Roman 1-5

Paul begins Romans by declaring the gospel of the righteousness of God. He states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” ( 1:16-17 NIV). Then, Paul moves on to his next section by explaining the Deuteronomic curses that are applied to the Gentiles and the Jews.

First, the Gentiles are under God’s wrath because they disobey his moral law as revealed in natural order of the universe (Pate et al. 213). Romans 1:18-32 describes the unrighteousness of the Gentiles by showing that they are completely entangled in sin, selfishness and idolatry, and so they are guilty before a holy, righteous and just God.

Second, the Jews might think that since they have the Torah (Law), they are safe from experiencing the Deuteronomic curses; however, Paul announces that Israel will experience divine judgement because they continue to disobey the Torah (Pate et al. 213). In fact, Paul explains that the Jews are more guilty than the Gentiles because they have the written Law available to them and should understand God’s moral standards. Thus, Israel is also trapped in sin, selfishness and idolatry, and so they are in need of rescue (Rom 2:1-3:8).

Then, Paul circles back around and lumps everyone together, both Jews and Gentiles, and declares that no one is righteous before God. All are guilty and face the wrath of God, but there is good news in God’s saving righteousness. God’s righteous character moved him to rescue the world through Jesus. Jesus enacts the “deuteronomic blessings and the prophetic promise of restoration” (Pate et al. 214) and ended the Torah and its curses (Pate et al. 214). Jesus’ atoning sacrifice for the sin of all people and his resurrection from the dead defeated sin and its consequences. Therefore, those who accept Jesus’ sacrificial gift by faith are declared righteous (Rom 3:9-26). This fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham of creating a new multi-ethnic family as his new covenant people. Thus, Abraham has become the father of the new covenant family that is made up of people from around the world who have faith in Jesus, the Messiah (Rom 4).  In Roman 5, Paul further explains the implications of justification by referring back to Adam who sinned against God resulting in a sinful humanity. Then, Paul contrast Jesus as the new Adam who was faithful and obedient to God and concludes that through Jesus, as the new Adam, a new humanity is being created and transformed. A new humanity that receives the life and light of Jesus.


Works Cited

Pate, C. Marvin et al. The Story of Israel: a Biblical Theology. Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.

Philippians 4:10-13 Commentary (100th Post!)

The general purposes for the letter to the Philippians was for Paul to respond with appreciation for the support and the gifts that he received from the Philippian church through the sending of Epaphroditus (1:3-5, 2:25-30, 4:10, 4:14, 4:18). Second, Paul gives news about his circumstances and the ongoing advancement of the gospel in spite of his imprisonment (1:12ff). Third, although the Philippian church was a thriving Christian community, Paul needed to exhort them to pursue unity in the midst of some problems within the community (2:1-11, 2:14, 4:2) and to stand firm in the faith when experiencing trials provoked by those outside the community (3:2ff).

Philippians 4:10-13 fits within the context of the whole letter due to its focus on personal gratitude for the partnership and support. This passage follows Paul’s flow of thought in the previous sections about rejoicing, trusting in God through prayer (4:4-7) and meditating on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy (4:8).  He finishes the previous section by stating, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me─put into practice and the peace of God will be with you” (4:9). After this statement, it seems as if Paul stops and reflects for a few moments, and then he puts his own words into practice by rejoicing in the Lord for the Philippians and meditating on all the blessings he has received from them throughout the years and more recently in his imprisonment. He also touches upon his trust, contentment and strength in the Lord in whatever circumstance, which personalizes his previous statements about experiencing the peace of God (i.e. 4:4,9).

Philippians 4:10-13

I greatly rejoice in the Lord that now at last you have renewed your concern for me; as to whom indeed you were thinking, but were lacking opportunity. Not that I am speaking according to lack for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be humbled and I know what it is to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to have plenty and to have lack. I can do all things through the one strengthening me.

v. 10 After encouraging the Philippian church several times throughout the letter to rejoice (2:18, 2:28-29, 3:1, 4:4), Paul adds to his previous statements of personal rejoicing (1:18, 2:17) by stating I greatly rejoice in the Lord. Paul adds the adverb μεγάλως (megalōs) greatly to this rejoicing statement which he does not include in previous personal rejoicing statements. Thus, the addition gives emphasis to the exuberant and profound manner of his rejoicing in the Lord. Paul continues by giving the reason for his greatly rejoicing by writing that now at last you have renewed your concern for me. The greek word translated renewed is ἀναθάλλω (anathallō).  This word appears only in 4:10 in the Greek New Testament and may be defined as “grow up again, bloom again” or “cause to grow or bloom again.”[1] Paul solely uses this word picture of the beautiful process of a flower growing or blooming again in order to describe the concern of the Philippians. The Philippians had shown and continued to show their concern for Paul since the beginning of his gospel ministry, and Paul again acknowledges this fact by writing, as to whom indeed you were thinking; however, the Philippians encountered a season where they were lacking opportunity to provide supportive gifts to Paul due to his imprisonment.

v. 11 Paul inserts the disclaimer Not that I am speaking according to lack which is similar to his later statement in 4:17 Not that I seek the gift. Paul may have written these statements in view of the the cultural norm of Greek moralists, Stoic philosophers and Cynics to commend those who were completely independant and were content in any situation. Therefore, Paul continues this idea by writing, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  He explains later that his contentment involves much more than a psychological pursuit or a physical discipline.

v.12 Here Paul gives a series of contrasting circumstances in which he knows how to be content, to be humbled and to abound…to be filled and to hunger…to have plenty and to have lack. Paul uses the word μυέω (myeō) which appears only in Phil 4:12 in the Greek New Testament. This verb has some cultural connection to the mystery religions of the Greco-Roman world with the meaning of “initiate (into the mysteries),” but in the more general sense it has the meaning of “learn the secret.”[3] Paul uses this term in the general sense but there is likely an “ironical echo of the mysteries” in greek religion, gnostic philosophy and cultic magic.[4] Paul uses this word to explain that he has learned the “secret of faith,” which he summarizes in the next verse.

v. 13 I can do all things through the one strengthening me. Paul shares the secret of his sufficiency and ability in whatever situation, and it is solely through God. Since the preposition ἐν (en) is followed by the dative τῷ (tō) the one, it may be interpreted as a dative of agency, “used to indicate the personal agent by whom the action of action of the verb is accomplished”[5] and thus translated through . Furthermore, Paul uses the word ἐνδυναμόω (endynamoō) which occurs seven other times in the Greek New Testament and may be defined as “strengthen someone or something, to make someone strong in something.”[6] In Paul’s life and ministry he received a continual strengthening.  “This strengthening takes the form of support, and is thus to be construed, not in terms of mana, but in terms of a personal relation between Christ and his servant.”[7]

Conclusion

In this passage, the author meant to teach that Christians should rejoice in the Lord for the partnership and support of other Christians and should show concern for others whenever they get the chance.  Furthermore, Christians should learn to be content in whatever circumstance because they can do all things through the one strengthening them.


[1] Walter Bauer et al. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL : University of Chicago Press, 1957), 53. [2] Craig S. Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 566. [3] Bauer et al., A Greek, 530. [4] Gerhard Kittel and Gerald Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Abridged In One Volume by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1985), 619. [5] Daniel B. Wallace Greek Grammar beyond the Basics : an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 1996), 163. [6] Bauer et al., A Greek, 263. [7] Kittel and Friedrich, Theological, 191.

Apostle Paul’s Missionary Approach

5297_orgThe Apostle Paul focused his missionary endeavors primarily in areas controlled by Rome, either in Roman provinces or cities ruled by Roman high governing officials. This may be due to his Roman citizenship which would have given him freedom and security in his movements throughout the Roman world. Paul traveled to large cities along the major Roman roads and nautical trade routes. He was committed to preaching the Gospel message to as many people as he could, and so he was primarily focused on breaking new ground, going places that had never been evangelized. He did not want to overlap the evangelization of other missionaries (Polhill 98-99).

When Paul arrived in a city, he went directly to the local synagogues to begin his preaching. This would have been a natural place for Paul to visit considering his Jewish heritage. His strategy was to preach before people who were seeking God and had some prior exposure to the Hebrew scriptures. From the synagogue, Paul would continue his ministry in private homes, like Lydia’s home (Acts 16:40) and Philemon’s home (Phile 2). Paul also used the tent-making workplace to preach the good news (see Acts 18:3). His primary task was to plant Jesus communities in each city and then move on to the next destination (Polhill 99).

Another important missionary strategy by Paul, was his continued nurturing of the churches through letter writing, revisiting whenever possible and establishing other leaders. The thirteen letters attributed to the Apostle Paul in the New Testament are probably only a sample of Paul’s love, nurture and concern for the churches he planted. The Book of Acts depicts at least three occasions where Paul visited the churches that he planted on his first missionary journey (see 14:21-23; 16:1-5; 18:23). The Apostle Paul invested in the lives of other leaders by instructing and equipping them for the ongoing ministry of the churches. These leaders and churches would raise up other leaders and send them out into the world to preach the Gospel and plant more churches, thus continuing Paul’s missionary strategies (Polhill 99-100).


Works Cited

Polhill, John B. Paul and His Letters. Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1999.