October 21, 2007
Just so you know, Bruce R. McConkie, wrote “In the hands of the sectarian world, Romans is a book on calculus in the hands of students who are still struggling to learn the basics of common arithmetic” and “not a source of gospel knowledge for the spiritually untutored.” Additionally, he wrote of Romans: Paul’s epistle to the Romans is a paradoxical document. On the one hand it is one of the clearest and most profound doctrinal books in the Bible. On the other hand, it is the source of more doctrinal misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and mischief than any other Biblical book, not even excepting the Book of Revelation.
Four things are apparent with reference to this inspired writing of the Apostle:
1. It was written to and for and about the saints and can be understood by them and by them only.
2. It was not written to the world in general, or to any branch of sectarianism in particular, and it is not and cannot be understood by them.
3. It is the source of more sectarian confusion, more false concepts on basic points of doctrine, and results in more wresting of the scriptures, than any other inspired writing now available to men.
4. In it is found the rationale used by Luther in his break with Catholicism. –Doctrinal NT Comm. 2:213.
So, when you’re reading Romans & don’t “get it,” don’t feel too badly! Note the JST changes indicated in your footnotes & appendix since they often make Romans easier to understand. Additionally, reading another translation, i.e. the NET or NIV Bibles might illuminate difficult passages as well. But, “Providentially, for this age, the Lord has given to his saints and to the world the Book of Mormon. This volume of holy writ sets forth in a pure, plain, and perfect way the true doctrines of Christ, so that those who have an understanding of its teachings are able to reconcile the difficulties and solve the problems of the epistle to the Romans.” Doctrinal NT Comm.
“Romans, unlike Paul’s other epistles, was written to a congregation of Christians whom Paul had never visited. Paul had made it a priority not to involve himself in the affairs of neighboring congregations but rather to focus solely on those regions he had visited and where he was known among the saints. For some reason, perhaps in the hope that he would be able to travel to a new missionary frontier–Spain–Paul wrote to the Roman Christians in anticipation of his upcoming arrival (Romans 15:23, 28) hoping also to receive some financial assistance to travel to Spain (Romans 15:24). Little had he anticipated the events that would transpire prior to his arrival there. From the letter, Paul apparently anticipated coming to Rome of his own volition, in reality, however, he was taken to Rome as a prisoner.”–Jesus Christ & The World of the New Testament.
Romans was most certainly written from Greece, probably Corinth where Paul enjoyed relative security, likely in the early spring of A.D. 57 when Paul was on his third missionary journey, ready to return to Jerusalem with the offering from the mission churches for poverty-stricken believers in Jerusalem. The letter focuses on the future of Israel, how Israel had been called, and the relationship between grace and works. It is a defense of Paul’s teaching to the church members in Rome, who had heard distorted reports of what Paul had taught. Compared to the other letters of Paul, which are point specific, often answering questions asked of Paul in letters, Romans is the closest we have to a systematic treatise of Pauline theology.
I think at this point, before specifically addressing the chapters and verses found in Romans, it might be helpful to have an overview of Paul’s models of salvation as is clearly outlined in Holzapfel, Huntsman & Wayments’ “Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament,” pg. 199. As you read Romans, having these models in mind may help clarify some of Paul’s writing.
PAULINE MODELS OF SALVATION
REDEMPTION MODEL: To redeem literally means “to buy back,” which suggests that because we are slaves to death and sin, Jesus paid the price to purchase our freedom (See Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14).
SUBSTITUTION MODEL: Because punishment is affixed to every broken law, Jesus was punished in our place, becoming, in the words of Paul, “a curse for us” (see 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13).
EXPIATION MODEL: Borrowing from the image of Old Testament sacrifice, Jesus “covered” our sins with his blood, removing the effects of sin that kept unclean things out of the presence of God (See Romans 3:23-25, 28; Eph. 2:13).
RECONCILIATION MODEL: This further develops the Old Testament idea of atonement, which included reconciling an estranged people to their God. Paul beautifully illustrated this concept when he wrote, “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:10). Indeed, the reconciliation model is the paramount explanation of the ateonment in Paul’s writings. Although the word “atonement” appears only once in English in the KJV (see Rom. 5:11), forms of katallaso and katallage, the Greek words for “atone” and “Atonement,” appear frequently in Paul’s writings, where they are usually translted as “reconcile” and “reconciliation” (see 2 Cor. 5:18-19, and a similar use of the terms in describing the reconciliation of a husband and wife in 1 Cor. 7:11).
PARTICIPATION MODEL: In this model, Jesus shares the pains and suffering of his people, who likewise are transofrmed by sharing in some way in what Jesus experienced: “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). This model is particularly important for explaining the role of ordinances such as baptism in conveying the grace of Christ (see Rom. 6:3-11).
JUDICIAL MODEL: God as judge acquits us of our guilt, declaring us “justified” (in harmony with law) by imputing the righteousness of Jesus to the believer (see Rom. 4:5, 8:30-33; Gal. 3:8).
RESCUE MODEL: This model involved an application of the title “Savior,” whereby Jesus rescues us from sin and death (See Rom. 5:9, 11:26; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 1:9).
It’s important to note that none of these Pauline models of salvation illustrates independently what Jesus has done, but each is useful in conveying an aspect of the saving, healing, and strengthening power of the atonement.
As Elder McConkie cited the Book of Mormon as the key to understanding Romans, I suggest that whenever you read a passage in Romans that causes you confusion, turn to the Book of Mormon for clarification. As you find the clarifying passage(s) in the Book of Mormon, make a notation in Romans as to the cross reference. With time, you’ll find that the Book of Mormon will be your indispensible partner as you read Romans.
Additionally, I suggest that whenever you come across a difficult-to-understand term/word, use a sticky-note & write the word & its definition down on it & keep it in Romans. You may want to modify your definition of the word with time. Some of the words you might want to define in Romans include: justify(ication), law, sanctification, faith, imputed, heir, blessed, Gentile, Jew.
v. 1-6: Traditionally, δοῦλος (doulos) is translated “servant.” The most accurate translation is “bondservant”, in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its force.
Note that these verses are one long thought. Who has received grace and apostleship? Be sure to look at the JST here. To what are they called? What is grace?
v. 7: From Jim F.’s notes: “Why does Paul describe the saints in Rome as “beloved of God”? Doesn’t God love everyone? If he does, why describe any particular group as beloved? In verse 1 Paul said that he was called to be an apostle. In verse 6, he tells the saints in Rome that they too have been called, and in this verse he tells them to what they have been called: to be saints. What does the word “saint” mean? What does it mean to be called to be a saint? When do we receive that calling? How do we fulfill it?”
v. 25: What does it mean to love the creature more than the creator? How might the Hellenized Jews & Gentiles in Rome have done this? How might we do this today?
v. 11-16: What law is in question here? How does one become a “law unto themselves?” See Alma 29:8.
v. 23: If all have sinned, how do we then receive justification? Upon what is justification predicated? See v. 25 here.
v. 27: How are the Mosaic Law and Law of faith different/the same?
v. 31: What does it mean to establish the law vs. void the law?
v. 1: Why does Paul reference Abraham?
v. 2-4: Read the JST in the appendix here.
v. 6-8: Why does Paul reference David? “Blessedness” can also be translated “happiness.” v. 7-8 are quoted from Ps. 32:1-2.
v. 13: What does “heir of the world” mean?
v. 1-2: In what way does faith justify us? How does grace play into justification?
v. 6-10: “I stand all amazed!”
Is this the standard “Plan of Salvation” lecture? In what way is it standard and in what way might it deviate from the norm? Do you find it confusing or illuminating? Is it more shallow or deep than what you’re familiar with as the “Plan of Salvation?” Consider these quotes by Apostles: “Creation, Fall and the Atonement: These three divine events–the three pillars of eternity–are inseparably woven together into one grand tapestry known as the ternal plan of salvation.”–Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, pg. 81; “These 3 events–the Creation, the Fall & the Atonement–are three preeminent pillars of God’s plan, & they are doctrinally interrelated.”–Russell M. Nelson, Ensign Nov. 1993, p. 33.
v. 4-6: In what way are we buried with Christ? In what way are we planted with Christ? In what way are we crucified with Christ? Why does Paul use these metaphores in his writing?
Why does Paul equate sin with death? How might this have impacted his audience? Might they have understood this differently than modern people do?
v. 16-17: How does Paul teach grace AND works in thei verse? What does it mean to “obey from the heart?”
v. 23: “The wages of sin is death.” Does it follow that the “wages of righteousness is life?” Why or why not? Why does Paul use “gift” here instead of “wages?”
v. 1-4: Why does Paul use the marriage metaphore here for the Law of Moses vs. the law of God?
v. 21-25: Is our body a curse or a blessing? How did Paul’s audience think of the body? How might this writing affect this audience?
v. 6-15: How is the body liberated from the trappings of sin? (the bondage of corruption v. 21) Note the JST changes here. How would this teaching affect Paul’s Hellenized audience?
v. 16-17: How does the Spirit bear witness with our spirit? Is this a remembering of something we once knew or a new knowledge revealed? What does it mean to be an heir? a joint-heir? What does this verse teach us about God, Jesus and ourselves relationship-wise?
v. 31-39: How do you feel after reading these verses? What does v. 33 teach us about justification? How is that related to grace? What does v. 34 further teach us about grace?
v. 6: In what way are Israel NOT Israel? Could you replace “Israel” with another word? What might it be?
v. 25-26: Why would Paul point his audience to the words of Hosea?
What does Paul teach about works in this chapter? How does he balance that with grace?
As you read this chapter, I invite you to mark all the verbs, or calls to action that you see. What does this teach about works and their relationship to justification and grace?
Why does Paul use the allegory of the Olive Tree here?
v. 1-2: In what ways might we present our bodies as a living sacrifice? Why would Paul use this phrase?
Why is Paul recounting the 10 commandments here? Do you see a repetition in scripture?
v. 10: What is the law? Do Matt. 5:17, 7:12, 22:40 add more to your understanding of this verse? Is God really LOVE?
Read this in the context of the time period when animal sacrifice was being made to pagan gods for the Gentiles, along with the kosher food restrictions of the Jews. These two food-related underlying thoughts/habbits affected the daily dietary choices of the church members. As people mingled closely together their food choices potentially affected one another. In the first century AD, when Paul and Peter visited the captial city, Rome’s population approached and may have surpassed one million inhabitants. Much of this number consisted of a large percentage of slaves and many free noncitizens from throughout the empire, all of whom were crammed into dense blocks of apartments or insulae. What do you think Paul is cautioning the people about?
v. 12: In light of the above, what is Paul teaching the Romans? How might we apply this to our time?
v. 4: What is the purpose of writing things down, specifically SCRIPTURE? What can we learn from this? How might the recent words of Pres. Henry B. Eyring in the Oct. 2007 General Conference Sunday Session apply here?
Why do you think Paul included so many names here? How would you feel to read YOUR name in this list?
v. 25-27: In what ways was Jesus Christ a mystery and now is not?