Appendix 1: The Structure of Romans: the Power of Basics

I am somewhat cynical of attempts to break down the books of the Bible into sections and sub-sections. These break downs may assist our interpretation, but I somehow doubt whether the writers or the Spirit of God behind them consciously intended to write in that way. However, in Romans there is a very distinct structure which cannot be denied. The structure of Romans is clear. The letter begins with a brief introduction regarding the Gospel, and concludes with a major dissertation about the preaching of the Gospel. This introduction and epilogue are evidently linked; thus " ..stablish you according to my Gospel" (16:25) looks back to " …that ye may be established" (1:11); " your obedience is come abroad unto all men" (16:19) is " your faith is spoke of throughout the whole world" (1:8); and the idea that the Gospel is preached " for obedience to the faith" is the start and end point of the letter (1:5; 16:26). The main body of the letter in between this introduction and epilogue is comprised of a purely doctrinal section (chapters 1-11) and then a practical section (12-15). The purpose of this study is to show how the basic doctrines of the Gospel are to be the basis for our way of life. The practical teaching of Paul is consistently built upon the doctrinal exposition he has given in the first part of the letter; " I beseech you therefore" (12:1) is the turning point. The doctrinal section itself has a climax half way through, in the first part of chapter 6 concerning baptism. This is the section most frequently alluded to in the practical section: as if to say that the fact of our baptisms and what it means for us in an ongoing sense must be the basis for our daily living.

Romans 12-16 [practical commandments]

Romans 1-11 [exposition of the Gospel]

12:1 We must live the practical life of obedience " by the mercies of God"

This Greek word occurs only in 9:15: " I will have compassion on whom I will" . The mercy / compassion of God is shown to us by grace, by some kind of predestination, and not because we deserve it. In view of these " mercies" , therefore we ought to live the life Paul now outlines. Our understanding of the grace of predestination isn't something academic or philosophical- the mercy and grace shown in it beseech us to live a better life. And according to Eph. 15,6,11,12 RV, predestination is not something that should merely confuse us, but rather it is there " to the end that…" we might praise God in lives of gratitude.

12:1 Present your bodies (12:1) occurs later in 14:10 [we will stand before the judgment seat] and in 16:2 [assist] Phoebe- yield yourselves to her in helpful support.

Baptism is a promise to yield [s.w.] our bodies to God's service (6:12,13,19). This means the Romans were to assist / yield to Phoebe and present themselves in practical service (12:1); we will present ourselves / yield ourselves before the Lord when we come before His final judgment (14:10), and so we ought to now, as we vowed at baptism.

12:1 Offer your body as a living sacrifice

Through baptism we show that we have died, the body of sin has been destroyed (6:6), we were crucified with Christ. So therefore, 12:1 is saying, don't be frightened to sacrifice / give up the things of this life. The appeal to present ourselves as “living men” after baptism (6:13) is surely to be connected with the appeal to present ourselves as living sacrifices in 12:1.

12:2 be not conformed to this world / age

Only three verses earlier in 11:36 the same word is used about how Christ will be glorified " for ever" (AV), the world / age [to come]. Live for that age, live the Kingdom life of glorifying Christ now, if you do that you can't be conformed to this age, but to the future one.

12:4,5 We are each members of His body, each of us must play our part in the body / ecclesia of Christ; we each have an office / deed in it.

6:13,19; 7:5,23 the members of our own personal bodies, every part of our physical and spiritual / emotional life, must be given to the service of Christ; we died with Him. By doing this, we will have our part in the body of Christ; we will be members of His body, if each of our own members has been submitted to Him.We must mortify the deeds of the body (8:3)- and then we will have part in the office / deeds of the body of Christ. This is why personal spirituality is a condition for ecclesial office.

12:6 We each have gifts of serving

But the gift emphasized earlier in Romans is that of forgiveness, justification, salvation (5:15,16; 6:23). The response to this gift is to serve practically; therefore the gift of God's salvation and grace is thereby also a gift / ability to serve His people (as in 1 Pet. 4:10).

12:8 He that sheweth mercy; the Greek can mean both to shew mercy (as here; 9:16; Jude 22) and to obtain mercy (11:30,31; 1 Cor. 7:25; 2 Cor. 4:1; 1 Tim. 1:13,16). To obtain mercy, to really believe it, means we will shew it.

The same phrase 'to shew mercy' is used in 9:15,16,18; 11:3-32 re. our obtaining mercy on the basis of God's pure and predestined grace rather than our works. Rooted in this experience, we must likewise show mercy to others on the basis of grace rather than their behaviour towards us.

12:10 give honour to each other

9:21 God gives honour on the basis of grace rather than works; He decides to honour one rather than another. In this sense we must honour all of our brethren, for who they are before God rather than for their works.

12:11; 14:18; 16:18 serve Christ

6:6; 7:6,25 On account of your baptism don't serve sin but serve Christ

12:12 rejoice in hope as you go about your service of others in the ecclesia

Rejoice in hope because of the atonement, because of the death of Christ for you (5:2), after the pattern of Abraham's joyful hope, thanks to having been given the same promises which we have been (4:18 cp. Jn. 8:56). Such service in joy is difficult when the work we do for our brethren is repetitious- stamping envelopes or cooking food, e.g. Joy in service will only come froma conscious holding in our minds of the personal wonder of the promises, and the fact that the Lord died for us and really has given us such great salvation…and that we are doing what we are doing purely as response to that.

12:12 Patient in tribulation

Tribulation works patience because of our experience of the atonement (5:3). The love of Christ in the cross was so great that no amount of tribulation [poverty or sick and crying children, e.g.] should separate us from it; and therefore we can be patient whilst experiencing it (8:35).

12:16 Mind not high things but be like-minded towards each other. Be not wise in your own conceits, because of your own possibility of failure.

11:20 Be not high-minded but fear- if God rejected the Jews, you are only a Gentile, and of the same sin and failure-prone nature. Consideration of God's dealings with Israel and their failures should lead us to an appropriate attitude of mind.

12:17 recompense to no man evil for evil; if we want to be judged by grace then we must show it. If we give evil for evil then this is how our sins will be judged at the last day.

2:6 God will render [s.w.] to each man according to his ways. If we want judgment by grace, then we must shew it now. If we do and show evil, we will receive it (2:9). And we all do evil at times (7:19). If we are to receive grace rather than evil for that evil, we must show it to others in our judgment of them.

12:19 Give place to God's wrath- don't avenge yourselves.

The wrath of God is really against sin right now, and it will be at the judgment (1:18; 2:5,8; 3:5; 4:15; 9:22). The more we believe this, the less likely we will be to avenge sin against ourselves. Likewise the more we understand how God justifies us, and the wonder of it, the less likely we will be to justify ourselves and to be sensitive to what others may or may not imply about us.

12:20 Feed your enemy, love him- if he doesn't respond, your love of him will heap coals of fire [condemnation] upon him

5:10 We were enemies but reconciled by God's love; and yet we face condemnation if we refuse that reconciliation. From that experience we must be moved to love our enemies, to ever seek reconciliation; indeed we will be compelled to do this almost unconsciously, if we truly believe we were enemies and alienated, and yet by grace have been reconciled.

13:2 Don't resist God through resisting / objecting to the powers of Government

9:19 Who hath resisted His will? Pharaoh tried to but was brought to destruction because of this. We must learn the lesson, and show it in submission to the powers of Government in that they are manifesting the will of God towards us- even if it means persecution.

13:2 Otherwise you will receive damnation

2:2,3; 3:8; 5:16- which must come against sin, because of Adam's sin (5:16). Understanding the need for damnation of sin means we will not commit it so quickly.

13:7 render to all their duesGive " custom"

2:6 God renders to all according to their works, and we are to manifest God's judgment in little things like paying our taxes fairly; we must think of the future judgment, the way all will receive their dues (although ours will be ameliorated by grace), and be influenced by God's judgment in the way we give others their dues. As God gives an " end" [s.w. 'custom'] to sin and righteousness (6:21,22).

13:8 Loving our neighbour fulfils the law

8:3,4 Christ died that we might fulfill the Law; He fulfilled it in His death, and in that we have a part in that death through baptism, we also must fulfill it in spirit. To fulfill the law is to love each other; Christ died that the law might be fulfilled, i.e. that we might love each other. This is why the remembrance of the Lord's death is in the agape, the love-feast, where we discern His body, our brethren, and resolve to love them to the end. John saw the same link when he wrote of how because Christ lay down His life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for each other (1 Jn. 3:16; 4:9-11).

13:11 Awake out of sleep

This phrase is used in Romans only of the resurrection of the Lord (4:24,25; 6:4,9; 7:4; 8:11,34; 10:9). Because He rose and we are in Him and share in His resurrection and newness of life by baptism, therefore we shouldn't be apathetic in our service. This is the power of His resurrection and our association with it in baptism (6:4,9).

13:12 Put on the armour of light- as we put on Christ by baptism. Live the spirit of baptism in an ongoing sense.

At baptism we yield our members as instruments [s.w. 'armour'] of righteousness (6:13). Keep on doing this, keeping on and on arming yourself, clothing yourself, yielding yourself, just as you did at baptism. " Walk…" (13:13) as you began walking at baptism " in newness of life" (6:4).

13:13 Live with no strife or envy

1:29 there was strife and envy amongst the condemned Israel who walked through the wilderness. By having these things we show ourselves to be condemned.

13:14 Don't fulfill the lusts of the flesh but put on Christ

6:12 Put on Christ by baptism, and therefore don't obey the flesh " in the lusts thereof" . The language is so similar that surely Paul is teaching that baptism is an ongoing experience, in essence. Consider how the fire and water baptized Israel in the Red Sea, and yet continued over them throughout the Wilderness journey.

14:1 Receive the weak in faith

Abraham was not weak in faith (4:19) and we should seek to be like him; but receive those who are in his seed by baptism, but don't make it to his level of personal faith

14:5 Let yourselves be fully persuaded

As Abraham was " fully persuaded" (4:21)

14:23 He who doubts is damned

Abraham didn't stagger [s.w.] (4:20); ultimately, he must be our example, even if some in the ecclesia will take time to rise up to his standard, and unlike him are " weak in faith" .

14:7,8 No man lives or dies to himself

6:11,13,16 we share in the life and death of Christ, and therefore we ourselves are given to Him [s.w. himself in 14:7,8]. We are dead with Him. Because we are baptized into Christ, our own death and life are now not for ourselves. Therefore what we eat and drink is part of a life lived for the Lord, and therefore these things are irrelevant. The physicalities of life are necessary; but these shouldn't be of any major importance because our life is given over to Christ. This is a fundamental challenge, repeated in 2 Cor. 5:15: because of Christ's death and resurrection for us, we don't live to ourselves but to Him. The argument in Romans 14 is that therefore, .all the physical things of our lives are merely incidental. This is an unusual yet powerful way of telling the Romans not to get distracted by the issue of what some ate or drunk: we are dead with Christ, our lives are only for Him, therefore what we physically eat to keep ourselves going, along with all the more material issues of life, are incidental to the main purpose of life. We live in a world which increasingly glorifies the frittering away of time and economy on the incidentals of life; yet the Gospel should make us see these things for what they are. Rom. 14:17 seems to have the same idea: " [the gospel of] the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness [a word used 33 times in the doctrinal section, regarding the righteousness of God imputed through the Gospel] , peace [cp. 2:10; 3:17; 5:1; 8:6] and joy [5:2] in the Holy Spirit. He who in these things serveth Christ…" . Note how the Gospel is paralleled with the service of Christ; to believe it is to live a life of service.

14:13 Let us not judge one another any more

6:6 henceforth we should not serve sin. One example of this is that after baptism, living the life of Christ, we no longer judge each other. To do so is to serve sin.

14:18 we " serve Christ" by the life of righteousness, joy and peace. By being factious we no longer serve Christ (16:18)- we are no longer living out the baptism vow of serving Christ.

6:6; 7:6 we serve Christ after baptism- not so much in works but in attitudes.

15:4 By the comfort of " the scriptures" we have hope

Paul quotes " the scriptures" to support his exposition of the Gospel: 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2. His argument in practice gives comfort and hope.

15:9 The believing Gentiles will " sing unto thy name"

10:13; 9:17 The believer calls upon himself the name of the Lord in baptism; through God's work with the gentiles, His Name is declared through all the earth. The believer, baptized into the Name, will praise that Name and declare it in song and witness throughout the earth.

15:13 abound in hope

5:15 the grace of God abounds to us [s.w.]; but grace is something purely abstract unless it is really felt. In this case our abounding in hope will reflect the abounding of grace which we perceive. Romans 5 almost plays logical games in order to show just how abounding that grace is.

15:21 Paul preached because he wanted to take the Gospel to those " who have not heard"

10:14-18 argues that men will only hear the Gospel if there is a preacher; but it is prophesied that they have all heard, because Psalm 19 prophesies that the message has gone into all the earth. Yet the connection with 15:21 suggests that Paul saw that prophecy, which he so confidently quotes in the past tense, as if it has already happened, as dependent upon his own effort in witness. In this we see the limitation of God within human effort to witness.

15:28 Paul speaks of sealing unto the Gentile believers the " fruit" of their generosity.

6:22 After baptism we are to bring forth fruit to God. But we can help others do this, as Paul helped the Gentiles to be generous.

16:2 " assist" Phebe

6:13,16,19 We must yield ourselves [s.w.] to the service of God. But this is shown by yielding our services to His servants. It is a strange way of describing assistance to Phebe if this is not an intentional allusion [bear in mind how many other references there are to Rom. 6 in the practical section of the letter].

16:17 " the doctrine which ye have learned"

6:17 the form of doctrine delivered to them before baptism. Anyone who teaches anything which affects the basic Gospel is to be avoided. This is because the doctrines of the Gospel affect the way of life we lead, not because the intellectual tradition of the church has been insulted (1).

16:26 Making the Gospel known

9:22,23 as the power and riches of God were made known [s.w.] to the world of Egypt. He is likewise manifesting Himself through us in the work of witness.

The structure of Romans concludes with a section about the preaching of the Gospel, as if to say that the Gospel is in itself an imperative to go forth and live a life dedicated to the ministering of it to others. It will be apparent from the above analysis how central is Romans 6 to Paul's later appeal for a way of life in harmony with the Gospel he has expounded. The point is, the reality of the atonement that has been achieved in Christ, the fact we are baptized into it…if we believe these things rather than simply know them, these are imperatives which will force / compel us into the way of life we ought to lead. This is the power of the Gospel and a living faith. This is why it matters, and matters eternally, what we believe.


(1) On the other hand, this is why any teaching which does not have a practical effect on our lives cannot be considered a matter of fellowship, in that it is not part of the saving Gospel. The size of the temple Ezekiel describes, whether Melchizedek was Shem or not…these issues are not part of the basic Gospel, quite simply because they don't affect how we live our lives. They are matters of Biblical exegesis which are helpful in perceiving a wider picture in our survey of Bible teaching, but they are not part of the Gospel which Paul expounds in Romans. And seeing that our " fellowship [is] in the Gospel" , they are not part of any basis of fellowship. The simple test as to whether something is fundamental is simply this: What effect does it have on our lives in Christ?

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