Reading Romans 3
Hey there friends! Today we're carrying on in the book of Romans where we'll finish the first "homework" assignment that we as pastors are inviting you to do during our Romans message series. Romans 3 will be the cap to the first major lesson that Paul wants to get address in this letter which is that "all have sinned" and because all have sinned we should not judge one another or argue over whether Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians are better because they/we are both flawed and sinners! As a reminder, this isn't meant to be a message of judgement or condemnation - that's not Paul's intention! This is a message of humility. Sunday's message will begin lesson 2 of Romans about what we are do in response to that humility and how God remains faithful through it all. I invite you to join us for worship on Sunday at 10am to learn more. In fact, you can press play and then the little "remind me" button on the worship video below to get notified when we go live.
Alright, enough self promotion. Time to get studying!
Scripture to Read
3 What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means!
In my second year of ministry our country was facing some of the worst acts of gun violence in recorded history as we saw the shooting at Pulse that killed 49 people and then a little over a year later we had Las Vegas where 60 were killed and 400 injured. Bruce, a thoughtful man who had been part of the church for years (and was a pastors kid himself) pulled me aside after church one Sunday and asked me "Pastor, I've asked this question a dozen times to pastors, including my dad, but "how does God let awful things like this happen? How do you face that?" I trust we all have thought that before in some circumstance.I thought of this verse that helped give me clarity to this very question a few months earlier in seminary. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By NO means! When someone takes away the life of another person(s) does that nullify the faithfulness of God? By NO means! When Catholic priests abuse children does that take away from the goodness of God? By NO means. When Presidents invoke the name of war and close their speeches with "God bless America" does that take away the goodness of God? By NO means. When we abuse the planet and cause animal and plant life to go exitinct in our quest for fossil fuels does that nullify God's faithfulness? By NO means! In other words, when we as people fail to live into the values, ethics, and mandates of God that does not change the values, ethics, and mandates of God. It just means we suck. Humans just suck sometimes. Our fears about the other can cause us to do some awful things. Our desire for power, prestige and influence can get the better of us and lead to awful things. Therefore, let us not give attention to the jerks that break our hearts and put our faith in the One who can restore those hearts and deliver us to a day where pain and tears are no more.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.
The 17 verses between the last major quote and this one Paul goes on a long tangent about justice and how God seeks justice for unjust actions. I think we can all agree with that notion - no crime can go unpunished, yes? But, what if God were to take that punishment on our behalf? It's not nullifying the punishment, it's diverting it. Justice is being carried out. The punishment is justified. That's the core message and theology of atonement. (we'll chat about this more on Sunday.) I've added an emphasis to the quote above to highlight this. This is a gift from God to give us yet another chance to do better by not having us take the fall for the very sins we committed. The most incredible part? This gift doesn't have any strings attached. We don't have to work to receive it. It's given as a gift so long as we have faith that God's faithfulness endures despite our faithlessness. THIS is the core message of Romans. This is the defining theology of the entire Christian church.
29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
Once more Paul becomes "critical" of his (fellow) Jewish Christians for struggling to embrace the Gentile Christians into their homes but also critical of the Gentile Christians for not being more considerate in the meal preparation for house worship to accommodate the Jewish Christians. Last Sunday Rev. Joyce pointed out the myriad of ways in which we are divided both as a country and as a church from masking, vaccines, voting ideologies, and even worship styles. The temptation might be to put us all in our own little camps and let us do what we like most while ignoring the other side. But to do that would be ignoring Jesus' ministry of unity and would be ignoring Paul's words here in Romans 3. We should be willing to be open to conversation and worship with people we disagree with before we reach a point of such distrust that we disassociate entirely. We might not agree on masking, vaccines, voting ideologies, worship styles, or Biblical interpretation but can we agree that God is both the God of your camp and mine? Can we both agree that God has justified us both? Yes and yes!!
31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.
This final line of Romans 3 is the teaser for this Sunday and the grounds for the Wesleyan understanding of justifying grace. It might be argued that if God is going to redeem us all we might as well live without morals, values, laws, or principles. Might as well have fun, be wild, and create chaos because God's the only one that can judge me, right? That's true - you could. But, the idea that Paul and John Wesley put forth is that once you have the eureka moment of realizing how God took the fall for your mistakes in order to give you another chance at life you'll become aware of your failings and faults. Once aware of these things you'll do everything in your power to make that second chance at life worthy of the gift that it is. For example, a person that survives a heart attack caused by an unhealthy lifestyle might be more motivated to improve their practices or a person who survives COVID and was unvaccinated might be more willing to get boosted and share their experience. Something deep down inside of us loves a redemption story. So, why not live full into your own redemption story today? All its takes is a little faith and a prayer of thanks.
See ya Sunday friends. We'll chat more then :)
Praying the Hymns
Just as I am, Without one Plea is PERFFEECCTT for this. So, let's join in singing that! Remember, you are loved beyond measure - loved beyond your greatest mistake. God has taken the fall for you in order to give you the chance and opportunity to be the person that God knows you can be. So, stay faithful, stay encouraged, and stay the course.
Just as I am without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me
And that Thou bid'st me come to Thee
Oh Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot
Oh Lamb of God I come I come
Just as I am Thou wilt receive
Wilt welcome pardon cleanse relieve
Because Thy promise I believe
O Lamb of God I come I come