No. 39. >> What should we know about the closing of this epistle? Anything in particular? >>PROFESSOR DAVID I. M. LEWIS: Nick, now we finally come to the end of the epistle to the Romans. If you remember again, Nick, that six-part rhetorical outline that I discussed, the exordium, the introduction which is back in Romans 1. The narration, this is where Paul narrates the history of human sin, Romans 1:18 through 3:20. The proposition where Paul lays out his main propositional truth. That's Romans 3:21 through 31. The confirmation where Paul confirms his proposition and then discusses the implications. That's that lengthy section of Romans Chapters 4 through 11. And then the fifth part, the exhortation which is found in Romans 12 Verse 1 through 15 Verse 13. We now finally come to the close of the epistle which would now constitutes Romans 15:14 through 27. And now one thing I can tell you, Nick, is that of all of the closings to an epistle, whether in the New Testament or without -- outside of the New Testament, this is incredibly long. Usually the closing would come really fast. And this closing is actually a very lengthy closing. And it actually consists of four parts. The first part is Romans 15:14 through 20. Here Paul is sort of giving a closing, parting shot to the Romans. And it's kind of interesting if you look at Verse 15 Paul says: On some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the Gospel of God so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. And so Paul kind of tells them: I've written very boldly to you on some points. And I wonder what exactly he has in mind. Is Paul thinking about Romans 6: That you have died to sin and so you can't live in sin any longer? That's a very bold point. He may have that in mind. Is he thinking about Romans 8 and discussing the life led by the Spirit and what that implies as we live in this present fallen world and await the renewal of creation at the end? He may have that in mind. Is he referencing specifically Chapter 11 where he very boldly tells the Gentiles that: You should not be conceited over against the unbelieving Jews. Because it's by grace that you've been grafted into the tree. And God could easily cut you off? Or does he have in mind the exhortation section, Romans 12 through 15:13? Well it could be that he has all of that in mind. Paul tells them: I have written to you very boldly. Now, keep in mind once again that Paul is writing to a church that he did not found and to Christians, most of whom he has never personally met. Nevertheless, Paul reminds them why it is he can write such bold words. It's because of the ministry he has as an apostle. He has both the authority and the responsibility to conduct the mission of Jesus among the Gentiles. And it's on the basis of that call that he justifies writing these bold letters to the Romans. And so one thing Paul does in the closing in this section is he reminds the Romans of his ministry to the Gentiles. And therefore, it's kind of his way of saying: You ought to take seriously what I've said. Even though I wrote to you in bold words, you ought to take it seriously. Because this is my job as an apostle. So minister even among you in Rome. So there Paul is justifying his right and his responsibility to write this letter. The next section of the closing would be Romans 15:22 through 33. And this is the section where Paul promises that he wants to come and see them. And so he lays out his itinerary that he wants to go to Spain. But first he has to go to Jerusalem, bring the offering of the Gentile churches to the saints in Jerusalem. Then he plans to come to Rome, stay for a bit and then go onto Spain. And he's hoping that the Romans would assist him in his ministry. And then finally he closes this section off in Verse 30 where he writes: I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf. That I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints. So that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. And so there Paul, he asks these Roman Christians to pray for him. And so he tells them his travel plans. And he asks them to pray for him, especially that he would be delivered from persecution in Judea. And that his offering to the saints in Jerusalem would be acceptable. And you know, the mere fact that Paul was bringing this Gentile offering to Jerusalem to the saints there who are primarily all Jews, again, I think reveals Paul's heart for his own people. He has been called to minister to the Gentiles. Nevertheless, we see that his heart -- he still has a heart for Israel. And now he wants the Romans, too, to be a part of this mission. And to pray for him as he goes to Jerusalem. So here is another reason you might say Paul wrote Romans is he wants their prayers on his behalf. Then this section closes with a benediction, Verse 33: May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. Now, the third major section of Romans comes in 16. And this is what we call the greeting section of the closing. 16 Verse 1 through 16 Paul gives probably the most lengthy greeting he gives in any of his letters. He basically lists a number of people that he is exchanging greetings with. Notice I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church. Many people believe that it's this Phoebe who is actually delivering the epistle of the Romans to the Romans. When Paul commends Phoebe, that means he's sending her and she may be the one who actually carried this epistle as a scroll to Rome for these people to read. Interesting, in this list we see Priscilla and Aquila are mentioned in Verse 3. These are those -- that married couple that were in Rome. Were expelled by Claudius in 49 AD. Paul met them in Ephesus. They became his co-workers. It seems that they are now back in Rome if Paul is greeting them in this epistle. Then finally a fourth section of the closing begins in 16 Verse 17 when Paul gives one final exhortation where he says: I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught. Avoid them. I think this appeal right here kind of does qualify my reading of Romans 14. Again, that Paul is not talking in Romans 14 about doctrine and teaching. That there's a wide latitude of Christian freedom about what we believe. There he really is talking about outward expressions of piety. Because Paul will not tolerate divisions of doctrine. If somebody teaches differently, they are to be avoided. And he says in Verse 18: For such persons do not serve our Lord Jesus but their own appetites. And by smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all so I rejoice over you. But I want you to be wise to what is good and innocent of what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. And then Paul offers some further greetings from Timothy, Tertius, who is probably the amanuensis or the scribe speaks and greets them in Verse 22. Paul sends greetings from Gaius and Erastus. And finally he closes off the epistle with a doxology in Romans 16:25 through 27. We should read this. Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed through the prophetic writings, has been made known to all nations according to the command of the eternal God to bring about the obedience of faith to the only wise God, be glory forever more through Jesus Christ. Amen. And it's very interesting to take this doxology at the end of Romans and compare it to the opening at the beginning of Romans. And we see that there are similar themes that Paul expresses both at the beginning when he introduces himself and at the end when he gives this closing doxology. The Gospel figures prominently in both. Jesus Christ figures prominently in both. That this Gospel was proclaimed in the Old Testament figures prominently in both. That this be made known to all the nations figures prominently in both. And that it goes out to bring about the obedience of faith figures prominently in both. Again, remember obedience of faith, we discussed that in an earlier question. It could either be the faithful response to the Gospel by believing it or it could be the Christian life that follows believing. Either way the goal of Paul's ministry was to bring about this obedience of faith. And so Paul closes Romans by drawing to mind various themes that he mentioned in the opening of Romans. And if you read Romans a second time looking at these two frames to the entire epistle, you can read keeping in mind again how very much this epistle is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And then what that Gospel has the power to do. To give us a new status before God. That of being justified. To give us a new life that is lived out in our baptism and in the Holy Spirit. To create a new people of God, the true Israel. That is both Gentile and Jew who believe in Jesus Christ. And also to create a new worship both in the community of faith and in our day-to-day life in the world that we see in the exhortation section. One further comment I can make here, Nick, about the epistle to the Romans and it's closing is that there is some disagreement about whether Chapter 16 actually belongs. And this disagreement arrives because of textual variance. What is a textual variant? Well, we don't have what Paul wrote when he wrote his original epistle. That epistle that probably Phoebe carried from Paul in Corinth to Rome, we don't have that anymore. Copies were made of that. And in the process of copying, variant readings arose where there's certain scrolls where there's a different reading than in others. And textual criticism is the science of taking these variant readings and then determining which one Paul originally wrote. Well, there are some manuscripts of Romans that actually end at 15 Verse 33. And actually this is a lot more varied than that. But to keep it simple here, some manuscripts end at 15:33, which could be a logical ending. Paul says: May the God of peace be with you all. Amen. And therefore, some people surmise that Romans originally ended there. And that what we have in Chapter 16 was later added to the end of the epistle to the Romans. And then people argue this way: Since Priscilla and Aquila were Paul's friends in Ephesus and since Paul greets them in Romans 16, they say: Well, this Romans 16 must have been a little letter that Paul wrote to Ephesus and it was floating around independently and eventually somebody took them and sewed them together into one manuscript. Does -- do any great matters of faith hang upon making the decision about this? Probably not. Most of what Paul has written in Romans up to the end of Chapter 15 establishes his case about the Gospel being the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes. I personally believe that Romans 16 is a part of the original epistle. And my argument would be that the doxology that we just discussed so clearly reflects Paul's theology in the opening. And that I think Paul is very artfully ending the epistle as he has begun the epistle and very much the ending and the beginning focus upon what the Gospel does. It's the power of God for the salvation of those who believe. So that when you read Romans through a second time, you can more thoroughly focus upon that theme and how Paul expresses that theme when he presents the Gospel clearly as what God has done. When he talks about how we live in response to that. How he talks about our relationship to unbelieving Jews. And our relationship to one another in the church. That all of this, the single thread going through this entire letter is the Gospel is God's power for saving those who believe. And so my opinion about this text critical issue is that Romans 16 should be read with the first 15 chapters.