Tuesday night I hold my last class of the term for BHCTI at Legacy. We have spent the last eight weeks walking through the Letter to the Romans. What did I get this time through the letter?
First, I again sensed Paul's missionary heart. Paul loved people and wanted everyone from his fellow Jews where he grew up to those in Rome and Spain he had never met to trust Jesus was the Messiah. He stepped into the "mission of God" for all peoples and stepped out of every comfort zone he knew to bring the Good News of Jesus to all people groups. He relentlessly pursued God's call on his life, and he always sought places no one else had offered the message of Jesus, the Christ.
This time around I read/taught the letter with the on-going bantering between N. T. Wright and John Piper on the topic of "justification by faith" as a subplot in the class. One of the students said after our inquiry into Paul's perspective in chapters 9-11, "it's crazy that after all these years, we are in the middle of the debate about what those chapters really mean." That's one reason I love the "living" nature of God's word.
So, was Paul's primary purpose in his letter to the Romans to explain how each person is individually made right with Holy God by putting away legalistic effort for a righteousness by justification by grace (Luther, Calvin, John Piper); or, was Paul trying to convince his audience that God had not given up on Israel and they, like everyone else, can be new covenant people through trusting Jesus is God's Son and the Sent One? (N. T. Wright, James D. G. Dunn) Your perspective on what Paul was essentially doing also affects your interpretation of chapters 9-11 in the letter.
Douglas Moo (the commentary we used for the class) says, "Yes" to both perspectives. Paul argued from any angle he could (individual and corporate) in order to make a path for all people, Jews, God-fearers, ethnics, and barbarians, to trust Jesus as God's righteousness so they could enter into a grace-covenant relationship through faith.
The bottom line is not whose perspective is right but are you in a "righteous" relationship with God through trusting that Jesus is God's Plan A from the beginning of time for all people?
Read the letter as if it was written to you. Then, listen to the Spirit's tug on your heart and mind. It really will change your life.