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Paul’s Romans in Two Easy Steps

First, I want to let you in on the joke. There is no such thing as Paul’s anything in two easy steps. He once declared that, “I have become all things to all people (I Cor. 9.22).” What? Does Paul not have the core beliefs that will cause him to be arrested and executed? He certainly does and we’ve explored a number of them in the four weeks we’ve worked in Paul’s letter to the Romans.


You may remember the two biggies, the righteousness of God, and justification by faith. But you also may remember two other biggies, the dichotomy between flesh and spirit, and the ensuing tension that is created within us. Yet, Paul is all things to all people. What gives?


Only one of the most important things we can remember. John Dominic Crossan once famously declared, “there are three important factors in studying Scripture, context, context, and context!" Paul is keen to the contextual situation of his faith communities and tailors his correspondence accordingly. We would do well to remember the context of our mission field.


Perhaps the two easy steps for Paul is allowing the “two easy steps” be in conversation with one another. Of course there is tension between flesh and spirit. Yes, there are times when flesh wins. Yes, there are times when it appears sin has the upper hand. But this situation is never the last word because of the first word, which is God’s inviolate love and grace for God’s creation. When all else fails, as Paul declares in the seventh chapter, there is still God’s grace, justifying and sanctifying us. So foundational is that to Paul’s understanding of God’s working through Jesus Christ in the world that he declares in Chapter 8, that “nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Take a look at verses 35ff. There is a long list of that which seeks to tear us away from God’s love. In today’s political/cultural climate we could add a few more. But none will be successful.


God loved us enough to send us Jesus Christ before we ever achieved any moral level of competency (see 5.8). Nothing can separate us from that love. What then do we have to fear? “If God is for us, who can be against us? (8.31b).” This is the message we’re called to proclaim from Winner Rd. and Northern Boulevard!


I’m convinced that God is not yet finished with us. I’m convinced that our mission field needs to hear a word of love, grace, and peace. I’m convinced that God is calling us to go “all in” in sharing this message.


Maybe, that’s the third step: sharing. How simple, yet elegant.


After four Sundays in Romans, we’re going to move to Matthew 13 and “Parable 101” as we look at the parable of the sower. As I will be on vacation next week (again!), next Sunday (7/23) is Laity Sunday, and Karen Tutak will bring the message. Please come to hear another important voice in our congregation.


See you Sunday,


Paul

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