Tuesday, December 05, 2017

7. Concentrated Romans (5:12-6:23)

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II.2 What about Sin?
Romans 5:12-6:23
A. Structure
  • So the first half of Romans is the teaching, doctrinal, or expositional part of Romans (1:16-11:36). Within that first half we have three sections, which address three questions a Jew or conservative Gentile believer might have in relation to Paul's understanding of the gospel. The first is, "Who is justified?" (1:18-5:11).
  • 5:12 arguably begins Paul's answer to the question, "What then about sin?" He has indicated that both Jew and Gentile are deemed right with God on the basis of faith because of the offering of Christ. This leads to the objection, what then does sin matter? Why did God even come up with the Jewish Law if it plays no role in having a right standing before God?
  • This is the tightrope Paul also walks in Galatians. We are not deemed right with God by the Law but that is no excuse to sin. So you might say that the first sub-section of this half of Romans is on justification (1:18-5:11) and the second sub-section is on sanctification (5:12-8:39). 
  • If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh, even though we are not under the Law.
B. Origins of Sin (5:12-21)
  • 5:12 is the sole basis it would seem for the idea of original guilt or original sin. Of course we can refer to the sin of Adam as the original sin. And sometimes people confuse our "sinful nature" with original sin. Rather our propensity to sin is a result of Adam's original sin. We are under the power of Sin because of Adam's original sin.
  • But the idea that we have guilt because of Adam's sin, sometimes thought to be taken away in baptism, seems solely based on Augustine's misinterpretation of Romans 5:12. Augustine took this verse to say, "Death passed on to all people in whom all sinned." Because he could not read Greek, Augustine misread this verse to say that we all sinned "in Adam" and therefore we all bare original guilt from that sin.
  • It is now generally recognized that Paul is saying death passed on to everyone "in that" all have sinned or "because" all sin. We all sin like Adam and therefore we have individual guilt for our own sins, not for Adam's.
  • The question of how death passed is a broader theological question. In the Garden, death results because Adam and Eve are not able to eat from the Tree of Life. That suggests that, from the standpoint of Genesis, Adam and Even would have died by nature but life would have come through the tree.
  • Paul never finishes the sentence begun in 5:12. He interrupts his train of thought in 5:13 to explain the origins of the power of Sin.
  • 5:13-14. After Adam, people die. From Adam to Moses, people die. Paul somewhat ambiguously says that people died even though the Law was not around to charge them for it. We at least see one function of the Law hinted at here--the Law tells us we have sinned. The power of Sin was in the world. They sinned like Adam. They died.
  • 5:15-19. Now Paul has a series of contrasts of Adam with Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15). Many died because of Adam's sin. Grace abounds through Christ.
  • Grace is "unmerited favor." It is the givingness of God even though we cannot pay for what he gives. Grace is undeserved and unmerited giving. The ancients would have expected that we give back to God in return, even though nothing we could give would be sufficient. We give God honor. We give God our faith and allegiance. We walk in the Spirit rather than the flesh.
  • Judgment and condemnation follow the one man's sin. Righteousness, acquittal, and life follow the other. 
  • In 5:19 we have a statement (cf. Luke Timothy Johnson) that effectively states the "faithfulness of Jesus Christ" interpretation of 3:22. "through the obedience of one man, many will be confirmed righteous."
  • 5:20. The Law increased the trespass. Two possible senses. One that the Law informed us so that we saw how many trespasses we have. Another possibility will suggest itself in the following chapters. The second is that in some way, the power of Sin makes me sin even more when I know what is wrong.
C. No Excuse to Sin (6:1-23)
  • So we get to one of the chief accusations against Paul--that he promotes sin. "What shall we say? Should we continue in sin that grace may abound?" This is the accusation Paul's enemies have made of him (cf. 3:8). His answer, "of course not."
  • 6:1-14. Paul continues the diatribe, question-answer style.
  • It is important to recognize that Paul's purpose in this unit 6:1-8:17 is to argue that God's grace is no excuse to sin. Many Christians get off track because they read 7:7-26 out of context. They ignore the whole train of thought in this section. 
  • Paul's answer is an emphatic NO. We have died to sin. We should not sin.
  • We were buried with Christ in baptism. We need to rise to a new way of life, to new living. Ironically, although we are no longer under the Law, we should now be able to keep it through the power of the Spirit.
  • There may be an allusion to how the early church baptized. "We were buried." This phrasing may suggest immersion. Of course the New Testament makes no command about how to baptize.
  • The train of thought is not about legal justification now. It is about empowerment to righteous living. It is no longer about "imputed righteousness" but now about "imparted righteousness."
  • We have joined with Christ We have some sort of mystic participation in Christ. "I have been crucified with Christ," Galatians 2:20 says. We became united in the likeness of his death, now we live a different life as we participate in his resurrection.
  • Our "body of sin" has been destroyed, that is, our flesh, our skin under the power of Sin. We should remember this verse when we get to 7:24 and Paul dramatically pleads, "Who will free me from the body of this death?" For the Christian, this has already happened or at least should have happened.
  • 6:12. Therefore, Sin--the power of Sin--must not reign in our mortal bodies. It is not that our bodies are intrinsically sinful (as the Gnostics believed). It is that our skin is weak. In our natural state, we have no power against the power of Sin. But as believers with the Spirit, we must not let Sin reign over our bodies. Paul does not support a "sinning religion."
  • We not to give the instruments of our bodies to the power of Sin. We should yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness.
  • 6:15-23. Here is the second question of the chapter. It is similar to the first. Should we sin because we are not under Law but under grace? Again, an emphatic NO.
  • Either one is a slave to Sin or a slave to righteousness. The first results in death. The second results in righteousness. The first leads to impurity and wickedness. The second leads to holiness and eternal life.
  • Holiness, whose core idea is to belong to God, here has the sense of purity of living.
  • It is essential to recognize that Paul does not teach that Christians are slaves to Sin. His point is exactly the opposite. Believers are slaves to righteousness, not slaves to Sin. They "used to be" slaves to Sin (6:19). They "were" (6:20) but are no longer. So Paul is dramatizing a person who has not yet reached that point in 7:14.
  • 6:23. A verse on the Roman Road. The first verse on this explanation of how to become a Christian was 3:23, "all have sinned." 6:23 tells the implication of that fact: "The wages of sin is death." It also gives hope: "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
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

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