Monday, May 25, 2009

Only the beginning of Romans is inspired

Okay - don't brand me a heretic. I used the title to make a point: rest assured, I'm not doubting the inspiration of Paul's letter to the Romans.

So now that you can breathe again, what exactly am I saying...?

I've just recently finished teaching a 12th grade course on the book of Romans. To my surprise, we actually finished the whole letter! In the process, I think I've stumbled across a major blind spot on the part of many of my well-intended evangelical brothers and sisters...

Ask virtually anyone acquainted with the text, and they'll tell you that Romans is the quintessential explanation of the Gospel. A cursory examination of the text will reveal that what Paul begins with in Rom 1:17 (the righteous shall live by faith), he expands in great detail.

We speak of Redemption - that great truth that Jesus bought me out of the slave market of sin.

We talk about Justification - that astonishing truth that Jesus declares me to be perfectly righteous, even though clearly I'm not.

We rejoice in Sanctification - that amazing truth that the Spirit is actually making me more like Jesus.

For some, the book of Romans gets a bit confusing after that (for those of you playing along at home, we're up to chapter 9 now). But chapters 9-11 aren't really that complicated - they are Paul's vindication of God's revealed righteousness ... but I digress.

So here were are, loving the book of Romans for its full and wonderful explanation of the Gospel. And rightly so ... but

so what?

We think the Gospel is fundamentally about restoring a right relationship with God ... and that's it.

But that isn't all there is to it. Paul actually goes through a whole series of "so what" thinking, but most of the time we miss it. He talks about living at peace with our neighbors as a result of the Gospel. He talks about obeying the authorities over you as a result of the Gospel. He tells us not to make mountains out of mole hills as a result of the Gospel.

Finally, Paul boils it all down for us: "Now may the God of endurance and comfort give you unity with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory." [Romans 15:5-7, emphasis mine]

In the end, the heart of the Gospel is to bring God glory. Surely our lives here on earth are to be a major contributor to this, no? Then why do we so often speak of the Gospel only in terms of its power to save us from eternal damnation?

This is little more than "fire insurance" faith. I'm tired of it. I want no part of it. I refuse to believe that Jesus died on the cross to issue me a "Get out of Hell free" card.

This life is to be lived out for God's glory. And that's not just an after-effect of the Gospel; it's a fundamental part of it.


Read More......