Last week we looked at the introduction and purpose of Romans and particularly at the theme of Paul’s letter set forth in Romans 1:16-17 that the gospel is about the power and faithfulness and righteousness of God. This week we will be reading through Romans 1:18-2:29. It is here that Paul lays out his argument of what happens when we abandon God and more particularly why we need the Gospel. In reading through this selection, please closely follow how Paul’s argument progresses. Particularly, look at Paul’s use of natural law in constructing this argument.
Throughout his letters, Paul consistently teaches that the Law, the 613 rules laid down by God in the Torah including the oral tradition interpreting these rules, has been fulfilled and abolished in Jesus Christ. Eph. 2:15, Gal. 3, 5. The reason that the gospel abolishes the Law is that the Law is unique to the Jews and this serves to separate and build up divisions rather than bring humanity together and tear down our divisions. Within the readings this week, Paul tells us that all people can know God through natural revelation and people can know what God requires through the natural law. Rom 1:19, Rom 2:14-15. Most of the Greek philosophical systems, particularly Aristotle and the Stoics, were concerned with the questions of how do we know the Divine and what does the Divine require. Paul’s Gentile audience would be very familiar with these arguments. In short, these pagan philosophers taught that the Divine could be discovered in the rationality of the natural world and that through the application of observation and reason, all people could come to know the rules of conduct which Nature’s God (as Thomas Jefferson put it) required. For example, all societies prohibit murder, theft, adultery, and dishonesty, and require respect for parents and Divine. In short, there are objective ethical/moral rules which all people in all cultures know or should know. A good overview of natural law is HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Paul’s argument in the reading this week tracks closely to Wisdom 12:23-14:31. This selection from Wisdom provided contemporary Jews with a standard religious and moral argument against the Gentiles, and Paul appears to simply summarize Wisdom’s argument in Romans 1-2. If you have time this weekend, please read this selection for Wisdom and see how Paul uses Wisdom in constructing his argument in Romans.
Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken cacciatore. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.
When Gentiles who not have the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even through they do not have the law. They show what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them.Romans 2:16-17