Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Message of Romans in a Paragraph

Rembrandt "Peter and Paul"
(This picture has no connection to this post
except that pictures look nice.)
I asked my Romans students to read the letter and summarize its message in a paragraph. As this is the first time I assigned the exercise, I decided I should try my hand at it. Here is the result:

Paul writes to introduce himself to the Roman church and to prepare for his planned trip to Spain. He does this by demonstrating why the Good News is the solution to humanity’s problem. According to Paul, the Gospel is power for the salvation of believers because it reveals God’s right action in putting the world to rights in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Chapters 1:18-3:20 demonstrate, by a ‘shoe fits’ argument, that everyone without exception is under sin, and can do nothing to deliver themselves. Chapters 3:21-5:21 describe the solution: God is shown to be righteous by paradoxically acquitting the guilty. This acquittal is secured solely by trust not by anything we do. The results of this gift of acquittal is life—present and future—through participation in the Messiah. Romans 6:1-8:16 works out the implications of this transfer of realms, demonstrating in response to objections that right action or “righteousness” paradoxically comes as a result of freedom from the law. According to Paul, participation in the Messiah necessarily results in a new Spirit-empowered life of freedom from law, sin and death, on the one hand, and "freedom" (i.e., slavery) to righteousness, on the other. The rest of chapter 8 unfolds the cosmic implications of the Christ-event, and reflects on what it means to hope in the ‘not-yet’. Chapters 9-11 defend God’s freedom and faithfulness in light of the majority of Israel’s lack of faith, and explore the implications for Gentiles. Chapters 12-15, finally, describe what it means to live as righteous people in the new age, with special reference to problems affecting the church in Rome.

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