Romans 12-16

Here is a sample of what I have been doing for the past few days:(And forgive me for the mess of fonts that happened when I transferred this from my word file)

Brief Commentary on Romans 12:1-2 and An Outline of Romans 12-16

Up until 12:1 Paul has been carefully working through his argumentation regarding the righteousness of God, his wrath and justice, sin, human rebellion, justification, union with Christ who died and rose, the Spirit, and the Father’s intentions toward Israel. He now moves on to the point he has been arguing towards the whole letter. For most of us, the doctrinal discussion which forms the foundation and argumentative backbone of Paul’s application is, perhaps, more experientially revolutionary. But, we must not forget that Paul wrote this letter for a reason. The reason was to address the issues in the church in Rome. It seems best to me to understand Paul to be addressing the tension between the newly authoritative and established Gentiles and the returning but foundational Jews (this is clear from his discussions in Rom 1-3, and 14-15). What is informative for us is that Paul does not simply address the issue with a terse letter saying “be nice.” Rather, he unpacks the implications of the gospel. Moreover, the first implication of the gospel he draws out is not peculiar to the Jew-Gentile relationship but to the very character of every Christian life. Having surveyed the nature of the Christian life in the body of Christ, in society, in relation to authority and in relation to righteousness and the law, he moves on to Jew-Gentile issues.

Some Comments on 12:1-2

There are three imperatives which Paul gives us:

1) Present your bodies as living sacrifices (parasthsai ta swmata uvmwn qusian zwsan)

2) Do not be conformed to this age (mh suscematizesqe tw|/ aivw/ni toutw|)

3) Be transformed (metamorfou/sqe)

Of course, Paul is no moralist but is concerned with seeing the gospel, the power of God, bear fruit. Thus he provides two1 means by which these imperatives are to be accomplished, respectively:

1) Through the mercies of God (dia tw/n oivtirmw/n tou/ qeou/),

2) By the renewal of the mind (th|/ avnakainwsei tou/ nooj).

Paul sees these not as ends in themselves. Obedience is desirable for the end of God’s glory. He wants the Romans to these things:

1) As their spiritual service (or reasonable service; th/n logikh/n latreian)

2) So that they can discern the will of God (eivj to dokimazein u`maj ti to qelhma tou/ qeou/)

There are four major theological themes at play here.

  1. “Therefore, …. through the mercies of God” – In some way this has been what he has been arguing towards, and wanting to get to through the whole letter. This is the goal of his theology. All of that he has argued for in chs. 1-11 now has its pay out: a living sacrifice. If you are united to Christ through the Spirit in his death and resurrection then live your life as a living sacrifice. This is in line with the way Paul describes his own ministry in the beginning of the letter. He was called as an apostle “to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5). What does this mean about the worth of theological education? It is useless if we are not godlier for it. If we do not love the Lord more and serve with less hesitation, and pray more fervently, then we have not properly worked out the knowledge about Christ which we are amassing.
  1. “This age” – Admittedly, it may be better to translate this as the NIV does, “the pattern of this world.” But what is clearly underlying Paul’s phrase here is an “already” and “not yet” eschatology. Though especially developed in other epistles (Ephesians), nonetheless this understanding of the aeons of time and redemptive history is what Paul is referring to here. This becomes clear when we survey the other places in Romans where Paul makes claims with reference to time:

6:19 – “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification”

8:18 – “the sufferings of the present time (nu/n kairou/) are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be (mellousan) revealed to us”

8:22 – “creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now

11:5 – “at the present time (nu/n kairw|/) there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”

13:11 – “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”

16:25-26 – “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith”

(cf. 3:21, 26; 5:6; 8:1)

The Romans have received the Spirit of adoption (8:15) and yet wait eagerly for their adoption (8:23). They suffer presently and yet look forward to the glory to be revealed to them. The hope of Christians is God’s final restoration of the earth and his people and not the benefits they might receive from conforming to the worldly standards of this age. Their heavenly citizenship is the model which they are to follow; Jesus himself.

  1. Bodily Obedience is Produced by Mind Renewal – Romans 12:2 needs to be read as a companion text to Romans 8:4-8 or any other discussion of Paul’s usage of the flesh. How can the body be the location of our spiritual or reasonable worship if those in the flesh cannot please God? Flesh should be read as a quick reference word to the dominion of sin over mankind, the old aeon. As well, Paul is not a gnostic. Rather, Paul understands the body to be pleasing and good as part of the creation groaning for God’s restoration. Those who would have us believe that existential, transcendent and maybe even ecstatic exhibitions of the ‘spirit’ are the main component of Christian holiness have horribly neglected Paul’s imperative here. If our bodily life is not holy and pleasing to our Holy God, then whatever ‘spiritual’ manifestations we may claim are fraudulent. The same could be said of theological knowledge; if our bodies don’t follow suit then our knowledge is just arrogance.
  1. The Will of God – While we often speak of or hear of others trying to find the will of God for our lives, this is not what is meant by Paul here. Certainly, I am not denying that the Lord has a providential will for every detail of our lives, including if and who we will marry, what job we will take when, and what hardships we will face. Paul emphasizes, at length, that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (8:28) But, just before Romans 12:2, is 11:33-35 where Paul says “How unsearchable his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?’” The sovereign will of God exists, but it is not what Paul is focusing on here. Rather Paul is focusing on the moral will of God, that we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). Again, “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). What exactly does Paul have in mind that would be the good, pleasing/acceptable and perfect/mature of God? He goes into great detail unfolding exactly this in 12:3-15:13.

An Outline of Romans 12-16

  • 12:1-2 – Theological Implications of All the Preceded
    • Three Imperatives
    • Two Means
    • Two Results (see above for discussion)
  • 12:3-13:14 – The Will of God for the Christian’s Life
    • 12:3-8 – Gifts for the Body of Christ
      • [This is the

        first means listed of being a living sacrifice]

      • v.3 – Gifts are a matter of sober judgment and not a means for self-exaltation
      • vv.4-5 – Gifts are a means of service for the whole body
      • v.6 “let us use them” – Using our gifts requires risk on our part and encouragement from others
      • vv.7-8 – The gift list here is not exhaustive, just as all the others in the NT. Not the absence of tongues from the list. Does this imply anything about its importance, the presence or absence of its practice in Rome or something else? Healing, miracles and administration which are found in gift lists in 1 Corinthians are also missing here.
      • [The very next

        section is on love in relationship. Just as Paul transitions from

        gifts in 1 Cor 12 to love in 1 Cor 13, so he does here.]

    • 12:9-21 – Love and Godliness in Relationship
      • vv.9-13 – Love of Good and Hate of Evil in the Body of Christ
        • v.9 could very well be used as a motto for Christian discipleship.
        • v.12 is a constant theme in Romans (5:1-5; 8:18ff).
      • vv.14-21 – Love of Enemies and Neighbors
        • v.16 “do not be haughty but associate with the lowly” – Theological students who would do well in theology and in ministry must take these words to heart. If you are to be conformed to the image of Christ, then you are to serve, not to be served. We, as ministers, must be the first to wash the feet of our people, even enemies. This may mean that we need to consider taking a second job which requires hard work as an example to our flocks. Or it may mean that we need to consider what areas are in need of ministers but have been neglected because of the lack of prestige and resources available to that post.
        • v.21 – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Paul is not simply saying “be the change you want to see.” He is rather suggesting that through our obedience to the will of God, God himself will bring about the effects of his righteous reign. The ramifications and effects of our obedience are the undoing of evil on all levels of society.
    • 13:1-7 – Submission to Divinely Instituted Authorities
      • vv.1-4 – Why you ought to submit to “governing authorities”
        • v.2 “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”
        • v.3 “Who ever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed”
        • v.4 “he [the

          authority] is God’s servant for your good”

        • v.4 “he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
        • v.4 “he does not bear the sword in vain” – There is a good argument to be made for capital punishment from this verse
      • vv.5-7 – What submission looks like
        • v.5 “be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath, but also for the sake of conscience.” (cf. v.3)
        • v.6-7 “Pay to all what is owed to them” – This should sound just like Jesus’ saying “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
        • [At issue is law

          keeping, tax paying and generally being a good citizen. This does

          not necessarily seem to prohibit civil disagreement with a

          governmental regime nor civil regime change. Submissive regime

          change does happen, and it is utterly distinct from military

          coups common in countries which have been oppressed for a long

          time. This passage assumes that Christians are not in power.]

    • 13:8-14 – People of the Day of Salvation: Two Appeals for Holy Living
      • vv.8-10 – Love fulfills the law
        • [That love

          fulfills the law flows perfectly from Paul’s theology of the law,

          righteousness and the Spirit; 8:2 “the law of the Spirit and

          life.” Paul’s understanding of the law is either dependent on

          or at least coherent with what Jesus says in Matt 22:34-40 and

          Mark 12:28-34. It is noteworthy that at the end of Mark’s account

          of Jesus summing up the law, he says that the scribe is “not

          far from the kingdom of God. Paul understands the Jew-Gentile

          relationship to be one that ought to be characterized by the

          kingdom of God. (15:17)]

      • vv.11-14 – Love puts on the armor of light
        • v.13 – Public chastity (no orgies nor drunkeness), bodily purity (no sexual immorality nor sensuality), and peaceful relationships (no quarreling nor jealousy) are to characterize the Christian’s life.
        • v.14 – Love for Jesus “makes no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
        • [The second

          appeal Paul makes for holy living is that the time calls for it.

          We are those who are awaiting the day of salvation which is

          coming nearer and nearer and so we ought to put off the “works

          of darkness and put on the armor of light.” This is an appeal

          based on the eschatological dawning of the kingdom of God in

          Christ.]

  • 14:1-15:13 – The Kingdom of God is not a Matter of Eating, but of Righteousness: Jew and Gentiles in the Body of Christ
    • 14:1-15:7 – The Issue of Food, Judgment and the Weak2
      • [I understand

        this to be an issue between Jews and Gentiles because of similar

        (1 Cor 8-10) and related contexts (Acts 15:20 “abstain from

        things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from

        what has been strangled, and from blood.”)]

      • Pursue, therefore, what makes for peace because:
        • 14:3 – God has welcomed the weak
        • 14:4 – Before his own master each man is judged and will stand or fall (and the Lord will make his own stand v.10
        • 14:7 – No Christian lives or dies unto themselves, but all things are toward the Lord
        • 14:9 – Christ died for the weak brother (cf. 14:15)
        • 14:17 – The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in his Son.
        • 14:19-20 – Division among God’s people destroys God’s work
        • 14:23 – Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin
        • 15:1 – We have strong obligation to bear with the failings of the weak
        • 15:3 – For Christ did not please himself, but took on our reproach
        • 15:7 – As Christ has welcomed you, welcome each other for God’s glory.
        • [The weak are

          not to be understood as simply people of different but equally

          valid opinion. The weak are those whose opinions are wrong or

          lacking and thus hamper and confine their consciences unduly.

          Paul says we must bear with the failings of

          the weak, not the differences of mere opinion. The Jews in this

          context should have recognized that their diet does nothing to

          gain or lose their standing with God; Christ has fully purchased

          them. This was a wrong belief (14:14). But, there is grace in the

          body of Christ for believers whose faith is immature and mixed

          with false beliefs. But this grace is there so that they may

          mature into the true faith more and more fully.]

        • [We are in need

          of encouragement if this sort of ministry and character will be

          true of us and our congregations. As well, true reconciliation

          and unity will never be accomplished unless it is done for God’s

          glory. (15:7)]

    • 15:8-13 – Christ’s Ministry to the Circumcised
      • vv.8-9a – Jesus ministered to the Jews first, for two reasons:3
        • in order that the promises to the patriarchs might be confirmed (and thus show God’s faithfulness; cf. 3:3)
        • in order that the Gentiles might praise God for his mercy
      • vv.9b-12 – Paul’s understanding of the ministry of Christ is firmly rooted in a continuance of the Old Testament offices under the covenant
      • v.13 – The power of the Holy Spirit works towards hope and unity
  • 15:22-16:16 – Personal Matters
    • 15:22-33 – Paul’s Ministry Plans
      • v.22-24 – Paul’s work up to date, and future plans of going to Spain
      • v.25-27 – The Jerusalem collection is a major means of Paul uniting the Jewish and Gentile churches. The Gentiles owe this merciful service to the Jews, for:
        • “if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessing, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (15:27; cf. 11:17-22)
        • [This is a

          younger, less established church sending a gift of food and money

          to the older more mature church, to whom the younger church owes

          its existence. An analogy would be the African church sending

          material support to the American or European churches because of

          a famine ruining those lands.]

      • vv.28-33 – Paul expects to come by Rome, after Jerusalem where he expects hardship.
    • 16:1-16 – Personal Greetings to the Saints “In Christ”
      • NB: This chapter has the highest concentration of the phrase “evn cristw|/” “In Christ”
  • 16:17-25 – Final Exhortation and Doxology
    • vv.17-19 – Those who cause division; these seem to be operating behind the scenes of the Jew-Gentile relationship, and its issues (14:1-15:13; cf. Phil 2:21; 3:2-3)
    • v.20 “God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” – This is clear reference to the first gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, where the God of peace places enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Enmity and peace are major motifs in Romans and Paul’s theology in general (cf. Eph 2:14-16)
    • NB: There is an inclusio here in v.26 with 1:5 “to bring about the obedience of faith”

1In class I wrongly claimed a third means, namely “by testing.” This was based on the grammar of the ESV and not the Greek test itself. Translations seem insert “testing” as an addition to “discern” to draw out the nuance of dokimazein

2I understand this passage to be one unit because of the inclusio of God welcoming his people in 14:3 and 15:7.

3Both of the following verbs are Infinitive Aorist and so I understand them both to be subordinate to eivj to at the beginning of the clause.

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