There is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, all are made equal through Christ; therefore they are to live in harmony with one another to honor God.
Paul writes to correct the disunity among the Jewish and Gentile believers of the Roman Church and to exhort them to live in harmony in the unity Christ brings.
May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Final Theme Summary – Romans]
Theme: Justification (Faith and the Law)
Justification can be defined as the act of God in bringing sinners into a new covenant relationship with himself through the forgiveness of sins. It is a declarative act of God by which he establishes a person as righteous, and in right, true relationship with himself. However since the dawn of history, humans have tried to take justification into their own hands, to turn the declarative act of God into a formulaic action on our part.
In Romans, Justification by faith is set against the background of Jewish legalism and its attempts to make the law the basis of Salvation and justification. In contrast, the Gentiles in the church, did not have a rich understanding of the law, and settled upon grace while neglecting the law. These differing mindsets and actions created division among the Gentile and Jewish members of the church in Rome. Paul chose a theme of Justification through faith to address these issues of disunity.
Paul shows that justification by faith can only be grasped through a thorough affirmation of the sinfulness of all persons, and their inability to deal effectively with their own sin. The law graciously highlights human deficiency and leads the us straight to Jesus and his merciful provision by death on a cross. Unable to claim merit for anything, we can trust simply in the sufficiency of his sacrifice to balance our debt of failures.
Right thinking for the Jew meant accepting grace as a free gift and not as a result of their personal righteousness. Right thinking for the Gentile meant submitting to righteous lifestyle, and not abusing God’s great grace. Being justified through Christ gave both parties no reason to judge on another.
It is important to note that in order to teach unity in the Roman church, Paul choses to teach the doctrine of Justification by faith instead of works. His obvious reasoning demonstrates individual humility inevitably brings corporate unity. It is only by God’s grace that we can enter his kingdom. Apart from grace, and left to our own “good works”, we will always fall short of our purpose. God owes us nothing, yet he has given us everything. How could we boast? How could we think what we have is ours?
Because we are justified through faith in God’s grace for us, we can be grace givers ourselves. Our knowledge of justification creates roots of humility in our hearts, therefore we can live in harmony with one another, praising our merciful God with one voice. This was Paul’s desire for the Roman Church.
[Final Application – Romans]
Romans includes some of the most theologically significant passages of all time. I was naturally excited to get here and ponder theological questions I have never critically thought through before. I wanted to sift through all of Paul’s awesome reasoning on predestination and salvation and God’s goodness and come to significant conclusions so I could choose a side. But God didn’t give me what I wanted. Instead of smart answers, God showed me his value of unity and his desire for us to rest in mystery.
Read through Romans 9-11 and you’ll understand what I’m talking about mystery. It’s the climax of his argument addressing who are the true children of promise and the crux of God’s election of Israel and simultaneous pursuit of all mankind. I found it ironic that these most debated parts of scripture, were originally written by Paul with the purpose of bringing unity to the Roman Church. It was then God showed me I had been missing the point of theology.
Theology is a systematic and rational study of the concepts of God, but what happens if the concepts of God are not in fact humanly systematic or rational? Instantly, the pressures to choose sides, and find answers with clear cut boundaries, and create sound theological arguments were lifted off me. In our attempts to explain the mind of God, the most safe things to agree with are the most far reaching to the human mind.
This was Paul’s point. Not to speak about predestination or the system for salvation, but to simply say, “What you think is grounds for righteousness or salvation isn’t even close, and you will never fully understand.” These passages were never meant to create disunity, but rather to unify the church in the mysteries of a great and merciful God.
If you read Romans 1-11 as a string of thought, and not as ammunition for your side of a theological debate, you will see Paul’s intended response theological mysteries.
33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.
Isaiah 6:1 also comes to mind.
I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.
We can only touch the mere hem of the robe in understanding biblical truth. A good theology is always motivated by the awe and wonder of God’s grace and mercy towards our undeserving selves.
This being said, we are not meant to shrink back from truth just because we don’t understand it. Paul uses 11 chapters to take care of right thinking before he gets to the 2 chapters of specific lifestyle instruction. This shows the importance of right theological thinking behind righteous living. Mysteries are simply another reason to praise God for his mercy.