Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 14


Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 14
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Letters of Paul

Part 5

V. Romans: The Most Systematic Exposition of Paul's Gospel

A. Key Places as Background for Romans

1. Written from Corinth (15:25, 16:1)

2. En Route to Jerusalem (15:25-27, 31-32)

3. In Hopes of Coming Then to Rome (15:23-24, 1:11-12)

4. And Continuing on to Spain (15:24, 28)

B. Timeline

1. A.D. 49 – Claudius expels Jews from Rome

2. A.D. 54 – Claudius dies, Jews begin to return

3. A.D. 56 or 57 – Romans written

C. Romans Outline

1. Introduction and thanksgiving (1:1-15)

2. The theology of the Gospel (1:16-11:36)

3. The ethics of the Gospel (12:1-15:13)

4. Conclusion: Personal plans and greetings (15:14-16:27)

D. Romans Outline (Chapters 1-3) - The theology of the Gospel

1. Thesis Statement (1:16-17)

a. Wright – Gospel: Proclamation of King Jesus against all rivals

b. Jervis on God-likeness, including the "righteousness of God"

2. Universal sinfulness (1:18-3:20)

a. Gentiles accountable (1:18-32)

i. General revelation: teleological, moral arguments for God

ii. Idolatry producing both hetero- and homosexual sin

b. Jews accountable due to Law (2:1-3:20)

3. Justification by faith (3:21-5:21)

E. Romans 4

1. Promise to Abraham: Blessing for Gentiles

2. Law – Moses

3. Fulfillment in Jesus: Blessing for Gentiles

F. Romans Outline (Chapters 4-5)

1. Right legal standing with God (Chapter 4)

2. Right relationship with God (Chapter 5)

a. Reconciliation (5:1-11)

b. Adam-Christ typology (5:12-21)

i. Similarities

ii. Differences

G. Romans Outline (Chapters 6-8)

1. Sanctification – Christian Growth (6:1-8:39)

a. Freedom from sin (Chapter 6)

i. Baptism as metonymy for salvation (vv. 3-4)

ii. Indicative leading to imperative (vv. 6, 11-14)

b. Freedom from law (Chapter 7)

c. Freedom from death (Chapter 8)

i. The present and coming victory (vv. 1, 30)

ii. The correct translation/interpretation of v. 28

2. The Unbroken Chain of Romans 8:29-30

a. Foreknowledge

b. Predestination

c. Calling

d. Justification

e. Glorification

3. Romans 8:29-39

a. Calvinism: God's sovereignty prior

b. Calminianism": God's sovereignty and human freedom in balance (middle knowledge)

c. Arminianism: Human freedom prior

H. Romans Outline (Chapters 9-11)

1. The role of Israel – Why have so many rejected the Gospel? (9:1-11:36)

a. Principle of a remnant (9:1-29)

b. Wrong approach to Law (9:30-10:21)

c. To give place for Gentiles, after which they will again turn back (Chapter11)

2. Outline Chapter 9

a. Double predestination

i. Believers saved at God's initiative

ii. Unbelievers damned at God's initiative

b. Single predestination

i. Believers saved at God's initiative

ii. Unbelievers damned at their own initiative

c. Zero predestination

i. Believers saved at their own initiative

ii. Unbelievers damned at their own initiative

3. Corporate election in the Torah

a. Abraham

i. Ishmael

ii. Isaac

b. Pharoah

4. Individual election in Romans 9:22-24

a. Objects of wrath: Prepared for destruction (Or, having prepared themselves)

b. Objects of mercy: Whom he [God] prepared in advance

5. Outline Chapters 6-11: The double archway of Christian experience

a. "Whosoever will may enter here"

b. "Elect before the foundation of the world

6. The destinies of the Jews

a. Living by faith in God's promises – accepting Christ as Lord and Savior – accepting Christ

b. Treating law as means of salvation – rejecting Christ as Lord and Savior

7. The destinies of the Gentiles

a. Could come by faith in God via natural revelation – accepting Christ as Lord and Savior

b. Separated from God's special revelation – rejecting Christ as Lord and Savior – full number is complete

8. Implications of Romans 11:25-27

a. At best, a prelude to fulfilling Old Testament prophecy about state of Israel

b. But current spiritual signs not promising

c. So, we dare not neglect justice for Palestinians

I. Romans Outline (Chapters 12-16)

1. The ethics of the Gospel (12:1-15:13)

a. Transformation (12:1-2) – recall Jervis again

b. Gifts (12:3-8)

c. Love (12:9-13:14)

i. Contrast 12:17-21 with 13:1-7

ii. Can the world distinguish the church from the government?

d. Tolerance (14:1-15:13)

i. 14:1-18 [A]

ii. 14:19-15:6 [B]

iii. 15:7-13 [A]

2. Conclusion: Personal plans and greeting (15:14-16:27)

a. Note the regions beyond principle again in 15:23

b. Note the prominent women in 16:1,7

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Lecture 14: Romans (Part 1)


This is the 14th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


(Any slides, photos or outlines that the lecturer mentions or uses should be down loaded if they are available, otherwise you may be able to find something similar through the Google© search engine.)


Paul’s letter to the Romans, the next in chorological order in our survey of his epistles, is perhaps the most famous and undoubtedly the most influential in the history of Christianity of all his writings. When we introduced a little bit about the influence of Paul down through the centuries in our introductory lecture to his life and letters, we noted how thinkers such as Augustin and Luther, Calvin and Bart to which could be added Westley and many others, were profoundly transformed, perhaps more so by Paul than by any other biblical author and in each case, it was the Epistle to the Romans that had a disproportionate large influence in their thinking and spiritual transformation. In a large part, this is due to the fact that Romans reads like the most systematic exposition of Paul’s Gospel. It is the largest of Paul’s letter’s, it is the one that puts forward the most detail and in logical order the main tenants of Paul’s understanding of the Christian faith, the nature of God, his creation of humanity, human plight and the solution to the plight in Jesus Christ with the life long journey of discipleship combinating in one day in the body and ultimate glorification. 


We may be reminded that Paul had not yet visited Rome. This is in chorological order, the first church to which he writes that he had not personally founded. He will eventually get to Rome and he expresses his desire in the opening and closing of this letter to come to visit the church in the capital, the largest most influential city in the Empire of that day. However, he will get there in a way that wasn’t expected, as a prisoner.  This letter was most likely written from Corinth or very close to the turning home point of Paul’s third missionary journey. Because of the names that appear in Romans chapter 16, Phoebe in the church of Cenchreae, a coastal town very near Corinth. Because of Erastus, the director of public works in verse 24 whom we discussed earlier in conjunction with 1st Corinthians. Paul discloses that he was getting ready to set sail for Jerusalem after returning to revisit several of the cities previously visited on this missionary journey. 


The archaeology of Rome and nearby areas reveals many exciting ruins of the city that once was. On the very road that once formed the Appian Way, the major highway into Rome from the south, we see some of the very large grave stones of the wealthy, erected in the Roman period. There are still elaborate mile markers along this Appian Way. Paul would not have seen the coliseum, for it was built a decade or so after he had died; it is perhaps Rome’s most famous architectural monument and forms an object lesson of the power of Rome, the magnificence and grandeur of it exploits, particularly from a worldly point of view. The ruins of the coliseum reveal the basement level area in which both animals and humans were kept before being released to fight one another on the stadium floor above. It reminds us that at least by the mid-60s and the prosecution instigated by Nero, Rome was no friend to Christianity and even a decade earlier when Paul wrote to the Romans, many of his statements must be read as implicitly countering the grandiose claims of the Roman emperor. When Paul says that Jesus is Lord, this meant that Caesar was not, etc.   


Also from slightly after Paul’s life time, an arch was erected to celebrate and immortalize Titus’ victory over the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel in AD 70 and on one of the inside panels of the archway, one can see craved in relief into the stone, a very detailed picture of Jewish soldiers being led as prisoners of war, chained to each other, still carrying the seven branch candelabra and also copies of their Torah scrolls so precious to them. The Roman forum, the Latin word for market place, just as the Greeks had their agora, still discloses ruins of countless buildings in a comparative small and condensed area, reminiscent of the closely built quarters of ancient urban centers. There are still ruins of the Roman senate in the time of the republic which came to an end with the transition of power from Julius Caesar to Octavian, who took the name of Augustus Caesar, already several decades for the Christian era and before what we now count as AD. In the days of the Republic, there was a very genuine democratic law making debate holding function for the elected delegates, but in the Empire from Octavian onward, more and more the senate became a figurehead or rubberstamp, gathering simply to do the emperor’s bidding. There are still ruins of the temple to Caster and Prolix, seafaring gods and coincidental a name for the ship that brought Paul to Rome. There is also the ancient ruin of the temple to the god, Saturn. This reminds us of the Roman pantheon of gods for every walk of life. An ancient Roman race track existed on the palatine hill where the emperors had their summer palaces.  There is a traditional site of Paul’s Roman imprisonment, not when he was under house arrest at the end of the Book of Acts but when he finally lost his life under Nero, sometime between the years AD 64 – 68. There are also ruins of the dungeons of those times of persecution. 


So Paul wrote to a church he did not found and a people he did not know and to a situation that doesn’t disclose any major influence of false teachings as in Galatians or 2nd Corinthians or any reports of major scandals or wide spread immaturity as in 1st Corinthians or a particularly pronounced concern in a discrete theological area such as eschatology with Thessalonian Epistles. So Paul developed what is called the most systematic exposition of his Gospel and that he uses as in any of his letters the classic Hellenistic writing form, yet his words occupy a much longer portion of a scroll than the conventional Hellenistic letter. Again to remind ourselves the key background written from Corinth in route to Jerusalem in hopes of then coming to Rome and continuing onto Spain. 


Before one is convinced that this is an utterly timeless and purely abstract rendering of the Gospel, however, we must recall a few key historical events preceding Paul penning of this Epistle in AD 56 or 57. Prior to Nero’s reign beginning in AD 54, the emperor on the throne was Claudius and in AD 49, we learned from the Roman historian of the 2nd century, Suetonius, that Claudius expelled all the Jews from Rome because of a riot instigated by someone known as Chrestus, only one letter different in Latin from the word for Christ and thus leading many scholars to assume that Suetonius gives a somewhat garbled reference to Jewish people being expelled or perhaps only Jewish Christians, but nevertheless a significant body of people were expelled because of hostiles between Christians and non-Christians Jews.   


In ancient empires like Rome, all legal edicts expired when the term of an emperor expired until his successor renewed them which Nero did not. So after Claudius’ death in AD 54, Nero allowed Jews to return. Upon the return of Christian Jewish leaders, they may have wanted whatever positions they left behind, back again. This sudden influx of visitors, in any case, returning members of a quite different ethnic group, one which is often in tension with another does not normally make for smooth transitions. The whole emphasizes that permeate so many sections of Rome, therefore the unity of the Jews and gentiles in Christ, while timelessly true does become particularly appropriate for the setting of Paul penning this letter. And so we find, as already mentioned, a very pure illustration of the Hellenistic letter writing genre, an introduction and thanksgiving, followed by a very lengthy body with the larger portion from chapter 1:16 to the end of chapter 11, being a very orderly and structured articulation of Paul’s understanding of the theory of the Gospel, followed in 12:1 – 15:13 by his exhortation material or ethical out working of that Gospel within another disproportionate long section by conventional standards of a conclusion, combining more information and repetition of information given earlier on, tucked into his thanksgiving prayer of his personal travel plans and concluding with a whole chapter of greetings with by far the largest number of people greeted of any church he ever addresses. This surprisingly at first glance and to date, one of only three churches he will write which he did not personally found. As a result, in more liberal circles and in a slightly older era of modern scholarship and because there are some uncertainties in the manuscript in a few instances about just where the letter to the Romans ended, the suggestion had become popular at one time to imagine Roman 16 as not originally part of what Paul wrote to Rome and perhaps as well, the misplaced ending of some other letter, the most commonly suggestion was the Ephesians since the letter to the Ephesians where Paul did spend the most time at, lacks personal greetings of the like one would expect. 


But today, the tide has turned and the majority of scholars recognize that Romans 16 by textual manuscript’s standards is most likely to have formed part of the original autographs and an integral part of what Paul conceived of in his writings from the outset. How then could he greet so many in a church he had not previously met? Well, we have a clue from the first person greeted in 16:3 with Priscilla and Aquila who were precisely among some of the Roman and Christian Jews evicted from Rome during the time of the final five years of Claudius’ reign. From the information we learn scattered about the Book of Acts, Paul meets up with these fellow tentmakers elsewhere on more than one occasion even though originally they had come from Rome. This suggests that perhaps many, if not all of those greeted in Romans 16 were people Paul had met outside of Rome who by Ad 56 or 57 were now living in Rome, perhaps many of them were returning exiles or people who simply had personal or business reasons for being away from Rome even though they had lived there all along. And because Paul had not been to Rome before, he wanted to form as many bridges as possible to those who didn’t know him through those who did, in order to gain the most favorable possible audience for his message. 


If we go back to the body of the letter and unpack it in more detail, we see that after the introductory material a thesis sentence can be identified in verses 16 – 17 of chapter 1. Here we read, ‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the Gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘the righteous will live by faith.’’

The Gospel is being revealed, the good news of Jesus Christ which is the proclamation of Jesus as King against all others including the Roman Emperor, especially. Jervis, in an article on discipleship in the New Testament edited by Richard Longnecker, unpacks the emphasis particular unique to Romans of what it means to be a true follower of this Jesus, a true adherent to this Gospel and speaks of it in terms of ‘God Likeness,’ not in taking on the eternal or ontological attributes of God but growing increasingly in likeness to his moral characteristics. God’s righteousness which refers first of all to his own character as completely holy and just is something that believers by faith trust in Jesus is credited to them as it righteousness was accredited to Abraham because of his faith. Paul returned to this point in Romans 4 just as he had already introduced it in Galatians 3. But God’s righteousness is not merely a legal fiction credited to the undeserving but is also the character of the believers as the Spirit comes to live within them over a life time and they are increasingly conformed and transformed into the likeness of Christ themselves. 


This is a theme which we saw in 2nd Corinthians, chapter 4, but as we unpack first negatively in 1:18 – 3:20 and then positively in 3:21 to the end of chapter 5. This appropriation of righteousness which can also be described both in Romans and in Galatians as justification; this is by faith and not by works, certainly not the works of the Torah. A wonderful promise and offer to those who come to Christ, the righteous will live by faith as predicted already in Habakkuk 2:4. But before Paul proceeds to unpack this theme, he speaks of another quite different attribute of God also being revealed in verse 18, God’s wrath, his holy and righteous anger and judgment meted out against sin. Why move backwards in the history of the human race, so to speak, before unpacking his message of salvation? Quite simply, before the message of salvation is meaningful to anyone, they must agree that there is some plight from which they need to be saved or rescued and so with meticulous care from 1:18 – 3:20, Paul demonstrates the universal sinfulness of humanity. He begins with the easier or more obvious part of his case, the sinfulness of gentiles, non-Jews who for the most part never had access to God’s revealed Law at Mt Sinai. Does this mean that they cannot be held accountable for their sins? No, because Paul goes on in 1:19 – 20 what may be known about is plain to them because God has made it plain to them and in verse 20 what he means; from the intricacy and design and function of creation, one should be able to deduce a creator, an argument that Christians have used ever sense. And even in the age of evolution and great scientific arrogance to claim to have known and to be able to know in many circles that no God exists and the universe just burst forth with the so-called big bang. The logic remains compelling as opponents of what has become known as the intelligent design movement. They are pointing irreducibly complex structures in the universe from the earliest moments of its origin. It simply cannot adequately be accounted for by natural selection or the idea of abandon forces of time plus space plus chance as Frances Shafer loved to summarize Darwinian atheistic evolution. 


The gentiles are accountable as well because as Paul puts it at the end of chapter 1 in the final verse, there is a moral argument to God’s existence. Anthropologists of the previous generations loves to point out that no single culture around the world had exactly the same set of moral principles as any other. And Paul is not arguing here that all people and all cultures are conscience of all of God’s moral law. He describes in the intervening materials how they suppressed this information and therefore degraded themselves, but what is far more fascinating is the more unintended by product of the past century of anthropological investigation around the world is the simple fact that no culture is avoid of moral consciousness. Where does morality come from in the first place even if no two cultures disagree on what is right or wrong? In the famous words of Mark Twain, ‘man is the only animal that blushes or needs to.’ Only the Judeo Christian claims that God has made humanity of all creation uniquely in his image and thus morally accountable that can explain this distinction. But the theologians have therefore come to call or at times natural revelation which holds the gentiles accountable despite the litany of vices that occupy most verses 21 – 31. 


Summed up theologically as idolatry and paradigmatically illustrated in the ethically realm was sexual immorality, interestingly he uses terminology in verse 24. The NIV translates the first expression as sexual impurity which usually refers to heterosexual sin and then goes on in 26 – 28 to describe homosexual sin, neither permitted as acceptable but neither put forward as somehow worse than the other. It would not be surprising if the average Jew listening to the Epistle to the Romans being read, would at this point with a bit of smugness be replying, ‘that’s right!’ That’s a good characterization of the sins of the gentile world. But in chapters 2 – 3:20 explicitly by chapter 2:17 and possibly implicitly already by verse 1; Paul turns to the Jew and refuses to let them off the hook any more than he did the gentile. The Jews, if anything, are that much more accountable when they break the Law because they have had a special revelation of God, the written Law in tablets of stones given to Moses at Mt Sinai, the Hebrew Scriptures. As long as they keep it perfectly, they have no problem, but when they break it, they too have a sin problem. Once partially managed until the time of the promise would come through the regular sacrificial system in the Jerusalem temple but now with the coming of Christ, fulfilled in the person of Jesus and there requiring faith in Jesus and being a disciple to him. That’s the gist of 2:1 – 3:20 which climaxes in 3:9 – 20 with ten separate quotations or allusions to Old Testament text of stress that no one, included Jews, can live a sinless life so all have the identical plight. 


In one of the great transitions of Scripture in verse 3:21, returns to the thesis of the revelation of God in the Gospel and begins but now apart from the Law, through which the righteousness of God has been made known. Though this is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets and therefore can be spoken of that to which they have testified. 3:21 – 31 unpacks this thesis, using in particular three key terms which we think of today as technical theological terms but in Paul’s world they were simple well-known metaphors of everyday life. Justification, the metaphor from the law court, the declaration of freedom to leave the courtroom because a penalty had been paid, a sentence had been served after a crime had been committed. Redemption, the metaphor form the slave market, a price paid to redeem, to buy a slaves freedom and last but not least, propitiation, a term that has no simple equivalent in 21st century commonly used English. It refers to a metaphor from the temples of both Jewish and Greco-Roman of the sacrifice offered to appease a god’s wrath. Chapter’s 4 & 5 then unpack the nature of this salvation, this justification, redemption and propitiation. In chapter 4, by returning to the logic Paul had already employed in Galatians 3, that it was by faith in the more amorphous promises of God to the Israelite people beginning with the founder of their nation, Abraham, already in Genesis 12 and with God’s pronouncement in Genesis 15 in that it was Abraham’s faith, his belief was credited to him as righteousness.  


Thus now in the age of the fulfillment of those promises to Abraham after the parenthetical period of the Law of Moses, salvation is again by faith. Justification is once more utterly apart from Torah obedience as anything meritorious. But in Romans, more so than in Galatians, the conclusion that Paul emphasizes from all of this is that if it is apart from Torah obedience, then the need to be circumcised, the unique privilege of that nation, the nation of Israel was given the law of circumcision to set it apart along with other laws as the uniquely elect people of God, is no longer needed. The Gospel is for Jew and Gentile alike on exactly equal terms and promised exactly equal blessings. 


Many commentators today will take chapter 5 with chapter 6 – 8 where Paul moves from the initiation of a person into the Christian life, the beginning of their justification or their redemption or propitiation. Moving on to the nature of ongoing transformation incumbent upon them, what Paul will call sanctification, a life of holy living, increasingly be conformed to God’s image. Older commentators and a large slot of church history saw, however, chapter 5 as furthering Paul’s unpacking the benefits of justification including not merely legal standing with God as stressed by the justification metaphor, but a right relationship with God, beginning that experience of reconciliation, a term that occurs in 5:1 – 11 which we discussed briefly in considering 2nd Corinthians chapter 5. It is interestingly also that it was in this section that Paul gives the first hint in Romans that the Christian life will involve suffering, as he does in the identical context of his first reference to God’s love being poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit in verse 5. The two go hand in hand and are not antithetical as so many people would assume. It is perhaps right to see chapter 5 as transitional but still having significant impact on our understanding of justification and the beginning of a saved life. 


To try to illustrate the nature of this contrast between the old life and the new, Paul turns in the second half of Roman 5 to a contrast between the first Adam, the first human, which is what the word ‘Adam’ means and then Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, the second or last Adam, imagery he expands on in 1st Corinthians as well. The Christ who did everything correct where Adam did it wrong; therefore making it possible to begin the reversal of the cruse on the human race and indeed on the cosmos. As one unpacks the similarities and differences that Paul outlines between Adam and Christ in this typological comparison of verses 12 – 21, we see on the one hand that both men were solitary individuals, that is not to deny the existence of Eve or Jesus’ disciples but nearly that it was their actions and the actions of their followers which in fact affected the entire race of humanity for generations to come and in each case, one action, the initial sin of Adam and certainly of Eve as well and the redemption or justification brought  by Christ as the crucifixion was the key to defecting and affecting the future of whole human race. But the differences out way the similarities. In the case of the first human couple and in the case of Christ, it was the provision of salvation. In the case of the fall of humanity in the Garden, it was one sin that separated them from God whereas by the time of the coming of Jesus there were many in human history that precipitated the need for a Saviour. And whereas Paul affirms without exception, it was the initial sin that guaranteed that all would be born with the sin nature and would freely choose to act upon that nature in 5:12 and thus definitely be condemned. Christ’s cross work does not automatically save all of humanity rather as we read in 5:17, how much more for those who received God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteous, will reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. How then can Paul in the next verse (18) write consequently as one wrong act resulted in the  condemnation for all people, one righteous act resulted in the justification and for life for all and in the answer must be, he means the opportunity for life for all.  But as the preceding verse made explicit already, there must be the act of reception on the part of fallen humanity. 


By chapters 6 – 8, there is no disagreement, Paul has turned from justification to sanctification; there is no disagreement here that Paul has turned to the subject of sanctification and to the topic of Christian growth. F. F. Bruce’s simple outline remains as good as any, that in these chapters, there are three main freedoms, explicated one per chapter: the Christian’s freedom from sin, in chapter 6, freedom from the Law in chapter 7 and freedom from death in chapter 8. Chapter 6 contains two main parts, verses 1 – 10 are dominated by indicative statements about the way believers have died to sin by virtue of being united with Christ. The first four verses describe that union as concurrent with baptism; baptism in the earliest stages of church history always refer to water baptism unless specifically qualified in some other way. Does this mean baptism is a requirement for salvation or in some way automatically insures salvation? Surely not since 1st Corinthians 10:2, Paul can talk about those who were baptized into the ministry of Moses and yet fell and was judged in the wilderness, but no doubt because in the earliest periods of church history, before the development of infant baptism, people were baptized shortly after, their professions of faith were realistic. One can use baptism as a meconomy, a figure of speech where one element of a complex of events closely related to a larger more all-encompassing event stands for – that larger whole. Just as we speak of pledging allegiance to a flag as a metonymy for an entire nation. 


Verse11 and following however, imperatives and commands dominate, creating what some have called the indicative, leading to the imperative or the paradoxical slogan, ‘become what you are.’ If we have died with Christ symbolically in baptism then we must demonstrate that by continually putting to death the sinful nature which can so often still painfully enmesh us in Godless living. Not paying careful attention to one or the other of these two parts of chapter 6 can lead some Christians to an inflated estimation of the amount of sanctification that is attainable in this life and thus speak of Christian perfection. Or ultimately to play down the amount of transformation that is possible and indeed desirable and even expected. Put the two parts of the chapter together and we have a powerful but balanced understanding of the progress of holiness which should form part of the normal Christian life. A similar balance is needed in understanding the freedom from the Law which chapter 7 explicates. There was a time when Paul says that he was alive apart from the Law and he appears to be speaking not merely for himself but for all humans, certainly gentiles but even Jews as well. There were those who thought that they were doing just fine under the law as we saw in Galatians 1, but then the Law came in and sin revived because again to recall the logic of Galatians at this time from chapter 3. From that which was already sinful was now declared to people to be against God’s righteous standard. Their unconscious and unwitting sins became transgressions. It was not that the Law itself was sinful but that it allowed for sin personified or at least reified as a kind of power took on a life of its own. 


In 7:14 – 25, Paul shifts from speaking in past tense verbs to present tense verbs and yet continues to talk about a tension in a person’s life by which knowing what is good and wanting to do what is good doesn’t actually lead to that. And knowing what is bad and evil, sinful and lawless; nevertheless is not able to prevent a person committing those sinful lawless acts. There has never been consensus agreement in the entire history of the church. As to whether Paul is talking here due to the switch to the present tense about his Christian life or whether he is still talking about his existence as a pre-Christian Jew, perhaps paradigmatic, one way or another of all humanity outside of Christ. The strongest argument in favor of the later approach is precisely the strong language Paul using to speak of the plight of this representative ‘I’ or the ego in Paul that regular finds himself in tension to what he knows to be God’s will in which he delights. Language such as verse 23 of being made a prisoner of the law of sin or of the second half of verse 25 being a slave to God’s law. Could be too strong, many have said, to characterize the Christian for whom 8:1 which is also unambiguously true. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because (verse 2) the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. On the other hand, it is arguable that only when one fully understands the complete extend of God’s demands with the Holy Spirit living in a person to full empower them to desire God’s righteous standard and when they yield themselves to that power fully able to enable them to keep God’s law, can the tension as described in 7:14 and following, be as strong as it is. Or to put it more prosaically, once we had no power but to sin, to choose to do that sooner or later to displease God where as of now, we have the power in the spirit for a way out. But with the freedom God has given us, we can still choose our old nature and to sin. Once we had no choice but to sin, but now we have a choice and so Paul’s is demanding us to choose well. But again, requires us to say that a lively and ongoing debate will probably continue until the Lord comes back over the problem of the ‘I’ in verses 14 – 25. 


The final chapter in this trio then turns to the theme, freedom from death. Whatever the existential tension in a believer, she can or he can be guaranteed ultimate total victory over spiritual death and thus over sin in a glorified body but experience substantial healing, even in this life and being controlled more so than not by the spirit rather than by the flesh. Verses 1 & 30 frame the body of chapter 8 and 31 – 39 is a ringing conclusion as to the promised victory Christians can count on.