Romans 1:1-17, pt.1

Over the last four summers, we have read through all of Paul’s letters except for Romans, Galatians, and the Pastorals. I am excited about our study of Romans this year.  This Tuesday, we will be looking at the audience and the purpose behind the letter.  We will read through the introduction to the letter found in Rom 1:1-15 and Paul’s personal notes to the congregation in Rom 15:14-16:3. We will conclude with a discussion of Paul’s theme of the letter found in Rom. 1:16-17.  For further reading, if you desire, I have attached excerpts from Ben Witherington’s Paul’s Letter to the Romans: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (pp.20-57). Witherington provides a detailed outline of the rhetorical structure of Romans.  Our discussions over the summer will generally follow his outline.  Witherington also gives a good detailed analysis of Paul’s thesis statement found in 1:16-17.

When we look at the audience and purpose of Paul’s letter, there are three main points to keep in mind.  First, is Paul’s continuing message that the gospel breaks down the walls of hostility between Jews and Gentiles – the insiders and the outsiders. See, Eph. 2:14.  One demonstration of this unity in Christ is shown by the offering that Paul has collected from his predominately Greek churches for the relief of the Jewish church in Jerusalem. 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15. The giving of this collection is the reason Paul is going to Jerusalem prior to coming to the Roman church. Rom. 15:25.  It is on this journey that Paul is arrested and which ends (we think) with his execution by Nero. Acts 21-28.

Second, is the unique characteristic of the Roman church.  Most likely the Roman church was initially predominately Jewish. However, in 49 AD, Emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome.  In Acts 18:2, Luke mentions that Paul first meets Aquila and Priscilla who are Jewish followers of Jesus who have been expelled from Rome. This couple is with Paul in Corinth 1 Cor. 16:19.  At the time, Paul writes Romans, the Jews, including Priscilla and Aquila, have returned to the city. Rom 16:3.  Therefore, Paul is writing to a church who lost their Jewish founders/leaders for a period of almost ten years leaving the church in the hands of the Gentiles. These Jewish founders/leaders have now returned to the church. One of the underlying currents we’ll see in Romans is Paul’s attempt to address this tension.

Finally, as we explore the purpose of the letter, we’ll look at Paul’s expectation of a future missionary journey.  In his three prior missionary journeys, Paul has thoroughly worked Greece and Asia Minor and hopes to begin a missionary field in the western empire beginning with Spain.  Paul hopes that the Roman church will be his base of operations and provide him with support in this endeavor. Rom. 15:22-24.

Dinner is at 6.  The menu is taco salad. Discussion about 6:45.  Compline at 8:00.  All you need to read and all you need to bring is Bible.  Hope to see you here.

Behold, he whose soul is not upright in him shall fail,
    but the righteous shall live by his faith.

Habakkuk 2:4

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