Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Sixty-nine: Paul writes Romans   Restitution of All Things
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Chapter Sixty-nine:

Paul writes Romans - Part one

 
From Albert Barnes' "Notes on the New Testament."

WRITTEN IN GREEK

The Epistle has been, with great uniformity, attributed to the
apostle Paul, and received as a part of the sacred canon....
It is agreed by all, that this epistle was written in Greek.
Though addressed to a people whose language was the Latin, yet
this epistle to them, like those to other churches, was in Greek.
On this point, also, there is no debate.
The reasons why this language was chosen were probably the
following. (1.) The epistle was designed, doubtless, to be read
by other churches as well as the Roman, Compare Col.4:16.
Yet the Greek language, being generally known and spoken, was
more adapted to this design than the Latin. (2.) The Greek
language was then understood at Rome, and extensively spoken. It
was a part of polite education to learn it. The Roman youth
were taught it; and it was the fashion of the times to study it,
even so much so as to make it matter of complaint that the Latin
was neglected for it by the Roman youth.
Thus Cicero (Pro. Arch.) says, 'The Greek language is spoken in
almost all nations; the Latin is confined to our comparatively
narrow borders.' Tacitus(Orat.29) says, 'An infant born now is
committed to a Greek nurse.' Juvenal (6.185) speaks of its being
considered as an indispensable part of polite education, to be
acquainted with the Greek. (3.) It is not impossible that the
Jews at Rome, who constituted a separate colony, were better
acquainted with the Greek than the Latin. They had Greek, but no
Latin translation of the Scriptures: and it is very possible that
they used the language in which they were accustomed to read
their Scriptures, and which was extensively spoken by their
brethren throughout the world. (4.) The apostle was himself
probably more familiar with the Greek than the Latin. He
was a native of Cilicia, where the Greek was doubtless spoken,
and he not infrequently quotes the Greek poets in his addresses
and epistles, Acts 21:37; 17:28; Tit.1:12; I Cor.15:33.
This epistle is placed first among Paul's epistles, not because
it was the first written, but because of the length and
importance of the epistle itself, and the importance of
the church in the imperial city. It has uniformly had this place
in the sacred canon, though there is reason to believe that the
Epistle to the Galatians, the first to the Corinthians, and
perhaps the two to the Thessalonians, were written before this.  

 
WHEN WRITTEN?

Of the time when it was written there can be little doubt. About
the year 52 or 54 the emperor Claudius banished all Jews from
Rome. In Acts 18:2, we have an account of the first acquaintance
of Paul with Aquila and Priscilla, who had departed from Rome
in consequence of that decree. This acquaintance was formed in
Corinth; and we are told that Paul abode with them, and worked at
the same occupation, Acts 18:3. In Rom.16:3,4, he directs the
church to greet Priscilla and Aquila, who had for his life
laid down their own necks. This service which they rendered him
must have been, therefore, after the decree of Claudius; and of
course the epistle must have been written after the year 52.
In Acts 18:19, we are told that he left Aquila and Priscilla at
Ephesus. Paul made a journey through the neighbouring regions,
and then returned to Ephesus, Acts 19:1. Paul remained at Ephesus
at least two years, (Acts 19:8,9,10,) and while here probably
wrote the first Epistle to the Corinthians. In that epistle
(16:19) he sends the salutation of Priscilla and Aquila, who were
of course still at Ephesus. The Epistle to the Romans, therefore,
in which he sends his salutation to Aquila and Priscilla, as
being then at Rome, could not be written until they had left
Ephesus and returned to Rome; that is, until three years, at
least, after the decree of Claudius in 52 or 54.
Still further. When Paul wrote this epistle, he was about to
depart for Jerusalem to convey a collection which had been made
for the poor saints there, by the churches in Macedonia and
Achaia, Rom.15:25,26. When he had done this, he intended to go to
Rome, Rom.15:28.

Now, by looking at the Acts of the Apostles, we can determine
when this occurred. At this time he sent Timotheus and Erastus
before him, into Macedonia, while he remained in Asia for a
season, Acts 19:22. After this, (Acts 20:1,2) Paul himself
went into Macedonia, passed through Greece, and remained about
three months there. In this journey it is almost certain that he
went to Corinth, the capital of Achaia, at which time it is
supposed this epistle was written. From this place he set out for
Jerusalem, where he was made a prisoner; and after remaining a
prisoner two years, (Acts 24:27,) he was sent to Rome about A.D.
60. Allowing for the time of his travelling and his imprisonment,
it must have been about three years from the time that he
purposed to go to Jerusalem; that is, from the time that he
finished the epistle,(Rom.15:25-29,) to the time when he reached
Rome, and thus the epistle must have been written about A.D.57.
It is clear, that the epistle was written from Corinth. In
ch.16:1, Phebe, a member of the church at Cenchrea, is commended
to the Romans. She probably had charge of the epistle, or
accompanied those who had it. Cenchrea was the port of the city
of Corinth, about seven or eight miles from the city. In ch.16:
23, Gaius is spoken of as the host of Paul, or he of whose
hospitality Paul partook; but Gaius was baptized by Paul at
Corinth, and Corinth was manifestly his place of residence, 
1 Cor.1:14.     
Erastus is also mentioned as the chamberlain of the city where
the epistle was written; but this Erastus is mentioned as having
his abode at Corinth, 2 Tim.4:20. 
From all this it is manifest that the epistle was written at
Corinth, about the year 57.

THE DISCIPLES IN ROME?

Of the state of the church at Rome at that time it is not easy to
form a precise opinion. From this epistle it is evident that it
was composed of Jews and Gentiles, and that one design of writing
to it was to reconcile their jarring opinions, particularly about
the obligation of the Jewish law; the advantage of the Jew; and
the way of justification. It is probable that the two parties in
the church were endeavouring to defend each their peculiar
opinions, and that the apostle took this opportunity and mode to
state to his converted countrymen the great doctrines of
Christianity, and the relation of the law of Moses to the
Christian system. The epistle itself is full proof that the
church to whom it was addressed was composed of Jews and
Gentiles. No small part of it is an argument expressly with the
Jews, chs.2;3;4;9;10;11.  And no small part of the epistle also
is designed to state the true doctrine about the character of the
Gentiles, and the way in which they could be justified before
God.
At this time there was a large number of Jews at Rome. When
Pompey the Great overran Judea, he sent a large number of Jews
prisoners to Rome, to be sold as slaves. But it was not easy to
control them. They persevered resolutely and obstinately in
adhering to the rites of their nation, in keeping the Sabbath,
etc.; so that the Romans chose at last to give them their
freedom, and assigned them a place in the vicinity of the city
across the Tiber. Here a town was built, which was principally in
habited by Jews. Josephus mentions that 4000 Jews were banished
from Rome at one time to Sardinia, and that a still greater
number were punished who were unwilling to become soldiers, Ant.
18.ch.3,5. Philo (Legat.ad Caium) says, that many of the Jews at
Rome had obtained their freedom ; for, says he, being made
captive in war, and brought into Italy, they were set at liberty
by their masters, neither were they compelled to change the rites
of their fathers....

GOSPEL IN ROME?

At what time, or by whom, the gospel was first preached at Rome
has been a matter of controversy, The Roman Catholic Church have
maintained that it was founded by Peter, and have thence drawn an
argument for their high claims and infallibility. On this subject
they make a confident appeal to some of the fathers.
There is strong evidence to be derived from this epistle itself,
and from the Acts, that Paul did not regard Peter as having any
such primacy and ascendancy in the Roman church as are claimed
for him by the papists. (1.) In this whole epistle there is no
mention of Peter at all. It is not suggested that he had been, or
was then, at Rome. If he had been, and the church had been
founded by him, it is incredible that Paul did not make mention
of that fact. This is the more striking, as it was done in other
cases where churches had been founded by other men. See 1 Cor.1:
12,13,14,15. Especially is Peter, or Cephas, mentioned repeatedly
by the apostle Paul in his other epistles, 1 Cor.3:22;9:5;15:5;
Gal.2:9;1:18;2:7,8,14. In these places Peter is mentioned
in connexion with the churches at Corinth and Galatia, yet never
there as appealing to his authority, but, in regard to the
latter, expressly calling it in question. Now, it is incredible
that if Peter had been then at Rome, and bad founded the church
there, and was regarded as invested with any peculiar authority
over it, that Paul should never once have even suggested his
name. (2.) It is clear that Peter was not there when Paul wrote
this epistle. If he had been, he could not have failed to have
sent him a salutation, amid the numbers that he saluted in the
sixteenth chapter. (3.) In the Acts of the Apostles there is no
mention of Peter's having been at Rome; but the presumption, from
that history, is almost conclusive that he had not been. In Acts
12:3,4, we have an account of his having been imprisoned by Herod
Agrippa near the close of his reign, (comp.v.23.). This occurred
about the third or fourth year of the reign of Claudius, who
began to reign A.D.41. It is altogether improbable that he had
been at Rome before this. Claudius had not reigned more than
three years; and all the testimony that the fathers give is, that
Peter came to Rome in his reign. (4.) Peter was at Jerusalem
still in the ninth or tenth year of the reign of Claudius, Acts
15:6, etc. Nor is there any mention made then of his having been
at Rome. (5.) Paul went to Rome about A.D. 60. There is no
mention made then of Peter's being with him, or being there. If
he had been, it could hardly have failed of being recorded.
Especially is this remarkable when Paul's meeting with the
brethren is expressly mentioned, (Acts 28:14,15;) and when it is
recorded that he met the Jews, and abode with them, and spent at
Rome no less than two years. If Peter had been there, such a fact
could not fail to have been recorded, or alluded to, either in
the Acts or the Epistle to the Romans. (6.) The epistles to the
Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, to Philemon, and the second
Epistle to Timothy, (Lardner, 6.235,) were written from Rome
during the residence Paul as a prisoner; and the Epistle to the
Hebrews probably also while he was still in Italy. In none of
thes epistles is there any note that Peter was then, or had been,
in Rome; a fact that cannot he accounted for if he was regarded
as the founder of that church, and especially if he was then in
that city. Yet in those epistles there are the salutations of a
number to those churches. In particular, Epaphras, Luke the
beloved physician, (Col.4:12,14,) and the saints of the household
of Caesar are mentioned, Phil.4:22. In 2 Tim.4:11, Paul expressly
affirms that Luke only was with him - a declaration utterly
irreconcilable with the supposition that Peter was then at
Rome. (7.) If Peter was ever at Rome, therefore, of which indeed
there is no reason to doubt, he must have come there after Paul:
at what time is unknown. That he was there cannot be doubted,
without calling in question the truth of all history.

When, or by whom, the gospel was preached first at Rome, it is
not easy, perhaps not possible, to determine. In the account of
the day of Pentecost, (Acts 2:10,) we find, among others, that
there were present strangers of Rome, and it is not improbable
that they carried back the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and became
the founders of the Roman church. One design and effect of that
miracle was doubtless to spread the knowledge of the Saviour
among all nations. In the list of persons who are mentioned
in Rom.16 it is not improbable that some of those early converts
are included; and that Paul thus intended to show honour to their
early conversion and zeal in the cause of Christianity....

That the church at Rome was founded early, is evident from the
celebrity which it had acquired. At the time when Paul wrote this
epistle, (A.D.57,) their faith was spoken of throughout the
world, chap. 1:3. The character of the church at Rome cannot be
clearly ascertained. Yet it is clear that it was not made up
merely of the lower classes of the community. In Phil.4:22, it
appears that the gospel had made its way to the family of Caesar,
and that a part of his household had been converted to the
Christian faith.... But little on this subject can be known.
While it is probable that the great mass of believers in all the
early churches was of obscure and plebeian origin, it is also
certain that some who were rich, and noble, and learned, became
members of the church of Christ. See 1 Tim.2:9; 1 Pet.3:3; 1
Tim.6:20; Col.2:3; 1 Cor.1:26; Acts 7:34. 

THE THEOLOGY OF ROMANS

This epistle has been usually deemed the most difficult of 
interpretation of any part of the New Testament; and no small
part of the controversies in the Christian church have grown out
of discussions about its meaning. Early in the history of the
church, even before the death of the apostles, we learn from 2
Pet.3:16, that the writings of Paul were some of them regarded as
being hard to be understood; and that the unlearned and unstable
wrested them to their own destruction. It is probable that Peter
has reference here to the high and mysterious doctrines about
justification and the sovereignty of God, and the doctrines of
election and decrees.
From the epistle of James, it would seem probable also, that a
ready the apostle Paul's doctrine of justification by faith had
been perverted and abused. It seems to have been inferred
that good works were unnecessary; and here was the beginning of
the cheerless and withering system of Antinomianism (against law)

which a more destructive or pestilential heresy never found its
way into the Christian church. Several reasons might be assigned
for the controversies which have grown out of this epistle. (1.)
The very structure of the argument, and the peculiarity of the
apostle's manner of writing. He, is rapid; mighty; profound;
often involved; readily following a new thought; leaving
the regular subject, and returning again after a considerable
interval. Hence his writings abound with parentheses, and with
complicated paragraphs. (2.) Objections, are often introduced, so
that it requires close attention to determine their precise
bearing. Though he employs no small part of the epistle in
answering objections, yet an objector is never once formally
introduced or mentioned. (3.) His expressions and phrases are
many of them liable to be misunderstood, and capable of
perversion. Of this class were such expressions as the
'righteousness of faith,' the 'righteousness of God,' etc. 
(4.) The doctrines themselves are high and mysterious.... 
(5.) It cannot be denied, that one reason why the epistles of
Paul have been regarded as so difficult has been an 
unwillingness to admit the truth of the plain doctrines which he
teaches. The heart is by nature opposed to them, and comes to
believe them with great reluctance. This feeling will account for
no small part of the difficulties felt in regard to this epistle.
There is one great maxim in interpreting the Scriptures that can
never be departed from. It is, that men can never understand
them aright, until they are willing to suffer them to speak out
their fair and proper meaning. When men are determined not to
find certain doctrines in the Bible, nothing is more natural than
that they should find difficulties in it, and complain much of
its great obscurity and mystery. I add, (6,) that one principal
reason why so much difficulty has been felt here, has been an
unwillingness to stop where the apostle does. Men have desired to
advance farther, and penetrate the mysteries which the Spirit of
inspiration has not disclosed. Where Paul states a simple fact,
men often advance a theory. The fact may be clear and plain;
their theory is obscure, involved, mysterious, or absurd....

Perhaps, on the whole, there is no book of the New Testament that
more demands a humble, docile, and prayerful disposition in its
interpretation than this epistle. Its profound doctrines; its
abstruse inquiries; and the opposition of many of those doctrines
to the views of the unrenewed and unsubdued heart of man, make a
spirit of docility and prayer peculiarly needful in its
investigation. No man ever yet understood the reasonings and
views of the apostle Paul but under the influence of elevated
piety.
None ever found opposition to his doctrines recede, and
difficulties vanish, who did not bring the mind in a humble frame
to receive all that has been revealed; and that, in a spirit of
humble prayer, did not purpose to lay aside all bias, and open
the heart to the full influence of the elevated truths which he
inculcates. 

Where there is a willingness that God should reign and do all his
pleasure, this epistle may be, in its general character, easily
understood. Where this is wanting, it will appear full of mystery
and perplexity; the mind will be embarrassed, and the heart
dissatisfied with its doctrines; and the unhumbled spirit will
rise from its study only confused, irritated, perplexed, and
dissatisfied.

End of quotes from Albert Barnes' "Notes on the New Testament."

OUTLINE OF ROMANS

1. Introduction  1:1-17

A. Salutation  1:1-7
B. Proposed visit  1:8-15
C. Theme: the righteousness of God  1:16-,17

2. Righteous in judging sinners  1:18-3:20

A. Gentile sinners  1:18-32
B. Jewish sinners  2:1-3:20

3. Righteous in justifying believers  3:21-5:21

A. God's provision  3:21-31
B. Illustrated by Abraham  4:1-25
C. Death in Adam, life in Christ  5:1-21

4. Righteous in sanctifying believers  6:1-8:39

A. Freed from sin, slaves to God  6:1-23
B. Life in the flesh  7:1-25
C. Life in the Spirit  8:1-39

5. Righteousness manifested in history  9:1-11:36

A. Spiritual Israel will inherit the promise  9:1-29
B. Seeking righteousness by works  9:30-10:21
C. God's mercy on Israel  11:1-36

6. Righteousness exhibited in daily life  12:1-15:13

A. The Christian's commitment  12:1,2
B. Living with Christians and non-Christians  12:3-13:14
C. Guidance for weak and strong Christians  14:1-15:13

7. Personal notes and conclusion  15:14-16:27

A. Paul's plans for future ministry  15:14-33
B. Praise and greetings  16:1-27
  
               ............................

The epistle to Romans is not hard to understand when we read all
the Bible, when we understand justification/forgiveness of sins
is through faith in Christ's sacrifice, as our sin bearer, when
we know that in it all the holy, righteous law of God is not
abolished by faith, but established by it, and when we understand
the plan of salvation that God has purposed for every person who
has ever lived - Keith Hunt.

TO BE CONTINUED


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