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Summary: It is not primarily a gospel of personal salvation, but rather a far-reaching political-religious orientation of the ancient world towards a new Jerusalem.

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Paul's letter to the Romans (15, 8-16, 27): Summary & the “why?” (Part 9)

05.12.23 A. Perriman / Original here (Part 9 - begin here with part 1, Part 2, or Part 3)

For me, Paul's letter to the Romans is like a stage with three huge backdrop screens hanging in front of each other.

  1. The largest canvas represents the creation premises of the letter: God is the Creator of all things and cannot be worshiped in the form of created objects; Adam sinned and death entered the world. The letter is often read with the assumption that this greatest background explains everything. But that is far from the case.
  2. In front of the background of creation, which largely obscures it, hangs a smaller canvas depicting the religious and moral state of the world Greek world - a civilization that has made the choice to worship the creature rather than the Creator, that is at the mercy of sexual and social depravity as evidence of God's disapproval, and that will face the wrath or judgment of God in the foreseeable future . Most readings of Romans view this as an almost transparent layer through which one can clearly see the outline of the creation text. That's not the case. The historical material is opaque and must be taken seriously.
  3. However, these two canvases are then largely obscured by a third backdrop that depicts the problem of Israel and especially Diaspora Jewry in bright colors and tortured lines. Most of what happens on the stage must be interpreted against this background, for before God can address the problem of Greek idolatry through a man he has appointed (cf. Acts 17:30-31), he must bring his own people to account pull. Anger against the Jews before anger against the Greeks. This is the premise of everything that is said about the law, justification, the Spirit, the emergence of a remnant church, the possible salvation of “all Israel,” and the teaching on community practice in Romans 12:1-15:7.
    **So I assume that a primary reason for writing the letter was a desire to help a small community of believers in Rome, which still had an essentially Jewish identity despite the influx of Gentiles, resolve tensions with the Understanding and dealing with synagogues.
    Most readings of the letter acknowledge that this third background is relevant, but they shrink it to the proportions of Romans 9-11 and hang it over a rack so that it can be pushed aside and ignored. I have argued against this that this backdrop is very large, and yes *dominates*, and gives coherence, meaning and relevance to almost everything that happens on stage.

The Gentiles will hope in him

So we finally come back to the example of Christ, who displeased himself, who was hated by many in Israel, who became a stranger to his own brothers because he was faithful to his divine calling. Therefore it can be said of him: “The insults of those who insulted you fell on me” (Rom 15:3; cf. Psalm 69:9 and context). This was the pattern or template for the “Remnant of Israel” in Rome, strangers to their brethren, increasingly at odds with the synagogues that had been their religious home for so long, and undoubtedly subject to insults and harassment.
With this in mind, Paul goes on to explain, with precise biblical logic, how the story of God and Israel has become a source of hope for the nations.
First, he says that “Christ became a slave of circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises of the fathers” (Romans 15:8). The active role of Jesus is limited to the Jews—a son sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel to do the thankless work of a prophet.
It is the solution to a Jewish problem at a critical moment in Israel's history, when it appeared as if the living God who made heaven and earth might break the promise made to the patriarchs that he would be the descendants of Abraham forever as a people would be received for his possession in the midst of the nations.
A notable side effect of Jesus becoming a servant of the Jews is that a growing number of Gentiles are praising the God of Israel for the mercy he has shown his people (15:9). This is not the case here salvation of the Gentiles or their inclusion into the covenant people. The emphasis is entirely on the fact that YHWH is recognized by the nations for the salvation and renewal of his people. His fame spreads. His stocks are rising.
This development is anticipated in Holy Scripture. The psalmist praises YHWH among the nations because he has brought great salvation to the King of Israel (Ps. 18:49; cf. 2 Sam. 22:50; Rom. 15:9). The nations are urged to rejoice with God's people as he "avenges the blood of his children and takes vengeance on his adversaries" (Deut 32:43; Rom 15:10). In a passage that strongly supports Paul's thought in this passage, the nations are urged to praise YHWH, for "great is his steadfast love for us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever" (Psalm 117:2; Rom .15,11).
In these passages, the nations so far are not beneficiaries of YHWH's judgment and deliverance, but merely impressed spectators. With the last quote, Paul does not express their joy and praise, but theirs Hope.

And again Isaiah says, "The root of Jesse will come, who will arise to rule over the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles will hope." (Rom. 15:12)
This is the climax of Paul's apocalyptic vision: the one who became a servant of the circumcised will in due time rule over the nations of the Greco-Roman world. The Gentiles praise the God of Israel not only for the dramatic mercy He has shown His rebellious people; they begin to imagine a future in which they too will be ruled by the Son at the right hand of YHWH.
When Paul then says: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” ([Rom 15:13]), then he has exactly this hope a regime change, a new political-religious order in mind. The believers in Rome have received the Spirit of God to carry them through the eschatological walk that will result in the nations bowing the knee and confessing that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the God of Israel.

Paul's role in all this

Paul says that his own role in this process is “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16). ).
The prospect that the Root of Jesse will soon rule over the nations explains the shift in focus from the Jewish problem to the role of the Gentiles in the eschatological transformation. They are making a significant contribution to the process by which the God of Israel will annex the Greco-Roman world, and Paul must ensure that they are properly qualified and fit for this task.
Indeed, his ministry can be seen as an active and conscious harbinger of this coming annexation. He has preached the good news of Christ's future reign from Jerusalem to Illyricum on the Adriatic, and now he wants to visit Rome and travel on to Spain—from one end of the empire to the other (15, 19, 24, 28).
It is not primarily a gospel of personal salvation, but rather a far-reaching political-religious alignment of the ancient world around a new Jerusalem. To be saved means to be part of the new future, beyond Jewish or pagan existence in decline.
For now, however, Paul returns to Judea with money he collected in Macedonia and Achaia for “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem,” and he asks his readers to pray that he may be delivered “from the unbelievers in Judea” ( 15, 25-27, 31).

Greetings to and from…

It seems very likely that the letter was brought to Rome by "our sister Phoebe, a servant of the community at Cenchreae" - probably a woman of some wealth who was a benefactress or patron (prostate) by Paul and others was (16:1-2).
It would be interesting to know under what circumstances Prisca and Aquila “risked their necks” for Paul (16:3-4). My guess would be that it had something to do with internal Jewish violence (cf. Acts 18:12-18). It also seems likely that at least Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Andronicus, and Junia were among the original group that founded the church in Rome. Aside from these brief observations, the greetings in 16:3-16 have limited impact on the main themes of the letter, so I continue.
There is a warning against dissenters and deceivers and the distractions and divisions they can cause. The good news is that the God of peace will “soon crush Satan under your feet (syntripsei) will” (16, 20). This looks to me like a loose figurative adaptation of the word against the serpent in Genesis 3:15]:

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall crush your head (jeshuf), and you shall bruise his heel (teshuf)." [Gen. 3:15]
In the Septuagint it says ektripsēi for the Hebrew shuf ("shatter") in Job 9:17, so the association doesn't seem too far-fetched.
Paul sees such troublemakers as an example of the many temptations or trials or deceptions that come from satanic opposition to God's people and that will sooner or later be suppressed. The snake educator in the garden had many Offspring (see also 1 Tim. 2:13-14; 2 Tim. 3:6).
Finally, the final doxology refers to the “mystery, long kept secret, but now revealed and made known to all nations through the prophetic writings, according to the commandment of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith” (16 , 25-26). Paul's "Gospel" is the bold and startling declaration that Jesus, crucified in the likeness of rebellious Israel (8:3), was made the Son of God in power, judge and ruler not only of Israel but also of the nations which requires an “obedience of faith” from the Gentiles in anticipation of the coming radical political-religious transformation. Amen.

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