Bruce R. McConkie on The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans:
Paul's epistle to the Romans is a paradoxical document. On the one hand it is one of the clearest and most profound doctrinal books in the Bible. On the other hand, it is the source of more doctrinal misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and mischief than any other Biblical book, not even excepting the Book of Revelation.
Four things are apparent with reference to this inspired writing of the Apostle:
1. It was written to and for and about the saints and can be understood by them and by them only.
2. It was not written to the world in general, or to any branch of sectarianism in particular, and it is not and cannot be understood by them.
3. It is the source of more sectarian confusion, more false concepts on basic points of doctrine, and results in more wresting of the scriptures, than any other inspired writing now available to men.
4. In it is found the rationale used by Luther in his break with Catholicism.
Romans is indeed a book for God's saints. It was written to those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost, who are spiritually inclined, and who already have a basic understanding of the purposes of the Lord and of his eternal plan of salvation. To such it is a highly edifying and instructive document, one that portrays gospel doctrines in such a way as to expand the mind and to enlighten the understanding. From it those with spiritual insight will gain gospel views which will add peace to their lot here and open the door to higher spiritual attainment hereafter.
Romans defines the gospel and summarizes the laws by obedience to which full salvation comes. It speaks plainly of Adam's fall, which brought death, and Christ's atoning sacrifice, which brought life. It tells how the law of justification works, how men are justified by faith and works, through the blood of Christ. In it are some of the most explicit Biblical teachings on the election of grace, the status of the chosen race, on why salvation cannot come by the law of Moses alone, on why circumcision was done away in Christ, and on how and why salvation was taken to the Gentiles. And it is a chief source of the glorious doctrine of joint-heirship with Christ, that marvelous principle under which men, through celestial marriage and the continuation of the family unit in eternity, can gain exaltation in the highest celestial heaven.
But these and other doctrines, as here presented, are hidden from the world. They are not set forth by Paul from a missionary standpoint, nor are they written with a view of doctrinal exposition. The epistle to the Romans is a letter, not a treatise on gospel subjects. It is not written to the world, but to the saints, to people who already know and understand the doctrines of salvation. Paul's comments on gospel subjects presuppose an extensive prior knowledge on the part of his readers. He does not here expound doctrines as such; he simply comments about them, leaving unsaid the volumes of gospel understanding already possessed by the saints. Romans, hence is not a source of gospel knowledge for the spiritually untutored; it is not the initial place to turn to learn of Christ and his laws. In the hands of the sectarian world, Romans is a book on calculus in the hands of students who are still struggling to learn the basics of common arithmetic.
Providentially, for this age, the Lord has given to his saints and to the world the Book of Mormon. This volume of holy writ sets forth in a pure, plain, and perfect way the true doctrines of Christ, so that those who have an understanding of its teachings are able to reconcile the difficulties and solve the problems of the epistle to the Romans.
In its very nature Romans is an epistle capable of differing interpretations. Those without prior and full knowledge of the doctrines involved find it exceedingly difficult to place Paul's comments about these doctrines into their true perspective. For instance, it is on a misunderstanding of the Apostle's statement about justification by faith alone that the whole sectarian world is led to believe that men are not required to work out their own salvation; and it was this very passage that enabled Martin Luther to justify in his own mind his break with Catholicism, an eventuality of vital importance to the furtherance of the Lord's work on earth.
Truly Romans is a book for the saints of God. They can and should understand it. From it will flow to them a wealth of gospel knowledge, and because of it, as Paul said to the Romans themselves, their salvation will be nearer than when they believed.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 211.)
Robert L. Millet on Justification by Faith in Christ:
In his letter to the Romans, Paul spoke to his readers at length regarding the meaning and cost of Christian discipleship. Having come out of the world and forsaken the sins of Babylon, Christians—through the "gospel of God" (Rom. 1:1)—are expected to press forward in righteousness, put on Christ, and overcome that nature of things which so easily beset them before baptism. Paul, quoting the ancient prophet Habakkuk, assured the Roman saints that "the just shall live by faith." (Rom. 1:17.) In describing the Apostle's challenge to turn the hearts of Jewish and pagan investigators to the Lord, Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained:
On the one hand we are preaching to Jews who in their lost and fallen state have rejected their Messiah and who believe they are saved by the works and performances of the Mosaic law.
On the other hand we are preaching to pagans—Romans, Greeks, those in every nation—who know nothing whatever about the messianic word, or of the need for a Redeemer, or of the working out of the infinite and eternal atonement. They worship idols, the forces of nature, the heavenly bodies, or whatever suits their fancy. As with the Jews they assume that this or that sacrifice or appeasing act will please the deity of their choice and some vague and unspecified blessings will result.
Can either the Jews or the pagans be left to assume that the works they do will save them? Or must they forget their little groveling acts of petty worship, gain faith in Christ, and rely on the cleansing power of his blood for salvation?
They must be taught faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to forsake their traditions and performances. Surely we must tell them they cannot be saved by the works they are doing, for man cannot save himself. Instead they must turn to Christ and rely on his merits and mercy and grace.
Paul stressed that salvation is through Christ and that the works of the Mosaic law and the works of the world are insufficient to justify man. For one thing, he stressed that the law of Moses was a system established to point out one's need for a redeemer. "By the deeds of the law," he wrote, "there shall no flesh be justified in his sight." Why should this be the case? The Apostle answered, "For by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Rom. 3:20.) One of the main functions of the law, with its myriad parts, was to demonstrate man's inability to live perfectly by every moral requirement. One translation of Romans 3:20 is as follows: "Indeed it is the straight edge of the Law which shows us how crooked we are." (Phillips Translation.) The law of Moses was given "to specify crimes" (Jerusalem Bible), that is, to establish right and wrong but also to delineate human limitations and to point up the need for divine assistance. "For all have sinned," Paul taught, "and come short of the glory of God; therefore being justified only by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." (JST, Rom. 3:23-24.)
All persons, both Jews and Gentiles, must also come to the knowledge of the necessity but insufficiency of their own righteous actions. Their works, even the works of those within the Christian community, were to be viewed in perspective. "Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace." (JST, Rom. 4:16.)
(Robert L. Millet, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 47.)
Joseph Smith Commentary on Romans 2:12:
[God] will judge them "not according to what they have not, but according to what they have" [2 Cor. 8:12]. Those who have lived without law will be judged without law, and those who have a law will be judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the great Jehovah. He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and his inscrutable designs in relation to the human family. And when the designs of God shall be made manifest and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right. . . .
To say that the heathen would be damned because they did not believe the gospel would be preposterous. And to say that the Jews would all be damned that do not believe in Jesus would be equally absurd. For "how can they believe on him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can he preach except he be sent?" [Rom. 10:14-15]. Consequently, neither Jew nor heathen can be culpable for rejecting the conflicting opinions of sectarianism, nor for rejecting any testimony but that which is sent of God, for as the preacher cannot preach except he be sent, so the hearer cannot believe [except] he hear a sent preacher. And [he] cannot be condemned for what he has not heard, and being without law [he] will have to be judged without law.
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 154.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Justification by Faith:
Romans is the epistle of grace through faith in Christ. It leads all New Testament books in the number of times that the words grace and faith are used. As modern revelation says, "Justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true" (D&C 20:30). The problem is how to blend this center of the gospel with the other revealed doctrines. The first step in properly understanding justification is understanding Paul's terminology, partly covered in Galatians because Paul preaches the same message there. It was seen that salvation for Paul is not merely resurrection but exaltation with God in eternity, that justification is quite simply forgiveness of sins through Christ, that law usually means the Mosaic law. The remaining word of difficulty is grace, which has become a theological abstraction because it is not used in everyday speech. This word (charis) was used in classical Greek to refer to the attitude or action "on the part of the doer" of "kindness, good will" or "favor." fn In addition to this general meaning, the standard Greek dictionary adds the concrete meanings of a favor or a kindness done, or even thanks returned. Thus, grace relates to the core principle of love, God's kindness in leading his children back to him—God's favor in sending his dear Son to atone for their sins. God's grace is not spiritual substance; it is his spiritual generosity.
The slogans of the Protestant reformation were the Latin phrases sola scriptura, sola fides, sola gratia: "scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone." Thus, any discussion of justifying grace is really the question of whether it brings salvation by itself. Such a doctrine arose as an extreme reaction to extreme religious practices. Martin Luther was a committed monk who sought God's favor through repetitious works of fasting, prayer, and rituals. Continual penance and veneration of relics were ways of appeasing the terrifying God who demanded so much: "I had no confidence that my merit would assauge him." Yet Paul gave Luther warm hope in these cold performances. Luther reflected on the Old Testament phrase of Romans 1:17: "The just shall live by faith." In Luther's mind the loving Savior replaced the austere medieval judge of the "day of wrath." Luther explained his change: "Faith leads you in and opens up God's heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness."
Righteous parents know the tension between love and rules, for out of love they establish wise rules to protect their children and to foster their growth. But does our Heavenly Parent require merely the acceptance of his love? Luther thought so, for as a translator he added a powerful modifier to Paul's affirmation of salvation through faith: "Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith alone, without the deeds of the law" (Rom. 3:28). The italicized term does not appear in English translations nor in the Greek original, though its German equivalent allein has been in Protestant Bibles since Luther. What is the difference between salvation by grace alone and salvation by grace? In the one case, God's grace operates to save mankind through faith by itself. In the other case, God's grace operates to rescue them as they show faith by their own serious efforts. Truckloads of tracts have been distributed to Latter-day Saints in an attempt to prove that the latter view is wrong. These are composed with tunnel vision because they have a narrow range of quotations, using little else than Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians. Indeed, Luther said that these three books—with 1 Peter, John's Gospel, and 1 John, would "teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any other teaching." fn Thus, oversimplification goes beyond a Bible sufficient for salvation to only six books of the Bible as sufficient for salvation. But is 20 percent of the New Testament the scripture God wants men to read? And is grace alone the intended gospel of Christ? William Temple stands for this minimal Protestant tradition in summarizing, "The only thing of my very own which I can contribute to my redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed."
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 173.)
Sidney B. Sperry on the Doctrine of Justification by Faith:
Justification seems to anticipate for a Christian a decision of "acquittal" or of being regarded as "righteous" in a future Divine judgment. Can a member of the Church of Christ be regarded in the present time as being justified by faith? If he has truly been "born again" of the Spirit and continues in a newness of life, we may answer "yes." In anticipation of his continued observance of the requirements of God, he may be regarded as "acquitted" or as "righteous," and so is in Divine favor. A comparison may be made by reference to a man on an escalator. We anticipate that he will reach a given floor if he stays on the escalator. So a person will eventually be justified, but may be regarded as being so now, if he retains a remission of sins (Mosiah 4:26) and continually shows his faith in God. (See also Alma 34:16; 2 Ne. 31:19- 20; important!
Paul told the Galatians that the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster or tutor to bring Israel to Christ, "that we might be justified by faith." (3:24) But after the coming of Christ, the Law of Moses was no longer needed; in other words, "after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster." (3:25) By faith in Christ all men become children of God.... (3:26) When men are baptized into Christ they put on Christ; that is to say, they assume His character, and clothe themselves with His dispositions and qualities. (3:27) Those who are thus united with the Christ in this most intimate union are no longer to be distinguished as Jew or Greek, bond or free, male or female; "all are one in Christ Jesus"; no differences, religious, national, or social, exist between them; they all form one moral and harmonious body with Christ as their head. (3:28) Under this situation they then become "Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (3:29)
(Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], 177.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on the Baptismal Covenant:
Paul came into the Church with the challenge, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16, NKJB). And the Book of Acts begins with the doctrine that belief and repentance make possible baptism for the "remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Thus, baptism affects the past life of the person coming into the Church. Does it have an effect upon his future life? Paul is really asking that question in the opening of Romans 6: "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" His answer is to look to the purpose of baptism. It is like the death and burial of Christ, which clearly shows that immersion was then the method of baptism. Even the rationalizers of infant baptism admit that from this plain comparison. But the form of baptism was incidental to the purpose of baptism that Paul explained by his comparison. Christ had laid down a broken body to come gloriously from the tomb, just as the believer must bury his past sins in water and come out to a new life of purity and righteousness. "Therefore 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" (Rom. 6:4).
The concept of spiritual rebirth finds its greatest meaning when we consider further implications of the typology of baptism in regard to birth. The godly anguish and suffering of the repentant soul is typical of the excruciating pain experienced by the laboring mother as birth of the infant is imminent. The water used in the baptismal proceedings is symbolic of a body of water in which dirtiness and uncleanness are washed away. (See Acts 22:16.) Paul taught that the process of being taken down into the water is representative of Christ's burial in the tomb for three days. The rise from the watery grave is in the likeness of the Master's rise to a newness of life in the resurrected state. Further, the innocent and pure state of the new candidate for the kingdom is like unto the wholly innocent newborn at birth. Baptism thus becomes the channel by which one is both legally initiated into the church and also spiritually initiated into the blessings of the atonement of Christ. "Now if we be dead with Christ," Paul taught, "we believe that we shall also live with him." (Rom. 6:8.)
Members of the church are counseled to yield not only their hearts but also their whole bodies to the cause of truth. By so centering our souls upon the Lord and his divine purposes, we truly become servants of righteousness and are entitled to the wages of our Master. In the end we will receive a reward from him whom we have chosen to follow. "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23.)
Joseph Smith taught: "It is one thing to see the kingdom of God, and another thing to enter into it. We must have a change of heart to see the kingdom of God, and subscribe the articles of adoption to enter therein." Individuals are born again to see the kingdom of God (cf. John 3:3) when the influence of the Holy Ghost leads to a spiritual recognition of the true church on earth. Such persons are born again to enter the kingdom of God (cf. John 3:5) when they obey the Spirit's instructions and submit to the "articles of adoption," the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. Faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost are the articles of adoption in the sense that they provide the means whereby a person is initiated into the church and kingdom and also adopted into the family of the Lord Jesus Christ.
For many in the Christian world, being born again consists solely of a spiritual experience; for other groups, it is accomplished primarily through the sacraments of the church. Joseph Smith taught that truth lies in a road between these two extremes; he explained, simply, that "being born again, comes by the Spirit of God through ordinances."
New members labor to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost and in doing so begin the processes of spiritual rebirth. As a child of Christ, each one is a member of a new family. They take upon themselves a new family surname and are expected to abide by the rules and regulations of the family. In addition, they are in line to inherit, receive, and possess all the benefits of family membership.
It was never intended, however, that we remain children (even children of Christ) forever. Rather, the Lord desires that the members of his family mature, that they advance and progress in spiritual stature to the point where they qualify as equal inheritors, or "joint-heirs" (Rom. 8:17), with Christ to all that the Father has. In speaking of those members of the Church who have been born again, Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained: "Then, if they press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, keeping the commandments and living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, they qualify for celestial marriage, and this gives them power to become the sons of God, meaning the Father. They thus become joint-heirs with Christ who is his natural heir. Those who are sons of God in this sense are the ones who become gods in the world to come. (D&C 76:54-60)."
These doctrinal verities are touched upon beautifully by Paul in Romans 8. Those who give themselves over to the direction of the Spirit and thus gain the mind of God eventually become the sons and daughters of God. They qualify to call upon the Father in an endearing and intimate manner: "Abba, Father." (Rom. 8:15.) As indicated, they are heirs, "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." (Rom. 8:17; see also vv. 13-16.)
Further, those saints who are divinely led have the additional blessing of having the Holy Ghost prompt and direct their very prayers to the Father. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (Rom. 8:26.) In short, the Holy Ghost, who has the power to search the hearts of individuals, directs the adopted saint to pray for needs rather than desires; to pray for that which the Father would be pleased to grant. Through such a process, a person may come to a point not unlike the situation of Nephi, the son of Helaman, in the Book of Mormon. To such a person, the Lord can confidently decree: "All things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Hel. 10:5.)
All of these rights and privileges are available because of the mediation of the Master, he who was called and prepared and foreordained to his messianic labors. Even though it is true that "unconditional election of individuals to eternal life was not taught by the Apostles," even so, "God did elect or predestinate, that all those who would be saved, should be saved in Christ Jesus."
In speaking of Christ's divine preparation, Paul taught: "For him [Christ] whom he [the Father] did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to his own image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, him whom he did predestinate, him he also called; and him whom he called, him he also sanctified; and him whom he sanctified, him he also glorified." (JST, Rom. 8:29-30.)
(Robert L. Millet, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 6: Acts to Revelation [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 51.)
Joseph Smith Commentary on Becoming Joint Heirs With Christ:
We believe that God condescended to speak from the heavens and declare his will concerning the human family, give to them just and holy laws to regulate their conduct, and guide them in a direct way, that in due time he might take them to himself and make them joint heirs with his Son.
No man can attain to the joint heirship with Jesus Christ without being administered to by one having the same power and authority of Melchizedek.
To become a joint heir of the heirship of the Son, [one] must put away all [one's] traditions.
[It is] to inherit the same power [and] exaltation, until you ascend the throne of eternal power, same as those who are gone before.
What is it? To inherit the same glory, power, and exaltation, with those who are gone before.
[You will] enjoy the same rise, exaltation, and glory, until you arrive at the station of a God.
They are exalted far above principalities, thrones, dominions, and angels, and are expressly declared to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, all having eternal power.
The scripture says those who will obey the commandments shall be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 154.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Offering a Living Sacrifice:
Sacrifices are of two kinds: living and dead, or in other words, temporal and spiritual. Under the law of Moses, animals were slain in similitude of the coming sacrifice of the Son of God; such were temporal sacrifices, sacrifices involving death. But under the law of Christ, men are called upon to make living sacrifices, to sacrifice themselves by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.
Paul is here alluding to the fact that the old sacrifices, those unto death, are abolished, that they have been replaced with a new order, sacrifices unto life. As with almost all doctrines, this is taught in the Book of Mormon with greater plainness and perfection than in the Bible. To the Nephites, after his resurrection, the Lord Jesus said: "Ye shall offer up unto me no more the shedding of blood; yea, your sacrifices and your burnt offerings shall be done away, for I will accept none of your sacrifices and your burnt offerings. And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost." (3 Ne. 9:19-20.) Thus to present one's body as a living sacrifice is to come forth with a broken heart and a contrite spirit through obedience.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 292.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on the Moral Laws of the Gospel:
The greatest epistle on grace is also the greatest epistle on keeping God's commandments. The magnificent close of the teaching portion of Romans beats out a sharp staccato of Christian duties. Some fifty commandments follow the challenge of being "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). These detailed instructions fill three and a half chapters, after which Paul closes the letter by sharing his plans and greetings. No Pauline letter has as many rules of righteousness. The apostle is intent on upgrading the conduct of those Church members who have accepted Christ through baptism. These closing chapters are the capstone of this letter of grace and certainly are not intended as incidental to eternal life. Salvation may be defined in terms of theory, or in terms of the steps of what to do. Just as actions speak louder than words in real life, the actions that Paul required speak louder than interpretations of his theology.
Vital discipleship is paralyzed by the philosophy that Christ did all, that "we have no ability to win his grace or favor." An example is a survey a few years ago identifying Lutherans of the Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptists as the most conservative Protestant bodies in the United States. In these groups 97 percent of the members said that "belief in Jesus Christ as Savior" was "absolutely necessary" for salvation. Then these same individuals were asked whether "doing good for others" was "absolutely necessary" for salvation, and only 38 percent of the Lutherans and 29 percent of the above Baptists agreed. Thus, the majority of each group saw no contribution of service as necessary to salvation. They were also asked whether salvation depended on "loving thy neighbor," a more ambiguous question because "loving" can be an attitude instead of an activity. Yet only 51 percent of the Lutherans and 41 percent of the Baptists said that "loving thy neighbor" was "absolutely necessary" to being saved. Christ said that "the law and the prophets" were summed up in loving one's neighbor (Matt. 7:12). Yet huge groups of committed Christians feel that God does not require belief in the Golden Rule or practical service applying it. But the closing teaching section of Romans jars that conclusion, for of about fifty commandments, at least a fourth pertain to loving and helping one's neighbor. Indeed, Paul repeats as binding the Savior's statement just quoted, saying that "any other commandment" is "summed up" in the rule of loving one's neighbor as self (Rom. 13:9, NKJB).
Paul's use of this highlight of the Sermon on the Mount is the clue to his message at the end of Romans. The thought of most of the beatitudes is found in Romans 12. The thrust of that chapter follows the closing challenge of Matthew 5 to return good for evil and to actively bless those who hate us. That is exactly Paul's message: "Overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). Paul does not quote Jesus, but his ideas are exact applications of Jesus' principles. It should be recognized that Romans 12 through the beginning of Romans 15 is the Sermon on the Mount of the epistles. Paul should be seen, like Jesus, not coming to "destroy the law, or the prophets . . . but to fulfil" (Matt. 5:17). That should be clear from Paul's command to live five of the ten commandments (Rom. 13:9). Rather than revoking them, Jesus taught what it meant to keep them in the opening chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. Paul's epistle of grace also stresses them as Christian law, as do the modern revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Can we forget the Lord who challenged the rich young ruler to "keep the commandments" if he would enter into eternal life? (Matt. 19:17.) When asked which ones, Christ gave (Matt. 19:18-19) nearly the exact words of Paul in summing up the commandments to the Romans (Rom. 13:9). Members of the Early Church were growing and developing through obedience. As discussed, baptism brought them to "newness of life . . . that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:4, 6). That was the ideal, but the reality was to be won on the moral battlefields of their lives as Christians. Paul wrote Romans to lead them to avoid every sin and to "yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness" (Rom. 6:19). This post-baptismal command was restated as a preface to the moral laws of the gospel: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God" (Rom. 12:1). The next verse set the goal of membership in the Church and of every command that followed: moral transformation and renewal. Neither Christ nor Paul had a single offer of salvation but a program of growth to salvation. Jesus personified it in instructing, encouraging, and correcting his disciples. With most of his ministry spent in these activities, was he not contributing to salvation? And Paul's work as Christ's apostle was also training the Saints in living the gospel.
Paul insists on the power of prayer and of humility before God. He links his main theme of genuine love to actions of helping and to the self-control of sexual purity. Even civil obedience and the duty of paying taxes are parts of citizenship in God's kingdom. Romans opens with recognition of the spiritual conscience in all people; it closes with the appeal to live a life that will be recognized as righteous. Paul commands to do "honest" things (Rom. 12:17) and to walk "honestly" (Rom. 13:13), but these terms are used in the older English sense of "honorable" and "honorably," basically the meaning of the Greek. Thus, Paul's version of the Sermon on the Mount carries the Master's theme: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 173.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Being a Saint:
Paul is the apostle of good works, of personal righteousness, of keeping the commandments, of pressing forward with a steadfastness in Christ, of earning the right to eternal life by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. All these good works, however, are meritorious, as he has already told the Romans, only because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.
And so now Paul builds on the doctrinal foundation he has already laid by naming in terse, epigramatic statements many of the things which saints must do to "work out" their "own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philip. 2:12.) And how perfect his approach is: first, teach the doctrines; then, exhort to righteousness. Ethical standards grow out of religion. A knowledge of the doctrines of salvation is both the reason for and the incentive to the living of goodly lives. Exhortations mean little unless they rest on a doctrinal foundation. The incentive to conform to gospel standards grows out of a knowledge of gospel laws. Encouraging chastity among those who are ignorant of God and his laws has little effect, but teaching it to those who already know through purity and morality they can be saved has a profound effect. As to the relationship between religion and ethics, between the word of God and living upright lives, the Nephite scriptures say: "And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God." (Alma 31:5.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 294.)