Romans – An Introduction

We will start our studies of Romans next Tuesday.  If you have time this week, please read through the entire book of Romans to gain a sense of how Paul lays out his argument and the direction his letter takes.  All of Paul’s other letters are sent to individuals or to churches that he founded and are addressed to the specific needs of that congregation.  Paul, however, hasn’t been to Rome, and therefore, this letter serves as an introduction to his teaching.  The conclusion of this letter is Paul’s request for their financial assistance for his planned missionary journey to Spain and the western half of the Empire (Rom. 15:14-16:2).

Romans is written in the Hellenistic rhetorical style of a diatribe, wherein the writer has a conversation with himself by postulating a thesis and then by raising and answering objections to the thesis.  Therefore, as you read through the letter, pay attention to Paul’s Thesis in 1:16-17 (The Power of God’s salvation is available to Jews and Greeks through faith), his Antithesis in 1:18-3:20 (Faithless humanity and the power of sin), the Restatement of the Thesis in 3:21-31, the Example of Abraham in 4:1-25, the Application of the Thesis in 5:1-21, and the Answering of Objections in 6:1-11:33. Within these verses, particularly see how Paul raises and answers objections (e.g. Are we to continue to sin? (6:1), Is the law sin? (7:7), Is there injustice on God’s part? (9:14)) and see if you can pick-out the specific objections that Paul raises.  Romans ends with Paul’s discussion of what a Christ-centered community looks like (Rom. 12-15).

Finally, as you read through the letter, remember who Paul is. He was Pharisee who saw himself blameless under the law and who actively persecuted those Jews who believed Jesus to be the messiah because these Jews weren’t obeying the law. (Phil. 3:2-7, Acts 8:1).  And then on the road to Damascus to persecute Jesus’ followers there, the Risen Jesus appeared to Paul (Act 9), and from that point forward Paul saw that being right with God lay with Jesus Christ, and not the Law. Therefore, God’s righteousness was no longer confined to Jews but became available to all humanity. This is the basic narrative that forms the basis of Paul’s argument in Romans.

To participate in our study, all you will need is a bible, and if you do have one, one will be provided for you. The books that I am using to prepare for this study are Ben Witherington’s Paul’s Letter to the Romans: a Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, N. T. Wright’s Justification and Paul for Everyone: Romans, and Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s Paul and the Stoics. I have attached to this email the excerpt on Romans from Luke Timothy Johnson’s The Writings of the New Testament. Again, all you need is a bible to join us. I hope to see everyone next Tuesday.

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