13 Letters: Romans
A continued study in the Pauline Epistles
A Survey of Romans
“Protestants have made Paul a great hero, and they are therefore suspicious of him.” NT Wright
This statement by NT Wright is all too true. Many evangelicals see Paul as some sort of perfect human, sort of like Muslims see Mohammed. But with this kind of admiration comes a distortion in who Paul really was; a human being racked with the same problems and sinful nature that any of us have. But, unlike many of us, Paul had a singular vision shaped by his encounter with the Christ Jesus. This is the same impact Christ still makes on people that follow Him today.
Subsequently Romans is not a book that gives us some nice theology on ‘How to get saved,’ but is an intensely letter calling Roman Christians to obey the Gospel that he preaches. The church is most likely formed by either Diaspora Jews, or the Jews who were transformed at Pentecost (See Acts 2). In 49 AD Emperor Claudius kicked the Jews out most likely (According to Seutonius) for their contention with “Chrestos.” They later returned and were no longer the majority, nor in power in the church. The Gentiles had changed the “Traditions” and there was Racial/Ethnic Tension in the church The big issue was where does the “Law” fit in? By “Law,” Paul is referring to the Mosaic Covenant
What is Romans About?
Not as easy answer as one may think While there are key themes, there are more than one theme in the book, and much of the scholarship seems to focus on one only as the ‘Key” to Romans Controversy and the Potential of Reading Romans wrong.
Martin Luther/Reformed View = ‘How to get right with God’
The Issue: Getting free from moralism to be saved by Grace Alone
Focus’ primarily on Individual Salvation
The Gospel is about being right or ‘Justified” with God
“Righteousness” is a Gift from God to His people
Were the Jews teaching a ‘Justification’ by works vs. Faith?
“The gospel in its salvation-historical context is the theme of Romans. “ Moo
The New Perspective = ‘How to mend the tension/issues between Gentile + Jewish Christians’
The Issue: Not justification by faith vs. Legalistic Judaism, but ‘Forensic’ Justification of all men, not just Jews
Focus primarily on God’s “Covenant Faithfulness” (Covenant Nomism)
Gospel is not connected to justification by faith, but “the royal announcement of Jesus Christ as Lord” NT Wright
“Righteousness” is God’s faithfulness to His promises, and not something He gives to
Does the ‘Righteousness of God’ always refer to God’s ‘Covenant Faithfulness?’
“When Paul says `the gospel', he does not mean `justification by faith'; he means the message, the royal announcement, of Jesus Christ as Lord. “ NT Wright
“This does not, therefore, mean `the gospel reveals justification by faith as the true scheme of salvation, as opposed to Jewish self-help moralism'” NT Wright
Big Picture: The book of Romans explains the Gospel as God's promised plan, as it relates to individual transformation, Gospel obedience and unity amongst all people groups within the church!
The New Perspective has given us an incredibly important Corrective. When we view Romans as an individual call to getting saved, it destroys God’s gospel call to the nations, and becomes an individual pursuit of God and not a corporate, New Humanity. But I do not believe the New Perspective highlights the Main Theme, nor the only Theme found in Romans Romans is about the reign of the King and the new kingdom, new humanity…and more! To This American Theologian Douglas Moo writes…
“Paul writes with one eye on the division of the church, but he writes also to prepare for his visit and to explain the gospel. “ Moo
“And he writes to a church divided between Jew and Gentile. He therefore writes about the gospel that he preaches. The Roman Christians need to understand the power of that gospel: it can both justify and transform the sinner. “ Moo
I’m Centering on the Gospel as the Main Theme Particularly on 2 Sets of Verses, which British Theologian NT Wright writes is the…
Romans 1:1-5 = “Content of the Gospel”
Romans 1:16-17 = “Effect of the Gospel”
Primary Theme = Gospel = “Good News” for those that don’t know God
Paul’s Gospel is truly “Good News” - εὐαγγέλιον
Connection to Isaiah 52:7 cf. Romans 10:15 (See too Isaiah 40:9; 41:27; 60:6; 61:1)
A new world of Grace and Justice! Paul’s Gospel is truly Relevant for Today!
The Good News that God keeps His promise à “Through the Prophets in the Holy Scriptures”
Genesis 15 cf. Romans 4 (Abraham – Also Galatians 3)
The “Good News” that God is establishing His reign on earth “…descended from David” In this sense Romans isn’t immediately about ‘Justification,” but a proclamation of Christ’s sovereign and supreme reign as King as Promised
See 2 Samuel 7:13 cf. Psalm 2:6-7
It is about God’s Faithfulness and our unfaithfulness. God is a Promise Keeper. God called Israel, and they failed, but His promises have not failed. Christ came as the New Israel, the New Adam. He came like them in order to save them
However: God’s Plan Results in some key Secondary Themes…
“…for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”
“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith”
Righteousness here in Paul’s mind is connected to God’s Faithfulness in salvation history
V.5 cf 16:6 both same construction = ὑπακοὴν πίστεως
Cheap Gr ace is not an option
Note: The Motivation
“For the sake of His Name among the nations”
Unity Among All Within the Church
Both the Jew and the Greek
The Gospel of God is about God for His glory to bless all the nations with His salvation. It includes our individual salvation, but is so much more, as God created His all peoples in His image for His glory, which includes social harmony, peace and unity. Romans reminds us that His “Good News” is a herald’s call of His reign on earth, and a call for the big “C” Church to work out their tensions and disunity for His glory and their witness to the nations. The problem has been, like Israel, the church has proven unfaithful too, so the ‘already’ in Christ, still has to wait for the not yet, full redemption of the cross of Jesus, which is our hope in this broken world.