This is one of a series of reviews from a Christian perspective on the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me (New Testament, 2023) for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To find the index of these reviews, visit here.
Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.
August 7-13, 2023
By the time Paul wrote his epistle to Roman Church members, who were a diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, the Church of Jesus Christ had grown far beyond a small band of believers from Galilee. About 20 years after the Savior’s Resurrection, there were congregations of Christians almost everywhere the Apostles could reasonably travel—including Rome, the capital of a powerful empire. Still, compared to the vastness of the Roman empire, the Church was small and often the object of persecution. In such conditions, some might feel “ashamed of the gospel of Christ”—but, of course, not Paul. He knew and testified that true power, “the power of God unto salvation,” is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ (Romans 1:16).
I agree that the power of the Gospel is found only in the historical Jesus Christ. Romans 1:16-17 says,
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
The question is, which Gospel are we talking about? Is it the true gospel? Or a false gospel as described in Galatians 1:8-9? If there is any book in the Bible that covers this topic well, it is the Book of Romans. Let’s see how the church writers to in explaining the words of the apostle Paul.
Ideas for Personal Scripture Study
What are the Epistles, and how are they organized?
The Epistles are letters written by Church leaders to Saints in various parts of the world. The Apostle Paul wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament—starting with Romans and ending with Hebrews. His epistles are organized by length, except for Hebrews (see Bible Dictionary, “Pauline Epistles”). Although Romans is the first epistle in the New Testament, it was actually written near the end of Paul’s missionary journeys.
Some background information, perhaps important for many LDS readers because how many actually knew these basic facts?
“The just shall live by faith.”
The following definitions may help you better understand the Epistle to the Romans:
When Paul wrote of “the law,” he was referring to the law of Moses. The word “works” in Paul’s writings referred to outward actions associated with the law of Moses. Consider how the law of Moses and the works required under it are different from “the law of faith” described in Romans 3:23–31.
It is true that Paul is referencing the law of Moses. It also can be considered a reference to the “law of works” and doing whatever is thought to be required in order to gain God’s favor, as that was the apostle’s criticism against the Law of Moses. This can be seen by looking at other places, including Romans 4. Consider the first 5 verses:
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3 What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
4 Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. 5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Notice how, in the very next chapter, Paul uses the partriarch Abraham as his example who was not justified by works. Rather, he “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Pay attention to how the word “works” is used here. If it were talking about Mosaic law, then how could this be since the Mosaic law did not come into being until Moses who lived after Abraham?!
In addition, the Gentiles were not familiar with the Mosaic law. Paul distinguished between Mosaic law and general good works in his writing. When the “law” is not mentioned, he is talking about good works in a general way. Consider, for instance, Ephesians 2:8-9, which says:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
The Book of Ephesians was written to both Jews and Gentiles. If Paul wanted to talk about the Mosaic law, he certainly would have clearly said “not by works of the law” in verse 9. Instead, he just mentions “works” of any kind. Whether it is following the 10 Commandments, the 603 other laws (including dietary and ceremonial requirements), or anything else works-related, Paul’s message is in opposition to whatever a person feels must be done in order to gain God’s favor. Forgiveness of sins comes 100% through God’s grace and mercy and “not by works.”
Anciently, circumcision was a token or symbol of the covenant God made with Abraham. Paul used the term “circumcision” to refer to Jews (the covenant people) and “uncircumcision” to refer to Gentiles. Ponder what Romans 2:25–29 teaches about what it really means to be God’s covenant people. Note that circumcision is no longer a token of God’s covenant with His people (see Acts 15:23–29).
Indeed, circumcison is a token or symbol in the same way baptism is a symbol. To learn more about this, visit Crash Course Mormonism: Water Baptism
Justification, justify, justified.
These terms refer to the remission, or pardoning, of sin. When we are justified, we are forgiven, declared guiltless, and freed from eternal punishment for our sins. When you see these terms, notice what Paul taught about what makes justification possible (see also Guide to the Scriptures, “Justification, Justify,” scriptures.ChurchofJesusChrist.org; D. Todd Christofferson, “Justification and Sanctification,” Ensign, June 2001, 18–25). In Romans, words like “righteous” and “righteousness” can be seen as synonyms for words like “just” and “justification.”
Grace is “divine … help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ.” Through grace, all people will be resurrected and receive immortality. In addition, “grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts.”
We must identify the difference between the definiton given by Christianity and what Mormonism teaches. The leaders do a good job here, saying that “grace is an enabling power” for people to gain exlatation. What does the “enabling power” allow a person to do? Why, keep the commandments given by God.
And what is the result of grace. As written, it allows all people to be resurrected to one of three kingdoms of glory. That’s it. Grace is not sufficeint, however, to qualify a person for the very best this religion has to offer, which is called the celestial kingdom. That will require many works on the part of the individual Latter-day Saint. How many commandments must be kept? Normally, Latter-day Saints will tell me it’s “all of them.” How often? Nine times out of 10, I hear “all of the time.” The message is pretty clear cut and Latter-day Saints know what is required. This doctrine is good only so far as the individual can successfully keep all the commandments all of the time. This is such a different concept from what the Bible teaches.
In Christianity, grace is all that is needed to be baptized by the Spirit and to know we have been given eternal life through the forgiveness of all past and future sins. It is Getting Righteousness at Christ’s Expense. Another word used in describing justification is “imputation,” which in the context of salvation is getting credit for righteousness that we did not deserve or earn. Mormon leaders may speak about grace, but the meaning they give to the word is vastly different than what the Bible teaches. To see more of the difference difference, visit Grace in Crash Course Mormonism.
We do not earn grace through our efforts; rather, it is grace that gives us “strength and assistance to do good works that [we] otherwise would not be able to maintain” (Bible Dictionary, “Grace”; see also 2 Nephi 25:23; Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 107–10; Brad Wilcox, “His Grace Is Sufficient,” Ensign, Sept. 2013, 35–37; or Liahona, Sept. 2013, 43–45).
Notice the twisting of words, “we do not earn grace through our efforts.” On the surface, Latter-day Saints might say that they do not “earn” grace because it is freely given to everyone. But if a person wants to gain celestial glory, by all means exaltation/eternal life is certainly earned.
To see more, visit Exaltation / Eternal Life / Eternal Increase in Crash Course Mormonism.
As you read Romans, record what you learn about the Savior’s grace.
Oh boy, thank you for the question. Because Paul builds a case about salvation point by point, let’s consider the main parts of the first six chapters of Romans.
Romans 1:8-16: Paul’s desire to visit Rome
Romans 1:18-32: God’s wrath is upon all humanity and people have no excuse thanks to general revelation
Romans 2:1-16: God’s righteous judgment
Romans 2:17-29: The Jews and the law
- Verse 21b: “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?”
- Verse 25: “Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.”
- Verse 29b: “circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.”
Notice how circumcision–which is a work–is not something done that justifies a person. It is, as Paul says, an issue of heart condition.
Romans 3:1-8: God’s Faithfulness to His people (both Jew and gentile)
Romans 3:9-20: No one is righteous
- Verse 10b: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
- Verse 11: “No one seeks God.”
- Verse 20: “Therefore, no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”
Notice how nobody naturally seeks after God. It’s not by any works a person does (i.e., baptism/confirmation, church attendance, work in the temple, etc) that justifies a person from these sins.
Romans 3:21-31: Righteousness Through Faith
- Verse 22: “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
- Verse 23: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
- Verse 24: “and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
- Verse 28: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
Romans 3 describes how people do not naturally seek God; His puproses cannot be fulfilled by doing good works. Put all of your works together and this still does not credit a person to be justified in the sight of God.
Romans 4:1-25: Abraham justified by Faith
- Verse 3: “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
- Verse 5: “To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”
- Verse 9b-10: “We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after but before.”
- Verse 13: “It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.”
- Verse 16: “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that is may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring–not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham.”
- Verses 22-24: “This is why ‘it was credited to him as righteousness.’ The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.”
It is faith, not works, that is required for gaining the righteousness of God. This is something God had foreordained before the foundation of the world and is not something that can be conjured up. It is a righteousness that comes by faith and is not attainbly by works of the law.
Romasn 5:1-11: Peace and Joy
- Verses 1-2a: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.”
- Verse 6: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”
- Verse 8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
- Vere 11: “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Very clearly Paul shows that it is by faith that a person has peace with God through a new relationship that has now been established. This event took place even at the cross (5:8), not when a person successfully kept the commandments of God.
Romasn 5:12-21: Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ
- Verse 15: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace on the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
- Verse 17: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reigned through that one man, Jesus Christ.”
- Verse 19: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”
- Verses 20b-21: “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What is provided by Jesus is abundant grace and eternal life to those who have faith. In Mormonism, eternal life (or exaltation) is not provided by grace but works. Thus, how could Paul speak as he does about eternal life if the job had already been completed on the cross? It makes no sense.
Romans 6:1-14: Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ
- Verse 3: “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrecton.”
- Verse 8: “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.”
- Verse 14: “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”
A person “dies with Christ” through faith in His death and resurrection. There is no other way.
Romans 6:15-23: Slaves to righteousness
- Verse 22: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Though each one of us deserves death, those who are found with Christ have eternal life provided by Jesus. Again, how can Paul say that “the gift of God is eternal life” if eternal life is something a Latter-day Saint has to earn in order to gain this privilege? The doctrine of grace according to Mormon doctrine does not compute with the biblical message.
My actions should reflect and increase my conversion.
Some of the Jewish Christians in Rome apparently still believed that the rites and rituals of the law of Moses brought salvation. This may seem like a problem that doesn’t apply anymore since we don’t live by the law of Moses. But as you read Paul’s writings, especially Romans 2:17–29, think about your own efforts to live the gospel. Are your outward performances, such as taking the sacrament or attending the temple, deepening your conversion and strengthening your faith in Christ? (see Alma 25:15–16). Is there something you should change so that your outward actions are leading to a change of heart?
Unfortunately, the writers of this series just do not get it. They are hung up on the fact that “law” refers to the law of Moses, but in actuality and as mentioned earlier, “law” could be just as much understood by works of any kind. In Mormonism, to obtain eternal life, it is not based merely on grace but on the deeds of the individual. The law can include “baptism,” “church attendance,” “the word of wisdom,” “temple worthiness,” “tithing,” etc. It’s like not seeing the forest for the trees.
Romans 3:10–31; 5
Through Jesus Christ, I can be forgiven of my sins.
Some people may feel discouraged at Paul’s bold declaration that “there is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). But there are also hopeful messages in Romans. Look for them in chapters 3 and 5, and consider why remembering that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) is an important step toward learning to “rejoice in hope” through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:2).
But if we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory, how does a person get into right standing before God? Over and over again, leaders have taught that it is keeping the commandments of God continually (D&C 1:30-31; 25:15). Consider the burden Mormon leaders have placed upon their members by visiting Crash Course Mormonism here: Obedience
Jesus Christ invites me to “walk in newness of life.”
Paul taught that the gospel of Jesus Christ should change the way we live. What statements in Romans 6 describe how following the Savior has helped you “walk in newness of life”? (verse 4).
Of course, the right answer is that Jesus forgives the believer’s sins through faith alone. That’s not the emphasis given here by the LDS authors of this lesson. The emphasis they want to give is “changing the way we live” and “walking in newsness of life.” Of course, Paul does talk about sanctificaition in this passage, but is that really the crux of what he was trying to get across? The answer is absolutely not!
Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening
How can we show that we are “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”?
Being a Christian is not about what we do but rather it’s about who we are. And who we are has a direct impage on what we do. What we do is a reflection of the Holy Spirit in our lives and not somehow meant to attain what God intends for us to have. When we live our lives for Christ and don’t care what others think, this is the embodiment of what this verse is talking about.
As you read these verses, you might discuss the difference between “earning” God’s grace, which we can never do, and receiving it, which we must do. When have we felt God’s grace? How can we receive it more completely?
It’s very clever how this question is asked. Of course, “grace” in Mormonism is not somethng that is earned. I agree. Leaders have taught that this is something given to every human being based on obeidence in the preexistence. But the better question ought to have been, “When it comes to grace according to our leaders, when do we get it?” (Second Nephi 25:23 says that we’re saved by grace after all we can do.) “How then does a person qualify for eternal life and exaltation in the celestial kingdom?
These questions would have differentiated between what comes through grace and what comes through works. In Mormonism, it is no secret that the celestial kingdom requires works. As 12th President Spencer W. Kimball put it,
“Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking. There must be works–many works–and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and ‘a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ It depends upon you whether or not you are forgiven, and when. It could be weeks, it could be years, it could be centuries before that happy day when you have the positive assurance that the Lord has forgiven you. That depends on your humility, your sincerity, your works, your attitudes.”The Miracle of Forgiveness, 324-325
What the writers do in the Come, Follow Me curriculum is muddle the issue. Indeed, Mormonism does not teach grace is earned, but the religion certainly teaches that works (“many works,” as Kimball put it) are required to gain celestial glory and exaltation.
What tribulations have we experienced? How have these tribulations helped us to develop patience, experience, and hope?
So many things that could have been written about these six chapters and this is the question? Are the authors purposely trying to waste time and miss the heart of the matter? Talk about avoiding what the apostle Paul was trying to communicate.
What did Paul say in these verses about the symbolism of baptism? Perhaps your family could plan to attend an upcoming baptism. Or someone in your family could share pictures or memories from his or her baptism. How does making and keeping our baptismal covenants help us “walk in newness of life”?
The thrust of this chapter is not about “baptism,” but this is what the authors hold onto. So much is missed in the analysis of Romans 6 that, quite frankly, it’s a tragedy.
What a complete mismash of a lesson. Some of the most important chapters on faith, grace, and the work done by Christ for those believe…and yet the writers emphasize the parts having to do with necessary works that Christians believe come as a result of one’s justification before God.
If you are a Latter-day Saint, I’d encourage you to go back to the outline of the chapters that was given above and see the highlights for these chapters. Then go and read what your church’s writers have said. The heart of the Gospel has been yanked out; so much is missing. It’s a shame that Latter-day Saints somehow think “Come, Follow Me” is a faithful Bible study through the New Testament when so much is missing.
To see more about the Book of Romans, consider this website: Latter-day Saints: Would you be willing to take the Romans Challenge?