Notes on St Paul's Epistle to the Romans

Chapter 6:1 through Chapter 9:5

On Being Alive in Christ


Within the rhetorical structure of the Epistle, Chapters 6 though 9 addresses the conclusion reached on God's judgment the nature of righteous in Chapters 1 through 5. In this position, these chapters form the minor premise leading to specific conclusions and implications for behavior presented by St Paul in Chapters 10 through 14.

The bulk of Chapter 9 is not is not considered as it provides nuance to St. Paul's argument more than presenting broad principles.


The topic of interest to St Paul is stated in Romans 5:18-21: Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rhetorical sections are marked by a series of questions at 6:1, 6:15, 7:1, 7:7, 7:13, presented in Chapter 8:1, 8:12, 8:26, and recapitulated at 8:31- 9:5.

Chapter 6:1 to 7:6. On Baptism

In this section, St. Paul clarifies the cosmological meaning of baptism, what it means to be buried with Him into death that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, have a new life as a likeness to His resurrection.

Explaining this parallelism, St Paul goes to the issue of identity of the self, assuming that as Baptized, a person has already answered the question "who is Christ."

Old man is a slave of sin. As sin serves the demands of a body, the body dies. The identity of the old self is a slave of ways controlled by death: sin is the way of death.

As the spiritual victory of Christ over the spirit of Death achieved through the radical fidelity to the God glorifies the Father. Entering into baptism is to choose to repurpose the instrument of the body, rejecting slavery to Death and becoming slaves to the Life-Giver.

St. Paul gives two illustrative explications so that the implications of accepting baptism are known:

Chapter 7:7 to 7:12. On Knowledge of Sin

The argument:

A) The law is the basis for being able to think (know or name) sin. Knowledge of covetousness is possible only by knowing the law thou shall not covet.

B) Naiveté about the law is a pre-sin stage of awareness, an innocent life-stage, as later taught by St. Isaac of Syria. A foundation for Orthodox understanding of human sinfulness as being born into a web and propensity to sin, Augustine's notion of original sin is baseless.

C) The Law of God was intended to arrest sin by providing a collective ascetical path for the people of Israel led by Moses back to life, in parallel with the Circumcision for the people of Noah led by Abraham.

D) Sin uses the knowledge provided by Law to bring death. The deception of Sin that brings knowledge of Death reveals to the holiness of Law, the commandment to Life.

Chapter 7:13-24. On Carnal and Spiritual

The operation of sin in the heart is a confusion and contradiction of self, expressed as unnaturally behavior: For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what am I doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do and For the good that I will do, I do not do, but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Conversion of life starts with the isolation of sin from the personal identity, If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that is its good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me and Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. The defeat of the will is not the same as the destruction of the authentic or inner self, which wills to identify with holiness, taking delight in performing the law.

St. Isaac of Syria explains (St Isaac of Syria Ascetical Homily 23, Brookline, /Bedjan 22) that the senses are ruled by the intellect, the intellect by the heart, and the heart by noetic consciousness. The ‘law of the senses’, in captivity to death, sets carnal impulses freed from constraint by holinesses at war with the law of the mind, the effort, the will, of the heart to align the intellectual understanding its desire for holiness.

Chapter 7:25-8:11. Life in the Spirit

The dilemma of the state in which with mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin is resolvable only by acting in gratitude for love of Christ. This resolution is due the Law of the Spirit of Life, in which Christ condemned sin in the flesh. The condemnation of sin is the action of God taking flesh, even to the point of death while continuing in righteousness, life in the Spirit. The exclusivity of Death is carnal mindedness, a state in which there is no peace. The exclusivity of Christ is spiritual mindedness or a life in peace, the heart in concert aware of an indwelling noetic reality: you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. When ruled by the God, that is the Spirit, the heart is alive, and in Christ, who, in the Resurrection, is revealed as life, even to mortal bodies And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Chapter 8:12-30. Hope and Suffering

When the heart is governed by the life of the Spirit, that is enters into the experience of righteousness, it provides the intellect with the strength of will, the inverse of the desire, to manage the sensuous world and desires, so that all can be done, is done consistent with will of God.

Significantly, living according to the will of God in this world does not abolish suffering. The Christian life is not some rapture out of the world, but a transformation of creation from the corruption that results in despair and nihilistic despondency into perseverance in an expectation, a hope, for the promised realization of the Love of God. Our hope in suffering comes from the activity of the Spirit, who intercedes for creation that all realize fullness according to the will of God. The hope of the individual is the fruit of prayer, the groaning by our hearts for relief from the pains of sin. As St. Paul writes the sufferings of this present time not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it to hope...even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we are saved in this hope.. the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us...

The criteria of well-orderedness, of purpose, is conformance to love. The intended end of God's creative plan is love. The concept of predestination is the precise locus of God's intent, it is neither fatalism not determinism, but a state of perfection consistent with creative intent: love. The cause of suffering is the experience of incompatibility with Love.

Chapter 8:31-9:5. The Love of Christ

The purposefulness of life is conformance with love, the standard for measuring, love is God. God corrects, defines, the goodness of each thing, that is justifies it.

It is through Christ that we have access to God as it was through Christ that God accessed all Adam, that is human beings made dead through sin, as well as nature disfigured by the presence of Death.

As the suffering heart raises itself into a relationship with God, it discovers absolute, existential life, for nothing belonging to death can abide in the presence of the Creator of the Universe: if God is with us, who or what can be against us?

It is possible for the heart witnessing the world of death, that is suffering, to encounter God because through His Compassion, Christ God, married Himself to the race of Adam, being born through a daughter of Eve, and mounted the Cross: undertook radical mortification.

With the ascent of the heart to Christ, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angles nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:37).

The ascent of the heart, however, results in profound sorrow when it considers the willful alienation of others from Christ.

The Gospel of John (Jn 7:40-12:9) identifies three stages in human alienation from Christ:

  1. Judgments based on hypocritical self-understanding, adultery in loving God. (Jn 7:40-8:11)
  2. The blindness of those with knowledge to the reality of blameless human suffering. Lacking discernment, one fails to recognize the love of God in the love of neighbor. It is at this point in which The Master offers the choice to believe either in Him on the basis of the authenticity of His Word as being True Life, or on the basis His Works. (Jn 8:12-10:40).
  3. The rejection of life as a gift from God, being more concerned for oneself image and power than being a witness to breaking of the bonds of death. (Jn 11:1-57).

St. Isaac of Nineveh illuminates something of how spiritually-minded experience provides for overcoming these difficulties in his Homily on true knowledge (Homily 24, Brookline translation, Homily 23, Wensinck translation):

Prayer filled with suffering, the companion of a course of life in harmony with its sorrowful nature, alters the character and brings about amelioration. The good are strengthened and corroborated by it; to the bad, it causes a change to the opposite direction. Therefore, doubt not what I have said: there is no accident without a governor. If indeed prayer combined with steadfastness is able to alter or to direct, we have to believe that there is a governor to every accident. Blessed is he who compares every accident which happens to him, with his hidden state, who scrutinizes its cause and beholds its governor.

He that is desirous to acquire experience with God, must become a fool to the world and a hater of human glory. The man who conceals the greatness of his work by lowliness of soul is astonishing. The angles stand in wonder at such a person. Regard involuntary shortcomings, which are sometimes found even with those who are watchful, as the custodians of righteousness.

There is no prayer which is heard so swiftly as when a man asks to be reconciled with those who are angry with him. For when a man accuses himself, this prayer is answered without delay. If you fulfill your duty and are watchful in your domain, but are weak and despicable in your own eyes, hating human glory, then know you are on the path of God. However, if you see that you are not in this state and, examining yourself, find thoughts of blame and reproach are a cause of pain, know that you are void of truth and in secret relation with falsehood.