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Commentary on Romans
by Michael Bugg
Rom 1:1 From: Sha'ul, a slave of the Messiah Yeshua, an emissary because I was called and set apart for the Good News of God.
The Good News
Rom 1:2 God promised this Good News in advance through his prophets in the Tanakh.
i. The Shalom Offering
i. Quoted by Yeshua in regards to Himself in Luke 4:18f
The Hymn of Messiah
Rom 1:3 It concerns his Son - he is descended from David physically;
Rom 1:4 he was powerfully demonstrated to be Son of God spiritually, set apart by his having been resurrected from the dead; he is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.
i. Isa 11:1, 10-11, 12 - But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai, a shoot will grow from his roots. . . On that day the root of Yishai, which stands as a banner for the peoples - the Goyim will seek him out, and the place where he rests will be glorious. On that day Adonai will raise his hand again, a second time, to reclaim the remnant of his people . . . from the four corners of the earth.
ii. Davis: The King James Version translated “made of the seed” a better and more literal translation.
i. Davis: Thayer interprets this passage as “That which has been determined” adding, “for although Christ was the son of God before his resurrection yet he was openly such among men by this transcendent and crowning event.” […] Notice he was not only declared the son of God, but he also had power.
ii. 2Sa 7:12-16 - When your days come to an end and you sleep with your ancestors, I will establish one of your descendants to succeed you, one of your own flesh and blood; and I will set up his rulership. He will build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever. I will be a father for him, and he will be a son for me. If he does something wrong, I will punish him with a rod and blows, just as everyone gets punished; nevertheless, my grace will not leave him, as I took it away from Sha'ul, whom I removed from before you. Thus your house and your kingdom will be made secure forever before you; your throne will be set up forever.'"
iii. Psa 2:7-9 - "I will proclaim the decree: ADONAI said to me, 'You are my son; today I became your father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance; the whole wide world will be your possession. You will break them with an iron rod, shatter them like a clay pot.'"
i. Belief in the Resurrection of the Dead was so important to Pharisaic (P’rushi) Judaism that those who denied it were said to be denied a place in the ‘Olam Haba, the World to Come.
ii. However, Yeshua was set apart by His unique, individual Resurrection, the Firstfruits of all who would follow (1Co 15:20f), as proof that the Father accepted His Sacrifice
Isa 53:10 - . . . yet it pleased ADONAI to crush him with illness, to see if he would present himself as a guilt offering. If he does, he will see his offspring; and he will prolong his days; and at his hand ADONAI's desire will be accomplished.
i. i.e. “Yeshua the Annointed King, by virtue of being David’s Son, and Lord of all Creation, by virtue of being God’s Son, proven by His Resurrection.”
ii. Php 2:6-11 - Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed by force. On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are. And when he appeared as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death - death on a stake as a criminal! Therefore God raised him to the highest place and gave him the name above every name; that in honor of the name given Yeshua, every knee will bow - in heaven, on earth and under the earth and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is ADONAI - to the glory of God the Father.
Isa 45:22-24 Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other. In the name of myself I have sworn, from my mouth has rightly gone out, a word that will not return - that to me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear about me that only in ADONAI are justice and strength."
Called and Elected
Rom 1:5 Through him we received grace and were given the work of being an emissary on his behalf promoting trust-grounded obedience among all the Gentiles,
Rom 1:6 including you, who have been called by Yeshua the Messiah.
i. Here Sha’ul is speaking of Israel as a whole receiving a mission to be ambassador of the Good News—a mission that only a few took up
ii. grace = χαριν, an unmerited favor, esp. from a patron, shown in the form of a concrete gift
The socially-required response to χαριν was to give back to the patron in the form of loyalty. To refuse to do so brought dishonor on the recipient, not the patron. [find ref]
Heb. equiv. chen (חן), favor, acceptance, “find favor in the eyes of”
i. Mat 22:14 – “. . . for many are invited (κλητοι, ‘called ones’), but few are chosen (εκλεκτοι, ‘elect ones,’ e.g., chosen and sealed with election)."
Personal Greetings and Background on Roman Messianism
Rom 1:7 To: All those in Rome whom God loves, who have been called, who have been set apart for him: Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
i. Ch. 16’s “shout outs” suggest seven or eight Messianic assemblies (Nanos, Romans 77, n. 124)
i. Christian inscription and artifacts in Jewish catacombs
ii. “shared literature such as hymnals and prayer books”
A form of the Amidah was used as a liturgical prayer in the early Ekklesia [find reference]
iii. Christian use of non-rabbinic Jewish apocrypha
iv. “shared language and idioms,”
v. “shared Sabbath and food regulations,” (e.g., not eating blood or strangled meat, Acts 15:29)
vi. The Ekklesia borrowed heavily from the synagogue in its own organization and service
Rome’s Reputation and Fall
Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Yeshua the Messiah for all of you, because the report of your trust is spreading throughout the whole world.
i. Irenaeus was the disciple of Polycarp, who was the disciple of Yochanan the Emissary.
i. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, replied that he was not afraid of Victor’s threats.
ii. Irenaeus, while sympathetic to Victor’s views, rebuked him for overstepping his authority.
i. Tertullian of Carthage, the “Father of Latin Christianity,” called him a Usurper
A Debt to All Cultures
Rom 1:9 For God, whom I serve in my spirit by spreading the Good News about his Son, is my witness that I regularly remember you
Rom 1:10 in my prayers; and I always pray that somehow, now or in the future, I might, by God's will, succeed in coming to visit you.
Rom 1:11 For I long to see you, so that I might share with you some spiritual gift that can make you stronger -
Rom 1:12 or, to put it another way, so that by my being with you, we might, through the faith we share, encourage one another.
Rom 1:13 Brothers, I want you to know that although I have been prevented from visiting you until now, I have often planned to do so, in order that I might have some fruit among you, just as I have among the other Gentiles.
i. Priscilla and Aquilla (Rom. 18:2)
ii. Claudius “expelled the Jews from Rome, who were continually making tumults, being moved thereunto by one Chrestus” (Suetonius, The Life of Claudius, ch. 25).
i. The expulsion would have left the Gentile Christians for a time without Scriptures, rabbinic teaching, or the ability to keep any of the “Jewish” commands without risking exile or worse themselves.
ii. By the time the Jewish believers were allowed back, the Gentile Christians would have had to develop their own practices apart from the Torah in order to survive.
iii. Sha’ul’s unique gift among the Emissaries was his ability to bridge the gap between Jew and Greek, drawing both together by subtle allusions to their respective cultures in his writings.
iv. He was apparently successful, given the close ties the Ekklesia and the synagogue seem to have enjoyed in Rome for some time thereafter (see notes on 1:7, above).
i. Sha’ul’s special mission was to the Gentiles, but he never ceased to love and strive for his own people.
ii. If he could bring peace between the estranged factions of Jew and Gentile in Rome, this would be a great confirmation of his calling
A Debt to the Gentiles
Rom 1:14 I owe a debt to both civilized Greeks and uncivilized people, to both the educated and the ignorant;
Rom 1:15 therefore I am eager to proclaim the Good News also to you who live in Rome.
i. Similarity to Philo (cf. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism 96f)
Philo was a fully Torah-observant Jew
a. “He roundly condemned those Jews who ignored the literal meaning of the Law as being worthless in favor of a symbolic meaning. Thus circumcision might be interpreted as a ‘sign of the excision of pleasure and all passions’, etc., but nevertheless had to be observed literally.” (ibid.)
However, he borrowed frequently from Greek ideas.
Object was not to use the traditions of Judaism to support Hellenistic philosophy and mystery religions—but the other way around!
b. “Judaism not only in the Dispersion but even more so in Jerusalem itself was eager to adopt any convention of Hellenistic religion in order to exalt the one God and His Torah; Judaism could indeed be assimilated to a mystery cult to a remarkable degree—for missionary ends.” (ibid., 97)
ii. In the same way, Paul may have used imagery from both mainstream philosophy and the pagan mystery religions in explaining Messiah to his varied audiences. Examples:
Another Adam as a “spiritual” man and divine figure in contrast to the earthly Adam (1Co 15:45)
The concept of dying with a deity in order to be raised again into a new life (cf. Col. 2:20, 3:3)
True union with Deity, e.g., “in Messiah” (εν Xριστω)
Religious works from both the Jewish and Christians sides
ii. Movies and TV
v. Political discourse
“Whenever we read a good book, tour a foreign country,
comfort a distraught friend or engage in a stimulating conversation, the
experience prompts physical changes in our brain. This remarkable process,
which scientists call sproutina, involves the rapid growth of new neural
connections—dendrites, axons, and the synapses between them . . . stimulated
neurons produce new synapses in as little as ten minutes!
In other words, there is a danger that the meme can go both ways—subversion of paganism or subversion to paganism!
ii. Lent and Easter
i. Eph 4:27 - Do not give the Enemy a foothold
ii. Php 4:8 - In conclusion, brothers, focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.
iii. 2Co 10:3-5 - For although we do live in the world, we do not wage war in a worldly way; because the weapons we use to wage war are not worldly. On the contrary, they have God's power for demolishing strongholds. We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah.
The key of obedience to God’s Word:
a. Philo took every Greek philosophical idea and made it point to the God of Israel and His Torah—by continuing to keep the Torah in all of its particulars even as he subverted the Greek culture.
b. So did Sha’ul!
iv. Rom 12:2 - In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the 'olam hazeh (the present world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what God wants and will agree that what he wants is good, satisfying and able to succeed.
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God's powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile.
Rom 1:17 For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust - as the Tanakh puts it, "But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust." (Hab. 2:4)
i. The cause of the rejection: Gentile inclusion
The Jews of Pisidian Antioch only turned on the Message when the Gentiles of the city came en-masse to hear it (Acts 13:44f)
Likewise elsewhere in Galatia (Acts 14)
Sha’ul actually had to contend with not only the Judaizers, but with those of his own party (the P’rushim) who wanted to limit Gentile inclusion by making circumcision and Torah-keeping prerequisites for inclusion (Acts 15:1ff).
An accusation that he was bringing Gentiles within the court of the Israelites in the Temple caused a riot in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27ff).
Rom 11:28 - With respect to the Good News they (the Jews) are hated (enemies) for your (the Gentiles’) sake. . .
i. That doesn’t give us carte blanche to be deliberately abrasive, of course
i. Not just chronologically first, though this is historically true
ii. Not just referring to the Jew’s “covenantal priority,” the special relationship between Israel and God above all nations, though this is also true.
iii. “Rather, ‘to the Jew first’ means that there is a ‘present priority’ to proclaim the Gospel to Jews, and the Church should acknowledge it. . . Thus it is because of the need to understand ‘proton’ as underlining the ‘present priority’ of bringing the Gospel to the Jewish people that I translate it here by the word ‘especially.’”
i. Bringing both into His Kingdom has ever been God’s plan, and thus He set apart Emissaries to send to both camps.
i. “trusting faithfulness” = Heb. be’emunato (באמונתו), “faithfulness, trustworthiness, integrity”
Regarding Hab. 2:4, Mounce writes, “The life of the righteous that will survive judgment must be built on faithfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity toward God and others (cf. Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38)” (Dic. 234, “Faithfulness”).
Deu. 32:4 - The Rock! His work is perfect, for all his ways are just. A trustworthy (אמונה) God who does no wrong, he is righteous and straight.
a. Would make no sense rendered, “A trusting God who does no wrong . . .”
i. How the world sees faith
“Faith is believing in things you know just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain
“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” –H.L. Mencken
ii. Variable meanings (Mounce, Dic. 232f)
Belief in a person or ideal, e.g., putting trust in that person
A doctrine or collection of beliefs
Conviction or certainty in a belief
Faithfulness or trustworthiness
a. The primary meaning of the related word pistos (πιστος), which means “faithful, trustworthy, reliable, dependable,” and is used as such in Deu. 32:4 (see above)
b. Rom 3:3 - If some of them were unfaithful, so what? Does their faithlessness cancel God's faithfulness (πιστιν)?
iii. From Vines 401, “Faith”
“The main elements of faith in its relation to the invisible God . . . are
a. (1) a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth, e.g., 2 Thess. 2:11, 12;
b. (2) a personal surrender to Him, John 1:12;
c. (3) a conduct inspired by such surrender, 2 Cor. 5:7.”
iv. In the ancient world, was used to describe the loyalty and fidelity that a client (e.g., the recipient of unearned grace (charis, χαρις)) was expected to give to his patron. (See J.P. Holding’s What Is Faith?)
Tit 2:9f - Tell slaves to submit to their masters in everything, to give satisfaction without talking back or pilfering. On the contrary, they should demonstrate complete faithfulness (πιστιν) always, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Deliverer more attractive.
This loyalty stemmed from not only an awareness of the honor due the patron, but from trusting in his patron’s past and continuing generosity.
This loyalty did not earn a patron’s gift—it was the proper response to it.
i. Gal 3:11f - Now it is evident that no one comes to be declared righteous by God through legalism, since "The person who is righteous will attain life by trusting and being faithful." Furthermore, legalism is not based on trusting and being faithful, but on [a misuse of] the text that says, "Anyone who does these things will attain life through them."
Salvation comes through loyalty to the Living God, not through keeping the Torah correctly a certain amount of the time.
ii. Heb 10:32-39 - But remember the earlier days, when, after you had received the light, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings. Sometimes you were publicly disgraced and persecuted, while at other times you stood loyally by those who were treated this way. For you shared the sufferings of those who had been put in prison. Also when your possessions were seized, you accepted it gladly; since you knew that what you possessed was better and would last forever. So don't throw away that courage of yours, which carries with it such a great reward. For you need to hold out; so that, by having done what God wills, you may receive what he has promised. For "There is so, so little time! The One coming will indeed come, he will not delay. But the person who is righteous will live his life by trusting, and if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” However, we are not the kind who shrink back and are destroyed; on the contrary, we keep trusting and thus preserve our lives!
i. Jas 2:17-18 - Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead. But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!
ii. Faith, however, is a divine work in us . . . a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. . . Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace; and thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light fires. . . He who does not these works is a faithless man. (Martin Luther, Romans (Kregel, 1976) xvii)
God’s Visibility in the Creation
Rom 1:18 What is revealed is God's anger from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who in their wickedness keep suppressing the truth;
Rom 1:19 because what is known about God is plain to them, since God has made it plain to them.
Rom 1:20 For ever since the creation of the universe his invisible qualities - both his eternal power and his divine nature - have been clearly seen, because they can be understood from what he has made. Therefore, they have no excuse;
Robert Jastrow wrote in 1978 (God and the Astronomers):
i. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of variables in our universe that could conceivably be different (cf. Missler, Genesis). Examples:
The relative strengths of the four forces.
a. If gravity were weaker, stars would not generate heavy elements
b. If it were stronger, stars would burn up too quickly
Expansion rate of the universe • Ratio of electron to proton mass • Age of the universe • Expansion rate of the universe • Entropy level of the universe • Mass of the universe • Uniformity of the universe • Stability of the proton • Fine structure constants • Velocity of light • Beryllium, carbon, oxygen nuclear energy levels • Distance between stars • Rate of luminosity increase for stars • Number of Stars
Unique properties of water
c. less dense as a solid than as a liquid
d. is perfectly suited to enable the shaping of proteins and strands of DNA
e. And yet it is found in abundance, especially on earth
As little a difference as 1 in 10^60 in the gravity or expansion rate would have caused either a re-collapse of the universe too soon for life to exist or for it to fly apart to quickly for planets to form.
f. Gen 1:6-8 - God said, "Let there be a dome (Heb. raqiya רקיע, something spread out by hammering, like a sheet of gold, an expanse) in the middle of the water; let it divide the water from the water." God made the dome and divided the water under the dome from the water above the dome; that is how it was, and God called the dome Sky. So there was evening, and there was morning, a second day.
g. Isa 40:22 - He who sits above the circle of the earth - for whom its inhabitants appear like grasshoppers - stretches out the heavens like a curtain, spreads them out like a tent to live in.
h. “stretched out the heavens” – Isa. 42:5, 44:24, 45:12, 51:13; Zec. 12:1
ii. Variables here on earth:
Parent star (Sun) birth date • Parent star age • Parent star distance • Parent star mass • Parent star color • Surface gravity • Distance from parent star • Thickness of earth’s crust • Rotation period • Lunar gravitational interaction • Magnetic field • Axial tilt • Albedo (reflectivity) • Oxygen to nitrogen ratio • Carbon dioxide and water vapor levels • Ozone level • Atmospheric electric discharge rate • Seismic activity. All finely tuned...
iii. In the fall of 1973, Brandon Carter, a well-respected astrophysicist and cosmologist from Cambridge University, presented a paper called, “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology,” which argued that the only factor that united the measurements of the universe’s variables is that they were all necessary for life to exist.
iv. “. . . even in its supposedly first second [of existence] the universe . . . has to know in advance what it is going to be before it knows how to start itself. For in accordance to the Big Bang Theory, for instance, at a time of 10-43 seconds, the universe has to know how many types of neutrino there are going to be at the time of 1 second. This is so in order that it starts off expanding at the right rate to fit the eventual number of neutrino types.” (Astronomer Fred Hoyle, quoted by Brower, Unrandom Universe 63)
i. Irreducible complexity
Michael Denton, 1986
Theory of Evolution prophesied:
iii. Also spoken of (obliquely) in the next section:
Ignoring the Creator
Rom 1:21 because, although they know who God is, they do not glorify him as God or thank him. On the contrary, they have become futile in their thinking; and their undiscerning hearts have become darkened.
Rom 1:22 Claiming to be wise, they have become fools!
Rom 1:23 In fact, they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being, or like birds, animals or reptiles!
The Curse of Atheism
Rom 1:24 This is why God has given them up to the vileness of their hearts' lusts, to the shameful misuse of each other's bodies.
Rom 1:25 They have exchanged the truth of God for falsehood, by worshipping and serving created things, rather than the Creator - praised be he for ever. Amen.
Rom 1:26 This is why God has given them up to degrading passions; so that their women exchange natural sexual relations for unnatural;
Rom 1:27 and likewise the men, giving up natural relations with the opposite sex, burn with passion for one another, men committing shameful acts with other men and receiving in their own persons the penalty appropriate to their perversion.
i. along with other sexual sins (Lev. 18-20), including cross-dressing (Deu. 22:5)
ii. idolatry (Deu. 7:25) and human sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, Deu. 12:31)
Lev. 18 plants human sacrifice in the midst of a list of sexual sins, suggesting a connections
iii. impure sacrifice to the Holy One (Deu. 17:1)
iv. occultism, astrology, séances (Deu. 18:9-12)
v. dishonest business practices (Deu. 25:14-16)
i. Prostitution of both men and women was tied to pagan temples
ii. Cross-dressing was tied to pagan rites
The cult of Diana/Artemis in particular was infamous for this
Celtic priests were likewise infamous for their sexual preferences—among the Romans!
In modern Hinduism, many gods are connected to sex—and many idols to sexual organs
iii. To this day, sexual sins of all varieties are common among occultists and shamans, and seen as a key to “higher levels”
i. To Sha’ul, sexual perversion was not simply a sin in isolation, but was the direct result of turning from the living God to idols—a curse resulting from a more fundamental sin
ii. Note that he is referring to the societal, not the personal level.
Many homosexuals struggle for a long time with the issue of their faith.
Some reject faith
Some seek a more liberal “faith” that doesn’t condemn their sin
From CatholicExchange.com, “How Much Time Does the US
Have?” by Charles S. LiMandri
i. Eze 16:49f - The crimes of your sister S'dom were pride and gluttony; she and her daughters were careless and complacent, so that they did nothing to help the poor and needy. They were arrogant and committed disgusting acts before me; so that when I saw it, I swept them away.
1. Pride – can also mean “Excellency” or “majesty” when referring to God, seeing ourselves as equal to God, the first step in denying God
2. Gluttony – Having so much and sharing so little
3. Careless – lit. “abundance,” which leads to carelessness, which in turn leads to
4. Complacent – lit. “idleness,” living for the entertainment of the moment
5. Did nothing to help the poor and needy
6. Arrogant – lit. “lifted up,” exalted, haughty, a step beyond pride
7. Committed disgusting acts before me – were so arrogant that they were not even ashamed of their sin, but in effect paraded it before God
Isa 5:18 - Woe to those who begin by pulling at
transgression with a thread, but end by dragging sin along as if with a cart
b. Isa 5:19f - They say, "We want God to speed up his work, to hurry it along, so we can see it! We want the Holy One of Isra'el's plan to come true right now, so we can be sure of it!" Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who change darkness into light and light into darkness, who change bitter into sweet and sweet into bitter!
ii. The open abominable sins were the end result of Sodom’s previous sins, not the sole reason God destroyed her
Rom 1:28 In other words, since they have not considered God worth knowing, God has given them up to worthless ways of thinking; so that they do improper things.
Rom 1:29 They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarrelling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips,
Rom 1:30 slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful; they plan evil schemes; they disobey their parents;
Rom 1:31 they are brainless, faithless, heartless and ruthless.
Rom 1:32 They know well enough God's righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same.
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