Monday, June 16, 2008

Bethany Bullet-Monday, June 16, 2008

Read Romans 5

Our time in Romans thus far has centered on the central teaching of the faith. The assigned reading for the 5th Sunday in Pentecost crystallizes this teaching by three simple points: the depravity of the flesh, the reality of sin, and the centrality of grace.
  1. Depravity of the flesh: While we are the handiwork of God and while we are His creation cast in his image, we are simultaneously by nature—fallen. St. Paul’s assertion is that we do not merely disappoint God behaviorally, but that we are in opposition to Him inherently. This is vital to comprehend. The answer to the situation we find ourselves in is not simply, clean up your act, behave better, or stop sinning. For the problem is much deeper than our outward acts of rebellion. Our very nature, our flesh is depraved – it craves its own desires rather than to fulfill the law God requires. This depravity leads us to a stark reality.
  2. Reality of sin: It is not just inconvenient that we are imperfect—it is fatal. We deserve death, separation, and isolation from God for eternity. God can’t simply ignore this reality and welcome us into his fellowship as we are, in spite of our sinfulness. Notice I didn’t say he wouldn’t, I said HE CAN’T! It is against His nature, Holiness won’t allow it! He can’t simply brush off our guilt, sweep it under the rug, and shrug it away. It must be dealt with. This reality requires God to act and brings about the centrality of grace.
  3. Centrality of Grace: We did nothing to earn or merit the love of God. We do not deserve to be in relationship with the God of heaven. His wrath is justified and he would have every right to condemn us eternally – but He doesn’t. Instead God takes the punishment that should befall us on Himself in His Son. On Jesus the wrath of God came crashing down on our sin. On an outcropping of a hill, Jesus took up His position. Although ONLY He, being righteous and holy could have escaped the blow, without regard for His own safety, He threw himself into the path of God’s wrath and absorbed the full force. Mind you this act did more than critically wound him in body. In His soul He suffered that which we deserve to be forsaken by God. His unwavering devotion to the mission of the Father in the face of certain death, graciously granted us life by His own death.

In exchange for the death we deserved and the guilt we have earned, through faith, He has granted us His own holiness and perfection. Now God sees us as in the righteousness of Christ. This is grace!

This is the teaching, as Luther says, on which the church stands or falls. If you get this wrong, it doesn’t matter what you got right! We are saved by the grace of God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, through faith. Salvation is 100% gift and 100% the work of God. And these three points, the depravity of the flesh, the reality of sin and the centrality of grace, are 100% necessary to understand the rest of the book of Romans that we will be exploring this summer.


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