Lectionary Year A
March 3, 2002
Romans 5:1-11

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) Galatians 2:16 states clearly what this passage argues. It says, "yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ." As our text at hand mentions (in verse 2) "access to grace", Ephesians 3:12 also states that believers may approach with "boldness and confidence through faith in him" (Jesus Christ). "The hope of glory" mentioned also in our text's second verse, is also found in Colossians 1:27. Furthermore, I Peter 5:12 tells of "standing fast" in God's true grace, alluded to, also in our text's second verse. More than that, James 1:2-4 captures the thoughts of our text's verses 3-5; where it suggests, "My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing." And, I Peter 3:18 notes that "For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you (or us) to God." Additionally, I Thessalonians 1:10 refers to "Jesus who rescues us from the wrath that is coming." Such sentiments were, evidently, much on the minds and in the hearts of early believers in Christ and the salvation He brings.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Isaiah 32:17 prophesies that, "The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever." Also, Isaiah 44:3 believes that God will "pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground." And, one of the classical Servant Songs, Isaiah 53:5, states, "And he was wounded for our sinfulness, crushed for our iniquities; . . ." These hopes might seem to be fulfilled in Romans 5:1-11. Furthermore, rejoicings are parts of many Psalms; 32:11, 58:10, 97:12 and 118:24. And, the second century CE book of Ecclesiasticus 18:11 asserts how the patient and merciful God will "pour out his mercy upon them" (the weak and useless human beings).

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) Rejoicing, character and hope were surely among the values of these thinkers from Greek thought, but how 'bout suffering? Would they give it its due consideration? Christ's death, especially for the ungodly, might have caused them some concern, while the image of a righteous man and a good one could readily claim their attention. Evading the wrath of God could get their interest, too. Paul's attempt, in this paragraph, to clarify the reasons for rejoicing, even in suffering, would be appreciated by these philosophers, for they sought understanding very much. Perhaps, also, they could welcome any passage mentioning all three persons of the Triune God, primarily if they comprise a united God. But would they catch the idea that Gentiles were included in those who are declared righteous? If so, they could object some to such an inclusion. If this chapter in Romans can be considered an intellectual statement of a theological position, and, Edwin Cyril Blackman, in The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, calls it "his intellectual vitality. A quick moving mind like his . . .", it would certainly gain and maintain these intellectuals' notice, interest and consideration.

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