The Book of Romans-The Context

The congregation in Rome was not a “Christian” congregation because they did not exist at that time. In fact, a “Christian” congregation as we know it today would have been illegal under Roman law.  This congregation in Rome was a “messianic” group that met under the umbrella of the traditional synagogue system of the time.

Gentiles who believed in Yeshua met at the synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 15.19-21-this was the practice for Gentiles believing in Yeshua everywhere) to be a part of the overall Jewish “community” and their behavior in these synagogues were the topic of discussion when the believers met in what was called the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Certain minimum standards were enacted there in order for these Gentile believers to interact and participate in these services.

Attendees at these meetings were Jewish believers who believed in Yeshua as well as those Jewish people who did not. Acts 15 directed these Gentile believers to adjust their behavior in line with the dictates of normal Torah observance found among the Jewish people.

These Gentiles did not need to become Jews through circumcision, as some believed, but they are given basic Torah commands to follow and adhere to in order to become hearers of the Word and also doers. This would come with regular synagogue attendance and being exposed to Torah teaching by associating with Jews well versed and trained in the things of God all their lives.

The Book of Romans will again admonish the Gentiles to regulate their behavior accordingly and that they are responsible for adjusting their behavior as they learned more. Paul will deal with two groups primarily in the first twelve chapters of Romans. These groups were the Gentile believers in Yeshua who were there to learn how to walk in obedience to the Torah, and Jewish non-believers in Yeshua.

He will not address issues that were a conflict between Jewish and Gentile believers in Yeshua. When Paul discusses an issue in these chapters he is talking to those who don’t follow Yeshua, not Jewish believers who continued to follow the Torah. In Chapters 9-11 Paul is discussing things that related to Jewish non-believers in Yeshua and the false impression by some Gentile believers in Yeshua who erroneously thought that they have “replaced” Israel.

He also discusses how these Gentiles were to relate towards the Jewish non-believers who still walked in the Torah. There are some commentators and teachers today who misunderstand Paul’s usage of the terms weak and strong in this book. They say that weak means that you still followed the Torah and strong meant that you were “free from the Law” but that is a gross misunderstanding of what Paul was saying in this book. The idea that someone following the Torah was weak is completely foreign to what Paul actually believed.

Paul believed that Torah observance “establishes the Law” through faith (Rom 3.31). The concept of weak faith was not something you evaluated on some sort of grading system. Weak faith was simply a term Paul used to convey the idea that some of the Jewish people there did not believe in Yeshua yet, but they still walked in obedience to the Torah.

What makes a person strong is knowledge and acceptance of the fact that Yeshua was the promised Messiah. Paul believed that those Jewish brethren who followed the Torah still had a valid faith. What they observed was given to them by God and he approved of their observance. The strong (those that believed that Yeshua was the Messiah) were not to judge the opinions of the weak (those that did not believe that Yeshua was the Messiah but still observed the Torah).

What Paul taught was that they (the strong) were to let them (the weak) follow the Lord as prescribed in the Torah and to make room for them. These Jews were weak because they did not have the knowledge that Yeshua was the Messiah, not because they followed the Torah. If Paul believed that following the Torah was what made you weak, then he would not have followed it himself and he would not have taught others to follow it.

But, the fact is, Paul followed the Torah (Acts 21.21-26, 28.17) and taught others to do the same (1 Cor 11.1-2; 2 Thes 2.15; 1 Thes 1.6) and used all of Scripture (the New Testament did not exist at the time, so he was using the Tanach) as a textbook for instruction (Acts 17.2, 11; 1 Tim 4.13; 2 Tim 3.15-17). The concept of weak in Hebraic thought has to do with their faith and their “stumbling” over the issue of the Messiah-ship of Yeshua. It will have nothing to do with whether they followed the Torah. That is an important concept to understand in this book and it is in direct contrast to what many teachers and commentators have tried to make Paul mean when he used these words (weak and strong).

Again, to understand this book, one must be familiar with Paul’s Pharisaical training and rabbinical thought, Jewish methods of interpretation, biblical eschatology and how it related to the Gentiles and their salvation and the mystical aspects of Hebrew theology.
Sources used in this study inlude:
*The NASB and KJV
*The Hertz Siddur
*Hertz Pentateuch and Haftorahs
*Works of Josephus
*Yashanet Romans Study
*Idioms in the Bible Explained and a Key to the Original Gospels
*Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus
*John Gill Commentary-Romans
*The Interlinear Bible
*Personal notes

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament, Verse-by-Verse Bible Studies

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