The Good Book Club | Week of January 14
This week: Romans 3:9—5:21
Sin is an evil master, and we are all subject to its whims and wickedness. This theme is a strong thread throughout Paul’s letter to the Romans, and he uses vivid imagery to conjure the powerful hold of sin: venom of vipers, mouths full of cursing and bitterness, ruin and misery. If Paul stopped here, then his assessment of the human condition would seem hopeless. But, thanks be to God, Paul shares the amazing Good News: “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:23-24). In other words, Jesus’ death on the cross offers the gift of grace and redemption to everyone. No exceptions. These concepts of justification, righteousness, and redemption aren’t easy to understand or accept, so Paul spends quite a bit of ink and parchment on them. (For a brief definition of these and other theological principles in Paul’s letter, read the Romans 101 guide).
Paul moves us into a major theological question about the role of works (good deeds) in our salvation. Gazillions of scholars have weighed in on this issue, and it played a pivotal role in the Protestant Reformation. Using the life of Abraham as an example, Paul is clear: We are justified by faith, not works. But good works are important and a manifestation of a faithful life. That is, nothing we do will save us – only the grace of God. But that doesn’t mean we should stop doing good things and upholding God’s law. Even if we are perfect Christians in every way (which isn’t possible!), we are not “owed” salvation from God. We cannot earn it. But through a divine and unimaginable love, God freely gives us this gift. Paul’s words cut to the very heart of the Christian life – and even though some of these passages can be dense and difficult to digest, don’t give up. Keep reading. God is speaking to you.
Paul was speaking to two cultures: Jews and Gentiles. How does that understanding of the context impact your understanding of his words today? What is similar about our current context? What is different?
If we were saved by works, how would that change your understanding of grace?
If we are saved by grace alone—and nothing we do can affect that—then what’s the incentive to follow God’s law?
How can we be reconciled to God?
This weeks readings:
Monday, January 14
Tuesday, January 15
Wednesday, January 16
Thursday, January 17
Friday, January 18 Confession of Saint Peter
Saturday, January 19