(to be published in Mission Studies, Spring 2006, pp 81-104)
I write these notes on Romans 15:1-33 (read together with 1:1-15 and other passages of Romans) as resources for a group discussion of Romans 15 and its teaching about mission for the groups life context. I presuppose that the group will want to have three rounds of discussion. According to the size of the group these three rounds can take place in one long sessionwith the larger group breaking down in smaller groups and coming back together three times, for instance during an eveningor in three shorter sessions. The first round-table discussion is focused on the group members first readings of Romans 15. The second round-table involves comparing the members readings with those of scholars. For this purpose, since there are presently three types of scholarly readings of Romans, I present them, underscoring the different ways they conceive of Pauls teaching about mission. Throughout I also presuppose that each member of the group is committed to read with the other members this text of Paul as a Scripture about mission, a process that requires a third round-table.
Reading with others means that we read the Biblical text with the expectation that we will learn from the other members of the group something about this text and its teaching. This also means that we expect that others in the group will bring to the discussion insights, understandings and interpretations that are different from ours; otherwise we would not learn anything from them. Divergent views concerning what Paul says about mission in Romans 15 are expected and welcome; they reflect the richness of the biblical text and the fact that different readers focus on different features of the text. Reading with others presupposes that the group meets as a round table, where no one has a privileged status. Initially, no interpretation is privileged, although the group will seek to discern which of the proposed interpretations is most valuable and helpful (in the third round-table).
to learn something from the reading of the biblical text by other
members of the group demands from us a two-pronged shift of attitude. It demands from us: to consider others as
better than [ourselves] (Philippians 2:3), since we
have to learn from them; and also not to think of
[ourselves] more highly than [we] ought to
think (Romans 12:3).<![if
!supportFootnotes]><![endif]> As a biblical scholar,
I find it very difficult to follow these exhortations.
Yet the members of an
Reading Romans as Scripture is reading it as a text which has a teaching for ones life as a believer in a particular context. In so doing we adopt a position similar to that of the Romans to whom this letter was addressed. Yet, contrary to what we might think, this is not entering a one-way communication, in which together with the Romans we would simply be passive receivers of a message from Paul. Romans is a letter, and thus part of a larger dialogue. More specifically, Romans is a letter aimed at initiating a dialogue with a church which Paul does not personally know, but that he hopes to meet very soon (Romans 15:22-23; 1:10-15). From the very beginning of the letter, Paul emphasizes that he expects a two-way, reciprocal exchange with the Romans:
For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-- or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged [exhorted] by each other's faith, both yours and mine (1:11-12).
Paul does expect to bring something to the Romans: a share of his spiritual
gifts (), the gospel (). And he might have been
tempted to conceive of his relationship with the Romans as that of a
superior - - an apostle, with a special authority concerning the
gospel because he has been set apart (1:1) for the task of
instructing others, including the Romans ().
But he catches himself up:
this exchange of gifts is to be mutual (). He also expects to receive
from the Romans certain spiritual gifts, as well as encouragements
and exhortations (same word in Greek).
Yes, his ministry is producing fruit among Gentiles and, he
hopes, it will also do so among Gentiles in
From the perspective of this interpretation of Roams 1:1-15, it is appropriate to envision Pauls interaction with the Romans as similar to a round-table discussion. Of course, Paul has much to contribute to their dialogue; but he is also expecting to learn much from them. As a round-table is an invitation to the participants to read with each other, so Pauls letter is an invitation to the Romans to think with him about certain issues, so that ultimately (when he will see them) they might mutually instruct each other on these topics.
in turn we enter this discussion by reading Romans 15 as Scripture,
we can read it as an invitation to think about mission with
Paul and the Romans. We
could say that we enter the dialogue initiated by Pauls letter. Yet, it might be more
accurate to say that we invite Paul and the Romans to participate in
our round-table. First, we take the
initiative, by the very fact that, with the rest of this BISAM issue
of Mission Studies, we chose mission as our the thematic
focus. Yes, Paul and the Romans were
concerned about mission (in
Second, we are quite selective in our readings of Romans as Scripture. We frame them 1) by our particular perception of what is most significant in the text, 2) by specific questions coming out of our own theological perspectives; and 3) by concerns arising from the actual life-context in which we read this Scripture as a Word to live-by. Precisely because we read this text with the expectation that from it we will learn something which will challenge our views and our way of life, we consciously or subconsciously frame our readings of it with our questions.
As we read and reread Romans ch. 15 (together with 1:1-15), we find that Paul invites the Romans and us to think mission in different ways according to what we take to be:
1) the most significant features of this chapter and the letter to the Romans as a whole;
2) the core of the gospel as a theological concept; and
3) the urgent needs and predicaments that we and others are confronted with in our particular contexts.
This particularization of our interpretation is appropriate and legitimate, provided that we acknowledge the choices we make, and in so doing explain and assess our reasons for these choices. Yet, by ourselves, we cannot be aware of the choices we make; we need to encounter other readings. This is what reading with others in a round-table discussion achieves for us. A first round-table will help each of us begin to recognize the broad choices we make. A second round table will make an inventory of the interpretive choices available to us. Then the third round table will assess which set of choices, and thus, which way of thinking mission is best.
Each of us starts, of course, with the conviction that our original reading of Rom 15 and our original way of thinking mission with Paul was the best. Yet, as we read with each other and learn from each other, we encounter possibilities we are not aware of. All the readings and the ways of thinking mission with Paul are on the table. We, as a group, will have to assess these readings and either reach a consensus that one interpretation is better than the others, or agree to disagreefor instance, because we have different needs in our particular contexts.
ROMANS 15 AND
For the first round-table, each participant is expected to come to the discussion with her or his provisional conclusions concerning the teaching of Romans 15 (and 1:1-15) about mission. The goal of the discussion will be to recognize the differences (not the similarities) between the interpretations of the members of the group- -and thus the richness of the text.
Romans 15:1-33 (and 1:1-15) there is no Great Commission
(there is no Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations as in Matt. 28:19). Yet, mission is one of the
central themes of this chapter, as Paul invites his readers- -the
Romans and also us- -to participate in mission with him.
Paul mentions his plans to extend his mission to
According to your reading of Romans 15,
As you read Rom 15:1-33 (and 1:1-15) with these questions in mind, jot down 1) what are the characteristics of mission offered by Paul which are the most significant for you in your context; and 2) the verses that most directly express these characteristics of mission. Then in group, when each presents her or his conclusions about what is most significant in Pauls teaching about mission in these verses for their respective contexts, the discussion should underscore the differences among the various conclusions - - and thus what each learns from the others- -, rather than the similarities (the areas where we did not learn from each other).
ROMANS 15 AND
This second round table discussion has two goals. Its first goal is to establish the legitimacy of the different conclusions reached by members of the group> For this we propose to show that reputable biblical scholars also reach different and often contradictory conclusions, according to the aspect of the text they choose to emphasize. By reviewing these scholarly interpretations, each member of the group should be able to find support and refinement for her or his conclusions in one or another of these scholarly interpretations without losing the specificity of ones own. Since there are several legitimate ways of interpreting Pauls teaching about mission in Romans 15, we have a choice.
Yet, in biblical study groups, the readings might be variations of the same type. Consequently, the second goal of this round-table is to present to members of the group three distinct families of interpretations. I will now successively present three types of scholarly interpretations of the teaching about mission of Romans 15. These brief notes will be more helpful if you have first read the text yourself for its teaching about mission (as suggested above).
-I- Paul as a Model Missionary in Romans 15
a) What does
mission involve according to
A first way of reading Romans 15 and its teaching about mission posits that a) Pauls mission is a model for our missionary activity, and b) that Pauls mission is centered on the proclamation of a message- -the good news of the gospel. The gospel message needs to be preached (1:15, 10:8; 10:14-15; 15:19-20) to people who do not know it so that they might believe and be saved (from eternal condemnation) by being justified by faith (cf. 5:9-10 and 10:1-17). As someone called and set apart to proclaim the gospel so as to bring Gentiles to the obedience of faith (1:1-5) Paul is a model for missionaries, who are themselves called and commissioned to preach the same gospel message and for the same goals.
These are the conclusions
reached by the scholars who read Romans by focusing on the
theological argument of Pauls letter.
There are, of course, plenty of textual evidence to
support this reading and its view of mission. One
first notes that Paul wrote this letter primarily because of his
project to pursue his mission in
This reading understands Paul
to have, throughout the letter, explained and substantiated his
proclamation to the Gentiles of a gospel centered on
justification through faith rather than on
justification through works of the law (understood to be
the belief Paul shared with other Jews before his conversion, as
Stuhlmacher [1994, 55] underscores about 3:20; see also
Stuhlmacher, 2001). Rather
than convicting and punishing sinners for their sins (and all
have sinned ), God
justifies the one who has faith in Jesus ()
and thus the believer is put by his/her faith to the benefit of
Christs death (-25). Paul defends this gospel
against his detractors (including those in
According to this first
reading, it is this gospel-message that Paul the missionary has
proclaimed throughout the eastern Mediterranean world (hyperbolically
presented in as from
<![if !supportLists]>b. <![endif]>By what kind of authority does Paul pursue his mission? How is his mission related to Christ and God?
All scholars agree that Pauls authority is most directly expressed in 15:15-16 (which echoes 1:1), when Paul speaks of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. The question is what is this grace to which Paul refers? According to this first reading, the grace to which this verse refers is Pauls apostolic commission received at the time of his conversion. Thus for Stuhlmacher Paul pursues his mission with the authority given to him by the grace of the apostolic commission which has been granted to him by God (Stuhlmacher, 1994, 236-237). In this perspective, because of his commission Paul is empowered to proclaim the gospel in the name of Christ. Thus Paul can boast of his missionary work because it is nothing else than Christs work. Following this interpretation the NRSV (and other translations) renders 15:17: In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. As we shall see, this is choosing one translations among other possible ones, since the Greek is more open, merely speaking of boasting of the things related to God (DP). Then is understood in the same way: For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed (, NRSV). When Paul proclaims the gospel that he has received from Christ, Christ works among the Gentiles. According to this model, because Paul and other missionaries work in the name of Christ and God, it is through the intermediary of their preaching that Christ and God work among the people to whom they preach.
c. What are the goals of Pauls missionary activity?
In this perspective, Pauls mission is a priestly service (15:16) in the limited sense that Pauls role is to bring the Gentiles as an offering to God. In this case one understands the phrase the offering of the Gentiles to mean that the converted Gentiles are the offering that Paul brings to God (objective genitive) - - as we shall see, it can also refer to an offering made to God by the Gentiles themselves (genitive subjective). The goal of Pauls mission is to win obedience from the Gentiles (), bringing them to the obedience of faith (1:5), a phrase referring to the conversion and subordination to the sovereign authority of Jesus, which is the result of preaching the gospel (Stuhlmacher, 1994, 20). In this way, Paul brings the Gentiles to see and understand what they did not know (-21).
d. How does Paul carry out this mission?
In this reading, it is self-evident that Pauls primary activity was by word (15:18), by the proclamation of the message of the gospel. Thus, we find in many translations of and 20 the repeated mention that Paul proclaimed the good news. This is once again a plausible choice of translation, but a choice nevertheless, since the verbs do not specify the way in which the gospel is manifested.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> In this reading, mission and proclamation of the message of the gospel are so much identified with each other that the possibility that the propagation of the gospel might also be in deeds and by the performance of miracles and by the power of the Holy Spirit, mentioned in 15:18b-19a, is viewed as secondary. In this interpretation, Paul mentions them here simply to show to the Romans that he has the essential marks of an apostle, according to his opponents definitions, although he does not himself view these as important (see Stuhlmacher, 1994, 238).
In this reading, Rom 15:1-13, as an exhortation to Gentile Christians, is simply a part of Pauls effort to convince the Romans of the validity of the gospel he preaches, and does not have much implication for understanding the churchs mission.
Romans 15: Paul Calls the Churches to their Distinctive
a. What does
mission involve according to
A second way of reading
Romans 15 underscores that Pauls ministry is a particular kind
of mission, an apostolic mission, different from the mission of the
churches. His apostolic mission is an
itinerant mission exclusively focused on church-planting: I make it my ambition to
proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so
that I do not build on someone else's foundation (). As soon as a few Christian
communities are established in a region his particular missionary
ministry is finished. This is why he can truly say,
speaking of all the eastern Mediterranean regions (from
Does this mean that the
missionary work of propagating the gospel is finished in these
But now this missionary work passes from Paul to the churches
he has helped to establish. In
effect his church-planting is the establishment of missionary
centers. Each Gentile church community
is a part of the body of Christ (12:4-5), or, in other words, a part
of the people of God (). They are called to be
saints whether they are in
The churches mission and Pauls mission, while distinct, have a fundamental similarity; they are similar to the mission that Israel as the People of God is called to carry out, and they prolong the mission that Jesus carried out among the circumcised (15:8).
These are the conclusions
that one can draw from the interpretations of Romans by scholars who
read this letter with an emphasis on its rhetorical
For these scholars, Paul
addresses his letter to the Gentile Christians in
b. By what kind of authority does the church pursue its mission?
Being justified through
Jesus faithfulness is the call that authorizes the
churches to pursue their mission- -whether these churches were
established by Paul or not (as is the case with the Roman churches). This
justification/righteousness involves being reconciled with God (Rom )
and is the promise of future salvation (5:9-10; ), as the preceding reading would
emphasize. But in this second reading
justification/righteousness is also and primarily the right
relationship with God which marks the present way of life of
the believers as members of the people of God, or body of Christ. Through
Christs faithfulness, Gentiles are called or
chosen (Rom 1:6, see 1 Thess 1:4) to be
saints (set apart for a mission) as Paul was called to be
an apostle and set apart for the gospel (Rom 1:1).
They are called and set a part as
c. What are the goals of the churches mission?
What is this mission? We need to pay attention to Pauls exhortations to the Romans in 15:1-13, because they clarify how Paul seeks to prepare the Romans to carry out their own mission as the people of God.
In these verses Paul brings to a close his exhortations to the Gentile Christians identifying himself with them: we who are strong (15:1). According to this reading, Paul urges: Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor (15:2); live in harmony with one other (15:5); welcome one another (15:7) following Jesus example (15:3, 5, 7-8) and the teaching of Scriptures (15:4). These exhortations cap the long series of instructions begun in 12:1-2. In sum, those who have been justified through Jesus faithfulness are called to be saints, that is, people set apart from the world: Do not be conformed to this world (12:2). In 12:1-15:13, Paul prescribes this way of life to the Gentile churches, because by implementing it they will carry out their own mission among the Gentiles.
The goals of the churches mission become apparent in Pauls description of the purpose of this way of life. In 15:1-13, the first statement of purpose focuses on the churches need: So that by steadfastness we might have hope (15:4; see also ). Why do they need hope? So that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (15:6). Glorifying God together in worship services (with one voice) is a first part of the churches mission, in the same way that worship was and is a part of Israels mission as the People of God (9:4).
Paul also stipulates that the purpose of the churches actions, here their interactions with each other, is to glorify God: Welcome one another . . . for the glory of God (), that is, so that other people might glorify God. The following verses further clarify this point by giving Christ as an example they should follow: Christ has become a servant of the circumcised . . . in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy (15:8-9). The series of quotations from Scripture in 15:10-12 reinforces this twofold point: like Israel, the People of the new covenant should confess [God] among the Gentiles by singing praises to Gods name (15:9, Ps 18:49); and should call the Gentiles to rejoice and praise the Lord with Gods people (15:10, Deut 32:43; 15:11, Ps 117:1), because in Christ (the root of Jesse) the Gentiles can have hope (15:12, Isa 11:10).
d. How should the Gentiles carry out this mission?
The preceding verses already show that through their community life Gentile believers are called to have the same kind of ministry as Christ had. This ministry is appropriately described as a priestly ministry, because of its two-fold goal of glorifying God (in their worship) and bringing others to glorify God (through their way of life). This observation helps us to make sense of Pauls description of his own mission as priestly: he is a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God (15:16a; see also 1:1, where Paul presents himself as set apart for the gospel of God). The similarity of Paul, Christ, and the Gentiles respective missions suggests the way in which this priestly ministry is to be carried out.
Christ carried it out by becom[ing] a servant of the circumcised (15:8a) and by demonstrating the validity of the promises to the patriarchs (15:8b DP) by his fulfillment of these promises and by offering himself as a sacrifice. This is the way the good news of God is manifested by Christ, so much so that some of the circumcised and the Gentiles might recognize Gods mercy, and glorify God for it (15:9).
The Gentile believers should carry their mission in a similar way. Like Christ, they should present [their] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [their] spiritual worship (12:1)- -for instance, by putting up with the failings of the weak, and not pleasing themselves (see 15:1). In their community life and in their daily life the Gentile Christians offer themselves as a sacrifice (the phrase the offering of the Gentiles in is understood as a subjective genitive). Yet, to reach its goal this priestly mission of the Gentile believers must be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit (), so that in it other Gentiles might discover and glorify God.
Since the Gentile believers mission is also similar to Pauls mission, we need to re-read Pauls description of his own mission from this perspective. The grace given to Paul () is more than a commission to go and preach; it is a consecration for a priestly service aimed at helping others (the Gentiles) to make their own sanctified offerings to God (). Then, Paul can boast, but not for what he does in the name of God or for what God does in him. He can boast of what God is doing in and through the Gentiles (as is appropriately expressed by the King James Version of : I may glory through Jesus Christ of those things which pertain to God; my emphasis) and of what Christ has done through him (). The preceding interpretation (above I-) had read this statement as a reference to what Paul was doing in the name of Christ. This second interpretation avoids doing this by paying close attention to the description that Paul gives of his ministry; by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God (15:18-19). Pauls ministry among the Gentiles is characterized by manifestations of God, of Christ, and of the Spirit. Furthermore, through these divine interventions the Gentiles are themselves called to, and sanctified for, their own mission as the new people of God. Their mission is to glorify God (in their worship) and bring others to glorify God (through their ways of life in which they offer themselves as living sacrifice as well as through their words).
-III- Romans 15: Paul Urges Christian Believers to Be Missionaries who Manifest the Gospel as Power of God for Salvation
a. What does mission involve according to Reading # 3?
For I can dare to speak only
of the things which Christ has done through me to bring about the
(faith) obedience of the Gentiles, in word and deed (made effective)
by the power of signs and portents, by the power of Gods
Spirit. In this way, from
The possibility of a third distinctive reading with its different view of mission becomes apparent in these verses, when one pays attention to its apocalyptic language, rather than blurring it as translations often do. Rom 15:18-19 can be paraphrased as follows: Pauls ministry has fulfilled the gospel of Christ (15:19b, as prophecies are fulfilled in the end-time) by what Christ has done through it in order to bring the Gentiles to obedience under the Lordship of Christ (15:18b; 1:5). As Käsemann (394) points out, this obedience of faith (1:5) is not in response to a message, but a response to an epiphany- -a manifestation of Christ or of the divine among the Gentiles. Käsemanns point is confirmed by Pauls description of his ministry. His word and deed (15:18c) are complemented and made effective by the power of signs and portents, by the power of Gods Spirit (15:19a). These juxtaposed phrases emphatically designate the experience of the divine presence in mighty eschatological acts (Käsemann, 394). In Pauls ministry, there are powerful divine manifestations which rattle and unsettle the Gentiles so much that they submit in obedience to the Lord, Christ (15:18b). Thus, in this reading, the grace given [to Paul] by God (15:15) is more than his commission at the time of his call; it is also the gift of Gods on-going interventions in his ministry.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> These divine interventions are fulfillments of the promise included in his call to be an apostle set apart for the gospel of God (15:16; 1:1):
b. By what kind of authority does the church pursue its mission?
Pauls mission and the churchs mission are authorized and indeed made possible by Gods on-going interventions. Indeed, this reading underscores that Paul commonly associates the gospel of God with manifestations of divine power. For this reading, saying that the gospel of God is a message about God is appropriate, but it is not enough. Preaching or proclaiming the gospel is necessary (Rom 10:8, 14, 15). But it is not sufficient. Note that Rom 10:8, 14, 15 are the only verses in Romans where Paul explicitly speaks about preaching the gospel.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Reading the English translations of Romans and Pauls other letters, one is surprised, because they render the verb gospelize ( euvaggeli,zw ) in Rom 15:20 (and 1:15, 10:15, as well as in many verses of the other letters) by preaching or proclaiming the gospel, although it simply means transmitting or manifesting the gospelwithout specifying how the gospel is manifested. Indeed, bringing the gospel to others involves proclaiming the message of Jesus death and resurrection. But Paul and any other missionary must also facilitate (or be the conduit for) manifestations of divine power among these people- -divine interventions which by definition are beyond the control of the missionary.
In the perspective, the use of the phrase gospel of God in 1:1 clarifies that God is not the object or content of the gospel as a message (objective genitive) but rather its agent. The content of the gospel message is Gods Son (1:3-4). But God is the agent who performs the event that can be recognized and proclaimed as a good news, a gospel: God gave a promise through the prophets (1:2); God resurrected Jesus from the dead, and this manifestation of divine power designated him Son of God (1:4). Together with the preceding readings, one can, of course, interpret this to mean that the gospel is a message about Gods powerful interventions in the past, especially in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Yet Paul removes any ambiguity in by defining the gospel as the present manifestation of the power of God for salvation: it is the power of God for salvation. Thus, Pauls mission, as well as the churches mission, is not merely to proclaim what God has done in the past- -although this is a necessary part of the mission in word and deed- - but also to be those through whom the gospel is manifested as the power of God for salvation. Paul underscores this same point in his other letters. For instance in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5 (My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God NRSV) and 1 Thess 1:5 (because our gospel came to you not only in words, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with great effect NJB).
c. What are the goals of the missionary activity?
ultimate goal should simply be to work themselves out of a job.
This is what Paul claims to have done, saying that he has
completed his missionary work from
From what precedes, it is already clear that mission is a priestly service (15:16) in the sense that, in addition to the proclamation of the gospel as message, the missionary becomes the one through whom other people are put in the presence of God and thus confronted by the power of signs and portents, by the power of Gods Spirit (15:19a). The missionarys ministry is the locus where people are put in the presence of transformative manifestations of Gods presence and thus brought to the obedience of faith.
In order to assume this role,
missionaries need to offer themselves as living sacrifices (12:1). What does this entail? To begin with, like Paul,
they should call attention to what God or Christ is doing in their
ministries, rather than to what they are doing (15:18).
Indeed, without divine interventions their ministry is for
naught. Second, together with Paul,
they should conduct their ministry with the hope of Gods
interventions (see 15:4-5). Note, for instance, that by
asking for the Romans prayers Paul makes clear his awareness
that without Gods intervention his mission in
I was empowered by the grace given to me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus [who manifests Christ] to the Gentiles, acting as a priest through whom the gospel of God [and its power] is manifested, so that the gentiles might offer themselves as an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. (15:15c-16 DP)
As this translation of 15:15c-16 expresses, Pauls mission and our mission are not merely aimed at facilitating manifestations of the gospels power among people who can then be offered to God.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The goal of mission is also and primarily that the Gentiles among whom the gospel is manifested become believers who offer themselves<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> as those in whose life the power of God is to be manifested for other people.
d. How does one carry out this mission?
Thus, the missionarys ministry soon has another goal. Beyond manifesting the power of the gospel, this ministry involves acknowledging, affirming and upholding what God is doing in and through other people. These new believers are people who are themselves manifestations of God or of Christ for us; they bear revelations and gifts from God. This is expressed in 15:1-2, 5, as becomes clear in the following translation:
We who are strong are indebted<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> to uphold<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> the weaknesses of the weak, and not to affirm<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> ourselves. Each of us must affirm our neighbor for<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> (with respect to) the good that our neighbor has, in order to build up the neighbor. . . May the God of perseverance and encouragement give you to have the same mind toward one another as [you have] toward<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Christ Jesus. (15:1-2, 5 DP)
Paul begins this section by
emphasizing that we are indebted. To
whom? In brief, to other believers.
Paul declares in 15:1 that he
and the strong believers are indebted to the weak believers.
Gentile believers are indebted to the saints at
Therefore, rather than flattering ourselves by affirming the good we bring to others, we should affirm others by pointing out what God has done in them and the gift they bring to us from God. This is the ultimate goal of the missionaries ministry. Recognizing that the new believers are now the body of Christ (12:5), the missionaries should have the same attitude (have the same mind) toward these believers as they have toward Christ. The missionaries should not think of [themselves] more highly than they ought to think (Rom 12:3). By recognizing others as Christ-like- -as the body of Christ, as people that they should regard as better than themselves (Phil 2:3, in humility regard others as better than yourselves)- -the missionaries have worked themselves out of a job. The mission is now carried by the new believers, and the missionaries are now those who benefit from this mission.
During the second round-table each member of the group discusses the differences between her/his own interpretation and two of the preceding scholarly interpretations and the similarities between her/his own interpretation with one of these scholarly interpretations. In this way, each will become more aware of the choices she/he has made.
ON ROMANS 15 AND MISSION
The third round-table is now a discussion of the pros and cons of each of the interpretations found in the group and of the three types of scholarly interpretation presented above. The members of the group are now aware that there are several plausible and legitimate interpretations and thus that each has a choice between different readings of Romans 15 and different views of mission. Thus during the third round-table the members of the group are expected to seek to discern among the various teachings about mission found in Rom 15, what is the most helpful teaching about mission for their particular context and time. All the readings of Rom 15 and all the ways of thinking mission with Paul are on the table. We, as a group, need now to assess these readings and either reach a consensus that one interpretation is better than the others in the present situation, or agree to disagreefor instance, because we have different needs in our particular contexts. Here also, basic convictions about what is mission and what is the gospel come to the surface. Thus, it is important to remember that this assessment of the relative values of interpretations needs to be conducted by following two essential sets of issues that reflect the twofold summary of the Law: Is this choice of an interpretation the best when one thinks in terms of basic convictions and values that Christian believers might have (loving God)? Is this choice of an interpretation the best when one thinks of who benefits from it and who is hurt by it (loving neighbors)? How are these two kinds of assessment fitting together? Now that it is clear that much is at stake in our choice of one view or another of Pauls teaching about mission, we can expect a passionate debate among the members of the group.
Campbell, William S. Paul's Gospel in an Intercultural Context: Jew and Gentile in the Letter to the Romans. Frankfurt am Main & New York: P. Lang, 1991,
Dunn, James D. G.
Romans, Word Biblical Commentary 38a, 38b
Liberating Paul: The Justice of God and the Politics of the
Fitzmyer, Joseph A.
S.J., Romans; A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
Ernst. Commentary on Romans. Translated by Geoffrey W.
Paul: Between Jews and
Stowers, Stanley K.
A Rereading of Romans:
Justice, Jews, and Gentiles.
Stuhlmacher, Peter. Paul's Letter to the Romans: a Commentary. Translated
by Scott J. Hafemann.
------------ , Revisiting Paul's Doctrine of Justification: a Challenge to the New Perspective / with an essay by Donald A. Hagner Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2001.
Ben III with Darlene
Hyatt, Pauls Letter to the
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> I quote from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted (adding emphases at times). In other cases, I quote from the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) or provide my own translation (DP).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A literal, somewhat awkward, rendering, of reads: I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ (DP) and says that he gospelized.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> A way of reading Paul which was initiated in the modern period by Krister Stendahl (1976) and is exemplified by William S. Campbell, Neil Elliott, and Stanley K. Stowerss studies of Romans. Many commentaries, including those by James Dunn, Joseph Fitzmyer, Ben Witherington, tend to incorporate features of this new perspective in their own distinctive interpretations.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> This interpretation chooses, among possible translations of , the translation from the Greek which is actually the most literal, although it was left aside by centuries of interpretations. In this translation, Rom 3:21-22 reads: But now, apart from law, the righteousness/justice of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness/justice of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe (DP).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The aorist passive participle, doqei/sa,n, can refer to any time in the past, and in particular to the time of the writing of the letter, also referred to by an aorist, e;graya in 15:15, as well as to the time of his ministry.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Using the verb khru,ssw that he also uses in about another kind of preaching.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Here as in the first interpretation, offering of the Gentiles in Rom is read as a reference to Paul offering the Gentiles to God (an objective genitive).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Here as in the second interpretation, offering of the Gentiles in Rom is read as a reference to the Gentiles offering themselves to God (a subjective genitive).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Here, as in , , 13:8, and , Paul uses the concept of indebtedness a key concept defining relationships among members of a community governed by the honor and shame system. Not acknowledging ones indebtedness to others and thus failing to uphold and affirm them is shameful.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> As the root upholds the branches of a tree, Rom. 11:18.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Here I translate the verb avre,skein by to affirm, rather than the more literal to please or to flatter, because the latter two have somewhat negative connotations, which the verb does not have in 15:2 where it is used again.
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The preposition eivj can be viewed as a marker of goals (see Bauer-Danker, eivj 4), in which case, the translation treats it as a duplicate of pro.j found in the next phrase. I choose to view it as a marker of a specific point of reference, translating by for (i.e., with respect to, with reference to) (see Bauer-Danker, eivj 5).
<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The preposition kata. is here a marker of similarity: according to, in accordance with, in conformity with (see Bauer-Danker, kata. 5): in conformity to [something about] Christ. The first and second readings understand in conformity to what Christ has done, thus, following the example of Christ a translation that befits the rest of their interpretation. This third interpretation understands in conformity to your attitude toward Christ. This latter translation relates this verse to the preceding one that underscores that this attitude toward others is so that we might have hope (15:4b).