Ist Period III
- IV to conclusion
2nd Period 2nd
|Acts St Paul Arrest Trial
from the sin
of Adam and from death
from the Law
of our hope
From St Paul's Letter to the Romans
The Letter to the Romans was written by St Paul during his three months stay at Corinth, a little before the spring of the year 58, when he was setting out for Jerusalem at the end of the third missionary journey (see No. 65). Rome, the celebrated capital of the Empire, had a flourishing Christian community, already of long standing and 'known in all the world'.
Paul spoke with respect of the Roman Christians: they were not his, and perhaps by that time St Peter had already been at work in the organization of that Church. On the other hand St Paul had no cause for controversy with them; as is seen from the discursive nature of the long doctrinal exposition, which occupies a great part of the Letter. For a long time St Paul had wished to visit the heart of the Empire and now the time for realizing his plan was approaching. Returning from Jerusalem he was to repair to Rome and thence to Spain in the far west (see No. 100). The Letter then was intended as a sort of introduction. On this occasion he compiled it in a form that was, as it were, the exposition and theological demonstration of 'his Gospel', embodied in his most characteristic message; that is, that Christ is the only hope of salvation for all men, without distinction of Jews and pagans.
After the preface in which he announces his subject (No. 94) the Letter divides into two parts, the former of a doctrinal character (Chapters 1-11), the second of a moral content (12, 1-15, 13). The epilogue (15, 14- 16, 27) contains personal news and greetings.
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
7 To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you always in my prayers, 10 asking that somehow by God's will I may now at last succeed in coming to you.
11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brethren, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented) in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish: 15 so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
95 Justification by faith
(1, 16-17; 3, 20-30)
1, 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power or God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
|17 For in it the
righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is
written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."
3 20 For no human being will be justified in his sight by works of the law, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. 28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.
A passage from the prophet Habakkuk (2, 4): 'The righteous shall live (i.e. be saved by his faith' gives St Paul the starting point for stating his subject, which he puts forward as the keystone of the Gospel. In fact the 'gospel' is the joyful announcement of the plan of salvation willed by God and is also the 'power of God' since by inspiring faith it brings about salvation. The 'justice of God' in St Paul's language is not ‘revengeful justice’ that punishes, but 'saving justice', that is God's fidelity to his promises, to his benevolent plan of leading men to salvation. St Paul shows that God's way of making man righteous', that is, enabling him to emerge from sin and become what He wishes him to be, is not the Law, but Faith.
If God had chosen order, the system of the Law, he would have given the description 'righteous' and the reward of eternal life to every man who had obeyed the Law of God.
case man would have been able to boast of being himself the author of
his own salvation, of having made himself 'righteous' by his own
But God did not wish to choose this system, for nothing is further from the divine plan than the pride of a man who claims to become God's creditor. There is also here an actual disproportion; however much a man does to make himself righteous, at best he will be a good man (in the natural order); he cannot leap the chasm to become a 'son of God', that is in a living communion with God, which is the on salvation, the 'eternal life prepared by God for men (in the supernatural order).
Instead God chose the system of faith; the only means by which man enters into God's plan and so crosses the chasm from the natural to the supernatural order. 'Faith' means that man recognizes in the first place his own incapacity to attain Justification and the 'salvation' willed by God, and trusts entirely in the divine goodness, believing in the plan revealed by God and recognizing that God wishes to make him 'righteous' as a free gift, out of pure kindness, since man did not deserve this. That is what is meant by the word ‘grace’, a free gift. The Gospel shows more clearly the divine plan, which is centered, in the redemptive work of Christ. 'Justification' first of all means passing from the state of sin to the state of friendship with God: so Jesus with his Blood is the 'propitiation', that is the instrument of the expiation of the sins of the world. The word ‘propitiation’ indicates the golden cover of the Ark of the Covenant, on which the High Priest sprinkled the blood of expiatory sacrifices for all the sins of the people. This was a purely symbolical rite (see No. 142) whereas, instead, the death of Jesus on the Cross is the only sacrifice which can truly expiate the sins of all those who adhere to him by faith. Faith in the divine plan is therefore also faith in the person and work of Christ.
in this context is the sum total of the prescriptions of the Old
Testament, including the Decalogue, but stands also for all moral laws
which impose duty from without, as an obligation sanctioned by
Such a Law does not lead to salvation because, although it exposes evil, it does not give the power to avoid it (see No. 97). The error of a section of Judaism and of Judaizing Christians was the over-valuation of the Law of the Old Testament as being the means given by God to man so that he might work out his own justification. St Paul demonstrates the falsity of that claim with the words of Psalm 142 (143) verse 2: 'No man living is righteous before thee' and refers to our sad experience of the universality of sin.
We must understand precisely what St Paul means when he asserts that justification is ensured by means of faith 'without the works of the Law'. The reference here is to the starting point for becoming 'righteous': now the starting point is sin, that is, the breaking of God's Law.
But even supposing that a person had not yet begun to sin (there is always original sin, see No. 96) the 'works of the Law without faith, cannot enable him to cross the gulf that divides the natural from the supernatural order. All those who in the Old Testament were 'justified', were saved by 'grace', by God's free gift, by virtue of their more or less explicit faith and not by virtue of the Mosaic Law. So Abraham was counted 'righteous' for his act of faith, before circumcision and before any institution of the Mosaic Law, and, like Abraham, every one else, for the divine plan has always remained the same.
But this 'without the works of the Law' does not mean that the Christian, once 'justified' does not need to practice good works. That would go against two very distinct statements of St Paul: first, that the man who is justified is inwardly transformed and becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (see Nos. 89, 90 and 98); secondly, that the Christian must continually strive to be worthy of the vocation to holiness, to which he has been called, by means of the exercise of charity and of all good works (see No. 99 and the moral teaching of all the Letters).
|96 Liberation from
the sin of Adam and from death
12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned- 13 sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if Many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17 If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. 19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous. 20 Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is the most important passage for demonstrating the doctrine of original sin. It is set however in a context, which brings out pre-eminently the greatness of Christ's redemption and the generosity of God's plan: man's sin cannot prevent God from realizing his plan of salvation.
ideas are interwoven here:
1) The personal conduct of Adam (fall. disobedience, transgression) introduced into the word ‘sin’, by which 'all were made sinners'. It is a state of estrangement from God (in contrast to the 'righteousness' brought by Christ), which works like a leaven of evil and causes the multiplication of actual sins. The result of sin was death understood in its fullest sense, physical death that is a sign of estrangement from God and which would be final but for the coming of redemption. It is a case of original sin existing in every man born of Adam by reason of the personal (originating) sin of Adam, the father of the human race.
2) Christ is the new Adam, the Head of redeemed mankind, and in the order of salvation He exercises a power similar to that of the old Adam. Over against Adam's act of disobedience is set Christ's act of obedience, over against damnation, grace; over against 'sin', righteousness; over against death, eternal life.
3) But St Paul does not say that the efficacy of the act by which Christ brought salvation is equal to the efficacy of the act by which Adam brought ruin. He repeatedly asserts and proves that the efficacy of Christ was incomparably greater: good decisively overcomes evil because it is ‘God's gift’.
4) There are periods in the history of sin: before the Mosaic Law there was a certain ignorance, but that did not prevent the domination of sin and death. The Law could not provide a remedy; in fact, the knowledge of sin makes sins more deliberate and more serious (see No. 97). With Christ begins the age of victory over sin and death.
97 Liberation from the Law
5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin. I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."
|8 But sin, finding
opportunity in the commandment, wrought in me all kinds of
covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive
apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I
died; 10 the very
commandment which promised life proved to be death to
me. 11 For sin, finding
opportunity in the commandment deceived me and by
it killed me. 12 So the law is
holy, and the commandment is holy and just
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
In this passage it is first stated that by virtue of our redemption in Christ we have been liberated from the painful situation in which we found ourselves as the result of our submission to the Law. Then to make us understand the value of this aspect of redemption, there is a description of the desperate situation of a man faced with the Law but without the help of grace coming from Christ.
Note carefully, St Paul is not speaking of his present situation, for which indeed he thanks God, but of the condition in which he found himself before his conversion.
personalizes in himself the experience of all mankind, beginning with
Adam. The Law here is not only the sum of the Mosaic
prescriptions, but also the Decalogue and the moral law itself
presented as an imposition from without.
The purpose of the Law is to make us know what is good and what is bad, in the form of precepts and prohibitions. It is therefore good in itself and indeed necessary for the moral education of mankind. But it has no power in itself to direct the will in the right way. So it collides with the innermost proclivities of man and thus exasperates him, for we are, most inclined to things which are forbidden. So instead of curbing sin it makes it more deliberate and more serious. 'Sin' in this passage is personified: it is the possibility of evil, already present in Adam when he was innocent, apart from the law sin lies dead... but when the commandment came, sin revived. It is then the positive tendency to evil, which follows from original sin and from sins previously committed.
Thus the Law reveals an inner schism in man. It speaks to his reason and man understands the authority of the Law. But he feels 'another law' in himself, contrary to God's law, and ends by choosing sin. St Paul does not deny that in these circumstances freedom of choice persists - otherwise the sinner would not be responsible - but speaks of the ordinary experience of one who is discomfited by the power of evil and so finds himself the slave of sin and also the slave of the Law which continues to threaten him without being able to give him the help he needs.
This passage has a great importance for teachers: Christian education must not be primarily the presentation of an external law, but the bringing about of a lively encounter with Jesus, the source of grace and the incarnation of every ideal of goodness.
98 Object and motives of our hope
12 So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh, - 13 for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
|15 For you did not
receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have
received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 it
is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are
children of God, 17 and if children,
then heirs, heirs of God and fellow
heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may
also be glorified with him.
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
31 What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies; 34 who is to condemn?
|Is it Christ
Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right
hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us? 35 Who shall separate
from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or
persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is
"For thy sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The contrast of 'spirit' and 'flesh' in the Christian still remains (see No. 92) because the final transformation of the body has not yet occurred; in fact there still remain the instinctive notions and psychological reflexes bound up with our psycho-physical being. Hence the necessity of 'mortification' that is continually putting to death whatever opposes life 'in the Spirit'. To this moral suffering are added the physical sufferings inherent in the state of the body in a world not yet redeemed. But the struggle and the suffering are sustained by a joyful hope because:
1) The Spirit who is in us gives us the assurance that we are sons of God (for 'Abba' see therefore we already have allotted to us our inheritance, the final possession of glory with Christ.
2) 'Creation', that is the material world which also has a share in our physical being, is in eager expectation of total renewal: it will be the birth of ‘new heavens and a new earth’ (see the Apocalypse, No. 179). This material world, in so far as it is a part and instrument of man, is in a state of subjection to sin and its consequences: man is the Lord of creation, so that by serving sin he puts creation under the domination of evil.
But the 'redemption of our body', that is the final resurrection, will be accompanied by the liberation of creation. That liberation is by virtue of Christ's redemption, but man, with the help of grace, already anticipates it by living according to the Spirit, and by using his own body and the material forces at his disposal the service of charity. Such is the cosmic value of Christ's redemption.
3) Our ignorance of prayer must not cut us off from hope, for the Spirit within us intercedes: he is like the soul of our soul and arouses in us aspirations that cannot be translated into words
love God and therefore are already predestined for glory and God makes
everything serve to bring us to that end. No external power will
be able to separate us from the love of God. So there is nothing to
fear, so long as we remain in union with Christ.
99 The Christian's moral duties
(12, 1-21; 13, 8-10)
12, 1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
3 For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
9 Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour. 11 Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
|17 Repay no one evil
for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If
possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never
avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for
it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No,
if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink;
for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head. 21 Do not be
overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
13, 8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
The third part of the Letter is composed of moral exhortations. In the passage included here it insists on the unity of souls and on charity, which goes so far as to include the love of one's enemies according to the Gospel ideal. In the exhortation to live in peace he again uses the illustration of the body and its members as in the first Letter to the Corinthians (see No.78).
Here too we have a list of 'charisms', that is, of special gifts and vocations: he is dealing not only with extraordinary phenomena but also with the gifts of serving the community, of helping those in need, of taking up the burden of office and of teaching.
The Church is not a homogeneous lump like a rock of crystal, but a living organism in which the parts, as in every living being, are different, so as to fulfill different functions. No one can live by himself: each receives from others an incalculable amount of good and is expected to give to the community the fruit of his own particular gift.
100 Plans for journeys
22 This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you. 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many but associate with the lowly; never be conceited.
|24 I hope to see you
in passing as I go to Spain, and to be sped on my journey there by you,
once I have enjoyed your company for a little. 25 At present,
am going to Jerusalem with aid for the saints. 26 For Macedonia and
have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the
saints at Jerusalem; 27they were pleased
to do it, and indeed they are in
debt to them, for if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual
blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material
28 When therefore I have completed this, and have delivered to them what has been raised, I shall go on by way of you to Spain; 29 and I know that when I come to you I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of Christ.
30 I appeal to you, brethren, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Paul's plan was not to be realized in the way he expected. He was to
arrive in Jerusalem with the money collected for the poor of the
community, and he found the atmosphere hostile to him. Even among the
'saints' (the Christians) there were those who had reserves about
Paul's activities; therefore he desired prayers to be offered that, his
service might be acceptable to the saints.
At Jerusalem he was to be arrested (see No. 102) and only after two years of imprisonment at Caesarea would he see the realization of his desire to go to Rome, but he was to go there as a prisoner awaiting trial (see Nos. 108 and 112).
END OF ST PAUL'S LETTERS WRITTEN DURING THE THIRD JOURNEYP. 261