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UNDERSTANDING THE EPISTLE OF ROMANS
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A Treatise on Faith & the Glorification of God

In the Mind & Hearts of all Believers

The Apostle Paul wrote the Epistle to the Romans in the winter of 56-57 AD while visiting Corinth during his third missionary Journey and was preparing to deliver “the donations of the Saints to the mother Church in Jerusalem “and thus will be delayed in his anticipated visit of the Roman Church.[1] Many themes have been suggested for the Epistle of Romans however the overlying theme could be seen righteousness by faith and the necessity of faith and the glorification of God in all areas of one’s life. The purpose of Pauls’ visit and the treatise is to further to proclaim the Good News ,or inclusive Gospel of Salvation, to all People and to fulfill God’s divine provincial plan of Kingdom fulfillment.

This plan or reconciliation and redemption is available to all who are willing to be justified by faith by the gracious acts accomplished during the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. Regardless of any cultural or any other prejudices of the law all are redeemed from sin and reconciled by Christ and faith alone and none can come to righteousness through any work or deed. However, Christian living requires a live of lived in faith and Glory to God which will require a transformation of the mind and result in the circumcision of the heart and rebirth into a new body and indwelling and transformation of Spirit.[2]

 The Date

Written during Paul’s third missionary before his departure to Jerusalem and during the period in which many Jews were in exile from Rome and Italy (Acts 18) under the orders of Claudius but According to Moo, many were slowly returning to the city.[3]

The Audience

The Epistle to the Romans was written to the believers or Body of Christ living in Rome. The congregation was composed mainly a gentile community, some of whom may have been “Godfearers” or Gentile converts to Judaism and then Christianity but the vast majority would have been those from the general gentile populous those who lived outside the Law of Moses and thus were uncircumcised and practiced the customs of eating the unclean foods. Even though the Council of Jerusalem ( Acts 15)  had decided that such restriction should not prohibit one from being a brother in Christ or disciple fear of assimilation and loss of national identity and misinterpretation and a desire to hold true to the ways of the Old Covenant still remained among Judaic believers and their Hellenistic ( Gentile) brothers[4]. However, as mentioned above many Jews were returning to the city after being expelled under the edict of Claudius and as such, there was a Judaic presence in the city both in the body of the believer and the synagogue and as was Paul’s custom and God’s directive Paul would witness first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. Thus, the Letter is attended for all believers, or saints, regardless of nationality or cultural identity.

 

The Occasion

As briefly mentioned above Paul wrote the Epistle during the winter of AD 56-57 in Corinth while preparing to deliver the gifts of the Saints to Jerusalem to help with the needs of the church and the people. This universal church offering was most likely a crisis relief effort to meet the needs that occurred from the three-year famine that occurred during the reign of Emperor Claudius around 45-48 AD and would have had financial impacts on the area and the people of region (Acts 11).

Additionally Paul writes the Epistle with a sense of regret for not being able to visit Rome at an earlier date and having to be delayed but encouraging the church he is coming and Eager to proclaim the Gospel and the necessity of faith to the Church.[5] Finally, Robert Stein adds it was “Paul, not Peter, responsibility to mister to the Roman Church as the church in this city was primarily a Gentile and not Judaic Church. Additionally He commits on the uniqueness of the introduction of the Epistle in which Paul states how he was divinely appointed by Christ to serve as the Apostle to the Gentiles. This divine appointment by the risen Christ and through the Spirit was received by faith and is done so to bring about the obedient faith in to whom have received gracious faith in the risen Christ as he has.[6] Moo also comments on this adding that the purpose is the Proclaim the Gospel to the People of Rome.[7] Additionally, the assignation of Claudius has placed a new Emperor Nero in on the throne who would eventually become a vicious persecutor of both Jew and Christian.  This persecution and attempted assimilation onto the Jews would lead to the failed uprising of the Jewish zealots and the destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70.[8] Additionally, fulfilling the warnings of the prophets and the promise of the destruction of Jesus and proving that no one can be made righteous to God by works, deeds or upholding the Law along it must be accomplished in the inseparability of action and faith and a life lived for the glory of God.

In regards to the situation the Jews were allowed back in Rome due to the assassination of Claudius and thus as a political attempt by Nero to try to appease Jewish populous in the Empire and as an end the disturbance and thus a means to avoid a possible revolution. Nero ascended the throne in 54 AD but this pacification would not last long. In 64 AD, the fire of Rome was blamed on the Christians and was the catalyst for the Persecution of Christians and Jews under Nero, which lasts until 68 AD.  Most historians claim Nero actual started the fire of Rome as an attempt to discredit the Christian and Jews. Christians and Jews refused to worship the Emperor as God and Christians were accused of cannibalism (for the belief in the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper), and for undermining Roman cultural traditions and in the Words of Tacitus “Nero Blamed Christians who are hated for their abominations and punished them with refined cruelty. Christ from whom they take their namesake were executed under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. Stopped for a moment, this evil superstition reappeared, not only in Judea, where was the root of all evil, but also in Rome, where all things sordid and abominable from every corner of the world come together. 

Thus, those who confessed [to being Christians] were arrested, on the basis of their testimony a great number condemned, although not so much for the fire itself as for the hatred of humankind.”[9]  The common fable that Nero played his lyre dressed as an actor singing about the destruction of Troy was done so he would be memorialized in Epic Poems as a hero of Rome, great Poet and savior of the people as the who order the setting of the fire. Two sections of the city, which were spared by the fire, were the Christian and Jewish sections. The fire burned ten of the fourteen sections and left the citizens vengeful and seeking justice with many, aware that Nero set the fire so he could rebuild Rome to be more to his liking and splendor. To apiece the people and his own cruelty Nero would dress Christian s dogs and have them killed, or parade them around in his garden in a circus where he dressed as a charioteer would exact cruel punishment.. In AD 68 was impeached and executed by the Senate and after a volatile year was replaced by Vespasian as Emperor ending the Persecution the Christians and Jews.

The term Godfearer can apply to Hellenistic Jews or Gentile Converts to Judaism and is associated with individuals who did not uphold to all the commandments of the Law of Moses, whether it be circumcision, dietary customs, or other restrictions listed in the Judaic Law in in the Old Testament. At times, it simply means one whom is chosen by God or lives in obedient faith. In contrast, a proselyte is a convert who uphold all the Judaic traditions of culture and religious Law. In the 1st century, a Pharisee would tend to be more inclined to view those who did not uphold the commandments that were more of a doctorial or religious nature were, as a Sadducee would tend to emphasize cultural and national identity.  Additionally, those of the Diaspora populous would be a bit more tolerant where as those in Judea and Palestine would view any one of a Hellenistic view or background and a Gentile in a negative manner.[10]

Purpose

Although, many sub themes run through the Epistle of Romans Paul’s intent or Purpose is clearly defined in the introduction. “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of Godthe gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him, we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-7 NIV).” What Paul is stating it is by divine election and appointment and the leading of the Spirit he has been called and sent to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. This divine election is his apostolic calling for seen by the prophets, that the resurrected decedent of David will be the Son of God and reign in Heaven at the resurrection. All people Gentile and Jews are called to live in obedient faith to the Son of God and all authority and power is given under his name alone. His salvation is only available by grace to those who live by faith alone.

Moo states although many purposes have been stated for the intent or theme for Romans the Gospel should be seen as the primary focal point or position of Romans.[11] The purpose of Romans is to spread the Gospel to all people of Rome first to Jews then Gentiles. Paul additionally plans to expand on this message in a different manner. Through encouraging, convincing and rebuking of the ways of Flesh and the rebirth of the Spirit.  This transformation of the mind that lead to a circumcised heart and a life of obedient faith for those justified thru faith. Justification and Salvation is the gracious gift, which was granted thru the crucifixion, resurrection and the hyper-exaltation of the Lord of All Creation the Son of God, in which one is born into a new image in the likeness of Christ or his Eikōn.

 

The purpose of the letter is thus to establish the need of obedient faith and proclaim the inclusive Gospel in Rome in order to fulfill God’s Kingdom calling. [12]Obedient faith includes such issues as justification by faith in which one is declared righteous or forgiven of past transgressions only by the grace of the sacrificial act of Christ on the cross and in his resurrection and exalted ascension.

Furthermore, justification is similar to when a judge pardons ones actions or a debt is paid in full by another and forgotten in addition to forgiven. Thus, no deed, work or human action can gain God’s favor and bring about restoration.

Additionally, Paul speaks of the need for the transformation of the mind, sensible thinking, the circumcision of the heart applying that a life live by faith also requires dying to the ways of sin, resisting temptation and total reliance and dependence on the Authority and Power of Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. A life that is to be live in service to God,  for the glory of God, and in a relationship with God lived on the precepts of love, a unity of heart and mind and a interdependence with the community and not live out of an independent selfish nature. Finally, all believers are called to proclaim the gospel and further the kingdom of God.

Although salvation may begin with the individual, it expands through the community and then explodes in an inclusive nondiscriminatory global fashion. As it was for the 1st century, Roman Church be today. We must set aside our difference so we can fulfil God’s plan of Kingdom fulfillment through the Good News of the Gospel.

In God, Christ and Spirit,

Trent Rindoks

 

 

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Bibliography

Blackwell, Ben C., John K. Goodrich, and Jason Maston, . Reading Romans In Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015.

 

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Vol. I. New York: Harper One, 2010.

 

Haris, M. D. The MD Haris Institute. December 11, 2011. http://mdharrismd.com/2011/12/19/proselytes-god-fearers-and-relations-between-jews-and-gentiles-in-the-bible/ (accessed March 26, 2016).

 

Moo, Douglas J. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

Stein, Robert. Biblical Training. Spring 2003. https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library (accessed March 25, 2016).

 

Towns, Elmer L., and Ben Gutierrez, . The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.

 

[1] Elmer L. Towns, and Ben Gutierrez, . The Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. ( Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 132.

[2] Douglas J Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[3] Douglas J Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[4] As evident in Paul’s frustration with the Jews in Corinth & Macedonia during his third Journey (Act 18 :5-6)

[5] Douglas J Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[6] Robert Stein. Biblical Training. Spring 2003. https://www.biblicaltraining.org/library (accessed March 25, 2016).

[7] Douglas J Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[8] Ben C. Blackwell, John K. Goodrich, and Jason Maston, . Reading Romans In Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 24.

[9] Justo L. Gonzalez. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Vol. I. ( New York: Harper One, 2010), 43-46.

[10]  M. D. Haris. The MD Haris Institute. December 11, 2011.  The MD Haris Institute. December 11, 2011.

[11] Douglas J. Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

[12] Douglas J Moo. The NIV Application Commentary: Romans. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000).

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