St. Paul’s epistle to the church at Rome—or Romans—is the most important of all Paul’s epistles and letters, and for Christians it is arguably the most important book in the entire Bible. We know from the Gospels and from Church teaching that Jesus is the virgin-born, sinless Son of God who went to the cross on our behalf, who died, who was buried and who on the 3rd day rose from the dead, enabling our salvation. That is who he is and what he did.
But how do we appropriate who Christ is and what he did? How do we reach out and take hold of it? That is the issue Paul addresses in Romans.
The Conversion of St. Paul (1675-1682)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
This course consists of 18 one-hour video lessons, with PowerPoint slides, notes, artworks, maps, "knowledge check" quizzes, and "Virtual Office Hours" with Dr. Creasy.
Lesson #1: St. Paul the Apostle
It is said that St. John Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407) had Romans read to him twice each week, and the English poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), called it the most profound writing that exists. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of the great 20th-century bible teachers, began a systematic exposition of Romans at his Friday evening Westminster Chapel Bible study in October 1955; he finished in March 1968—and he said that he had only scratched the surface!
Just who is the man who wrote this extraordinary epistle?
Lesson #2: The Issue of Salvation
Scripture tells the story of humanity’s fall from grace and of God’s actions throughout history to redeem us, to bring us back into an intimate, covenant relationship with himself. Scripture tells the story of humanity’s salvation, and it is, quite simply, “the greatest story ever told.”
But what, exactly, is salvation? And how, precisely, does it work?
That is the subject of Lesson #2.
Lesson #3: Writing Romans
Typically, St. Paul writes his epistles and letters to address specific issues in specific churches, usually churches he has founded himself. They are occasional writings.
Paul’s epistle to the Romans is much more however: it is a formal argument, structured as a “scholastic diatribe,” a brilliant doctrinal statement that defines precisely how a sinful person is made righteous before a holy God. It then addresses questions raised by Paul’s thesis, and the practical implications of living a life that flows from it.
In Lesson #3 we examine the circumstances under which Paul writes Romans, why he writes it, and how he writes it.
Lesson #4: Introduction to the Argument (1: 1-15)
St. Paul opens in standard “epistolary” fashion, with a formal salutation telling his audience who he is (1: 1-8), and then wishing his audience well—in Paul’s case—in the form of a prayer (1: 9-15).
But we learn a great deal about St. Paul and his purpose from this “formulaic” opening, much more than we might expect!
In Lesson #4 we examine Paul’s introduction in detail.
Read: Read Romans 1: 1-15.
Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Letter to the Romans,” The Writings of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), pp. 303-324.
Mary Ann Getty and Carolyn Osiek, “Romans,” The Catholic Study Bible, pp. 441-450.
Lesson #5: Paul’s Thesis (1: 16–17)
In two short verses (1: 16-17)—37 words in Greek; 1 sentence—St. Paul states his thesis:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous by faith will live.’”
Stated brilliantly and succinctly, Paul’s thesis shakes the very foundation of Judaism; it rocks the Roman Empire; and it fundamentally and forever changes our understanding of God and of our relationship with him.
It is, perhaps, the single most significant sentence ever written!
Lesson #6: Demonstration by Antithesis, Part 1 (1: 18 – 2: 16)
After stating his thesis in 1: 16-17, Paul begins its exposition by antithesis. Antithesis functions in a scholastic diatribe to demonstrate the thesis by its opposite. For example, if I wanted to argue that “all good students do their homework,” then I might begin by demonstrating that “all poor students avoid their homework.” In like fashion, Paul’s thesis ends by saying:
“For in [the Gospel] is revealed the righteousness of God . . .” (1: 17), and
the wrath of God is indeed being revealed . . .” (1: 18) begins Paul’s
demonstration by antithesis. You see how the two are mirror opposites?
In the first part of Paul’s demonstration by antithesis he focuses on those who live outside the Abrahamic covenant, the Gentiles.
Read: Romans 1: 16 – 2: 16.
Lesson #7: Demonstration by Antithesis, Part 2 (2: 17 – 3: 20)
St. Paul’s demonstration by antithesis began by focusing on those living outside the Abrahamic covenant, the Gentiles (1: 18 – 2: 16), and then it focused on the Jews, those living under the Abrahamic covenant who do not place their faith in Christ, but who depend upon the Mosaic law: “Now if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law . . .” (2: 17 – 3: 20). For St. Paul, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (3: 23).
In Lesson #7, Paul will, indeed, argue that being a Jew does have certain advantages, for the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God—the Scriptures—and it is through the Jews that God brought his Son into the world. But that does not exempt the Jews from Paul’s thesis; rather, it increases their accountability before God.
Lesson #7 introduces the tricky topic of the Jews: what is their role in God’s plan of redemption? And if we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, what is the fate of the Jews who do not accept Christ?
Lesson #8: Thesis Restated (3: 21-31)
Having demonstrated by antithesis that “the wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness” (1: 18), Jew and Gentile alike, St. Paul now restates and amplifies his thesis. In 3: 21-26 Paul reminds us of the same basic points he made in his thesis statement (1: 16-17), but he more fully and clearly displays them. Then in 3: 27-31, Paul transitions to a positive demonstration of his thesis by a series of questions, answers and propositions.
This is really slick!
Read: Romans 2: 17 – 3: 31.
Lesson #9: Demonstration by Example (4: 1-25)
The ancient world often used examples from the past to illustrate proper behavior and belief. Characters from history, story and fable provided models to emulate, drawing lessons (both positive and negative) from their exploits. Homer’s Iliad is a prime example. In it, readers (and listeners to its oral performance by traveling bards, or poets) learned the virtues of love, friendship, loyalty and courage from Hector, prince of Troy, and they learned the dangers of wrath [muÆnin, “mae’-nin”], pride, hatred and isolation from Achilles. In many ways, the Iliad served as “scripture” for young 4th-century Greeks.
In the Jewish world of St. Paul’s day, scriptural characters often served the same purpose: Joseph, Moses and David were positive examples; Korah, Jephthah and Manasseh were negative examples. And just as children look up to their own fathers and mothers as role models, so the Jewish people as a whole look up to the father of their faith: Abraham.
After restating and amplifying his theses in 3: 21-31, Paul predictably turns to Abraham for his “Demonstration by Example.”
Lesson #10: Exposition of the Thesis (5: 1-21)
Having stated his thesis (1: 16-17), demonstrated it by antithesis (1: 18 – 3: 20), restated and amplified it (3: 21-31), and demonstrated his thesis by example (4: 1-25), Paul now turns to the heart of his argument, demonstrating how God’s “righteousness” has worked to make humanity “righteous” by faith in Christ.
Paul’s exposition of his thesis falls naturally into two parts: 1) Paul emphasizes the reality of the gift God has given us in Christ (5: 1-11); and 2) he stresses the greatness and character of that gift (5: 12-21).
Read: Romans 4: 1 – 5: 21.
Lesson #11: Objections to the Thesis Answered, Part 1: Grace and the Law (6: 1 – 7: 25)
Now that St. Paul has introduced and fully developed his thesis that we are “saved by grace through faith in Christ,” he anticipates our objections to his thesis, and he answers them before we have the opportunity to ask the questions!
Typically, in a scholastic diatribe the author himself poses the obvious objections to his thesis, or he invents an imaginary questioner who engages in a spirited dialogue with the author, adding vivid detail and allowing the author to clarify more obscure points and to amplify and further develop more difficult ones.
In Lesson #11 we explore questions that address: “If we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, why did God give the Law?”
Lesson #12: Objections to the Thesis Answered, Part 2: The Role of the Holy Spirit (8: 1-39)
As we concluded Lesson 11, Paul wrote:
“So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with my mind, serve the law of God but, with my flesh, serve the law of sin.”
Here Paul focuses on the conflict between the “flesh” [savrx, “sah’-rks”] and the “spirit” [pneuÆma, “new’-mah” (the “p” is silent)].
Recall that in Romans 5: 5—at the start of his “exposition of the thesis”—Paul wrote: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” As we enter Chapter 8, we reach back to 5: 5 and develop the role of the Holy Spirit in living a life where “flesh” and “spirit” are at constant war with one another.
Read: Romans 6: 1 – 8: 39.
Lesson #13: Objections to the Thesis Answered, Part 3: What about the Jews? (9: 1 – 11: 36)
In Lesson #7, Paul’s demonstration by antithesis began by focusing on those living outside the Abrahamic covenant, the Gentiles (1: 18 – 2: 16), and then he focused on the Jews, those living under the Abrahamic covenant who did not place their faith in Christ, but who depended upon the Law. For Paul, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (3: 23).
And yet, in exploring the role of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 8, Paul concluded emphatically:
“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, not height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For St. Paul, Christ is the great unifying force in God’s creation, a force that binds all humanity eternally together in Christ. And yet, at the time Paul is writing Romans—around A.D. 57—Christ has become a great dividing force between those who place their faith in him and the Jews living under the Abrahamic covenant, who do not. Paul’s thesis leads directly down this thorny path, and in Chapters 9-11 we explore its rocky, rough and twisting ways, walking through an often-grim forest, but emerging into bright light.
Lesson #14: Objections to the Thesis Answered, Part 3 (cont.): What about the Jews? (9: 1 – 11: 36)
Having placed the issue of the Jews into historical and theological context in Lesson #13, we continue our trek ever-deeper into St. Paul’s reasoning, careful not to trip over twisted cultural roots or intrusive theological anachronisms, all the while being careful not to get stuck in the deeply-worn ruts of denominational bias.
Read: Romans 9: 1 – 11: 36.
Lesson #15: Practical Implications, Part 1: Living in the Light (12: 1 – 13: 14)
Having resolved the issue of the Jews brilliantly, St. Paul ends his formal argument with a grand Doxology:
“Oh, the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
how inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given him anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him, and for him are all things.
To him be glory forever, Amen!”
With St. Paul’s argument firmly established, he now moves on to the practical implications of his argument. We understand that God provides the grace that enables us to respond to him in faith, and when we do, we enter the family of God as his sons and daughters, as Christ’s brothers and sisters. But once we’re in the family, we are to live a life that honors the family, not one that shames it.
Here we see the proper relationship between “faith” and “works.” We get into the family of God by grace through faith; we live in the family of God by a life of active love, or good works.
In Lesson #16 we explore the practical implications of living a life in Christ, touching on such topics as spiritual gifts, love, submitting to civil authority, finances, and staying centered in Christ.
Lesson #16: Practical Implications, Part 2: Love and Liberty (14: 1 – 15: 13)
In Lesson #16 we continue exploring the practical implications of living a life in Christ, focusing on day-to-day matters such as dietary restrictions (especially when the 1st-century Christian community consists of both Jew and Gentile), being non-judgmental and living a joyful, loving life.
Read: Romans 12: 1 – 15: 13.
Lesson #17: Conclusion (15: 14-33)
In A.D. 57, although St. Paul had been traveling extensively throughout the Roman Empire for the past 11 years, spreading the gospel message among Jew and Gentile alike, he had not yet been to Rome. In many ways, St. Paul’s epistle to the church at Rome is an introductory letter establishing Paul’s credentials. But why did he write it to begin with?
In Lesson #17 we cut to the chase!
In A.D. 57, Paul is at the end of his 3rd missionary journey (A.D. 54-57), the most successful of his three (the 1st, A.D. 46-48, into the interior of Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey; the 2nd, A.D. 50-52, across Asia Minor and into Macedonia and Greece). Paul had spent the vast majority of his 3rd missionary journey in Ephesus. Now, he plans to travel to Jerusalem, and he would like to deliver a large financial gift to the church there, a gift collected from churches throughout the Roman Empire. So, Paul is traveling to Rome to meet the believers there, but primarily he plans to take up a collection for the Mother church in Jerusalem!
Lesson #18: By the way, say “hello” to . . . (16: 1-16)
Lesson #18 is a P.S: “By the way, say ‘hello’ to all the folks I know in Rome!”
After eleven years on the road, St. Paul had met a lot of people on his travels who were from Rome. The Romans had built over 58,000 miles of roads throughout the Empire, and the maritime trade routes were as fully developed as air routes are today: it was relatively easy to travel throughout the Mediterranean world in Paul’s day.
In Romans 16, Paul mentions 29 people he knows in Rome by name, 9 of whom are women who had leadership positions in the church. This is an amazing cast of characters!
And we learn, too, in our final lesson, that St. Paul did not write Romans: he dictated it, and his amanuensis, Tertius, wrote it down!
Read: Romans 15: 14 – 16: 16.
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USERS ASSUME ALL RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANY LOSS OF PRIVACY OR OTHER HARM RESULTING FROM THEIR OWN VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE OF PERSONAL INFORMATION IN PUBLIC FORUMS.
Business Transitions. Logos reserves the right to transfer all User Information in its possession in the event Logos goes through a business transition, such as a merger, being acquired by another company, or selling a portion of its assets. Similarly, your User Information may be passed on to a successor in interest in the event of a reorganization, reconstruction, liquidation, bankruptcy or administration. Users will not be notified of any such change of ownership or control of their User Information.
The Services are intended for adult use only and is not directed towards children, minors or anyone under the age of 18. If you are under the age of 13, you are not authorized to provide us with any personally identifying information. If the parent or guardian of a child under 13 believes that the child has provided us with any personal data, the parent or guardian of that child should contact us at the address below and ask to have this personal information deleted from our files. We appreciate your cooperation with this federally mandated requirement.
Links To Third Party Sites
No transmission of data over the Internet is guaranteed to be completely secure. Therefore, we cannot guarantee that your submissions to the Services, any content residing on our servers, or any transmissions from our server will be completely secure. It may be possible for third parties to intercept or access transmissions or private communications unlawfully. Any such transmission is done at your own risk.
Accessing and Updating Personal Information
Additional Information for European Union Users
Data controller. Logos Educational Corporation of P.O. Box 420398, San Diego CA 92142 is the data controller for registration, billing, and other account information that we collect from users in the European Union.
Accessing and correcting your personal data. You have the right to access and correct the personal information that Logos holds about you. This right may be exercised by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· the transfer of your data to a data controller and data processors located in countries, including the United States, which do not have data protection laws that provide the same level of protection that exists in countries in the European Economic Area. Your consent is voluntary, and you may revoke your consent by opting out at any time. Please note that if you opt-out, we may no longer be able to provide you our Services.
· us sharing your personal data with relevant persons working for service providers who assist us to provide our Services; and
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