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Instead, Paul positions the way of faith over against "works of the law" (Rom 3:27-28), pitting God's sovereign grace over against human effort. In the interests of his Gentile mission, Paul aims to deflate an inflated sense of Jewish identity, particularly "boasting," which religious leaders routinely displayed while observing ritual religious practices. Paul stressed the time had come to recognize, in accordance with the promises to Abraham, the reality of God's gracious designs for the Gentile world.
God's Justification: Beginning to End
From the beginning of Romans to its end, a theodicy, a justification of God, increasingly recognized, proves central, rather than the more accustomed perception regarding the "justification" noted in Romans as figuratively moving the opposite direction; relating God's gracious justification of human beings through faith. Although the justification of believers does serve as a primary theme of the letter, as Ernst Kasemann argued, the multiple references to "the righteousness of God" in Romans (1:17; 3:5; 3:21; 22; 26; 10:3 [twice]) "must have primarily a subjective reference, that is, to God's own righteousness-to the perception of God as righteous or as having acted in a way demonstrating righteousness" Bultmann, Byrne notes, reports the Lutheran tradition has tended to objectively interpret the phrase "the righteousness of God." This contention does not refer to God's own righteousness, but denotes the righteous status God graciously deigns and confers upon the believer, in light of Christ's saving grace "a sense given clear expression in Philippians 3:9, where Paul writes, 'and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith'."
The issues relating to the question Paul raises in a variety of formulations in Romans 3:3-8 regarding whether or not God is righteous "faithful,"truthful,"just" run throughout Romans, and constitutes contentions that may be stated both positively and negatively.
To take the negative first: within the bleak worldview that Paul shares with apocalyptic Judaism and early Christianity, the gospel as he proclaims it unashamedly lumps Israel along with the Gentile world in the sinful mass of humankind (3:9). As the first major section of the letter (1:18-3:20) seeks to show, Jewish privileges such as possession of the Torah and circumcision have all been undercut, in respect to the righteousness required for eschatological justification, by the more powerful force of sin (3:10-20). Does this failure of Israel imply a concomitant failure on the part of Israel's covenant partner, God? No, says Paul -- and here we turn to the positive: in Christ's death upon the cross, God has supremely displayed faithfulness-righteousness-to Israel (3:21-26). In the shedding of his blood, Christ has become the means of atonement (3:25) for all who in faith acknowledge their sinfulness and need of such justifying. God displays the divine righteousness precisely in the act of justifying people through faith (3:26), thus opening up for believers the hope of salvation on the basis of being righteous through faith (5:1-2).15 the only catch (and for Israel it is a big catch!) is that this is something that God is doing not simply in covenant fidelity to Israel but in faithfulness as Creator to the entire world. Since "all [= Jews and Gentiles] have sinned" (3:23a), all believers [Gentile and Jewish] are "being justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (3:24)-something that erodes the special status of Israel as "holy nation" set apart from the sinful rest of humankind and excludes all attempts henceforth to reclaim that status through performance of the "works of the Torah" (3:27-30).
In Romans 9-11, considerations regarding the issue of God's faithfulness (righteousness) resurface. In this section, Paul discusses the dual phenomenon first-generation believers confronted: Israel's failure, except for a minute number of individuals, to accept Jesus as the Messiah, along with, in direct contrast, the Gentiles; overwhelming positive acceptance of the gospel of Christ. Paul addresses the question of God's faithfulness to Israel if, from a variety of viewpoints, including God's elective methods in 9:6-29; human rationale for Israel's failure in 9:30-10:21, before he ultimately insists God has not abandoned Israel. God, Paul purports, will ensure Israel's eventual inclusion in the community of salvation. God's way, nevertheless completely reverses previous perceptions and expectations (11:25-36).
Outline of Romans Joseph Lightfoot outlined the book of Romans to include:
I. Paul's Introduction: 1:1-15
Personal Explanations: 1:8-15
II. Paul's Doctrinal Portion: 1:16-11:36
Explanation of the Gospel?: 1:16-18
The Gentile World's State: 19-32
The Jewish's People's State: 2:1-29
The meaning of the covenant: 3:1-20 universal remedy meets this universal failure: 3:21-31
The meaning of the covenant made with Abraham: 4:1-25
Results noted from this position of righteousness through faith: 5:1-11
A. Peace before God.
B. Confident boasting.
C. Patience under affliction.
Explanations of life and death: 5:12-21
The influence of this teaching on conduct: 6:1-14
If under grace, and not under law argument: 6:15-23
Not under law assertion substantiated: 7:1-6
Question if contention tantamount to equating the law to sin: 7:7-24
Thanks to God through Christ recounted that no condemnation exists for/to those in Christ: 7:25 -- 8:11
Those in Christ are bound to live after the Spirit: 8:12-39
Addressing concerns regarding Jews: 9:1-13
As God foreordains, not as man desires: 9:14-33
Recount that the zeal of the Jews has been ineffectual as they sought righteousness in a false way: 10:1-21
Question addresses as to whether God then rejected His people: 11:1-16
Reminder that Gentiles do not have any ground for boasting: 11:17-36
III. Practical Exhortations: 12: 1- 15:13
Present your bodies a living sacrifice. Ye are limbs of Christ's body.
The metaphor implies diversities of functions. Let each do his own work.
Observe charity in all forms. Overcome evil with good.
Be obedient to the temporal powers. They are God's delegates. Render to all their due, i.e. love they neighbour as thyself. Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Let each man look to himself, and each respect the conscience of another.
So in the observance of days. So also in the observance of meats.
Let the strong especially deal tenderly with the scruples of the weak, and put no stumbling block in his way.
We must not please ourselves, but each his neighbour.
God grant that you may so live in harmony, that with one accord with one mouth ye may glorify God.
Receive one another therefore, as Christ received you. For Christ came as a minister of the circumcision, that through Him the Gentiles also might be brought into the fold; and the prophecies might be fulfilled which spoke of the joint tribute of praise of Jews and Gentiles.
This do, and God will fill you with all joy in believing.
IV. Personal Explanations: 15:14 -- 16:27
Paul's motive for writing:
Paul's intent to visit readers: 15:22-33
Greetings; Commendation: 16:1-20
Psalms Noted in Roman Verses
Table 1 reflects comparisons of some of Paul's references in Romans similar ones by David in Psalms. Paul routinely recounted Old Testament references throughout Romans.
Table 1: Comparison of Roman Verses Similar to Psalms (adapted from NIV)
Concluding Considerations Regarding Romans
Thomas G. Long, of the Candler School of Theology, encourages contemporary preachers to permit Paul to "get up off the psychoanalyst's couch," to obtain a fresh view of Romans. "Romans is the expression not primarily of an anxiety-ridden soul but of a confident apostle who has wagered his whole life on the promises of God." biblical scholars have reportedly examined and scrutinized Romans for two millennia, yet still cannot confidently explain what they scrutinized, Long asserts. To find the answer to the seemingly simple question: "What is Romans?" Long contends, one needs to set aside the vexing and contested issues of meaning, which include:
Is Romans a compressed encyclopedia of Pauline theology squeezed into an epistolary mold, or is it a missionary's exceedingly convoluted letter of introduction to a distant congregation he hopes to visit but has never met? Or perhaps, as some have recently claimed, Romans is a really a story, "a narrative defense of God's righteousness,"while others have said that it is a logos protreptikos, a rhetorically shaped speech of exhortation commonly used by philosophers to persuade outsiders to come over to the exhorter's position. Traditionalists would simply say that Romans is, of course, a letter in characteristic Hellenistic form, but is it? If so, is it a unified letter composed in a single period in Paul's life and addressed to one set of recipients, or is it a patchwork of several letters composed at different times and in varying circumstances?
Despite the fact that Paul relates challenging prose regarding the law, flesh, Spirit, righteousness, and justification in Romans, which Long contends makes it a potentially forbidding territory, when one adopts Newton's mind, remembering the words are not merely from man - but from God, the answer seems subtly simple. Knowing the author, as Newton and Paul; seeking His Spirit to reveal the unknown and clarify…[continue]
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