By Adam J. Chaney
Dr. Todd Still delivered a theologically robust, yet infinitely practical exegesis of scripture for attendees of his talk at a workshop during the 2015 CBF General Assembly. The name of the workshop captured the question of the hour: “How, Then, Shall We Live? Romans 12-16 Responds.” Simply put, this workshop explored the question of how Christ’s followers are to live in God’s good, yet broken, world. Dr. Still utilized the text of Romans 12-16 to answer the question.
Todd Still is a well-known and often published Pauline scholar as well as the Dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. However, Dr. Still also often serves in interim pastorates across Texas. This workshop was a condensation of a seven-part sermon series delivered at First Baptist Midland earlier this year.
To begin, Dr. Still walked the participants of the workshop through a very brief summary of the chapters preceding Romans 12-16 in an effort to set the theological stage. As Dr. Still pointed out, chapters 12-16 are sort of the final panel of the epistle. Within it one can argue, in rather convincing fashion, that Paul’s theology and ethics are inextricably connected.
To answer the question “How, Then, Shall We Live?” Dr. Still offered seven answers from the selected passages of scripture. First, Romans 12:1-2 encourages the followers of Christ to be living sacrifices with renewed minds. We should live holy and set apart. Paul says this is our “logical service of worship.” The aim of the Pauline ethic is for Christians to be pressed into the character and likeness of Christ himself.
Second, Romans 12:3-21; 13:8-10 instructs the believer to live in humble, loving service to the Lord, to one another, and to the stranger. Paul indicates that the Lord gives grace for our mission and thus, we should walk in it humbly. As well, the Lord is the source of our gifting. Therefore, we are to employ our gifts for the building up of and service to the community. Third, Romans 13:1-7, 11-14 tells us we are to live under God’s authority, clothed in Christ. Scripture neither endorses anarchy nor supports tyranny. Rather, we are called to godly submission as a matter of conscience.
The fourth response could be one of the most essential in our modern context. Romans 14:1-15:13 teaches that we ought to live by accepting, not judging other believers. Dr. Still argues that this passage encourages Christians to allow people room to live for the Lord and the spiritual space for discernment. Interestingly, Paul associates with the strong, but takes up the defense of the weak.
At this point, it appears that Paul begins to move toward a conclusion. Romans 15:14-33 exhorts Christ-followers to live as a blessing. Paul makes a case for supporting the impoverished saints in Jerusalem based on the conviction that those who have been richly blessed by Christ should seek to bless others richly.
Sixth, Romans 16:1-16 calls us to live in Christian community. With this passage Dr. Still made a great case for preaching a list of names. The list found in chapter 16 demonstrates that the community is centered on Christ and oriented toward the other. As well, a profound case for women in ecclesial leadership can be made from this chapter. For example, Phoebe is clearly a deacon, patron, and most likely the courier of the letter, which perhaps makes her the first interpreter.
Dr. Still concluded the session with the seventh response. Romans 16:17-27 inculcates Christians to live in unity and obedience for God’ glory. Division should be avoided and the community must be on guard against those who attempt to deceive.
The workshop was a beautiful blend of biblical exegesis and practical exhortation. Personally, I am passionate about biblical academics providing the theological foundations for day-to-day service in the church. This workshop did exactly that. In fact, at one point Dr. Still made this same point by quoting Barth: “Theology must give way to doxology.” Workshops like this can aid the academic and the pastor alike in their pursuit of holistic spiritual formation. There are so many other passages like this one throughout scripture that offer clear insight into authentic Christ like living. The seven responses of this particular passage can serve any Christian community in navigating the various challenges and situations that arise.
To keep up with news, photos and videos from the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, please visit www.cbf.net/Dallas2015.
Adam Chaney recently graduated from Houston Baptist University with a B.A. in Christian Theology and will begin his M.Div. studies at Truett Seminary at Baylor University in the fall of 2015. He serves as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church Riesel, Texas.