Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quiet time files - Romans

One of the disadvantages of reading through the Bible in a year is the speed with which you need to go through the New Testament. If you are reading along, you will have recently read the book of Romans - Paul's great theological treatise. It's one of my favorite books, and one that yields abundant blessing on closer study.

A few years ago, I was privileged to sit under an amazing teacher for a study of Romans. So amazing, in fact, that I still remember the outline he used to organize the book (truly, my being able to recall - without looking at my notes - is indeed a miracle), that of action taking place in a series of buildings. In lieu of a verse-specific post or two from Romans, I'd like to share that outline and a few thoughts.

Key verse

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16

The key word in the key verse is "the" - the gospel. Paul was referring to one and one only, the good news that God sent His Son to pay the penalty for our sins, to offer us an opportunity to by faith accept that substitutionary death, becoming reconciled to God through it.

Chapters 1 - 5: The Courtroom

The first five chapters of the book can be said to take place in a courtroom, with Jesus Himself sitting as Judge. In short order, pagan man, religious man and moral man are hauled before the bench, tried and found guilty.

Quoting from Psalms 14 and 53, Paul accurately describes their problem: it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known."
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
Romans 3:10 - 18

He then passes sentence:

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:23

At this point, things are looking rather bleak.

Chapters 6 - 8: The Powerhouse of Grace

The next three chapters show the incredible mercy and grace of God, as He reaches out to us, to save a people who cannot save themselves. God has done what we cannot:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:1 - 5

Chapters 7 - 9: The Synagogue: the promises to Israel

But if salvation is now offered by grace through faith in Christ, where does that leave Israel? Paul makes it clear that God has not abandoned His promises to Israel. Indeed, by making reconciliation with Him available to the Gentiles, God is provoking jealousy in Israel, hoping to bring them to Him in faith, rather than under the law.

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

"The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob";
"and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins."

Romans 11:25 - 27

Chapters 12 - 16: The Church

These last five chapters are an instruction manual for the church as the body of Christ. Each verse gives pause for thought, prompts for action. The goal? Nothing less than complete transformation.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God,to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:1 - 2

Paul goes on to give very specific instructions on how to do this. Take a look at Romans 12:9 - 21 for starters, but take the time to read the rest of the chapters as well.

All told, it takes probably an hour or two to read the entire book; the food for thought and calls to action it provides are enough for a lifetime.

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