The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Part III

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens

THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE ROMANS, PART III [i]

By Darrell Sutton

In the study of ancient Christian texts students are obliged to investigate wider settings such as social and cultural histories and imperial policies. The text of Romans fascinates classicists and New Testament scholars because of its acknowledgement of an established community of Jews in Rome during the first century AD and of a smaller society of Christians within it. In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul does not address the contours of Roman religion, restricting himself to elucidating his own notions of messianic fulfillment of Jewish anti-types. In these epistolary depictions, Christ is the initiator of his own “ruler-cult”, whose devotees obtained legal freedom from the power of sin through their trust in the ruler’s death, resurrection and ascension above the sublunar sphere and into the faraway heavens (chapters 1-5).

In the below chapters (6-8), Paul summarizes this liberty in Christ. He provides a picture of sin’s intrinsic development in human beings and its disablement by means of Jesus’ crucifixion, a portrayal that is unrivalled by, and unknown to, previous Graeco-Roman writers who attempted to enlighten readers about native predispositions and ethical ideas. Greek myth being what it was, rendered the Greek mind of that day incapable of envisioning man as Paul did later. Previously, Aristotle pondered how a person could do what he or she knows to be wrong (Nic. Eth. VII 1-11). But his conclusion that ‘a person does not act in ways that oppose what one deems to be noblest, and so people do not ever err’, was not exact or helpful. Overrun by passions, people act and react against their better judgment daily. Paul takes a different tack in his discussion on the jurisprudences of the law of sin and the law of the spirit of life. In fact, from his deductions of Old Testament passages – while leaving aside Greek philosophical speculations – Paul was able to construct the kind of meticulous arguments about inbred sin and its effects that no other intellectual or rabbi of his day could have composed.

In the Pauline scheme, every individual is responsible for his or her own behavior, being able to desist from or persist in conduct that may or may not transgress divine commandment.

I supply translations of Romans 6-8 because they explain the mechanisms of sin and righteousness, deserving separate treatment and close reading. Paul’s brilliant Greek expressions are visible to readers of the original text. Patristic Latin phrases in this part of the epistle are unique, and indeed were formed under Greek influence. I do not avoid the redundancies in the vocabulary of the Latin text. And I punctuated the English renderings to correspond to how I re-punctuated the underlying Latin text. In a few places I transpose English renderings in order to express as plainly as possible the exact shade of the Latin text. Here and there various idioms are capable of more than one interpretation.

Outline:

6: 1-14         The Ramifications of Being Dead to Sin
6: 15-23      The Believers’ New Status: Slaves to Righteousness
7: 1-6           Espoused to Christ, No Longer to the Hebraic Law
7: 7-25         Inward Struggles with Temptation: A Description
8: 1-17         Principles of Living by the Law of the Spirit of Life
8: 18-39      The Glorious Future of the Sons of God

Chapter Six

1 So what are we saying? Should we persist in sin so that grace may abound? 2 Absolutely not. For we who are dead to sin, how shall we yet live in it? 3 Do you not know therefore, every one of us was baptized unto Christ Jesus, into his death we were baptized? 4 Hence we are buried along with him, through baptism, in death, so that just as Christ arose from the dead amid the glory of the father, even also we might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted collectively in the likeness of his death, at the same time also we will be [in the likeness] of the resurrection. 6 Being conscious of this because our old man is simultaneously crucified that the body of sin might be destroyed, and furthermore we should not serve sin.  7 For he who is dead is justified from sin. 8 For if we are dead with Christ we believe also that we shall live together with Christ. 9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no longer being lord over him. 10 Thus, whereby he died, he died from sin one time; but in that he lives, he lives unto God. 11 Likewise all of you as well: consider yourselves to be dead, indeed, but living unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

12 As a consequence, sin does not reign in your mortal body that you should obey it in its lust. 13 But do not exhibit your (bodily) members as weapons of iniquity to sin; but present yourself to God, so much as they are alive from the dead, even your members: weapons of righteousness for God. 14 To be sure, sin will not dominate all of you. For you are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? Will we sin, seeing that we are not under the law but under grace? Absolutely not. 16 Whereas do you not know, to whom you surrender yourselves as slaves unto obedience, to whom ye submit you are his servant: whether of sin unto death, or if the obedience is unto righteousness. 17 But be grateful to God: you were the servants of sin; however, you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which to you was transmitted. 18 For you were liberated from sin; you were made slaves of righteousness.

19 As a man I say this, on account of the infirmity of your flesh: just as you put forward your members to serve uncleanness, and iniquity unto iniquity, in this wise now surrender your members to serve righteousness through sanctification. 20 For when you were sin’s slave you were free of righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have at the time in it, in which things you all are now embarrassed? For the end of those things is death. 22 True, you all are now at liberty from sin; however, you were made slaves to God: you have your fruit unto sanctification; verily of the end, eternal life. 23 In effect, death is sin’s’ payment. But God’s free imbursement iseternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Chapter Seven

1 Do you not realize brethren (for I speak to those who are knowledgeable of the law), that the law is in dominance over man for so long as he lives? 2 For a woman who is submitted to a man, to a living husband is bound by law. But if her husband is dead, she is released from the husband’s law. 3 So if she is with another man, with the husband living, it will be called adultery. However, if her husband is dead, she is freed from the husband’s law, so that she is by no means committing adultery if ever she will have been with another man. 4 Consequently my brethren, you also are dead to the law through the body of Christ that you should be another’s, who is raised from the dead so that we might manifest fruit unto God. 5 For while we were in the flesh, the passions of sin which were by the law, did function in our members that they might produce fruit unto death. 6 But now we are loosed from the law of death, by which we were held back; accordingly, we should serve by the newness of the Spirit, and not by the oldness of the letter.

7 So what are we saying? Is the law of sin? Not in any way. But I had not known of sin except by the law. For I had not known covetousness, except the law had declared, ‘do not covet.’ 8 But sin, finding an opening through the commandment, produced in me all covetousness. 9 However, I was living apart from the law at one time; but when the commandment came, sin revived. 10 On the contrary, I died, and the command which was come to me was unto life; here it is unto death. 11 For sin finding an opening through the law, seduced me, and by means of it struck me down. 12 As has been said: the law indeed is holy, and the commandment: holy and legitimate and good.

13 That which is good then, is it made death unto me? Absolutely not. But sin, that it might appear sin, is working death unto me through the good: that by the commandment sin might be made sinful beyond measure. 14 Indeed we know since the law is spiritual, I, on the other hand, am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which is being done by me, I do not understand; indeed, the good for which I wish, this I do not perform. But the badness which I despise, that I do. 16 If however, I am producing what I do not desire, I comply with the law, that it is good. 17 But now, no longer am I doing that, but sin which inhabits me.

18 Really I know that good does not reside in me – this is in my flesh – for to will is closest to me, but the manner in which to perform the good I do not find. 19 For though I yearn for the good, this I do not; but the evil for which I do not wish, I do. 20 If however, what I do not will to do, I do, no longer am I doing it, but that which inhabits me: sin. 21 Therefore I find a law willing to work good in me, whereas evil is nearby to me. 22 Indeed I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, resisting the law of my mind, and captivating me by the law of sin, which is in my members. 24 An unhappy man am I! Who will liberate me from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord: thereupon I myself serve the law of God with the mind; but with the flesh, I am enslaved to the law of sin. 

Chapter Eight

1 As a consequence, now there is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who are not walking according to the flesh. 2 That is to say, the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus did free me from the law of sin and death. 3 For what was impossible by the law, by which it was powerless through the flesh: God, sending forth his son in the exact image of a fleshly body of sin, and because of sin, condemned sin in the flesh, 4 In order that justification of the law might be fulfilled in us, who are not walking in accordance with the flesh, but according to the spirit. 5 For those who follow after the flesh do savor the things of the flesh; those who follow after the spirit, they care for that which is of the spirit: 6 because the good sense of the flesh is death, but the good sense of the spirit is life and peace.

7 Whereas fleshly wisdom is hostile towards God, for it is not subject to the law of God: nor is it indeed possible to be otherwise8 For it is not possible for those who are in the flesh to please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if, however, the spirit lives in you. 10 But if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of sin; verily the spirit lives in proximity of justification. 11 If that which is his spirit who raised Christ from the dead, dwells in you, he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead also will revive your mortal body because his indwelling spirit is in you. 12 Therefore brethren, we are debtors not to the flesh that we might live according to the flesh. 13 Indeed if you will have lived by the flesh, you will die; but if by the spirit you put to death the flesh, you will live.

14 For whosever are led by the spirit, they are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of bondage, once more to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption, of sonship: we are crying out ‘Abba’ Father! 16 The spirit himself gives witness to our spirit that we are sons of God. 17 If sons verily, also heirs; indeed heirs of God, shared beneficiaries of Christ, if however we have suffered that we also might be glorified with him.

18 Actually I estimate that the sufferings of this age are not wholly deserving of the future glory which will be revealed in us. 19 For the desire of the thing created longs for the revelation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was consigned to vanity, not willingly, but because of him who subjected creation in hope. 21 Because the creature itself will be delivered from the enslavement of a corrupt condition unto the glorious liberty of the sons of God. 22 For we know that all of creation is groaning and is travailing continuously until now.  23 But not only that, yet we also have the first-fruit of the spirit and within ourselves we groan, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, for the redemption of our bodies. 24 Undoubtedly we are saved by hope. But hope which is seen is not hope. For what one sees, why does she hope? 25 However, if we hope for what we do not see, we await with patience.

26 Similarly the Spirit assists with our infirmities as we do not know for what we are praying as is proper: but the Spirit himself petitions for us with indescribable groanings. 27 Who scrutinizes the heart; the Spirit knows what is expected because, consistent with God, he petitions for the saints.

28 We know however that the faithful God is working all things for good, to them which are divinely called according to purpose. 29 For those he foreknew, indeed he predestinated to be conformed unto his image, that [Jesus] himself might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 But those he predestinated, he called; and those he called, even these he justified; but those he justified, them indeed he glorified. 31 Therefore what shall we say unto these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 Still, he who did not spare his own special son, but for us all surrendered him, how will he even now with him not give us all things? 33 Who will bring accusation against the elect of God? God is he who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? Christ Jesus, it is he who died, nay, he who rose again, who is at the right hand of God, who yet intervenes for us.

35 As a consequence, who will separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation? Or distress? Or hunger? Or nakedness? Or trial? Or persecution? Or sword?

36 (As it is written: because of you we are killed all the day. We are regarded as a lamb for the slaughter.)

37 But in all these things we triumph over them because of him who delights in us. 38 I am determined that neither death, nor life, nor angel nor principalities, nor powers, nor things that be now, nor things to be in the future, and no force, neither height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from God’s love, which is in our Lord, Christ Jesus.

ENDNOTE

[i] In two previous papers for The Quarterly Review I offered preliminary remarks on, and translations of, Latin texts of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans (see October 10 2017 and March 24 2018)

Pastor Darrell Sutton publishes papers on ancient texts and reviews biblical and classical literature. He is a former marine and First Gulf War veteran

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2 Responses to The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Part III

  1. David Ashton says:

    I get the impression that many leaders of western clergy today do not really behave as if they believe in life beyond death in this world, or even “Jesus at the right hand of God”. Lourdes healing waters closed off , no more Communion wafers, and churches everywhere shut even for private prayer (whatever difference that would make to the pandemic Act of God). “There is tragedy in the spectacle.”

  2. Stuart Millson says:

    Astonishing letter last week in The Telegraph from a Rev. David Ackerman of London W10 who said that he defied the Bishop’s order to close his church… “…while the Archbishop of Canterbury sleeps soundly in his Palace” he [the Rev. Ackerman] had provided shelter to a woman thrown out of her home and job. I must say, I have great sympathy with the Reverend for at least keeping the doors of his church open, and wish him well. If such a place as B&Q is allowed to remain open (thus helping to put everyone at risk from the virus, for the sake of being able to buy DIY equipment), surely the church could be permitted a weekly opening slot?

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