The Epistle to the Romans
(Chapters 12 -16)
Christian Life and Peaceful Living
After laying the foundation of the Christian faith, in chapters 1-8, as an effective power based on “the manifestation of the righteousness of God, founded on redemption, salvation, reconciliation and peace with God”; St. Paul presents here the practical application of this redemptive power in our daily life in the following chapters:
1- Chapter 12: The Christian’s Daily Life
First Part (v. 1-2): The worship of the Christian person is a practical testimony of his justification by faith by offering his body as “a living sacrifice, holy, and accepted by God”. This worship is a fruit of justification, redemption, salvation, and sanctification. In other words, it is the response of the faithful to the work of Christ, in which He offered His body a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to the Father. Also, the sacrifice of the faithful is a “reasonable (or rational) sacrifice”, and therefore it is different from the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. It is then a worship of praise and everlasting thankfulness (Eucharist), which is fulfilled in the Holy Liturgy of the Church.
Whereas verse 1 deals with worship in the “secret place” or in the church, verse 2: “do not be conformed to this world …”, deals with behavior in the world. In worship, the faithful puts on Christ, and as he goes out to the world, he cannot take Him off to put on the form of this world. And, in worship, the believer is granted a new spiritual mind that is renewed continuously as he goes through the world events, “that (he) may prove (or test and approve) what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Second Part (v. 3-8): He establishes the foundation of the Christian behavior, which results from his membership in the Church, the Body of Christ. He shows how the work of the congregation is perfected in the harmony of all its members in a manner similar to the members of the human body. Each member has his work according to his share of faith. In this section he concentrates on the essentials of the ministry in the Church, and the gifts that differ in each member. Each one has to serve according to the gift given to him, preaching, giving, administering, or deeds of mercy, etc…
Third Part (v. 9-21): Common features in all members: After talking about the different gifts that distinguish each member (v. 6, 7), St. Paul concentrates in this part on the common features of all members. So love without hypocrisy, hatred of evil, clinging to what is good, and fervency in spirit, are essential features of every member in the Church, just as life is an essential feature of every member in the human body. He then invites the whole congregation to be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, persevering in prayer, and admonishes them to be in peace as much as possible with all people, and finally not to let evil draw them to evil, but to overcome evil with good.
2- Chapter 13: The Relations of Christians with Others (1)
St. Paul concludes his course of Christian behavior by presenting commandments that define the relation of the Christian with others,starting with the government (vs. 1-7). Here he highlights the importance of submission to the governors for the sake of peace, because they are “God’s ministers to you for good.” They are tools in the hand of God to correct wrong doings and establish peace. Then he recommends brotherly love (vs. 8-10) in its greatest form, “Owe no one anything except to love one another”, for this is the fulfillment of the law. Then he calls all to wake up now by repenting (vs. 11-14), “it is full time now for you to wake from sleep … Let us then cast off the works of darkness … put on the Lord Jesus Christ …”
3- Chapter 14: The Relations of Christians with Others (2)
In this chapter, St. Paul discusses the Christian freedom of conscience and what is pure and impure in food (vs. 1-4), and what is holy and what is not in days (vs. 5-9). He asked every one to refer to his own Christian conscience as to what to eat or drink, and not to judge others, who also refer to their own conscience … (vs. 10-14). He also commands that the strong in faith should bear the one who is weak in faith. Everyone should take care to behave in a manner that is proper for the children of God (vs. 15-19). Not to judge his weak brother but to accept him in his weakness, considering that all things are permissible to the believer but not all things are suitable (1Co. 6:12, 10:23, Ro. 14:14). The apostle then stresses that acting or behaving with a doubting conscience, or hurting other’s conscience, is an act against faith, and is sin (vs. 20-23). But acting according to faith, and with no doubt, is a grace, “happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.”
4- Chapters 15, 16: The Relations of Christians with Others (3), and Conclusion of the Epistle
First Part (v. 1-13): St. Paul continues his teachings on “the relations of Christians with others” in the first part of Chapter 15, then he starts to conclude his epistle in the rest of this chapter. So he summarizes first (v. 1-2) what he already said in Chapter 14, then he clarifies the spiritual basis for this teaching (v. 3-4), that is how Christ Himself, whom we put on (Ro. 13:14), lived, “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me”. Then he concludes this part with a prayer (vs. 5-13), “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be likeminded toward one another … Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace …”, highlighting the importance of unity, “with one mind and one mouth … Therefore receive one another …”. This unity was founded by Christ in His ministry to the circumcision (Jews), and acceptance of the Gentiles, as prophesied by the prophets, starting with Moses, “Rejoice, O’ Gentiles, with His people!” (Deut. 32:43, Ro. 15:10).
2- Second Part (Ro. 15:14 – 16:27) Conclusion: St. Paul begins to conclude his epistle (vs. 14-16) by justifying why he wrote to them, “because of the grace given to me by God, that I might be a minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles”. Then, in the rest of Chapter 15, he briefly summarizes what has been accomplished in this ministry (v. 19), what is being done at that time (v. 25), and what he plans to do (v. 24). Then, in humbleness, he asks all to struggle with him in prayers for the success of his ministry.
As for Chapter 16, it consists of salutations from the apostle (vs. 1-16), warning from false apostles (vs. 17-20), salutations from coworkers of St. Paul (vs. 21-24), and the final apostolic blessing (vs. 25-27). Whereas the numerous names mentioned in these salutations may represent a difficulty for the first time readers, they are a treasure of information for scholars of the Bible and Early Church History. But for us now, in these “Short Notes”, it may be sufficient to notice the effects of faith, and the work of the overflowing Holy Spirit in those early living members of the Body of Christ. Among those we see Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my (Paul’s) life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles”, “the servant of the church … receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints … she has been a helper of many and of myself also”, “who labored much for us”, “my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles”, and “my host and the host of the whole church” (vs. 3-4, 1-2, 6, 7, 23).
He does not forget to assure the believers not to worry, because the devil cannot disturb them as long as God is holding them (v. 20).