6/18 – On The Road With Romans
As we begin our Summer Series, “On the Road With Romans”, here’s a quick jet tour through the first few chapter of the book.
Ch. 1 – Paul presents the Gentile and the pagan as guilty and culpable before God. Unbelieving gentiles who have never even heard of an OT are still accountable to God and condemned for their sin. If any non-jew gentile foreigner or outsider tries to skate through at the final judgement by reason of sheer ignorance, Paul cuts them off at the pass. No, sorry guys, you’ll be judged as well by the natural, general revelation given to everyone – in creation and by your conscience. Everyone can and should know there is a God simply by those two things alone.
Ch. 2 – Paul tells his fellow Jews who did have the Old Testament Scriptures, the tradition of the Fathers, and the promises of God, that in spite of the fact that they are far better off in every way than the pagan, they too are guilty and stand condemned before the law of God. Remember the old Pharisee prayer? Gentile, slave, or woman. Merely claiming “but we had the book” won’t work this time. Jews who depend on their works or their heritage will flunk at the judgement as well.
Ch. 3 – Paul includes the whole world as being under the wrath of God – jew, gentile, pagan, slave, free, male, female alike. We’re all in this together – we’re all in the same sinking boat – there’s no hope for anybody – no not even one. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, but – here comes the good news – all are justified freely by God’s grace as a gift by the redemption that is Christ Jesus. Real sinners can really be justified before God – but only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone – and only for free! Only on the basis of Christ’s real death and real resurrection and real atonement for real sinners like you and me.
Ch. 4 – Paul continues his rhetorical argument regarding justification in Christ – but he doesn’t do it by selecting a series of well orchestrated Old Testament passages – which would be a fine. No, instead Paul considers Abraham as the test case for the new paradigm of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Moses was great – but Abraham trumps Moses when you’re talking about God’s promises. Abraham believed – and God counted it to him as righteousness. Abraham isn’t just A example of justification by grace in the OT – he is the THE example of it.
Ch. 5 – Paul expounds the theme even further – by going so far as to say that we can actually have peace with God the Father because of the Son’s death and resurrection on our behalf. The first verse in our Epistle Reading from Romans 5 – “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, this is not the “peaceful easy feelin” that the Eagles sing about – no this is real true genuine lasting peace before a holy and righteous God – all based on Jesus living and dying and rising for us in our place in order to bring us back to our Father in heaven.
Peace is something that everyone is seeking after today and something that very few seem to find. We are all in the same situation as St. Augustine who famously said – our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee.
Satan is the chief source of this brokenness we all sense and feel in this fallen and broken world. His lies strip away at our Heavenly Father’s baptismal and sacramental promises, and the peace and comfort and joy those should bring. The devil’s temptations destroy marital fidelity, moral responsibility, and Christian civility. His deceptions lead us to whisper wicked words, linger with lustful looks, hate with hardened hearts, and gabbing in godless gossip. The end result is a hopeless and helpless sinful condition that leads to depression and despair.
Enter the love of God our Father and His good and perfect gift of peace – the peace that passes all human understanding. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom doesn’t just mean the absence of war – it means to restore, to return, to reclaim, to make things right, and bring it back to the way it was supposed to be. God the Father’s gift of shalom makes things right between us and Him and puts Humpty Dumpty back together again.
So how do we know we’ve got it? How do we know that we have God’s peace if we don’t have that warm and fuzzy peaceful easy feeling? Because the Bible says so. Because God has declared it. Because He has sent you a pastor who says to you – your sins are forgiven – and one who reminds you of your baptism and gives you Christ’s very own body and blood for you in the bread and the wine of the Lord’s Supper for your forgiveness and salvation. That’s how you know you have peace with God.
In fact, the entire experience surrounding the Lord’s Supper is one of shalom. After the consecration of the elements the pastor says, “The peace of the Lord be with you.” The congregation then sings the Agnus Dei which includes the words, “O Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us your peace.” After we taste and see that our Lord is good, after eating the bread and drinking the wine, my last words to you at the communion rail are – Go in peace and in joy. Then we sing the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon’s Song, “O Lord, now let your servant depart in peace according to your word.” And then finally we hear the words of blessing in the Benediction. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD look upon you with favor and give you peace.” Shalom is God’s final word.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand … You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5
Your loving Heavenly Father comes to you this morning and says – Welcome child – come on in – make yourself at home – take your place at my table – and join the party.
And the peace of God which passes all human understanding be with you and remain with you forever.