Division and Contents: Argument~There are four distinct parts in the Epistle to the Romans: an Introduction, a Dogmatic and a Moral Part, and a Conclusion.
1. The Introduction (Rom 1:1-15) is one of the longest and most solemn found in any of the Pauline Epistles. In the first seven verses the author tells the Romans of his call by grace to the Apostolate, of the object and universality of his mission, of the truth of the Gospel foretold in Scripture, of Christ's human descent from David, and of His establishment as "the Son of God in power according to the spirit of sanctification," by His Resurrection from the dead. In the eight following verses St. Paul praises the Roman Christians and thanks God for their faith, tells them of his anxiety to visit them, and thus takes a first step to prepare them for his coming and his preaching.
2. The Dogmatic or Theoretic Part of the Epistle (Rom 1:16-11:36) may be divided into three sections, the first of which (Rom 1:16-4:25) treats of the necessity of justification through faith. This necessity is shown, (a) because the wrath of God is upon the Gentiles, giving them up to uncleanness, to vile passions and to reprobate minds (Rom 1:18-32). (b) The wrath of God is upon the Jews, who judge the Gentiles, but commit the same sins, and are not shielded by special privileges (Rom 2:1-3:8). (c) All this is according to Scripture, which St. Paul cites to prove his position, and therefore every mouth is stopped (Rom 3:9-20). The Apostle then goes on to show that salvation is possible through faith in Christ and the Gospel. The faith of the Gospel is the only way to salvation, and this is offered to all men on the same conditions. All men, Jews and Gentiles, being sinners, deserve only punishment from God; but now salvation is gratuitously offered to all through faith in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:21-4:25).
The second section (Rom 5:1-8:39) is concerned with the results of Redemption; i.e., with the greatness and blessings of justification through faith. Here the superabundant fruits of grace and the redemption merited by Christ are described. These fruits are, (a) peace with God and hope of future glory which are within the
reach of all, so that the possibility of justification and salvation are as universal as the curse (Rom 5:1-21); (b) dominion over sin and liberation from its slavery (Rom 6:1-23); (c) freedom from the Law which led into bondage to sin (Rom 7:1-25); (d) grace for the present life to conquer sin and death and establish the divine kinship, and glory and triumph in the life to come (Rom 8:1-39).
In the third section (Rom 9:1-11:36) of this, the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle, after extolling the certainty and universality of salvation, the Apostle, forestalling doubts and difficulties that might arise because of the rejection or obduracy of the Jews, turns to Jewish history and explains the providence of God in regard to Israel. At first he makes pass in review God's deeds of love and power towards the chosen people (Rom 9:1-5), and then proceeds to show how the divine promises have not failed because of the actual exclusion of Israel from part in the redemption of the Messiah. This he proves, (a) because these promises did not apply to Israel according to the flesh, but were the fruit of grace, which God is free to grant as He pleases. God is only acting within His right when He gives grace to one, and not to another; and as Creator and Lord of all, He exercises this right according to His free pleasure, as we see from the cases of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Pharaoh (Rom 9:6-24); and, what is more, God through the Prophets expressly
announced the exercise of this right towards Jews and Gentiles (Rom 9:24-29). (b) Israel's rejection was due to its own culpableness in relying on its origin and in seeking its justification in the Law (Rom 9:30-10:4), as well as to its blindness and disobedience toward the message of faith announced everywhere among the Jews (Rom 10:5-21). (c) In this is manifested the wisdom and goodness of God, for not all the Jews have been rejected—a remnant has embraced the faith (Rom 11:1-10), and Israel's loss is the Gentiles' gain (Rom 11:11-24). (d) Finally, Israel's rejection is not irrevocable, for the Jews will at last find mercy and salvation
(Rom 11:25-32). The Apostle closes his survey and study of these great problems with a song of praise to the wisdom and knowledge of God's inscrutable providence (Rom 11:33-36).
3. The Practical Part of the Epistle (Rom 12:1-15:13) contains directions and exhortations for the daily life of Christians, and is divided into two main sections, the first of which (Rom 12:1-13:14) gives counsels and instructions for the Christian life in general. It embraces exhortations (a) on complete self-consecration and faithful service of God (Rom 12:1-2); (b) on the need of humility and mutual charity (Rom 12:3-21); (c) on the obligations toward superiors and the civil authority (Rom 13:1-7); (d) on the necessity of charity and vigilance in view of the proximity of salvation (Rom 13:8-14). The second section (Rom 14:1-15:13) of the Moral Part of the Epistle contains particular recommendations for the Roman community: (a) they should not criticise and condemn one another on account of differences of opinion (Rom 14:1-13a); (b) self-denial is enjoined and mutual helpfulness is commended after the example of Christ (Rom 13:I3b-15:13).
4. The Conclusion of the Epistle (Rom 15:14-16:27) has three parts: The first (Rom 15:14-33) treats of the Apostle's calling, his intended relations with the Roman community and his proposed journey. In the second part (Rom 16:1-24) St. Paul commends Phoebe, salutes many and warns against divisions. The third part (Rom 16:25-27) contains the sublime doxology.
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