Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 7 (2010)

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Missio-relational Reading of the Epistle to Romans


A Missio-Relational Reading of Romans:

A Complementary Study to Current Approaches [1]


Enoch Wan


Published in Relational Study April 1, 2010.

Originally published as A Missio-Relational Reading of Romans in Occasional Bulletin, EMS, Vol. 23 No. 1, Winter 2010:1-8




            As a complement to current approaches to the study of Romans, this paper employs a missio-relational reading of the Epistle to Romans.  Missional and relational aspects are highlighted as well as the community orientation (instead of individualistic orientation) of selected passages and themes in Romans.



As a complement to current critical approaches to the study of Romans (e.g. historical-critical, doctrinal, etc.), this study attempts to read the epistle in a missio-relational manner.  This approach will highlight the missional focus and relational aspect of selected passages and themes in Romans, paying particular attention to the community orientation (instead of individualistic orientation).

            Romans is an occasional letter written by Paul, a Jew of second Temple Judaism[2] and the apostle to the gentiles.  Paul wrote Romans in order to address certain internal concerns within the Christian community in Rome, and to introduce himself to them in anticipation of a later mission trip to Spain. 

Even though Paul had a specific, historical reason for writing this letter to the Christians in Rome, it still contains missional and relational elements that can be applied to the contemporary context of post-modern and post-Christian western society.

The methodology of this study is a missio-relational approach as compared to the regular practice of doctrinal-rationalist approach. This is a sequel to earlier works on relationality (Wan 2006a), relational realism paradigm (Wan 2006b) and relational theology and missiology (Wan 2007).


            There is no question that Romans was considered a very significant book of the Bible at the time of the Reformation; this is especially true for the doctrine of justification by faith.  However, text covering the doctrinal topic of justification by faith is found for the most part only in Romans 3:21-5:21.  Taken as a whole, the book of Romans is more missional in nature.


The beginning and conclusion of Romans contain a consistent emphasis on obedience to the faith among all nations[3] (by apostolic duty, 1:5, and by the prophetic scriptures, 16:26). Paul had a strong motivation to win the Gentiles (Rom 15:15-16) and a strong desire to push on to new frontiers beyond Rome to Spain (Rom 15:19-20, 23-24, 28).


Peter T. OBrien had proposed that from Rom 15:14-33 alone he could identify six distinguishing marks of Pauls missionary activity.[4] Similarly, Steve Strauss (2003) formulated five significant principles for missions strategy from Rom 15:14-33. Dean S. Gilliand (1983) extensively examined the missiological dimension of Romans.


The missiological focus of Romans is the gospel


In Romans, Paul articulated well his understanding of the truth of the gospel

and grace.[5] The main theme of Romans is the gospel with Romans 1:16 as the theme verse. The message of missions in Romans in the prologue is itemized below in terms of the gospel motif:

      The theme is gospel which is called the gospel of Christ (1:16)

      It is also called the gospel of God (1:1)

      It is also called the gospel of his Son (1:9)

      The effect of the gospel -  it is the power of God unto salvation (1:16)

      The target of the gospel is every one that believes (1:16)

      The gospel manifested - the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith(1:17)

      The missional sequence of the gospel[6] is to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (1:16)


A missiological reading of Romans can be supported by the motif of the Gospel and

can be thematically diagramed, as shown below:


Figure 1 —  The Gospel - Thematic diagram of Romans (Wan 2005:1)

A missiological reading of Romans can also be supported by a thematic diagram of missions as shown below:

Figure 2 —  Missions - Thematic diagram of Romans


In Figure 3 below, Romans is outlined in terms of double motifs: the gospel and missions.


Figure 3  — Outline of Romans with Double Motifs


Pauls missionary identity in Romans


Pauls self identity is the apostle called to be the bearer of the gospel (Rom 1:1). He is the messenger of missions specifically called and separated unto the gospel of God. With the constant gratitude of a forgiven debtor (1:14) and with endurance and hope (5:1-5), the blessed servant reached out with the gospel message and was empowered by the Holy Spirit.


Paul had two elements in his personal mission policy as shown in Romans: (Wan 2005:2)

1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto

               salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

15:20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I

                  should build upon another man's foundation.


The first element of Pauls personal mission policy is sequentially first to the Jews then gentiles. Pauls mission strategy was made clear in the missional sequence of to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (1:16; 2:9-11). This strategy was also exemplified in his personal efforts (Acts 9: 20-22). In his first itinerary mission trip (Acts 13:5, 14, 42; 14:1; 15:21), Paul was resisted, slandered and persecuted (Acts 13:44-49) and even stoned (Acts 14:19).  He announced that he would turn to the gentiles (Acts 13:46-49). However, again he returned to the Jewish synagogues on his second itinerary trip (Acts 17:1, 10, 13; 18:4-5, 19). Even on his third mission trip (Acts 18: 26; 19:8, 17), Paul continued preaching to the Jews first, and also to the Greek. This consistent mission strategy and personal policy is expounded in great detail in Romans 9 to 11.


The power of the gospel is well demonstrated by Pauls experience of repentance and

salvation, mentioned repeatedly in his letters (Eph. 3:1-13; 1 Cor. 15:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:12-17).  In Romans, he points out that all men have sinned, but all have access to Gods grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-31; 5:1-2; 21), regardless of whether they are Jews or Gentiles. Paul also emphatically declares the efficacy of the gospel as universal (vv 3:21-31), but beginning with the Jews and expanded thereafter.


Set apart as an apostle for the Gentiles, Paul made the will of God his priority, but not without mission strategy and practical movements. According to the will of God, Paul was called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God yet he made great efforts to preach the gospel. Although Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles(11:13), as Gillian observes, Paul never lost the vision for his own people. He could not forget that the Messiahs kingdom was intended primarily for them (Gillian 1983:30).


In Romans 1:3, Paul notes that Jesus was a descendent of David.  Paul was aggressive in reaching his kinsmen who resisted the gospel. Moved by the Spirit and with the gratitude of a debtor, he endeavored to proclaim the gospel to all nations (1:14-15; 9:1; 15:17-210.  But his heart-felt passion for his kinsmen was deep and solid (chapters 9-11), bringing them the gospel even at the risk of his own life (15:31).  (Wan 2005:3)


The second element of Pauls personal mission policy is to conduct pioneer work

without duplicating what others had done (Rom. 15:20). Therefore his anticipated visit to Rome is very important to his mission strategy. He desired to win the partnership with individuals and the congregation in Rome (Rom. 15:22-29) for a westward movement based in the capital, launching beyond Rome to Spain. 


Rome, as the capital of the Roman Empire, was the cultural, political and military center of the time, therefore strategic for gospel outreach. The church in Rome had grown (1:8, 13) with the potential to become the center of the western church and the base for a westward expansion of the gospel.  Roger E. Hedlunds suggestion is helpful, that Pauls vision of mission was universal; yet his strategy was to use urban centers (Strauss 2003:462-463) as his missionary base. Rome as the capital was strategic to Pauls missionary plan.[7]


      Paul was motivated to win obedience from the Gentiles (Rom. 15:15-16); therefore he was determined to launch out to new frontiers (Rom. 15:20). He wanted the church in Rome to partner with him in his missionary ministry westward (Rom. 15:25, 28-30). Pauls ministry of preaching the gospel included evangelism and church plantingchurch nurturing (Strauss 2003:463-464) and his ministry in the eastern Mediterranean region was his way of fulfilled the gospel (Bowers 1987:186.) from Jerusalem to Illyricum (Rom 15:18-20).


            The first part of Romans (1:17-11:36) is Pauls extensive exposition of the gospel that will become the basis of its missio-relational application in the second part (12-16).  The following quotation bears out this point clearly:


So, it is significant that he begins and ends his great missionary exposition of the gospel (which he hopes to take to Spain and invites the church at Rome to support him in doing so) with a summary of his lifes work as being aimed at achieving the obedience of faith among all the nations. (Wright 2006:527)





This study uses the same framework of vertical and horizontal relations modeled by Christopher J. H. Wright (2006:208-211), but focusing on selected themes and texts in Romans. The theological understanding of Paul in Romans (i.e. the gospel, salvation and grace) provides the basis for a relational reading of Romans.  With the aid of a relational framework (Wan 2006a, 2006b, 2007) and a relational interpretation of grace, Romans can be divided into two major sections:


Figure 4 – Outlining Romans Relationally


Figure 5 illustrates this approach in Romans in terms of relational gospel, i.e. a relational understanding of the gospel.


Figure 5 – Directional outline of Romans - Relational Gospel

On the point of relational gospel, Gilliand (1983:34-35) observes that there is a dual theme in all of Pauls epistles, what God does for people andhow people respond to the divine initiative. The references in Romans are listed below:


Figure 6 – Relational Gospel in Romans: Dual-directional Understanding[10]



The relational gospel began with Gods grace vertically and it requires personal faith vertically from believers in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:26, Gal 2:16).  Faith is the way a believer expresses his total response to the love of God[11]  and Gods grace for sinners.


The key concepts for salvation in Romans are all relational: justification (4:25; 5:16), redemption (Rom 3:24), adoption (8:23), reconciliation (5:10-11; 11:15) and in Christ (3:24; 8:1,2,39; 9:1; 12:5; 16:3,7,9,10).  In Pauls life and writings, the heart of the gospel will always be found to derive from the action of God, through grace (Gilliand 1983:49).,


Paul sometimes uses the word justification and reconciliation interchangeably, as illustrated in Rom 5:9-10, now justified by his blood and we were reconciled to God by the death of his son.  Justification is a favorite term of scholars who are doctrinal and rationalist inclined when studying Romans. Their emphasis is on the forensic aspect of justification at the expense of the relational dimension of the word. Martin (1981:37) is helpful in clarifying that justification indicates broken interpersonal relationships that have now been put right.  


Relational reading of Romans: prologue (1:1-17) and conclusion (chapter 16)


A simple relational reading of the prologue of Romans (1:1-17) can be

listed below:

      Relational call: called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God (1:1)

      Relational gospel source: promised by his prophets, of the seed of David (1:2-3)

      Relational gospel effect: we have received grace, I am the gospel to you (1:4-17)


Paul defines his apostolic mission in Romans 1:5 and repeats it again in 16:26 (Wright

2006:247). The thematic verse for Romans, 1:16, serves as a prelude to Pauls full exposition of the gospel that forms the framework for a relational reading of Romans. (Wright 2006:180, 208-215)


The extensive personal greetings that conclude the book of Romans, chapter 16, can best be explained in terms of Pauls missionary strategy of partnership of the gospel with individuals and churches in Rome (Rom 15:22-29). The personal greetings in just Romans 16 is strikingly intentional and more extensive than greetings found in all other Pauline epistles combined. (Wan 2005:2)



Relational reading of Romans: gospel partnership of Paul and the Christians in Rome


When penning Romans, Paul had not visited the church in Rome, located in the

capital of the Roman Empire and therefore strategic in the plan of westward outreach of the gospel. Paul purposed to come to Rome, but was not successful (1:8-13). So he wrote this letter to announce his travel plans and to ask the believers there to pray for him (1:8-10). He intended to get there after urgent business was properly handled (1:11-13), and be sent to Spain from there (15:23, 28).  The figure below shows the horizontal relationship between Paul and the churches in Rome.


Figure 7 — Horizontal relationship: Apostle Paul and the Church in Rome


More than winning converts and sharing spiritual blessings with those in Rome (Rom 1:11-13), the intention of Pauls systematic coverage of gospel and grace in Romans 1:18-15:13 was to prepare these believers in every way possible, especially in the right belief, to rise to the challenge and become a missionary center (Rom 15:24, 28) (Gilliand 1983:32)


Relational reading of Romans: the gospel of reconciliation[12] (Rom 5:10-11; 11:15) and the Lordship of Christ


      One form of the vertical relationship found in Romans is reconciliation between the just God and fallen man. The gospel of reconciliation is a relational reality as described by Gilliand (1983:25):


Reconciliation that comes by the means of grace describes salvation in its simplest terms. Men and women are brought into harmony with God through a voluntary act on Gods part


Paul became a changed person after his confrontation with the resurrected Lord who reconciled the persecutor Saul to begin a ministry that always took its message and strength from the reality of a reconciling gospel. (Gilliand 1983:29)


      The Hellenistic world of the Greek is full of their gods. The gospel of reconciliation takes on a new meaning when viewed from a Hellenist perspective:


The gospel is a message of restored relations, and it is this that Paul deals with in Romans 5:6-11 and in II Corinthians 5:18-21. For the Greeks reconciliation was all-encompassing. The whole world of the convert is indeed changed as a result of the deeply personal nature of the harmony that has been restored between a sinful man or woman and his or her God. Those who were once outright enemies of God and had every right to fear the consequences of the wrath of God are now at peace and are saved by the initiative that God took through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:6-11).  (Gilliand 1983:100)


Another form of the vertical relationship found in Romans is the lordship of the

risen Jesus over Paul since his conversion (Act 9:4), the new Christian (Rom 10:9) and to be affirmed over all people, both the dead and the living (Rom 14:9), extends over both the lives of people and the world in which they live (Rom 10:9) (Gillian 1983:26, 51).   


To Paul, the lordship of Jesus over the world is a relational understanding. As

 G.E. Ladd in A Theology of New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1974:397-399) explained, the word cosmos (the world) as used by Paul referred to the universe (i.e. the totality of all exists (Rom1:20), the inhabited earth and the dwelling place of man (1:8; 4:13), mankind (i.e. the totality of human society) and angels (3:6, 19; 11:5).  He explicitly stated that It is not merely the world of men but the worldly system and the complex of relationships that have been created by men.


Relational reading of Romans: indebtedness (Rom 1:12; 8:12; 13:8; 15:27)


The term opheilete, is used four times in Romans with multiple meanings that can be described in terms of vertical and horizontal relations spiritually, socially and missiologically.


      Debt in mission outreach - Rom 1:14

               Paul freely received grace from God (received grace and apostleship  Rom 1:5).  He wishes henceforth is to pay back his vertical debt by sharing the gospel horizontally with Greeks and Gentiles, wise and unwise (I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise – Rom 1:14).

      Paul took many concrete steps to pay the gospel debt to those in Rome:  praying for them (Rom 1: 8-10), planning to pay them a visit (Rom 15:22-24), sharing with them spiritual blessings (Rom 1:11), etc. Pauls strong passion for the lost, his sacrificial service, suffering for the sake of the gospelare characteristics of a debtor striving his best to pay back what he owed vertically to Gods grace and horizontally to serve others.     


      Not debtors to the flesh spiritually – Rom 8:12

            A gospel-transformed individual is not obliged to the flesh (Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. – Rom 8:12). His experience is described in Rom 8:10, And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  Vertically the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in youquicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit (Rom 8:11). A gospel-transformed individual is a son of God  led by the Spirit of God (Rom 8:14) and ought not be ruled by the fresh as if he is a debtor to the fresh (Rom 8:12).


      Debt as the practical way to love - Rom 13:8

Horizontal relationships within the community of gospel-transformed individuals are is to be characterized by love (Owe no man any thing, but to love one another - Rom 13:8).  Liberty misused will result in hurting your brotherno longer acting in love (Rom 14:15). Liberty can divide the weak from the strong (Rom 14) but love (Rom 13:8) will bind gospel-transformed individuals together. Love is to be practiced with an attitude of a debtor who after receiving the love vertically from God is then obliged to love the brethren horizontally as a way to pay back. How Pauls injunctions to love stand out! They cover all attitudes, judge all motives, and guard every action. The individual Christian is to learn love because he has been changed by love. Love is characteristic of the Spirit and Spirit is the source of love (Rom 15:30; Gal. 5:22). (Gilliand 1983:130)


      Debt from spiritual blessings - Rom 15:27

Horizontal relationships of those who are recipients of spiritual blessings are is marked as debt - It has pleased them verily; and their debtors they are (Rom 15:27). Both the Jerusalem saints and believers in Rome are recipients of Gods grace from God vertically. Yet horizontally believers in Rome have been spiritually blessed by the suffering saints in Jerusalem and thus are debtors to them spiritually. Now they are to share horizontally to meet the material needs of those in Jerusalem.


Relational reading of Romans: the truth of gospel and grace       


Paul experienced firsthand the grace of God and the truth that the gospel is the

power unto salvation (Rom 1:16) thus to him the gospel is truth about a living ChristThe vibrant connection between himself (Paul) and the risen Christ amazed and encouragedPaul was to see this life-changing confrontation on the way to Damascus as an expression of Gods loving grace. (Gilliand 1983:23)


            Pauls experience of being confronted by the risen Lord, which led to his conversion, calling and commission,[13] is closely linked to his theology. Paul made personal relationships between men and God a basic theme in his theologyIt is impossible to imagine the message of Paul without the idea of grace at the center. (Gilliand 1983:25)  The figure below lists references in Romans and the relationship between Christ and Paul.


Figure 8 — Vertical relationship of the Gospel: Christ and Paul

Pauls self-identity is I am an apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13) as distinct from other apostles, if viewed in the light of Gal 1:15-16:


Godchose me even before I was born, and called me to serve himhe decided to reveal his Son to me, so that I might preach the Good News about him to the Gentiles


For Paul, this grace (Rom 15:5) is a personal experience of transformation from being a persecutor of the risen Lord to becoming an apostle to the gentiles. Similarly, it is grace that the gentiles are collectively grafted in as wild shoots (Rom 11:17), while the Jews have been broken off the tree of Abraham. Thus the truth of grace introduced in Romans and the imagery Paul uses (Paul personally and the gentiles collectively) are more suited for a relational interpretation than doctrinal or rationalist interpretation.    


The ruling impulse of Pauls life was to carry Jesus Good News of universal grace far and wide (Gilliand 1983:30) and his sacrificial ministry for the gospel is his way of relationally reciprocating the grace received. 


In addition to the comments on gospel and grace shown in Figure 5 above, the obedience that comes from faith of Rom 1:5 and 16:26 is to be reconsidered relationally. We can see that the obedience of faith is exactly what Abraham demonstrated in response to Gods command and promise.


Faith and obedience are the two words that are most definitive of Abrahams walk with God (Wright 2006:247). The gospel of grace from God vertically downward to man is to be responded vertically upward by man to God by faith and obedience. Wright in the quotation below articulated well this relational perspective:


So Paul sees Abraham not only (as all Jews did) as the model for what should

have been Israels covenantal response to God but also as the model for all the nations who would be blessed through him. We can summarize this double message thus: The good news of Jesus is the means by which the nations will be blessed through Pauls missionary apostleship; the faith and obedience of the nations will be the means by which they will enter into that blessing, or indeed in Abrahamic terms, bless themselves.  (Wright 2006:248) (italic – original)



Relational reading of Romans: Pauls priestly service


From Rom 15:14-16, one can glimpse the relational gospel in

terms of Pauls priestly service (Strauss 2003:459) to the Gentile nations (15:15-16). His vertical relationship with God resulted in him being a servant of the gospel (Rom 1: 1-17). All these are closely tied with his own conversion, calling and consecration, filled by the Spirit and commissioned to be the bearer of the gospel to the region beyond (Act 9:10-17).


            Paul pictured his ministry among the Gentiles (horizontal dimension) as an act of worship, similar to that of an Old Testament priest bringing a burnt offering to the altar (Strauss 2003:460) (vertical dimension).  Paul was accompanied by representatives of Gentile churches in his journey to Jerusalem (Act 20:4-5) (horizontal dimension) and may be considered by Paul as a token and a seal of his own greater and more far-reaching sacrifices to God (Strauss 2003:460) (vertical dimension).


            As a priest, Paul had simply been the agent of Gods work (vertically) in his ministry of bringing about the obedience of the Gentile nations unto God (vertical and horizontal dimensions combined).


            Vertically Pauls apostolic calling is to be set apart for the gospel (Rom 1:1 & 1 Cor 1:17) and his subsequent service in the gospel (Rom 1:9) is horizontally ministering to Jews and nations in his entire life. Pauls priestly ministry of evangelism is found in Rom 15:16, the only place in the New Testament where anyone speaks of their own ministry in priestly terms (Wright 2006:525). 


Relational reading of Romans: the Trinity


It is impossible to review the many passages in Romans dealing with the vertical relationship between the Trinity and Christian; the figure below is only a sample from Rom 8.


Figure 9 - Vertical relationship: Triune God and Christians in Ro 8

Paul uses the term philadelphia only twice (i.e. earthly and friendly love,

Rom 12:10; 1Thess 4:9); but he uses agape extensively elsewhere. The self-giving love of the Triune God moves towards man vertically as the basis of self-giving love among gospel-effected individuals moving horizontally.


Figure  10  Pattern of the Self-giving Love of the Triune Godhead

God accepts hostile humankind into his holy fellowship and thus sets a pattern for people to deal with one another.  Miroslav Volf (1996) conducted an extensive study on the social significance of the divine self-sacrifice (i.e. God embraced rebellious mankind into a divine fellowship and is the model of horizontal relationship within humanity, 1996:20) (Volf 1996)   


Relational reading of Romans: the Cross and the Christian


The centrality of the cross in Christian mission is well developed by Wright

(2006:312-323) and Romans provides plenty of data to support it. The cross is the center of Pauls concern relationally in Romans as shown in the figure below:


Figure 11 —The Cross: God-man vertical relationship

To Paul, the cross is the death of Jesus and believers are to joint Jesus first in his

death then resurrection. Christians are spiritually dead because of disobedience and sin (Rom 6:8, 11; Eph 2:1, 5) but are now alive to God. Thus for Paul the cross is a relational reality, not merely a propositional understanding.  The figure below shows the vertical relationship between Christ and Christians.



              Figure 12 - Vertical relationship: Christ and Christians

      Since the fall began with Adam (Rom 5:12-16), humanity is a prisoner of war (Rom 7:23);(Martin 1981:58-59) but in Christ (vertical relationship) there is justification and life (Rom 5:17-21). In fact, the entire created order is awaiting the full salvation (Rom 8:18-25). Therefore, there is more in the biblical theology of the cross than individual salvation, and there is more to biblical mission than evangelism (Wright 2006:314). Deriving from Rom 8:18-25, Wright proposed that the theology of the cross is cosmic, holistic and social in scope (Wright 2006:312-316).   


Figure 13 —The Cross - Horizontal relationship between Paul & his kinsmen

In the concluding chapter of Romans, we find a case study for the cross in the life- story of Aquila and Priscilla. They were political refugees from Rome and hosted missionary Paul, even saving his life in Corinth.  They were transient church workers and coached Apollos in Ephesus.  Later they founded a house church in their home in Rome (Act 18; Rom 16:3-5).  Pauls commendation on their practice of the cross is listed below.



Figure 14 — Horizontal relationship of the cross— Pricilla and Aquila

Relational reading of Romans: the gospel-effected community


            The gospel is not merely a matter of vertical personal guilt and individual forgiveness (Wright 2006:314). It has also a horizontal or social dimension that should not be overlooked. This social or horizontal  dimension is vividly described below:


Sin spreads horizontally within society and sin propagates itself vertically between generations. It thus generates contexts and connections that are laden with collective sin. Sin becomes endemic, structural and embedded in history. (Wright 2006:431)


Pauls teaching about the church in Rom 12:4-5 is best described in the vertical relationship to the Head  (in union with Christ) and horizontally to one another as members of the body (12:5).


Figure 15  -  Horizontal relationship of gospel-effected individual

The aggregate of gospel-transformed individuals are to live out the unmerited

grace collectively in community, demonstrating the power of the gospel horizontally in real life practice. [14] 


      The various spiritual gifts (charistmata, Rom 12) are to be understood as unmerited endowment vertically from God and to be practiced horizontally in service (diakonia) within the context of the church.


      In Romans 12:1-8, Figure 16 below shows the vertical and horizontal relationships of the transformed individuals living collectively in community.  They work out grace received in relational reality (see earlier publications on relational realism, Wan 2006b. Wan 2007)


Figure 16  -  Gospel-transformed Individuals in Community: Rom 12: 1-8


In this study of the Epistle to Romans, the author has employed a missio-relational reading, complementary to other approaches, to gain missiological understanding and demonstrate the viability of a relational approach.   A missiological reading of Romans was carried out by identifying the double motifs: the gospel and missions and Pauls self-identity as a missionary to the gentiles. A relational approach was demonstrated to be helpful in studying the themes of relational gospel,  indebtedness, Pauls priestly service, and gospel-effected relationships vertically and horizontally.

The missional aspects of Romans have been highlighted for readers in the post-Christian west and relational insights are introduced for the post-modernists who are starving for personal and communal relationships.



Bowers, W. Paul. Fulfilling the Gospel: The Scope of the Pauline Mission, Journal of the

     Evangelical Theological Society (1987), 30:186.

Cranfield, C.E.B. The Epistle to the Romans (Edinburg: Clark, 1979), 1:441.

Gilliand, Dean S. Pauline Theology & Mission Practice. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983.

Hedlund, Roger E. God and the Nations: A Biblical Theology of Mission in the Asian

     Context. 2002.

Martin, Paul P. Reconciliation: A Study of Pauls Theology. Atlanta: John Knox, 1981.

Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace – A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness

     and Reconciliation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996.

Tomson, Peter J., Paul and the Jewish Law: Halakha in the Letters of the Apostle to the

     Gentiles. The Netherlands, 1990.

Wan, Enoch Relational Theology and Relational Missiology, Occasional Bulletin,

     Evangelical Missiological Society. (Winter 2007), 21:1, p.1-7.

Wan, Enoch with Mark Hedinger. Understanding relationality from a Trinitarian

     Perspective, Global Missiology, Trinitarian Studies, (January 2006a).      

Wan, Enoch. Missionary strategy in the Epistle to the Romans, To the End of the Earth,

     Hong Kong Association of Christian Missions Ltd. (July-Sept., 2005):1-2. (in Chinese)

Wan, Enoch. The Paradigm of relational realism, Occasional Bulletin, Evangelical

     Missiological Society. (Spring 2006b), 19:2, p.1-4.

[1]An earlier version of this paper was presented at the DoktorKlub, SAIACS (South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies), August 18, 2009.

[3] All Bible references are from KJV; unless indicated otherwise.

[4] Peter T. OBrien, Gospel and Missions in the Writings of Paul, 49.

[5] According to Steve Strauss (2203:457) , Paul began in 1:16 to fully develop his theology of the gospel and had a major structural break in the Epistle to the Romans at 15:13.  See Steve Strauss, Mission Theology in Romans 15:14-33 Bibliotheca Sacra 160 (October-December 2003):457-74.

[6] Since Rom 2:14-15 includes the gentiles (those without law), therefore to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (1:16) is a reference to the methodological sequence.

[7] Pauls apostolic ministry was directed toward the uncircumcisedPauls extensive ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19) as well as his plan to visit Rome en route to Spain (Acts 19:21; Rom. 15:24-28) tend to confirm this hypothesisThe so called missionary journeys really described the process of setting up a series of centers from which Paul carried out missionary work. Pauls mission was essentially urban. First Corinth, then Ephesus in Asia Minor, became important mission centers in areas previously largely untouchedPauls strategy at Ephesus (Acts 19:10) resulted in the penetration of the entire province from a base established at the main centerAs a result of his plan of action Paul could say that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel, so that there was no longer any room for work in these regions, and he could move on to Rome and Spain (Rom 15:19, 23-24). (Hedlund 2002:253).

[8] This is illustrative of the paradigm of relational realism (Wan 2006b, 2007)

[9] Steve Strauss (2203:458) suggested that Paul completed his call to unity begun in 14:1, he turned to Christ as the perfect example of one who gave up His rights for the sale of others. 

[10] Adapted from Gilliand 1983:34-35.

[11] Gilliand 1983:3 who also made a helpful point, eventually the faith in effect became a name for Pauls religion of Jesus, and early became an expression that was synonymous with Christianity.

[12] On the theme of reconciliation, see Martin 1981.

[13] Gilliand (1983:29) made a good point in saying that It is impossible to separate the phenomena of his conversion and his calling.

[14] This study is about Romans; but it is worth mentioning that the social dimension and application of the cross in Romans is well delineated by Volf (1996:22-28) in terms of identity, otherness and reconciliation.