Bringing the Text to Life
Paul boldly asserts that we are justified by faith through grace - denying that we can in any manner earn our way toward salvation. He then just as boldly declares that there is a definitive set of virtues, a Christian Complex if you will, that a true disciple should purposefully cultivate and visibly demonstrate.
The tension between these two demands has always kept the church a bit off-balance, a trifle uncertain of where to focus its energies. As Duke ethicist Stanley Hauerwas has noted, "justification suggests that our lives are given to us as a gift, whereas the virtues seem to imply that the moral life should be construed as an achievement" ("On Developing Hopeful Virtues," Christian Scholar's Review 18 : 109).
Perhaps what Paul was urging the Roman church to consider was transforming themselves into compleat Christians. Compleat is an old variant on the word "complete" - and while they are pronounced the same, the nuances of meaning between the two are significant....