For example, can you tell me how many times Paul has said the words “as it is written” thus far in Romans? There is the kind of statement which is actually quite important, but which we skip right over, as we get into what was actually being quoted. There it is again in verse 10, but last week I pointed out that it’s also found in verse 4. Furthermore we’ve read it once in each of the first two chapters as well. When I saw it again, it pricked my curiosity, so I plunged into my computer Bible program. Paul wrote those words sixteen times in this book, with at least another 3 verses where he doesn’t exactly use the same formula. I just about guarantee that there are other quotations in this book which we won’t actually find until we slowly pass through it. Then we find him doing the same thing again and again in all of his epistles.
I thought, just for the fun of it, it might interesting to group all the “as it is written’s” of the Book of Romans into one message. It accomplishes several good things, and I hope that you’ll agree.
For example, it reminds us of the obvious – Paul knew the Word of God.
Of course, he had an “advantage” over us – his Bible was 40% smaller than ours. I’m just being facetious. Because he had a much more difficult time than us, because his Bible was written in either Greek or Hebrew. I’m sure glad that I don’t have to read the Bible in Hebrew.
And that brings to our attention something to always remember. Most of Paul’s Old Testament quotations come from the Greek translation which was available in his day. He could have quoted the Hebrew, because he was thoroughly educated in that language, but most of the people to whom he originally wrote and spoke, were not as familiar with Hebrew as he was. Many of his quotations sound a little different from what we have in our Bibles, because they passed through a third language before reaching us. They went from Hebrew to Greek and then into our King James Version. That in no way hinders or limits the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of the Book of Romans, but it does sometimes shed a different light on what Moses or Isaiah originally wrote. Don’t loose any sleep over those differences, because they are not contradictions within the Word of God. They are more like divine expositions of the Word of God.
Just for fun let’s have a “sword drill.” Do you remember the “sword drills” that we used to have, when we’d have a classroom contest looking for scripture verses? Let’s have an old fashioned “sword drill.” Raise your hand as soon as you find this verse, or if you have it memorized you can raise your hand immediately. Put your Bible over your heart; I want you to find Habakkuk 2:4. Go! That took several seconds, because no one had it memorized. But I want you to know that Paul knew his Bible well enough to not only find it, but he had it memorized. And I think that it’s safe to say that he knew the themes of the prophets Habakkuk, Amos and Obadiah. Why don’t we know the messages behind each of those books?
In Romans 1:17 Paul refers back to Habakkuk 2:4 when he said, “As it is written, the just shall live by faith.” And in Romans 2:24 he points back to II Samuel 12:14 saying, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” This is essentially what Nathan said to David after exposing his sins against Bathsheba and her husband. Here in Romans 3 Paul makes reference to the Book of Psalms. Verse 4 – “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” Verse 10 – “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. God looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God. Every one of them is gone back: they are altogether become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”
In Romans 4 Paul begins to talk about Abraham, and in verse 17 he quotes Genesis 17:5 – “As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations.” In Romans 8:36 he refers back to Psalm 44 – “Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression?”
The much hated passage of Romans 9:13 takes us to Malachi. 9:13 says, “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Malachi 1:2-3 says, – “I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.” Romans 9:33 says, “As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” This is a paraphrase of two passages in Isaiah – chapter 8 – “Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” And Isaiah 28 – “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Romans 10:15 makes the delightful statement – “And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! Isaiah 52:7 says – “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
Romans 11 teaches that God has temporarily replaced Israel with believers from among the Gentiles. There have been Jews saved and there will always be a few, but a wild olive branch has been graffed onto the trunk of God’s blessings. Verse 5 – “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.” This was taken from Isaiah – “Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed.” Or perhaps this was taken from Deuteronomy – “These are the words of the covenant, which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, beside the covenant which he made with them in Horeb. And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto Pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land; The great temptations which thine eyes have seen, the signs, and those great miracles: Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.”
Toward the end of Romans 11 Paul shows that Israel will be reestablished as God’s chosen nation. “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” And Paul got this idea from Isaiah 59 where the whole chapter deals with the salvation of Israel. Verse 19 begins – “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.” Romans 14:11 says, “For it is written, as I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” This is from Isaiah 45 – “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”
Romans 15:3 says, “For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.” This is taken from one of the Christological Psalms, Psalm 69 – “Because for thy sake I have borne reproach; shame hath covered my face. I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children. For the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached thee are fallen upon me.” With verse 9 in Romans 15 Paul strings together references to various Psalms and also to Deuteronomy and Isaiah. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name. And again he saith, Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his people. And again, Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people. And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.” And then there is one more Old Testament quote in Romans 15:21 which is taken from Isaiah 52. “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.”
Now you may be wondering why I have taken time to make this brief study tonight.
You may be thinking that I couldn’t come up with a message for this evening, so I went with this instead. But this is the message. Not only did I want you to realize that Paul was not preaching a new gospel. I wanted to remind you that Paul was thoroughly familiar with the Word of God. I made a quick and incomplete survey of the rest of Paul’s writings and came up with another dozen and a half references to the Old Testament. Some of those other references are to books like Jeremiah and Exodus. Paul knew his Bible, and I want to remind you of that fact
But he also makes a statement in Romans 15 which flies right back into our laps. Turn to Romans 15:1-4 – “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Notice the lesson of this last verse – The Word of God, whether Old Testament or New, was not written for our entertainment. It was inspired by the Holy Spirit, penned by holy men of God and preserved by the grace of God for our spiritual instruction – for our benefit – for our improvement. We ought to know the Bible as well as Paul did. We need to know what the Lord has revealed to us, because it has genuine value. We need to be able to apply scripture to scripture, verse to verse, revelation to revelation.
I have no doubt that if the Lord so leads us, we will consider Romans 15:4 more diligently at a later time, but at this point I think that we can see that Paul meant what he said, and that he apparently applied what he said to himself first of all. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”