Monday, December 04, 2017

10. Concentrated Romans (12:1-13:14)

See bottom for the entire series.
Romans 12:1-13:14
I. The General Statement (12:1-2)
  • Romans 12 begins the second major section of Romans. If 1:16-11:36 was the expositional, theological, "teaching" section, 12:1-15:33 is the exhortation, "practical," "preaching" section. It is the application to the truths of the first part. The "therefore" indicates that the application that follows is the logical consequence of the arguments in the preceding chapters.
  • Additionally, 12:1-2 are a general statement that plays itself out in the specifics of the rest of 12:1-15:22.
  • 12:1. Paul urges the audience to "present your bodies as a living sacrifice." This evokes the language of Romans 6 where Paul said that they should present their bodies as instruments of righteousness leading to holiness (6:19). The four chapters that follow tell us what that looks like.
  • For Wesleyans, 12:1-2 are a classic preaching text on entire sanctification. The living sacrifice is "holy" belongs it belongs to God and is thus sanctified when God accepts the sacrifice. The body is presented in 12:1, the mind in 12:2.
  • Our living bodies on the altar is a pleasing sacrifice to God. It is "appropriate worship" (logike latreia).
  • 12.2 Accordingly, our minds are not conformed to worldly ways of thinking but are transformed and renewed. Now we understand the will of God and live it. His will is "good and pleasing and perfect."
  • We should not think of the mind here in academic terms. This is not about ideas. This is about life-wisdom. What is a transformed mind? It is a mind that thinks in the terms of Romans 12-15. It is, more than anything else, a love-mindedness. 
  • Romans 13:8-10 generalizes this whole section as well. Love toward one's neighbor is the heart of what it means to have a transformed mind. We see this played out throughout this section.
B. Transformed Relationships (12:3-13:14)
1. ... with one another (12:3-21)
  • 12:3-8 gives us the first set of attitudes in transformed thinking. This is one of the three key passages on spiritual gifts/spiritual roles in the church (along with 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4).
  • We should not think more highly of ourselves than others. This statement reminds us of Philippians 2:1-4.
  • 12:4-5. We think especially of 1 Corinthians 12 in this verse. A local church--or perhaps a collection of house churches in the case of Rome--is one body with several members.
  • 12:6-8. Paul mentions several types of functions in the church: prophecy, serving (diakonia), teaching, exhorting, giving, leading, and showing mercy. Notice that he does not mention tongues, which might suggest that it was an issue particular to the Corinthian church.
  • It is not a complete list, nor are the other lists complete or the collection all three complete. Each serves a purpose for its particular audience. Paul may not mention apostles because there were no witnesses of Christ's resurrection at Rome at this time (however, see chapter 16 discussion).
  • 12:9-21. This collection of individual exhortations is reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount at some points. Is Paul showing an awareness of Jesus tradition here?
  • Again, believers are to put others above themselves (12:10). They are to show hospitality, a key virtue in an ancient world where traveling was often dangerous (12:13). 
  • Christians are not to be conceited or proud (12:16). We are to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (12:15), which avoids the evil eye of envy.
  • Leave justice to God. He will repay the wicked, so we do not have to worry about it (12:19). By contrast, we are to bless those who persecute us (12:14). We are not to repay evil with evil (12:17). This will "heap coals of fire on their heads" (12:20). This quote from Proverbs 25:22 (cf. also Ps. 140:10) is hard to figure out. Some have suggested it evokes the flush face of embarrassment. Psalm 140 might suggest it is leaving room for God himself to bring fire down on them.
2. ... with authorities (13:1-7)
  • 13:1-7. This is a classic set of verses that deal with the way we behave in relation to those in authority over us, in particular "political" authorities. The Romans would have obviously thought of the Roman empire and the emperor Nero in particular.
  • There is a sense in which this is a posturing statement. Paul knows that the Romans are often not just in their judgments. Indeed the Romans were far less just than any given Western judicial system today. The Christian Jews of the late 40s had been expelled from Rome. These words surely function in part to let anyone who might read this letter or hear about Paul that Christians are respectable members of the empire.
  • The Old Testament makes it clear that not every leader of a people is just or appointed by God without condition. There are times when God directs the removal of leaders. Certainly that was not an option for anyone to whom Paul might write and, in any case, the Lord would be returning soon, making such thoughts moot.
  • The idea of authority does seem to be intrinsic to human society. In the kingdom, there will be a hierarchy between God and everyone else. At the moment, it would seem that human society functions best with at least some hierarchy of function, although not of individual value.
  • Certainly these verses suggest that believers should be especially circumspect about their attitudes toward those in authority over them.
  • 13:3-4 give some functions of authority, although nothing suggests that these are all such functions. Authorities punish wrongdoing. Yet it is also said that authorities exist "for our good." There is a massive amount of good that governments can do for their people that go beyond punishment. Therefore, it is simply bad interpretation to use these verses to argue against government administered health care or welfare. See Psalm 72.
  • 13:4 implies that Paul accepts capital punishment as a valid punishment for wrongdoing. This does not mean that the church of today cannot contextualize the good news in different ways.
  • 13:6-7. The attempt of some Christians to get out of paying taxes is wholly without biblical support. We also should not think that our taxes today are more of a burden than they were in the ancient world. The Western world is a world of excess revenue. Theirs was a world of subsistence living, like the two-thirds world today.
3. ... in general (13:8-10)
  • As mentioned above, these verses give us the essence of a transformed and renewed mind. Paul sums up all Christian ethics under the principle of loving one's neighbor as oneself.
  • We can thus look back to other statements in Romans and infer this paragraph. The Gentiles who demonstrate the Law written on their hearts (2:14-15) are Gentiles who, because of the Holy Spirit, love their neighbor as themselves. The Law that we affirm even though we are justified by faith (3:31)--it is the law of love. And the righteous requirement of the Law that is fulfilled in us who walk in the Spirit (8:4), it is because we love our neighbor.
  • Paul omits the other part of the great commandment, loving God (Matt. 2:37-38). No doubt he assumes it. Surely he believes that loving your neighbor is a key part of loving God--loving our neighbor is loving God.
  • From Matthew 5:43-48 we round out a biblical ethic by including our enemies as our neighbors. All of God's ethical expectation is found in this principles--love God and love neighbor, which includes one's enemies, and "as yourself" implies a healthy sense of yourself as someone created in God's image.
  • This is a consistent theme of the New Testament. Here, Matthew 22, Mark 12, Galatians 5:14; James 2:8; 1 John 4:7-8.
4. bottom line (13:11-14)
  • "Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed" (13:11). Again, Paul's understanding of salvation is primarily future oriented. There will be a Day when God's wrath comes and salvation is escaping it.
  • Paul continues to believe that the return of Jesus is imminent.
  • The Romans need to be ready for that return. They need to be living appropriately when Jesus returns. He anticipates a theme in Colossians and Ephesians--clothe yourself with Christ. Do not allow the desires of the flesh to play a role.
  • Augustine was especially convicted by 13:13 because of "sexual immorality." He was living with a mistress and the ethics of his Christian mother convicted him about it. 
  • Other examples of "making provision for the flesh" include drunkenness and carousing, strife and jealousy.
I. Introduction
1. Romans 1:1-15

II.1 Who is Justified?
II.1.1 Humanity's Problem
2. Romans 1:16-17
3. Romans 1:18-32
4. Romans 2:1-3:20

II.1.2 God's Solution
5. Romans 3:21-31
6. Romans 4:1-5:11

II.2 What about Sin?
7. Romans 5:12-6:23
8. Romans 7:1-8:39

II.3 What about Israel?
9. Romans 9-11

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