Feast upon the Word Blog

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The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:16-17 (pp. 111-138)

Posted by kirkcaudle on April 4, 2013

The section that I will be dealing with in this post is pages 111-138, Romans 1:16-17. The following are Jim’s translation (first) and the KJV translation (second) of these verses:

(16)I am not ashamed of the gospel  for it is God’s power to bring salvation for all those who thrust, both to the Jew first and to the Greek. (17) For God’s justice is revealed in it by means of trust to those who trust, even as it has been written, “And the just will live by trust.”

(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. (17) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Verse 16

Salvation, “Those who receive salvation are made safe from the adversary, and their shortcomings, spiritual and physical, are removed. The obvious implication is that when we are not yet saved, we are neither safe nor healthy spiritually” (112).  To me this implies that we must be “saved.” Speaking in terms of being saved is uncomfortable for many Mormons, but I see no way of getting around the idea that we need to strive for salvation in this life. I do not think salvation is necessarily something that happens in the after all, but is very possible during mortality.

It is the power of God unto salvation, “to hear the gospel preached is to be affected (and not to have been affected is not yet to have heard it preached)” (112). Therefore, if we are not transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ then we have never heard it correctly. There is real power in the oral word.

Believeth, many translations (including the KJV) put “believe” in this verse. Jim does not, he puts “trust.” One reason he gives for this is that “the gospel message is the power of salvation for the faithful; in other words, it is the power of salvation for those who trust God” (114). Faith is what comes naturally after we believe.

Verse 17 (the thesis of the entire Book of Romans)

The Righteousness of God, This phase can mean one of two things. “It could mean ‘the righteousness characteristic of God” or it could mean, “the righteousness that originates from God” (117). The Greek word for “righteousness” here could also be translated as “justice.” It is worth noting here that in the Hebrew Bible righteousness was closely related to the keeping of covenants. Following this logic, God is then a God who keeps his covenants. Jim notes that, “in the context of covenants, the ability to judge right and wrong and to right wrongs is the ability to know who is and who is not in the covenant relation and to bring those who have fallen from the covenant relation back into it” (121).

Revealed, the Greek word here literally means to “uncover.” Therefore, what is uncovered is “something of God’s character, namely his righteousness, is revealed in the power of the gospel” (126). There is something very beautiful about that idea for me.

From faith to faith, Jim says that this phrase “is difficult to understand” and I am having a hard time writing a brief summary of it, so I will leave it to someone else in the comments section! That is a bit of a copout…I know.

As it is written, This was a standard way of quoting scripture.

Just, “The Greek word for just has the same root as the word translated ‘righteousness’ above. It indicates living in accordance with law, treating others equitably, doing the things” (131).

Live, The Greek word here “indicates physiological or animal life as well as life in its fullest sense, including religious life” (131). This type of life is a life time of service. Or as Jim puts it, ” a life of unsatisfied obligation and service” (132). Therefore, the word live in this verse possesses a much richer meaning than to just be alive.

The just shall live by faith, I find the following paragraph to be the most helpful in deciphering this phrase: “It would be fair to say that the central question of Romans is that of the relation of faith to the law, whether the law of Moses or the law written in the hearts of all human beings. Paul seems faced with the belief that obedience to the law can bring salvation, that we can put God under obligation by our obedience. He will oppose that belief by arguing that it is not obedience to the law that bring salvation, but faith in Christ. However, at the end of his argument he will reestablish the importance of the law. He will argue that obedience is the service we owe God” (135).

Get your own copy of The Life of Holiness: Notes and Reflections on Romans 1, 5-8 here.

13 Responses to “The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:16-17 (pp. 111-138)”

  1. joespencer said

    Thanks, Kirk, for your summary of Jim’s analysis. It’s helpful. I’ll add just a few thoughts.

    The part of this week’s reading I found most instructive comes on pages 131-138, when Jim begins to discuss the triangulation of “life,” “faith,” and “justice.” He nicely points out how focused Romans 5-8 is on life, while Romans 1-4 is primarily interested in faith: “In Romans 1:18-4:25, the first major subdivision of the book, variations on the word faith occur thirty-seven times, indicating the focus on faith in that section. However, in Romans 5:1-8:39, the next major section of the book, the word faith occurs only twice, and one of those occurrences is in a summary of Romans 1:18-4:25. In contrast, in Romans 1:18-4:25, life and its cognates appears only twice, but in the second subdivision, they appear twenty-five times. Life is the theme of the second section. We should not overlook this shift in theme when we read Romans, for it marks a development: Paul moves from an understanding of faith to an understanding of the life of faith” (pp. 134-135). This is fantastically helpful, and it makes sense of Jim’s larger project with the book—why he’s so interested, here, in chapters 5-8. It’s not just that he hopes to find holiness there, though he will; it’s that he finds there a sustained analysis of life, one already linked up with the exposition of faith in Romans 1-4.

    A paragraph later, Jim suggests that “the last part of Romans is the third and last phase of the development . . . . Paul moves from faith, to the life of faith, to the obligations of faith, the law. In other words, the chapters of the last major part of Romans are about the other key word in this phrase of Romans 1:17, just” (p. 135). This is most helpful, making good on Jim’s insistence in his introduction that he doesn’t want to downplay the importance of Romans 9-16. Here we see what those chapters are about, on Jim’s reading: justice. And so we have a full vindication of Jim’s claim that verse 17 contains the thesis statement of the whole letter: “the just [Romans 9-16] shall live [Romans 5-8] by faith [Romans 1-4].”

    All this is helpful for mapping the letter to the Romans as a whole, as well as for mapping what Jim wants to do with it. But it’s helpful for another reason, one that Jim mentions but doesn’t make a whole lot of. It’s also helpful because it shows that Paul does in the letter to the Romans exactly what Jim does in his book on the letter to the Romans, namely, carefully, detailedly, imaginatively works through scripture. The thesis statement of Romans 1:17, “the just shall live by faith,” isn’t Paul’s; it’s a quotation from Habakkuk. Paul’s entire letter to the Romans is a careful reading of just a single sentence from the Hebrew Bible. Jim puts the point this way: “Beginning a sermon with a scriptural quotation as Paul does in Romans 1:17 is a common method of preaching. A speaker chooses a scripture and uses the sermon to discuss as fully as possible what that scripture means. Sometimes, however, we give the scripture insufficient respect by talking as if our ideas are most important and we have been given the scriptures to support our ideas when we need them to do so. Consequently, we sometimes find it difficult to devote more than a minute or two to any particular scripture. We seem to feel that no more than a few minutes’ reflection will tell us everything we need to know about that scripture. Obviously, Paul feels otherwise, for he writes an entire book about what one short scripture means” (p. 136). Indeed! And Jim has clearly learned from Paul on this score!

    There, I think, is the real punch so far of Jim’s reading of Romans 1. It has provided some opportunities to anticipate what Jim wants to find in Romans 5-8. And it has allowed him to introduce his own style of reading. But it’s only here, when Jim comes to Romans 1:17, that the real force of what Jim is doing comes to the fore: he’s following Paul’s approach to scripture in reading the scripture Paul himself produced. And the tree Paul planted bears real fruit. Thanks to Jim for plucking it and bring it to us. It makes me only the more eager to get to the tree myself. I hope that the further along I get in this project, the more I’m standing with Jim under the tree, talking about the richness and flavor of the fruit together, rather than just receiving what fruit he has picked, packaged, and shipped to me. Even under the tree together, though, he has my thanks for the invitation.

  2. James Gartner said

    There is much I enjoyed in these 25 or so pages. –I’ll keep these first remarks brief so that I can get to a subject that arouses my curiosity, and that is justice. But first …

    Jim says, “In Paul’s time, the gospel was believed and taught by only a small group and seemed to have little impact on the world. Few people knew anything about it. (It is not difficult to see the contemporary church in a similar way: known by very few, still a small minority in the world, without power.)” (Page 113) I remember sitting on the Spanish Steps in Rome, maybe 30 years ago. I was working for Bonneville Media at the time where we had the responsibility to awaken, I suppose, awareness of the Church. I sat on those steps and watched literally thousands of people come and go in the course of maybe an hour. I still remember my thoughts: how small we were as a church. How few in this world had even heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It made no sense: God reveals truth again—but few knew of it? But then too, as Jim said, early Christianity was small and remained small for … what? … nearly 3 centuries? Our church is still relatively young.

    Chosen-ness (page 115). Jim speaks of a paradox: “On the one hand, everyone is absolutely equal before God … On the other hand, the Jews have first claim to receive the gospel.” And then Jim goes on to remind us “that to be chosen is to be set apart” for a particular purpose. They are not “necessarily any more pure or more privileged … The Jews receive the gospel first … because they are the instrument God has chosen …” (“lighting the world” Jim says—good words) –It occurs to me that it’s this simple: God has a desire to make the world good, and so he picks a group of people, but in fact there’s nothing special about this people as a people. In fact, he “chooses” a group without a hint of superiority in their chosen-ness. On the contrary, God goes out of his way to say you’re not impressive at all! Seems to me the scriptures speak of its own in a bad light mostly, and I find this fascinating. By and large in our scriptures, the Jews are not good. And interestingly, most of the OT heroes are not Jews at all. Even Moses was raised as a non-Jew, and in fact, saved not just by a non-Jew, but the daughter of Pharaoh of all people! The anti-hero! And we get the likes of Ruth and Rahab (the latter a Gentile prostitute to boot!). Anyhow, it’s a curious thing that again and again God’s “chosen” are the least expected, and a far cry from “pure or more privileged,” as Jim says. –Begs the question: Why? We often say the more humble, the more God can shape them. Probably. But maybe the message too is, if these “chosen” people can become truly chosen and elevated (and do not misunderstand me: they were chosen and elevated), then we all can.

    Finally, “The righteousness of God” – which I found most provoking. I have spent much time thinking on justice, and I am in sync with Jim throughout his discussion of justice … until his conclusion. (By the way, since Jim is following these discussions, it feels odd to write “about” Jim in the third person, and not “to” Jim. It’s a good thing to have the author within these discussions.)

    Before I continue, I must offer an aside: I remember once hearing two Jews debate the Torah—one was liberal and the other conservative, theologically speaking. Finally after much debate the conservative Jew said, “I finally figured out where our disagreement lies: When you disagree with the Torah, you attempt to explain where the Torah is wrong. When I disagree with the Torah, I attempt to learn where I am wrong.” Point: I don’t know Jim Faulconer, except for these 138 pages. But it is clear his understanding is superior to mine, and so I attempt to learn where I am wrong here, rather than suggest Jim is wrong—if there is a wrong at all.)

    First Jim speaks of “the righteousness of God” is to be “just,” or can be translated as “justice.” And how “mercy and justice does not need to be at odds with one another” (p117). –This is good and correct. Jim goes on to say the Greek for justice is to be fair, lawful, precise, exact” (p119). Good. Then this next part is critical, and again, something I agree with, although my conclusion will be different. Jim says (p121), God is able to “change our state from unjust to just. It is his ability to right our wrongs.” Yes again!

    But where I differ with Jim, I think, is where Jim seems to suggest God works outside of raw, eternal justice, and does not act “fairly” and equally, but rather beyond fair, even when fair is not deserved (p124). And, “if the Father were to treat us ‘fairly,’ we would be condemned because we have been unjust.” So far, so good – and I don’t disagree with this, and in fact embrace it! —God extends himself to us always, but I would say: inside the realm of justice. Let me explain: Just recently I saw a member of a bishopric stand in front of the congregation announcing the death of a ward member who apparently was addicted to drugs and died as a result of his addiction. This member of the bishopric was attempting to console the members of his ward and said, “I am certain the Lord will judge John fairly.” –I thought, I hope not. I hope he is judged unfairly. Fair would put him in the crapper. I hope he is given all of God’s love and grace and mercy. –So I don’t oppose what Jim says here. I suppose my point is that when God extends mercy, it does not interfere with the premise of justice. Rather, mercy works within justice. That is, justice remains untouched. Justice is justice, and nothing, not even God, can disrupt this (“do ye suppose that mercy can rob justice? …Nay … If so, God would cease to be God”—Alma 42:25). God doesn’t tamper with justice, he tampers with us, and then justice pronounces a not guilty verdict on us. We are justified. Reprising Jim: God is able to “change our state from unjust to just. It is his ability to right our wrongs.” Yes! But inside the eternal law of justice. Justice remains just. It’s rather clever of God actually: He cannot change justice, so he changes us. –Our transformation.

    Jim gives OT examples of how we are to move beyond mere justice, and how “fairness is not the point of the Hebrew law, because more than fairness is required.” (Page 122) Jim quotes from Exodus: “…If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury…” etc. But remember, we also get in the OT, “… do not pervert justice … do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit” (Ex 23:2-3). Also Leviticus, “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (19:15). What’s the answer? I think there are the macro and the micro. In our individual lives, we are to extend mercy where we can. In the macro, a court of law for instance, justice must remain just.

    I’ve written too much. Just a quick appendage: Justice, being fair/precise/exact, I suggest is simply reality, and by definition is about impartiality. It’s blind, like in a courtroom. Justice is true recompense for someone who did bad or good. Remember, there are good outcomes of justice just as there are bad: “Prepare your souls for that glorious day when justice shall be administered unto the righteous, even the day of judgment, that ye may not shrink with awful fear;” (2Ne 9:46). Point being, when we do good, we get a just reward. When we do bad, we are (hopefully) transformed, changed from bad to good, and get a just reward. –And justice has never budged.

    Now. I don’t know if I’m right in any of this. Just thinking.

  3. Robert C. said

    I confess I get more out of the reading when I’ve read the discussion here before I finish the reading. So, thanks for the comments.

    I will esp. have Alma 42 in mind as I finish my reading. Looking at the chapter in Alma just now, the phrase “remorse of conscience” in Alma verse 18 jumps out. It seems to me that for Alma this “work” of repentance (cf. verse 22) is what makes justice and mercy compossible. That is, mercy is the space of time we’ve been given in which we can repent, and keep repenting, it seems to me, as we continue learning to live faithfully and humbly in relation to God’s wishes/commandments.

    Christ’s resurrection/atonement (Joe has pointed out that these are typically conflated to one event in the Book of Mormon), then, is what makes it possible to come back to God’s presence after being cast out, and after having been given the good news of this atoning resurrection that gives us sufficient hope to repent. And if we respond to this good news, so we are no longer resisting God, then we are just.

    I’m not quite sure how to parse this in light of James’s comment above, but I think it’s at least slightly different. But I’m esp. anxious to see how this sketched view compares with Paul, and Jim’s reading of Paul.

  4. I’m mildly irritated right now because I just lost a lengthy response to James because WordPress doesn’t seem to recognize what I have recorded as my password–plus I am still recovering from bronchitis, which makes me tired and irritable. I should have logged in through Facebook first, but I didn’t.

    So, with my apologies, it will probably be another 24-48 hours before I can get back to this with a response. But thanks, James, for a great question.

    • James Gartner said

      Hmmm. So sorry to hear this Jim, both for your sake and mine. I look forward to your 24-48 hour response. –And I too have some bug that is a month long now and cannot kick it! Try as I might.

    • joespencer said

      I’m most interested to see what you have to say, Jim. I’ve got my own thoughts, but I’ll keep them quiet for the 24 or 48 hours to see what you say in response….

    • kirkcaudle said

      This reply better be good now that it has all of this anticipation! :)

  5. James, sorry for taking so long to get back to this. Life always has exigencies that get in the way of things like blogging.

    First, don’t ever feel bad about suggesting that I’m wrong. I’m not a Torah by any means.

    You and I think differently about justice and mercy, though, because I don’t think of them as “raw, eternal justice” and mercy. I don’t believe there are such things as raw, eternal laws or principles because I don’t understand what that phrase would mean.

    I do understand, however, what it means for a person to be related to other persons in ways that affirm the reality of their relationships productively. We talk about those ways of being related as laws as a shorthand, but I don’t think there are actually any such laws that the Father must obey. If he continues to be the perfect being that he is, then he continues to relate to others in ways that are most conducive to their being as well as his own. But that is tautologically true; that’s what it means to be a perfect being.

    So I don’t understand mercy and justice to be at odds with one another. In fact, I think that ultimately they are exactly the same thing under two descriptions. To be just is to do the right thing. To be merciful is to show loving kindness. From our perspective sometimes the right thing is not lovingly kind, and vice-versa. But that’s because of the limitations on our understanding. When God is just with us, does the right thing, he also acts mercifully—even though it may sometimes not appear so to us. I assume that if I am sent to live in the terrestrial kingdom that will be both just and merciful.

    But I like your way of putting things, a way with which I am in complete agreement. I hope what I said in the book is also in agreement, though I’d have to go back and look to see. You say God “tampers with us . . . .” You and I agree that the important issue here isn’t whether there is eternal justice (beyond “God’s justice”) or not, but that God can change us if we will allow him to do so.

    I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that this group is taking the time to read my book and to respond to it. It’s more than an author can expect.

  6. cherylem said

    Just a few notes, since I am late to this part of the discussion.

    I loved this section and its continuing discussion of faith, the gospel, truth, and the interdependence of justice and mercy. I have thought that in certain OT scriptures to act justly is to act mercifully. Well, Jim of course says this and I love the explanations given in these pages regarding this.

    I know Joe S is focusing on covenant relationship and what that means. I am listening to that but not adding to at this point.

    I very much appreciated the discussion with the two Jim’s above. I found the idea of “chosenness” also compelling . . . and wondered at our LDS belief – perhaps folk belief – that we were all chosen because we were so GOOD in the pre-existence. Maybe we were chosen because we were all so hard-headed (;->).

    Last, I want to ask about the idea of a fallen person. We talk about Adam and Eve falling, but falling up. We talk about our kids falling away from the church. Or so-and-so fell, and left the church. On page 121 Jim writes: “In the context of covenants, the ability to judge right and wrong and to right wrongs is the ability to know who is and who is not in the covenant relation and to bring those who have FALLEN from the covenant relation back into it.”

    Recently I have had some challenges with this word “fallen.” It is such a differentiating concept. It is a wall, really, between me (so upright!) and the “fallen” one. Plus there is a world of insult in that term. So I’ve been practicing saying, even if just in my head, “So and so is walking a different path right now.” “So and so has chosen different priorities right now.” That is, how do I know that person is fallen? So, what would it do to change the wording of the sentence I quoted to say, ” . . . to bring those who are walking outside of the covenant relation back into it.”

    God may judge who has fallen. I don’t think I can, actually. And as for our “fallen” kids and other loved ones: their stories are not done yet. Their paths may yet lead them back to the Church, or not. But as long as we view them as “fallen” I think we make it harder for them to walk back in to the covenant relationship.

    Kirk, thanks for your introduction to this section. You write:
    “It is the power of God unto salvation, “to hear the gospel preached is to be affected (and not to have been affected is not yet to have heard it preached)” (112). Therefore, if we are not transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ then we have never heard it correctly. There is real power in the oral word.”

    I am wondering if the oral word held more power in Paul’s days than ours. What does it mean to hear the gospel preached? I think it has everything to do with Spirit: that marriage of Word and Spirit is so critical. The missionaries preach, but their words may never be remembered, while the Spirit’s impact may be unforgettable.

    Cheryl

    • Cheryl, I like your replacement of “fallen” with “walking outside of.”

      Yes, I think the oral word had much more power anciently than it does today. People were better listeners because it was a necessary skill when written works were scarce and most were illiterate.

  7. [...] James Faulconer on The Life of Holiness, Romans 1:16-17 (pp. 111-138) [...]

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