Romans Chapters 12-16 Are 'Not' About Ethics, But Worship

[With verses 12:1-2, a new section of Paul's Epistle to Romans begins.]  But Romans [chapters] 12-16 is not the "paraenetic appendage" described by those who, under the influence of a theory-practice paradigm, divide Paul's letters into "Part I: Doctrine" and "Part II: Paraenesis."  Nor is it, then, properly called "ethics," in the understanding of that term as designating that division in a philosophical system (comparable to metaphysics or epistemology) which deals with humans' behaviour.  This argument of Romans, rather, deals with worship.  It is directly related to the thesis of Romans 1:16-17, as it is a testimony to and an appeal to demonstrate the power which the Gospel is.

This recognition that Romans 12-16 is about worship rather than ethics - or about ethics redefined as worship in everyday life - is seen by those who refrain from reading Paul through the eyes of philosophers and who cut through the deepest heart of what it means that God is the God who justifies the ungodly.  Paul's encouragements are meant to be read as apostolic ministry (2 Cor. 5:6-7), the bringing of a gift and power from God, not as the practical requirements entailed in some philosophical - or theological - system or as the fulfillment of an epistolary format.  Generated by all that the merciful God of the Gospel is and does, these encouragements are an invitation, an enabling invitation, into a new worship for the new people of God.(M. Franzmann, Romans, 216).

. . . 

To a great extent, Paul describes the shape of the attitudes and characteristics, rather than the specific actions, though he does also deal with some narrower specific issues (Romans 14:1-23) and directions (Romans 16:1-20).  For the most part, it is up to the individual Christian to probe what specific deed or action is "right" in his own particular situation.  "Particular situation" is best described more closely as "station in life" and "vocation."

. . . 

Thus it is the power of the Spirit which is at work in the Gospel to create the worship and life of the new aeon.  Shallow, indeed, is talk of motivation out of gratitude for God's goodness.  Such gratitude is an element of the human psyche; it is always suspect, for it belongs to a being which is simul justus et peccator and which therefore has connections to the old aeon of Law, the old order of things.  This is new.  It is not like any other religion or system of motivating human behaviour.  It is the power of the Gospel (a gracious gift!), the power of the life of the new aeon (entirely from God coming to dead sinners), having its impact upon the daily life of beings still walking through the old age.  That is why Christian believers are strangers and pilgrims (cf. Hebrews 11:13), living as people with a whole new outlook while traveling alongside of people still operating as if this world (which the Christian has sacramentally left behind) were the only world.

Excerpt taken from: 
Jonathan F. Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: An Interpretation of Romans - Second Edition (St. Caharines, Ontario, Canada: 2012), 525-531.  Additions to the quote are in brackets.  

To read more from Jonathan Grothe, you can purchase his commentary on Romans by CLICKING HERE.

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