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Vanderbilt University. I presuppose that the group will want to have three rounds of discussion. 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.

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. Reading with others in a round-table may demand from some of us especially, biblical scholars, priests and pastors, but also engaged believers a radical change in attitude. The problem is that with such an attitude we presuppose that we have nothing to learn from others. Expecting 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.

Yet the members of an African Initiated Church , the Church of the Eleven Apostles in Botswana , demonstrated to me how this could easily be done. In this church, sermons are not delivered by the priest or pastor but by the members of the congregation.


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The priest simply announces the biblical text of the day. It is read by someone in the congregation, who then preaches. Then, in turn, others in the congregation--all kinds of people, well educated and illiterate, poor and better off, women and men--stand up and deliver their own short sermons on this biblical text. This is remarkable enough; a model for biblical study round-tables! Yet, what makes each of these interpretations of the text authoritative for all without denying the value of other sermons is that the rest of the congregation responds to each sermon by a moment of prayer at the request of the preacher.

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.

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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 ; From the very beginning of the letter, Paul emphasizes that he expects a two-way, reciprocal exchange with the Romans:. 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 for the task of instructing others, including the Romans 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 Rome In the same way that his relationship with the Romans is to be a mutual exchange of gifts, of exhortations, of encouragement, of instructions, Paul conceives of his ministry among Greeks, barbarians, the wise and the foolish as a mutual exchange.

He has received something from them, therefore he owes them he is indebted to share with them what he has, namely the gospel. Of course, Paul has much to contribute to their dialogue; but he is also expecting to learn much from them. 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 Spain , , 28; and to the Gentiles elsewhere, ; But we not they choose this theme as the focus of our round-table discussion, whether or not it was the main issue for them.

Second, we are quite selective in our readings of Romans as Scripture.


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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. 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. A first round-table will help each of us begin to recognize the broad choices we make.

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A second round table will make an inventory of the interpretive choices available to us. All the readings and the ways of thinking mission with Paul are on the table.

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 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. 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.

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Paul mentions his plans to extend his mission to Spain Rom To gain this support from the Roman churches, Paul carefully explains how he conceives of and implements his mission among the Gentiles, and also, as we shall see, invites them to participate in mission. These explanations offer us a rich teaching about mission which we can explore by asking:. According to your reading of Romans 15,. If you can fix in your mind that the expulsion of Jews from Rome had a tremendous impact on the churches in that city, you will understand the message of Romans oh-so-much better!

James C. Persons expelled from Rome: The most obvious effect is that the persons who comprised the churches would have been substantially altered. The Gentiles who remained would have begun meeting together without Jewish leadership and input, and those they reached with the good news of Christ during the intervening five years would have been Gentiles. When Jewish Christians began returning five years later, they would have encountered house churches composed of more Gentiles than Jews. Jewish and Christian Self-Definition: The edict to expel Jews also would have pushed the returning non-Christian Jewish community and the already-present house churches to self-define in relation to one another.

Before the edict, the ruling Romans would have viewed Christians as a subset of Judaism—the churches, after all, were socialized like Jewish groups. But after the edict and the changing socialization of the groups into Gentile-ish communities, the process of viewing Jews and Christians as separate groups would have sped up both as viewed from the inside [emic perspective] and as viewed from the outside [etic perspective]. Note that by A. Jewish Christians coming back to Rome had to struggle with the question of whether they were primarily Jewish or whether they were primarily Christian which would have felt increasingly like a Gentile thing to them.

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Furthermore, when they learned that Christian groups were now socially dominated by Gentiles, this would have confirmed in their minds that separation was necessary. The Unity of Christianity in Rome: Upon their return to Rome, Jewish Christians would have been placed in the awkward situation of having to assimilate into groups that felt rather foreign to them.

Paul is the author of Romans. Romans was written in approximately A. The book of Romans is written to Christians at the church in Rome and future Bible readers. Our natural inclination to sin separates us from God. We cannot make ourselves right or earn salvation on our own. In his loving kindness, God provided a way to redeem us through his Son Jesus Christ, who paid our sin-debt through his sacrificial death.

By accepting Christ as Savior and believing in his atoning work , we are saved. Jesus' righteousness is credited to us. The Holy Spirit works in us to help us avoid sin and grow in holiness.

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God's grace, not keeping the law, makes us acceptable. God's plan is just and fair.