The Conflict and the Structure of Romans
While some New Testament books, such as I John, are difficult to outline in a totally convincing manner, the structure of Romans (due to its tractate nature) is almost as clear-cut as the table of contents to a systematic theology. After an introduction (Romans 1:1-15) and a thematic statement (verses 16, 17) the rest of the letter Romans 1:18-15:13) flows logically from one major point to another until Paul binds it off with a postscript (Romans 1:14-33), greetings and commendations (Romans 16:1-23), and a doxology verses 25-27.
A major aspect of the glue that holds the letter together is the problem between the Jewish and Gentile segments of the Christian community. The issue is first flagged in the book’s theme text (Romans 1:16, 17), in which Paul notes that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also the Greek. Here we find the letter’s first statement of the inclusive all that sets a stage to letter’s first statement of the inclusive all that sets the stage for the theological thread that runs throughout its presentation.
That all is immediately expanded upon in the letter’s first major section that runs from Romans 1:18-3:20. In that passage Paul demonstrates that all, both Jew and Gentiles, are sinners. All, therefor are liable for judgment (Romans 2:6-16), God’s wrath (Romans 2:5; Romans 1:18), and eternal death (Romans 6:23), “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all are condemned and are in need of salvation.
That is where the good news (Gospel) of salvation comes in. Not only are all lost but all can be saved in the same manner – – through faith in God’s grace made possible by the cross of Christ. That topic supplies the second great theological segment of Romans that runs from Romans 3:21 to 5:21. The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (is) for all who believe. For there is no distinction in salvation between Jews and Gentiles (Romans 3:22, emphasis added). Just as all have sinned verse 23, so all are justified in the exact same way (verses 24, 25). And that why is based on faith rather than law (verse 20). Thus just “as one man’s (Adam’s) trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s (Christ’s) act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men” who take hold of the gift through faith (Romans 5:18), emphasis added). As a result, many will be made righteous through their faith in Christ (verse 19).
The letter’s third major theological section (Romans 6:8) features sanctifying obedience. Just as all, both Jew and Gentile, are justified by faith, so all will walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-14), are redeemed from being slaves to sin and are now slaves of righteousness (verse 15-22), receive “the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (verse 23), experience adoption into the family of God (Romans 8:12-17), and possess a sure hope of future glory (verses 18-39). After all, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will He not also give us all things with them?” (verse 32, emphasis added).
The all of Romans hits full stride in romans 9-11, in which Paul highlights the fact that both Jews and Gentiles are in God’s plan. The section climaxes with the great proclamation of Romans 11:32 that God has mercy upon all (emphasis added) no matter which side they might fall on in the racial divide.
The letter itself reaches the apex of it argument in Romans 12:1-15:13 in which it claims that all Christians will live transformed lives because of the renewal of their minds that leads them to live the will of God. Part of that renewal will leak them to live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:9-21) and to live the law of love in their mixed community. After all, “he who love his (Jewish and Gentile) neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8-10). Thus, the Roman Christians were to “live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18, emphasis added).
Paul set forth the great principles of the gospel. He stated his position on the question which were agitating the Jewish and the Gentile churches, and showed that the hopes and promises which had once belonged especially to the Jews were now offered to the Gentiles also.
In Romans, as with so many of Paul’s books, the theological section highlighting the issue of salvation is followed by a practical section featuring how to live the redeemed life in the community of the all.