A Biblical Worldview

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Introduction

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul describes the Biblical worldview regarding the natural world, human identity, human relationships, and culture.  For Christians like myself, it greatly affects how we perceive the world around us.  Paul insisted “that all peoples, Jews and Gentiles, stand as sinners before God.  He also insists that all peoples, Jews and Gentiles, are offered the power of salvation.”[1] Paul draws out these overarching themes for the Christian, both then and today, in hopes to equip us with a solid foundation of God’s salvific plan for mankind.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile,” (Romans 1:16, NIV).

The Natural World

God is the author of all creation.  His work is evidence that He is the Master of the Universe.[2] “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20, NIV).  It is through creation that He would inevitably renew all things in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Creation fell with Adam, and Paul says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time,” (Romans 8:22, NIV).  However, in man’s redemption through Jesus Christ, “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay,” (Roman 8:21a, NIV).  There is no doubt “for man’s sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery,”[3] where God would “fully redeem the world and recreate it (So Rom. 8:18-25), he would dwell in it in a fuller way than before.”[4]

Human Identity

Ever since the fall of Adam, all mankind has been under the penalty of sin.  “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned,” (Romans 5:12, NIV).  Paul teaches this so the reader understands his identity in relation to God.  He makes it clear that ever since the beginning, man has had a clear knowledge God exists, but instead he chose idolatry and sin.  In response to this rebellion, “God in turn gave them over to a life of immorality and depravity.”[5]  The Jews knew who God was, had the law and were “breaking it in many ways,”[6] causing the “Gentiles to blaspheme and ridicule the God of the Bible.”[7]   “You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?  As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” (Romans 2:23-24); they were “entrusted with the very words of God,” (Romans 3:2b, NIV).  Paul clearly establishes the fundamental truth that the “whole world is under sin and therefore guilty before God,”[8] and without faith in Christ, one is under condemnation because of sin.  “As the remedy for the human inability to gain vindication before God by being righteous and observing the law, Paul sets forth and summarizes the gospel that he preaches.  All who believe are “justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood” (3:24-25).[9]

Human relationships

Because man is prone to sin and do evil, who has “no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy,” (Romans 1:31, NIV), his relationships with others are going to be inadequate.  “If given full reign (as it desires), it will destroy any human being, every relationship, and ultimately make man totally unacceptable forever to a living, holy God.  The more sin is desired, the more it destroys.   Yet sadly, sin is totally incurable by man’s best efforts.  No matter how much he may desire to be free of  its influence, he is enslaved without knowing it.”[10]  Incessantly turning from our sin, and leading a life centered on God is as equally important as when we come to Christ in the first place becauseChristians are sanctified through their experience of being ‘loved’ by God and learn to express love in their relationships, empowered by the Holy spirit.”[11]  Paul says “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law,” (Romans 13:8, NIV).  Our relationships with each other are an example of Christ in us, and is the evidence for our relationship with God.

Culture

“The Roman church consisted of both Gentiles and Jews”[12] living in a Hellenistic society.  Because Jews both in Judea and abroad believed the promises of Abraham were solely for them, Paul went to great lengths to establish to Jewish converts in the Roman church that the Greeks were also welcome into the body of Christ, and insisted that collectively, were as co-heirs with Christ, teaching that “justified people entered a life of practical and progressive sanctification.”[13]  Paul emphatically states, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory,” (Romans 8:17, NIV).  In Romans, Paul “breaks through national distinctions and cultural distinctions and educational distinctions,”[14] engaging a philosophical perspective that “the world was dualistic.  There were those people who were loyal to the God of Israel, including the adherence to the Torah, and those who were not.  There was no “third kind” in his perception. There were those who were circumcised and those who were not.”[15]  And for Paul, everyone fell under the condemnation of sin regardless of cultural heritage because all are “accountable, and no one can be justified by his works or the law.”[16]

Conclusion

Just as man fell into condemnation, so did creation, and his identity in conjunction with his relationship to others was also deemed inadequate without God through faith in Jesus Christ.  All of this has been compromised because of sin.  Paul claimed that even though there were cultural divisions and theological factions denigrating from both Jews and Greeks, converts and proselytes, circumcised and uncircumcised, it mattered not, as everyone, including creation itself, fell under the judgment and wrath of God.  Through this, he insisted that it is only through the “imputative justification”[17] of Christ’s righteousness when one can be reconciled back to God.  These overarching themes find relevance for myself, throughout history, and onto modern society, showing that neither culture, moral center, or philosophical norm will be sufficient to acquire grace from God without faith in Jesus Christ.  Likewise, it is equally important for Christians as myself to understand that the Gospel is good for all peoples, whether Jew or Greek, African or American, Arab or Chinese, because like Paul stated, “There is no one righteous, not even one,” (Romans 3:10b, NIV).  Our worldview is shaped by knowing God has a plan for mankind and His creation, and in Christ, “Whom He justified, them He also glorified.”[18]

Footnotes

[1] Vincent P. Branick, Understanding Paul and His Letters, (New York, Paulist Press, 2009), 243

[2] Adon Olam – Psalm 23 – Babylonian Jewish Community – 14th century

[3] “Text Commentaries: Jamieson, Fausset & Brown (Blue Letter Bible: Romans).” Blue Letter Bible. Accessed 17 Nov, 2015. http://www.blueletterbible.orghttps://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/Rom/Rom_008.cfm

[4] G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Nottingham, IVP, 2004), 153.

[5] Towns and Gutierrez, The Essence of the New Testament, A Survey, (Nashville, B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 134.

[6] Ibid., 134.

[7] Ibid., 134.

[8] Ibid., 134.

[9] Pounds, S. Brian. “Romans 4:1—8 as a Test Case for the New Perspective on Paul.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 41, no. 4 (November 2011): 214. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 18, 2015).

[10] Don Fanning. 2009. “Romans 6: The Basics of Sanctification” Romans Study Guide, Available at: http://works.bepress.com/don_fanning/64

[11] Story, J Lyle. “Pauline thoughts about the Holy Spirit and sanctification: provision, process, and consummation.” Journal Of Pentecostal Theology 18, no. 1 (2009 2009): 82. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed November 19, 2015).

[12] Towns and Gutierrez, The Essence of the New Testament, A Survey, (Nashville, B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 132.

[13] Ibid., 140.

[14] John Piper, “The Mighty and Merciful Message of Romans 1-8,” Desiring God, September 22, 2002, accessed November 21, 2015, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-mighty-and-merciful-message-of-romans-1-8

[15] Kathy Ehrensperger, Paul at the Crossroads of cultures: Theologizing in the Space Between, (New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 130.

[16] Towns and Gutierrez, The Essence of the New Testament, A Survey, (Nashville, B&H Publishing Group, 2012), 134.

[17] George Stanley Faber, The Primitive Doctrine of Justification Investigated: Relatively to the Several Definitions of the Church of Rome and the Church of England; and with a Special Reference to the Opinions of the Late Mr. Knox, as Published in His Remains, (London, 1837, R. B. Seeley and W. Burnside), 103.

[18] Text Commentaries: C. H. Spurgeon (Blue Letter Bible: Sermons). Retrieved from http://www.blueletterbible.orghttps://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/spurgeon_charles/sermons/0385.cfm, accessed November 22, 2015.