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The Roman road to Christ;- (Index thread)

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posted on Dec, 13 2019 @ 05:02 PM
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Many illustrious commentators, including Martin Luther and Karl Barth, have written about the epistle to the Romans. When I began posting on this site, trying to follow in their footsteps was the last thing that I expected to do. I thought my mission was limited to the series on Revelation (now being re-cast into book format). Though I cannot claim to match them, I’ve been learning things from this exercise which make the operation worthwhile.

Firstly, there is the question of the origin of the Roman church. We can discover what Paul believes on that point by combining two of the statements in this letter. On the one hand, he mentions his scruple about “building on another man’s foundation”. On the other hand, he tells the Romans that he hopes to visit the city and “reap a harvest” there. The clear implication is that he does not see the Roman church as “another man’s foundation”. He does not think it was established by any one visiting apostle. It appears from the greetings chapter that the church functions as a community of small groups meeting in different houses, and that Paul knows most of the householders leading these groups. The implication is that the community grew up informally, and continues to be organised informally.

This has a bearing on the purpose of the letter. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he was combating the influence of the “Judaizers”, Jewish Christians attempting to enforce the laws of Moses within the church as a whole. Commentators debate whether Paul was doing the same thing when he wrote to the Romans. However, I can’t help noticing that his presentation of the gospel here is plainly addressed to the unconverted Jews. In Galatians he was urging Gentile readers to preserve their faith in Christ, but in Romans he is urging Jewish readers to gain a faith in Christ. I cannot believe that this was just a rhetorical device for his Gentile readers. He must have been expecting the Jews of Rome to have an opportunity to read what he was writing.

The best explanation, it seems to me, is that the informal church in Rome had not yet experienced the brutal separation from the synagogue which prevailed in the eastern provinces. They were still putting their case within the community of Jews, just as the church in Jerusalem had been doing in the earliest chapters of Acts. In support of that premise, the Roman Jews declare at the end of Acts that they haven’t even heard anything bad about Paul. In this letter, then, Paul is arguing with them from a distance, anticipating a later visit, just as Stephen was arguing in Acts ch5.

The other main issue is that this letter is the source text for the Lutheran/Calvinist teaching on Election and Predestination. The subject comes up when Paul is wrestling with Jewish resistance as a theological puzzle in its own right. We may debate whether men come to God by their own faith-choice or by God’s election. Paul is not really choosing between these two options, because he presents both of them. The necessity of faith-choice is a very important part of his argument. His point is not that one theory is better than the other, but that God is not at fault, either way, over the fact that so many Jews are resisting the gospel of Christ.

When Paul speaks of faith-choice, he refers to the example of Abraham, as he did in Galatians. When he speaks of God’s choice, he refers to Jacob. Now Jacob was later than Abraham, just as Moses was later than Abraham. The moral drawn in Galatians was that the covenant of Abraham is not superseded by what comes later. The faith-choice of Abraham takes precedence over the law-demands of Moses, and remains valid as the true path to God. We could draw the same moral here, that the faith-choice of Abraham is not superseded by the election of Jacob, but remains valid as the true path to God. In other words, it may support the argument that God’s election and reprobation are simply confirming and reinforcing the choice which the individual has already made for himself.

Another angle is to notice that Jacob is also a representative symbol for the people of Israel. His name is frequently used in that way in the books of the Old Testament. So I think it’s possible to make a case, from the relevant chapters, that what God foresees and elects is the existence of “Jacob” as the dedicated community itself, whether Israel or the church. “God has not rejected his people, whom he foreknew” (ch11 v2) That leaves individual membership of the community to be determined by faith-choice following the model of Abraham.

I’ve never been comfortable with the oppressively legal approach of Calvinism to the doctrine of election. I’m becoming convinced that there’s a way to escape from its clutches, through a true understanding of the double definition contained in the promise that God “works-together-with” [SUNERGEI] those who love him, [who are also] those who are called according to his purpose (ch6 v28),




posted on Dec, 13 2019 @ 05:03 PM
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INDEX

Paul’s obligation to Rome
ch1 vv1-17
Paul introduces himself to the Roman church and explains his intention to visit them and reap some “harvest” for Christ among the Jews and Gentiles of the city.

Presenting the gospel
Meanwhile, he uses this letter to present an explanation of the gospel for the benefit of the Jews of their acquaintance.

Wrath of God is revealed
ch1 vv18-32

Explaining why the gospel is necessary for the world, since otherwise the world is subject to the judgement of God.

Knowing and keeping the law
ch2
The fact that the Jews have been the custodians of the laws of Moses does not necessarily give them any advantage over those who don’t know these laws. Everybody is judged by the same standard- namely, keeping the law, not knowing it.

No preference for the Jews
ch3
Since nobody in practice does keep the law, in either group, the real way to escape the wrath of God is by means of the righteousness provided through faith, in Christ.

Abraham, the father of our faith
ch4
How God’s people have really been a faith-community even from the beginning. Our model is Abraham, who had faith in a God who gives life.

One man was righteous
ch5
We are reconciled with God and escape his wrath through the death of Christ, which occurred for our benefit. By means of his own death, he brought us from a state of death under wrath into a state of life.

Escape from sin
ch6
Having died on the Cross together with Christ, we are also raised together with Christ. Because we share in his resurrection life, we should also share in his freedom from sin, and should guard ourselves against relapsing into our former state.

Escape from law
ch7
But escaping from sin does not mean that we tie ourselves down to observing the laws of Moses. The real solution is to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit of God.

Living in the Spirit
ch8
We are no longer “in the flesh” but “in the Spirit”. In other words, we are already living in the resurrection life. We are reconciled with God and freed from the burden of his judgement. That fulfils the purpose of the gospel, as announced in the first chapter.

The puzzle of Jewish resistance

What happened to the Jews?
ch9 & ch10
Although many of the Jews are refusing to accept the gospel of Christ, that is not because God has rejected them as a people. It is because they are failing to pursue the righteousness of God in faith.

The mystery of the Jews
ch11
Even now, there is a “remnant” of Jews who have accepted the gospel. The resistance of the rest has been serving God’s purpose, indirectly, because it was one of the factors that brought the gospel to the attention of the Gentiles. Once the Gentiles have been brought to God, there is the prospect (based on a hint in Isaiah) that the rest of the Jews will also come back, and they will all be together as one complete faith-based community.

The effect of the gospel on our lives

Living in the gospel
ch12 onwards
We need to present our lives to God as “a living sacrifice”, living in harmony with others.

Patience with weak faith
ch14
The specific problem of coping with those fellow-Christians whose faith is “weak”, in the sense that they don’t have enough confidence to rest entirely on that security. They need the reassurance of keeping themselves in obedience to unnecessary scruples.

The powers that be
ch13 vv1-7
How the obligation to live in harmony with our fellow-men includes our obligations to those who are placed in authority.



posted on Dec, 13 2019 @ 05:06 PM
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This is good. Some hard work gone into these. Plenty to get stuck into. Thanks.



posted on Dec, 13 2019 @ 05:07 PM
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a reply to: and14263
Very glad to help.



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