NT Survey 111 Seminar 8 Romans
Andrew Hodge 13th April 2007
New Testament Survey NTES 111
Epistle to the Romans
Romans; Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago Chh 10-11; Guthrie, Donald New Testament Introduction Apollos, Leicester, England 4th Ed 1990 Ch 9; Libronix DLS
Discuss the Church at Rome and the date of the Book’s writing:
Jensen is emphatic that the book was written by Paul toward the end of the third missionary journey in 56 AD in Corinth (Chart 1 pp 20, 248). Rome was a city of more than one million people, and Nero had been the god-Emperor for two years. He was to remain in power for another 12 years until his suicide. Anti-Christian persecution did not begin in earnest until about 64 AD.
There was a significant number of Jews there and apparently “a dozen synagogues located throughout the city” (Jensen p 249) with a “considerable following of Gentiles more or less in active sympathy with their religion” (ibid). These groups furnished a fertile field for the spread of Christianity.1
The Book, addressed to the saints in Rome (1:7), was therefore read by Jew (2:17) and Gentile, the latter group probably being in the majority (1:13). There is no scriptural record of any evangelism in Rome prior to this time, hence the Christians there are likely to have been saved elsewhere and migrated eg under the ministries of Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Mark, Peter, Luke and others on various journeys, or in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:10). This is entirely different to the situation of the ‘disciples’ in Ephesus who had only heard of the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-7) and were not aware of the existence of the Holy Ghost.
Because the Book is inspired, it is pitched appropriately at the target audience, even though Paul may not have had a clear idea of exactly who that was, in spite of the fact that he was personally aware of who many of the members were (Ch 16).
The Church was clearly young and in need of a clear exposition of the salvation foundations that their fellowship and worship was based on. Although Paul had not visited Rome at this time, he (nor God) would have wasted time and effort on a group of people not prepared to receive and benefit from such a Letter. Knowledge such as written in Romans was an essential if the testimony of the Church there was to withstand the persecutions about to be released. It would be only eight years from the writing that Nero would blame the great fire (64 AD) on the Christians; the cruelties then suffered by the saved were terrible, but their testimony to Christ held true and the Church increased in faith and in numbers.
1 D. Edmund Herbert An Introduction to the Pauline Epistles pp 166-167 quoted in Irving L. Jensen Jensen’s Survey of the New Testament 1981, Moody Press, Chicago p 249 footnote 1
Paul’s view of the Church established in Rome is partly given by the way he introduces himself in 1:1, to a congregation he had not yet visited. Up front, he establishes who and what he is: a servant of Jesus Christ and an Apostle, validated by God (1:2) and by Christ Himself (1:5). These are big claims for someone for whom it was not true ie it is the truth, therefore Paul can claim it.
Before greeting them, he launches into the Gospel (1:3-6), showing to them, as he did to the Corinthians, that he was “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2; cf Galatians 6:14). This establishes the common basis for belief, and the credibility that the Letter should have in the eyes of those who read it.
In a sense Paul’s use of his Roman name confirms his role as a missionary to the Gentiles and “It was on their reaction to this very personal statement that the success or failure of this letter would hang”. Possibly, although Paul is careful to include both Jew (1:2) and Gentile (1:7) in his opening.
Evaluate the purpose for which the Book was written:
Jensen writes (p 234) the “The characteristic common to all the New Testament epistles was the spiritual bond in Christ, between the writer and the reader(s)”. It follows that if the modern day theologian cannot be included in this spiritual bond, then he cannot contribute any opinion regarding the purpose of the Book, its interpretation or its meaning. This is a sine qua non of acceptable hermeneutics consistently ignored by those unsaved who push themselves forward as theologians, because they are by definition blind to this fundamental.
Jensen (ibid) summarises the purpose of the Epistles as “The subject…..is Jesus Christ. Their message is that He is the sinner’s Saviour, the Christian’s sanctifier, and the King who one day will return to rule over His kingdom forevermore”. Romans is the Book which perhaps above all others, speaks of the Saviour we need and the righteousness we can have in Christ, setting us apart for our ‘reasonable service’ (12:1).
However improbable, God purposed to use saved sinners to commence and build His Church, bringing the dead to life for one of the greatest challenges ever given to mankind. The Body of the Church is not left to its own devices: it’s Head is Christ Himself and the members are the temple of the Holy Spirit, all bound together by a focus on God and His plan. Romans describes the basics of how Church building blocks are produced - why the unsaved need to be saved and join into God’s work. The remainder of Paul’s epistles show “the positions, relationships, privileges, and duties of the members of its glorious and mysterious fellowship” (Jensen p 243).
The method of arranging the NT Books according to their Doctrinal content (Jensen pp 242-243) and shown in graphic form (Chart 62 p 244) are particularly useful in putting the NT Books including Romans into their place in God’s progressive revelation as He uses the NT.
Jensen describes Romans as “Paul’s masterpiece, a key that unlocks the door to vast treasures of scripture” (p 247). This has been so in my own life, although I have barely scratched the surface of this profound Book. Romans details both the simple fundamentals and the spiritual depths of what it is to be saved in Jesus Christ. On this foundation is built much of the remaining doctrines that Paul writes about, and without a clear understanding of these fundamentals, appreciation of the other doctrines is limited or impossible. Romans therefore paves the way for Paul’s visit to this Church by preparing the spiritual ground for appreciation of the more mature doctrines that he would bring with him.
In many respects the last two thousand years have proved how successful this Book has been in achieving this purpose with every generation.
A secondary reason for writing this Epistle is for Paul to communicate his intention to tour Spain and to enlist the Roman Church’s support for this (15:23-24), to express his desire to share any or all of his spiritual gifts, for their edification (1:11) and to preach the gospel there (1:15). It might be imagined with what power Paul preached the Gospel given the power already present in the Gospel in this Book!
Guthrie explores other reasons why the Book could have been written, some of which he agrees with, and others he discards: the Book is a polemic against Judaism and antinomianism; conciliatory - between Jew and Christian; doctrinal (this is clearly so but not in the limited meaning used by Guthrie); to sum up Paul’s experience to date (written at the end of the third journey, Paul picks on Rome to tell them how he was now thinking [!]); to meet the immediate needs of the believers in Rome being oppressed by Jews and those seeking to cause division (16:17-18).
Guthrie cannot bring himself to conclude that the Book was written by inspiration of God on the basis of any of the scriptural reasons stated above.
Characterise the structure problems in the Book (Ch 16):
It has been hypothesised (Guthrie pp 412-416) that Ch 16 was not an original part of Romans but was rather sent to Ephesus because:
- Paul had never visited Rome and yet greets 26 individuals by name and others to which he wished to be remembered. It is unlikely that he would have known the Roman Christians that well - which he had not visited (but may have met elsewhere).
- Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned in 16:3. Shortly before the writing of Romans their house-church was in Ephesus. In this short interval they would have had to shift to Rome, then back to Ephesus (2 Timothy 4:19).
- Epaenetus is the “firstfruits of Achaia” - said to be appropriate if he were in Ephesus but not if he were in Rome. (But if he were brought to the Lord in Achaia - Greece- by Paul on either the second or the third journey [16:5], then moved to Rome….).
- “Phoebe is commended in 16:1–2 and it is maintained that Paul would have been more likely to send such commendation to a church he knew well than to a church he had never visited.”
- The warnings in 16:17-19 are thought to be against antinomianism and therefore more appropriate against those known in Ephesus
- Ch 15 is more characteristic of the ending of an epistle (but note that it is not characteristic of Paul to do this).
Against these are:
- The only other time Paul appended a long list of greetings was to the Colossians, whom he had also never visited. He was unlikely to have singled out a special group in a Church that he knew well. Paul felt that all Christians were his friends.
- Priscilla and Aquila were likely successful business folk and had branches in Rome and Ephesus. Neither their house Church nor their business in Rome would have had to shut down merely because Emperor Claudius forced them to leave Rome.
- If Paul had no authority to commend Phoebe to the Romans then he also had no authority to write to them as he did in Chh 1-15.
Guthrie has other objections which I do not clearly understand (p 415). He finally concludes that: “this Ephesian destination theory is a ‘badly supported hypothesis’ is fully justified. There is no Ms support for the contention that the epistle ever circulated without the concluding chapter, in spite of the complicated textual history affecting the ending of the epistle.”
Guthrie mentions a second problem relating to the concluding two chapters of Romans regarding the length of early versions of the Book. Apparently a number of early manuscripts of Romans which circulated ‘very early’ in its textual history did not contain Chh 15 or 16. Guthrie begins his conclusion concerning this with “Another view, which seems more in harmony with the facts, is that the doxology is a resume of the main subject-matter of the epistle,1 a procedure which would be quite in accordance with Paul’s mind.”
Guthrie’s final comment (ibid) is weak, but in it he gives the following as a reference: “Cf. the careful discussion of F. R. M. Hitchcock, A Study of Romans XVI (1936), p. 202. K. Barth finds it impossible to conceive of Paul adding a ‘solemn liturgical conclusion’ after 16:24 (op. cit., p. 523), but this is no more than a subjective opinion with which many scholars would not agree. It may, in any case, be doubted whether ‘liturgical’ is an exact description, unless it be used in the sense in which all doxologies share a liturgical character. No canon of criticism can be made out excluding the possibility that Paul would so conclude. Yet Barth is not drawn to the theory of a separate Ephesian destination of chapter 16 on the grounds that the whole epistle would be incomplete if not addressed to particular men with human names (op. cit., p. 536).”
It seems to me that all of the above is mens’ rationalistic presuppositions attempting to find rationalistic explanations for an essentially spiritual document. My own presupposition is that God wanted Paul to express greeting to specific individuals perhaps as a form of encouragement based on previous acquaintance, and that there is no formula for finishing off an Epistle except for the one God prescribes.
Survey Paul’s build-up for the evidence for the need for righteousness (1:18-3:20):
Every single one of the historical dispensations from Innocence to the Age of Grace (and it will be so for the Millennium) ends with Man’s failure in his own effort to achieve the righteousness of God. 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one”; 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”.
This failure was so great that after innumerable opportunities, given in His love, mercy and longsuffering, to stop and change - from the Fall to the present day - God brings humanity to a crossroads, right here in the Book of Romans. They remain either “given up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts” (1:24) or choose salvation from the death of sin by accepting God’s free gift in Christ. No more options. The perfect answer to the sin of men has been provided by God Himself. Choose Him or die.
The current state of unsaved mankind is told in 1:18-3:20. It is one of wilful and ignorant rebellion against the saviour of men and the creator of all, Whose existence is glaringly obvious from what is around us. Mankind is therefore “without excuse” (1:20) and deserves eternity without God in hell.
Jensen breaks this section down into four parts:
- The pagan world condemned (1:18-32).
Jensen states that these are the classic Bible passages referred to to answer questions such as “Are the heathen lost?” and “Is it fair that those who never heard the gospel should be eternally condemned?” (p 252). He further states that “God gives them sufficient knowledge of himself to induce reverent worship and obedience” (ibid). This occurs both through the God-given conscience (eg to the Gentile) and general revelation (eg to the Jew - Guthrie p 427). This concurs with my own view, and note that it is God, not man, who is providing the means to know Him.
The refusal of the heathen to respond in this way requires God to carry out the sentence previously provided for sin - eternal separation from Himself.
The objection to this point of view is primarily that the activity of Conscience and General Revelation become equated with the preaching of the Gospel, to which an individual may or may not respond. If it is accepted that ‘no one can enter Life except through Jesus Christ’ as He Himself claimed (John 14:6 - discuss this), then everyone who fails to be told about Jesus Christ is condemned to hell already (John 3:18), because they have not heard about Him. This is not consistent with a plenary view of Scripture.
In my view, the Holy Spirit pleads with every individual concerning his/her sinfulness and relationship with God, using every means at His disposal, and at the same time being the judge of whether the individual’s response is a Godly one or not. If Godly, then ‘it is accounted unto him for righteousness’, whichever means employed by the Holy Spirit has been successful.
If not Godly, then God ‘gives them up’ to their sinful practices and allows them to reap what they sow ie eternal separation. Jensen describes this response as “one of rejection, unthankfulness, vanity, presumption, and evil deeds” (p 254).
It is up to God to decide when to erase the name from the Lamb’s Book of Life. His stated intention is that He will go to the nth degree to bring every human being to repentance; it is the individual’s choice as to how he responds to the pleading of the Holy Spirit. We can either choose to go to heaven God’s way, or choose to go to hell our way.
Essentially, the condemnation of the pagan world is on account of their sin, not who they are as individuals ( Romans 1:32 Jensen p 254), for they not only rejoice in their sinfulness in the knowledge that God condemns it, but also encourage others to do the same.
- The self-righteous condemned (2:1-16)
A moralist who zealously performs what he perceives to be the pinnacle of correct duty required by God eg the Pharisee or the devout Catholic. God points out that He is the only moral standard-setter and attempting to achieve His standard by zealous tradition is setting oneself in God’s place. Sin. Therefore worthy of condemnation.
- The Jew condemned (2:17-3:8)
Outward religion devoid of inner spirit. The outward formalism satisfies the inward need for earthly superiority, rather than the need to have a living relationship with God Himself. Only the latter relationship teaches what God wants.
Outwardly religious Jews set themselves up as examples of how to serve God; they were not aware in NT times of how they were offending Him in this. Jews were condemned by their own revelation of God ie the OT. This continues down to our own day eg the ultra-Orthodox in Israel.
- The whole world condemned (3:9-20)
Not only does this passage condemn the whole of mankind as sinners, but also declares them totally incapable of being able to do anything about it (3:10-12). The Law is likewise incapable (3:19-20) for all it can do is give the knowledge of sin.
There has to be some other way.
Outline the divine method of the need for righteousness (3:21-5:21):
The gloom of the previous truths is replaced by the brightness of hope. God has indeed provided a means of being righteous, for although “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (a totally impossible high standard) all those who believe are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (3:23-24).
Trusting in Christ’s work on the Cross gives the Christian:
Justification (3:24, 26, 28) which declares a sinner to be righteous - just as if he had never sinned - on the basis of his faith in Jesus Christ. This is a legal declaration of the sinner’s new standing with God
Redemption (3:24) which is ‘(1) deliverance from the penalty of the law, sin as a power, and the bondage of Satan; and (2) release to a new relationship to God and a new life in Christ’ (Jensen p 255)
Propitiation (3:25) which is God’s merciful provision of forgiveness of sin, effected on the Cross, and
Remission (3:25) which is the ‘covering’ of sins provided by the blood of Christ so that when God looks at me in judgment He sees His Son rather than my sin.
Thompson outlines these processes:
- Righteousness by faith 3:21-25
- The plan of salvation 3:26-31
- Abraham an example of justification by faith 4:1-8
- Justification apart from the ceremonial Law 4:9-10
- Abraham becomes the father of the faithful 4:11-12
- Salvation not by the law, but through faith 4:13-18
- Abraham’s mighty faith 4:19-25
- Blessings of justification 5:1-6
- Christ’s sacrificial love 5:7-11
- The reign of sin and death 5:12-15
- Universal condemnation and universal grace 5:16-212
Given that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone, the Jew cannot boast of any privilege, for sin is universal, and justification is equally open to the Gentile.
2Thompson Chain Reference Bible Fifth Improved Edition B.B.Kirkbride Bible Co., Inc. Indianapolis, Indiana 1988 marginal notes for Romans 3:21-5:21
The use of Abraham as an example is two fold. First his righteousness was on account of faith, not works. Second, that circumcision is not counted for righteousness in that it was given after Abraham believed God.
Note that in 5:1-6 God does not omit a ‘carrot’ for attracting an individual to repentance - the consequent blessings of achieving forgiveness are considerable.
Finally, God makes sure that humanity is aware that there is no sin committed in Adam that is not completely paid for in Christ; the comparison between the first and last Adams.
Trace out Paul’s application of righteousness to the individual (6:1-8:30):
Sanctification involves setting a saved individual apart from evil, and toward the worship and service of God. This process began at salvation when a believer is made positionally holy in Christ, continues daily as he is conformed to the image of Christ, and is completed at the rapture when he meets Christ face to face.
6:1-8:30 describe the Principles, Practice and Power of victorious living in Christ (Jensen Chart 64 p 256).
Having dealt with the problem of the power of sin at salvation, this passage deals with the presence of sins in the believer’s life and how to have victory over them. The Principle is that the saved identify with Christ: we were dead but are now alive, we were the servants of sin but now have the capacity to serve in righteousness, we are no longer under the old Law but can be lead by the Spirit. We are free from the bondage of sin to be able to do right, not to do anything our resident sin natures might dream up. The symbolism of baptism is used to illustrate this (6:1-13).
In Practice, the believer swaps slavery - from that to sin, to slavery to Christ, which gives freedom from the power of sin.
The residence of two natures gives rise to inevitable conflict which Paul illustrates from his own experience (Ch 6, 7:14-8:1). The key to victory is Christ (7:25).
It should be recognised that up to this point in Romans, Paul is developing the case for the culpability of the individual. He will go on in Chh 9-11 to describe national and universal culpability.
Scrutinise the various themes found in Ch 8:
1. 8:2 “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” The Christian is no longer subject to the “normal” spiritual rules that govern the rest of unsaved mankind. This freedom also extends to the physical (8:11-13).
2. The incredible promise is then made, that our salvation gives us the status of ‘sons of God’ in a family relationship with God Himself (8:14-16); then even more incredibly, that we are God’s heirs on an equal level with His Only Begotten Son! (8:17).
3. But that is not all. God has included the redemption of His entire creation in the work of the Cross (8:18-25 - which proves that Adam’s sin caused the whole creation to suffer the effects of sin) so that eventually the old earth and heavens will be rolled up and replaced with the new.
4. God does not just give us a future hope and leave it at that, nor does He leave us alone to experience and engage with these mighty future events. He gives the Holy Spirit’s intercession effective in the immediate present (8:26-27), and assures us of certain security and abundant blessing on the detailed basis of Christ’s intervention for us (8:28-39).
Review the problem of Israel’s rejection and restoration (9:1-11:36):
This section comes at the end of the ‘Doctrinal’ part of Romans. Some make it a parenthesis ‘because it deals only with the Jew, not the Gentile’. Jensen points out that this is artificial in that the rest of the book, and including within this section, all people and all Christians are included (Jensen p 252). Guthrie (p 429) makes the additional point that the position of Israel in God’s plan must have been a burning issue - not only in Paul’s own mind but in the minds of his readers. The argument to this point (1:18-8:39) is a necessary preparation to this passage. It is therefore not a parenthesis.
Israel is the focal point of OT history from Genesis 12 onward, and although set temporarily aside, is not forgotten in the NT (Jensen Chart 67 p 259). God has also made a number of “forever” unconditional covenants with Israel which God will certainly perform for Israel in the fullness of time. Israel is not rejected in favour of the Church - both have their specific places in God’s plans. In Chh 9-11 God is treating Israel and Gentiles as groups (in Chh 1-8 God is dealing with individuals).
Chh 9-11 compare the salvation of true Israel with the salvation of Gentiles (Jensen Chart 65 p 258):
- Introduction - Paul’s concern for Israel
- God’s Sovereignty - over Jew and Gentile
- Man’s Responsibility - both Jew and Gentile
- God’s Purpose - for Israel related to the Gentile
- Conclusion - God’s Purpose for Mankind
Chart 66 (p 258) gives the doctrinal chronology of this process:
- Israel Selected (9:6-29) - the Past - the Sovereignty of God
- Israel Rejected (9:30-10:21) - the Present - the Salvation of God
- Israel Accepted (11:1-29) - the Future - the Sincerity of God
It might be thought capricious of God to select, reject and then accept a group of people - hopes raised, hopes dashed; promises made - kept by God but broken by Israel; blessings given and blessings withdrawn. What is surprising is that Israel has little insight into what has happened to them (God places a veil over their understanding Matthew 13:13-15 and multiple other vv). It is a process which proves the complete sovereignty of God in the affairs of all humanity (9:15), illustrated by the potter and the clay (9:20-24).
The Jews sought righteousness by self-effort and (still) reject the righteousness of God which they may have by faith (9:30-10:21). God is therefore not responsible for rejection of the Jew - the Jew himself is.
Israel’s present rejection by God is neither total (11:1-10 - there has always been a ‘remnant’ chosen by grace - Guthrie p 430) nor final (11:11-32). Partial blindness will continue for the nation until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (11:25). This is accomplished by the end of the Tribulation - a time during which Israel as a nation return to the Lord (11:26-27).
Paradoxically, the agent of the inclusion of the Gentiles in salvation is the falling away of the Jew, and the agent of the restoration of the Jew is the salvation of the Gentile (11:15-24). Paul expresses everyone’s amazement in the wisdom of God in this (11:33-36).
Formulate the various relationships as described in Chh 12, 13, 14, and 15:13:
This is the Practical Section of the Book and is summarised in detail in Jensen (Chart 68 p 259) covering all aspects of daily Christian conduct.
The section begins with the consecration of the Christian (12:1-2) and ends with the Glory of God (15:8-13 “abounding in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost”), basically applying God’s righteousness to daily living.
Guthrie gives three headings for this (p 430):
- General duties (12:1-31): the duty to be dedicated to God, to have a sober appreciation of oneself, and to recognise the claims of others, gracing each other with our spiritual gifts and living together in peace and harmony. * Civic and Social duties (13:1-14): loyalty to government, the expression of love in our relationships with our neighbours, especially so as the Lord’s return is imminent
- A special problem (14:1-15:13): What foods are permissible to a Christian had contemporary relevance, but carries the principle that offence should not be given among believers. Guthrie (ibid) finishes with “Personal convictions are secondary to the spiritual welfare of the kingdom of God since full glory to God can be maintained only where there is harmony.” Harmony should never be an excuse for doctrinal compromise.
Interpret the epilogue Ch 15:15-16:27:
Paul is open in his hope that he will see the saints at Rome with the intention of roping them in to support his proposed journey into Spain (15:23-24) but he is currently sidetracked into heading for Jerusalem to bring them a (monetary) gift from the churches in Macedonia and Greece.
Paul concludes by stating that the “mystery which was kept secret since the world began” is now made manifest by God Himself - through the Scriptures, the Gospel, the preaching about Christ - and is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (16:25-27).
James D. G. Dunn, vol. 38A, Word Biblical Commentary : Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary, 7 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002).
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 411 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 416 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).
1 Cf. Sanday and Headlam, Romans (1895), pp. xcv, xcvi; cf. Hort, op.cit., pp. 56 ff. This is also maintained by A. Nygren, Commentary on Romans (Eng. tr. 1952), p. 457.
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 420 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).
Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, Series taken from jacket., 4th rev. ed., The master reference collection, 431 (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996, c1990).