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The Relationship Between Christian Doctrine And Church Fellowship

Dunn said about The Letter to the Romans, “It is most important as being the first well-developed theological statement by a Christian theologian which has come down to us, and one which has had incalculable influence on the framing of Christian theology ever since--arguably the single most important work of Christian theology ever written.”1 Christianity in Rome likely began in the Jewish synagogues. Roman gentiles came into the church, but in 49 A.D. Jews were expelled from Rome. When Jewish Christians began to return to Rome there was likely tension between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians regarding orthopraxy (right action).2
It is obvious that Paul, in writing his theological statement that we call Romans had many purposes for writing it, but one of those purposes was to heal either potential or real division in the churches in Rome between Jewish and Gentile Christians.3 Therefore, the apostle begins the letter after a long greeting with a thematic statement (Romans 1:16-17) with three points: (1) The gospel is the power of God. (2) The gospel is for the purpose of salvation to all who believe, which includes both Jews and Gentiles. (3) The gospel reveals the righteousness of God through faith. The apostle quotes the Old Testament passage of Habakkuk 2:4 as a supporting text.4
Paul then begins to talk about the Gentile and human sinfulness (Rom 1:18-32), with which the Jews likely would have agreed. He then turns his attention towards the Jew, showing that while the Gentile sins without Law the Jew sins with Law. He then puts all humans under sin in the most concise statement on total depravity in all of scripture. (Rom 3:9-20) After this he turns his attention towards the only answer for all of humankind; (Rom 3:21-26) the God given grace received through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul then reinforces (Rom 3:27-31) that this gospel is for both Jew and Gentile.5
What about the promise to Abraham and his decedents? In (Rom 4:1-25) Paul expertly demonstrates that the true decedents of Abraham are the ones who have the faith of Abraham. He concludes with what this means for us, for the believer it means that we have peace with God. (Romans 5:1-21) In depicting the two men Adam and Christ he demonstrates that there are two possibilities for humanity; death in Adam or eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.6
In (Romans 6-8) Paul teaches on the subject of sanctification which includes the problem of sin, the problem of the Law, and the problem of the flesh and death. Then (Romans 9-11) he teaches on the issues of Israel, election, and the faithfulness of God. After laying down a firm foundation of Christian Orthodoxy (Right belief)  Paul’s doctrine (Romans 12-15:13) turns towards Orthopraxy (right action), explaining the practical outworking of the gospel.7
That outworking begins (Rom 12:1-2) by giving of yourself as a holy sacrifice for the other. Life for the believer revolves around a community of faith (Rom 12:3-8), because Christian faith is worked out in community. The way that believers interact with one another is in love. (Rom 12:9-21) Believers should live as good citizens (Rom 13:1-7) obeying the laws of the government. Believers are not only to love each other, but to love our neighbors who are outside of the fellowship. (Rom 13:8-10) All the while knowing that the end (final judgment) is coming; in Adam all die, but in Christ all will be made alive. The Jew should therefore open the door of fellowship to the gentile believer and the Gentile believer should open the door of fellowship to the Jewish believer.8
We have people within our local church who come from many different back grounds, races, ethnicities, educations, incomes, and ages. While there are many differences between us, we have something much greater in common that unites us: (1) We were all born in Adam dead in our tresspasses and sins. (2) We have all been given the God given gift of grace and have received that gift through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. (3) We are all being sanctified; therefore, our faith must be worked out in a community of believers. (4) We need the support and prayers of our community of faith, because as citizens of the Kingdom of God we presently reside in the kingdom of man.




1 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 838.
2 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 838-839.
3 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 840.
4 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 844.
5 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 844-845.
6 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 846.
7 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 847-849.
8 J. D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1993), 849-850.