the second chapter of Romans deals heavily with the pride and indignation of the Jewish community at the time. the letter to the church in Rome had a significant population of Jewish Christians. Paul, the premier Apostle to the Gentiles, contends with prejudices of the day. Peter had a similar confrontation with Jewish Christians upon his return from Caesarea. he witnessed the Spirit fall upon the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house and commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. when he returned to Jerusalem, those circumcised were astonished that Peter went into their house and ate with them. after explaining his vision and the events that had taken place, the tormenters held their peace, glorified God, and accepted that God was big enough to grant salvation to all men.
Paul had never been to Rome but was eager to visit. most commentaries note Paul’s plan, outlined in Romans 15, to journey to Spain and how the letter may have been a preemptive plea for sponsorship from the Romans. the only place this may be inferred is Romans 15:24, “Whensoever I take my journey into Spain, I will come to you: for I trust to see you in my journey, and to be brought on my way thitherward by you” (KVJ, Tyndale 1987). this wording may simply reference spending time in Rome and the safety the church there would provide. there is no record of Paul ever visiting Rome or continuing his journey to Spain.
due to his unfamiliarity and not personally knowing those in Rome, Paul does not address specific struggles within the church. he writes a doctrinal letter to a people that is still profitable today. Paul knows that some feel entitled due to their heritage and their outward expression of the covenant. this mindset was throughout the church of that time. those of the circumcision had been taught from an early age that they were God’s chosen people and God would deliver them from oppression without mentioning other races. Paul then corresponds to the Roman church to stop any preconceived notions knowing he would have to address this when he arrived. he writes, “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:28-29).
i do not find Paul’s reference to the Christian here as a Jew offensive. we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters. we have been made joint-heirs with Christ. we are graphed into the Abrahamic covenant and promise that all nations shall be blessed. i accept this, especially in the light of the verse above. the Christian is one who inwardly is devoted to Jesus. following the letter of the Law and making an outward spectacle of yourself for boasting sake is not what it is about, and you have your reward. we should be a separate people and show mercy to our fellow man, but in a way that God is the recipient of the Glory.
i am currently studying the Book of Romans and writing more about its content. was Paul’s attempt to lure the church at Rome away from their prejudices successful? i’m not sure. i can attest that the lessons we receive from Romans today are treasures of great worth. if we put down our self-righteousness and pick up our cross, the world around us would never be the same.