As we mentioned in the second installment of this series, Paul’s letters tend to follow predictable structures, usually including a very practical section at the end after a body that included more theological underpinnings of a letter’s purpose. Same with Romans: in these last few chapters (12-16), Paul intstructs the Romans how they ought to live in light of everything He just said. Romans 12:1-12:
Rom. 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Rom. 12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.
Rom. 12:9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
His instructions incorporate, of course, the occasion of the letter. Recall from the first episode the background issue of Emperor Claudius’ edict that expelled Jews from Rome due to their rioting. After Claudius died, his nephew Nero ascended to the throne. Romans was written during Nero’s quinquennium (first five years), during which period when he was still somewhat peaceful. And so, Romans 13:1-7 is where Pauls includes a practical call to submitting to the Roman authorities, i.e. stop causing a ruckus, people!
PAUL’S UNIQUE APOSTLESHIP
In our study this summer, we noted at the end of Paul’s letter his summary of his letter and his personal mission. He had a unique calling not just as an apostle, but even beyond that. Romans 15:14-21:
Rom. 15:14 I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. 15 Nevertheless on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God 16 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. 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. 20 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him shall see,
and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
Paul specifically is called by God as an apostle whose mission is to incorporate the Gentiles into God’s kingdom and thus see them “grafted in” (Romans 11) with those among God’s people of Israel that received God’s true Messiah, the Davidic King, Jesus, who now sits at the Father’s right hand.
God, by His grace, mercy, and goodness–invites us into this mission as well. That’s why we’re here. That is what God wants to do all over the world–to the ends of the earth–and for you and me: right here at the University of Houston main campus.
I hope this series has helped you read Romans better than before, even if you disagree at points. You can be a Calvinist, for example, and still profit from seeing the outline set forth by Rom. 1:17, by knowing about the historical background, and by considering the nuances illuminated by certain passages’ contexts.
May God’s word be the beat of our hearts and sweeter to our mouths than honey. May His Spirit work in us to bring about God’s fullness of life in Christ. May He work through us to bring about freedom, justice, and joy for those who are yet in bondage. And at the end of it all, may the Lord receive the honor that is due to Him.
Until next time: grace, peace, and happy studying!