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David in Romans

God, who knows our hearts, knows the spiritual mind-set we have. When we serve Him, we make choices in our lives which put His will before our own.
Read Time: 12 minutes

The key point of Romans is surely, “The just shall live by faith.” It clearly shows that in a world steeped in sin (chapter 1), which we are very much a part of (chapter 2-3:18), we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Our only option is to put our faith in the grace of God.

The argument through Romans would have been so powerful in dealing with the Judaizers of the first century, those insisting that the law was needed to earn salvation, kidding themselves and others around them that they could establish their own righteousness.

God, who knows our hearts, knows the spiritual mind-set we have.

The argument is still as powerful today, it helps us recognize the fact that we are all naturally prone to sin, we realize God wants faith from us. What does that mean? It means God wants us to trust Him, believe His word, commit ourselves to Him in baptism and look to apply His word in our lives.

When studying a concept, it can be helpful to have a real-life example to help us understand it. The example of David seems to be used through Romans. For the first century Judaizers, details of his life would have been immensely powerful. This was their greatest king—surely someone they would want to emulate.

At the beginning of chapter 1, the inspired apostle writes he has been separated by God for the gospel “concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” Normally we would think about Jesus being David’s seed in the sense that he was the promised king. Why are we being directed to think about Jesus as the seed of David “according to the flesh?

It’s perhaps because David demonstrated the problem of humanity in committing a terrible sin. David’s sin, like all sin, in the end follows the pattern of Eden he “saw,” he clearly desired, and he “took” (cp. Gen 3:6 and 2 Sam 11:2-4). Like Adam and Eve, David tried to hide the sin by murdering Uriah. David comes to see that God knows his sin. There is no point trying to hide from God.

He also comes to see that the law cannot save him; his only option is to trust in God’s grace. The Lord Jesus was the seed of David “according to the flesh.” He shared our nature; he too was tempted to sin. The Lord Jesus overcame that nature. He never sinned. Therefore he was,

“declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom 1:4).

Note: the apostle addresses the ecclesia as “beloved of God”—the meaning of David’s name. Interestingly this Greek word, agapētos, translated “beloved,” is used in Romans more than any other book. In 2 Samuel 12, Nathan was sent by God to make David recognize his personal problem; he tells David a story of a wicked rich man who stole a poor man’s one sheep (2 Sam 12:1-5).

David is outraged. He was quick to judge the situation. He could see the problem of sin in others: “The man that hath done this is worthy to die,” he exclaims. In Romans 1, having given the whole purpose of the letter in the first 17 verses, the apostle then highlights the problem of sin in the world at large. When you glance through it’s a grim state. It ends in verse 32 by saying, “they which commit such things are worthy of death.”

We too might well hear that list and concur (like David), “The man that hath done this thing is worthy to die.” But interestingly the point of the verse in Romans 1 is that those who know the judgements of God are consenting to that kind of behavior. This is exactly the situation David was in. David was suddenly knocked sideways by Nathan as Nathan told him, “You are the man.” (2 Sam 12:7).

Notice how the next verse in Romans reads, “Therefore thou art inexcusable o man.” (Rom 2:1). The brethren and sisters in Rome, like us today, may look at the “world” (as described in Rom 1) and pass judgment upon them—see them as worthy of death. But, the point of this letter, the point of looking at David, is that we all have to grasp the problem in our lives: “Thou art inexcusable.” I am inexcusable!

When it says at the end of chapter 1, we get pleasure (or consent) in those who do wrong. We might question how much we consent to such behavior watching it on TV as if it’s the norm! Thoroughly enjoying watching the very things we know God hates! The power of those words suddenly hits home… “Thou art inexcusable”!

David came to realize sin needs to be confessed to God.

Perhaps the spirit is still drawing our attention to David in Romans 2:21-24: “Dost thou steal…dost thou commit adultery…the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” Nathan made sure David knew he had stolen Bathsheba, and because of his adultery he’d caused “the enemies of God to blaspheme.” (cp. 2 Sam 12:14).

We know that in David’s case he came to realize sin needs to be confessed to God. We have the wonderful record of Psalm 51. Within that Psalm, twice he brings together the word “heart” and spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me…the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psa 51:10, 17).

Here David realized that no sacrifice of the law could help; there was nothing he could do except humble himself and put his faith in God’s mercy. We notice at the end of Romans 2 the apostle writes in verse 29,

“He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

From our first meeting with David in Scripture, the lesson there is “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” The brethren in Rome needed to learn the lesson of David: he had come to the realization that God really does know our hearts. God wants us to honestly acknowledge sin in our lives and humble ourselves before Him, and make changes, not for the outward appearance, but rather to our heart.

Of course, there is nothing physical we can do to our heart, but by reading God’s word daily which renews our minds, giving time in prayer to align our will to God’s and spending time in fellowship with brothers and sisters, our faith is built up and we can be changed. We learn more of God and His purpose, our conscience is affected in different areas of our lives and we make changes to our priorities.

As we go into chapter 3 of Romans, the apostle draws our minds once again to David with a direct quote from Psalm 51:4. The citation on first reading is difficult to fathom.

Looking at the Psalm, though, we see the citation is the center of a chiasm: The middle phrase (F in the diagram below), which we’re drawn to, is that all of us might understand the reason we should confess our sins is so we acknowledge the righteousness of God. It’s not about us!

We need to see God as the just one; what He says is right–our confession of sin is an acknowledgement of that. Clearly then, ALL of us have to admit, and confess to, the problem of sin in our lives, whoever we are.

Verse 9 says, we “are all under sin.” What then follows in Romans 3, from verses 10- 18, is at least six citations from the OT Scriptures to demonstrate that no one is exempt from the problem of sin. Five of the citations are from the Psalms, all Psalms of David, and each of those Psalms mentions the heart or inward parts!

It is teaching us that we’re steeped in the problem of sin; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Jer 17:9). So, these first few chapters of Romans are helping us to come to the realization that we are all sinners who cannot justify ourselves before God. Each of us has to face up to the fact that we can never be justified through any works of law.

Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” With that mindset, we grasp more fully that we can ONLY be saved by God’s grace. There is no other way. (vv 24- 26).

In the Lord Jesus Christ, God has provided for us; he is the seed of David. He was born with our nature. In his death he declared God’s righteousness. He acknowledged God was just—the nature he bore (associated with sin) needed to be put to death.

Wonderfully though, by this great act of love, the Lord Jesus acknowledged the problem of sin for mankind, by being publicly lifted up—there for all to see—the horror of sin. In that very act he wrought a great victory over the problem of sin: he personally overcame!

We cannot earn fellowship with God, but God’s gracious gift to each one of us is the offer to share Jesus’ victory. To do that we must believe in it–the just shall live by faith–we have to believe God can deal with the problem of sin. What a blessing that is for each of us!

David certainly came to appreciate that blessing. He was inspired to write Psalm 32, which the apostle cites in Romans chapter 4,

“David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

David had tried to hide his sin but had now come to grasp the best covering was God’s provision: forgiveness based on acknowledging sin and trusting God. We all have the propensity to sin. We do sin. We must never ignore that fact, and never try to hide it and kid ourselves we are okay. Rather, we are to recognize the problem and trust the solution God has provided!

There lies the power of David’s example. He shared the problem; like us he inherited a sin prone nature from Adam, one which, like us, he succumbed to. But he came to confess the problem, acknowledging too that man didn’t have the solution. The only solution was, and is, to have faith in the grace of God.

In Romans 5 the apostle shows the impact of sin juxtaposed with the impact of God’s grace. We, as David wrote in Psalm 51, are “shapen in iniquity,” each of us are born with a sin-prone nature, flawed, hence Romans 5:12: “So death passed upon all men.”

We grasp that we are born mortal. It’s the nature we all inherit. But here is the key point: “Death passed upon all men, upon which all have sinned.” We’ve inherited a mortal, sin-prone nature. On top of which WE have sinned! It’s important we accept we are sinners who deserve to die.

God has given us free will; the question is who will we serve?

In baptism we acknowledge that fact. We publicly confess we can’t save ourselves and we need Christ’s victory. Romans 6 shows

“We are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

The Lord Jesus Christ was raised by the glory of the Father, in other words, in accordance with God’s standard, His character (cp. Exod 33-34). Because the Lord Jesus had never sinned, it was right God raised him from the grave. In His grace, God has mercifully offered salvation to those who accept His standard, those who have the humility to see His way as the only way, the perfect way and furthermore try to live by it.

We are now walking “in newness of life” (Rom 6:4), which is clearly a newness of spirit (Rom 7:6). In this new way of life, we all have a responsibility to hear and use our knowledge of God to make decisions we believe, from Scripture, to be right. God has given us free will; the question is who will we serve? Self and sin, which leads to death? Or God’s right ways?

We note in 2 Samuel 7, where God makes such a fundamental promise to David, twelve times David is referred to as God’s “servant.” We know too that David’s service is from his heart. Nathan said to him, “Do all that is in thine heart.” This is where the change should come at our baptisms.

“Ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto you, being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.” (Rom 6:17-18).

Where Saul had chosen to serve sin, he’d ended up in the grave with no hope. David in choosing to serve God and His right ways was choosing eternal life. God promised him

“Thy kingdom shall be established forever before thee.” If we too make that choice and “become servants to God,” we know “the end, everlasting life.” (Rom 6:22).

Is serving God easy? No, it’s a challenge, because it’s not our way! Our weak natures are prone to sin; naturally we want to serve self. In Psalm 51, as David asks for forgiveness from God, he first asks to be washed and cleansed of his sin— as God’s inspired writer we see him laying the seeds for the need for us to be baptized to wash away our sins (cp. Acts 22:16).

We also notice from the Psalm that David prays “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (v. 10). This is surely the “newness of spirit” we are now serving God in. Our sin is dealt with. We have a new spirit; we are choosing God’s ways because we want them; we see they are better than anything the world can offer. Does that mean we are now perfect? Sadly not! We still fail.

Romans 7 shows us clearly the battle we all have with sin, even after our baptisms. The inspired apostle speaks of his personal battle with his nature, and his frustration with it, “The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom 7:19).

A key point from this is that the spiritual person (e.g., Paul) has a battle going on. For us, it is important that the battle with sin is well and truly alive. The influence of the world in our lives (much of which we choose to bring into our homes, and minds!) too easily sears our conscience, like “a hot iron.” (1 Tim 4:2).

If we make God’s will our delight, the battle becomes more effective.

How do we keep the battle going? There is a clue in Romans 7:22, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man”. This is picking up Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”—another Psalm David was inspired to write giving us the thoughts and words of the Lord Jesus Christ, a thousand years before he existed in person.

Heb 10 proves that. If we make God’s will our delight, the battle becomes more effective. We look at God’s ways and see them as right–the beauty of His creation, His set up of man and woman, the family structure, a clear unchanging moral code defining right and wrong. It’s a stable rock on which we can build our lives.

Wonderfully too, in God we see a character that is: “merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth.” (Exod 34:6) Of course, the fruit of God’s character, His spirit, “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Gal 5:22).

Why wouldn’t we delight in God’s ways when we see the fruit? Practically how can we help ourselves delight in God’s ways (to help keep the battle going in us)? Clearly, in alluding to Psalm 40:6, we realize we are to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Before he says, “I delight to do thy will,” he says, “Mine ears hast thou opened.”

This is surely a huge help: to delight in God’s ways begins with an open ear to the word of God. For the Lord Jesus morning by morning (Isa 50:4) he made time to listen to God’s word. We know we have a weak sin-prone nature. If we are serious about the battle, what choices can we make to help?

Are we giving time to God’s word each day? Do we make a choice to take our family to a Bible School for a holiday? Do we get involved in preaching campaigns? Do we put the local fraternals, or study days, in our diary and go to them? What do we listen to on journeys? There really are many ways we can feed on God’s word.

Too easily, we put barriers up, give excuses and instead feed the flesh! It should be the other way around, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” (Rom 13:14). Brother Robert Roberts in the preface to the Bible Companion wrote:

“Salvation depends upon the assimilation of the mind to the divine ideas, principles, and affections, exhibited in the scriptures… much spiritual fructification is only to be realized in connection with fructifying influences of the Spirit in the Word.”

In another Psalm, David prays, “Thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.” (Psa 143:10). Within the Psalm there are number of connections we can make to Romans (see chart below).

Whatever the context in which David wrote this Psalm, it is clear he is aware of his unworthiness—so he pleads to God on the basis of God’s character:

  • Verse 1, “In thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.” He knows he can’t plead to God on his own righteousness
  • Verse 2, “For in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” He’s struggling enormously with the problems he’s facing
  • Verse 4, “My spirit is overwhelmed.” Even in that horrid struggle, notice what he does, verses 5-6, he starts recalling Scripture, he prays and his ear is open to Scripture,
  • Verse 8, “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning, for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk.” He’s willing to be taught by the Word
  • Verse 10, “Teach me to do thy will: thy spirit is good; lead me in the land of uprightness.” The problems in our lives now, “the sufferings of this present time” as Romans 8:18 puts it, God will help us through, if we have chosen, as David had, to be God’s servant.

We serve Him, we make choices in our lives which put His will before our own. We can be confident in our hope of glory, if we are choosing to serve God and his right ways over ourselves and sin, although we still have the struggles of mortality.

Romans 8:31 assures those who want God’s ways, God is on our side: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

There is so much comfort to be taken from this section of Scripture. If we can align our minds to Christ, we share a fellowship of spirit (cp. Phil 2:1-5). The spirit we’re trying to cultivate isn’t our natural disposition. But, if we have a genuine desire to be Christ-like, our spiritual mind-set can help with our circumstances, because although (as weak erring creatures) we don’t know what to pray for always.

When we serve Him, we make choices in our lives which put His will before our own.

Our spiritual mind-set is making intercession for us! How? Because God, who knows our hearts, knows the spiritual mind-set we have. The word “because” in Romans 8:27 both the AV and RV margins render as “that”—it’s the mind of the spirit “that” makes intercession for us with these “groanings which cannot be uttered.”

When we’re really feeling the drag of our human nature, we can feel lost for words, but the point here is God knows our innermost thoughts! We believe verse 24 of Romans 8 is picking up Psalm 38, a Psalm of David. David is struggling with life, but he writes, “Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee.”

In other words, Lord, you know my desire, you know my innermost thoughts, my groanings. This is what is so wonderful about these verses in Romans. If your heart’s desire is to be in the Kingdom, if you truly love God and want to serve Him, God, who knows you inside out is able to see that.

Therefore, the spiritual mind-set is making intercession for you! The result is God will ensure all the challenges of our mortal lives will work together for good. Nothing is “able to separate us from the love of God, which is Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:39).

John Owen,
Mumbles Ecclesia, UK

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