Paul did not start church in Rome, but he knew many leaders in the Romans churches. These churches were made up of Jews and non-Jews and from A.D 49 -54 all Jews were expelled from Rome by the Roman Emperor. After their return, having been allowed, the Jewish and non-Jewish Christians had a difficult time co-existing peaceably. They had controversy concerning the exact meaning of the Gospel and the practice of regulations in their lives which center on following Jesus especially in the area of religious customs and holy days. His larger dream was to make the church in Rome as a staging ground for the Gospel to proliferate further west to Spain and beyond. Evidentially manifested concerning the division of the Jews and non-Jews, Paul had a task to bring these groups together through instructional approach using the Gospel message centralizing Jesus as the core of their beliefs system. If the Roman Christians were opinionated concerning the message of the Gospel and could not consent on the definition of the Gospel, Paul’s plan and mission would be taken for granted or compromised. His mission in the epistle is to elucidate the message of the Gospel about salvation through faith in Jesus. He points out that Jesus is the completion of God’s relation with Israel and that God intended that the Gospel spread beyond Israel to non-Jews. This is the reason Paul focuses on Old Testament themes such as Abraham, Torah or circumcision and he implicates the Gospel for the Jew or Gentile affiliation or relationship.
In the introduction, few scholars had debated the Pauline authorship in regards to the epistle to the Romans. Evidence is revealed not only in the theme of the grace of God but in the evidence the individual who scribed the letter was “without doubt a Jew who was thoroughly familiar with the Pharisaical Judaism (Acts 23:6), as well as one who was burdened to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles world (Acts 13:47).” The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the brethren of faith in Rome. Brooten refers to the recipients as “the Roman community of those who believed in Christ.”
Paul did not establish the church in Rome and he had not yet paid any visit at the time of writing the epistle to the Roman Christians. Corley presents two possibilities of church establishment in Rome. Primarily, the church might have been established through the evangelization of the early converts. Secondly, the church in Rome might have been established as a result of the witnessing of the proselytes, Roman Jews who were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The establishment or institution of the church ministry in Rome might have come from both of these factors. A relatively small number of scholars maintains that the church in Rome was Jewish in majority; however, the traditional view holds that the church was by large a Gentile church.
II. TEXTUAL ANALYSIS
The Christian’s Responsibilities
Mercies of God (τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ)
The Apostle Paul opens the petition to the brethren in Rome to consider God’s mercy by presenting their bodies to God as living sacrifices. The NIV translation says the mercy of God. The Holman Christian Bible says the mercies of God, the King James Version says the mercies of God, the New American Standard Bible says the mercies of God and the Berea Study Bible says God’s mercy. These translations are in concurrence to the word being pictured here through the power of the Holy Spirit as he inspired prophets of ages to inscribe down his infallible word of truth. The word mercies of God in Greek are τῶν οἰκτιρμῶν τοῦ Θεοῦ. The original word or the lexicon form for οἰκτιρμῶν is οἰκτιρμός, οῦ, ὁ It is a masculine noun in Greek which means pity, compassion, favor, grace or mercy. According to the Strong’s Concordance, it is a deep feeling about someone’s difficulty or misfortune (TDNT, 1:159) or it is used of the deep feelings Godhas for all of us, and powerfully shows and shares in those following Him. According to the NAS Exhaustive Concordance οἰκτιρμῶν are the bowels in which compassion resides,a heart of compassion (Colossians 3:12) in the Scriptures mostly plural (conformably to the Hebrew רַחֲמִים), emotions, longings, and manifestations ofpity. The Apostle Paul admonished the Christians in Rome to consider God’s bowels of compassion shown toward them. They must acknowledge his compassion by giving their bodies to God as living sacrifices. In the absence of his grace or mercy, the Christians at Rome are unable to do the will of God. Fortunately, God’s mercy is available to them to enable them keep the precepts in the absence of capitalization on the observance of regulations and the keeping of holy days. Christ must be the center of their lives through grace. For it is by grace that we are saved through faith not by works of righteousness so that no man can boast (Ephesians 2:8).
Bodies as Living Sacrifice (τὰ σώματα ὑμῶν θυσίαν ζῶσαν)
Paul urged the Christians at Rome to present their bodies to God as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, animals were offered to God on the altar as they were being slaughtered; on the contrary, the present sacrifice can not be like the ones offered before, but it should be the ones which they will offer to God on the daily basis. They must deny themselves from the affairs of this world and be set apart for the use of God. This sacrifice must be holy and living. The Greek word for sacrifices is “θυσίαν.” The original word or the lexicon form for this Greek word is θυσία, ας, ἡ. It is the feminine noun which means sacrifice or offering that is offered to God. According to the Strong’s Concordance, it is an official sacrifice prescribed by God; hence, an offering the Lord accepts because it is offered on His terms. It refers to various forms of Old Testament blood sacrifice (“types”) – all awaiting their fulfillment in their antitype, Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:5-12). Paul modifies this sacrifice by qualifying it as living to create a line of delineation of the ones offered in the Old Testament. This sacrifice involves the believers’ own bodies.
This sacrifice must be holy before it becomes acceptable to God for the fact that it is the reasonable service which the believers can offer to God. Without holiness, no one can see God. Holiness is the moral attribute of God He decides to share with His creation. In the Old Testament, the animals which were offered to God had no spot. The spotlessness of the animals offered to God was symbolic of being pure or a holy vessel before it was offered. In the absent of this spotlessness, God could not acknowledge or accept such sacrifice; therefore, God can not accept the believer’s sacrifice without being holy. The Greek word for holy in the accusative form is ἁγίαν. The original word or the lexicon form is ἅγιος, ία, ον. It is an adjective describing the character or the qualification a believer should have in going to God. According to the Strong’s Concordance, it implies something being” set apart” and therefore it is different, distinguished, and distinct because it is special to the Lord. It is sacred, holy, or set apart.
Be Not Conformed (μὴ συνσχηματίζεσθε)
The Christians in Rome are admonished not to conform or to agree to the standard of this world system; so are the believers of today’s generation being admonished to do the same. Our conformity with the world system of sin is an abomination before the Lord. The Greek word for be not conformed is μὴ συνσχηματίζεσθε. The opposite of this is to be conformed to or to agree to. The Greek verb in the first person conjugation is συσχηματίζω which is being translated “I conform to”. It means to identify with or to assume similar fashion or pattern with the system of things. Συνσχηματίζεσθε is the second person plural present passive verb meaning you conform to. It is the deponent verb translated as the present indicative tense. This verb indicates an ongoing action daily in the lives of the believers. It is being negated by Paul since its positive aspect leads to breaking God’s Law. Christians are admonished not to conform to this world or μὴ συνσχηματίζεσθε. According to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it means to conform oneself (τίνι) (i.e. one’s mind and character to another’s pattern or fashion oneself according to.
Be Transformed (μεταμορφοῦσθε)
As Christians obey God, they are gradually being transformed in Christian character development until they reach to Christian maturity. Paul desires the Christians in Rome to grow in stages until they become spiritual adult men and women in the Lord. The Greek word for you be transformed is μεταμορφοῦσθε. The original word or lexicon form is μεταμορφόω meaning I change the form, I transform, I transfigure. It has to do with changing form in keeping with inner reality. It is the root of the English term “metamorphosis” which has to do with the series of changes an insect undergoes. The insect can not bypass the process to leave from the egg, larva, pupa, and goes to the adult stage. It is a crisis movement the insect undergoes to become adult insect. This is exactly how the Christian life looks like. The Greek verb μεταμορφοῦσθε is the present passive verb being translated as the present indicative tense which indicates an ongoing action in the lives of believers. We are admonished to grow in stages and to become spiritual adults. We can not bypass this process. Christians must die to self to gain this maturity in the Lord. There is no testimony without a test and there is no glory without a story. As we submit to the rules of God, we are being inwardly transformed or transfigured to be like Christ. We gain access to God’s divine attribute (holiness) as the result of obedience to God. The Greek Word “μετεμορφώθη” is an aorist which means to change into another form (cf. μετά, III. 2), to transfigure, transform: μετεμορφώθη, of Christ, his appearance was changed (A. V.He was transfigured), i. e. was resplendent with a divine brightness (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2).
Renewing of the minds (τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός)
Proverb 4:23 admonishes the believers to guide their hearts because out of the heart comes the issue of life. Your dream is controlled by the manner in which you think. In this light spiritual imagination is vital to one’s success in life. What you perceive through your mind is what you give birth to. Believers will not know or perceive what is good, pleasing, and the perfect will of God if they neglect the reading, meditation, and the study of God’s word. Our spiritual prosperity is tied to God’s word. In this light, Paul encouraged the Christians at Rome to renew their minds through the study of God’s word. In the absence of God’s word, there is no transformation. Renewal of the minds lead to knowing what is good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. The Greek phrase “τῇ ἀνακαινώσει τοῦ νοός”is a feminine noun whichmeans the renewal of the minds or the change of hearts. It comes from the original word or lexicon form “ἀνακαίνωσις, εως, ἡ. According to the Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, it is defined as the renewal, renovation, complete change for the better (cf. ἀνακαινόω): τοῦ νως, object. Genitive, Romans 12:2; πνεύματος ἁγίου, affected by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5. While believers take responsibility to renewing their minds through the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who becomes their teacher and reminder of what they have learned. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to understand the scripture because His words are spirits and only spirit understands spirit. We must leave from the natural and come to the supernatural to understand spiritual things. The natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit because the things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned. We must leave from the natural in order to comprehend the supernatural. The human mind consists of the will, emotion, and intelligence. It is called the realm of the soul. The human will is the decision making seat, the emotion is the place of happiness or sadness, and the intelligence is the place of memory. If we can allow God’s word to positively affect this realm of the soul, we can live a victorious Christian life on planet earth. This is the reason, Paul through the Holy Spirit, called believers at Rome to renew their minds on the daily basis. The mind is the place where spiritual warfare occurs on the daily basis. If the devil will defeat you, he must defeat you through your mind. It is the invisible which gives birth to the visible. The believers sin against God because he or she has been defeated through the mind game from the devil. Satan used the same mind game to defeat Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He is using the same mind game today to defeat Christians.
The Imparts of Christian’s Responsibilities
Will of God (τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ)
After the believers have been transformed through holy living and the renewal of the minds; then, they will understand what God’s perfect will is. It takes spiritual discipline and Christian growth and maturity to know and to comprehend what God’s perfect will is. God’s perfect wills are revealed in scriptures, dreams, revelation, intuition etc. It depends on the medium God intends to reveal his perfect will. His wills have been revealed in the Bible and through His Son called special revelation. His other wills are revealed through creation called general revelation. This is the reason no one will escape God’s coming wrath because God has reveled himself to creation through general revelation. The Greek phrase “τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ” is often referred to God’s preferred-will, i.e. His best offer to people which can be accepted or rejected. It focuses on the result hope for with the particular desire. It is nearly always used of God, referring to His preferred-will instead of his perfect will as translated in the Bible. Occasionally it is used of man (cf. Lk. 23:25; Jn 1:13).
In this light, there is God’s preferred will and there is God’s perfect will. His perfect will is what we can not change or make choices from; on the other hand, his preferred-wills are choices He offers to humanity to choose from. God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of knowledge and good and evil. It was his preferred-will of instructing His creatures. His perfect-will was that Adam and Eve eat not the forbidden fruit; unfortunately, they did not choose God’s perfect will as the result of disobedience. The product of his preferred-will is his perfect-will.
Good, Well-pleasing, and Perfect (τὸ ἀγαθὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον καὶ τέλειον)
The Believers’ transformation and renewing of the mind is the result of knowing what is good, well-pleasing, and perfect. The Greek word “ἀγαθὸν” is an adjective which means good. Its original form or lexicon form is ἀγαθός, ή, όν which describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in their lives through faith. The Greek word “εὐάρεστον” is an adjective meaning acceptable, well-pleasing especially to God, grateful. It is only associated with God. Its lexicon form is εὐάρεστος, ον. The Greek word “τέλειον” is an adjective describing the completeness of Christian character. It means perfect, full-grown, and complete in all its parts especially of the completeness of Christian character. It is the end-goal of the spiritual journey after the Christian has undergone through the various stages of the Christian growth and come to maturity to a perfect man. The lexicon form for τέλειον is τέλειος, α, ον.
The book of Romans endeavors to communicate the universal sinful nature of mankind in general and the universal grace of God which makes provision of pardon for sin and restoration of holiness. The only medium provided to live in the delight of this grace is to have faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to so receive him as Lord and Savior. Jesus lives to bring reconciliation between sinners and the holy God; therefore, mankind receives this reconciliation upon the acceptance of Christ as Lord and Savior.
Apostle Paul’s mind is pregnant with issues which clash with the Judaizers as he communicates this letter. He answers basis interrogations via a broad contextualization of the problem of sin, grace, and the law presenting Jesus as the remedial solution for the sin problem. He states that both Jews and Gentiles fall short of the glory of God due to sin influence; however, there is no excuse for the fact that all individuals have received some revelations (general/special) of the will of God. Everyone is under condemnation; nevertheless, everyone is justified through the redemption which comes through Jesus Christ. The Christian’s life must be a life of obedience which leads to a transformed lifestyle to enable the believer to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. This is the ultimate goal of the Christian’s journey, development, and growth (maturity).
Bernadette J Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 1996
Helps Ministries, Inc., Strong’s Concordance, 2011
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionary (Lockman Foundation), 1981 & 1998
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon/www.biblebluehue.com
Vaughan, Curtis and Corley, Bruce, Romans: A Study Guide Commentary (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation), 45, 1976
Bernadette J Brooten, Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press), 105, 1996.
Vaughan, Curtis and Corley, Bruce, Romans: A Study Guide Commentary (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation), 45, 1976.
HCB, KJV, NASB, BSB.
Helps Ministries, Inc., Strong’s Concordance, 2011.
NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionary (Lockman Foundation), 1981 & 1998.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon/www.biblebluehue.com.
Thayer’s Greek Lexicon/www.biblebluehue.com.
I Corinthians 2:14.
Luke 23:35; John 1:13.