“To the Jew First”: Rhetoric, Strategy, History, or Theology? -- By: Wayne A. Brindle
BSac 159:634 (Apr 02) p. 221
“To the Jew First”:
History, or Theology?
Wayne A. Brindle is Professor of Biblical Studies, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.
As Paul penned the Epistle to the Romans, several factors combined to give the letter its particular structure and theme. First, Paul was in a new situation as he wintered in Corinth (for three months, Acts 20:2–6). He had evangelized four Roman provinces (Galatia, Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia; Rom. 15:19), and he looked forward to moving his focus westward as far as Spain (15:24). To do this he would also have to move his missions support-base westward, preferably to Rome.1
Second, disunity had developed between Jewish and Gentile believers—brought about by the concern of Jews that the Mosaic Law and Jewish culture were being lost and even spurned by Gentiles—and many apparently believed that Paul was responsible for this loss.
Third, Paul’s previous defenses of his gospel against Judaizers (e.g., in Galatians and 2 Corinthians) had clearly exacerbated the spread of rumors that Paul’s view of the place of Jews in salvation history was totally negative and even that the coming (and rejection) of Christ had terminated God’s dealings with them.2
Fourth, as Paul contemplated his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, he knew that his view of the future of Israel and the problem of its unity with Gentiles in the church would occupy center stage. In fact Paul apparently saw the collection of funds for Christians in Jerusalem as an outgrowth of the agreement between James, Pe-
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ter, and John on the one hand and Paul and Barnabas on the other so that the latter would “remember the poor” as they went to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:9–10; cf. Rom. 15:25–27).
Fifth, Paul apparently dealt with these factors by utilizing his winter respite to write a coherent, structured presentation of the fact that the only understanding of the gospel that does justice to God’s eternal program of salvation and to what Christ accomplished on the cross is the gospel of justification by faith. For this reason Christians throughout the church age have considered Romans as Paul’s best and most thorough explanation of the gospel—even his “magna carta” of salvation.
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