It appears next to a certainty that Peter was not at Rome when Paul wrote his Epistle in 57 or 58, for he sends no salutation to Peter:—And also that he had not been there previous to that time; for it is wholly unreasonable to suppose, that, had he been there, Paul would have made no reference to his labours. The learned Pareus proceeds in a different way to prove that Peter was never at Rome. He shows from different parts of the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Galatians, that Peter was in Judea at the time when tradition declares that he was at Rome.
Peter was in Judea when Paul was converted, Acts ix. He was in Judea in the year 45, when he was imprisoned by Herod, Acts xii. Had he been to Rome during this time, some account of such a journey must surely have been given. After this time we find that he was at Antioch, Gal.
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If it be asked, where did he afterwards exercise his ministry? Where more likely than among the Jews, as he had hitherto most clearly done; for he was the Apostle of the Circumcision, and among those to whom he sent his Epistles. What then are we to say as to this tradition? The same, according to the just remark of Pareus, as what we must say of many other traditions of that age, that it is nothing but a fable, which, like many others, would have passed away, had it not been allied to a growing superstition.
Paul's Letter to Rome
With respect to what Eusebius says of the testimony of a presbyter, named Caius, that about the beginning of the third century he saw the graves of Peter and Paul at Rome, it may be easily accounted for: it was the age of pious fraud, when the relics of saints could be found almost everywhere; and, in the next century, the wood and the nails of the Cross were discovered! Those who can believe these things, may have a credulity large enough to swallow up the testimony of Caius. The most probable account, then, of the commencement of a Christian Church at Rome, is what has been already stated.
The condition of that Church, when Paul wrote to it, we may in a great measure learn from the Epistle itself. It had a high character, viewed in a general way; but there were some defects and blemishes. Its faith had been widely reported: there were at the same time some contentions and divisions among its members, arising especially from the prejudices of the Jewish believers. To remove the causes of this dissension, was evidently one of the main objects of Paul in this Epistle. The order and arrangement of the Epistle have been somewhat differently viewed by different authors.
In giving a more specific view of the contents of this Epistle, the former author divides it into two parts— doctrinal, i. The analysis of Professor Hodge, who takes the same view with Professor Stuart, is the following:—. The first, which includes the first eight chapters, is occupied in the discussion of The Doctrine of Justification and its consequences. The second, embracing chapters ix. We have set before us in this Epistle especially two things, which it behoves us all rightly to understand—the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God—merit and grace, or salvation by works and salvation by faith.
The light in which they are exhibited here is clearer and brighter than what we find in any other portion of Scripture, with the exception, perhaps, of the Epistle to the Galatians. Hence the great value which has in every age been attached to this Epistle by all really enlightened Christians; and hence also the strenuous efforts which have often been made to darken and wrest its meaning by men, though acute and learned, yet destitute of spiritual light. But let not the simple Christian conclude from the contrariety that is often found in the expositions on these two points, that there is no certainty in what is taught respecting them.
There are no contrary views given of them by spiritually-minded men. Though on other subjects discussed here, such men have had their differences, yet on these they have ever been found unanimous: that salvation is from first to last by grace, and not by works, has ever been the conviction of really enlightened men in every age, however their opinions may have varied in other respects.
It may seem very strange, when we consider the plain and decisive language, especially of this Epistle, and the clear and conclusive reasoning which it exhibits, that any attempt should ever be made by a reasonable being, acknowledging the authority of Scripture, to pervert what it plainly teaches, and to evade what it clearly proves. The learned Scribes and Rabbins were blind leaders of the blind, when even babes understood the mysteries of the kingdom of God: and no better than the Scribes are many learned men, professing Christianity, in our day.
There is indeed a special reason why, on these points, unenlightened men should contrive means to evade the obvious meaning of Scripture; for they are such things as come in constant contact with a principle, the strongest that belongs to human nature in its fallen state. When the authority of tradition supplanted the authority of Scripture, the doctrine of merit so prevailed, that the preposterous idea, that merits were a saleable and a transferable commodity, gained ground in the world.
Man naturally cleaves to his own righteousness; all those who are ignorant are self-righteous, and all the learned who understand not the gospel; and it is wonderful what ingenious evasions and learned subtleties men will have recourse to in order to resist the plain testimony of Scripture. When they cannot maintain their ground as advocates of salvation alone by merits, they will attempt to maintain it as advocates of a system, which allows a part to grace and a part to works—an amalgamation which Paul expressly repudiates, Rom.
But it is remarkable how the innate disposition of man has displayed itself in this respect. Conscious, as it were, in some measure of moral imperfections, he has been striving for the most part to merit his salvation by ceremonial works. This has been the case in all ages with heathens: their sacrifices, austerities, and mechanical devotions were their merits; they were the works by which they expected to obtain happiness.
The very same evil crept early into the Christian Church, and still continues to exist.
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The accumulation of ceremonies is of itself a sufficient proof, that salvation by faith was in a great measure lost sight of: we want no other evidence; it is what has been ever done whenever the light of truth has become dim and obscure. We see the same evil in the present day. Outward privileges and outward acts of worship are in effect too often substituted for that grace which changes the heart, and for that living faith which unites us to the Saviour, which works by love and overcomes the world.
The very disposition to over-value external privileges and the mere performances of religious duties, is an unequivocal evidence, that salvation by faith is not understood, or very imperfectly understood, and not really embraced. The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? I am speaking in human terms. For otherwise, how will God judge the world? Their condemnation is just. Are we better than they?
Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.
Epistle to the Romans
This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. It is excluded? By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. Is He not the God of Gentiles also?
Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law. For we say, "Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness. While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.
For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For the outcome of those things is death.
Is the Law sin? On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, "You shall not covet.
Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. Who will set me free from the body of this death? So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? There is no injustice with God, is there? Either Jew or Gentile.
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