Paul the Apostle, His Life, Letters and Thought—Part Forty One


p. 615—- The major theme of Romans is the equality of Jew and Gentile before God.
Paul was in Corinth for what he intended to be the last time and was heading to Jerusalem with the collection.

p. 616— Paul asked for two sorts of assistance from the Romans— prayer for safety etc. when he went to Jerusalem, and then traveling assistance when he went on from Rome to Spain. Notice how tactful Paul is in Rom. 1 because the Roman church was not ‘his’. 1.13-15 indicates he didn’t want to just pass through Rome, he wanted to make some impact there as well, some harvest, to proclaim the Gospel there.

p. 617— He is still concern about what the role of the Mosaic Law is in the ‘two dispensations’ or two covenants. In Romans he says nothing about a mission to Jews [oh really, he says the Gospel is for the Jew first in Rom. 1 and nowhere else does he put it quite that way, and 1 Cor. 9 when he says he can be the Jew to the Jew to win some, is not negated by the silence of Galatians on such matters, and in Rom. 9-11 he says he hopes his mission to Gentiles will prompt the conversion of some Jews. Furthermore, he never said in 1 Cor. he was the apostle to the Jews.]. He reiterates his apostleship, his mission is to produce the obedience of the Gentiles, that is his emphasis in Romans 15.18, 1.13 etc because he is writing to a Gentile majority audience in Rome and wants to have some credibility with and assert some authority in relationship to them.

p. 618 n. 1—On the basis of 11.13-14, he thinks Paul is saying he is the only apostle to the Gentiles— THE apostle to them. This conclusion is drawn on the basis that there is no indefinite article in Greek so in the absence of any article Sanders thinks we must insert the definite article, but he admits it is a judgment call.

p. 619— [He wrongly deduces that Rom. 1.3-4 says that Jesus became the Son of God by the resurrection. This is not what the Greek says, it says he was declared or demonstrated to be the Son of God in power by the resurrection. i.e. he was Son of God in weakness before the res. Elsewhere in Paul’s letters, see Gal. 4 he is born the Son of God. So no, we do not see adoptionist ideas about Jesus’ sonship here]

p. 620— Here are the passages Sanders thinks proves that the equality of Jews and gentiles is the main theme of the letter— Rom. 2.9-10,28-29;3.9,22,29;4.11-12;9.24;10.4,12,13;11.32. Most of this is just in Rom. 2-4 not the rest of the letter. This is certainly not the main theme of the letter, though it is an important one. Rather the righteousness theme which we find from stem to stern announced as the theme in 1.16-17 is the main theme.

p. 621— The general argument of Rom. 1-7 is that all are equally condemned and in need of salvation through faith in Jesus. He still holds the view that Paul’s thought runs from solution to plight, in this case from the belief that God intends to provide ONE solution to save the whole universe—faith in Jesus leads to the conclusion that there must have been ONE plight, one problem namely sin that had to be overcome.

p. 622— while Paul’s thought moves from solution back to plight, Romans moves in the opposite direction to show how the common solution is effective even though there is lostness. In Rom. 1-3 sin is defined in the common way as disobedience and bad actions. There is no distinction since all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Thus he cites Ps. 143.2 and before that Is. 59.7-8 to get him out of the dilemma created by Rom. 2.7 where he suggests that God could grant eternal life to people whose behavior is good enough.

p. 623– Sanders contrasts ‘it is the doers of the Law that will be righteoused’ 2.13 with ‘no human being will be righteoused in his sight’ 3.20. Phil.3.3-11 says Paul was blameless under the law but that it was a worthless accomplishment since res. depends on faith in Jesus. Paul doesn’t establish all are sinners and lost by analyzing human behavior in detail, but rather by quoting proof texts from the OT. [Sanders allows that Rom. 2.6-16 could be a hypothetical possibility which Paul thereafter dismisses].

Being under Sin is the opposite of being in Christ.

p. 624— the practical issue that spreading the Gospel will take a long time and Sanders thinks this is a problem since Paul thinks all will be saved, and yet the time is short until the Parousia. [The real problem here is not Paul’s but Sanders namely: 1] Paul does not think the Parousia is necessarily imminent, and 2) he doesn’t think all will be saved, see the discussion of vessels of wrath who have fit themselves for destruction].

Sanders says that while Rom. 1-3 assumes transgression is universal it is nonetheless optional for each individual person.

p. 625— God’s solution to the problem is stated more fully in 3.24-25 God’s grace, the death of Jesus, and faith provide redemption. He finds it surprising that Paul does not give repentance and forgiveness a larger role, or even appeal for repentance, but there is 2.4 which states God’s kindness is meant to lead to repentance.

p. 626—“If plain ordinary old fashioned repentance coupled with a plea for God’s forgiveness would solve human wickedness, God need not have sent his Son. Thus Paul’s downplaying of repentance, the usual cure for transgression, is determined by his prior conviction that salvation is provided only by Christ.” [It is probably also caused by Paul’s recognition that repentance in itself does not change human nature, and the changing of human nature happens only by new creation. The person who repents is still the same fallen person he was before he repented in terms of his nature, even if he has changed his view of his past sin].

Sanders is right that repentance and forgiveness do operate according to 2 Cor. 2.7-10 and 12.21 within the Christian community, but we are talking about those who are already Christians repenting. He says the verb repent and noun repentance occur in Paul’s letters only in Rom. 2.4, 2 Cor. 7.9,10 and 2 Cor. 12.21.

p. 627— “But for people who had not converted, mere repentance was not enough to reconcile them to God. They needed to convert.”