Lectionary Year A
June 16, 2002
Romans 5:1-8

Broader Context

A.Primitive Christianity


Possibly Paul alludes (in 5:1) to Isaiah 32:17, "The effects of righteous will be peace". Doubtlessly, new initiates/converts to Christianity need peace. Psalm 23:6 and/or Isaiah 28:16 might be the bases for Romans 5:5. The image of God's pouring out divine mercy on the faithful might come from the Sirach 18:11 passage mentioned in the margin of the Nestle-Aland text. The whole 5th chapter of our text reiterates the unworthiness of recipients of such blessings the Old Testament mentions frequently as justification, peace, glory, hope, the ungodly, and love. Paul admittedly (1:16) addresses first the Jews and then the Greeks. He is familiar with the data of their faith and seems to know their paganism as well. Romans 5 puts some new clothes on Jewish peace, hope and evidence of God's love. Our text colors peace, hope and evidence of Gods love (in Christ's sacrificial death) in new shades. It brightens the hews of the panorama of sinners' needs being met in god's grace, expressed in Christ. These new hues make a decided difference which will require major trans formation on the parts of many a citizen in Rome.


By emphasizing justification's bringing faith to life, Paul seems to be challenging both Jewish and Hellenistic religious understandings and practice. He never mentions the Law in this pericope, so, the Hellenists might listen to these ideas Paul presents here. He puts no conditions or requirements on humans to gain them this justification. It is stated as factual. To Paul it was so. With Hellenists, it probably could get an argument. Hellenists customarily boasted in their own intellects. To boast in a hope of sharing God's glory could address them in familiar terms and it could be considered by them to be a done deal. They might have believed that they already had attained such heights on their own.

When Paul focuses on the God whom and as Jesus Christ reveals, the Hellenists must have felt on shaky ground. Therefore, Paul attempts to cover as many bases in an argumentative style as possible in this epistle. If the Hellenistic World, ever though, expanded in the direction of Christianity, Paul's Epistle to the Romans will get much of the credit. Its style of debating humanly concocted theories surely could have arrested the attention of the Hellenists.

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