The book of Paul written to the Romans is without a doubt one of the most important books that God has given us through Divine revelation. It describes in detail, probably more than any other book, exactly how it is that God saves men today. If it were not for this book, our knowledge of soteriology, that is, of the doctrine of salvation, would be much reduced. The point of the book is not so much to explain Who Jesus Christ is and what He did as it is to explain how it is that God goes about saving people through the gospel. In explaining this truth, it goes far beyond any other book. We can be very thankful, therefore, that this book was preserved for us by the Holy Spirit in the canon of Scripture.

That said, in spite of the great value of this book to the believer today and the fact that we would have trouble understanding salvation without it, this does not mean that we can automatically assume that Romans was originally written to people living in our dispensation. In fact, an examination of the book will reveal quite the opposite. This book was written to believers in Jesus Christ in the Acts period, and most of those believers were Jews who believed. This is not to deny this book’s importance to us. As Paul wrote to Timothy in our dispensation of grace in II Timothy 3:16-17:

16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17. that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

This book of Romans was God-breathed, and it is a book that is most profitable to believers today. Without it we could not be thoroughly equipped for all God wants us to do and accomplish. Yet this book was nevertheless written before the great dispensational boundary line of Acts 28:28, and some of the things it says and the way it says them demonstrates this most clearly. Let us examine this book, therefore, and see what we can conclude from what is taught there regarding its dispensational place.

First of all, we must consider the audience to whom the book of Romans was written. Paul addresses the letter in Romans 1:7a.

7. To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul tells us three things here about his audience. First of all, they are in Rome. Secondly, they are beloved of God. Thirdly, they are called saints. Many Bible expositors will jump from here to assume that Paul was writing to a mostly-Gentile church in Rome. Yet this assumption is not a good one. Many passages as we pass through Romans reveal to us that the book is primarily written to Jews. The first we see is in Romans 2:17.

17. Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God,

Paul addresses the ones to whom he is writing, and he tells them that they are called Jews. It would make no sense for him to say this unless they actually are Jews to whom he is writing. Otherwise, Paul would fall very near to those listed in Revelation 3:9, “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie.” I do not believe that Paul was lying and calling the Gentiles of Rome Jews, nor is he suggesting that men of Rome are lying and calling them Jews. These men really were Jews to whom Paul was writing. His whole argument following on from this verse makes this clear.

Romans 3:9 also shows whom Paul views his audience to be.

9. What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

Paul, as we know, was himself a Jew. He makes this clear in Romans 11:1, saying, “I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” Here, Paul contrasts Jews with Greeks, and asks if “we” are better? He concludes that “we” are not better. Who does he mean by “we”? We know that “we” is the first person plural pronoun, meaning that by using this word, Paul is including both himself and his readers in the subject. He is part of the “we,” and they are as well. If Paul was writing to Gentiles, he could not have said this, for then he would have been asking, “Are we Greeks better than they Jews?” And this would not have made sense, for Paul was not a Greek. The only way this passage makes sense is if he was saying, “Are we Jews better than they Greeks?” So therefore, Paul considers both himself and his readers to be Jews.

Romans 4:1 confirms to whom Paul is speaking, though a bad translation has obscured it in the New King James Version.

1. What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?

Yet this is not how this verse should read. It should read as the old King James Version does, “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found?” The passage is not talking about Abraham finding something according to the flesh. What it is talking about is found in verse 3. “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” This is what Abraham found. Yet he did not find it according to the flesh, but according to his faith, as is clear from the passage. Therefore, the “according to the flesh” phrase is defining “our father,” telling us that Abraham was the father according to the flesh of those to whom Paul was writing. There are others besides the Israelites for whom Abraham was their father, but most Gentiles cannot say this, certainly not “according to the flesh.” This is another piece of evidence that Paul was writing to Jews in Rome. Yet another is found in Romans 7:1.

1. Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?

Paul says he is speaking “to them that know the law.” The Gentiles of Paul’s day did not know the law, for they had not studied it, not having been interested before they came to faith in Christ. Moreover, the word for “know” here has to do with knowing experientially. In other words, they knew the law by experience, having lived under it. Even if some Gentile believers had studied the Old Testament a lot, and had come to know about the law, they would not have known it by experience. This again shows us that this book is written to Jews.

Some, however, would suggest that the early part of Romans is Jewish, but the latter part is written to Gentiles. They would suggest that this latter part starts in chapter 9, and the reason they say this is because Paul says in Romans 9:3-4.

3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, 4. who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;

Some would suggest that this shows that Paul must not be writing to Jews here, since he calls those he is speaking of “my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites.” Would he have put it this way if the people he was writing to were Israelites? So they would suggest that this is a “Gentile” section of Romans. Yet this is not necessarily the case. We have seen over and over in the first eight chapters that Paul is writing to Jews in Rome. If we were to call these people “Israelites,” we would have to remember that we are doing so in the ancestral sense, and not in the national sense. In other words, these people were Roman Jews, not Israelite Jews.

The difference might be explained by using myself as an example. My last name is “Johnson,” and that name comes from Norway, from which some of my ancestors came. Therefore, in a certain sense, I could say that I am Norwegian. Yet, if I went to Norway and proclaimed, “Listen, everyone, I am a long-lost Norwegian! Welcome me back, and give me all the rights of a Norwegian citizen!” I would soon find that I am not so “Norwegian” after all. They would tell me, or at least their government would, that I am an American, and that I am not privileged with the rights of a Norwegian citizen, no matter what my ancestry might be. Therefore, when I call myself Norwegian, I am only doing it in the sense of ancestry, and not of nationality, for I have no citizenship in Norway, and no rights there whatsoever, except those accorded to a foreigner from the United States.

So it was with these Jews in Rome. For most of them, their ancestors had been out of the land of Israel for more than five hundred years. Their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents had been citizens of other nations, and not citizens of Israel. Many of them had Roman citizenship far longer than some of my own relatives have had United States citizenship. So if they returned to Israel, they would be considered foreigners. Though they might have Israelite ancestry, they were no more Israelites than I am a Norwegian.

So when Paul writes to these people and talks to them about Israelites, this does not mean that the ones he is writing to are not Jews. What he is writing about is those Jews who were actually citizens of Israel. The people he is writing to are Jews, yet they will recognize that he is talking about those who are actually citizens of Israel, just like I would recognize what a person was talking about if he wrote to me about the people of Norway. I would not get confused and think he was talking about me. These Jews in Rome likewise knew well what Paul meant. Yet this does not prove they were not Jews, for we have seen over and over again up to this point that they are.

That said, there is a section in Romans that makes an aside to Gentiles among Paul’s audience. This section comes in chapter 11, where we read in verse 13:

13. For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,

So this does demonstrate that there were Gentiles in Paul’s audience. Yet the question is, were these his primary audience? And from what we have seen over and over again in this book, we would have to conclude that no, they are not. His primary audience are the Jews. This is shown again in Romans 15:8.

8. Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers,

Paul here calls certain men “the fathers.” This makes perfect sense if he is still considering his primary audience to be Israelites. Yet if he was still speaking to the Gentiles from his aside in chapter 11, why would he say this? For he shared no specific fathers with the Gentiles, unless it be Adam and Noah. Moreover, he contrasts his readers with the Gentiles in the very next verse.

9. and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”

So again he shows that his audience are primarily Jews, not Gentiles.

So what can we conclude about Romans 1:7, wherein Paul addresses his book to “all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints”? Of this, I would say that Paul was addressing his book to all in Rome who would be interested in hearing from him. Primarily among this group would be his fellow Jews, and specifically among them would be those who were already believing in Jesus Christ as Lord. However, I do not believe this excludes those Jews who did not believe, or who had not yet heard. Remember, the word “saints” means those set apart to God, and all Jews were that, for they are all God’s set-apart people. Finally, Paul would have in mind those Gentiles who had been brought into the blessings God had promised to the nation of Israel when they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord. This company would have been relatively small, and he only speaks to them specifically in chapter 11. The rest of the time, he assumes his audience is primary Jewish, and he crafts his book to them.

So we have dealt with the audience of Romans. Yet what else can we say about the dispensational character of the book? There are many statements in the book that make this plain. One is found in the first chapter, in Romans 1:11.

Romans 1:11. For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—

Here we see that Paul is anticipating imparting some spiritual gift to the Roman believers, so that they may be established. This shows that Paul still had the power to impart spiritual gifts upon believers, even as the apostles did in Acts 8 in Samaria. No man has such power today, and it would be wrong to even claim to have such power. So this shows that the book of Romans was written to the past dispensation.

Romans 1:16 also reveals more about the conditions under which Romans was written.

Romans 1:16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

Paul here sets forth truth about the gospel, a truth that was characteristic of the Acts period. That is, that the gospel of Christ was for the Jews first and also for the Greek. This is stated in such a way that it becomes plain that Paul means that the gospel is meant primarily for the Jew, and only secondarily for the Greek. This is the way the gospel was prioritized at that time. Yet in our day, the dispensation of the grace of God, this is not true. The gospel has no priority, and it is authorized to go out to all nations equally, as is declared in Acts 28:28, the statement that started this dispensation. Paul declared there through the Holy Spirit, “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” From that point on, the gospel has had no priority. It need not come to the Jew first, nor is it meant for the Jew primarily. Rather, it is open to all who will hear and believe.

In Romans 2:25, Paul makes another statement that is characteristic of the Acts period, but would not be true at all today.

25. For circumcision is indeed profitable if you keep the law; but if you are a breaker of the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.

Paul proclaims here that circumcision is profitable to those who keep the law. This is right in line with the way things were in the Acts period, when we know that each was to remain as he was when he was called to faith in Christ. As Paul says in I Corinthians 7:18-20, “18. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. 19. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters. 20. Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.” If they were to remain in the calling in which they were called, then those who were called while circumcised and keeping the law were to continue to live keeping the law. For these, circumcision would be profitable if they kept the law. Yet, as Paul says here, if they broke the law, then their circumcision would do them no good.

Yet if we would compare this to what Paul writes in Philippians 3:2-3, we would find that he has a far different attitude towards circumcision at that point. He says, “2. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” By this time, Paul no longer considers circumcision to be profitable if you keep the law. Instead, he calls it “the mutilation,” and declares the truly circumcised ones as those who “have no confidence in the flesh.” When the dispensation of grace started, circumcision was no longer a requirement for anyone, and so it was no longer profitable to anyone, whether or not they kept the law. Instead, God viewed it only as a mutilation, and having confidence in the flesh instead of worshiping in the Spirit. Therefore, Romans shows that it does not have the same character as a book like Philippians which was written during the dispensation of grace. Romans belongs to the previous dispensation.

Another very revealing statement is found in Romans 3:1-2.

1. What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.

Paul here asks what advantage or profit the Jew and the circumcision has. He answers his question, that their advantage is great from every standpoint. Chiefly, he tells us, because the oracles of God were committed to them. The idea of an oracle is a divine utterance. Yet this very book of Romans is an oracle! This tells us that Romans, as well as all books written before it, was committed to Israel.

Yet we should not ignore the general point as well, that the Lord here assures us that the advantage the Jews had at the time Romans was written was “much in every way.” If we would compare this to Ephesians 3:6, we would find, “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” If the nations are now joint heirs, a joint body, and joint partakers with Israel, then Israel no longer has a significant advantage from every standpoint. Instead, they are put on the same level with everyone else. This shows us that the situation is very different between Romans and today. Again, we see that Romans was written during the past dispensation.

Another passage that shows the unique character of the Acts period in which the book of Romans was written is found in Romans 8:2. First we read verse 1.

1. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

The first statement here, that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, is certainly true of all who are in Christ today, and when we stand before God, we can be assured that we will not be condemned because we will be taking our stand in Him. Yet the second verse is a different story. For Paul states here that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus had made him free from the law of sin and death. Can anyone claim that this is true of him today? If we are really free of the law of sin and death, then why do we die at all? Why not just go right on living until the kingdom of God comes to earth? Why do we grow old and die? The evidence of our mirrors, not to mention those who are growing old and dying around us, shows us most clearly that we are not free from the law of sin and death. Yet Paul was free from it, as were the rest of the Acts period believers. Paul states this again in verse 11.

11. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

In the Acts period, though they did not yet have immortal bodies, still the One Who raised Christ from the dead was giving their mortal bodies life. They were being healed from every infirmity, and had been set free from the law of sin and death. Their bodies were given life, a life that was not subject to the encroachment of death. Yet it would be foolishness to suggest that any such thing is true today. Every believer we know of grows old and dies. The law of sin and death is still in effect. The One Who raised Christ from the dead is not giving life to our mortal bodies, so that we are not moving towards death. This shows us that we are living in a different dispensation from the Acts period. We are in the dispensation of grace. Again, Romans shows us that it is not in the same dispensation as we are today.

The Lord reveals a great truth regarding the Israelites in Romans 9:4-5. We already examined this passage as revealing that this book was written to Israelites, but let us consider what other lessons it can teach us about the dispensational character of this book.

Romans 9:4. who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; 5. of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Here we see that the Israelites had as their possession “the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law,” and so forth. We could add each one of these things to what we read earlier in Romans 3:1-2, and confirm that the Jews had the advantage “much in every way.” These eight things that belonged to the Israelites, added to the fact that the oracles of God were committed to them, as Romans 3:2 says, shows that they did indeed have the advantage over every other nation. Yet as we read in Ephesians 3:6, this is no longer true today. Now, all nations are joint and equal. The Israelites have no advantage. Thus, Romans shows again its character as being a book written to the previous dispensation.

Another characteristic truth of the Acts period is found in Romans 10:14-15.

14. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15. And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
 Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Certainly, we can say that people today would not call on Him in whom they have not believed, nor believe in Him of whom they have not heard, nor hear without a proclaimer. Yet can we at all say that no one today can proclaim unless he is sent? For the word here is the Greek word apostello, which is related to the word “apostle,” and means one who is sent with authority or commissioned. If one were to wait for a commission from God today before proclaiming the Word, he never would get around to proclaiming it, for no such commissioning would take place. Yet those who proclaimed the Word in the Acts period were all commissioned to this task by God, as can be clearly seen by the fact that He worked with them and confirmed the word with signs following.

Today, the truth of Acts 28:28 is in effect. “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” The word for “sent” here is again apostello, and this indicates to us that the salvation-bringing message itself has been authorized to the nations. No longer is the commissioning of a man necessary for the gospel to go forth. Rather, the gospel itself is now the apostle, and anyone can hear it, and anyone can proclaim it. This is the truth for today. Yet Romans 10 says something different. This shows us that Romans was written before the truth of Acts 28:28 had taken effect, and before the dispensational change took place.

In Romans 11:13-18, Paul describes the position of the Gentiles at the time he was writing Romans.

13. For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14. if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15. For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
16. For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. 17. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18. do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.

Paul here proclaims that the Gentiles who were being saved when Romans was written were saved to provoke to jealousy those who were his flesh, that is, his fellow ancestral Israelites. This is not the reason that Gentiles are being saved today, for certainly no Jew was jealous when I was saved, nor have I ever met any Jews who were jealous when a person became a believer in Jesus Christ. This cannot be why Gentiles are being saved today.

Moreover, Paul here calls the Gentiles a wild olive, grafted into Israel’s olive tree. They have a subservient position, for Israel supports them, and they do not support Israel. Yet compare this with Ephesians 3:6, which declares the mystery that Paul reveals in Ephesians as this: “that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.” This makes the Gentiles to be fellow heirs with Israel, of the same body as Israel, and fellow partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel with Israel. If we contrast these two passages, we see that both cannot possibly be true at the same time. The Gentiles cannot be a wild olive grafted into Israel’s olive tree and subservient to that tree, and yet be fellow, joint, and equal with Israel at the same time. The truth in Romans was true in the Acts period. The truth in Ephesians is true today, since the dispensational change at Acts 28:28. This shows that Romans was before this great dispensational change.

Romans 12:6-8 declares that there were gifts in place when Romans was written.

6. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7. or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8. he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Yet today, prophecy has ceased, as God has fallen silent, working only through the unsearchable riches of His grace. The gifts were given in the Acts period, and have come to an end today. This shows that Romans was written during the previous dispensation, that of the Acts period.

Romans 13 declares truths regarding the higher governing authorities.

1. Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. 6. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

This passage is speaking of the “governing authorities,” as the New King James has it, or the “higher powers,” as the King James has it. The ideas both of “governing” and of “higher” are in the Greek. If we should try to apply this to anything today, we will inherit no end of troubles. Most try to apply this to human governments today. Yet this would result in our concluding that, for example, Hitler was not a terror to anyone good, but only to evil people, and that ultimately he was God’s minister to people like the Jews for their good, and conscience should have told everyone in his domain to do everything he told them to! This is, of course, utterly impossible, and makes a mockery of the Bible. On the other hand, to apply this to religious authorities today is just as fallacious, and gives far too much power to the man-made religious organization called the “Christian church.” There are no religious authorities who fit the bill for this either.

Yet if we leave this passage where it belongs, squarely in the Acts period, we can quickly realize that there were representatives then of a much higher government than any that exists on earth today. These were God’s apostles, the ones He had given rule over His government. The statements here, when applied to the apostles, are all completely true and accurate, and indeed make perfect sense. It could not be otherwise, when talking about apostles. So this passage shows clearly that Romans was not written to people in our situation today, when we have no such authorities, either civil or religious. This passage shows that Romans rests completely in the Acts period.

Romans 13:11-12 declares a truth also characteristic of that time.

11. And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

The Holy Spirit through Paul here declares that their salvation was nearer than when they first believed, meaning, of course, their ultimate salvation when Jesus Christ appears at last. Now this would be true today, for as time marches on, that time has always been getting closer. Even going back to the beginning of Genesis, every minute that passed brought the time closer, though it was yet at least six thousand years away. Yet would Paul really have said this if that was all he meant? Does not the very fact that he makes this statement indicate that he thought the time was very close, even expected in their lifetime?

Moreover, this is confirmed by his next statement. He says the night is far spent, and the day is at hand. If that was true then, and has been true for the last two thousand years, then the statements of the Bible must mean very little! Yet when we realize that the Acts period was the beginning part of the kingdom, and that if the parenthetical dispensation we live in today had not occurred the full kingdom would have soon come, we can understand what Paul was talking about. The full kingdom was very near when Paul wrote this, less than ten years away. This shows us that this book was written in the Acts period, and before God’s kingdom work was suspended so He could work the work He is doing today of showing forth the riches of His grace.

Romans 15:22-26 helps us locate exactly where Paul was and at what point in the record of Acts he was when Romans was written.

22. For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you. 23. But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, 24 whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. For I hope to see you on my journey, and to be helped on my way there by you, if first I may enjoy your company for a while. 25. But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints. 26. For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.

This lets us know that Paul was in either Macedonia or Achaia (verse 26,) that he had not yet been to Rome (verse 22,) but that he had finished his work in the places he was then ministering in (verse 23,) and that he hoped, after a journey to Jerusalem (verse 25) to contribute to the saints there (verse 26) to come to them for the first time (verse 24, and compare Romans 1:10, “making request if, by some means, now at last I may find a way in the will of God to come to you.”) This places the writing of this book somewhere in Macedonia and Achaia, as Paul visited them in Acts 20:1-3. If this was the time of the writing of this book, then of course this places the book before Acts 28:28.

Romans 16:25-27 contains the only passage that is really troublesome to the idea that this book was written before the dispensational change.

25. Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26. but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— 27. to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.

The mention of “the mystery kept secret since the world began” in verse 25 has been connected by some to the mystery of Ephesians, causing them to suggest that this book must have been written after that mystery was already revealed. We do not have time to give this passage the attention it deserves in this short study. However, let it be said that there is no reason to make this connection. The word “mystery” is used many times in the New Testament, and usually it speaks of truths other than that of Ephesians 3:6. There is no reason to think that in this case it is referring to that same secret.

I would suggest that Paul was speaking of the fact that when the gospel was given to those who had never heard it before in the Acts period, it was revealed to them by Divine inspiration through the human agent whom God used, and was a revelation of a secret before unknown to those who heard it. “Since the world began” is a bad translation, and we would follow Otis Q. Sellers’ suggestion, “hushed in eonian times,” meaning that in the kingdom to come, this gospel will not be proclaimed, since then all that is now faith will be made sight.

At any rate, even if this explanation seems tenuous to some, the truth remains that there is no reason to connect this mystery with that of Ephesians. There was a mystery mentioned back in Romans 11 that would be just as likely a connection, and the “blindness in part” that happened to Israel was something that fit squarely into what God was doing with them and with the Gentiles in the Acts period.

So we have seen from passage after passage that the character of the book of Romans reflects the Acts period in every aspect. Though the truths regarding salvation there are precious and beneficial to all, and are expressed plainer here than anywhere else, still this does not mean that this book was written directly to people living in our dispensation, for it was not. We can read this book and learn many things from it, but we must use care, as many things it says cannot be applied directly to God’s work today. This is the true dispensational place of the book of Romans.

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