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From Human Dilemma to Divine Hope: Romans 8 and its Relationship to the

Preceding Seven Chapters


William Wade
Introduction
The Book of Romans stands as one of the most, if not the most, significant epistles in
the New Testament canon. In addressing the question of this letters influence, B. L.
Merkle argues that, Pauls letter to the church at Rome is the greatest letter ever
written because of its great impact on history, its grand theology about Christ, and its
practical instructions for Christian living.1 T. Wright agrees with Merkles grand
assumption on the book of Romans, writing, Pauls letter to the Christians in Rome is
his masterpiece.2 Considering its importance, this essay aims to follow the logical
argument which Paul develops in chapters 1 7, with an explanation of the
relationship these chapters have with the triumphant 8th chapter.
The letter is written to a group of house churches around the city of Rome,3 made up
of both Jew and Gentile.4 The purpose of the letter can be viewed as a grand singular
purpose of teaching the Roman Christians concerning the message of the gospel,5
but other areas of purpose include an apologetic purpose as well as a pastoral
purpose,6 a missionary purpose, in preparing the Roman church as, ...a missionary
centre comparable to Antioch, Ephesus, Philippi and the other cities where Paul had
laboured7, and as a removal of religious differences between the Jewish and Gentile
Christian.8
The theme of the letter can also be summed up in an overarching statement in that it
reveals the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, or as W. F. Lasley words it, a

B. L. Merkle. Is Romans the Greatest Letter Ever Written? in www.sbts.edu (Fall 2007).
http://www.sbts.edu/media/publications/sbjt/SBJT_2007Fall3.pdf, p. 19 (08-19-2011).
2
T. Wright. Paul for Everyone: Romans Part 1, Chapters 1 8. London: SPCK, 2004, p. xii.
3
A. Cheung. Written Lecture: The Historical Background of the Roman Christian and Paul in
www.kingsdivinity.org (___).
http://ecampus.kingsdivinity.org/images/stories/TH7609_written_lecture_historical_background.pdf
(08-19-2011)
4
P. F. Esler. Conflict and Identity in Romans. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003, pp. 139-141.
5
E. Kasemann. Commentary on Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994,
p. 21).
6
J. D. G. Dunn. Romans: The Peoples Bible Commentary. Oxford: BRF, 2001, pp. 15-16.
7
M. C. Tenney. New Testament Survey. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 2003, p. 305.
8
Esler, p. 135.

complete commentary on the gospel.9 However, its theme also covers the issues of
identity

throughout

the

book

of

Romans,

suggesting

its

importance

in

correspondence with its theology,10 the doctrines of grace11 and in particular the
doctrine of justification by faith. Kasemann argues that, ...not justification but
Christology is the theme of the epistle.12 Christology as a revelation of the mystery of
the gospel could be regarded as an overall theme, but justification by faith certainly
makes a case as being a tributary theme, as put forward by Dunn, suggesting along
with Bultmann and Kasemann that the doctrine of justification by faith is the canon
within the canon.13 The book of Romans, specifically the first eight chapters, delves
into the theme(s) of the epistle with both clear and ambiguous language. This next
section will uncover the main areas of discussion and argument in the first seven
chapters of Romans, beginning with Romans 1:1.
Romans 1:1 7:25. The Logical Unfolding of Pauls Theological Dilemma How
To Be Righteous Before God.
Dunn refers to the section of Romans 1:1 3:20 as the indictment of humankind.14
From a powerful opening chapter, where Paul reveals not only the theme of the
letter, but the grand theme of God the gospel the verses following this revelation
of 1:16-17 descend into an unveiling of the unrighteousness of humanity. P.
Achtemeier observes, Paul begins his discussion of the Gospel of Gods grace,
paradoxically enough, with a discussion of Gods wrath.15 As the sweep of humanity
(both Jew and Gentile) is covered in these condemning verses, a clear presentation
of unrighteousness is revealed, revealing with it the need for the revelation of the
righteousness of God.16 1:18-32 portrays both the universality and debasing power,
on a human level, of sin. The sin of humanity and the wrath of God are highlighted as
being inextricably linked in this passage.17

W. F. Lasley. Pauls Salvation Letters: Galatians and Romans. Springfield, MI: Global University,
2002, p. 124.
10
Esler, p. 109.
11
G. B. Wilson. Romans. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1977, p. 11.
12
Kasemann, p. 24.
13
J. D. G. Dunn. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. London: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998, p.
336.
14
Ibid., p. 79.
15
P. Achtemeier. Interpretation: Romans, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Louisville,
KY: John Knox Press, 1985, p. 34.
16
Kasemann, pp ix-x.
17
Wilson, pp. 26-35.

As chapter two unfolds, Pauls insistence that God is impartial in the grace of the
gospel carries over into Gods impartiality concerning wrath something which the
Jews will not, according to Paul, escape, simply because they are Jews. R. Bowen
explains, Paul was telling the Jews that what in fact is in store for them is not a
reward, but Gods wrath, because God is concerned not with whether or not men
know His law, but whether or not they obey it (vv.6-13).18 Achtemeier concludes that
Paul sees two sides of the argument here, suggesting that Paul in 2:17-3:8 singles
out the Jews, because, ...their status as chosen people could have tempted one to
assume they were exempt from the wrath of God about which Paul has been
speaking.19 However, Achtemeier also argues that the Jews do have an advantage
in the sense of history. They know God. More than any other people, the Jews owed
their existence as a people to God. That is their undeniable advantage, rooted in their
very existence as a people.20 Although Kasemann sees the point Paul is making in
reference to the Jews, ...the apostle is especially critical of Judaism21, he also warns
that Anthropology must not relativize or eliminate the problem of salvation history,
otherwise what follows is redundant.22 Clearly, Kasemann is viewing chapter two and
the beginnings of chapter three as merely a part of collective humanitys dilemma
the issue of universal sin. Of course, the Jew had the mark of circumcision to fall
back on, but even this is challenged by Paul, as G. B. Wilson contends, The Jew had
one last hope left, and that was his unbounded confidence in circumcision as a
sufficient security against condemnation.23 Paul argues that neither circumcision nor
the law had any ultimate security concerning right standing with God, Paul proceeds
to demolish this false hope by arguing against the Jew on his own terms...The Jew
looked for his deliverance in the law, but in reality, it sealed his doom.24
At the end of chapter three, vv. 21-31 begin to move into the remedy to counteract
the dilemma. The great question of course is, If circumcision and the law are not
enough for the Jews, and if the Gentiles are already under the condemnation of
Gods wrath, how can a person be made right with God? Pauls concluding argument
of 3:21-31 is that God makes us acceptable in His sight through our faith in the

18

R. Bowen. A Guide to Romans. London: SPCK, 1978, p. 36.


Achtemeier, p. 50.
20
Ibid., p. 54.
21
Kasemann, p. 50.
22
Ibid., p. 50.
23
Wilson, p. 46.
24
Ibid., pp. 46-47.
19

Saviour.25 And so the revelation of Gods imputed righteousness begins to be more


fully disclosed, and moves into chapter four, as Paul moves from principles to
persons, inviting Abraham and David to step out of the Law and the Prophets to
confirm his message.26 Writing of the Jewish mindset concerning Abraham, Bowen
comments, The Jews thought that Abraham was the perfect example of a man who
kept Gods law. Paul said that Abraham was an example of a man who had faith. 27
Here, the great contest of law vs. faith strikes at the heart of Judaism, as Paul
suggests that Abraham is actually not the father of those who keep the law, but the
father of those (including Gentiles) who have faith. Bowen highlights that David was
also counted righteous by God through faith, aside from good works28 and that
Abraham was counted righteous before his circumcision, a point which many Jews
would have been offended at.29 Therefore, as the argument develops with Abraham
being made clear as the father of faith in regard to righteousness, Paul moves further
back into history with a comparison of the very first man, Adam, with Christ himself, in
dealing with the issue of federal sin.
The tension of chapter five boils down to what Achtemeier calls the problem and
answer in two persons, Adam and Jesus (disobedience and obedience).30
Kasemann refers to Romans chapter five as dealing with Freedom from the power of
death31, ultimately stating, The only point for the moment is that between Adam and
Christ, and the worlds inaugurated by them, there is no third alternative, namely,
legal piety.32 Kasemann captures Pauls agenda in arguing for an either / or
perspective. Paul suggests in Romans chapter five that, as Kasemann highlights,
there is no middle ground, or third alternative, it is simply a case of being righteous
or unrighteous. Esler argues that neither in the social identity sense is a prototype 33,
which may be true, but spiritually, he does agree that, ...the comparison is to
delineate two contrasted identities and to show how one individual was responsible
for the establishment of each.34 Therefore, spiritually speaking, Adam and Christ are

25

Lasley, p. 172.
Ibid., p. 172.
27
Bowen, p. 56.
28
Ibid., p. 56.
29
Ibid., p. 57.
30
Achtemeier, p. 101.
31
Kasemann, p. 130.
32
Ibid., p. 158.
33
Esler, p. 202.
34
Ibid., p. 202.
26

each the prototypes of a definite breed of spiritual race. Dunns conclusion of the
chapter is that, grace supercedes trespass and life supercedes death.35
The great subject of grace is investigated in chapter six, in regard to not only sin(s)
but the very power of sin. Wilson highlights the thought of the chapter as being
Freedom from the power of sin.36 However, the question of how grace plays a part
in this freedom arises. Wilson does not fully explain the practical outworking of his
argument, summarising, ...to come under the government of redeeming grace in
Christ is to be freed from the dominion of sin. This is neither freedom from sinning or
freedom from conscious sin...But by Christs mighty rescue we are placed under the
sovereignty of grace instead.37 One significant element in the deliverance from the
power of sin which Paul puts forward is the act of baptism. Wright likens baptism with
Israel leaving the land of slavery and bondage in the Exodus38, but also suggests that
Living in accordance with a change of status required that you recognise it and take
steps to bring your actual life into the person youve become.39 However, is that kind
of reasoning simply the ideology of positive thinking or self-affirmation? Surely, either
God has set the Christian free from the dominating power of sin or not is it really to
be worked at before it is manifestly evident? Bowen sees a literal transition of power
happening at baptism, suggesting, How we died by being united to Christ in
baptism. Paul meant that our baptism was (a) the time of our death, and (b) the sign
of our death.40 Bowens argument cannot line up, though, to a scriptural view of
baptism being the time of our death (and presumably new birth), otherwise the thief
on the cross would not have been promised Paradise. Lasley takes the symbolism
of baptism as a spiritual statement rather than a magic rite of passage in stating,
Paul uses the concept of water baptism in this passage to illustrate what takes place
when a believer is born again...Baptism by immersion pictures the believers
identification with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.41 Lasleys viewpoint
clearly states that Christian baptism is identification rather than having an inherent
transforming power. He goes on to argue that, concerning the power of sin or the
freedom-giving power of grace in chapter six, The basic idea is that no-one is his or
her own boss in the sense of absolute freedom. Every human being is limited in
35

Dunn, pp. 70-71.


Wilson, p. 96.
37
Ibid., p. 103.
38
Wright, p. 99
39
Ibid., p. 102.
40
Bowen, p. 82.
41
Lasley, p. 205.
36

some way by someone or something. Everyone serves a master. 42 W. Grudem


confirms this position when speaking specifically of Romans 6:16, Paul says that if
Christians yield themselves to sin, they increasingly become slaves of sin. 43 The
argument then is that it is not, as Wright suggests, a new working at not sinning, but
simply not yielding to the power of sin, which is an altogether different perspective on
the possibilities of grace over the bondage of sin. Wright does go on to explain that
conversion changes the desire of the converted, from wanting to please self to
wanting to please God, As a pastor, Paul had no doubt often observed that when
people became members of a family, something happened to them, deep down
inside, which made them want to live in line with this community to which they now
belonged.44 It is this act of faith in the work of the cross which signals the very real
sense of belonging conversion leading to a new community. A. E. McGrath puts it
this way, ...the benefits of Christ remain external to us unless something happens by
which they can be internalised...It is by faith...that these benefits are appropriated to
the believer.45 This struggle of grace over sin, of working out a clear understanding
of what justification really meant and the ramifications of an in-Christ identity,
whether Jew or Gentile, takes a complex turn as chapter seven unfolds, into one of
the most dramatic pleas concerning inner struggle which Paul presents in the entirety
of his writings.
The chapter opens with the element of release, concerning the power of the law,
through Christ. However, vv. 7-25 take up the struggle in which law, sin and
obedience fight it out for supremacy. A. Cheung suggests that the issue at this point
is that, ...the good and holy law is rendered powerless because of mans sinful
nature46, over and above an investigation into the identity of the I, but this identity
question seems to be of great importance to other commentators. D. Moo argues that
out of four possible options concerning the identity of Pauls use of I (including Paul
himself, Adam, mankind or the Jewish population in general and Israel in its
encounter with the law at Sinai47), the only reasonable conclusion is, Paul describes
the experience of Israel at Sinai, but uses the first person because he himself, as a
42

Lasley, p. 208.
W. Grudem. Systematic Theology. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 1994, p. 505.
44
Wright, p. 114.
45
A. E. McGrath. Theology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2008, p. 8.
46
A. Cheung. Written Lecture: Theological Summary of Romans, part one (Romans 1 8) (___) in
www.kingsdivinity.org.
http://www.ecampus.kingsdivinity.org/images/stories/302_written_lecture_Romans_summary_p1.pdf,
p.8 (09-05-2011).
47
D. Moo. Israel and Paul in Romans 7:7-12 in New Testament Studies, 32 (1986).
http://www.djmoo.com/articles/israelandpaul.pdf, p. 122 (09-07-2011).
43

Jew, has been affected by that experience.48 Moo is not alone in putting forward the
idea that the I of Romans chapter seven belongs to Israel. Esler explains that until
the twentieth century, the I was widely interpreted as a personal statement by Paul,
but that (appreciating W. G. Kimmels findings), Kimmels influential contribution was
to interpret the I voice as having nothing whatever to do with Pauls personal
experience, either before or after his conversion. The I was a fictive I, a theoretical
device for depicting the lot of humanity under the law. 49 Esler goes on to suggest
that the I is Pauls identification with the common struggles of Israel within the
context of the law.50 Wright does not go as far as either Moo or Esler, but does
conclude that it may not be the whole nation of Israel spoken of in the chapter, but
that he sees the I as a faithful Israelite51. It seems though that Pauls use of I is
spoken of largely in connection with either his own experience or that of the believer
in general, according to most commentators. Dunn regards the I as humankind, who
naturally rebel against the law of God, and he links 7:7-13 with the Genesis 2-3
account for his reasoning.52 Achtemeier agrees with this view, calling it humanitys
dilemma53. Kasemann brings the argument a little further, suggesting it is more than
general humanity, and is specifically the struggle of a believer to follow the way he
knows to be right, Even in the greatest confusion, he is at least the one who wills
what is done, and it can be shown later that he desired and did what was wrong. 54
There is strong support though for not only the Christians struggle in general, but for
Pauls struggle in particular. Wilsons rendering of chapter seven suggests that Paul
is clearly speaking personally, wrestling with his own failings as a believer, and not
allegorising this section to Israel or a pre-conversion person.55 Bowen also suggests
that this was Pauls Christian life56 and Leon Morris writes that, It is simply
impossible to deny that Paul is speaking of himself in what he is saying. 57 D. S.
Dockery argues that the reason Paul is so autobiographical in this passage is to
encourage readers that the struggle against sin for a believer is a part of the process
of sanctification, Finally this aspect of Pauls theology must be included in the
48

Moo, p. 129.
Esler, p. 228.
50
Ibid., pp. 237-238.
51
Wright, p. 132.
52
Dunn, p. 99.
53
Achtemeier, pp. 120-121.
54
Kasemann, p. 204.
55
Wilson, pp. 114-126.
56
Bowen, p. 95.
57
L. Morris. The Epistle to the Romans. Leicester: Inter Varsity Press, 1988.
http://ecampus.kingsdivinity.org/images/stories/TH6603_Morris_extracts.pdf, p.277 (09-06-2011).
49

churchs proclamation...the struggle is an indication of life for the believer. 58 Although


T. J. Nettles argues that the passage has Paul speaking of a conversion experience,
stating that, The conversion of the person in Romans 7 happens in verses 9-1359,
he seems to be in the minority in his interpretation. The largely held view is that Paul
is generally speaking of the Christian struggle against sin, whether autobiographical
or not, the issue is that he covers its reality in the believers life without personal
exclusion, which could also have worked as a personal encouragement to the
Roman believers.
Romans Chapter 8 and its Relationship to Romans 1 7.
As chapter seven finishes, a new question surely arises, How can a person live
righteously then? Concluding his argument, Paul then goes on to write one of the
most triumphant passages in all of Scripture as chapter eight unfolds. It begins with
the statement of the believer having no condemnation through the work of Jesus
Christ. C. Lowe sums up Pauls thinking here by stating that substitutionary
atonement in Christ, personal transformation by the Holy Spirit and the ongoing
intercession of Christ all point to there being Therefore...no condemnation.60 The
place and work of the Holy Spirit comes significantly to the fore in this chapter, with
Achtemeier claiming that the first half of the chapter reveals the all-conquering Spirit
of God61. The first eleven verses bear a stark contrast to the struggle of the previous
chapter in particular. The encouragement Paul gives is that righteousness can be
lived out in the power of the Holy Spirit. In writing, The Spirit is the supernatural
power of grace which is based on the act of salvation and constantly directs us to
it62, Kasemann reveals Pauls logical answer to the preceding question of being
delivered from the body of death. He goes on to complete his viewpoint in a sensible
theological manner by claiming, God alone fulfils what he demands. 63 So Kasemann
is revealing Pauls unfolding argument that the law can reveal and highlight, but
cannot change in itself. However, chapter eight claims that God, by his indwelling
Spirit, clearly can. Unsurprisingly, Esler sees the issue of vv. 12-17 as one of identity
58

D. S. Dockery. Romans 7:14-25: Pauline Tension in the Christian Life in Grace Theological
Journal, 2.2 (Fall 1981). http://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/Ted_Hildebrandt/NTeSources/NTarticles/GTJNT/Dockery-Rom7-GTJ-81.pdf, p. 257 (09-06-2011).
59
T. J. Nettles. The Conversion of the Man in Romans 7 in Reformation and Revival, 07:3 (Summer
1998). http://www.galaxie.com/article/12136, p. 183 (09-07-2011).
60
C. Lowe. There is No Condemnation (Romans 8:1): But Why Not? in Journal of the Evangelical
Society, 42:2 (June 1999). http://www.galaxie.com/article/10328, p. 249 (09-07-2011).
61
Achtemeier, p. 137.
62
Kasemann, p. 218.
63
Ibid., p. 218.

- as brothers64. The greater issue though is concerning adoption as the theological


work, with identity being the natural outworking of Gods spiritual act of adopting the
believer. Dunn argues that it is this act of adoption which shapes Christian
experience65, lining up with Kasemanns viewpoint that it is Gods work which fulfils
Gods demands. The adoption itself can be seen as a double-testimony adoption, as
Wilson highlights. Dealing specifically with 8:16, he writes, This shows that there is a
double testimony to our adoption. The first is the witness borne by our spirit as we
are prompted by the Holy Spirit to cry Abba Father; the second is the witness borne
by the Holy Spirit to our spirit to assure us that we are indeed children of God. 66
The difficult question of present suffering is addressed after addressing the adoption
of the believer, bringing a moment of sobriety in this otherwise exalted chapter, but
even then, suffering is only addressed against the backdrop of a greater glory and
the redemption of creation. Bowen summarises Pauls teaching in this section as (1)
Mans rebellion against his creator affects not only himself but the world in which he
lives (2) Gods purpose has not failed (3) The whole creation is futile until God in his
mercy steps in (4) The assurance of Gods power to deliver creation in the future.67
Wrights summing of the passage draws from the inherent Pauline hope concerning
creation, also linking it with the hope of the suffering Christian, explaining, It is
waiting...for the particular freedom it will enjoy when God gives to his children that
glory, that wise rule and stewardship, which was always intended for those who bear
Gods glorious image.68 Linking this also with the passages instructions on prayer,
he continues, The church is not to be apart from the pain of the world; it is to be in
prayer at precisely the place where the world is in pain. 69 Concerning this aspect of
prayer in the Spirit, Achtemeiers overarching stance is profoundly simple, God has
sent his Spirit to open...lines of communication. That is the logic of Pauls discussion
in verses 26-27.70 Kasemanns overtly Christological viewpoint comes to the fore
here when he argues, Paul knows no invisible Christ whom one can localise only in
heaven. He sees Christ at work on earth and describes a sphere of power in which
he can be found.71 Although one wonders, considering the impact which the Holy

64

Esler, p. 246.
Dunn, p. 98.
66
Wilson, p. 138.
67
Bowen, p. 114.
68
Wright, p. 152.
69
Ibid., p. 153.
70
Achtemeier, p. 143.
71
Kasemann, p. 222.
65

Spirit is presented as having in vv. 18-30, if Kasemanns stance is overtly


Christological at the expense of Pneumatology.
The passage is riddled with hope, in that, Our present suffering is like the pains of
childbirth. Our groaning does not express anguish, but anticipation like a woman
awaiting the birth of a child.72 Linking the passage with the hope revealed in chapter
five, A. Cheung comments, The theology of suffering in Romans is based on a future
hope so glorious it minimises the temporary burdens of the present suffering (5:1718).73 Paul, now the resolute affirmer of the God who brings hope in even the most
trying of circumstances, concludes with the hymn of assurance in vv. 31-39. Wilson
declares the conclusion of Pauls logical flow with these verses, suggesting, The
argument concluded, Paul turns to a triumphant application of the teaching. 74 It is no
wonder that these verses are triumphant, for directly preceding these verses, Paul
stamps divine authority over all things in vv. 27-30. Kasemann once again sways
towards a particularly Christological stance concerning the providence of God in
these verses, In the Spirit, the risen Lord manifests his presence and lordship on
earth.75 Although Dunn believes in the doctrine of predestination, he is poetic in
describing a measure of mystery about it, declaring, The doctrine of predestination
starts as a gasp of wonder.76 The rallying point of these verses (27-30) is v. 28,
where it reads of the divine providence of an omniscient and omnipotent God. C. D.
Osborn comments wisely, writing, God works in all things for good is an excellent
rendering of the text which coheres fully with the context and with Pauline thought
and which presents no serious grammatical difficulties.77 He then links this
providence with the final affirmation of vv. 31-39 and the revealed love of God in
holding the believer not just in providence, but in victory, ...Christians, like others,
must face troubles of various sorts. His abiding confidence was not that believers
would be spared the unfortunate experiences of life, but that absolutely nothing in
this life need separate the believer from Gods love in Christ Jesus. 78 These final
verses have been described by Kasemann as the pinnacle statements of Pauls
religious passion, It has always been felt that Pauls fervour finds strongest

72

Lasley, pp. 239-240.


Cheung. Summary of Romans, Part 1 (09-05-2011).
74
Wilson, p. 149.
75
Kasemann, p. 213.
76
Dunn, p. 103.
77
C. D. Osborn. The Interpretation of Romans 8:28 in Westminster Theological Journal, 44:1 (Spring
1982). http://www.galaxie.com/article/14446, p. 109 (09-13-2011).
78
Ibid., p. 109 (09-13-2011).
73

10

expression in these verses.79 Unswervingly, his conclusion of the passage is to


highlight its Christology, Thus the conclusion, which emphatically at the end of v. 39
again refers to true salvation in liturgical prediction of Christ, provides us not only with
a summary of the preceding chapter, but also with the sum of Pauls theology. 80 The
crescendo of Gods love ends with the great affirmation of bestowing on the believer
the gracious title of more-than-conqueror. Dunn reveals his own appreciation of
these final thoughts, writing, Nothing can quite match the carefully deliberate tone
and the wholly sober affirmation of the concluding sentence (vv. 38-39).81 Therefore,
rising out of the ashes of seeming desperation and hopelessness, Pauls conclusions
to the struggles and human inabilities of chapters 1 7 end with this song of assured
victory, even in the scope of all eternity.
The relationship of Romans chapter 8 with chapters 1 7 is inextricable, the link is
the clearly logical argument which Paul concludes with a victorious presentation of
the believer under the all-conquering love of God. There are undoubtedly glimpses of
victory as a part of Pauls journey through the first seven chapters of Romans,
particularly in his arguments concerning justification by faith, as early as chapter two,
where his boasting there is of faith and not of any kind of works.82 Abraham in
chapter four is again an example of Pauls reasoning, dealing with the covenant, but
primarily dealing again with faith, The message of justification of faith...is this.
Because God is the covenant God, he has kept his covenant with Abraham and is
even now restoring his kingly rule over the world by creating us in Christ. 83 Paul has
laid out the difficulties which trying to perfectly follow the law would have, in that
precisely because of the nature of the perfect law, the attempt of perfect obedience
by human effort is inherently flawed, being Adams race. T. Schreiner clarifies, Pauls
basic argument is this: (1) One must obey the law perfectly to be saved. (2) No one
obeys the law perfectly. (3) Therefore, no one can be saved by the works of the
law.84 Paul covers the debate of personal Christian struggle in chapter seven, but
had the letter finished there, the message of Christianity could have morphed into a
79

Kasemann, p. 246.
Ibid., p. 252.
81
Dunn, p. 105.
82
D. B. Garlington. The obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans in Westminster Theological
Journal, 55:1 (Spring 1993). http://www.galaxie.com/article/14655 (09-13-2011).
83
T. Wright. Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism in
G. Reid (Ed.). The Great Acquittal: Justification by Faith and Current Christian Thought. London:
Collins, 1980, pp. 13ff.
84
T. R. Schreiner. Paul and Perfect Obedience to the Law: An Evaluation of the View of E. P.
Sanders in Westminster Theological Journal, 47:2 (Fall 1985). http://www.galaxie.com/article/14505,
p. 278 (09-13-2011).
80

11

godly stoicism or worse fatalism. There simply had to be a chapter eight, with the
conclusion that God enables the justified believer to live according to his ways by the
power of the indwelling Spirit. Moreover it is all based not on works of human effort,
but by the indestructible love of God.

Conclusion
In writing to both Jew and Gentile believers in various gatherings in Rome, Paul laid
out a logical flow of thought which showed the gospel as the theme of Gods mission.
In moving on from there to deal with wrath and the plight of fallen humanity, he went
on to remove the foundational Jewish thought that the law would suffice. Basing his
theology on a standpoint of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, his introspection is
laid bare for the Roman believers in chapter seven. Chapter eight is the theologically
triumphant Pauline argument of a providential, omniscient and omnipotent God, who
justifies and equips his people with power for life in him. Also, no other power or
circumstance could separate this triumphant believer from Gods love, as opposed to
simply managing to escape Gods wrath a picture which could easily have been
formed in the preceding chapters. Speaking of Gods imputed righteousness and
ability to help us in obedience (themes of Romans 1 8), Piper wisely summarises,
Not only should he be honoured as the one who died to pardon us, and not only
should he be honoured as the one who sovereignly works faith and obedience in
us, but he should also be honoured as the one who provided a perfect
righteousness for us as the ground of our full acceptance and endorsement by
God.85
Romans 1 8 is a passage of praiseworthy theology of a praiseworthy God.
Separately, Romans 1 7 could be seen as disjointed and defeatist in and of itself.
An isolated Romans chapter eight could be seen as either exaggeration or hyperboly.
Together, they provide the unveiling of a victorious God of love, and of a triumphant
believer in actuality and in progress. Culminating in the holding power of the love of
God, Wright notably and passionately affirms, The end of Romans 8 deserves to be
written in letters of fire on the living tablets of our hearts.86

85

J. Piper. Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christs


Righteousness? Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2002, p. 116.
86
Wright, p. 159.

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