Lectionary Year A
June 30, 2002
Romans 6:12-23

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) As with last week's lection, so, too, this week's would certainly address some of the concerns the first centuries' Christians must have had. Surely they must have wondered about life and death, sin and freedom from it, the law and God's grace, etc. For example, Paul says in Galatians 5:18, ". . . if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law." That claim surely could have given them some relief for how to execute escape from the dominance of the law. In John 8:34fff, Jesus asserts, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." That statement surely brought hope to them then and there. The weapons/tools/instruments in verse 13 also get mentions in Romans 13:12, II Corinthians 6:7 and 10:4 and Ephesians 6:11-17. Furthermore, getting to verses 19-21 might benefit from a comparison with I Peter 4:1-5, according to Sanday and Headlam's ICC. Then, too, the classical I Peter 2:24 affirms that "He himself bore or sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." Then I Thessalonians 4:7 might have prompted Romans 6:19b. Also, Hebrews 12:14 indicates that holiness is valuable for it allows seeing the Lord. "And en Christo in Rom. 6:11 followed the syn Christo in 6:2-10, just as in II Cor. 5:17 after 5:14f." according to Goppelt, TNT, vol. 2, page 105.

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) God led the Israelites out of Egyptian servitude, out of the house of bondage in Exodus, to make it clear that the image of slavery is a metaphor in this New Testament text for this week. Psalm 39 is a prayer trying to discipline the pray-er to stop sinning, to no avail, of course. So, the pray-er resorts to pleading with God for relief first, then, for God to leave him to suffer alone in his misery the rest of his supposedly few days. Paul has much better ideas, re: the ridding of sin's control. Psalms 14 and 53 tell of evils and evildoers abounding on the earth, ignorant of God's goodness. It ends in hopes for rejoicing when God delivers Israel. Romans 6 might have concluded with such hopes for rejoicing and praising God for grace given. Psalm 119, especially verses 11-16, seek freedom from sin to be found in God's word, statutes, ordinances, decrees and precepts, almost everything except God's grace, which Paul emphasizes in the New Testament, of course. Then in the 30the chapter of II Enoch (late first century CE), pretending to dispute and or expand some of the creation saga of Genesis 1-3 and of Romans 6:23; here, we read of a lamentable conclusion that "After sin there is nothing for it but death." Paul believes better, huh?

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These autonomous theoreticians believed that Freedom came through wisdom in knowing what is right to do and/or refrain from doing and slavery came via ignorance of such things. They would have agreed with Paul's assurance that slaves can change their masters, like from being slaves to sin to being God's slaves (Romans 6:19 and 22). Also, the differentiation of the mind or spirit and the body and its members speaks the language of these Greek thinking philosophers, as Paul says in verses 13f in our text.

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