I. THE POSITION OF ROMANS IN THE BIBLE
Firstly, we need to know the position of the book of Romans in the Bible. In order to know this, we need to consider the Bible as a whole.
A. The Bible—a Romance of a Universal Couple
The Bible is a romance. Have you ever heard this before? It may sound secular and unreligious. However, if you have entered into the deep thought of the Bible, you will realize that the Bible is a romance, in the most pure and the most holy sense, of a universal couple.
1. God in Christ as the Bridegroom
The male of this couple is God Himself. Although He is a divine Person, He desires to be the male of this universal couple. This very God, after a long process, has resulted in Christ as the Bridegroom.
2. God’s Redeemed People as the Bride
The female of this couple is a corporate human being; God’s redeemed people, including all the saints of the Old Testament and the New Testament. After a long process this corporate person results in the New Jerusalem as the Bride.
3. This Romance in the Old Testament
This holy romance is repeatedly revealed throughout the Old Testament.
a. The Story of a Marriage
Immediately after the record of God’s creation, we find the story of a marriage (Gen. 2:21-25). In this marriage Adam is the type of Christ as the husband, and Eve is the type of the church as the wife. In Ephesians 5 we see the couple typified by Adam and Eve - Christ and the church. The type of Adam and Eve reveals that the persons of this universal couple must be of the same source. God created one person, Adam, and out from this person a wife came. Eve was not created separately by God; she came out of Adam. In this universal couple the wife must come out of the husband. Likewise, the church must come out of Christ. This couple is the secret of the universe. The secret of the whole universe is that God and His chosen ones are to be one couple. Hallelujah! We, God’s chosen ones, and God are of one source, of one nature, and have one life. Now we also need to have one living. We are not living by ourselves or for ourselves; we are living with God and for God, and God is living with us and for us. Hallelujah!
b. God as the Husband and His People as the Wife
Several times in the Old Testament God referred to Himself as the Husband and to His people as His wife (Isa. 54:5; 62:5; Jer. 2:2; 3:1, 14; 31:32; Ezek. 16:8; 23:5; Hosea 2:7, 19). God was desirous of being a husband and of having His people as His wife. Many times the prophets spoke of God as the Husband and of His people as His wife. Humanly speaking, we always think of God in a religious way as the Almighty, feeling compelled to worship Him. But do you married brothers expect this from your wives? Suppose your wife thought of you as a big body, as a giant, approaching you adoringly, bowing herself, and kneeling down to worship you. What would you say? You would say, “Silly wife, I don’t need such a worshipper. I need a dear wife to embrace me and kiss me. If you will simply give me a little kiss, I will soar in the air.” Our God certainly is the Almighty God, and, as His creatures, we must worship Him. Many verses speak about worshipping God in this way. However, have you never read in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea that God desires to be a husband? In ancient times God’s people built the temple and established a system of worship complete with priesthood and sacrifices. One day God intervened and spoke through Isaiah saying, “I am tired of this. I am weary with your sacrifices. I want you to love Me. I am your Husband, and you must be My wife. I want to have a marriage life. I am lonely. I need you. I need you, My chosen people, to be My wife.”
c. The Full Romance in Song of Songs
In Song of Songs we find a woman falling in love with a man saying, “Oh, that he might kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. I am thirsty for this.” Immediately, her beloved is at hand, and the pronoun changes from “he” to “you” (S. S. 1:2-3). “Your name is sweet, and your love is better than wine. Draw me, my beloved. Don’t teach me, draw me. I don’t need a pastor or a preacher. I don’t need an elder or even an apostle. I need you to draw me. Draw me, we will run after you.” What a romance! In the case of Adam and Eve we saw that the couple had one source, one nature, one life, and one living. In Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea we saw that God desires to have a wife who will live together with Him. God longs to have a marriage life, to have divinity live together with humanity. But His people failed Him. In Song of Songs, however, we see the genuine marriage life. What is the secret of such a romance? The secret is that the wife must take her husband not only as her life and her living, but as her person.
The Lord used several figures of speech to characterize His seeker in Song of Songs as she passed through the various stages in the growth of life. The first figure He used was of a company of horses (S. S. 1:9). Horses are strong, energetic, full of personality, and seek a definite goal of their own. Gradually, by the working of love, this seeker was changed from a company of horses to a lily that was fragrant, beautiful, and blossoming (S. S. 2:2). The seeker became a lily without will, emotion, or person. Eventually, she became a pillar. Although the word pillar denotes something strong, the seeker was likened to a pillar of smoke (S. S. 3:6), not a pillar of marble. She was a pillar of smoke that stood erect and steadfast in the universe; yet she was very flexible. A pillar of smoke has no person of its own; it has no mind, emotion, and will. When the husband says to such a wife, “Let us go,” she will instantly obey. On the contrary, if the husband should say, “Let us stay here for eternity,” there will be no problem.
The seeking one in Song of Songs eventually becomes a palanquin to carry her beloved (S. S. 3:9). She no longer has a person of her own; her beloved, Christ the Lord, is now the Person within her. She herself is a palanquin bearing the Person of Christ. Later, this seeker becomes a garden growing something to satisfy her beloved (S. S. 4:12-13). Finally, she becomes the city (S. S. 6:4), the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2), without any person of her own, but with the strong Person of Christ within her. Praise the Lord! This is the holy romance.
This Romance in the New Testament
Now we need to consider this romance as it is portrayed in the New Testament.
a. Christ as the Bridegroom in the Gospels
There is no doubt that the gospels give us a full record of Christ as our Saviour. However, have you noticed that the four gospels also tell us that Christ has come as the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34; John 3:29)? He has come for His bride. When the disciples of John the Baptist saw many people forsaking John to follow the Lord Jesus, John told them not to be troubled, that Christ is the Bridegroom, and that all the increase belongs to Him (John 3:30). The Bridegroom has come for the bride. What is the bride? The bride is the increase of Christ. Each of the four gospels presents Christ as the Bridegroom coming for the bride.
b. The Husband and Wife in the Epistles
In the epistles Christ and the church are portrayed as husband and wife (Eph. 5:25-32; 2 Cor. 11:2). The epistles clearly liken Christ and the church to husband and wife. If we know what is unfolded in the epistles, we will see that Christ is revealed in them as our Husband and that the believers are revealed as His counterpart, as His wife. We must be one with Him in source, in nature, in life, and in daily living.
c. The Marriage of Christ and His People in Revelation
In the book of Revelation Christ is unveiled as having a wedding and the New Jerusalem is presented as His wife. In chapter 19 of Revelation we see that Christ will enjoy a wedding feast, and in chapter 21 we see that the New Jerusalem will be His wife. In Revelation 21 and 22, the last two chapters of the Bible, we see that the ultimate consummation of the whole Bible is this universal couple - the husband and the wife.
5. The Universal Couple and the Universal Man
Furthermore, the Bible tells us that this couple with the two persons are one flesh (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). Adam and Eve were one flesh. Since they were one flesh, they were also one man. Christ and His chosen people are one, universal, corporate man with Christ, the Husband, as the Head (Eph. 4:15) and with the church, the wife, as the Body (Eph. 1:22-23). Eventually, these two become one, all-inclusive, universal, corporate man. In Ephesians 5 the church is presented as a wife, and in Ephesians 1 the church is presented as the Body of Christ. She is Christ’s wife and Christ’s body. Christ is her Husband and her Head. So, Christ and the church are a universal, corporate man. This is the kernel of the divine revelation in the Word of God. The kernel is simply a couple and a man: a couple with the Triune God as the Husband and His chosen people as the wife, and a man with Christ as the Head and with His chosen people as the Body. This is the central revelation of the whole Bible. In the couple the main aspect is love, and in the man the main aspect is life. Christ and the church, as a couple, are a matter of love, and Christ and the church, as a man, are a matter of life.
B. The Old Testament as a Prediction
1. Prophecies of Christ
The Old Testament is a prediction of Christ by prophecies in plain words, types, figures, and shadows. If you read the Old Testament carefully, you will discover many kinds of clear and evident prophecies of Christ. The Old Testament tells us of whom Christ was to be born, where He was to be born, and about many of the events in His life. A great many verses are concerned with such prophecies of Christ. Besides these prophecies, there are types, figures, and shadows revealing and portraying Christ in a detailed way.
2. The Church in Types, Figures, and Shadows
The Old Testament is also a prediction of the church, not in plain words, but only in types, figures, and shadows. As far as plain words are concerned, the church was never mentioned in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the church was a hidden mystery (Eph. 3:3-6). Nevertheless, it was predicted by numerous types, figures, and shadows. The types and shadows of the church are mainly of two categories. The first category is composed of the wives of the men who typified Christ. Eve was a type of the church (Eph. 5:31-32). Rebecca, the wife of Isaac, was also a type of the church (Gen. 24). Ruth typified the church (Ruth 4) and so did the Shulamite in the Song of Songs (S. S. 6:13). In the Hebrew language, Shulamite is the feminine gender of Solomon. Both Solomon and Shulamite are of one name, the one being a male Solomon and the other a female Solomon. This Shulamite was also a type of the church. The second category includes the tabernacle and the temple, both of which were types of the church. Although the church was not mentioned in the Old Testament in clear and evident words, it was nonetheless typified in a full way.
C. The New Testament, the Fulfillment of the Old Testament
What about the New Testament? The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Whatever the Old Testament predicted regarding Christ and the church has been completely fulfilled in the New Testament.
1. The Individual Christ in the Gospels
The four gospels are a living biography of a wonderful Person. The four gospels reveal a wonderful Person, the individual Christ, Who came to fulfill the Old Testament. Perhaps you have read the gospels frequently without recognizing the many aspects of Christ revealed in them. In the gospels of Matthew and John more than 60 aspects of Christ are presented. As we have pointed out on previous occasions, in chapter 1 of Matthew we see that Christ is Jesus, Jehovah the Saviour, and also Emmanuel, God with us. In chapter 4 He is revealed as the great light. In the following chapters we see Him as the greater David, the greater temple, the greater Solomon, the greater Jonah, the living Moses with the up-to-date regulations, and the living Elijah who fulfills the prophecies. If we read the book of Matthew carefully, we will find at least 30 more items concerning Christ. These items are listed in the first life-study of Matthew. Christ is the real David, the real Moses, the real Solomon, and the real temple. Christ is everything. In the Gospel of John we find 20 or 30 items more. Christ is the light, the air, the water, the food, the Shepherd, the door, and the pasture. Christ is all-inclusive. He is everything. Have you seen this Christ? Although He is our Saviour, He is much more than that. He is everything. He is a most wonderful Person.
2. The Corporate Christ in Acts
The book of Acts follows the gospels. What is the Acts? The Acts is the spreading, the increase, and the enlargement of this wonderful Person. This wonderful Person was limited and confined in the little man Jesus, but in Acts He has been reproduced, increased, and enlarged. He has increased by spreading into Peter, John, James, Stephen, and even Saul of Tarsus. He has spread into tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of His believers, making all of them a part of Him. Collectively speaking, all of these believers along with Himself become the corporate Christ. Therefore, in the four gospels we have the individual Christ; in Acts we have the corporate Christ. By the end of Acts we see the individual Christ as well as the corporate Christ. However, we do not know how the individual Christ can become the corporate Christ. How can we, the vast multitude of believers, become a part of Christ?
3. The Full Definition of the Corporate Christ in Romans
This brings us to the book of Romans. Romans explains how the individual Christ can become the corporate Christ and how all of us who were once sinners and enemies of God can become parts of Christ and form His one Body. The book of Romans offers us a full definition of this, unfolding both the Christian life and the church life in detail. Thus, we come to the book of Romans for training on the Christian life and the church life. Romans provides a sketch of them both. Now we know the position of the book of Romans in the Bible.