Author: Michael, Whitney
Original Date: Nov 20,2007
Objective number one in the writing consisted of the need to improve the attitude of the Roman gentile believers toward the Jews. Much of the content of the first 11 chapters builds up the argument to change the view of the church at Rome. Law had to be shown in good light, which occurred in chapter 7 and some problems of hopelessness and sin also required attention in chapters 5 and 6.
First to note is that the intended audience of Romans has been in much dispute. But a strong argument can be made that the audience is Gentiles as seen by Romans 1:5-7 that shows that the nations were being reached, including those in Rome.
Romans opens with various words of encouragement giving praise to God and proclaiming that “the faith know throughout the world” (Rom 1:8). And Paul wrote of the power of the gospel adding the phrase “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16) as an introduction to a mantra repeated in variations throughout the letter.
This mantra provides a little hint to the major theme of the letter regarding reconciliation of the gentiles with the Jews.
Then from that encouragement a superb sermon occurs, a sermon about the increasing intensity of turmoil upon a people who deny the revealed knowledge about God. Concluding remarks included a list of evil acts with a mention of the judgment of God. Such sermon would give pastors many compliments in churches today. Yet Paul's intent on the sermon comes out in the next chapter.
Romans 2:1 begins with a word that could be translated “for which cause” saying “for which cause your are without excuse whoever among you makes such judgments” and thereby interconnects the sermon of chapter 1 with a troubling allegation against the Roman audience
So, such a great sermon actually energized the audience and was followed by a shocking accusation in chapter 2. From the mention of at least some issues in the sermon about pride and boasting and lack of mercy, the Romans were shown to have the same problems.
Following that harsh change of mood, many words were given to show the error of making such judgments. In the midst of the passage, verse 6 “to render to every man” comes as the second of many equalizing verses that would be used to dispel the anti-Jewish sentiment of the gentile believers followed quickly by another in verse 9 “of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile” (KJV+).
Another judgment passage begins with an apparent condemnation of Jews. Yet the judgment actually is posed hypothetically by addressing he who calls himself a Jew. But there were no Jews among them, having been rejected from the church since the time an edict kicked all Jews out of Rome.
So what purpose was such a judgment. It seems that the purpose was to continue drawing the wayward church members into further judgmental attitude whereby Paul put stereotypical accusations against Jews into the mouths of the Roman believers, words according to the inclination of their hearts. And the summation said that there was no benefit of being called a Jew, that the only benefit accrued from being changed inwardly, again, an idea that the gentiles in Rome held.
After getting the Romans to confess their feeling that the Jews were lacking a benefit simply for having circumcision, the letter then counteracts the church's attitude that the Jews were disadvantaged by asking “What advantage does the Jew have?”
So Paul used this moment to speak well of the Jews, and unnoticed in this whole scenario is the fact that Paul was Jewish. The letter intended to improve the attitude of the Gentiles toward the Jews. And the positive message began at this moment.
Verse 3 showed another accusation of the Jews being unfaithful and not able to benefit by the grace of God.
After nullifying some additional complaints of the gentiles, focus occurs back on to the equalization of Jew and gentile in verse 9 speaking of Jew and Greek initially by reviewing some psalms to introduce the Law as a topic.
Righteousness and justification emerge out of the topic of the Law. Law must exist before justification can be explained. And such mention of the Law gives a subtle introduction to the idea that the Romans, in addition to rejecting the Jews, despised the Law too. So a foundation had to be laid to show the significance and benefit of the Law.
Righteousness and faith then were described as acting separately from the Law as a universal benefit for “all who believe” (Rom 3:22). Now if there were not enough topics being addressed here, a problem of boasting was raised. Faith was to become an opponent rather than the excuse for the Romans to boast. It may become apparent that the gentiles were boasting against the Jews while mocking the Jews for being yet under the out-dated Law instead of under grace.
So Paul had to build up Jews and the Law.
Here comes an introduction of Abraham. Romans presented Abraham on the issue of faith, boasting and fatherhood. An explanation was made why boasting is contrary to faith. Paul explained how absurd boasting appears regarding getting a gift from God.
The fatherhood of Abraham became the basis again for unifying Jew and Gentile in the mind of the Roman gentile believers (verses 11-12). Again the importance of faith and grace were presented as a contrast to the Law (verse 14).
Romans showed that Abraham endured with persistent faith with an undertone message about God's faithfulness and His worthiness to be trusted. Record of Abraham's faith had been made for this time (verse 24).
The audience now was given a confirmation that those in the Roman church had the benefit of the same type of faith. Tribulation (verse 3) of the day required instruction of this faith in order for the Roman believers to endure with assurance in God. Such tribulation received attention again in chapter 8.
Hopelessness abided among the Romans before they came to Christ but now Christ provided basis for strength, especially that Christ died while they were yet enemies(verses 4,10). Therefore, joy(verse 11) could abound in their time of distress.
Focus then changed to the topic of the Law, the reign of sin and the reign of death with the contrasting power of Christ Jesus. Law again became a topic of discussion as the framework to raise up the various issues with the Romans and to start giving support to the positive discussion of the Law. Romans then proclaimed the significance of grace(verse 15). Gentile believers in Rome apparently held grace in much esteem.
Paul built up the image of grace and spoke of the reign of grace being stronger than the reign of sin. Even again in the midst of a litany of topics, the inclusiveness, to Jew and Gentile, showed up in verse 18.
Note that the Law received minimal and only negative mention to this point.
Sin just got an introduction in the previous chapter in order that the sin of the Roman believers could now be addressed. A picture forms of the Romans falling to the pressure of persecution upon them causing the church members to lose hope leading to boasting against the Jews and fleshly indulgences among the church members.
Grace became the license to sin. Paul counteracted such attitude at this stage of the letter.
Christ's death and resurrection formed the basis to describe the sense of eternity and power as a reason to stay out of the fleshly behavior.
And again the animosity to the Law appeared by the Romans' attempt to justify sin since the Law went away. (This was one of the three options in Gal 4 and 5 – the three options were: follow Moses Law, follow the flesh, or serve one another.)
An intricate weave of related concepts such as reigning, slavery, freedom and obedience appear within the argument against the church members' fleshly behavior. A flow from slavery to sin into obedience to God occurred in the text. Freedom became the reason not to get stuck in slavery (to the flesh) again.
Finally, a foundation had been laid for the discussion of the Law.
Problems of the Law paralleled that of sin as described in the previous chapter. And the dominion theme carried across chapters for continuity. Whereas the believers were shown to be free from sin in Rom 6:18, a freedom from the Law followed too as seen in Rom 7:3. There came a death to the Law just as there had been a death to sin. Even the newness of life appears again in the discussion of the Law (Rom 7:6) as it had also in the discussion of the flesh (Rom 6:4) .
Such thoughts really again equalized Jew with Gentile. The Law operated within the power and influence of the flesh just as the sinner sought to follow the flesh. Both legalists and indulgers operated by the flesh.
The obligation of a wife was shown as an example of the manner by which one could be freed of the law, just as a widower is free from the law that one could not commit adultery. An analogy developed as to the marriage of the believer unto Christ.
Another analogy showed the relation between sin and the Law, that the Law activated and instructed people into sinful behavior because of the destructive influence of the flesh. In this analogy, Paul sought to give more power to resist sin while at the same time worked to present the Law as something good (Rom 7:16). It must be remembered that the gentiles were antagonistic against the Law which, due to the accompanying mocking of Jews, needed to be shown in a good light.
The conflict between the desire for good and for sin then culminated with Christ being the solution.
In light of this conflict, affirmation came that there was no condemnation for those in Christ. This seems to provide comfort to those who were of the struggle just being described. Verse 1 mentioned about being led by the spirit which then was complemented by telling the audience that Christians are in the spirit (verse 9).
The discussion of the spirit may well be a discussion about the spirit of man as quickened by the Spirit of God. Mainly what was being said was that the believer should change the focus of his thoughts and he could focus on the actions that were beneficial, just as seen in Gal 4 and 5.
At this juncture, freedom from the flesh, power of the spirit, and the idea of bondage( Rom 8:15), to fear in this case, come up again. Now the power and freedom formed the basis to encourage the believers during the time of persecution and sufferings (verse 18). The whole focus shifted toward the glory and benefits to them and to all creation that were to come in Christ Jesus. The patience of Rom 8:25 as coming from the Spirit also correlates back to the endurance of Abraham mentioned in Rom 4. God's gift of His Son also strengthens the patience for believers in times of suffering (verse 32). Next Paul noted that it was the love of God by which God sent His son.
Paul segued from the love of God into the love that Paul had for his fellow countryman. Here, pursuit of the gentiles' compassion occurred. Justification of benevolence flowed through the pleas in Paul's grieving for the Israelites. Everything in scripture rightfully belonged to the Jews, who were also the Israelites, the name which Paul avoided to this point for fear of losing the gentile audience too quickly.
Observe also that the intertwined themes dropped out so that Paul now only wrote about Israel. And Paul shifted from speaking of Jews to speaking of Israel as a manner to make the proper association of the prophecies to the inhabitants of Judea.
The designation Israel received a narrower meaning from the inclusion of the full bloodline down to only those of the bloodline who also were of the promise. The gentiles had to understand God's faithfulness to Israel. Even Paul himself seemed to struggle to defend God and now the logical summation spilled out as Paul wrote.
History showed the narrowing process. Now the culmination of history brought forth the final whittling down, which gentiles saw as a curse, but Paul would show to be of prophetic fulfillment.
Note that a problem occurs among the commentaries in assuming the events to be future. Yet the context showed that the prophecies were being fulfilled. Even Rom 11:5 mentioned that the remnant was present.
Verse 14 began to justify God if some were to see God's actions as unrighteous. The explanation of God's righteousness continued for seven more verses.
Again Paul spoke of the Jews, as the topic, in two phrases “vessels of wrath” and “vessels of mercy” while extending also to include Gentiles. Paul subtly argued that the Gentiles should be longsuffering with the Jews since God was thus so. The mercy and longsufferring were shown also in the prophecy of Hosea.
Isaiah then was quoted to show the gentiles that God designated a remnant among the Israelites to enjoy the prophetic fulfillment.
In a possible action to reaffirm Paul's concern for the Gentiles, Paul introduced that idea of the righteousness the Gentiles followed. Then the epistle dealt with the failure of Israel to come to that righteousness. The tone became a bit negative toward Jews saying they stumbled at that which was to give them righteousness.
The negative tone then was followed by Paul's deep expression of his desire for the best for Israel. Gentiles too were to recognize Paul's loving compassion on Israel so they might emulate Paul.
Investigation into the problem of understanding righteousness continued. He observed that the true righteous path ended in Christ Jesus, who had been close to them and in their midst.
Moses also conveyed the same idea of the closeness of righteousness and faith in Deut 30:11-14.
Deut 30:14 “The word is near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”
Hence the letter presented the idea:
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); (9) because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (10) For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (ESV)
These famous words of invitation actually only occurred herein to show how near the salvation reached to the Jews at that time.
Paul then showed that God demonstrated faith by sending preachers unto Israel so that the salvation truly remained as an offering in their reach. (Again the gentiles should also have started to be convinced to be benevolent to the Jews.)
The mantra of Jew and Greek appeared once again in verse 12 with a positive light upon Jews, in contrast to the first use of the mantra which could be interpreted as a stab against the Jews saying the Jews had their chance first, now salvation is only for the gentiles.
Now that preachers had been sent to Israel and God had done His task. A time of reckoning approached. The prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled saying “who has heard our report?” in that few actually heard it to the point of understanding. Paul indicated then that the report had properly gone out.
And the issue of provoking jealousy should have awoken the Israelites. God had performed the steps that should naturally make the Jews aware of their need to come to Christ.
Again, God's stretched out His hand for them. In mention of this, there was the call for Gentiles to stretch out their hand too.
In the whole chapter, Paul had not held back information that would defend Israel nor information that would show the lack of response. But the goal was to develop benevolence for the Jews by the gentiles.
The situation just presented looked bleak. But Paul insisted on the need to keep acting on behalf of Israel since God hadn't cast them away.
Finally Paul made the closest association with Israel since he now had the confidence (confidence in his persuasive argument) to remind the audience that he was an Israelite.
And Israel had not been cast away as evidenced by the existence of the remnant (Rom 11:5). Paul mentioned it was a remnant of grace, using the topic of grace which the Roman believers in Rom 6:1 had taken in opposition to the Law and to Jews.
The election (Rom 11:7) were the part of the bloodline Israel that received Christ. Then the rest were blinded. Paul again sought the sympathy and mercy of the Roman believers toward the Jews showing again that the Jews ought to have the blessing (verse 12 – the fullness).
Verse 14 spoke of the jealousy that came up in the words of Moses in Rom 10:19. The mission of Paul was to build up the Gentiles to promote jealousy among the Jews.
Coming to the crux of the problem in Rome, Paul addressed the problem caused by the boasting of the Romans against the Jews. Here the Olive Tree analogy appeared. The only purpose of the analogy was to show that unnaturalness of such boasting.
Everything from the chapters before chapter 11 lead up to the argument made regarding the need to stop boasting.
Again Paul mentions the blindness(vs 7) and he mentions the fulness(vs 12) within the context of verse 25. And the issue of “being wise” or boasting appears again.
Rom 11:26 said “all Israel would be saved” -- this can be understood in light of Rom 9:6 saying only the bloodline Israel who also is of the promise would be saved.
Paul therefore was saying in the context that the Gentiles should have mercy just as God was showing mercy on Israel.
The main effort to change the attitude of the Romans had now been completed. The tone of the letter changes drastically at this juncture.
The chapter ends with praise to God in His mercy and His great wisdom and knowledge with God showing mercy.
The themed of mercy carried on into a discussion to use that mercy to become a living sacrifice unto God. So, if they were willing to die for Christ, the act of service to the brethren would become significantly easier in considering themselves a living sacrifice.
Using the faith given and the other gifts of God (since one can't boast in a gift), the audience was given ideas and ways to showing loving action. And at the same time the people are instructed to have good behavior to enemies as well, as the letter starts to address problems of the Roman believers' attitudes toward the government.
The government was perceived as an enemy to whom the church members stopped paying taxes. This behavior needed to be corrected for the good of all. From paying taxes owed to owing nothing, as an aspect of love, this era required the greatest obedience to have the greatest fruit in the greatest times of trouble resisting the flesh problems addressed in chapter 6.
The service of chapter 12 and the love of chapter 13 helped to form a mindset to move away from boastful judgment against the weak in faith on issues of eating meat (for meat was sacrificed to idols and some felts uncomfortable to eat food sacrificed to false gods).
And an issues about certain holidays was also a cause for judgment by other believers. Such judgment has to be avoided cause all believers live for the Lord and only the Lord can judge.
Then Paul exclaims belief that nothing is unclean in and of itself – as further effort to remove the effect and reason for judging each other.
Paul spoke of mustering strength in troubled times to help the weak by referring to the actions of Christ in His giving. So believers were being moved away from selfish judgmental attitudes in the last several chapters into taking on unselfish service without judgment to help those who were weak.
Verse 7 was to move the Roman gentiles into acceptance and service for each other. Again there was the dealing with the bias of the gentiles against the Jews by showing that the gentiles were saved through and were dependent upon the Jews. Then there was provision to help equip the gentiles to endure the tough times.
At verse 14 Paul started to explain the his approach and zeal in writing to the Roman church. He assured them of his desire to go to Rome. And then Paul touched upon the problem of the Romans not being willing to contribute the needs of Jerusalem believers, but this was the problem addressed from chapter 1. Yet Paul asked that the Roman believers might pray for Jerusalem.
Paul now gave an assignment to give greetings to many people. And at least one analysis of Romans 16 showed that there were Jewish spellings of names, as observed through the Greek, indicating those to be greeted were largely (or all?) Jewish. And this may have then been an act of reconciliation between the gentile believers and Jewish believers in Rome.
After some direct greetings to the Roman audience, Paul gave praise to God for opening the gospel to the gentiles.
The outline presented herein differs from most. Indeed the difference of view was the reason such an article was needed. For several critical goals of Romans had been missed over the years. Let the evidence and arguments here help find the truth on Romans.
The truths discovered were about the judgmental attitude of the believers at Rome and about the racial division against the Jews. The Roman church also was shown to be in fleshly indulgences as seen by the judging and in the Sin-cause-we-are-in-grace attitude of chapter 6. So the goal was to fix the attitude of the gentiles toward the Jews and also to improve the behavior toward each other among the church members. The problems may have developed due to the increased persecution by the government upon the believers in Rome and led them to almost give up hope for a comfortable life while creating the resulting atmosphere to take their tension out on the Jews and on other gentile believers.
Such was the information discovered from the book of Romans and now being shared for deeper consideration, to find if this really is the recreation of what happened in Rome leading to the need to write a letter there.
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Version 1.1 – added content of chapters 12 to 16, and added a conclusion.
Common Law Copyright 2007 by Michael, Whitney.