Apostle Paul, a man of God often described as the most influential Christain who ever lived made very many important instructions and counsels to the people of Rome and Galatians alike and his works continue to be regarded as highly historical in Bible history. J.Gresham Machen (cited in Robert L. ReyMond 2002) notes:
The Christian movement...in 35 A.D...would have appeared to a superficial observer to be a jewish sect. Thrity years later it was plainly a world religion. This establishment of Christainity as a world religion, to almost as great an extent as any graet historical movement can be ascribed to one man, was the work of Paul.
From this notes, it is clear from the onset that the work of Paul, especially his ethical instructions to Romans and Galatians are worth discussing. Hence, a very good attempt would be made in this essay to clearly discuss this memorable work.
Because of the divine power and currency in Paul's work in question, a very good attempt will be made to express the application Paul's work to modern Church life in author's cultural context.
To make this essay presented in a logical order, this essay shall be subdivided into three major headings. First, effort shall be made to discuss Paul ethical instruction in Galatians, secondly a discussion of Paul ethical instruction in Romans. Lastly, application to modern day churches shall be done.
Paul's Ethical Instructions in Galatians
Instruction 1: Christians are justified by Faith not by works
The first major instruction of Paul to Galatians is to establish the fact that men shall be justified by faith and not by their flesh, powers or wisdom. Paul emphasized on this concept by revisiting it and proclaiming that justification is by faith alone and not through works. The Galatians received the Spirit of God through justification by faith. God did not look at their works to give His Spirit since works are from the flesh. Paul believes that the supremacy of salvation by grace through faith in Christ supersedes any attempt to achieve salvation through obedience of the law.
Paul was not happy with the fact that the Gentile believers were expelled from fellowship with the Jews because they did not observe the law, because according to Donald Stamps: 'the person who relies on the law to gain salvation does not receive the Spirit and life, for mere law cannot impart life.'
G.W. Hansen then argues Paul develops his argument for justification by faith in order to correct this annoying situation. Paul was very emphatic that without true salvation by faith, men cannot be justified by God.
In his letter to the Galatians in 2:15-16, Paul was of similar opinion that justification was through faith in Jesus and not through works of the law. In both letters Paul taught that whereas this was the case did it mean that a Christian was given the license to sin (Rom. 6:1-11) and (Gal. 2:17-21)? He says in Romans 6:1-2, '...Should we continue to sin in order that grace may abound? By no means...'
Instruction 2: Live by the Spirit and be Christ-Like
Paul again established that believers should live life exemplary to that of Christ Jesus and that this is what really qualifies believers to be called Christians. This is the second instruction of Paul to the Galatians.
In delivering this instruction, Paul in a metaphorical sense, use a child and an adult and described a child to the 'pre-Christian spiritual experience'. Paul explains that if we live as children, we live as slaves, subject to the Law and the authority it has over us. Since Christ came, we can now live as Sons of God and we ought to live by the Spirit.
The issue here is that true believers should reflect Christ's attributes and behaviours in them. Paul also counseled that it is only those who are filled by the Holy Spirit, the comforter and who truly live by the Spirit of God that are empowered to be called the true children of God. According to the Book of Galatians 5:16, Paul said: This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Paul also cautioned that 'if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under law' (Ch. 17).
Paul counselled that believers should present their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, saying that this is their spiritual act of worship. The Christian had to respond to God 'by giving oneself continuously and entirely'in worship and thereby display a distinctive lifestyle moment by moment.
Paul made a good attempt at describing how this Spirit filled life can be achieved by counselling that beleivers should not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that they may discern what is the will of God. Paul's argument was that the mind of the Christians had to be renewed in order for them to live the way that God desired them to live in every area of their life.
Paul's Ethical Instructions in Romans
In the Book of Romans, Paul deliberated on what Christians should believe and that Christaians should believe that the gospel is God's saving power for those not ashamed to believe it. Paul also cautioned that it is unethical for Christian to parade ingloriuos behaviours and wicked practices like idol worship, homosexuality and same sex marriages . In Romans, Paul also talked about the concept of Justification by faith and few other points mentioned at the beginning of this essay.
Few other instructions shall be presented under the following sub headings: These other instructions seem to start from chapter, after an extensive dissertation on the ethics brought up in Galatians.
Instruction 3: Spiritual Ethics: Living Sacrifices
Paul in the Book of Romans 12:1 counselled: , '...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual act of worship'. The Christian had to respond to God 'by giving oneself continuously and entirely'
The same book of Romans 12, in verse 2 further counsels: 'Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God...'
Carson et al corroborate this by clarifying that the mind of the Christians had to be renewed in order for them to live the way that God desired them to live in every area of their life. Little wonder why Paul emphasised that 'If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.'(Gal.5:25).
Instruction 4: Submission to constituted authorities
Paul emphasized the need to be submissive to constituted authorities of the land and explains that God himself is the source of all authorities, and those who implement authority on the earth do so by designation from Him, and so to disobey them is to disobey God.
The point here is that most authorities on earth are products of God's instructions. Supporting this is Bruce:
Human governance is a divine ordinance, and the powers of coercion and commendation which it exercises have been entrusted to it by God, for the repression of crime and the encouragement of righteousness. Christians of all people, then, ought to obey the laws, pay their taxes, respect authorities...
Paul specifically instructed the Roman church to respect their government (Rom. 13:1-7). According to Paul, governments are God's institutions established to keep law and order on earth. However, Barton cautioned that Paul did not mean that government authorities should be obeyed anyhow, especially when the governemnt policiies and laws are not located in the bible but he 'reiterates the common Jewish view that human government operates under God's superintendency that is part of the divine order and so is meant for human good'.
Application of Paul's Ethical Instructions teaching to modern church life
First and foremost, it must be pointed out that the instruction of obedience to constituted authorities is somewhat in conflict with modern day christain/church life. Today is full of sinful governmental laws and ungodly ordinances, so obeying these satanic laws will mean disobeying God's counsels. This is a bit tricky!
Although, in the first century Roman church, Paul instructions migt be appropriate because of huge reluctance to pay taxes by some people not excluding Jews which is a fair law. Supporting this is Carson who says that 'even if Paul meant it literally, in instances where government over-steps its boundaries by forcing Christians to go against their beliefs, Christians 'are free - indeed obliged - to disobey'. He thinks that this however, may be a case of going against the Christian ethos of submission and it maybe that Paul gave a general rule without stipulating the exceptions.
In most governments of today which policies are being guided by immoralityies and satanic counsels, it will even be sinful for Christians to obey such laws. Supporting this again is Bruce who adds that this would only be effective if Christians have shown themselves to be submissive to the just demands of authorities.
Asides this government submissions, all other instructions seem to be perfect and relevant till date. Paul admonish all to live an acceptable life before God. He also exhorted them in Romans 12:9-10, 'to love one another with mutual affection and outdo one another in showing honour'. This is similar to Galatians 6:13-14, where he taught that love was sum-total of the law and selfishness was unacceptable.
The teaching still holds till today such that it is not by works that we are saved rather we have been justified by faith. This holds that the Church and believers alike should therefore not ascribe salvation unto themselves or think that it has been acquired through the good works it has done. This applies to modern church life since there are many who believe that God will bless them because of what they do: feed the poor, give to the needy, pay tithes... However, we should realize that this is our service to God and his our duty as a Christian, not a means by which we score points with God.
Our redemption through Christ Jesus has made us to be redeemed by Christ from sin and its power and as such, we should continue to live by such standard and desist from Satan and sins. We as modern day Christians should live to exhibit the life of Christ and refused to be slaves to sin.
It is also relevant to modern church in such a way that believers should live by the Spirit and not in the flesh. That we should be filled with Holy Ghost by the manifestation of the spirit through speaking in tongues and diverse languages. And that we should run away from sin and kill our sinful nature and live to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God.
It is also worth mentioning that our devotion to God should be maintained and we as Christians are like mirrors that unbelievers see to assess themselves so our devotion is not just to God but to people as well. Our lives as Christians are a reflection of the God we serve and the Bible we live by.
It is also needs to be pointed out that Church should strive to obey the rules and laws as prescribed by the government provided that laws do not run contrary to the faith in Christ Jesus.
In conclusion, it must be stressed that Paul ethical instructions to Romans and galatians are one of the best things that happened to christianity. They are not only useful as at then but very much relevant till today and even till tommorow.
All the instructions and laws are still very modern and much applicable to modern churches. The only exceptions, though debatable is fact that today's world is being manipulated by works of the devil as evidenced in ungodly and immoral politicians in government circles, churning out hostile laws to the churches, therby making it difficult for the curches to obey and submit totally to government rules and laws.
Toeing the analogy of the first century church about the multi-cultural context of the church when factions existed among the then Gentiles, Jews, unbelievers in Rome and Galatian; the same is obtainable today in a more multi-cultural and denominational diffenrences within the same body of Christ.
Above all, it must be stressed that Christians should live above board and make themselves acceptable and worthy to God in Judgement by day.
- Robert L. ReyMond, Missionary Paul Theologian (Christian Focus Publications: Ross-shire, Scotland, Great Britain, 2002), 17
- ReyMond, 17
- D.C. Stamps (Ed), The Full Life Study Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1992), 1812.
- G. Walter Hansen, Galatians (Inter-Varsity Press: Downers Grove, Illinois, 1994), 25
- F.F. Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press: London, UK, 1974), 225
- D., G., James, Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary - Romans 1-8, (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), p.493
- D., A., Carson, et al., (eds), New Bible Commentary, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, rev.ed, 1994), p.1150.
- Carson, p.1150.
- D., A., Carson, et al., (eds), New Bible Commentary, (Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, rev.ed, 1994), p.1150.
- Carson, p.1150.
- F.F. Bruce, Romans, 233
- John, Barton, et al., (eds), The Oxford Bible Commentary, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p.1104
- Carson, p.1153
- Carson, p.1153.
- F., F., Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary, (Leicester: Inter-varsity Press, 1976), p.234.