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The Old Testament in Romans

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I’m a radical believer in God’s radical grace. So I have to deal with Paul’s use of the Old Testament in the king of his epistles: Romans. Does he put people under the Old Covenant, by referring to its Scriptures? If not, then why borrow from them in the first place?

How do they relate to his radical grace message?

Citing the OT Scriptures – Paul’s only ones – has multiple purposes, but they all support radical grace and teach people how to walk in wisdom. They promise victory in our daily life in Christ.

If you would like to see the verses in various translations, you may go to and type in the references.

The Gospel

It all starts here for Paul. He got it by revelation and devoted his life to it. It centers on Christ.

1. Call on his name: “Jesus is Lord”. Rom. 10:8-13

2. The message must go forth. Rom. 10:8-15

3. Paul was ambitious to preach in uncharted territory. Rom. 15:20-22

Sin and Righteousness

One purpose Paul has in telling us about sin and righteousness is to show us prophecies and promises about Jesus Christ. He is the coming Messiah, and he is here now. Now we depend on his grace to free us from sin and give us the free gift of righteousness.


1. Righteousness comes on the basis of faith. Rom. 1:17

Law and Sin

1. God will be proven faithful and just. Rom. 3:4

2. The law brings out sin in us. Rom. 7:7

3. Certain Jews don’t live up to the law’s holy standards. Rom. 2:24

4. Jews and Gentiles are under the dominion of sin. Rom. 3:9-20

4. God will judge the world’s sin. Rom. 2:5-6

Justification and Righteousness

1. Jewish righteousness by the law (which was not accomplished), Gentile righteousness by faith. Rom. 9:30-33; cf. 1 Pet. 2:6-8

2. Righteousness by faith contrasted with righteousness by works. Rom. 10:5-13

3. Abraham is the example of justification by faith. Rom. 4:2-3, Rom. 4:16-18, Rom. 4:22-25

4. David is an example of being counted forgiven. Rom. 4:6-8

One Family

God wants the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile to be torn down. Paul uses Scripture – the OT – as prophecy for the coming Messiah, who for Paul came in Jesus. This is outworking of the gospel and justification by grace and through faith.

Israel and God

1. Isaac and Jacob are the promised line. Rom. 9:6-13

2. God is sovereign in his election. Rom. 9:19-21

3. God has not rejected his people, a remnant by grace. Rom. 11:2-6

4. Israel’s partial, temporary hardening. Rom. 11:25-27

Israel and Gentiles: One Family

1. Israel and the remnant, and the Gentiles’ acceptance. Rom. 9:22-29

2. The gospel is for Israel and Gentiles. Rom. 10:15-21

3. Israel rejecting the gospel opens doors to Gentiles. Rom. 11:7-10

4. Gentiles are welcome into God’s family through Christ. Rom. 15:8-13

5. Doxology about God and His One Family. Rom. 11:33-36

Church Life

The church needs wisdom, and Paul refers to the OT to get it.


1. Love fulfills the law. Rom. 13:8-10

2. Repay evil with good, for vengeance belongs to God. Rom. 12:17-21

3. Each one will give an account before God. Rom. 14:10-12

5. We should not please ourselves. Rom. 15:1-4

Victory through Christ in Hardships

1. Christians are more than conquerors through hardships. Rom. 8:35-37


I started this study claiming that Paul’s use of the OT in Romans confirms radical grace. That claim has been confirmed.

The gospel is all about grace as opposed to the law. Paul uses the OT to show the Messiah was promised. It prophesies about him. He ushers in a new era of radical grace that is not dependent on the Old Covenant and its old law ushered in by Moses.

For law and sin, these passages support radical grace because they show how much we need God’s free gift (grace) of righteousness. Through the law we become conscious of sin, ad then we become conscious of our need for grace.

We are justified or declared righteous in a forensic setting and put right in the New Covenant by faith. That definitely supports radical grace.

Jew and Gentile are brought together by God’s grace and free gift of righteousness; the wall of separation is torn down. The Law of Moses, so righteous and holy, and circumcision do not matter compared with the Spirit living in everyone who asks and who have been circumcised in the heart by the Spirit and who have the Spirit writing on the tables of the heart.

Paul uses the OT for the promises of God about the coming Messiah. With him comes grace.

In church life, after we experience the free gift of God’s grace and righteousness, we still need wisdom becomes sometimes we don’t walk in righteousness. We get confused. We mess up. We sin. Paul draws from the OT to teach wisdom. For example, walk in love and you will fulfill the law. And through Christ and his grace flowing to and through us, we have victory, both down here in our daily life, and ultimately this victory is finalized in heaven.

This article has two related articles: The Language of Law in Paul and the Old Testament in Paul.

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