Letter of Paul to the Romans
Letter of Paul to the Romans
Paul of Tarsus after his revolutionary visit to Damascus went on to be arguably the most important Apostle to contemporary Christians. Similar to his unconventional recruitment into discipleship, he enhanced the expanse of the gospel into the formerly forbidden gentile territory. The letter to the Romans in particular was written during his stay in Corinth. The Epistles are renowned for their specificity regarding an issue or crisis demanding resolution. In Romans, Paul departed from this tradition writing about theology in general. Paul had never been Rome when he wrote this letter explaining his restrained and rather formal tone. He carefully designs the letter to appeal to logic. The change of approach has also been attributed the timing of the letter being the last epistle to the gentile community. He clarifies misconceptions on the basis on salvation. The core message is the justification by faith, the path to acceptance by God.
In line with his novelty to the Roman congregation, Paul begins his letter with an introduction and subsequent greeting. He makes a proclamation that he is not ashamed with his association with Gospel as it is through only means of salvation (Hultgren 34). After he recounts his transformative call to mission, he summarizes the theme of his letter. It presupposes the Gospel is the conduit to salvation to all who have faith in God indiscriminate of background Jew or Gentile. He initiates the discussion with a retrospective look at humanity, a world devoid of hope through salvation. Disdain towards God through idolatry by the Gentiles and the superficial worship of the Almighty by the Jews. The latter is said to adhere to the rituals dictated in the Law of Moses overtly while implicitly sinning. Paul continues that contrary to outward acts like the Jewish circumcision his new promise to his chosen people will be inward, in one’s heart. He posits that everyone has conquered by sin irrespective of the ethnic affiliation, Jew or Gentile.
Citing the biblical patriarch Abraham, Paul elaborates that the only way to triumph over sin is through faith. Abraham was righteousness came from his faith. It was by this rather than works that he was justified. Abraham acts of obedience were due to faith in God as opposed to commands (Wright, “Paul and the Patriarch” 64). Furthermore, God has bestowed upon them grace that emanates from his love for humanity unworthy as they are. Contrary to the repercussions of Adam’s fall, sin, and death, Jesus’ sacrifice brought redemption manifesting grace and life. This scripture though tacitly shows the sacrifice of Jesus and it essence. He is shown to be substitute for Humanities condemnation. As everyone Christ suffered due to everyone’s sin no one regardless of his works and seemingly religious life is worthy of his love hence the concept of grace. The concept of grace diminishes the power of self-righteousness attributing all glory and power to God’s righteousness.
Paul explains to the Romans the essence of Baptism. It is to symbolize the death of the sinful body and new awakening to grace and purity. Paul posits that holiness is the only way of attaining eternal life. Similar to Jesus, a person dies to sin and resurrects to new spiritual life. The flesh is associated with sin and the Law of Moses was created to regulate the sinful nature of the body (Aquinas 21). Having died to the flesh subsequently resurrected to a spiritual dispensation the said Law becomes redundant. As he had explained earlier with a reference to Abraham when the faith in God is preeminent the essence of commands are reduced. Obedience will emanate from the former rather than the latter. Paul elevates faith in God over the Law. He emphasizes the centrality of faith in the Christian life. Similarly, he attributes the said salvation to grace rather than works. The difference between the faith of the Old Testament and the New covenant is that people is that access to God is only through belief in His Son. Paul claims that those who have faith in God’s saving power are part of his new covenant as spiritual children of promise. They are filled with God’s Spirit on who they find their strength. The Holy Spirit gives people the strength to lead a righteous life and confidence to overcome any challenge. More importantly, it strengthens the inner man, spirit, to triumph over the sinful nature of the body.
Next, Paul attempts to reconcile Old Testament doctrine with that of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. He uses his Jewish background to help the Romans know that he identifies with both doctrines. He explicates the consistency of the covenant of grace with God’s covenant with Abraham. The spiritual children of Israel do not take away the rights of the genetic children of promise. It is for this reason that he earlier specifies that the Gospel is meant for the Jew first and then to the Greek (Kruse 25). The gospel progressed from Jerusalem to Samaria then to the ends of the world with Rome being in between. Paul’s apostolic technique entailed beginning with his Jewish brethren in any given community then after rejection he would progress to Gentiles in the vicinity. This missionary points out that the folly of the Jews was hinging their salvation on the Law of Moses. They rejected Christ as the biblical messiah deviating from their ordained purpose. However, Paul teaches that the children of Israel, will eventually turn to God by faith through His Son enabling Him fulfill His initial promise to the Chosen Nation.
Paul moves on to highlight the tenets of Christian living. He exhorts the Romans to integrate harmony, love, and humility into their value system. He reverts to the apocalyptic theme addressed in his earlier letters on the important of living righteously in these end times. Paul urges freedom of religious conscience while they practice Christianity. Paul advices those who acknowledge that seeking God transcends the Law of Moses should be tolerant of those who uphold the practices of the Old Testament. The strong should help rather than despise those with weaker faith, those who believe their works will result in salvation. To reiterate that the new covenant does not contradict its preceding doctrine, he uses Old Testament sayings that prophesy the spread of the devotion to God beyond Israel’s boundaries (Wright, “What Saint Paul Really Said” 69). In conclusion, Paul elaborates his credentials and achievements to affirm his credibility and authority to preach the gospel. He tells the Romans of his imminent return to Jerusalem and the constraints he anticipates. The last chapter, 16, is used to send greetings to his various acquaintances across Rome.
The letter to the Romans in brief claims that the only way to salvation is faith through the Son of God. Salvation is a resultant gift from the above belief in Jesus. God activates faith in a person’s life upon repentance. Commitment to God is not symbolized by physical acts like circumcision rather through believing in the heart. Nobody between the fall of Adam and Jesus is worthy of God’s love. Self-righteousness does not produce salvation rather it is grace. True faith naturally begets obedience. The said obedience makes a person righteous. It follows the justification of Abraham into righteousness was due to his obedient acts of faith. The concept of the weak and strong in faith imply the said belief is not static rather grows as the person’s relationship with God matures. A person’s fleshy desires die only when the body itself is dead living the individual free to serve God. The presence of the Holy Spirit in a person is an affirmation of his faith. Justification implies the forgiveness of a person’s transgressions. Israelites retain their special role in God’s purpose. His promises to them will in due time be fulfilled. People who believe are adopted into God’s family with equal access to the blessings bestowed to Israel. The New Testament doctrine completes rather than competes with the old covenant. Full adoption will happen upon redemption of the body making His children fit to stand before their Heavenly father. The Gospel should be preached first to the Jew. Only after the Israelite has received the word should a missionary proceed to the Gentiles. This explains Paul’s return to Jerusalem even when expecting challenges. A person can receive salvation regardless their ethnic, racial, or religious background.
Aquinas, Thomas. Commentary on the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. Eds. John Mortensen, and Enrique Alarcón. Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2012. Print.
Hultgren, Arland J. Paul’s letter to the Romans: A commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2011. Print.
Kruse, Colin G. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012. Print.
Wright, N. T. “Paul and the Patriarch: The Role of Abraham in Romans 4.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 35.3 (2013): 207-241. Print.
Wright, Nicholas Thomas. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2014. Print.
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