‘Come, Follow Me’ for Aug. 14-20: What have Church leaders and scholars said about Romans 7-16?

This week’s study guide includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on God’s love, the divinity of bodies and how the Savior changes human nature

This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers Romans 7-16, which includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on God’s love, the divine nature of bodies and how the Savior changes human nature.

Church News recently dug through archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn what leaders and scholars have said about these chapters.

Romans 7

“Chapter 7 of Romans might well be labeled ‘Paul: Before and After.’ It might also be classified as an explanation of how the power of Christ can change men’s lives. In the King James Version, Paul sounds very much like a helpless and largely depraved individual who has little power to choose good and live according to the things of God. Paul is ‘carnal, sold under sin’ (Romans 7:14). Further, those things which he knows he should do, he does not do; that which he should not do, he does. ‘Now then it is no more I that do it,’ he adds, ‘but sin that dwelleth in me’ (Romans 7:17). It is not difficult to understand how many, from Augustine to Luther to Bible students in our own day, could conclude from Romans 7 that man is basically a depraved creature, incapable of moving in wisdom’s paths.

“Through the Prophet’s inspired translation, we come to discern more clearly the character of Paul the apostle. The [Joseph Smith Translation] stresses man’s inabilities to effect righteousness without Christ.”

— Robert L. Millet, professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the December 1986 Ensign article, “Joseph Smith and the New Testament”

“The Inspired Version [of the Bible] emphasizes that the gospel of Jesus Christ has power to change a man’s nature from carnality to spirituality. This is a prominent New Testament doctrine especially found in the writings of Paul, but it is given added emphasis and clarity in Joseph Smith’s translation of Romans 7.

“As the chapter stands in the King James Version, Paul states that he is carnal and sinful, and that the good he would do, he does not do, and the evil that he would not do, he does. All this is written in the present tense, signifying that at the time he wrote the epistle to the Romans (probably around A.D. 55, about 20 years after his conversion to the gospel), Paul appears to have been still very much under the bondage of sin, for the chapter concludes: ‘with the flesh [I serve] the law of sin’ (Romans 7:25).

“These are strange statements to be coming so many years after Paul had experienced the cleansing power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, it contradicts many other instances where he declares that Christ has made him free, and that through the power of Christ he is able to walk no longer after the flesh but after the Spirit. (See King James Version, Romans 8, especially verses 1–10.)

“The Inspired Version of Romans 7 draws a clear distinction between Paul’s life under the law of Moses and his life under the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the chapter concludes with Paul’s statement that he would serve the law of sin with his flesh if he subdued not the sin that was in him. … 

“The whole tenor of this chapter as presented in the Inspired Version is that when Paul obtained the gospel he became a changed man and had a power over sin that he did not have before. This is Paul’s dynamic testimony that the gospel can have a powerful influence on a human life and that Christ is the enabling power to attain righteousness.

“Because the King James Version fails to place sufficient emphasis on the change the gospel had made in Paul’s nature, the chapter disagrees with many of Paul’s other statements, whereas the Inspired Version reaffirms the harmony of Paul’s teachings.”

— Robert J. Matthews, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “The Plain and Precious Parts: How Modern Scripture Helps Us Understand the New Testament”

Romans 8

Romans 8:16 says, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ The first time I remember feeling with all certainty that Heavenly Father knew me, loved me and cared for me was when I entered the waters of baptism at age 15. Before then, I knew God existed and Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world. I believed in Them and loved Them, but I had never felt Their love and care for me, individually, until that day as I rejoiced in my opportunity to make baptismal covenants. …

“I know now that God is a God of love. This is true because we are His children and He desires that all of us have joy and eternal happiness. His work and His glory are that we might have immortality and eternal life. That is why He provided an eternal plan of happiness for us. Our purpose in life is to gain eternal life and exaltation for ourselves and to help others do the same. He created this earth for us to obtain a physical body and be tested in our faith. He gave us the precious gift of agency, through which we can choose the pathway that leads to everlasting happiness. Heavenly Father’s plan of redemption is for you and me. It is for all of His children.”

— Sister Silvia H. Allred, then first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, October 2010 general conference, “Steadfast and Immovable”

“‘Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?’ the apostle Paul asked. Not tribulation, not persecution, not peril or the sword (see Romans 8:35). ‘For I am persuaded,’ he concluded, ‘that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, … nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God’ (verses 38–39).

“There is no greater evidence of the infinite power and perfection of God’s love than is declared by the apostle John: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son’ (John 3:16). Another apostle wrote that God ‘spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all’ (Romans 8:32). Think how it must have grieved our Heavenly Father to send His Son to endure incomprehensible suffering for our sins. That is the greatest evidence of His love for each of us!”

— Then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2009 general conference, “Love and Law”

A family studies the “Come, Follow Me” curriculum at home.
This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on God’s love, the divinity of bodies and how the Savior changes human nature. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Romans 10

“Some mission presidents informed us that many wonderful members are in camouflage to their neighbors and co-workers. They do not let people know who they are and what they believe. We need much more member involvement in sharing the message of the Restoration. Romans 10:14 puts this into perspective:

“‘How then shall they call on him [speaking of the Savior] in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?’

Verse 15 contains the wonderful message referenced in Isaiah:

“‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings’ (see also Isaiah 52:7).

“It has been observed that the members are going to have to move their feet and let their voices be heard if they are to achieve this blessing.”

Elder Quentin L. Cook, October 2007 general conference, “Live by Faith and Not by Fear”

Romans 12

“A consecrated life respects the incomparable gift of one’s physical body, a divine creation in the very image of God. A central purpose of the mortal experience is that each spirit should receive such a body and learn to exercise moral agency in a tabernacle of flesh. A physical body is also essential for exaltation, which comes only in the perfect combination of the physical and the spiritual, as we see in our beloved, resurrected Lord. In this fallen world, some lives will be painfully brief; some bodies will be malformed, broken, or barely adequate to maintain life; yet life will be long enough for each spirit, and each body will qualify for resurrection. …

“Acknowledging these truths… we would certainly not deface our body, as with tattoos; or debilitate it, as with drugs; or defile it, as with fornication, adultery or immodesty. As our body is the instrument of our spirit, it is vital that we care for it as best we can. We should consecrate its powers to serve and further the work of Christ. Said Paul, ‘I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God’ (Romans 12:1).”

— Elder D. Todd Christofferson, October 2010 general conference, “Reflections on a Consecrated Life”

Romans 15

“Finally, aid is available from the Church. It has been so in all dispensations. Paul himself was a welfare worker, in a very modern sense of the term. We find him writing in Romans 15:

“‘But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

“‘For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

“‘It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things’ (Romans 15:25–27).

“The obligation of the Church to help its poor is here placed by Paul on a par with communicating spiritual riches to those who are in darkness. By both means we store up treasures in heaven.”

— President Marion G. Romney, April 1980 general conference, “Church Welfare — Temporal Service in a Spiritual Setting”

Romans 16

“In closing his letter to the Romans, Paul introduced Phebe to the Saints with these words:

“‘I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:

“‘That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also’ (Romans 16:1–2).

“Paul uses three titles that provide insights into Phebe’s character and position: ‘our sister [adelphē],’ ‘a servant [diakonos] of the church,’ and ‘a succourer [prostatis] of many.’ The meaning and function of each title hint that Phebe played a meaningful role in ministering to others in the early Church.

“From Phebe’s title of adelphē, we may observe that she was an active member of her Christian community in Cenchrea, a harbor near Corinth in Greece. Paul recognized Phebe as an active participant in the Lord’s work in the area where she lived. Considering that her name is Greek, Phebe was likely a Gentile convert to Christianity. …

“Paul recommended Phebe to the Romans because of significant Christian service, including his trust in her to deliver this important letter from a considerable distance.

“The term prostatis is the same one used in Paul’s letters to describe male Christian leaders (see 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:4; 5:17). In Greek, the word connotes a benefactor, protector, patron or leader of a group or club. Paul’s reference to Phebe as a patroness suggests that she was of significant benefit to Paul specifically and to the Church generally. Whether that assistance to the early Church was financial, spiritual, temporal, or some other type, Paul does not say. …

“Though her appearance in scripture is minimal, we can learn from Phebe’s example of devotion to the work of ministering in the Church. Notably, Paul chose not to identify specific ways that Phebe served the cause of Christianity in her day, only that she could be trusted and that her service was important to the Church. By being a loving servant and ‘succourer’ to those around us, we can leave a similar legacy.”

— Camille Fronk Olson, emeritus professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the August 2019 Ensign article, “Women in the New Testament: Phebe”

“As the apostle Paul closed his epistle, he sent his salutation to ‘them which are of Aristobulus’ household’ and requested that his reader ‘greet them that be of the household of Narcissus, which are in the Lord.’ The [Joseph Smith Translation] changes ‘household’ in each instance to ‘church’ (JST, Romans 16:10-11, footnotes 10a, 11a).

“So while the  [King James Version] suggests Paul was writing to individual families, the JST shows he is writing to leaders of local church units. As the early Church spread, meetings were held in members’ homes. The apostles assigned leaders to these ‘house-churches’ to guide and teach the people and to administer to their needs. The JST makes it clear that Paul was addressing these local leaders and their congregations, not just their families.”

— Richard D. Draper, emeritus professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1999 Ensign article, “New Light on Paul’s Teachings”

“The concluding chapter of several of the epistles is especially newsy and gives an abundance of personal information about many members of the Church. This is especially noticeable in 1 Corinthians 16, Romans 16, Colossians 4  and 2 Timothy 4, in which we learn that the Church held meetings in members’ homes, that many members were faithful at great risk to their safety and even their lives, and that various brethren were ill, or in prison, or had forsaken Paul, or sent their greetings, or had moved, etc.

“We also learn from the epistles that Paul generally did not actually write the epistles himself but employed a scribe. Thus Tertius wrote the epistle to the Romans (see Romans 16:22), and it is probable that other scribes wrote others of the epistles, although Paul is careful to state that he signed them himself: ‘The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so l write’ (2 Thessalonians 3:17; see also Colossians  4:18; 1 Corinthians 16:21).”

— Robert J. Matthews, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, in the April 1977 New Era article, “St. Paul Writes about the Church”

Melvin, Heiron John, Job Tyler and Evelyn Rondilla of the Quirino 1st Ward, Philippines Quezon City South Stake, study “Come, Follow Me” after the Sunday morning session of the 190th Annual General Conference on April 5, 2020.
This week’s study guide includes the apostle Paul’s teachings on God’s love, the divinity of bodies and how the Savior changes human nature. | Melvin V. Rondilla
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