Romans (02): The Gospel Purpose

Date: 6/1/2008
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Topic: Bible Romans
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The Situation in Rome - What is the Gospel purpose of Romans? After “Claudius [d. 54 A.D.] had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome” (Acts 18:2), Nero permitted refugee Jews back to Rome (about 55 A.D. and nearly concurrently with Paul writing Romans). Thus, the situation created problems with “race-relations.” Paul’s burden for the integration of Jews and Gentiles in the Church is clear in Romans (Rom. 1:16; 2:9f, 17, 28f; 3:1, 9, 29; 9:24; 10:12; “Israel” Rom. 9:6, 27, 31; 10:1, 19, 21; 11:2, 7, 25f, etc.). This is not a minor concern. It is not a fringe issue for Paul, even though many modern commentators suppress this dominant theme. Why is this a concern? Isn’t Paul simply giving us a treatise on “how we get saved” and “sanctified”? How does the Jew/Gentile thing matter? Actually, it is at the heart of the covenant promise received by Abraham who was promised that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).

The Solution in Rome - A summary of Romans. How does this “Announcement” that Jesus is King relate to this burden? The book of Romans is fundamentally an unfolding of God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel in light of the work of Jesus which brings the “ends of the ages” promises right now. The “end times” promises to vindicate an oppressed Israel in the OT also included that the Gentile world would be blessed in “millennial” fashion, too. All this is in fulfillment of the promise to father Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; Is. 40ff). Which people fulfill this? The new covenant people (who receive these promises in Messiah Jesus) are identified as those who confess Jesus Christ (“anointed king”) as true Lord. The great themes of Romans show how God is righteous and faithful in calling such people, His people (Gentile sinners, etc.) and how this also humiliates prideful Jews who claim to be His people. This is through the acquittal of God’s true people through faith in Jesus. Christ is king and those who are represented by Him stand acquitted of their guilt. They are fully part of the covenant community which was previously only confirmed to those marked out as Israelites. Now we (Jews and Gentiles) are to live in unity with all those who call on the name of the Lord. As the later chapters affirm, we are to accept one another for the sake of Christ. Therefore, such an acceptance and living faithfully together is not an ornament to the tree or an embellishment to the sound. It is the very meat, the very heart and the very melody of the praise of God. It undoes Babel. God is blessing all nations through Abraham’s seed (Rom. 15:5ff) so that they have Edenic, restorative unity in a renewed creation.
Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more