, and never will, apply to Gentiles (non-Jews) as a matter of binding covenant. They may, and in some instances do, reflect the law of nature and so are compatible with the law of nature generally, and are often useful in illustrating the law of nature even though part of the Jewish law.

On the other hand, not all of the Old Testament laws and covenants are peculiar to the Jews. The Adamic and Noahic covenants and laws, for example, are of tremendous importance. For they, like the laws of nature, apply for all time, to all people, everywhere in the universe, binding Jews and Gentiles to the same degree. They are also unchangeable and eternal, reflecting the nature of the God who gave them. For that matter, we should note that even the peculiar laws of Israel are unchangeable and eternal – they have not expired, terminated, or been modified by Christ, nor have any of the O.T. covenants been subsumed, merged, or incorporated into the New Testament Church covenant. But more on this as we journey through Romans.

Together, the laws of nature and the laws of nature’s God comprise the entirety of God’s laws – there are no laws of God apart from these. A consideration of these laws of God will entirely guide my examination of Romans.

This is appropriate because it is evident from scripture that GOD IS LAW. The world was created with a fixed legal order, such that before there was sin, there was law. Paul himself will tell us in Romans that if there had not been any law, then there would not have been any sin. Which also means that before there was grace, redemption, or a gospel, there was law. In fact, both redemption and the gospel are upheld by law – the law and the gospel in truth not being opposed to each other as some suppose. Without the laws of oaths and promise-keeping, God’s promise to give us eternal life after we die to this mortal life would mean nothing.

In fact, both the scriptures and God’s ultimate plan for humanity affirm the necessity and value of God’s laws. Jesus came to keep the laws of God, not abolish, modify or excuse them. When redemption is complete, sin is no more, and eternity sets in, there will still be God’s laws. Thus, lawkeeping is as important to God in the Church Age as it ever was. See, Ps.19:7-11; Ps. 119:1-8, Mt 5:17-19, 1 Jn 2:3, 1 Jn 3:23-24, 1 Jn 5:2-3, and 2 Jn 4-6.

Romans is particularly suited to a lonang (laws of nature and nature’s God) analysis because Paul continually compares and contrasts the situation with respect to the Jews, who are the oracles of scripture (i.e., the laws of nature’s God), and the Gentiles who, up until the writing of the New Testament, had not been given the verbal laws of God. Gentiles were governed only by the laws common to all people (the laws of nature) and the common covenants with Adam and Noah, of which the Gentiles were largely ignorant because they did not have the scriptures.

So every time Paul compares the Jews and Gentiles, he is comparing and contrasting the law of nature’s God (scripture) with the law of nature, or as he alludes to it in Rom. 10:18, the voice of creation. This does not mean the Jews are (or were) in any way excluded from the law of nature, but because they additionally had the scriptures, their situation was sometimes different from the Gentiles, since they were under legal obligations imposed by the Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants that the Gentiles were not subject to. Of these, of course the Mosaic covenant was of primary concern, because by it the Jews were under “the law,” being the Mosaic laws.

This is a continuing theme that is repeated throughout Romans. I think you will see as we go through Romans, if you are open to it, that God’s laws were very much on the mind of the apostle Paul.

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*     Copyright © 2024 Gerald R. Thompson. All rights reserved. Used by permission. All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version except where noted.