Setting the scene

24 Jun

Paul is writing to a Christian community who are primary Jewish, but there are non-Jewish member of the church in Rome.  I think it is important to remember that Jewish communities had been ruled by rules.  There were rules for every aspect of life.  Particularly there were rules about how to worship God, and make their lives “right” to come and worship God.  Following the rules, administered by priests, was the only way to be acceptable to God and forgiven by God.  The rules had been created hundreds of years earlier beginning with the ten commandments.  It is all these historically grounded, religiously sanctioned rules that Paul is willing to throw out in favor of just believing in Jesus as the Son of God.

This is one of the reasons that Paul is unable to visit the folks in Roman since he keeps getting run out of towns and thrown into jail (actually he was under house arrest).  The Jews are offended and angered by the idea that the one true, eternal God would have a Son (that is for the barbarians who believe in lots of gods) and Roman are angered and murderous because Paul is calling a Jewish guy from Nazareth the Son of God, which is the title for Cesar.  Paul had the ability to get everyone pissed off.   So, it was hard for Paul to travel and get where he wanted to go.

I think my favorite verse in this portion of the text is Paul writing, “so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”  Paul works hard at telling everyone that he is an apostle for Christ, but doesn’t want to dictate what their faith should look like; but rather mutually encourage one another.  It is a wonderful imagine.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed throughout the world. For God, whom I serve with my spirit by announcing the gospel of his Son, is my witness that without ceasing I remember you always in my prayers, 10 asking that by God’s will I may somehow at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I am longing to see you so that I may share with you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 or rather so that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as I have among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish 15 —hence my eagerness to proclaim the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

Paul is certainly not ashamed of the gospel, he is risking his life each day so that everyone hears the Good News of Jesus Christ.  And when Paul writes that the righteousness of God is revealed by faith it means that the righteousness of God is not revealed by the law.  It is really interesting to look through the eyes of the first century at texts that we know so well.

I hope this day brings you insight into the Divine Presence around you.  I hope you take time to think about the incredible legacy that Paul left the Christian church.




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