Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Righteousness by faith not works. An oxymoron. Thank God...

Romans is an intense book! Every time I read it I feel like I just barely skimmed the surface and need to read it 5 more times to even begin to understand. It is such an interesting combination of subjects. Paul goes from talking about God's incredible love for us given through the death of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit, to God's sovereign right and ability to choose whomever he wants to for glory or condemnation. Then he moves back into how the work of Christ is meant for all people. Let me try to synthesize a little bit of what I have been reading so far.

Through creation and his revelation through Israel God has made known his glory to all people. In our rebellion we have rejected him and chosen to follow our own sinful ways instead. Through Adam, sin entered the world and brought condemnation for all of humanity, but through the death and life of Christ God has provided a way for all people to be justified, declared righteous and reconciled to God. This justification comes through faith in Christ, not through a righteousness attained by our good works. Through faith we stand in the grace of God, no longer condemned but accepted and loved by God. And when Christ justifies us, no one can condemn us. God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and nothing can separate us from this love. We may experience hardship, sickness, persecution, even death, but the love of Christ remains with us.  Previously, God had chosen Israel to be the conduits of his love and picture of his grace, but because they rejected the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ, he has made all of humanity his family, to those who believe, and has hardened the hearts of Israel so that they might see his grace among other peoples and eventually be brought back to him. For he does not forget his promises to Israel. God has hardened hearts and bound men to disobedience so that they may see their need for him and that he may have mercy on them all. It is God's mercy, not our goodness that saves us. Because of this mercy, then, we should offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, being transformed into the image of Jesus and living in his will. All those who believe are now the physical body of Christ on earth and work together to bring worship to God. We are to love each other with a radical love that turns our way of life upside down, putting others above ourselves, loving our enemies, not repaying evil with evil but overcoming evil with good. We are to respect those in authority and honor the weak in humility. We no longer judge others for their differences but accept others as God has accepted us. In everything be united to each other in love, which is the fulfillment of the law. We can live this way because we stand justified and accepted in the grace of God, because of Christ, and have no one to fear.

Romans in a nutshell.