Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 15

Romans (Part 2)

Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 15
Watching Now
Romans (Part 2)


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.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Romans (Part 2)
Lesson Transcript


This is the 15th 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.)


Verse 1 says that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And verse 30 speaks of the unbreakable chain link that those who God predestined, in which he also called. Those that he called, he also justified, and he also glorified; these terms will be further explained. The point to be made here, to use mathematical language; the set of all those of whom anyone of these verbs may be predicated is exactly co-terminus with the set or sets of those verbs that can be predicated. If a guarantee for those who begin with the first link in the chain will make it to the last link. But what do the terms mean? Particular what does predestination mean? A divide that has bedeviled Christianity from the outset, and perhaps even exacerbated at the time of the Reformation as also with Calvin in the late 1500s and Arminius in the 1600s who took polar opposite perspectives. For Calvin and his spiritual followers ever since, God’s sovereignty is more powerful and logically more important than human freedom and therefore predestination can be viewed as God’s free sovereign choice from all eternity past over those whom he will effectually call, call not merely in terms of invite but drawing that person to himself to a point he would guaranteed to freely respond with faith in Christ. For Jacob Arminius, John Calvin eliminated free will while he denied that he was doing so and therefore human freedom had to be viewed as logically and chronologically prior. Predestination for Arminius and his spiritual descendants simply referred to fore knowledge, knowledge in advance. Why then does Paul use two different words, two different links in the chain? Because of what he adds in verse 29; not nearly as God fore knew as predestined but he also predestined them to be conformed to the image of his Son. It is that sanctifying work. For the Arminian it sets predestination off in simple fore knowledge. On the other hand, the Calvinists replies with language similar to that fore knowledge at times in the Old Testament which has the stronger sense of prior choice, and therefore, they too can at times agree that it is the sanctifying peace that sets predestination apart from fore knowledge without in any way threatening their system. Who is right? If we were a bit more modest, we would concede that we simply do not have enough data in this text or perhaps the entire descriptor to fall down simply on one side verses the other. 


God’s sovereignty and human free choice are recurring themes in the whole of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  John Carson in his book, ‘Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility’, has demonstrated how a dozen or so key passages in both Testaments doesn’t give logical or chronological priority to either in ways which seems oxymoronic or at least paradoxical to the human mind and apparently it leaves the biblical writer without any sense of contradiction. The very first of these, being the most fascinating in Genesis 15:20 where Joseph reunited with their brothers after dealing with their father, Jacob’s death. Now having to deal with their fear that perhaps he may exact fear upon them, says, ‘you meant this for evil but God meant it for good.’ Not that you meant it for evil and God brought some good out of it, nor that God meant it for good all along  but allowed you to do a bit of evil at the same time but one and the same time, two completely free agents were accomplishing the same thing  through the same events of different objectives. Perhaps, we should coin a term like others have done and call Paul’s perspective ‘Calminian’. Or perhaps we should adopt something from many medieval theologians, particularly in the Roman Catholic tradition, as represented today by leading Arminian and Calvinist thinkers, intriguingly; such as William L Craig and Alvin Plantica respectively. The view known as middle knowledge, that God’s omniscient knowledge is so great so to extend not only to knowing in advance that could happen once he created the world but to knowing that would happen on any conceivable scenario of creating any possible world, but then electing to create one configuration of events that we know of our universe with its current time and space limitations.  This may well the best we can do with finite fallen minds to create a system that fully allows for God’s sovereignty and in no way for it to be compromised and yet acknowledges the very real nature of human free choices. 


Be that as it may, Paul is not finished. He turns in chapters 9 – 11 to what at first glance seems to be largely unrelated to the topic. And thus, much like those who would call 2nd Corinthians 2 – 7 a digression in that letter. There are those who have seen Roman 9 – 11 as digressive. One can easily imagine that with the ringing triumphant ending in chapter 8 that nothing can separate the true believer from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. That Paul would have concluded his theological exposition of the Gospel and ready to turn to the topics in chapter 12 with the ethical out workings of the Gospel. In fact, there is a very logical explanation for the contents of Romans 9 - 11 of this particular context. Any Jew or gentile listening to Paul’s exposition of the Gospel thus could be forgiven for asking him or herself, ‘if this message is truly God’s good news, the combination of the promises of the God of Israel to his covenant people as Paul claimed. Why, already within twenty five years or so from the death of this Jesus, why have so many Jews rejected this message?’ And chapters 9, 10 and 11 roughly speaking, can be seen from one point of view to give three answers to that question. In short, without wanting to have any hint of anti-Semitism or animas, sadly, tragically, in a way that hurt Paul to such a degree that he would wish in 9:3 that he could be dammed if it would save all of his co-religionists. Sadly, the fact that the majority of ethnic Israelites of religious Jews had thus far rejected the Gospel, should not call into question its divine origin because more often than not, even in Israel’s history and inspired accounts of it, only a small amount of them had been faithful. 


What went so horrible wrong then? Can it be seen as the answer to the follow up question to which chapter 10 referenced by the last few verses of chapter? The answer in essence as 9:32 puts it this, they pursued God’s righteousness, not by faith but by works as the Law itself was never meant to be a means of salvation but the outgrowth of it. Will it always be this bleak for ethnic Israel, can this be seen as the follow up question to chapter 10 to which chapter 11 answers, resoundingly ‘no’? This is only for a time to give room for an emphatic answer to the gentile mission.  But at the end of this age of the new covenant, all Israel, a term that doesn’t mean every Jewish person who has ever lived but the general prevailing trend of a given age will be saved. There will be a massive out-pouring of faith at some time just prior to Christ’s return.  


Intriguingly, as we unpack these three chapters in more detail, Paul has by no means completed his discussion of predestination, begun in chapter 8. In fact chapter 9 elaborates on predestination in detail more so than anywhere else in Scripture. Historically, three approaches, perhaps the only logically possible three approaches have competed for acceptance. There is what is called, double predestination, which says that believers and unbelievers destinies are determined in advance by God in a symmetrically fashion at his initiative. Among Protestants, it is the Calvinistic tradition, best known for adhering to this perspective. Wesleyans, of whom Methodists are the direct descendants today, have taken the opposite perspective, that in fact as for Arminius in an earlier era, there is no predestination in the sense of God sovereignly choosing people in advance of and apart from any initiating behavior of their own. People freely choose God or reject God and it is God’s simple foreknowledge of what those choices will be that enables him to arrange circumstances to see that people’s free will is in fact carried out. If one wants to call that predestination, fine, but it is not predestination in the Calvinistic sense. Believers and unbelievers destiny is determined by their own initiatives as a logically prior element. 


Paradoxically, there is a third option which both of the other two groups believe to be largely contradictory. This was held by both Augustine and in the days of the reformation, Luther. It is what’s called single predestination where believers are saved at God’s initiative, but unbelievers are dammed by their own initiative. And whatever logically difficulties this may impose, it is certainly true that throughout Scripture, no one merit’s salvation through their own works and no one is excusable or not be accountable for their damnation because God simply did it to them. Does Romans 9 shed any light on this debate? Paul uses a number of illustrations of God’s sovereign free choices from the Old Testament. He talks about how only one of Abraham’s two sons was the descendant from whom the line of the promise was chosen and the same was attained when Isaac became the father of twin sons, Jacob and Esau. Apart from any biological descent he also uses the example of Pharaoh whose heart was hardened in order that God’s mercy might be displaced on all the earth. But what is important to observe about these Old Testament examples, nothing is ever said in the Hebrew Scriptures about God predestining or electing these individual’s eternal destinies. Indeed, it is temporal blessings or cruses which are in view and moreover, it is the representative headship of each of these individuals as determinative of the entire peoples who lead or come from them. Theologians have a ‘cooperate election’ which is most to the forefront. 


But when Paul refers to the present Christian age, it does seem that he begins to speak of individual, eternal election.  Chapter 9:22 – 24 reads, ‘what if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath – prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, who he prepared in advance for glory – even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?’ What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, which he prepared in advance for glory of which he called individual Christians? Not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles, individuals chosen out from these larger groups, and in light of the Gospel message, Paul had just articulated, it’s had to limit his discussion in this context to any merely temporal blessings. This is eternal destruction and glory about which he pontificates. Does he then become a double predestinarian here? 


Intriguingly, C.E.B Cranfield in his major international critical commentary on Romans, points out as one recent articulate exponent of single predestination, that there is a subtle lack of symmetry in this passage between those who are called the objects of wrath and those who are called the objects of mercy. And those who are prepared for destruction are described using simply a passive voice verb which in fact a form is equally seemingly prepared themselves for destruction. But on either reading, no agent is explicitly in view and secondly they are simply prepared, whereas the objects of mercy are prepared in advance. There is an extra emphasis there of chorological priority not present with the objects of wrath. And there is an explicit agent directly expressed, ‘God’, as the subject of active voice verb of preparing in advance whether it is largely explicable to our fallen and finite minds, then perhaps single predestination is what Paul has in view and if we turn to a home spun illustration of what might be called a double archway of Christian experience. Consider a person coming to faith along the lines of the grand older colonial or antebellum church doorway with the text inscribed across the doorway for all to see, ‘whosoever will, may enter here.’  But for those who choose to do and enter the church building and turn around and look at that same archway from inside see another text inscribed, ‘elect before the foundation of the world.’ Tom Shiner in his Pauline theology helpfully points out that predestination is a doctrine best understood and best taught retrospectively and therefore he discusses it toward the end of his systematic theory not at the beginning as is so often the case. After the fact, after a Christian has shared his testimony and reflected on his or her experience and realize that if a genuine conversion has occurred, it is a commitment that has been freely made. 


Nevertheless, retrospectively, Christians regularly have to confess that there were people, circumstances and events that they in no way orchestrated that made them uniquely open to accepting the Gospel message at precisely the time in which they did. Is this not God’s sovereign initiating election? Divine sovereignty, human responsibility simultaneously and we may subordinate neither to the other much less jettison one for the sake of the other. In so we come by faith, in the Christian dispensation by faith confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9). The same confession that increasingly the Roman Emperors would require and therefore is implicitly a statement that Jesus is Lord as Tom Wright as so often stressed, and that Caesar is not. Or that any other emperor or human ruler or figure or founder of any religion or world view or ideology or any other impersonal competitive philosophical religious world system can be said to be Lord, true and worthy of worship, worthy of serving, even the biblical religion of the Old Testament apart from faith in Christ now that the Messiah has come and that’s implicitly the setup for chapter 11 with the elaborate olive branch metaphor of branches broken off and other graphed in, the olive tree of God’s people. 


Perhaps the following information on the destinies of the Jews and of the gentiles will help make some additional sense of this chapter. Prior to the Cross of Christ, the right way of living, the perspective described for the Jewish people was living by faith in the promises of God. The wrong way was treating the laws as a means of salvation, what we saw in 9:32. In between the Cross and whenever Christ returns, the right way for Jews and for Gentiles to come to God is by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The wrong way is to reject him. One day, closely associated with the return of Christ, the full measure of gentiles will have come in and all Israel will be saved. Here, there will no longer be those who are following the wrong way and the last grouping of Jewish people will follow the right way and accept Christ. For the gentiles on the other hand, Romans 2:14 and 15, at least suggest, hypothetically and some in Christian history would argue that a small number known only to God by his mercy may well have indeed come by faith in God as best as they could understand him. But the vast majority appears to have been separated from God’s special revelation and because of what we read in Romans 1:18-32 suppressing the knowledge of God that was available but choosing the wicked behavior that would keep them separate from him. Between the Cross and Christ’s return, the right and wrongly remain identical for Jews as also for gentiles, but one day there will come when the full number of gentiles will be complete and from that point, short though it may be until the completion of the age, no more gentiles will follow the right way and this seems to be contemporaneous with the time in which all Israel will be saved. 


There are a relative percentage of people falling into one category or another at any given time, according to Paul’s elaborate metaphor. Although there may often been a remnant of Jews who has responded to faith in God compared to the gentiles who did. There were more living by faith and certainly more gentiles separated from God’s special revelation, but now, sadly, in the middle of the first century and has been the case ever sense, gentiles with rare exceptions have been more open to the Gospel than Jews. But one day just short of Christ’s return there will be no more gentiles that will trust in Christ and there will be a wide spread outpouring of faith in Jesus as their Messiah among Jewish people. And believers rightly long for that day to come quickly. 


It’s worth unpacking the implications of this understanding of Romans 11:25 and following, just a bit more. What is intriguing, even if we understand that all Israel means in a very literal sense, virtually all Jews alive at the time of the end. Nothing is said here about the land or the nation. Ethic Jews could come to faith in every country which they live and those Old Testament promises, even if interpreted literally, though most of Christian history hasn’t taken them as such, about a return to the land, seemingly more wide spread than anything occurred in Old Testament times. Such a return is always accompanied, Ezekiel 37 being the most famous and classic example with the metaphor with the dried bones taking on flesh again. That return is always accompanied by the return to faithful Godly living. Thus, the fascination in some quarters with the fact that the past half century, there have been ethic Jews living in the land of Israel, in a way that has not been true for the previous nineteen centuries. This is at best, a prelude to the fulfillment to these Old Testament prophecies; however today’s current spiritual signs are not promising. There are substantial numbers of atheistic Jews, who are Jews ethically only and many more whose faith in the reformed Jewish tradition is so liberal and removed from the religion of the Old Testament that they do not look for any coming spiritual Messiah at all. And even if all this were to change, let’s never forget as Garry Berge has pointed out in a pair of books on the question of who has the right to the Promised Land today. That when the Israelite or anyone else believing themselves to be heirs of God’s covenant with Moses are living in God’s fashion they will obey God’s laws and one of the recurring laws throughout the Hebrew Scripture is justice for the foreigner or alien living in the land, not evicting them from that property. That occurred once and only once with the Canaanite nation and the time of Joshua and was never again replicated in that wide spread fashion. Christians, therefore, should never support any regime from any political perspective in the land that historically Old Testament Israelites owned but always apply the Biblical principle for justice for all people who may dwell in the land. 


Finally, we come to the ‘therefore’ that marks the turning point between chapters 1 – 12 and 12 – 15 and moves us from the theology to the ethics of the Gospel. Here we may see four broad subdivisions and we want to suggest that the order is not a random one. Each flows logically from the former. Paul begins from the broadest form of transformation which is incumbent on all believers, offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God and not being conformed to the patterns of this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds, the physical and the spiritual and tangible and the intangible, the body and the mental, the entire person dedicated to and transformed. And even as we highlighted in 1st Thessalonians 4, this is what enables us to know God’s will. This indeed is the very heart of what is God’s will, moral obedience, growth in Christ likeness, even as Jarvis put it, ‘in God’s likeness.’ But then, we are to more on, we are to seek God’s specific will for our lives, perhaps this may distinguish us in a small way from every other human who ever lives. 


But notice the topics to which Paul turns, the second occurrence, the spiritual gifts, we saw them in 1st Corinthians 12 – 14. And in Verses 3 – 8 of Romans 12 declares, once you have made that fundamental commitment of a transformed person, then understand your spiritual gifts and use them whole-heartedly for service to God and for his people. You see in Paul’s world, very few people ask the question, ‘who should I marry? Or what job should I take? Or where should I live? Although freedoms for some are beginning to come in each of these areas, some commonly understood how circumstances in life largely dictated these choices. The question however that humans of any culture and of any era always ask, involve how God has uniquely wired them. To use a modern metaphor, how has he gifted them?  And whether the use of those gifts have ever had any connection with an occupation in which they receive remuneration. There are always opportunities among the communities of God’s people in their work in the World to exercise one’s gifts. 


For most the disparate subsection of the ethical portion of Paul’s letter to the Romans, spans 12:9 – 13 and 14 and yet key teachings about love, verses 9 to the end of the chapter and certainly 13:8 – 10, perhaps by implication to the end of that chapter as well highlight the central feature is love. If love is at one level is the main idea or unifying theme of this material; then it’s fascinating to see the identical sequence that we saw in 1st Corinthians 12 and 13. Is Paul again, implying that without love, the spiritual gifts are worthless? And therefore after one has identified one’s gifts and look for places to exercise them, the third mandate of applying the will of God and living out an ethical life is to exercise those gifts in love. Tucked into the middle of this section is the interesting position of the call to bless those who persecute you, to not repay evil for evil, but to repay evil with good which is certain a dramatic application of Jesus’ principles from the sermon on the mount, to love ones enemies. That in 12:14 – 21 right next to the seemingly contrary command in 13:1 – 7 to submit to the governing authorities who at times have to wage war, that is to not to bear the sword in vain in 13:4 and while there are ways for even pacifists to explain this text. Perhaps the best understanding of the contrast between the end of 12 and beginning of 13 is to see the end of 12 as the Christian responsibility and the beginning of 13 and the government’s responsibility.  Of course when a Christian has to live as a cooperative citizen in a government, he or she is torn and yet Paul knew the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures of Moses and the midwives, of Daniel’s disobedience to Nebuchadnezzar’s decrees; and most likely by this time, he would have heard the stories of Peter and others standing up against the Sanhedrin, saying that we must obey God rather than humans when even the laws of the governing authorities come into conflict with God’s laws. So that 13:1 is not absolute, but given priority when such conflicts occur. 


But even for those who adopt a just war view, even for those who recognize the majority of times, Christians should bent over backwards to summit to the governing authorities, even though they may be unjust as Nero’s regime in Rome which certainly was, but not nearly as unjust as it would be a decade later when persecution started. There is, nevertheless, a very challenging question, can the world in looking at Christians participating as citizens under their government but also as members of worshiping serving local Christian communities, tell any difference between the two? Does the church unflaggingly work to bless those who persecute, to love one’s enemies, to repay evil with good, even if some of its members may believe they have the responsibility during times of war, to fight for their countries, a question well worth pondering?


The final main section of the ethics of the Gospel covers much of chapters 14 & 15 and turns back to the theme of Christian tolerance in those morally neutral areas already discussed when we looked at 1st Corinthians 8 – 10. And as we saw the conclusion of that section, it seems to be a swing of the pendulum in three movements, beginning with freedom then turning to restraint but concluding with freedom. In 14:1 – 18, the primary emphasis is to accept one another whether one chooses to eat, in this case, perhaps meat sacrificed to idols but in more Jewish circles, that which once was not kosher or not.  14:10 makes it very clear that judging one’s Christian Brother or Sister and treating them with contempt is inappropriate. Each person must answer to his or her own conscience because each person individually (verse 12) will give an account of their choices to God. But then 14:19 – 15:6 turns to emphasize the voluntary restraint that is often incumbent on believers. Don’t destroy the work of God for the sake of food (14:20). We who are strong are to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves (15:1) etc. But 15:7 – 13 returns to the theme of the first major section, accept one another; that will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecies and praise, even among the gentiles. That will commend the Christian witness best to those wrongly have come to the conviction by observation that Christianity is a religion that is not about restriction but rather about liberation. And then we notice that Paul concludes, for him in an elaborate section of his person travel plans and closing greetings in the latter half of chapter 15 and all of chapter 16. 


In addition to the remarks, we have already made, we add two more; noting 15:23 as we for-shallow the lecture in 2nd Corinthians once again, Paul is concerns always to press on to the area that is yet evangelized. How desperately, we still need that in our world today. In that list of people commended and greeted in chapter 16, we see the unusually large number of women, including one who is a deaconess of the church in Cenchrea, a key leadership role, if not the highest in Paul’s ecclesiology.  Again, we will come back in an entire discreet lecture and deal with the question of gender roles. It’s certain worth observing the counter cultural prominent role of key female leaders, including beyond Priscilla who for some reason is named first in verse 3 which was not the common order of first mentioned the husband and then the wife in the ancient world and described as a co-worker with Paul, including that intriguing figure, identified as a woman in contemporary scholarship as she was consistently in the earlier centuries of church history who is call an apostle, obviously not one of the twelve, but an apostle in that broader sense we discussed in looking at 1st Corinthians 12 of someone sent on a mission, a missionary or church planter and numerous other feminine names such as Tryphena and Tryphosa and Persus in verse 12 who are women who had worked very hard in the Lord. The full range of debate between communitarians and egalitarians will not be solved by Romans 16 any more than were solved by Galatians 3:28. But in each instance, when we read the text to the historical background, not against what we might imagine Paul would have said or hope what he would have said where he writings in the 21 century.  We cannot, honestly conclude anything else other than the Gospel was amazingly liberating for women and well as for men. 


A rich epistle rightly likened to the Gospel of John, out of the Gospels discussing primarily the plan of salvation, the nature of the Christian life, the priorities of the obedience to God, the liberation that he makes possible, not to any effort or anything we could do to merit it. But solely of his loving and lavish grace that calls us to bow in worship to gratitude and lifelong commitment to his service, come what may, however hard that may turn out to be.