Seek the good of your neighbor (chapter 10)

Paul said that all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful or build up.  Let no one seek their own advantage, but the good of their neighbor.  Eat the meat from the market without any questions.  Everything belongs to God.  If you are at diner at an unbeliever’s house, consider the other person and the role of conscience.  Why should anyone be denounced?

Only one God (1 Cor. 8:4)

“Hence,

As to the eating of food

Offered to idols,

We know that

‘An idol

Has no real existence.

There is no God

But one.’”

Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ, καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς Θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς.

Paul said that as to the eating of food (Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως) offered to idols (οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων), we know (οἴδαμεν) that an idol has no real existence in this world (εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ).  There is no God but one (καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς Θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς).  Paul indicated that pagan idols have no real existence in this world, since they are manmade images, not the real God who is the only God.  What were they to do about the food that was offered as a sacrifice to these pagan idols?  Jews had avoided these foods sacrificed to idols.  The concept of a monotheistic God was part of the Jewish Hebrew tradition.  Thus, he wanted the Christians in Corinth to be against idolatry and polytheism.  There was only one God, not a series of gods. These idols were useless human false images.  Have you ever seen a false pagan idol?

It is not a sin to marry (1 Cor. 7:36)

“If anyone thinks

That some one

Is not behaving properly

Toward his betrothed virgin,

If she is old enough,

And it has to be,

Let him do

As he wishes.

Let them marry!

It is no sin.”

Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ νομίζει, ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος, καὶ οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι, ὃ θέλει ποιείτω· οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει· γαμείτωσαν.

Paul said that if anyone thinks or supposes (νομίζει) that someone is not behaving properly (Εἰ δέ τις ἀσχημονεῖν) toward his betrothed virgin (ἐπὶ τὴν παρθένον αὐτοῦ), if she is old enough (ἐὰν ᾖ ὑπέρακμος), then it ought to be (οὕτως ὀφείλει γίνεσθαι).  Let him do as he wishes (ὃ θέλει ποιείτω).  Let them marry (γαμείτωσαν)!  It is no sin (οὐχ ἁμαρτάνει).  Only the Pauline letters used this word ἀσχημονεῖν, that means act unbecomingly, act improperly, or unseemly, and the word ὑπέρακμος, that means past the bloom of youth or of full age.  Paul said that it was no sin to marry, even if the groom to be and his intended virgin wife might behave improperly.  If she was old enough or the proper age, then let the wedding take place between these two, fiancé and his fiancée, since they were engaged to be married.  There would be no sin there.  Paul seemed to indicated that engaged couples could be involved in sex before the actual marriage.  Do you think that it is a sin to have sex outside of marriage?

Men should not touch women (1 Cor. 7:1)

“Now concerning the matters

About which you wrote.

‘It is well for a man

Not to touch a woman.’”

Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε, καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι·

Paul turned to the questions addressed to him by the Christian Corinthians.  “Now concerning the matters about which you wrote (Περὶ δὲ ὧν ἐγράψατε).”  Then he used another Corinthian saying “It is well for a man not to touch a woman (καλὸν ἀνθρώπῳ γυναικὸς μὴ ἅπτεσθαι).”  Apparently, they wanted Paul to weigh in on some problems they were having in Corinth.  Thus, they had written a now lost letter to Paul.  Paul referred to this non-extant letter a few times later in chapters 7:25, 8:1, 12:1, and 16:1.  Paul used another Corinthian saying about men staying away from women by not touching them, which was a euphemism for sexual relations.  There may have been an ascetic group in Greek Corinth that did not believe in marriage.  What do you think about how men should relate to women?

They did not understand the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8)

“None of the rulers

Of this age

Understood this.

If they had known this,

They would not have crucified

The Lord of glory.”

ἣν οὐδεὶς τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου ἔγνωκεν· εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν, οὐκ ἂν τὸν Κύριον τῆς δόξης ἐσταύρωσαν·

Paul said that none (ἣν οὐδεὶς) of the rulers of this age (τῶν ἀρχόντων τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου) understood (ἔγνωκεν) this.  If they had known this (εἰ γὰρ ἔγνωσαν), they would not have (οὐκ ἂν) crucified (ἐσταύρωσαν) the Lord of glory (τὸν Κύριον τῆς δόξης).  Paul indicated that the contemporary rulers at that time did not understand the role of God or Jesus in salvation history.  Otherwise, they would not have crucified Jesus, the Lord of glory.  Paul put the blame on both the Jewish leaders and the Roman officials for the crucifixion that took place some twenty years prior.  Do you understand the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ?

Not human wisdom (1 Cor. 2:5)

“Thus,

Your faith

Does not rest

On human wisdom,

But on the power of God.”

ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν μὴ ᾖ ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ.

Paul thus said that their faith (ἵνα ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν) does not (μὴ ᾖ) rest on human wisdom (ἐν σοφίᾳ ἀνθρώπων), but on the power of God (ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ).  Paul made it clear that their faith was not based on his weak ineffective human words.  The power of God is what made their faith strong, not his words.  Do you recognize the power of God in your life?

The value of Romans

For the German reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546), this Epistle to the Romans was the principal and most excellent part of the New Testament, the pure gospel.  Is this a summary to prove that a man is justified by faith only?  Paul also set forth the whole nature of man as poisoned and corrupt.  For others, it is a valuable attempt to understand the role of justification, salvation, and redemption.  Is justification by faith only valid so long as it is combined with obedient cooperation with the Holy Spirit?  Is this about personal salvation?  Above all, it is an important letter of the apostle Paul to the Christian community of believers in the great empire city of Rome in the mid-first century, some twenty-five years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Jewish-gentile conflict

Jews were expelled from Rome because of disturbances around 49 CE by the edict of Claudius.  Claudius died around the year 54 CE.  His successor, Emperor Nero, allowed the Jews back into Rome, but then, after the Great Fire of Rome of 64 CE, Christians were persecuted.  With the return of the Jews to Rome in 54 CE, new conflicts arose between the gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians who had formerly been expelled. Gentile Christians may have developed a dislike of or looked down on Jews for the death of Jesus, because they theologically rationalized that Jews were no longer God’s people.  Paul had learned about all the circumstances of the Christians at Rome.  There were the heathen pagans who had converted to Christianity and the Jews who had followed Christ.  Thus, many contentions arose from the claims of the gentiles to equal privileges with the Jews, and from the absolute refusal of the Jews to admit these claims, unless the gentile converts became circumcised.  Paul wrote this epistle to adjust and settle these differences.  In the flow of this letter, Paul shifted his arguments, sometimes addressing the Jewish members of the church, sometimes the gentile membership and sometimes the church as a whole.  What do you think the relationship between Jewish and Christian people should be?

The Roman audience

For ten years before writing this letter, 47-57 CE, Paul had traveled around the territories bordering the Aegean Sea evangelizing Christian communities.  Paul helped to establish churches or Christian communities in the Roman provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia.  Paul, considering his task complete, so that he wanted to preach the gospel in Spain.  This would allow him to visit Rome on the way there, a long-time ambition of his.  The letter to the Romans, in part, prepares them and gives reasons for his visit.  The most probable ancient account of the beginning of Christianity in Rome was the fact that there were some Jewish people living in Rome at the time of the apostles.  Some of those Jews who had believed in Christ passed on to the Romans the tradition that they ought to profess Christ but keep the Jewish Torah law.  One ought not to condemn the Romans, but to praise their faith, because without seeing any signs or miracles and without seeing any of the apostles, they nevertheless accepted faith in Christ.  At this time, there were a substantial number of Jews in Rome, with their synagogues frequented by many, so that non-Jewish gentiles became acquainted with the story of Jesus of Nazareth.  Consequently, churches composed of both Jews and gentiles were formed at Rome.  Little is known of the circumstances of the Christians at Rome, but it was not founded by Paul.  Many of the Christians in Rome went out to meet Paul on his approach to Rome in Acts, chapter 28. There is evidence that there were a considerable number of Christians in Rome, probably with more than one place of meeting before Paul arrived.  The large number of names in Romans 16:3–15, indicates there was more than one church assembly or company of believers in Rome.  Some may have met in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, while there were other groups of Christian believers.  What do you know about the early Roman Christians?