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peter wilkinson | Fri, 06/01/2012 - 08:31 | Permalink

Andrew — you say:

Paul wrote his Letter to the Romans because he was under obligation as an apostle to the nations to ensure that the Gentile churches constituted an acceptable “offering” in response to God’s demonstration of mercy towards his people, in accordance with the Old Testament pattern

Where does Paul say that he had “the Old Testament pattern” in mind, as that which he was calling the Gentile churches back to?

Also, you speak of “the divine purpose” as:

That purpose was ultimately that Israel’s God would judge the idolatrous nations, impartially, according to their works, and rule over them throughout the coming ages

This seems me to displace an emphasis more at the heart of Romans, which is first the provision of Jesus and then the gift of the Spirit as the transforming power which reverses the universal problem of sin in the race of Adam.

The explicit statement of Paul’s intentions Romans in 15:8-21 is not so much directed towards Rome as descriptive of his ministry generally. But it is like a container which needs to be filled with content. In what way was Paul “proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit”?

The implicit intent of the letter addresses Jew and Gentile believer in Rome. It reminds ethnically exclusive Jews of their origins in a Gentile, Abraham, who was accepted not on the basis of works of the law, eg circumcision, but by trust in God’s promises of an heir through whom the world would be filled and blessed. It reminds arrogant Gentiles of their debt to Jews, who provided the root of the olive tree into which they were grafted as branches.

The letter describes Jesus’s ministry and death on the cross as addressing sin which predates but includes Israel, having its origins in Adam. The “gift of righteousness” (5:17) has now this broader context, which informs the key chapters of the letter: 6-8.

A key verse in the letter is 15:7, which draws attention to underlying undercurrents of division in the church at Rome, especially Jew/Gentile divisions. In the process of addressing these divisions, Paul has provided an unparalleled panorama of God’s universal purposes.

I suspect that one of the key theological needs of the current times is not to assert the supremacy of one theological school of thought over another, but somewhat akin to Paul in Romans, to reconcile them. The Reformed interpretation of Romans is resurgent, not because it is a conservative reaction, but because it highlights a central transformative core to the message of Romans. The NP interpretation is equally important, because it highlights a narrative which places a check on taking the message of Romans entirely into the territory of subjective individualism.

I’m just not sure at the moment where your own interpretation fits into this eirenic picture of peace, harmony and integration. I’m less sure that you want it to!

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